Letter: Forecasting Energy Use
To the Editor:
Given Meredith Angwin’s background in the utility industry, her opinion about Vermont’s energy strategy (“Vt. Energy ‘Plan’ Is Wishful Thinking,” Sunday Valley News, June 30) is credible, but her perspective assumes that energy use will continue to grow at historical rates, requiring more electricity than alternative energy sources can provide. This assumption oversimplifies America’s future energy picture.
Since 1980, real American wages have remained stagnant, yet our consumer-driven economy has continued to show growth due to three factors: 1. increased global trade; 2. immigration-increased population; and 3. (most important) over-availability of personal credit used voraciously by consumers to maintain an unsustainable lifestyle. Angwin’s predictions for U.S. energy demands assume all three of these conditions will persist.
In reality, demand created by the global market is finite. U.S. consumption has already hit a ceiling. Immigration to the U.S. has slowed. The continuing 2008 recession was a warning sign: The financial cushion between what we make and what we owe is too thin to survive fluctuations in the economy; a “bump” causes a dominoes-like progression.
Climate change is a train racing toward us; we must curtail our use of fossil fuels, which will necessitate Americans drastically changing their lifestyle. No longer can we afford one car per person and cheap gas. Rejuvenated railroads will replace long-haul trucks. People and jobs will move closer to mass transportation. Many cities will have to be rebuilt farther from coastlines and made more energy-efficient. Owning a single-family home will no longer be the “American dream,” and housing unit sizes will shrink and become more realistic. Instead of providing CPR to obsolete industries, we will be financing research and development that serves our new lifestyle, an energy-efficient way of life necessary to survival, providing new productive, healthy jobs.
Excluding the wood-burning power plants cited by Angwin — they are less “green” than coal-fired plants — Vermont’s “wishful thinking” demonstrates insightful leadership.