David A. Durfee: Energy committee myths and realities

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In a recent column, Don Keelan referred to the decision to create a Bennington Energy Committee as a "Trojan horse." Based on a myth in Homer's Odyssey, means winning in an underhanded way something you can't win fairly. Unfortunately, it's not the only myth that Mr. Keelan employed in his column.

The most dangerous myth in the column is that global heating is something that won't really be serious and can be dealt with by a little

voluntary tweaking of their behaviors by some people. That is a myth. The reality is that millions of people and whole species of plants and animals are already experiencing disaster and stress. Scientists are finding global heating effects that are speeding up the destructive change. The time window in which strong societal efforts now can lead to at least some mitigation.

Another myth in the Keelan piece is the idea that having an energy committee is being pushed by people who want to deprive the people of their freedom. I am one of the authors of the document containing a possible mission for the committee and suggested actions. The other authors and I all treasure our American freedoms and have long been active in protecting and promoting them. We know, however, that the safety and well-being of a free society sometimes requires coordinated action and some justly apportioned sacrifice to confront menaces. I am 90 and so have less to fear personally than most. But I have a beautiful little great-granddaughter.

Global heating is a menace that requires thinking not only our own safety and well-being but that of those of our descendants.

If not mythical, Mr. Keelan's version about the process by which the recent promise of an Energy Committee came about is incomplete and distorted. The reality is that it took years and involved many people, some elected, some appointed, and some volunteers. The state government was involved. Concerned about the growing and future effects of climate change, the sustainability of a fossil fuel-based energy supply, and the billions of dollars that were going across our borders to out-of-state producers, they set a goal of 90 percent of all energy in the state being from sustainable sources by 2050. They also encouraged all towns to develop a Town Plan which included an energy plan. The Bennington Select Board, working closely with the Bennington County Regional Commission and with considerable public input, developed and adopted such an energy plan. The plan included a provision that there should be a town energy committee.

A group of volunteers, members of Climate Advocates Bennington, looked at the energy plan and the realized the need for effective implementation of it. They went to the Planning Commission to propose the establishment of such an energy committee. The Commission challenged the Climate Advocates group to come back with evidence that there was an important role in implementing the Energy adopted plan. With assistance from the Bennington Council Regional Commission the group did so. It then returned to the Planning Commission and got its support for taking it to the Select Board. After due deliberation that board voted to create a town energy committee. The board made it clear that it would follow standard procedures including public invitations for applications, board interviews of applicants, and board selection of members. The board stated that while they thanked the volunteers for their work and persistence, they were not promising to include its recommendations in their charge to the committee. They stated that the committee would report to them and its work be evaluated by them.

David A. Durfee was a member of the group from Climate Advocates Bennington, an affiliate of 350 Vermont, that proposed the establishment of an energy committee. He lives in Bennington.

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