by Ned Swanberg of the Central VT node and a member of the Just Transition Campaign Team


The Clean Heat Standard Bill (H.715) needs more attention to maximize weatherization for the most vulnerable, to avoid turning croplands to fuel sources, and to protect the Clean Heat program itself from capture by fossil fuel dealers.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change calls for reducing our greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2030. Eight years. The Clean Heat Standard Bill, a late start toward that goal, will regulate fuel dealers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2030. While critical, the effort is overdue and inadequate. It fails to maximize weatherization, promotes biofuels, and is vulnerable to capture by fossil fuel interests.

“Biofuels” is a term that covers a lot. It includes methane, wood, biodiesel and ethanol.  Ethanol and biodiesel are produced from crops including canola, corn, soy, palm oil, and sugarcane.  Burning liquid biofuels such as biodiesel and ethanol affects a global market that responds by converting forests to croplands and raising the price of food. Do we want to out-bid the hungry?

Methane is available from landfills, wastewater plants, and can be generated from cow manure. But these are limited. Forests are important to us in many ways including their threatened capacity to use sunlight to capture and store carbon.

350Vermont is asking our Senators to make significant changes to the Clean Heat Bill. For one, to assure that fuel dealers cannot become the “Default Delivery Agent” in the middle of the credit system, or be members of the Technical Advisory Group or the Equity Advisory Group. The bill needs to be reoriented to meet the needs of the most vulnerable Vermonters. It needs to maximize weatherization for the most vulnerable and not allow biofuels to dominate. While it is so tempting to buy our way out with biofuels, we must acknowledge that we are merely shifting the damage and aggravating a global tragedy.
Also, where is the Environmental Justice Bill (S-148)? Will we commit to adequately funding the participants on the EJ Advisory Council? Will we fund equity and justice?

The work ahead requires all of us to focus on the principles for a Just Transition. People have lived here between the Lake and the Long River for over ten thousand years. Let’s figure this out with compassion, courage, and commitment.

Senators – please don’t burn dinner.