I was pleased to read the feature prepared by The Valley Reporter and the Mad River Valley Chamber of Commerce, “Doing their part” (VR January 16), outlining the remarkable efforts of Win Smith and Sugarbush Resort to green their operations and reduce their carbon footprint.
There is more to the story, however. As was reported at the Alterra/Sugarbush public forum on November 20, 2019, both Win and Sugarbush’s new owners not only “walk the walk,” as it were, but they “talk the talk.” That is to say, Sugarbush has done amazing things to improve energy efficiency and transition to alternate sources, but they have also advocated for bold federal action on climate change. Putting one’s own house in order is not enough. Turning our energy economy around to assure the global balance needed will take a major commitment by both government and industry to put in place the mechanisms to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Accord and beyond.
Both Win Smith and the leaders at Alterra have joined with nonpartisan groups Protect Our Winters and Citizens’ Climate Lobby by actively reaching out to our members of Congress to support progressive legislation to curb the global output of greenhouse gasses.
Specifically, both Sugarbush and Altera are endorsing the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (HR 763).
This bill would place a steadily increasing fee on the carbon content of our energy sources, incurred at the point where it enters the economy: the wellhead, mine or U.S. border. Unlike a tax, however, the monies collected do not fund the government but are returned to all U.S. residents in equal amounts.
A carbon fee and dividend alone will not solve our climate crises, but over 3,500 prominent U.S. economists have endorsed these principles calling them “the most cost-effective lever to reduce carbon emissions at the scale and speed that is necessary, protect U.S. competitiveness, and maximize the fairness and political viability … such that the majority of American families, including the most vulnerable, will benefit financially by receiving more in ‘carbon dividends’ than they pay in increased energy prices.” The Energy Innovation bill also further protects Vermont’s rural population by exempting diesel fuel used on farms.
Major coal and oil companies will see increased costs – these “price signals” are the point: They send the message that the business and research communities need to respond with cleaner and ultimately more efficient and cost-effective means to meet our energy needs. Locally, more forward-looking oil and propane dealers are already transitioning to full-service energy providers, offering solar and electric heat pump and weatherization installations.
Although each of us has a responsibility to get our own house in order, it is also important that we, like Win Smith, speak out publicly to our federal legislators to redefine the economic model that will ultimately protect the winters we so value.
Senators Leahy and Sanders and Representative Welch care deeply about our environment. We know from research, however, that comprehensive climate legislation has never been among the top concerns they hear from their constituents. The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act is solid legislation with 75 co-sponsors that is a catalyst to make the most important goals of the Green New Deal both economically viable and politically achievable.
Sugarbush Resort, Altera, Burton, Building Green, former Governor Howard Dean, Bennington College, Green Lantern Solar and many others in Vermont are speaking out loudly for a livable world by calling for action that will break the political deadlock in Washington and lead us toward meeting our climate goals.
Tom Wilson lives in Warren, Vermont.