In 2010, Massachusetts spent $17.7 billion on fossil fuels (petroleum, coal and natural gas) to meet the energy needs for our state. Since the Commonwealth has zero fossil fuel resources, all of that money left our state’s economy either going to other parts of the country or foreign economies. To see how much left the country, read my earlier post on How much did the US spend on imported oil in 2011?
The right path forward for the Massachusetts economy is to keep that $17.7 billion in our own economy by meeting our energy needs with local in state energy resources. Since we do not have fossil fuel deposits, we need to look to other forms of energy, namely renewable energy.
Available immediately, we can tap solar, wind and biomass to greatly decrease our economy’s dependence on imported energy. In the future, we can also tap into geothermal resources to meet even more of our needs. At the same time we shift our energy sources from imports to local resources we also need to reduce our energy needs by maximizing energy efficiency throughout the state. American Council for Energy Efficient Economies ranked Massachusetts #1 in 2012 for its energy efficiency policies and programs and we need to build on this progress going forward.
Unfortunately, only one of the Massachusetts candidates in the race for the United States Senate recognizes the importance of focusing on local and sustainable energy solutions, and that is Elizabeth Warren. Her opponent, Senator Scott Brown instead continues to be more concerned about lowering the cost at the gas pump by subsidizing the oil companies so he can fill up his gas guzzling pickup for less.
Scott Brown’s energy plan calls for an “all of the above” strategy. If you heard him in the first Massachusetts Senate debate, coal features prominently in his plan. When he lists the forms of energy included in his “all of the above approach” he is very consistent to include coal & nuclear. Those happen to be the least used fossil fuels in Massachusetts today, having spent $269 million on coal and $48 million on nuclear in 2010. Combined that is less than 1.3% of our energy expenditures in the state.
Scott Brown also skips over the elephant in the room in terms of energy dependence, oil and natural gas. In Massachusetts, we spent $13.1 billion on out-of-state oil and $4.2 billion on out-of-state natural gas in 2010. Scott Brown voted against increased fuel efficiency standards, which will save US consumers $1.7 trillion on gasoline costs and he supports keeping the billions in tax subsidies for the oil companies.
We need to focus improving fuel efficiency and other standards to getting more done with the same or less energy. Even the automobile industry is in favor of the new fuel efficiency standards announced by the Obama Administration last month.
Elizabeth Warren, understands that we need to move away from dirty fossil fuels and to clean renewable energy for our environment, security and economics. She has the right energy plan for Massachusetts.
The choice before us is simple. Will we continue to subsidize the dirty fossil fuels of the past, or will we transition to 21st century clean, renewable energy?
If we invest now in a 21st century energy system, over time we can lower the costs of production for all of our businesses. Right now, renewable energy competes with old energies that get lots of special breaks from Washington. We know that we can generate power with alternative energy sources like wind, solar, and hydropower. We also know that we can make energy usage far more efficient. If we commit ourselves to clean energy and energy efficiency now, in the long run we can reduce price swings and lower our overall costs.
— from Elizabeth Warren’s Issues Section on Energy & The Environment
Some people may argue that buying solar panels, which are no longer produced in Massachusetts since the bankruptcy of Evergreen Solar, is the same thing as importing oil and natural gas, but it is not. With the price of solar panels coming down to around $1 per watt, the cost of the panels have become less than a third of the overall installed cost of solar today. Most of the money spent installing solar pays for the labor to design and install the solar array, which is typically done locally, right here in Massachusetts. Other major components of a solar installation are still from Massachusetts, like Solectria inverters.
Wind energy also produces local jobs. First, for the construction and engineering workers needed to install the turbine, and then more jobs for the ongoing maintenance to keep them running and producing energy. Wind turbines require scheduled maintenance to ensure they continue to function safely and properly for their 20 or so year lifespan.
BioMass is a third renewable energy source that we have plenty of in Massachusetts and has great opportunities for shifting jobs from the heating oil arena. The forestry industry in Massachusetts and New Hampshire is already making great progress on providing a lower cost renewable alternative to oil for heating in the form of bulk wood pellets. By taking waste products from the lumber and other wood industries and turning that into pellets, we can heat the homes now relying on oil & propane with a locally produced, renewable fuel source.
The changes will not happen overnight, but if we want to have a growing and sustainable economy in Massachusetts, we need to stop spending tens of billions of dollars on energy outside of our economy every year. We must move our energy supplies to locally producible and sustainable sources including wind, solar, biomass and eventually geothermal.
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