I was attacked for having a personal stake in stopping fossil fuels. I do – and so do you

For the Monitor
Published: 12/26/2019 5:36:41 PM

In a recent opinion piece (Monitor, Dec. 21), I was attacked for opposing the Granite Bridge pipeline, a multi-decade investment in fracked natural gas that will cost New Hampshire ratepayers of Liberty Utilities over $400 million and worsen the climate crisis compared to clean alternatives available today.

Although I clearly stated that I “work on clean energy” and have made my positions and affiliations abundantly clear for years, the writer called me “underhanded” and insisted I was opposing Granite Bridge for “personal financial interest.”

As a longtime advocate for public ethics and transparency, I do not take such accusations lightly. I therefore welcome this opportunity to explain my personal reasons for opposing this and any other long-term investment in fossil fuels. I also invite the author to disclose whether his piece was written by himself or the Granite Bridge lobbyist with whom he works, who leveled the very same accusations against me prior to publication.

Like generations of my family before me, I have been committed to environmental protection since growing up in the woods and mountains of New Hampshire. When I took a defining college course on climate change in 2003, I determined there was no more urgent issue facing our planet and began a 13-year effort to stop fossil fuel money, and other special interests, from corrupting our politics as a nonprofit campaign reformer in NH. Sadly, I did not succeed, as the millions of dollars in donations from big oil, gas, and coal – and billions in resulting taxpayer subsidies – make painfully clear each year.

My failure to bring about systemic change in politics led me to seek a different path for climate action after 2016. I joined an employee-owned Benefit Corporation and began helping N.H. towns and nonprofits say no to fossil fuels by harnessing N.H.’s abundant solar resource. (Contrary to my critic’s unsupported claims, research shows that N.H. could meet 100% of its energy needs year-round with clean renewables while cutting costs for all).

The founders of my company, ReVision Energy, graciously agreed to let me keep speaking out on matters of concern to me, regardless of whether they help or hurt our business. In this case, the cost of opposing a major N.H. utility and its many political allies in Concord likely outweigh the benefits of advancing heat pumps, which total just 2.8% of ReVision’s N.H. sales (contrary to the author’s claim, I do not sell heat pumps).

In an effort to walk the talk, my wife and I also set out to invest our family’s savings in transitioning off fossil fuels through solar panels, electric vehicles, and heat pumps. Although my critic insists (again without evidence) that they do not work well in the cold, I am pleased to offer him something more than the several independent studies I previously cited: an invitation to spend a winter night with us and judge for himself (lasagna and apple crisp on me)!

As for Granite Bridge, before taking my position I spent hours listening to the pipeline’s lobbyist at Liberty Utilities and reading the studies he sent (commissioned by the utility). Then I re-examined the independent research on fracked gas, pipeline explosions and fugitive methane emissions, which are 86 times more potent than CO2 at warming the planet and effectively negate the global warming “benefits” of gas versus oil and coal, according to peer-reviewed research in the journalNature and many other publications. As the New York Times reported just this month, “natural gas…has become the biggest driver of emissions growth globally” thanks in part to a recent jump in gas flaring. New pipelines simply cannot solve the climate crisis, as my critic claims.

Finally, I re-examined the hidden costs of climate damage, which the International Monetary Fund estimates at $649 billion in the United States, or $2.7 billion in New Hampshire every year. I considered the $645 million in N.H. coastal property threatened by rising seas and the many premature deaths and unnecessary hospitalizations Granite Staters suffer from fossil fuel pollution and Lyme disease in a climate that is already warming far faster than predicted.

All of which brings me back to the reason I was attacked for opposing Granite Bridge: self-interest. The truth is, I do have a personal stake in stopping new fossil fuel investments wherever they occur – and so do you. For the good of my three young kids and yours, I refuse to be silent about the mounting climate crisis or the emerging clean tech solutions to which I have chosen to dedicate my public career in a manner that is anything but “disingenuous” or “underhanded.”

As for my presumed opponent in this debate, I wish him and his union well, and look forward to the day when New Hampshire policies allow us to put thousands more union tradesmen to work building the clean energy future our kids and climate demand, as neighboring states have shown. Perhaps that’s a plan worth hatching over lasagna and apple crisp?

(Dan Weeks works on clean energy and lives in Nashua with his wife and kids.)

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