Position:Conservation Law Foundation's efforts to change energy mix in New England

Winter snow and ice bring out Big Gas's fearmongers. Why is the region's electric grid operator among them?

Every November, as the days get shorter and the air chillier, Greg Cunningham braces himself for what's to come. But it's not the raw Maine winter he's preparing for; it's the annual outcry from utility companies and the gas industry calling for more pipelines and power plants in New England.

As head of CLF's Clean Energy and Climate Change program, Cunningham knows better than anyone what the stakes are if politicians, regulators, and residents buy into--literally--Big Gas's fear-mongering propaganda. Because those stakes are nothing less than the indiscriminate disruption of New England's economy, environment, and health if climate-damaging emissions from fossil fuels like gas remain unchecked.

"Every winter we hear the same message: we need more gas or there could be rolling blackouts," he says. "That's just not true. What we need is to finally break free of this polluting fuel and invest wholesale in growing our supply of clean energy."

Big Gas Sells Fear, Not Facts

What is true is that New England has become increasingly dependent on gas for both heating and electricity over the last two decades. But the myth that gas shortages are looming was debunked long ago.

Separate reports released in recent years by CLF and the Massachusetts Attorney General's office show that the region has more than enough fuel to make it through even the coldest winter without saddling residents with the billion-dollar costs of new gas plants and pipelines. And with every New England state requiring that more and more of its power come from clean sources, the region will soon need less gas, not more.

Ending the region's dependence on gas is even more urgent following the findings of the Fourth National Climate Assessment, which outlined the grim climate effects already being felt in New England and across the country as a result of climate change. Another headline-grabbing report from the International Panel on Climate Change gave its own stark warning: the world has barely 12 years to slash emissions from dirty fossil fuels to prevent catastrophic climate impacts globally.

Why, then, do news reports still tout the dangers of gas shortages every winter? Because Big Gas and its allies know that fear sells. Scaring New Englanders into paying for a new pipeline is an easy way to boost their bottom lines for their private investors. It doesn't matter that...

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