Widespread energy efficiency and conservation seems to be an idea whose time has come. In his State of the Union speech, President Obama made a big deal of energy efficiency. “Let’s free our families and businesses from the painful spikes in gas prices we’ve put up with for far too long,” he said. “I’m also issuing a new goal for America: Let’s cut in half the energy wasted by our homes and businesses over the next 20 years.”
From devastating storms to massive oil spills to the daily rise in the cost at the gas pump, the signs are everywhere that it is past time to start radically cutting our use of fossil fuels. Now Vermont and its capital, Montpelier, must step up and become national leaders in the movement to save our local economies from the looming threat of our runaway Frankenfuels.
A couple of weeks before, a more impassioned Bill McKibben urged our Vermont Legislature: “It’s high time Vermont stopped heating the outdoors. Putting in insulation will create jobs, and it will save low- and middle-income Vermonters serious money … and keep pushing it hard till every building in the state is up to snuff. Because — given the climate crisis — one of the things we most need to do is reduce our use of energy.”
With heating oil at $4 per gallon and climbing, our economy stagnant and global warming heating up, a lot of Montpelierites are now ready to consider serious efficiency and conservation work for their homes, but they have a hard time getting going. As chairman of the Montpelier Energy Action Committee, I talk to a lot of folks about these issues. What I hear is a mixture of guilt and confusion. “We know we should do something, but it’s such a hassle,” or, “Where do we start?”
Although the early adopters in town had done the impressive efficiency work a few years ago, there remains a majority of folks who have been avoiding the commitment. They just need help knowing where to start.
Last fall, two of our committee members, City Councilor Anne Watson and Becky Wigg, proposed expanding our efforts by holding an Energy Fair. This would provide a chance for people to meet the home efficiency contractors and find out for themselves what it would take and how much it would really cost to make their homes energy efficient.
To this end, the Montpelier Energy Action Committee will be holding a big, fun energy fair Monday at the National Life Group cafeteria. There, you can learn what you can do to save energy and greatly improve the comfort of your home, and enjoy refreshments and a bit of fun. Marko the Magician will be there to keep the kids entertained while parents learn all about home weatherization and alternate fuels like pellet heat and solar power. Ben & Jerry’s has donated ice cream so everyone can have a sweet treat. Financial institutions will be there to show how you can reasonably pay for the work on your home. There will be exhibits on new transportation options, an electric car to check out and much more. And there will be prizes. We will have a raffle for Montpelier residents who register for the challenge at the door. There will be home energy audits worth up to $400 each and other energy-related special offerings.
All of this is part of a larger, statewide “Energy Challenge,” a town versus town competition to see which municipality can have the greatest percentage of homes sealed and insulated by the end of the year. Recently, Gov. Shumlin attended the official opening of the challenge. He noted, “We know that energy efficiency is one of the best investments there is. It cuts energy bills, keeps more money in the state economy and creates jobs.”
Efficiency work is no longer just a nice thing to do. It is crucial to our future.
The other night along with other members of our energy committee, I joined with 50 other central Vermont volunteers to be trained in how to do efficiency promotion home visits. We’re building a statewide army of dedicated citizen volunteers who are joining in a real battle against the destructive forces of fossil fuel addiction. This energy efficiency effort really is becoming the next big thing.
Dan Jones is a member of the Montpelier Energy Action Committee.
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