The Energy Consumer's Bulletin- a New England energy news blog

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Planes, Trains, Cars, and Boats


This week, I’m headed to a conference in the Big Apple to talk about how we need to electrify transportation and heating. I looked at my options for getting there. Flying was the quickest, but emitted the most. And inspired in large part by 16-year old climate activist, Greta Thunberg, I couldn’t choose a plane. I thought about taking my wind powered Chevy Bolt, but I didn’t want to drive through the city and Brooklyn doesn’t need another car. So I will be on Amtrak. Maybe I’ll get some work done while riding. There’s a good chance I will nap.

Larry EVSummer contest photoMy wind powered Chevy Bolt.

The point is that we need to take public transportation whenever possible and fly as little as possible. And as I’ll say at the conference, if we’re going to drive a car, it needs to be electric. Buses should be electric too. And, as quickly as possible, we need to stop burning stuff to stay warm. Heat pumps are an important piece of the decarbonization puzzle.

Without a doubt, it’s long past time when we as consumers should carefully weigh our options. That includes this organization. On September 19, Green Energy Consumers is hosting a “Cruise for Climate”. We are chartering a boat from Rowe’s Wharf in downtown Boston and will tour the harbor and ride past "Hull 1", which has a special place in our heart for building the first utility-scale wind turbine in New England (and even the whole East Coast). Hull 1 was also the first generator in our green power portfolio. The boat runs on diesel, which is not great, but:

  • We have been encouraging MassPort and others involved with Boston Harbor planning to bring in electric ferries. They’re running in Denmark and Norway. But not here yet.
  • We wanted to have a nice, fun event to reflect on progress made on clean energy and the serious challenge that remains. Aside from Hull 1, there are other cool renewable energy projects to show off around the harbor as well, including the solar panels we helped to put on Spectacle Island.
  • According to Classic Harbor Line, the company we are hiring, the cruise will use about 50 gallons of diesel fuel and emit about 1120 pounds of carbon dioxide.  As we do for all of our events, we’ve built into the cost of the event a $75 contribution to our own New England Wind Fund. That will put enough wind power onto the grid to displace more than enough fossil fuels to the extent caused by our event. It’s a fraction of the cost of renting a boat and catering for more than 100 people.

blog.greenenergyconsumers.orghubfsHullHull 1 Turbine in Hull, MA

Technically, our contribution to the New England Wind Fund is known as a “carbon offset”. Most carbon offset programs are sketchy in that they don’t get the job done as the consumer intended. But the New England Wind Fund works because it is verifiable and creates additionality. It’s verifiable because there’s an excellent system in New England to track generation. And it creates additionality because more wind generation will be required to meet the increased demand caused by the contribution. The “renewable energy certificates” (RECs) we buy will not be available to companies needing RECs to comply with state mandates.

Transportation choices matter. We are doing the best we can, both with the programs we offer to consumers and as advocates for better public policy. Some decisions are easy to make, and others are more difficult. If you think we are on the right track (transportation pun intended) overall, please contribute in any way you can. Buy green power, get an electric car, or join us on our Cruise for Climate.

If you’ve read this far, thanks for being so concerned about the issues of energy and climate.