By DENA EAKLES
Echo Valley Hope, rural Ontario
This column is No. 5 in a series of information compiled by Dena Eakles of Echo Valley Hope. The purpose is to provide critical information to all Vernon Electric Cooperative members so they can actively steer their cooperative.
Fossil fuels have been king for so long, it’s hard to remember a time we were not powered by oil, natural gas and nuclear. The choices were made to generate power through oil and gas extraction, and no attempt was made to offset the disastrous impacts to the health of the planet or to its inhabitants. The call to move away from the use of fossil fuels was sounded in the ‘70s by the Carter administration, but the industries that produce these forms of energy refused to listen then and are taking their sweet time now. Today we are witness to climatic volatility and polluted water and toxic air to an alarming degree. Ask yourself, how is your health and the health of your loved ones? How is the health of your air and your soil? Have we benefitted from the use of fossil fuels, or have we been cutting the branch that we sit upon?
I grew up in western Pennsylvania, where coal mining was the staple and led to the discovery of oil from the seepage of coalmines in 1847. Energy jobs have come and gone from the area, while industry-triggered diseases have increased. Now an ethane “cracker” plant has been built on the shore of the Ohio River. This plant will increase the mining of local Marcellus shale for natural gas to maintain the plant’s production of petrochemicals. It is also speculated that the whole of it will decrease the health of residents through toxic air and water.
It’s time we look at the long-term costs of fossil fuels and recognize that reduced consumption and the transition to renewable forms of energy is not a luxury, it is essential. For the most part, we have ignored the details of how and where are energy comes from, content to have it and the rest be damned. If we truly care about future generations, perhaps it is time we become knowledgeable and empowered to make the best decisions for all of us, including our children.
The recent Inflation Reduction Act is not a panacea, but it does offer monetary incentives to benefit individuals as they transition to a more renewable lifestyle.
This may be of help to those considering renewables: https://www.rewiringamerica.org.
Vernon Electric Cooperative currently relies on 12% of renewable energy through Dairyland Power. There are also VEC offerings to help offset fossil fuels. These include options to buy into the Community Solar Farm run by VEC; another buy-in program called Evergreen; and the option to create your own renewable energy (individually or in community), known as Distributed Generation (https://vernonelectric.org/renewables).
And, of course, there is the need to reduce consumption. Focus on Energy is a statewide program that promotes energy-saving projects and products (https://focusonenergy.com).
VEC offers programs of using energy at off-peak times (vernonelectric.org/peak-heatingev-charging). Using electricity in the early morning or late at night may reduce your costs, but if you are serious about the transition from fossil fuels, it is significant to note that when we use electricity after the sun goes down, we are accessing coal-fired energy. For this reason, ramping up individual or community renewables and energy storage is the way to reduce our fossil fuel use. Perhaps VEC could find more ways to incentivize individuals who move toward renewables and storage as we transition from fossil fuels.
In the next column, I will offer organizations and associations that can help us learn about energy, this important transition to renewables, and ways to become more empowered as citizens of the earth.
Thank you for reading, and please share.