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Mothers Push for Bold Climate Action By Ellen van Bever
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Activism Activism Grassroots

New natural gas pipelines are not an easy fix for our high electricity prices. In fact, they are dangerous options that threaten to lock us into fossil fuel dependence and tip the scale to runaway climate change. It is time for our politicians to recognize this and take bold action to make Massachusetts a clean energy state.

As mothers we cannot stand by while Massachusetts makes energy decisions that neglect scientific evidence and condemn our children to an uncertain future marred by climate change. The myth of natural gas as a clean, nontoxic energy source has been unraveling inexorably over the past decade. Scientific studies increasingly call into question the purported benefits of natural gas over coal. One reason is the unknown amount of methane that leaks during the production, transmission and distribution of the fuel. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, anywhere from one to nine percent of extracted gas leaks in the form of methane, which is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas. While we appreciate the political difficulties of facing this reality, it is clear that natural gas is not the safe energy choice for our children and grandchildren and our reliance on it only delays the development of clean and renewable sources.

In addition to the climate-related perils of our dependence on natural gas, we are already witnessing the economic dangers. While currently low, natural gas prices spiked last February to levels not seen since 2008 and are expected to increase over the coming decades. Those who expect a new pipeline to help with our short-term pricing woes are painfully misguided. Given the ecologically sensitive nature of the land in question, the process for permitting and building a new pipeline could mean a timeline of up to 12 years. By that time, diminishing returns on unconventional gas wells, which have very short production lifespans, and competition with exports may well have the industry in turmoil. Let’s not forget the strong possibility that outside factors such as stricter carbon and water pricing will further erode the perceived benefits of natural gas. Put simply, investing in more natural gas is the wrong economic choice.

We must meet all our new energy needs with energy efficiency and renewable sources. To that end, we are joining together with other mothers to reduce our overall energy use and increase the demand for renewables. Many of us are willing and able to pay more for electricity through our Make the Switch campaign to ensure that it is renewable. Some cannot, and choose to do their part by reducing energy usage through efficiency. But, while these personal steps are important, they are insufficient. We need change on a much larger scale.

We applaud Governor Patrick’s record on renewable energy and energy efficiency, as well as the state’s legislative efforts on the Global Warming Solutions Act and the Green Communities Act. And yet we must demand more.

Governor Patrick’s administration is currently developing a Low Demand Scenario to better understand future energy needs. They are also working towards a draft of a Clean Energy Standard for the state. We ask that both recognize we must stop using fossil fuels to meet new energy demand.

We want to make sure that in the scramble to determine what is politically feasible, we don’t lose sight of what is necessary to protect our children and future generations. It can be devilishly hard to sway political will and economic forces, but it’s impossible to change the laws of nature that shape climate change.

This is an extraordinary time, and the energy choices we make today will determine what sort of future our offspring will face. As mothers, we push our children to do what is right even if it means a more difficult path. It is our job. And this is what we are doing now: Letting our leaders know that bold, visionary action is what MUST happen now. We must ensure that Massachusetts moves swiftly away from our dependence on fossil fuels. Even better, let’s take the lead and become the first state to commit to meeting all new energy demand with clean and renewable sources.

Jenny Marusiak, Electa Sevier, and Ellen van Bever are members of Mothers Out Front: Mobilizing for a Livable Climate

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