Letter to the Editor: Misinformed

4 mins read

In 2001, New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers agreed to a Regional Climate Change Action Plan that called upon the six states and five provinces represented by them to gradually reduce emissions to historic levels. For most of the twenty two years that have elapsed since, the region met annual goals set to ensure the plan succeeds. But, power generators and misinformed environmental activists have threatened those goals in recent years, as they work together to block a project that will reduce electric costs, emissions, and the amount of natural gas consumed by generators.

Power generators have always challenged their plans, but it was a surprise to see environmentalists join them. This occurred as environmentalists were convinced Canada would burn more tar sands oil to generate electricity if Quebec sent more hydroelectricity to New England, even though researchers have made it clear this is not the case. Hydro-Quebec, the power generator that will send hydroelectricity to New England, doesn’t sell to regions using tar sands oil to generate electricity. And the municipalities it sells to who use natural gas, don’t buy enough hydroelectricity from it to negate the emissions savings the region will experience, if they’re forced to use a little more.

Beyond this, research shows Hydro-Quebec’s operations become more efficient the more energy they produce, because the amount of methane emitted per unit energy decreases as they do. Which might mean something if New England Power Generators didn’t contribute so much money to environmental organizations fighting it and the plan New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers have put together. The same is true of methane measurements taken by researchers showing that hydroelectric facilities in this region actually sequester carbon.

Environmental activists have been encouraged, by those organizations New England Power Generators funded, to believe all the methane measured by researchers results from hydroelectric activity. This is not the case, as the researchers responsible for taking them found most of the methane emitted from hydroelectric reservoirs results from the decay of organic matter washed in from upstream that would decay elsewhere if not in the reservoirs they’re trapped in. Furthermore, Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers have discovered that less carbon is emitted by hydroelectric reservoirs in this area than is entering them. Meaning, Hydro-Quebec’s reservoirs are actually sequestering carbon.

Since then researchers with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Energy Initiative have found that the decarbonization goals set by New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers can more quickly be accomplished by sharing electricity generated in Quebec with New England, and vice versa. This occurs as New England is able to share electricity generated by renewable technologies with Quebec, allowing Hydro-Quebec to time the release of hydroelectricity so New England doesn’t have to invest in battery storage. This also allows Quebec to spend less on alternatives, reducing the cost of decarbonization throughout the region.

New England Power Generators don’t like this. They haven’t gotten it into their heads that this offers them opportunities they don’t now have. Environmentalists, who lost faith as progress slowed, stopped paying careful attention and were led astray by them. It’s quite frustrating to watch, but par for the course. This has gone on since New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers first started meeting in the 1970s to discuss pollution and what could be done about it.

Jamie Beaulieu
Farmington, Maine

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