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posted October 20, 2006

Powering Vermont

At last month’s well-attended luncheon hosted by the Vermont Business Roundtable for its members, friends, and legislative guests, presenters spoke knowledgeably about Vermont’s energy future and supply options: specifically, the challenges and opportunities that we collectively face and the cold, hard, undeniable facts (both good and bad) about the place in which we live.

During a two-hour period in which a great deal of information was shared with the attendees, there were some key, factual statements that emerged that must be understood by all Vermonters, which get to the heart of our dilemma and are unassailable by those who would wish things otherwise.

Today, Vermont has very little exposure to price volatility in the electricity marketplace and our rates are, relatively speaking, quite competitive within the region. However, we will be affected by our ability to continue getting clean sources of electricity, and by our ability to increase capacity.

Demand for electricity will increase in the future as our global climate continues to warm (a bad thing), and as economic growth in Vermont and New England expands (a good thing). Also, as a northern tier, rural state, Vermont’s heavy reliance on transportation vehicles and home heating fuel keeps us at the mercy of the fossil fuel marketplace.

Hydro Quebec (HQ) and Entergy/Vermont Yankee (VY) combine to provide Vermont with more than 60 percent of its baseload power. Together, they represent safe, reliable, and very clean sources of electric power. Renewables, efficiency, and demand side management programs should be our first choice for new energy sources but cannot realistically be relied upon to fill the enormous gap that would be created if VY’s license is not renewed beyond 2012 and the HQ contract is not renewed by 2016.

The Roundtable’s position was clearly stated at the outset of the meeting, which supports efficiency measures first and a diversified resource mix that includes HQ, VY, and renewables. Until and unless Vermonters understand that the state’s decision-making horizon is extremely limited; understand the economic, energy security, and environmental policy implications of the various resource choices and the tradeoffs that are inherent therein; and are willing to take the politics out of the process, we will face a very volatile, uncertain, and expensive future in a very brief period of time.
John Marshall
Editor’s note: John Marshall is a managing partner, Downs Rachlin Martin, and director, Vermont Business Roundtable.

Wake up U.S. labor

I write to express my total disgust with a recent ruling by the federal National Labor Relations Board (Oct. 13). The board — which is yet another unfortunate byproduct of the Bush administration — decided on Oct. 3 to broaden its definition of who is a supervisor in the workplace, possibly costing thousands of workers their current union representation and accelerating labor’s decline across the country.

Sooner or later, I have to hope that working citizens will wake up and realize that these kinds of decisions will further erode the strong wages and benefits our nation’s workers deserve and expect. Try taking labor unions out of the equation — which is an outcome that decisions like this one by the NLRB seeks to advance — and just see how much further U.S. workers drift towards Third World wages and benefits. Maybe then, the light bulbs will turn on, but it’ll probably be too late.

Corporate America and its supporters have done an excellent job demonizing the U.S. labor movement, but I, for one, am not ready to try life without it. The simple fact that big business is hell-bent on destroying the labor movement is proof enough to me that unions must be doing the right thing.
Doug Gibson

Why the wealthy should support Sanders

Recently, a friend and colleague of mine bemoaned the fact that several of his comfortably well-off acquaintances couldn’t find a reason to vote for Bernie Sanders.

They say that he is a “populist” and they wonder, “What is he going to do for me?” My friend shared with me his sentiment, which was, what do they really need from Bernie? They have jobs that are interesting and pay well. They make enough to educate their children through college and beyond and to go on extended family vacations. What more could they get from the legislative efforts of a Bernie Sanders?

In my opinion, what Sanders can do for the educated upper classes in this country is to bolster the numbers of people in the middle class. No democracy can claim a bright future if its middle class is shrinking. Unfortunately, because this country’s congressional leaders follow policies that put the profit motives of multinational corporations over the needs of ordinary working citizens, our middle class is shrinking. The number of U.S. residents in poverty is increasing. Any student of history knows that when a country is populated by large numbers of the poor and small numbers of the very wealthy, societal disruption is inevitable.

As our U.S. Representative, Sanders has championed the cause of the middle class by seeking a decent living wage and access to affordable health care for all workers. He has worked to keep well-paying jobs in this country, rather than exporting them to countries which allow terrible working standards for their citizens. He is a national leader in defending pensions of thousands of workers. So, in my mind, what every wealthy person needs to understand is that a thriving middle class actually stabilizes and invigorates society and that instituting policies that support the middle class is in everybody’s interest, rich and not so rich alike. So to those in the upper economic classes, I say, Sanders is your candidate.
Brenda Waters

What does Tarrant stand for?

Every time I watch television, I keep asking myself the same question: What does Rich Tarrant stand for? I’ve seen his commercials. Usually some angry man or scared woman tells the camera that Bernie Sanders has voted in some ridiculous manner. Never mind the fact that these commercials distort the truth to the point of being absurd misrepresentations of the truth, what I want to know is what Tarrant is all about. Tarrant, what’s your opinion on the Bush administration’s wars? What is your opinion on an independent judiciary? What are your thoughts on oil independence and renewable energy? What do you think is the best way to make sure that we all have affordable health care? Are you a Red Sox or a Yankees fan? What about that house in Florida?

Sadly, none of his commercials address the issues. Tarrant eschews a substantive debate on the issues in favor of attacking Sanders. For all his talk of rising above partisan politics, Tarrant has done a lot of partisan mud-slinging in the last few months, much more than a supposed independent should do, in my opinion. We in Vermont deserve a better candidate, and that candidate is Sanders. He has worked for years to help Vermonters, and there’s no question of where he stands on the important issues of the day. He stands squarely in Vermont’s corner, and that is why we should vote for him.
Josh O’Hara
South Royalton

Bernie stands up for human rights

I am writing this letter because I am sick of hearing the negative comments made about Bernie Sanders. He has a long and admirable record of standing up not just for Vermonter’s rights, but for human rights in general. He is always trying to help those who need it, and any statements made to the contrary are based upon an (unfortunately) very limited analysis.

Sanders is a good man who represents the wishes of most Vermonters. Sometimes we forget that what we want immediately is not always the best thing for the population in the long run, and he manages to keep the big picture clearly in focus. In this day and age of instant gratification, sometimes we need the reminder that there are more important things that the constant rush for more, more, more. More is not always better.

Sometimes sacrifice is needed in the here and now to make things better in the future. Sanders knows this, and that is why I am glad that someone with his foresight and record of integrity is running for Congress. I will certainly be voting for him come November. If only we could get more people like him involved in politics, perhaps we could turn this country around. As a young Vermonter, it pains me to see the direction that we have been going in, and only by voting for people like Sanders can we maintain what it means to be a citizen in the best sense of the word.
Kathleen Heyer

Rainville: Integrity and compassion

Adj. Gen. Martha Rainville’s service in the Vermont National Guard enabled her to study the state from many perspectives. Whether dealing with natural disasters at home or fulfilling her responsibility to ensure that the Guard was prepared and equipped when sent overseas, her service has touched virtually every life in the state and has been universally lauded. She carried the burden of those responsibilities with exceptional integrity, leadership, professionalism, and compassion.

Those attributes and the ability to function with colleagues are good qualities, and Rainville stands tall. When Vermont’s U.S. Representative speaks from the well of Congress, it’s critical that the person has the respect of colleagues — if not, relegation to the bottom in effectiveness and influence will be swift, as so recently has been the case. Recognizing her outstanding qualities and appeal, it is understandable and to their credit that the Democratic Party attempted early on to recruit her.

Republican Vermonters overwhelmingly chose moderate John McCain in the 2000 primary. Had the country followed Vermont’s lead it would be a totally different world. He stood against “the party” on multiple issues such as campaign finance reform and most recently opposed the Bush administration’s attempt to unilaterally redefine the Geneva Convention. McCain’s support of Rainville recognizes that same independence and given his own record, his support of her speaks for itself.

The country functions best when moderates from both sides work together, but does poorly when rebounding from one extreme to the other — a proven prescription for friction and disharmony. It’s critical to elect a moderate candidate of integrity who says what she thinks and does as she says because in the end, integrity will trump ideology. Rainville is that candidate and will return Vermont to the stature it once held when represented in Washington by such names as Aiken, Stafford, Gibson, Proctor, and Jeffords. Vermont deserves no less.
Jim Austin

Rainville: Stalking or asking for support?

For the past two weeks, my telephone has been ringing off the hook with calls from the Republican Party, mainly Martha Rainville.

One to two calls a day is above and beyond annoying. I call it stalking. I have caller ID and the number that comes up is 000-0000. It is unbelievable that the Republicans are so desperate and have so much money to waste that private citizens such as myself have to be annoyed with their nonsense.

When I started to vote many years ago, I always prided myself in voting for the best man or woman for the job. Since the Bush administration, my focus and opinions have changed. I’m not only talking about the Pres. George W. Bush administration, but Pres. Bush’s dad.

I hope people have not forgotten about the fiasco of the savings and loan scandal that hit this country and then disappeared. I’m not saying that the Democrats are angels, but they have done less damage to this country than the present-day Republicans. Politicians all tell the public exactly what they want to hear and then when elected they vanish into the woodwork until reelection or they want something.

I hope this letter will help me to get some peace and quiet in my home, to which I am entitled unless Pres. Bush passed a new law abolishing that, too.
Barbara Siegal