The New Green: What should power Connecticut?
Published: Friday, October 12, 2012
Updated: Friday, October 12, 2012 11:10
Energy use is an inevitable fact for all forms of life, and it is a fundamental concern for human societies. The uncertainty surrounding climate change and the earth’s dwindling natural resources make energy-use planning an especially complicated task. As always, it is best to tackle these seemingly impossible problems by breaking them down into manageable chunks (i.e., addressing them at the local level). The first step to understanding Connecticut’s future energy options is to become educated on what our current energy profile looks like.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, nearly half of our state’s energy comes from the nuclear Millstone plant in Waterford. Besides the issues of relying so heavily on a single source and the potential dangers of nuclear power in general, the feasibility of the Millstone plant may also be challenged by climate change. The company made headlines this past August when wit was forced to shut down two of its reactors due to the water in Long Island Sound being too warm to be used in the plant’s operations.
In recent years, natural gas has become increasingly important to Connecticut, mostly for generating electricity (it accounts for 25 percent of net production) and home heating. According to the EIS, “Connecticut receives its natural gas supply from production areas in the U.S. Gulf Coast region and Canada, and from natural gas storage sites in the Appalachian Basin region, which includes parts of New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio. The gas is supplied by pipelines entering the State from New York and Massachusetts. Connecticut ships almost one-third of its natural gas supplies to Rhode Island.”
It has always been believed that Connecticut has no fossil fuel reserves whatsoever. But this past June the USGS released a report which revealed a large un-assessed shale deposit, dubbed the Hartford Basin, running right through the center of the state. The implications of this new finding are complex, and will certainly be the subject of hot debate in years to come. While natural gas is the cleanest burning fossil fuel, depending on it would almost definitely divert funding away from developing renewable energies. Most importantly, breaking the shale to access the gas would likely bring hydrofracking into Connecticut, a virtually unregulated practice that is hugely dangerous to both the environment and human health. In 2005, Vice President Dick Cheney pushed through an Energy Act, which quietly exempted hydrofracking from the Clean Air Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act and even federal hazardous waste laws.
Is reliance on nuclear power and natural gas what we want for our state? That is a complicated question, but it is one that should not be ignored. Sticking with the status quo is in itself a decision – and at the very least, as citizens we should be conscious and intentional about the decisions that we make for our own society.