Quantify the Impacts vs the Benefits
Honorable members of the Maine Climate Council:
Friends of Maine's Mountains is the non-governmental organization in Maine that opposes mountain-based wind energy on the basis that the meager benefits are dwarfed by the massive impacts. FMM thanks Governor Mills, and it congratulates you for joining the noble pursuit of her zero carbon by 2045 goal.
The job is huge and the timeline long, so rather than watch you re-till old ground, FMM submits the following comment in hope that you can better hit the ground running.
Know Maine's CO2 Sources For most of the last decade policymakers have heavily focused on climate “solutions” in the electricity sector, which is a tiny slice of Maine's carbon footprint pie. This data is readily available, and can appropriately guide you to "problems" before you propose "solutions." So get this data immediately.
Quantify Carbon Sequestration Early Like the aforementioned baseline information on CO2 sources, sequestration needs to be quantified. Once you reliably know this number, you might conclude immediately that Maine is carbon neutral today, or better, a carbon sink. This calculation can heavily influence your entire project.
Focus on how to Electrify Transportation and Heating This is where the CO2 is, the low hanging fruit, the ROI. Because Maine's electricity is among America's cleanest, converting from fossil fuels to electricity in heating and driving is the great opportunity to reduce Maine's CO2. However, as discussed below, electrifying Maine’s energy consumption will necessitate more generation than one might imagine.
Know our Best-Case Scenario From the start of this journey and throughout it, you need to be mindful of the destination, the best possible outcome. If Maine’s entire electricity sector converted to zero-carbon, it would reduce 1.4 MMT of CO2 annually. Subtracted from the 36,000 MMT of global CO2, that would result in a 4/1000ths of one percent reduction.
If Maine could decarbonize its entire 16 MMT of CO2 from all energy sectors, it would result in a 3/100ths of one percent global CO2 reduction.
If complete decarbonization of Maine electricity were akin to prescribing a zero-calorie diet upon a 170 pound person, and if the person’s weight were equated to global CO2, then the diet would promise that person weight loss totaling 1/10th of one ounce. If that diet could be equated to complete decarbonization of all Maine energy sectors, the global CO2 reduction (weight loss) would total one ounce.
So before we delude ourselves into thinking Maine can make some significant difference in a world where the EIA predicts energy consumption will increase nearly 50% by 2050, where developing nations are building coal plants and burning fossil fuels at breakneck pace to power burgeoning economies, we need to keep this perspective on how much good we can achieve even in a best-case scenario.
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