37% rate hike for electric customers in Massachusetts.

It was really cold in New England last winter and so electric prices for National Grid customers are going to go up 37% in anticipation of more of the same this winter.

Other local utilities are expected to announce the same type of increase later in the fall. Utilities are blaming the need the rate hikes on their increased cost of electricity they have to purchase from power plants. This cost has increased dramatically because of an increased demand for natural gas which is one of the main sources of fuel used to create electricity.

A statement from the utility included this comment: “This is something that’s not within National Grid’s control,” spokesman Jake Navarro said. “This is a market-based problem.”

It is easy to agree with the first part of what he is saying as utilities in New England are not allowed to own their own electricity production. However the second part of the statement might be rephrased just slightly.

This is not a market problem, it is a fuel problem.

Climate change aside, for millennia it has been cold in New England in the winter. Some years can be worse than others, but it is always going to be cold. As a result, for well over 3 centuries the colonists and their modern descendants have been paying a variable cost for the luxury of keeping warm in winter. When we use the same fuels to create both electricity and for heating homes – well, some years it is going to be manageable, others it is going to be a 37% increase.

And if you like me believe that the climate is changing and seasonal weather events are going to become more extreme, I am thinking that the harshest days are still to come.

So when we are faced once again with a spike in fuel costs – after thousands of years of burning stuff to keep warm, and after 100 years of burning that same stuff to make electricity – lets stop fighting nature and instead, work with it by using the energy already being produced from the sun and the wind – both of these can supply a great deal of our fuel requirement at no variable fuel cost – as our way forward.

We as a society once capitalized great engineering projects conceived to bring physical life to our civic ideals: highways & bridges for commerce and to knit us together as a people, magnificent librariescourthouses and government buildings to illustrate the virtue of knowledge and the importance of the rule of law, water treatment and sewage systems to provide the basic ingredients of health and sanitation, and our original electric grid(s), an investment which has transformed and greatly improved every aspect of human life.

It is worth noting that the one thing all of these projects had in common was an entrenched status quo – from one side of the aisle or the other – who insisted it was either wasteful spending or that it simply could not be done. I am glad they were proven wrong.

It is going to be cold this winter, and next, and next – lets stop burning stuff and really do something about it.

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