• School kicks off statewide contest on global warming
    By LOUIS PORTER Vermont Press Bureau | September 24,2008
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    NORTHFIELD — The local junior/senior high school here Tuesday became the first Vermont school to enter a competition to see how much it can reduce its contribution to global warming.

    Backers hope a lot more schools are enticed to enter by the $5,000 in prizes that will go to the top three schools in the state.

    The contest is organized around use of the Web site www.carbonrally.com, co-founded by University of Vermont graduate Jason Karas. The Vermont contest is the first statewide one of its kind on the site, although about 450 independent teams of students, co-workers and others are already using the Web site, Karas said.

    The prizes are being donated by Vermont businesses.

    Tom McKone, principal of the Northfield school, said one of the best things about the statewide competition is that it involves students — like the advanced environmental science class that was introduced to the program Tuesday — in learning by doing.

    "It is competition in the best sense, it is competition with the goal of working together," he said. "We are hoping a lot of other schools will join us."

    Nick Gonneville, 17, and Danny Rowe, 16, of Northfield are students in that class, and said the simple things that Karas' program promotes — like bringing lunch in reusable containers or reducing the length of showers — might seem small but can add up.

    "It is a start," Rowe said.

    "It is the little things that people can do in their lives that make a difference," Gov. James Douglas said — just before agreeing to take shorter showers to reduce how much energy he uses to heat up water.

    But what about bigger state goals like those set out in the governor's global warming initiative, announced a little less than a year ago at the University of Vermont in Burlington?

    Tangible progress from that plan — which set out dozens of recommendations from expanding timberlands and developing a "Vermont" brand for carbon credits — is happening, said Secretary of the Agency of Natural Resources George Crombie.

    "We have a lot of things going that come out of the governor's climate change report," Crombie said.

    For instance, the state is working towards the "25 by 25" goal of producing a quarter of the country's energy needs from farms and forests, Crombie said.

    And businesses are undertaking their own initiatives that will reduce the production of carbon pollution that causes global warming, Douglas said.

    "Green construction is almost automatic now," he said.

    But Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin, a Windham Democrat who has made global warming a central issue since returning to the Legislature two years ago, said Douglas has talked a good game but not delivered.

    "The discouraging part about the last two years I have spent in Montpelier is that I went in enthusiastic that the Legislature and the governor could go in and work together to make Vermont a leader in getting off our addiction to oil and get a piece of the economic effect that is going to come with that progress," Shumlin said. "The gap between the governor's rhetoric on climate change and his actions is as wide as the gap between Wall Street and Main Street."

    For example, Douglas' opposition to industrial wind projects has hampered development of renewable energy in Vermont, Shumlin said,

    Results may seem slow, but things are happening — and the coordination among top agency officials on the problem is unprecedented in his experience, said Richard Valentinetti, head of the air quality division in ANR.

    "There is a lot happening. I would say it is difficult to measure some of this, but there are a lot of programs out there that are directionally correct and are having an impact on reducing (carbon dioxide)," he said.

    And the first sale of carbon credits under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is expected to happen within a few days. Although not a result of the governor's climate change plan it will provide money that Vermont can use for things like efficiency programs, Valentinetti said.

    "Hopefully this week we will have the first RGGI auction which will end up funneling money into the all fuels efficiency program," he said.

    ANR is now working on a report on how many of the 260 recommendations in the governor's climate change program have already been started in some form, which remain to be done, and how much it will cost, Valentinetti added.

    Contact Louis Porter at louis.porter@rutlandherald.com.
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