Regarding “ Warm Wishes from Vermont Gas” that appeared as a quarterpage ad in The Addison Independent and perhaps other Vermont newspapers during the holiday season: I get that this was paid promotional material, that it is not a newspaper’s responsibility to fact-check its advertisers, and I do appreciate that the text appeared on a shaded background, alerting readers that this was not the professional, verifiable news we typically find in the fine local newspapers that Vermonters rely on and respect.
However, this “holiday greeting” is so packed with misleading information that it demands a response, so that readers, perhaps groggy last week from eggnog, and mesmerized by the glowing candle pictured in the ad, are not lulled into believing that gas is really “the most affordable energy service around.”
The ad goes on to favorably compare the cost of heating a home with gas to other fossil fuels, while omitting comparison to electric heat pumps, in spite of the fact that, according to Efficiency Vermont, “the efficiency and cost savings of switching to heat pumps can be significant.” Not to mention that heat pumps can be powered from renewable sources, whereas VGS “natural gas” is fracked methane that travels all the way from Alberta, Canada, and that “when methane emissions are included, the greenhouse gas footprint of shale gas is significantly larger than that of conventional gas, coal, and oil” (R. Howarth, Cornell University). Worse than coal! So when the ad brags that “Every Vermont family who chooses Vermont Gas over oil reduces their own carbon emissions by almost 30 percent”, the industry is conveniently omitting the fact that methane leaks are a much greater threat than carbon emissions (perhaps 100-fold, according to Dr. Howarth) to the health of out planet.
Despite the distractions of the season, I hope that everyone noticed that parts of Mr. Rendall’s assertions just don’t make sense. Like when he moves from comparing apples to apples, to equating apples and oranges, as in “300 metric tonnes of carbon avoided … equivalent to more than 70 wind turbines.” What does that even mean?
What mostly concerns me about Mr. Rendall’s advertising copy lies in the first paragraph. Let’s assume his numbers are correct. Thanks to the natural gas pipeline expansion into Vergennes and Middlebury, in 2017 VGS added fewer than 1,000 new customers. To pay for the pipeline, $134 million is being taken from Vermont ratepayers. Each new Vermont Gas customer is costing hard-working Vermonters and senior citizens $135,000. Rather than holiday wishes, Vermont Gas should be sending handwritten thank-you notes to all Vermonters.