Vermont Leads New England on Path to Cleaner Fuel Mix

As more Vermonters learn about the threat of climate disrupting tar sands—one of the planet’s dirtiest and most carbon polluting fuels—being transported through the Northeast Kingdom via an aging oil pipeline, it’s increasingly clear that they want nothing to do with the idea. Our state’s water, air, wildlife, tourism economy and climate are too valuable, and from Barton to Brattleboro to Montpelier, Vermonters are speaking out.

Vermont’s governor, congressional delegation and state officials share these concerns, and they have also spoken out against the expansion and transport of tar sands from Alberta, Canada, through the United States. Thanks in part to their leadership, as well as the hundreds of activists and dozens of towns who have taken a stand, Vermont is in a strong position to keep tar sands out of the Portland-Montreal pipeline. But even as we protect ourselves from being used as a highway for the Canadian tar sands industry, we could soon be filling our gas tanks with fuel derived from tar sands from a different channel. Tar sands-derived fuel has about 20 percent more carbon pollution emissions on a life-cycle basis than fuel derived from conventional oil.

To protect moose, birds, fish and humans here in New England, it’s clear that Canada’s tar sands need to stay in the ground, and Vermont is playing a leading role in that fight.

New England’s moose are threatened by climate change, which will be exacerbated by massive expansion of Canada’s tar sands industry. Photo by David Govatski, U.S. FWS.

Gov. Shumlin takes the first step for New England

As of today, New England, unlike many parts of the United States, can still say we are “tar sands free,” as only a negligible amount of tar sands fuel makes its way into the region. But the sobering reality is that because of the way pipelines and rail cars crisscross our country, by 2020 as much as 18 percent of the fuel we put in our gas tanks could be derived from climate polluting tar sands, especially if major projects like the Keystone XL pipeline are approved. Such an inundation would cause enough additional carbon pollution to erase the gains from the landmark and successful Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a regional program to cap carbon pollution.

We’re proud that Gov. Peter Shumlin has taken the all-important first step toward making sure the Northeast doesn’t get pulled backward by the dirtiest fuels, by directing his administration to do a few things here in Vermont that will “lead to a better understanding of the total emissions of fossil fuels, with the ultimate goal of curtailing them.” The Shumlin Administration will:

  • Investigate the feasibility of developing a Vermont carbon intensity tracking system for fossil fuels we import (contrary to industry complaints, this can be done and is already being done in California).
  • Reach out to other states to lay the groundwork for this tracking regionally.
  • Support other ongoing efforts to track the carbon intensity of our region’s fuel.

These are very basic first steps which are vital to moving forward and bringing the rest of the region along with us. The tar sands industry’s plans for massive expansion come at great cost to wildlife, and the United States must use every tool possible to keep the dirty fuel in the ground. Tracking our fuel with the ultimate goal of keeping tar sands out of the mix is an important way to do so.

This commitment shows that Vermont and Gov. Shumlin are not only ready to protect the Northeast Kingdom’s environment and economy, but Vermont is ready to lead the nation forward in the fight against climate change.

Protect Moose from Tar Sands

Take ActionResidents of Vermont and other Northeastern states can help protect moose and other Northeastern wildlife. Send a message to your governor and urge them to say “No” to tar sands.