If their arguments are so effective, why do they keep lying?
I think it is safe to say, without taking a massive statewide poll, that most Mainers would prefer that the legal and policy decisions that effect their lives be made by people who are well-informed by factual information and that those who contribute to the public debate have a moral obligation to do so honestly.
This belief explains my great disappointment with the behavior of late of the Natural Resources Council of Maine.
There are few, if any, organizations in the state that have a greater impact on the laws and policies that govern our lives than this well-funded, well-organized, advocacy group. Lately, however, their willingness to abandon the truth in order to please their funders has exposed them as a group that is more interested in self-preservation than environmental stewardship.
In more than one instance, the information they have used to justify their goals has warranted a slight revision in their name, as they have become the Natural Resources Council of Misinformation.
Take, for example, their efforts to force Mainers to stop buying any new vehicles that are not what they call zero emissions vehicles (ZEVS) by essentially banning the sale of new gas-powered or hybrid vehicles. They are on the verge of accomplishing this goal simply by gathering one hundred fifty signatures and convincing the state’s seven-member Board of Environmental Protection to agree. As it turns out, all seven members were appointed to their positions by Gov. Janet Mills, a staunch political ally of the NRCM.
To take point on this issue, NRCM sent Jack Shapiro, its Climate and Energy Director, to appear on the George Hale / Ric Tyler radio program. To justify this effort to force you out of your future gas-powered vehicle. Shapiro claimed there is an elaborate conspiracy by automakers to keep ZEVs away from us.
SHAPIRO: “We’re seeing that there’s more demand actually for electric vehicles than there is availability here in Maine.” “These manufacturers are prioritizing other markets and leaving Maine behind.” No explanation. No source.
FACT: A quick glance at online vehicle retailers and major auto sales companies in Maine (within 100 miles of Portland, 2023/2024 model years) shows more than 2,000 ZEVs for sale. Many are last year’s models, meaning they have been on the lot for a while.
FACT: Mainers just don’t like or want electric vehicles and have made this abundantly clear through their buying habits since the first all-electric vehicle rolled off an assembly line 27 years ago. There are currently just 5,000 ZEVs registered in Maine and the state is in the bottom ten in the adoption of them.
When pressed on how Maine will meet the increased demand for electricity created by a shift to all-electric driving, Shapiro, with no supporting evidence at all, again made an easily disproven statement.
NRCM: “We have enough electricity. That certainly is not going to be the problem.”
FACT: Residential electricity rates in Maine have more than doubled in the last 18 months. This has not happened due to an abundance of supply. Even on its own website, NRCM acknowledges that Maine needs to generate more electricity.
On the Cost of Fossil Fuels
Rather than simply admit that solar, wind, and especially off-shore wind in Maine are fraught with expensive challenges but worth it given the climate situation, NRCM simply publishes claims that are not supported by the facts.
NRCM: The New England grid’s reliance on expensive natural gas caused electricity prices to nearly double this winter. And now Putin’s war in Ukraine is causing prices at the pump to balloon. (3/30/22)
FACT: Shortly after this NRCM post, the price of natural gas plummeted to near record lows and has remained at very low prices ever since. Currently, it is by far the least expensive fuel for heating a home. At $8.24 per billion BTU, it is one quarter of the cost of electric heat and one-third the cost of #2 fuel oil.
On Net Energy Solar Schemes
Mainers have begun to understand that out of state companies are raking in millions of dollars from ratepayers building solar farms in the least efficient state in the U.S. for solar production, yet NRCM continues to claim the opposite.
NRCM: (4/13/23) “Solar power reduces the money Mainers send out of state to pay for fossil fuels, and it reduces harmful price volatility.”
NRCM: (5/24/23) “Solar energy in Maine has grown seven-fold in the last few years. It is responsible for millions of dollars in benefits to ratepayers, putting downward pressure on rates across the board.”
FACT: According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), Maine’s residential electricity rates have more than doubled in the last 18 months. Currently, Maine’s 27.81¢ per kilowatt hour, is higher than all but three states nationally. Maine’s electricity rates have grown at well over twice the national average.
Also, according to the (EIA), despite all of the efforts of the NRCM-backed Mills administration to reduce carbon emissions, the amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere from Mainers rose by 6.7 percent during her first three years in office. During the previous eight years under Gov. Paul LePage, the state’s emissions dropped by 14.5 percent.
Which brings us to the latest effort by NRCM to shape statewide policy by making statements that simply do not measure up to the facts. NRCM has made it clear that it wants far more solar panels, electric vehicles, and wind turbines across Maine. Accomplishing their goals, however, requires massive amounts of minerals such as copper, zinc, cobalt, lithium, and more.
Unfortunately, while doing everything it can to drive up the demand for these limited minerals, NRCM is also working tirelessly to prevent them from being mined from known deposits here in Maine. This, despite the fact Maine has some of the most restrictive mining laws in the U.S. where responsible mining can be carried out in service of environmental goals as opposed to the environmental and human disasters in horrible conditions around the globe where these minerals are currently mined.
Recently, owners and investors have applied for permits to explore the possibility of mining a known deposit in northern Penobscot County known as Pickett Mountain. Geologists say that the deposit has the potential to yield billions of dollars’ worth of copper and zinc among other metals.
Copper, in particular, is in enormous demand worldwide because of its importance to clean energy projects. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, “Copper shortage threatens Green Transition.” Among other issues, the NRCM’s beloved ZEVs “require four times as much copper as gas-fueled cars.”
Setting aside for the sake of argument the fact that the United Nations has labelled zinc a “life-saving commodity,” claiming that 200,000 childhood deaths could be prevented every year with increased access to zinc, or that Zinc is a life-saving treatment for diarrhea, which kills more than 500,000 children each year. Let’s stick with the clean energy angle for now.
Vigorously opposing mining on Picket Mountain, while they also work to drastically increase demand for its minerals, NRCM sent Melanie Strum, its Forest and Wildlife Director, to the George Hale / Ric Tyler Show.
Among the remarkable statements that Strum made was this: “We also want to believe that the people in Maine should have a voice in deciding if this mine should go forward and it sounds like a resounding no from Maine people that they don’t support this.” This statement comes from an organization that seeks to use the signatures of just 150 Mainers to override the resounding testimony of hundreds of opponents to their ZEV scheme.
NRCM: “Zinc and Copper, the two primary metals that would come from this deposit. They aren’t scarce…We don’t need these metals.” Again, let’s set aside the lives of 500,000 children for another column.
FACT: Demand for zinc is expected to triple by 2030 as zero-emissions targets reach their due date. According to experts, “In some quarters, zinc is considered the secret base metal that is critical to reaching net-zero carbon emission targets. But recent zinc inventories have dropped dramatically.”
Spend significant time listening to the public testimony of NRCM staff or reading their Website or legislative testimony, and you will find an organization that does not let the facts get in the way of their mission. This soul-less lack of concern for the lives of children that depend on zinc, or the horrible, slave-like conditions in which Congolese children labor to extract copper and cobalt from the ground to feed the clean energy revolution is remarkable.
Maine is a beautiful state, populated largely by people with a keen appreciation for its environmental attributes. Having a strong environmental movement and organization to protect the natural beauty of our homeland is essential, but there is just as strong a need to do this work honestly, informing the public in the most factual way possible. To this end, the NRCM has long since lost its way.
If the group has legitimate points to make based on facts and empirical data, then let them bring these forward and have an honest public discussion about environmental policy. The fact that they instead put forward false arguments with no basis in fact in an effort to fool people into agreeing with them, is morally and ethically disappointing to say the least. Worse, it does great harm to the credibility of those who honestly and earnestly seek to protect Maine’s environment.