Lawmakers Get An Education On Biomass Fuels - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Lawmakers Get An Education On Biomass Fuels

Montpelier, Vermont - February 20, 2008

Lawmakers looking into the high cost of home heating got an education on biomass fuels on Wednesday night. Three House committees - Natural Resources and Energy, Ways and Means and Commerce - hosted a hearing on "The Future of Fuel Costs in Vermont." Lawmakers invited experts and state residents to testify about how their lives are impacted by high heating costs.

Before heading to the State House a group of high school students marched through Montpelier to rally support for the use of biomass fuels in Vermont.

"Essentially the goal is to switch Vermonters home heating from oil, which everybody knows is the most common heating fuel, to biomass pellets," said Lucia Bragg, a sophomore at Montpelier High School.

The students are part of the Vermont Sustainable Heating Initiative. They say switching to biomass pellets will not only have a positive impact on the environment, but also on the state's economy.

"Eighty-five percent of our money that we spend on oils, on oil fuels, goes out of state and off to the Middle East," explained Bragg. "Fifteen percent of that, only 15 percent stays. It's the exact opposite effect when you talk about local fuels."

After rallying outside the students took their message inside where lawmakers were holding a hearing about the high cost of fuels in Vermont.

"It's impacting people's pocketbooks as well as impacting our economy so this is an opportunity to hear from Vermonters how this is impacting their lives and also give them the opportunity to present some ideas for solutions about what we can do about the future of fuel costs," said Rep. Rachel Weston, D-Burlington, who was one of the hearing's main sponsors.

Rather than hearing about the impacts of heating costs, lawmakers heard more about possible solutions. Several experts testified that fossil fuel costs will likely continue to rise and while there is little Vermont can do about costs, it can create a diverse energy base from products in the state.

"Okay, what do we have in Vermont to work with? We don't have any oil, we don't have any coal, we don't have any natural gas - except for from landfills - so why promote consumption of something we don't have?" questioned Gary Flomenhoft of the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics at the University of Vermont.

Lawmakers say they are looking into ways to promote diverse energy sources in the state. In the meantime, they have focused efforts on making homes more energy efficient.

Bianca Slota - WCAX News

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