Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Puzzle Pieces

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Talking Transportation

By Jim Cameron

There’s way too much news. I’m like a thirsty man trying to drink from a firehose.
Every day I read three daily CT newspapers, several CT news sites, the NYTimes, WSJ and then catch the evening news on BBC, France24, Deutsche Welle and PBS. (I don’t even bother with the commercial networks or the ‘terror-tainment’ on the cable channels).

But while drowning in content, I sometimes find disparate news items that present a pattern, often disturbing. For example…
• Why are we still looking at huge service cuts on Shore Line East when the State’s Comptroller just reported a $200+ million surplus in the Special Transportation Fund.
• And, when will CDOT announce dates and times for their long anticipated public hearings on the Fairness & Equity of budget-cut-induced fare hikes and service reductions on Metro-North?
• And, will those hearings be at times / places when affected commuters can actually attend and be heard?

Another case in point, our state’s electric future.

It seems that some in Hartford want to ban the sale in our state of all but electric cars by 2035. This would be to help our state fight the impending doom of global warming (as if there’s still time). You’d still be able to keep your gas guzzler (which would probably increase in value), just not replace it with anything that doesn’t run only on batteries.

I don’t want to debate the merits of the plan beyond asking a question I first asked last November: will Connecticut have enough electricity and transmission capacity to handle that growing demand for power?

Eversource, one of the major electricity providers in Massachusetts, expects a 20% increase in demand there in the next decade and a 150% increase by 2050 thanks to a surge in transportation and home heating. They plan to build new substations and expand others, expanding their grid by 180%, enough to handle 2.5 million more EVs and a million heat pumps in the Bay State.

I asked Eversource for the specifics of their expansion plans in Connecticut but they could not provide details in time to include here. However, Eversource says it’s committed to “building out” its transmission network.

But remember, Eversource just delivers the juice. They don’t generate it. That’s where the utility companies come in. So… where will the new electricity come from?

While only 6% of current electricity comes from “renewables”, just 13% of that small amount is from wind power. But that will change.

A massive wind farm is being assembled off Martha’s Vineyard that will, next year, start supplying over 700 MW of electricity to 350,000 Connecticut and Massachusetts homes using New London’s State Pier as a construction staging area.

But wind power isn’t free of its own problems.

Last week all nine members of Rhode Island’s Fisherman’s Advisory Board resigned en masse protesting the wind farms which they say will decimate commercial and recreational fishing.

So much news, so little time, even for a self-avowed news junkie like me to try to put the puzzle pieces together.

Jim Cameron is founder of the Commuter Action Group and advocates for Connecticut rail riders. His weekly column “Talking Transportation” is archived here. You can contact Jim at CommuterActionGroup@gmail.com.”

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