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iBerkshires.com Columnist Section

Sue Bush
More articles from Sue Bush

Be COOL-Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions

12:00AM / Thursday, April 20, 2006

Williamstown-The Williamstown COOL (CO2 Lowering) Committee, together with Williams College, is launching a CO2 Lowering Campaign to encourage the community to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The Committee and the College are hosting a series of events next week – Earth Week -- to promote energy awareness.

Williamstown is a member of the Cities for Climate Protection Campaign. The events will provide practical information for citizens who want to contribute to this crucial effort.

Help the Planet, Save Money

Greenhouse gases like CO2 are the main cause of global warming. If nothing is done to curb greenhouse gas emissions, scientists estimate that average global temperatures will rise between 3.5 and 7 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of this century. This will lead to potentially devastating changes in rainfall, sea levels, and storm intensity.

In a time of rising energy prices, reducing greenhouse gas emissions can also save money!

A Town In Action

Williamstown has already taken several important steps to curb its emissions. These include purchasing two hybrid vehicles for the Inspection Services Department, installing solar panels at Williamstown Elementary School, and encouraging residents to purchase electricity from renewable sources. More than three percent of Williamstown households have signed up for New England GreenStart. This has resulted in over $13,200 in bonus funds for the town, which are being applied to a 2.4 kW photovoltaic system for the Milne Library.

Also recently, the town was awarded a grant of $9,000 from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection to perform a comprehensive energy audit of Town Hall and to purchase energy loggers that residents can borrow from Milne Library to measure how much power the appliances in their homes are drawing.

"We are thrilled to have received these grants,” Selectman Jane Allen, a member of the COOL Committee, said. “The funding will allow us to implement municipal projects to conserve energy, save money and reduce greenhouse emissions, as well as conduct workshops to help residents and businesses do the same."

Excise Tax Rebate Program

To encourage energy conservation, the Williamstown Board of Selectmen recently recommended for approval a warrant article that would provide excise tax rebates for owners of fuel-efficient vehicles. If approved at Town Meeting, the rebate will be the first of its kind in Massachusetts.

"To make progress against our dependence on foreign oil and degradation of the environment, we need action on the federal, state, municipal, and individual levels,” Town Manager Peter Fohlin said. “The federal government has made a start with income tax credits. States like New Mexico have implemented statewide fuel economy incentives. This is an opportunity for Williamstown to be in the forefront of energy independence and cleaner air.”

How Many People Does It Take To Change A Light Bulb?

The town has set a goal of replacing 15,000 incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLB’s) over the next five years (approximately five bulbs per household).

This would reduce Williamstown’s CO2 emissions by 600 tons of CO2 and would result in a savings to residents of $25 per bulb. As part of this effort, NationalGrid has donated 100 energy-saving compact-fluorescent light bulbs. These will be given away at an energy fair to be held Thursday, April 27th, at 6:30 PM at Bronfman Auditorium. The fair will be followed at 7:30 by a talk by acclaimed author Bill McKibben.

Williams College "Climate Action Committee"

Williams College, which produces roughly 25 percent of the town’s overall emissions, is also working to reduce its CO2 production.

"As an institutional citizen of the region and of the world, Williams has an increasing role to play in addressing issues of environmental sustainability, including the controlling of greenhouse gas emissions," Williams President Morton Owen Schapiro said. "We've certainly taken steps along this line, but preliminary work by a campus committee shows that we can do considerably more, with focused attention of time and money. Effective responses will also require heightened awareness among students, faculty, and staff of the roles they have to play in lowering energy consumption."

Schapiro has appointed a Climate Action Committee that by the end of this calendar year will recommend a target for reduction of the College's greenhouse gas emissions and ways to attain it.

Actions the College has already taken include installation of a 7.2 KW photovoltaic system on the Science Center, the purchase of five electric vehicles and three hybrids, and the replacement of nearly 700 incandescent light bulbs with CFLBs.

An energy conservation competition among student residence halls is taking place this month. The College also is returning elm trees to campus, with the planting of 48 raised in the College nursery. Trees absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen.

The College's Paresky Center, under construction, incorporates many sustainability features, including innovative technology that circulates air beneath the floors, controls lights, and monitors the heating and ventilation systems to reduce consumption.

The Climate Action Committee is expected to recommend further steps involving the use of greener energy sources, improved building systems, and heightened awareness leading to shifts in habits of energy consumption.

"Williams is particularly happy to be working in partnership with the town on this important issue," Schapiro said. "Together we should be able to make a real difference."

The events that will launch the campaign include:

CAMPUS SUSTAINABILITY PANEL DISCUSSION (APRIL 25)

COMMUNITY ENERGY FAIR/FLUORESCENT BULB GIVEAWAY (APRIL 27)

LECTURE BY AUTHOR BILL McKIBBEN: “HOW BIG SHOULD WE BE: GLOBAL WARMING AS A MORAL QUESTION.” (APRIL 27)



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