Last Friday, Andru Volinsky was in Exeter, N.H., for a high-profile press event on a topic that is anything but: the Granite Bridge natural gas pipeline.
Surrounded by representatives of far-Left organizations 350 New Hampshire, the Sunrise Movement and Rights & Democracy NH, Volinsky reiterated his opposition to the pipeline project. “I am the only candidate in this race who opposes Granite Bridge, who has opposed it from the start,” Volinsky said.
Both Gov. Chris Sununu and Volinsky’s opponent in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, state Sen. Dan Feltes, support the pipeline.
“My campaign has refused to take fossil fuel money,” Volinsky said in a veiled swipe at Feltes. ”[Granite Bridge] is a bad project.”
If so, it’s a “bad project” supported by 22 of 24 state senators in 2018 — 10 of them Democrats, including popular progressive Sen. Martha Fuller Clark. The retiring senator from Portsmouth called Granite Bridge “a smart, responsible and forward-looking approach to meeting our state’s energy needs, especially with regard to heating our homes and businesses.”
By attacking Granite Bridge, particularly with his suggestion that Democrats have been corrupted by “fossil fuel money,” Volinsky isn’t just taking a shot at Feltes. He’s getting on the wrong side of a lot of his fellow elected Democrats.
Not to mention being on the wrong side of both Granite State ratepayers and the environment itself.
New Hampshire residents pay the second-highest home heating costs in the country, trailing only Maine. One reason is that, as the U.S. Energy Information Administration reports, more than 40 percent of the state’s households rely on fuel oil to heat their homes.
Not only is natural gas significantly cheaper than fuel oil, it emits about 38 percent less CO2. Burning fuel oil results in particulate emissions 130 times higher than those produced by natural gas, also leading to higher carbon dioxide emissions.
And that doesn’t include the environmental impact from fleets of diesel trucks making fuel oil deliveries across the state.
As Jim Snell with the Steamfitter’s Local 420 in Pennsylvania — and a Democrat — told InsideSources: “You cannot be pro-business, pro-worker, pro-middle class or even pro-environment if you support halting projects that deliver cleaner-burning, low-cost fuel that consumers and manufacturers need.”
The activists standing with Volinsky Friday don’t agree. They back extreme environmental action, including the multi-trillion-dollar Green New Deal
In addition to bringing an end to the internal combustion engine (electric cars make up less than 2 percent of the cars on American roads), the Green New Deal calls for an end to all fossil fuel energy use by 2030.
To put that in perspective, in 2018 (the most recent data from the EIA), New Hampshire was still consuming more energy from coal than from wind and solar combined. If wind and solar’s share of local power increased ten-fold by 2030, they’d still generate less than 30 percent of the total.
Ending fossil fuel use in the near term is simply unrealistic. Efforts like Volinsky’s to restrict access to natural gas result in continued fuel oil consumption and higher heating bills for consumers. That explains why so many Democrats were willing to back Granite Bridge, and why some Democrats tell NHJournal they find Volinsky’s campaign style off-putting.
“He’s surrounding himself with all these ‘my way or the highway’ groups, and Andy already had that covered,” one NH Democratic insider told NHJournal.
It could be that progressive voters from the Bernie Sanders wing of the party will be enough to deliver a Volinsky primary victory, though neither Sanders nor his ideological ally, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, performed as well as expected in New Hampshire’s presidential primary. And moderates have done well in Democratic state primaries in New Hampshire. (Just ask “Governor” Steve Marchand.)
The Granite Bridge project is still under consideration by the Public Utility Commission and its fate is uncertain. Even less certain is how attacking his fellow Democrats and supporting higher energy costs and CO2 emissions is a winner for Andru Volinsky.