The Vermont Conversation with David Goodman is a VTDigger podcast that features in-depth interviews on local and national issues with politicians, activists, artists, changemakers and citizens who are making a difference. On July 14, 2021 David Goodman spoke with EAN Executive Director, Jared Duval.

Listen to the conversation here.

Can reducing reliance on fossil fuels benefit low-income people?

For Jared Duval, the answer is personal. Duval, a ninth-generation Vermonter, grew up shivering around a propane stove in a small apartment because his single mother struggled to afford her heating bills. Duval’s father lived for a time in a tent behind a flea market in Clarendon, using a space heater to survive relentless Vermont winters.

Duval is now executive director of Energy Action Network, a nonprofit organization working to advance Vermont’s carbon emissions reduction efforts. He argues that the climate crisis and fossil fuel dependence disproportionately impact low-income Vermonters, who spend nearly one-fifth of their income on heating fuels and transportation. By contrast, Vermonters earning over $80,000 pay 5% or less of their income for energy costs.

Duval reflects on “how expensive it is to be poor. Lower-income folks often face higher costs for energy. It’s the exact opposite of what you would want.”

In its recently released annual report, Energy Action Network calls for Vermont to drastically lower its carbon footprint in the transportation and heating sectors in the next five years to meet its energy commitments and achieve a more equitable energy path. The state has committed to reducing its carbon emissions to 26% below 2005 levels by 2025 and 40% below 1990 levels by 2030. It could be sued if it failed to meet those targets.

Duval shares his own story of reducing his energy footprint and makes the case for an equitable transition that benefits low-income Vermonters. “My hope is, in the transformation beyond fossil fuels, we can work to make our energy systems more equitable and serve low-income Vermonters first, not last,” he says.