PITTSFIELD -- Massachusetts can and should take the lead in fighting the nation's dependency on fossil fuels and replacing them with renewable energy such as wind and solar power.

Enviromental activist Craig Altemose says residents from the Berkshires to Cape Cod need to fight "Big Oil" -- just as it did "Big Tobacco" -- by turning the public against the giant oil companies making billions in annual profits.

"These global corporations spread lies and propaganda," he said. "We can't defeat them with money so we need to defeat them with people."

Altemose's remarks Monday night came before a packed lecture hall at Berkshire Community College during a kick-off meeting of the Berkshire chapter of 350 Massachusetts. The number 350 refers to the parts per million the maximum acceptable level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere for sustaining a safe, livable planet. Currently, the level is near 400ppm.

Altemose is executive director of Better Future Project, the driving force behind the 350 Massachusetts initiative, which is independent but aligned with 350.org, another grassroots effort to reduce the consumption of oil, coal and natural gas across the state.

"We need to keep 80 percent of the world's fossil fuel reserves in the ground -- they can't be burned," he noted.

The 350 Massachusetts movement also advocates against any new fossil fuel projects such as the proposed natural gas-fired plant in Salem or expansion of the Tennessee Gas Pipeline through Berkshire County.


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"The line in the sand must be drawn here, right now," said Altemose. "No new fossil fuel project should be allowed in the state as they will be met with fierce opposition."

Meanwhile, anti-fossil fuel movement seeks to increase the use of wind, solar and other renewable natural resources to power the local, state -- and eventually national -- economies.

"Making the transition to clean energy is not only good for the environment, it's good for the economy," said Berkshire state Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, among the notable local supporters of 350 Massachusetts

As Senate chairman of the Joint Committee on telecommunications, Utilities and Energy, the Pittsfield Democrat said he is pushing hard for passage of his bill to divest the state's pension fund portfolio of stocks in Exxon-Mobil, Shell and other major oil companies.

While the $1.4 million invested in the fossil fuel industry represents 2.6 percent of the $54 million Pension Reserves Investment Trust, the divestiture is worth the effort, Downing said.

"Divestment is just part of a large climate strategy," he said.

For more information on 350 Massachusetts, go online at www.350MA.org; to get involved, email coordinator@350ma.org.

To reach Dick Lindsay:

rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com,

or (413) 496-6233.