All for a few dollars more


To the Editor:

I am responding to The Times’ recent editorial [State government legislates higher electricity costs, August 3] about the Green Communities Act legislation which is designed to increase the percentage of renewable energy in the state’s electrical grid.

The main point of the editorial is that this will drive the cost of electricity up. The writer suggests that we can simply obtain “environmentally friendly,” cheap hydro power from somewhere else. It is news to me that hydro power is environmentally friendly.

The author also mentions natural gas as an “abundant, relatively cheap and clean” alternative to meet our energy needs. True, unless you happen to live in a fracking area and don’t mind your tap water catching on fire. And speaking of water, it takes 12 million gallons of water (plus unknown chemicals) to frack a single well. But all that goes on somewhere else, so not to worry.

The part of the editorial that bothers me the most, however, is the concept that government intervention is a bad thing, because it could raise our electric bills a few dollars a month. I thought a few historical examples of “federal and state regulatory burdens” (i.e. environmental laws) might be useful to reflect upon here.

In 1906, Upton Sinclair wrote “The Jungle.” It was an expose of the conditions in America’s slaughterhouses. It spurred legislation that the meat packing industry claimed would bankrupt them. Think about itthe next time you don’t worry if the burger you are eating is safe.

In the 1940s, the Delaware River was dead to the south of Philadelphia due to the pollution from Campbell’s Soup Co. Legislation was passedthat the execs of Campbell’s said would bankrupt them. Today, we can choose from 90 varieties of that soup, and eat fish out of that river.

In the 1950s, they finally decided to do something about the deadly air pollution in Pittsburgh. I doubt the steel companies welcomed that.

In 1962, Rachel Carson wrote “Silent Spring.” It spurred legislation that banned DDT and a variety of seriously dangerous chemicals. (How have we ever gotten along without them?) Alternatives to DDT are more expensive, but give me the birds and the bees, please.

In 1969, the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland caught fire because it was so polluted. The clean water act was passed three years later, and that kind of event is a thing of the past.

In 2001, when I built my house in Vineyard Haven, I was forced to put in a $12,000 septic system. I could have done just fine with an outhouse. Need I say more?

In 2008, the government of China, which has never passed a clean air act, had to resort to closing all factories within 100 miles upwind of Beijing and severely curtail automobile traffic in hopes of getting the air clean enough for athletes to compete in the Olympics.

For the past decade or two, there have been a number of extreme weather events around the world, including the current drought in the U.S. These events have collectively been way outside the limits of naturalvariability. Virtually any climate scientist with anything more than B.A in b.s. that is not on the payroll of an oil company will tell you it is from the burning of fossil fuels. These severe weather events are extremely expensive and cause hardship for millions of people. How much will the projected two-foot rise in sea level over the next century cost? I am not only talking about money.

It seems to me few people are willing to make any sacrifice on their own. Look around at the floodlights on at night (or during the day for that matter), air conditioners running on nice days, people leaving their cars and trucks running when they go into stores — even a propane store in Vineyard Haven that just burns gas for an advertising gimmick.

I for one take some comfort in knowing that my meat is (relatively) safe, the rivers will not catch on fire, and have fish in them, I can breathe reasonably clean air, listen to birds, and not have to deal with my neighbors’ stinking outhouse — all due to the kind of legislation that the aforementioned editorial rails against.

I would suggest that we need a serious amount of legislation to force us to pull our heads out of the sand and deal with the fact that we are quickly making this planet a less safe and less beautiful place to live. The Green Communities Act is a welcome start.

If you are really worried about your electric bill going up, be more careful with your energy usage and buy a few LED lights.You will easily save enough to offset the predicted rate rise.

If a few extra dollars a month on my electric bill can help prevent a drought, tornado, or hurricane, and make the air and water cleaner, I am all for it.

Don Keller

Vineyard Haven