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[nafex] O/T Environmental Paradox
1. Whenever I read about another interest group opposing development,
drilling, logging, mining, animal research, and so many other causes, I
am always struck by the fact that the middle and upper class people who
make up these groups never seem to think they have much to lose Few of
them are loggers, miners, farmers, sick people waiting for cures through
medical research, or owners of the land they would like to protect from
development. They want somebody else to make the sacrifice, and that's
the American way.
2. Many of their causes are worthwhile. But they seem to forget that a
balance of interests should be struck, and nobody should get everything
they want at the expense of others. For example, I oppose clear-cutting
in our national forests, and the destruction of the few remaining areas
of old-growth timber. But I support selective logging in most areas to
renew growth and reduce fire danger, not to mention to provide
employment for loggers and sawmill workers, and I believe carefully
planned roadbuilding is necessary to facilitate fire control, logging,
and some public access to these areas. Yet our recent President, just
before flying off into the sunset, issued an exective order prohibiting
any of these activities --- in fact, any economically productive
activity --- in the largest area of national forest in our history.
3. Not long ago, he did the same thing in the Escalante area of Utah,
about half the state, which sits atop what may be the largest deposits
of coal in the country and, some say, considerable gas reserves.
Someday we might need that coal, but we'll have to overturn federal
regulations to get at it, and these things tend to stick. Before too
long, I believe we will have the technology to utilize coal in a much
more environmentally friendly way. We'd better have, because petroleum
is not a good long-term bet. Wasn't there some way to provide an
adequate level of protection to the Escalante area without prohibiting
all human activity? Why does it have to be all or nothing?
4. Everybody loves salmon. I love salmon. Now there is serious talk
of restoring the runs to the Snake and Columbia rivers by blowing up
hydroelectric dams. Better think about it before lighting those fuses.
After the huge investment to build a hydro dam and install the turbines,
hydro power is easily the cheapest most environmentally friendly power
source around. PNW customers are accustomed to very comfortable power
rates --- less than half of what we pay here in the East. If a few of
those dams go, they can expect rates to quickly double --- and maybe a
lot more. Is that a fair trade-off? Maybe so, but it's worth pondering
for a while.
5. Americans pull together and make sacrifices in times of real
emergency --- such as war. But between wars, we are pretty selfish and
shortsighted. If we were really serious about protecting the
environment, and conserving energy in the bargain, there would be a
federal tax to bring the cost of gasoline up to at least $3.00 a
gallon. Europeans have figured this out, and prices there average over
$4.00, and in some places close to $5.00 a gallon. Most of this is tax,
which gives the governments funds for such items as education, health
care, and roadbuilding, and discourages excess consumption in the
bargain. When the recent crude shortage pushed U.S. prices up close to
$2.00, you would have thought the world was coming to an end.
Politicians of all persuasions had a field day demagouging this issue.
Al Gore wanted to tap the strategic petroleum reserve. Poor us. If
Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, and all the rest
wanted to do something really worthwhile, a national gas tax is a place
they could focus their efforts. But don't hold your breath. They know
that this one would be really tough, and politically unpopular.
Besides, they are too busy driving their Ford Expeditions and Chevy
Suburbans to the next rally. The only way to get Americans to really
conserve anything is to raise the price. And that brings us to the next
case: electricity and California.
6. Californians may be admirable for their support of "grass roots"
movements, but they love cheap power, lots of it, and they hate
generating plants. If you must build a power plant, we will hassle you
so that it takes three times as long to build as anyplace else, it
better not be close to any human person or settlement, and it had better
burn clean natural gas, not, heaven forbid, coal, or yikes -- nuclear
atoms. Oh, and by the way, if you produce any power it had better be
cheap because our state government says so. Result? No new power
plants in California, in spite of sharply rising demand for
electricity. What is worse, plants in neighboring states are paying a
lot more for natural gas, which has become the country's most popular
fuel for power generation, and don't want to sell electricity at the
price California wants to pay. Even the PNW hydro generators are
sending down less power because they can get better prices elsewhere,
and are filling their own local needs first. The one thing California's
political leaders want to avoid is raising prices to users, and they are
desperately trying to find a way to solve their problem without pain.
Sorry Californians, you are screwed. For the foreseeable future. How
abouit a "grass roots" movement to raise consumer electric rates? That
would at least be a start to solving the problem.
7. Big hoopla over possible drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife
Refuge. We've got to keep it pristine, right? But we are about 60%
dependent on foreign sources of petroleum. We don't seem to mind
foreign countries drilling for oil on their pristine lands to supply our
thirsty fuel tanks. Furthermore, if supply from those foreign sources
should somehow be interrupted --- which could happen --- we are in big
trouble. Caribou have coexised with oil rigs in other areas of Alaska,
why not the Refuge? It's the environmental purist mentality. Sure we
should conserve petroleum, but let's do it with the price mechanism, and
let's try to reduce our overwhelming dependence on foreign energy
8. Around here, we turn off lights and appliances when they are not
being used, and I'll bet that at Donna's house the candles are snuffed
as soon as the kids finish their homework. (No, I don't think they do
it on the backs of shovels.) I cut up the neighbors fallen trees and
split them for firewood for the stove, and have done so for years.
Power bills are low, and the fuel oil bill practically nil. Does this
make me an environmentalist, or is it that I just hate to pay bills?
9. Having said all of the above nonsense, I recall the remark of a
previous contributor on this thread, who said the real problem is that
there are just too many of us. How true. Wait until places like China
and India begin to catch up with our levels of energy consumption and
CO2 production. Then we will see some real global warming. There won't
even be enough polar ice cap left for premium vodka.
Environmentally Yours, Don Yellman Great Falls, VA