Sunday, November 22, 2015
In my gallivanting around the northeast, I can't help but notice recurring signs wherever I go. Around work in Merrimack and even in my hometown Pelham, I see "No Pipeline" signs in yards. Up north in places I bike and hike, I see "Stop the Northern Pass" signs. I've touched on this here in the past, but feel compelled to comment a bit more about it.
Americans are energy hogs. There's no weaseling around this fact. Sure, some folks drive a hybrid to work and back but live in a 3500sq-ft McMansion for two people. How many pounds of CO2 does heating and cooling it add to the environment each year?
So what bugs me is this. Invariably folks that oppose the Northern Pass are hooked up to the grid! Where do they think that electricity comes from? Several major sources of generation are going away in the next few years and there is nothing to back fill the demand. Rates are already among the highest in the country. Folks that oppose Northern Pass would gain so much more credibility if their homes were not connected to the grid.
Same with the pipeline. Many areas the pipeline passes through are serviced by natural gas. Yards sporting anti-pipeline signs have gas meters just a few feet away! Go figure. Again, where do they figure that gas comes from? Do homes around here have private gas wells?
Increasing gas supply would go a long way in meeting demand as old generators are decommissioned. Gas can readily be converted to electricity with less impact on the environment than coal. Wind and solar currently meet a tiny fraction of demand and won't anytime soon be a full solution (no storage means when dark or calm). As I've noted before, I'm a huge proponent of developing solar power as a major replacement for how much of our electricity is generated today.
There is a lot of information out there both for and against these projects. Why do people gravitate one way or another? It seems we are susceptible to the "anti" memes right now. There is a lot of misinformation out there, and that resonates better in our current cultural mindset than non-emotional facts. Powerlines cause cancer! Stop the Northern Pass. Pipelines incinerate people! Stop the pipeline!
The fact of the matter is home and office wiring, and particularly a cellphone held to the head, pushes way more EMF through the body than high voltage powerlines hundreds of feet away. Yet opponents use these scare tactics, and people believe it.
As far as gas lines go, how many incinerated people do you know? None? I bet you know several people killed in car accidents, yet we don't think twice about heading to work every day. Back in Michigan, I built a house on land that had a set of very high volume natural gas pipelines running through the backyard. I never once gave consideration to being incinerated or building elsewhere. Only downside to having the lines cross my five acres was I could not build over the lines. Could farm it though. There's fear mongering over the compressor station that would be needed at the pipeline terminus in an adjacent town. Well, in Michigan, our property abutted one of those too. Not a perfect neighbor, but you can have way worse neighbors. The fact of the matter is far more people are killed by natural gas in the home than by pipelines. Carbon monoxide, usually the result of faulty furnaces and appliances, kills many people every year. Then fires and explosions from leaks in the home kill people too. Pipelines? Much further down the list. Most pipeline fatalities are from construction accidents.
NIMBY - Not In My Back Yard. Everybody enjoys the benefits of cheap, available energy to fuel our excessive lifestyles as long as it isn't brought through our backyard. New England has enjoyed a diverse economy and relatively low unemployment rates during the 18 years I have called it home. I'd hate to see that tank because it becomes too expensive to live or set up shop here.
Power lines and pipe lines aren't the only thing Americans are being NIMBY with right now. We've suddenly discovered new reasons to reject refugees after the recent events in Paris. Everybody wants to help, but not in my city.
This post isn't so much a rant about people protesting infrastructure improvements. It is about why we gravitate toward one side of a conflict vs. the other. I think social media does a disservice here, vs, face to face dialog. You can be confronted, bombarded really, with connection's viewpoints very quickly in social media. This pushes people into corners, isolates people. It doesn't bring people together, that's for sure. Face to face discourse is personal, less confrontational. It seems a lot of content gets shared on Facebook purely to stir up reactions. We bitch and complain about congress being in perpetual gridlock, but I see an awful lot of that going on at a much more local level too. It seems to have become the American way.