NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

December 16, 2013

Editorial: Other voices, other views on the issues


Newburyport Daily News

---- — Excerpts from the editorials of other New England newspapers:

This year, lighting America for the holidays will consume more than 6 trillion watt-hours of electricity, or, using U.S. Department of Energy figures, roughly enough to power every home in New Hampshire for one month. To produce the extra electricity, utilities will have to burn huge quantities of natural gas and in some cases coal. The annual luxury of lights offsets some of the efforts being made to combat climate change, so this year give the planet a present and swap at least some of those strings of tiny incandescent lights for LED lights, which use up to 90 percent less energy and last decades, not just a season or two.

White incandescent Christmas lights emit 95 percent of the energy they consume as heat rather than light. Colored lights create even more heat and less light. Knowing that the greenhouse gases emitted to power the lights are helping to melt the snow under Santa’s sleigh — not to mention the ice under polar bears — takes a bit of the warm holiday glow off the annual festival of lights that occurs in almost every neighborhood. Switching to LED lights saves energy and money. According to the online retailer ChristmasLightsEtc, a heavy user with a light-outlined home would spend $115.26 per holiday season to run incandescent mini-lights but just $15.32 for LEDs.

Swap the lights and have a more energy-efficient holiday.

-- The Concord (N.H.) Monitor

There was a very unusual headline coming out of Iceland recently. Well, unusual for that country anyway. It seems police shot and killed a man who started shooting at police when they entered his building. What makes this story so unusual, extraordinary even, is that it’s the first time someone has been killed by armed police in Iceland since it became an independent republic in 1944.

GunPolicy.org estimates there are about 90,000 guns in Iceland, a country with just over 300,000 people. The country ranks 15th in the world in terms of legal per capita gun ownership. However, Iceland suffered only four deaths as a result of firearms in 2009, the last year for which data was available, according to GunPolicy.org. By comparison, the United States had 31,347 gun-related deaths that same year. That breaks down to 1.25 gun deaths per 100,000 people in Iceland, and 10.22 per 100,000 in the U.S.

And there lies a cold, hard truth: America has an unenviable, worldwide reputation of being a violent society. The key question is, why? Some blame movies and video games for poisoning our minds, and the guns themselves for giving us the means to carry out the violence we see on the screen.

-- The Brattleboro (Vt.) Reformer

A man got tired and four people died.

That, at least, appears to be what happened on Dec. 1, when a Metro-North commuter train derailed as it took a curve at 82 mph, spilling onto the banks of the Harlem River near the Spuyten Duyvil station in the Bronx, N.Y.

The train’s engineer, William Rockefeller, met with National Transportation Safety Board investigators and detectives from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and New York City police for several hours. A union official has leaked that Rockefeller “basically nodded” while guiding the Hudson line train carrying about 150 people. This is certainly a long way from the final word on this investigation, but we don’t need a team of detectives to recognize a major flaw in the existing system.

Rockefeller came out of his daze in time to hit the brakes a few seconds before the accident. Perhaps even that last-minute act saved a few lives. But what if an engineer suffers a fatal heart attack in similar circumstances? Would every life on that train be in jeopardy? Perhaps engineers need to be held to new standards before starting the job each day. This may be an inconvenience to the many, but so is removing shoes every time we board a plane.

William Rockefeller made a mistake, but it’s not the only mistake that has been made. In 2013, we should be able to develop a system that does not leave so many lives in the hands of a single driver, whether he’s weary or not.

-- The Connecticut Post of Bridgeport, Conn.