NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

January 25, 2014

Learning economic, environmental lessons the hard way

Barbara Anderson
Newburyport Daily News

---- — “The largest threat to freedom, democracy, the market economy and prosperity is no longer socialism. It is, instead, the ambitious, arrogant, unscrupulous ideology of environmentalism.” Czech president Vaclav Klaus, quoted by Charles Krauthammer in a 2008 column included in his new book, “Things That Matter.”

Czechoslovakia learned its lesson about socialism the hard way. Since Dr. Krauthammer used this quote in his column, the United States has accelerated on the road to learning its lesson about socialism the hard way, too.

This doesn’t negate former President Klaus’ point about radical environmentalism. A huge subject, so I’ll keep it local for now.

I did buy a thick flannel shirt to keep me warm if the enviro-radicals delay or kill the proposed natural gas Salem Harbor power plant. I know I depend upon National Grid for my own heat, but ...

I once thought that having gas would ensure I had heat during an electric power outage, until I learned that I need electricity to turn on the furnace. Salem uses its plant to generate electricity, which I get from Marblehead Electric, which gets it from MMWEC, which gets it from the electric power grid, of which Salem is a part. So, technically, I might sometimes depend on Salem for the electricity needed to fire my gas furnace to keep warm.

Let me reassure the enviro-rads who are protesting the new Salem plan that even if it’s built, I’ll still wear my flannel shirt so I can keep my thermostat lower and help save Mother Earth. Of course, if everyone had my small carbon footprint, Mother Earth probably wouldn’t have the fever that Al Gore says it has. Or a cold. Or whatever it has now that the globe is no longer warming but instead just changing its climate.

I laughed about the global warming scientists stuck in the summertime ice in Antarctica over Christmas, but I feel bad about the kangaroos dying in the drought in Australia, not to mention my son and grandson missing skiing in the nearby Sierra Nevada, which has no snow this year. I think something is going on, climate-wise, and would be open to discussion if it didn’t require I make the “ambitious, arrogant, unscrupulous ideology of environmentalism” my personal religion — or fund Gov. Patrick’s new state climate change czar and his $40 million budget.

Validating my resistance to enviro-rads: the vote by the Marblehead Board of Health last week for a ban on plastic checkout bags. This came a week after I got a notice from the Marblehead Sewer Department asking me not to put garbage down the disposal, but to put it in a plastic bag and then in the trash.

I don’t have a disposal and always wrap the garbage in the plastic bags I get at the grocery store when my cloth bags are full; then, I put it in the freezer until trash day. But the Board of Health doesn’t want me to have plastic bags, apparently following state Rep. Lori Ehrlich’s argument that they’ve become an environmental menace, harming beaches, oceans and animal life. I won’t mention clogging landfills, because Marblehead doesn’t have one anymore; we send our plastic bags to the Saugus incinerator, where they are burned and, I assume, pollute the air? I’ve never seen anyone here toss a plastic bag onto the beach or into the ocean, but I’d support a crackdown on all litterbugs; remember when we used to beep our horns at them? I suppose that’s noise pollution; instead, let’s put a plastic bag over their heads (with a nose-hole) and shame them in the stocks at Town Hall.

Incredibly, the Board of Health wants shoppers to choose paper instead of plastic! They want to kill more trees? I grew up downwind from a paper mill: On a clear day you could smell it 15 miles away, not to mention the sulphates in the Clarion River.

We should be using cloth bags. Some people fear they will become contaminated by meat, but the clerk always wraps the meat in a plastic bag before putting it in the cloth bag. Oh, wait.

Here is the difference between libertarian/conservatives like me and enviro-rads. We, the former, understand trade-offs. Every kind of energy and container causes some kind of problem: We weigh the pros and cons and make the best decision. Liberals grab one trendy issue and go nuts with it.

I hope there will be a gas-powered plant on Salem Harbor, down the street from my house, to generate electricity, so I can read without killing whales for lamp oil or beheading eagles with windmills; so I can fire my gas furnace instead of using gasoline or propane for a generator or chopping down the trees in my yard for a wood stove. Maybe someday solar power will make more economic sense, once politicians with taxpayer dollars are no longer distorting the market.

Meanwhile, I hope that we can remember, voluntarily, to carry enough cloth bags when shopping, instead of killing trees while banning the plastic bags we should use to keep our garbage out of the sewer system.

The Board of Health has decided to ask Marblehead voters to make this decision. It will be an interesting debate at May Town Meeting between environmental ideology and common sense.

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Barbara Anderson of Marblehead is president of Citizens for Limited Taxation.