Opinion: Stone wrong to chastise clergy on pipeline decision

Paul Stone had a lot of nerve to accuse seven of our local clergy of not taking the time to understand what they are preaching about. Their letter to the editor was a collaborative sermon on a matter they have studied.
Stone’s statement that “emotional anecdotes are not particularly helpful” was insulting and untrue. How people feel about things does matter and the development of our emotions is the path to intelligent actions.
I think the Dalai Lama would agree. On his recent visit he asked us to put more focus on “educating the heart” at Middlebury College. The Pope has also come out against fracking. I believe that intelligence requires a heart of loving kindness. Our spiritual leaders see a moral problem with fracked gas, and it’s not from a lack of study and understanding of the truth that they speak out on these issues.
The next thing Stone goes on to write about is how awful coal is. Do the demerits of coal automatically give merit to natural gas as a substitute? Why be so quick to replace one dirty fossil fuel with another dirty fossil fuel? Stone says that natural gas is clean burning. Yes, it is more clean burning than coal or oil. But then he ends the comparison right there. Let’s be picky though and look under the hood.
The extracting methods of natural gas are a dreadful horror that incudes polluting to water so that it famously catches fire, causes sickness and death in people and animals, contaminates crops, pollutes the air, sickens natural gas workers, fragments communities, and when the frack teams come in to a new frack field crime rates go up.
Any solution is not better that the status quo, sometimes just holding the line and not letting things get any worse is the best one can do. I see natural gas as just another dirty fossil fuel to add to the mix, not a cleaner replacement for coal. Since I have friends who are being affected quite negatively by fracking, opposition to clean-burning, earth-raping fracked natural gas is the only response my conscience will allow.
While I would rather see people not use natural gas at all, it can be trucked in and trucking it in does have the benefit of not needing to put in expensive disrupting permanent fossil fuel infrastructure. Trucking natural gas is not impractical, as the busy people at NG Advantage in St. Albans can tell you. Many businesses take advantage if the option. A pipeline is unnecessary, as a virtual one is already in place. To my grief the PSB has made their pronouncement for Phase One, not the Christmas gift I was hoping for.
The idea of making energy more expensive so that people will use less of it, is not a new idea or a bad one. The argument has been made that people will drive less when gas prices are higher and that seems to be true. It’s also true that there is no guarantee that natural gas prices will stay low. Has the price of anything stayed low? The economic arguments are not important to most pipeline opponents to my knowledge. We pick up the economic arguments to engage with pipeline promoters who seem to care only about money. Is that unfair to say? If so then please meet me on my ground and watch “Gasland.” Let’s talk about fracking honestly. Let’s talk about safe food and water, and democracy, that other endangered elixir.
I agree with Stone that sometimes regulation works, and the free market can’t solve all our problems. I don’t believe that fracking is here to stay, as Stone said. The latest news I my in box is “Inspector General Finds EPA Jusified in Intervening to Protect Drinking Water from Fracking” (http://ecowatch.com/2013/12/24/epa-drinking-water-fracking).
There are some big problems right now with regulating big industries, much of the studying and regulating is left to the industries themselves. Also I would think that the oil industry could figure out a way to capture natural gas instead if flaring it if it made money sense to do so. A small business person has to do everything themselves with no one to pay for the infrastructure so that they can conduct business more profitably. I think big business should have to do the same. Business is about more than doing what makes money sense, it’s about relationships, and when done right it’s about fellowship.
With thanks and respect for the letter to the editor by the seven clergy members, I affirm the golden rule and our role as stewards of the earth.
Alice Eckles

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