Here's Something: The real threat is ‘Big Environment’

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Earth Day, held annually on April 22 since 1970, is the official holiday of Big Environment, the organizations that keep supposedly evil corporations from ruining our “Pale Blue Dot,” as the late, great Carl Sagan once described Earth.

In the early 1990s, I remember seeing people mark the day by cleaning up roadside trash tossed aside by careless motorists. This was useful action by those early environmentalists, but it seems Earth Day is more than that now. Now, it seems like a pagan rite of spring, where we humanize the natural world and deify it at the same time. All the while we elevate ourselves, believing we caused the Earth to change and that we have the power to revive it.

While I’m no expert in climate change, I know the environment is a huge political football. There was a time when environmentalists were on the outside looking in. Now, Big Environment (yes, they’re as big and powerful as Big Oil) seems to be the driving force in politics. Just as they would say about Big Oil, Big Environment is run amok.

While it’s right to think of environmental impact when crafting legislation – so we don’t go back to red-running rivers and smog-filled cities, the very issues the environmental movement rightly sought to fix in the 1970s – some believe the health of the environment should trump every other concern, especially when government faces issues related to population or commercial growth.

We need look no further than our own backyard for examples of Big Environment in action.

Protect South Portland has been intent on ridding the city of its once-thriving oil industry, despite that industry’s importance regionally, nationally and even internationally. The group’s influence a few years ago to pass the Clear Skies Ordinance is now costing city taxpayers millions to defend in court. The law, which bans Canadian oil sands within city limits, is decimating the local oil industry, and impacted companies are, not surprisingly, seeking tax abatements.

I feel especially sorry for those South Portland taxpayers (especially those who voted against the ordinance) who are paying for Big Environment’s appeal to emotion regarding water quality. The likelihood of bursts and spills is too much to risk, pipeline foes say, despite the pipeline being in existence for 75-plus years with nary an errant drip.

Protect South Portland and other groups argue that all oil is bad and “sustainable” alternatives are good. I’m not so sure that’s true. Have you seen what wind power does to the environment? Before windmills dotted Maine’s upland horizon, you would have experienced nothing but wilderness in some areas.

Now, thanks to Big Environment and their powerful friends like U.S. Sen. Angus King, you see massive turbine blades placed atop huge concrete foundations that ruin the mountainous landscape. They’re just plain ugly, noisy, dangerous to birds and taint what makes Maine unique – unbridled wilderness.

If wind power worked, I might look past these sensory impacts. But it doesn’t, because wind, even massive arrays like the one on Mars Hill in eastern Maine, can’t provide enough electricity to make a meaningful dent in energy generation. To illustrate how feeble Maine’s wind capacity is, there would have to be 47 Mars Hill-sized wind farms in each and every county to offset the energy needs of just the homes in Maine; never mind commercial energy needs.

While they aren’t great at discerning fact from fiction, the one thing that Big Environment is good at is filling their coffers. They devise would-be perils to convince us to donate. The recent furor over tar sands (a biased term concocted by Big Environment and parroted by the media) is a fitting local example. How much money did those anti-pipeline groups bring in as a result of their hysteria? To twist a U2 lyric, they remind me of a preacher from the Old-Time Gospel Hour, stealing money from the fearful and easily persuaded.

If the thermometer consistently read 120 degrees in the summer and 60 in the winter, I might join the Big Environment club. But January thaws still come and go; February blizzards blow; mud season and flooding occur in April; flowers still bud in May; August is as intolerable now as when my grandmother was young; apples still ripen in September, and we haul out those winter jackets around Thanksgiving every year. Nature works like clockwork.

I understand Big Environment needs to keep us in perpetual fear of creation’s imminent demise so their cash reserves stay plump, but maybe we should use Earth Day in a different way this year. After collecting that winter’s worth of roadside litter (a truly noble undertaking), spend the day outdoors doing something fun. Nature was created for our enjoyment, not for Big Environment’s political and financial benefit.

John Balentine, a former managing editor for Sun Media Group, lives in Windham.

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  • David Craig

    I agree — you are no expert in climate change.

  • energyexpert

    John:

    As a physicist (who does understand climate change), I say your comments are thoughtful and reasonable.

    • danmaine

      Agreed, look at ALL of our historical data and it’s easy to see that climate change ALWAYS is happening. When we have 24 hour periods that vary by over 50 degrees and very precise digital thermometers measure 1-2 degrees differently when placed a few yards apart we can clearly see that the hype over a .01 degree change of a yearly ESTIMATION of planetary average we can see that it’s nothing but propaganda and hype. Every wind turbine should have it’s actual cost listed online with ongoing Kwh output available so we can see for ourselves what they are providng as far as power for OUR money.

  • Penny Gray

    Thank you John. It does seem hypocritical to believe that the only way to protect the planet is to destroy it, but with industrial wind and the frenzy to put carpet Maine’s mountains with wind turbines, follow the money. Big Oil and Big Environment seem to be one and the same.

  • TruthinMaine

    I proudly participated in the very first Earth Day and it was a just cause. I called attention at the time to completely untreated pulp & paper mill waste being discharged into our waterways as well as the unfettered air pollution. I totally agree that Big Environment now is as bad as Big Corporations and Big Unions.
    I, for one, would like to know from where the money to fund NRCM’s “Clean Energy” efforts, as Dylan Voorhees and Peter Didisheim never saw a proposed wind turbine they didn’t like and they have worked hand in hand with the Democrats to protect the wind industry from any changes in the heinous “Wind Energy Act”. Every “whereas” and “the Legislature finds” clause of the WEA has been proven false by citizens of Maine who oppose the destruction of Maine’s scenic and natural resources for feckless wind power that we do not need. I expect if it could be traced, much of the money comes from leanding America hater George Soros and his cronies.

  • Patten_Pete

    The so called environmentalists are changing the unbridled wilderness to unbirded wilderness. All of these groups are on the take. It’s very visible in certain cases, such as when Maine Audubon awarded now bankrupt wind company First Wind “Eagle” status for giving them $10,000 PLUS. But one wonders how much money goes unseen. In New Jersey it’s called protection money. Their business model today is shameful and management is shameless. The Maine media have been dreadful also. We learned that S. Donald Sussman, the owner of Maine Today Media had given First Wind’s longtime half owner , hedge fund D.E. Shaw its start by staking them $28 million. Meanwhile Sussman (married at the time to Congresswoman Chellie Pingree) presided over newspapers that were blatant cheer leaders of wind and never gave wind power a critical look. Of course at the same time, Ms. Pingree wrote a letter to the DOE recommending then civilian Angus Ling be given a DOE loan guarantee and indeed King got it – $102 million, allowing him to proceed with his tax dollar harvesting wind project. Meanwhile, at First Wind, King’s son, Angus King III had ascended to become director of meregers and acquisitions. One big happy family of insiders – all helping each other help themselves to the average citizen’s money, selling out Maine in the process. For anyone interested in reading more, start here: http://www.windtaskforce.org/page/corruption-in-maine-1

    It’s important that all Mainers who care about the unbridled wilderness to get involved in fighting the wind industry given that Mass has just issued an RFP that could triple the amount of wind turbines in Maine. Companies like EDP Renewables, owned by the People’s Republic of China are waiting to pounce on Aroostook County and our western mountains to try and take even more “free money” from the land of $20 trillion debt. The environmental groups had better realize that eventually they will be held accountable once the devastation becomes visible to the average Mainer. They should renounce their protection racket and go back to their original purpose.

  • macmac166

    We have encountered the ” Evil Genii ” and as with all Evil, the roots grow powerfully on the foundation of money.

  • mainereason

    As with most of Mr Ballentine’s articles he has a convenient way of simplifying complex issues because complex seems….well too complex. According to the author we should not pursue wind power because it can not provide ALL of our power, we should allow the toxic oil sands of Canada to the heart of Maine’s busiest harbor because there has been “nary a drop” spilled (actually there have been several spills but they predated regulations now in place to prevent such spills). How ironic that the author and several writers here bemoan the windmills despoiling our wilderness when we live in a state where our lakes are so polluted children are advised not to ever eat any freshwater fish caught in Maine and water quality at our beaches is ranked 27th of 32 coastal states. Don’t let facts get in the way of bashing those who are working to address these issues. It may be convenient to lump all environmentalists together, and to blithely reject the entirety of what these groups are working for but you are doing yourself and the readers no service to grandstand at Earth Day. The vast majority of environmental organizations are small local non-profits. Yay! Happy Earth Day isn’t the world beautiful lets go for a walk and ignore all those really complicated issues about water quality in our schools, the toxics we are eating and bringing into our house each day lets trust big business, they would never do anything to harm us…

    Yes indeed happy Earth Day, I for one will thank my colleagues in the environmental non-profit community who work week in and week out working toward collaborative solutions, working with business owners, parents, anyone who is a stakeholder to find a better way, I will thank them for my children and I will thank them for doing something to make this world better because we certainly do not do this work for the money we make.

  • Chew H Bird

    A couple of decades ago I did my best to encourage the use of aftermarket “headers” on regular street cars. Headers are a more efficient means of exhaust leaving the engine and, (properly installed), increase power and increase fuel efficiency. I figured by raising the gas mileage of the average street car by 2 miles per gallon we could set an example of better fuel economy, help reduce our dependence on petroleum, and help ourselves to save a few bucks at the gas station.

    Needless to say, my suggestion fell on deaf ears.

    While the need to intelligently implement clean power solutions is real, some common sense needs to be applied. Wind farms, solar arrays, hydro power, geothermal, even nuclear, should all be considered in a matrix of opportunity. Other green solutions need to be explored as well to decrease dependency on a single source solution, (petroleum).

    In the meantime, we need to utilize what resources we have available and oil based products can provide for immediate needs and should be encouraged to attract needed corporate investments and local jobs. We should not be cutting off our nose to spite our face.

  • mainereason

    BTW ‘Tar Sands’ is an industry term and the oil derived from the same needs to be transported through the pipeline at higher pressure and higher temperature, both of which raise concerns of increased risk of corrosion and/or leakage…

    • Just Sayin’

      Quite correct. “Tar Sands” is not a meaningless term cooked up to sound bad, as Balentine wrongly states, but refers to sand or sandstone soaked with bitumin, an asphalt like mix of denser petroleum left over after the lighter petroleum has evaporated or run out as liquid.

      Not only is this toxic, tarry substance MUCH harder to pump through a pipeline, to even make it possible to flow like a liquid it has to be mixed with extremely aggressive solvents. The resulting mix is still very thick and caustic, requiring high pressure and high temperature to flow through a pipeline. The sand, still present, is also highly abrasive and the mix causes pipelines to deteriorate faster, especially when being forced through pipelines never intended for anything but liquid crude.

      Tar sands not only present a higher risk of leaking, but creates a greater environmental risk when they do spill as the solvents will more readily soak into soil or other biomass, evaporate into the air, and are extremely damaging to life of all kinds.

      • mainereason

        Pesky facts

        • Just Sayin’

          I know, right? Though this is an opinion column, I realize, I would encourage the Forecaster to seek a higher quality of contributor rather than to serve as a platform to distribute such obvious falsehoods.

  • truther

    I don’t believe Mr. Balentine’s complaints about wind farms are legitimate. I just looked out my window and I don’t see any windmills anywhere. Plus, I’ve always gotten electricity from the outlets in the wall — you plug something in, and presto it works. It’s always been that way and will presumably always continue. Whatever Mr. Balentine is talking about there’s absolutely no evidence of it here in Yarmouth. So all this complaining about “wind power” and “Big Environment” is obviously false.