There is an old adage that states, “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.” Unfortunately our way of staying warm in the winter, which wasn’t broken, has been “fixed,” and consequently many will not be able to stay warm this winter. As I myself am included in this “many”, I, of course, am a bit peeved.

The simple fact of the matter is that coal and oil fired power plants have been called “dirty,” by people who claim to be altruistic. I am not particularly wonder-struck by their logic. They seem to think that it is a revelation of modern science that smoke is dirty stuff. I think even our cavemen ancestors knew that, but preferred a bit of airborne dirt to freezing to death. However these wonders seem to prefer freezing to death to a campfire.

In the name of cleanliness these wonders have managed to shut down 288 out of 1,091 coal-fired power plants since 2011. The wonder of wonders is that, while snuffing the campfires that have kept us warm during snowstorms, they have failed to replace the source of heat.

There is another old adage that states one shouldn’t, “Change canoes in midstream,” however these wonders haven’t even provided us with a second canoe. Instead we are expected to step overboard and walk on water.

In Massachusetts, this past summer, the Salem Harbor coal-powered plant was closed on May 31 and the Mount Tom coal-powered plant was closed on June 2. This was not done because these plants hadn’t cleaned up their act, and hadn’t reduced the soot from “dirty” chimneys, but rather because the EPA (which no voter elected) calls CO2 a “Pollutant”. The EPA has created rules which made it impossible for coal-fired plants to make any money, so of course they shut down.  (The “wonders” exacerbated this situation by filing lawsuits left and right, making it very difficult for the people who keep us warm during the winter to keep us warm.) (Brayton Point, the largest New England coal-fired plant, is under constant attack, and is currently scheduled to be closed by 2017.)

My question to the wonders is this:  “Having snuffed out your campfires, how do you intend to stay warm this winter?”

Apparently the wonders have wits the size of nits, for they have no answer. Instead they raise a ruckus about every and any attempt to solve the problem they have created.

Hydro power is clean and produces no CO2, (though making the equipment for hydro power does,) however when you propose stringing wires down from Canada into New England the “wonders” are up in arms about how ugly wires are, and how wires harm birds. (They don’t seem to object when you point out wind turbines, which they seem to prefer, also kill bats and birds, and also involve stringing wires.)

Natural gas may be a fossil fuel, but is much cleaner than coal, however when you propose putting in a pipeline from the west into New England  the “wonders” raise the roof. Such underground pipelines would have to pass through “conservation land”, (because the alternative would be to rip up neighborhoods,) and that is bad. (Never mind the fact that the 1938 hurricane and Hurricane Carol ripped up more topsoil than any pipeline could, simply by blowing over enormous trees and raising up huge root-balls, as nearly every hilltop in southern New England was denuded.)  They also go on to state natural gas comes from “frakking”, which they object to.

So what is the alternative?  I’ll tell you what the alternative is.  It is to freeze.

Oddly, the Boston papers don’t seem alarmed. Rather they seem a bit smug that Massachusetts has reduced “carbon emissions.” The Boston Globe reports, “the US Environmental Protection Agency issued a proposed rule that would require existing power plants to cut carbon emissions by 30 percent from 2005 levels within 15 years. Research from Georgetown Climate Center shows that since 2005, Massachusetts already has reduced its carbon emissions by 47 percent, partly because of the decline in coal use.”

In order to see any alarm one must go to Arab media. (I think Arab States are alarmed because the USA is actually starting to export oil, and this threatens Arab exports. If you study this article from Aljezeera you sense they hope we will put the environmental concerns of the “wonders” before the common-sense of staying warm during winter: ).

However Algezeera at least mentions the problem New England faces, stating, ” ISO New England, the agency that operates the regional power grid, has issued repeated warnings that northeast Massachusetts could face electricity shortages if the Salem coal plant is not replaced by another power source by 2016.”

They understate the danger. We barely met the “power needs” last winter, when New England was only at the edge of the arctic blast that froze the Great Lakes. This winter we could be dead center, when what New Englanders call “The Montreal Express” comes south. Even if we aren’t hit by that, we still face having power plants closed that were not closed last year, with no replacement. We simply cannot meet our power needs, if we close down coal powered plants and fail to replace them. It is too late to build natural gas pipelines from further west or to string electric wires from Quebec’s hydro power.  New England is about to face the fact that, were it not for coal, we could not have met last winter’s demand:

Freezing 2 coalpowergrfx

Last winter, when the closed power plants were still open, the demand for natural gas got so high that prices briefly spiked over a thousand dollars a Mwh:

Freezing 3 10natgas_graphic1

How do you suppose the price will spike this winter, with those coal-powered plants now closed? Will people who heat with propane be able to afford heat? Will power plants that generate electricity with propane be able to get enough propane? In the case of a “Montreal Express,” (even a brief one during an otherwise warm winter,) will the supply be able to meet the demand? The answer is simple: “No, it will not.”

What will then happen is not nice to imagine. The power companies will have to institute rolling black outs.  When the power shuts off it will not merely shut off electric heaters. It will shut off Oil, Gas, and Wood-Pellet stoves.

Our megalomaniac president, ( who I will not name, as naming him only fuels his megalomania,) stated before he was elected that he fully intended to close coal plants and increase the price of electricity. As far as I can see, this is the only promise he has kept.  The price of electricity is up 40% in New England. What this means is that poor people, especially the elderly on fixed incomes, will likely be living in cold homes with but a single light-bulb on. They will have their heat turned down to 50 degrees. If the power then goes off, and their light bulb goes off in the middle of a Montreal Express, and they have no heat for several hours during a rolling blackout, with a wind-chill of minus forty outside, how cold will their home become before the power turns back on? Will they be able to get someone to come and restart their furnace?

I fear in all likelihood many of our wise elders will be killed. Their wisdom will be lost, as we, in our gratitude for their lifetimes of service, disdain them. In some ways what the future holds is tantamount to murder.

As our elders freeze this winter, make sure to give credit where credit is due. Tap the shoulders of the “wonders” who have demanded we snuff our campfires without replacing them.  They deserve the credit, (also called “the blame”.)

I myself am 61. I am not quite yet of retirement age.  However it aggravates me when, at my age, I have to go out and chainsaw trees because I can’t afford propane. My heart goes out to those who are older, and can’t fend for themselves any more.

We should honor our elders. Even when they are cantankerous and grumpy, what they speak holds the wisdom of many years, also called “common sense.”

This is something the “wonders” seem to utterly lack.

(Here are some one-sided Boston Globe articles which, while failing to address the issue of rolling blackouts and our elderly freezing, do contain some statistics that are handy to play about with: )


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