February 4, 2013

Another View: Portland should say no to Canadian tar sands oil

It is the essence of democracy when people go to their local government to address problems.

By Fred Brancato, a resident of Portland

I'm writing in response to the Press Herald's editorial "City should reduce all oil use, not just tar sands" (Jan. 26). When presenting your reasons for supporting the City Council's decision to delay its vote on a resolution to prevent Portland's public agencies from using gasoline, heating oil and asphalt produced from tar sands, you seemed to equate tar sands oil with regular crude oil acquired by drilling.

Tar sands and regular crude are radically different. Tar sands is composed of 85 percent clay and sand, 5 percent water and only 10 percent oil.

The immediate and long-range toll on the environment and upon future generations of people that comes from strip mining tar sand from beneath Canada's pristine boreal forests (turning them into contaminated wastelands), transporting it through pipelines and then refining it are well documented by highly reliable scientific sources and the experiences of people already affected.

When making what seems like a false dichotomy between preventing tar sands from being pumped through Maine's 62-year-old pipeline and preventing the release of "more carbon into an already warming planet," you stated that if it's a question of global air quality, "changing the city's purchasing preferences won't help much."

On the contrary, experience shows that widespread change begins on the local level, one community at a time, be it here or India. Your editorial appears to make light of this process and make judgments about people in other countries who care and voice their concerns.

It also appears to forget the power of the democratic spirit and collective voice of people everywhere. Shouldn't Portland take a leadership role, along with other towns, in voicing its opposition to a product and process that poses a significant danger to our air and water supply for many generations to come?


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