September 4, 2013

Letters to the Editor: Tar sands oil isn't the bogeyman

When I was little, we worried a lot about the bogeyman. Nobody had proved he existed, but that was exactly what made him so frightening. Without a description to constrain him, the bogeyman was free to become the sum of your fears, in whatever shape you chose.

click image to enlarge

The Portland Pipe Line operation in South Portland is seen as one of the conduits for Canadian tar sands oil, although the pipeline owner has not proposed to do so.

2013 File Photo/John Ewing

I couldn't help recalling this as someone stopped me recently to ask if I'd oppose the local export of tar sands oil, visualized by some as flowing out to the world through the Portland Pipe Line terminal.

The pipeline has been pumping for a long time, and its present operations look virtually identical to any that could be imagined in the future. Tankers arrive and transfer cargo. They sail. The pipeline stretches, largely unknown, from Portland to Canada.

Opponents say that tar sands oil is worse than what the line now carries, but that distinction would mean little to most if a major spill occurred.

We are an energy-addicted society, obliged to live amidst the infrastructure of our choices. As long as we want central heat and jet travel, fuels will be extracted and transported by the means that are available. If we stop the pipeline, it will go another way.

And while pipelines are not without their own history of accidents, the tragedy in Lac-Megantic shows the potential consequences of one alternative.

Tar sands crude is toxic stuff, extracted by an inefficient process that is devastating to the landscape -- a lot like coal mining. The point is that to shut off a fire hose, you need to find the hydrant, not stick your finger in the nozzle.

If we are unhappy with the consequences of our demand for energy, we need to find ways to use less, not wage piecemeal fights against each imagined threat to the landscape.

Elliot Rappaport

Portland 

Critics of hateful comments forget ugly attacks on Bush

It is true that derogatory comments are harmful.

The people who are complaining about David Marsters are, however, the David Marsters of attacks on the Bush administration.

Sabattus Town Manager Andrew Gilmore called Marsters' actions "hateful" and "deplorable," David Hench reported ("Local official rebuked for offensive Obama Web post," Aug. 28). The bashing of George W. Bush was also "hateful" and "deplorable" -- I recall CSPAN broadcasting a march in New York City with participants toting signs calling for the assassination of the president.

Civil rights advocates in Hench's article were paraphrased as saying that Marsters' statement is unacceptable and requires a strong response because, if ignored, it can pave the way for more serious behavior in society.

I also recall a photograph of Libby Mitchell -- who has been a state senator, speaker of the Maine House and a gubernatorial candidate -- holding her nose next to a picture of Bush.

Hench quotes Steve Wessler: "When somebody who is seeking a public position says something like this, it tends to encourage other people. It legitimizes this. 'Maybe it's OK to take this a step further.' "

Had these same civil rights advocates not chosen politics over decency, perhaps there would now be less serious behavior. If you plant the seed of hate, later on, hate will be your harvest.

You reap what you sow.

Kevin Benjamin

South Portland

A big 'thank you' to backers of candidate in District 19

I'd like to offer my sincere "thank you" to the many volunteers who assisted me in my campaign for the District 19 state Senate seat.

Your willingness to make phone calls, go door to door in all weather, put my signs on your lawns (moving them weekly to mow and then replacing them), and support me with Clean Election donations, letters in the papers and constant encouragement is appreciated more than you know.

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