When teaching my classes in engineering and public health, I encourage my students to follow the data when they are developing an opinion on a particular issue. I read with interest the Oct. 20 Maine Voices column by Olin Jenner and Beverly Roxby (“Maine does not need a natural gas pipeline from Quebec”). I disagree with the basic premise of the column and how the data were used to support their argument.

Jenner and Roxby wrote: “Of a total of 632 chemicals, 353 chemicals were studied in depth.” They went on to say that 75 percent of these chemicals were found to cause ill effects in humans.

This statement, while true, ignores a basic understanding of public health. We must show exposure before discussing disease. Many dangerous chemicals are used in manufacturing products such as solar panels, but if the process prevents exposure, disease does not follow. To my knowledge, there is no peer-reviewed research that shows a public health issue in areas where hydraulic fracking is used.

Every winter, some Mainers must choose between groceries and their heating bills. Worldwide, millions of energy-poor people die every year because they lack a clean fuel such as natural gas for cooking and heating and the energy necessary to make clean water.

I am an early adopter of solar energy; unfortunately, there are times when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow. At those times, I need a reliable source of electricity provided by a regulated utility.

The authors are correct that natural gas is a clean fuel that has a much lower impact on the environment than other fossil fuels. Unfortunately, we pay a high price, in Maine, for this fuel because of limited availability.

We do need a bridge to a future where solar and wind may play a bigger role. For now, that fuel is abundant: natural gas.

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