‘Peaker’ plants or dirty energy is a false choice

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

To the editor: In response to a recent letter about Berkshire Environmental Action Team’s campaign to put “peaker” plants in the past, it’s not surprising to see a restating of the false choices frequently proposed by the fossil fuel industry (“Letter: Environmental group misguided to target Berkshire ‘peaker’ plants,” Eagle, March 26).

It’s true that the sun doesn’t always shine and wind doesn’t always blow, as renewable energy detractors like to point out. And while it’s true that emissions from burning natural gas are roughly two-thirds that of oil or half that of coal, the truth is also that burning gas still creates dangerous fine particulate emissions as well as nitrogen oxides and sulfur oxides. For the five percent of the time that the Pittsfield generating plant actually runs, it generates 15 percent of Pittsfield’s total annual stationary emissions.

One of the other fallacies in the author’s statement is that renewable energy would require cutting trees. I’m not sure if his reference was to biomass, which is not renewable in any realistic time scale and produces emissions roughly equivalent to coal, or if his assumption is that the only place to put solar panels is in the middle of forested land. BEAT does not support either of those options.

Understanding why fossil fuel peaker plants are no longer a valid option in the face of climate change requires consideration of modern options. Deployment of our state’s aggressive energy efficiency programs and other peak shaving options like demand response programs have already sharply reduced peak demand events on our region’s power grid and saved program participants significant sums in reduced energy costs.

When the wind blows and sun is shining, energy can be stored in grid-scale battery installations. It can also be stored in individual buildings like schools, town offices and other key municipal locations, commercial and industrial locations, multi-unit rental properties and even individual homes. This not only allows renewables to be installed on rooftops and over already disturbed grounds like parking areas, as they should be, but allows for thousands of “virtual power plants” to supply energy during peak demand, outages or whenever customers prefer to not draw power from the grid.

Mass Save’s Connected Solutions program allows for battery storage installations to be used in all these ways, and allows customers to combine financial incentives, shortening a payback period to a matter of years rather than a decade or more. Please visit tinyurl.com/putpeakersinthepast to learn more. Rosemary Wessel, Cummington The writer is a member of the Berkshire Environmental Action Team.

To the editor: Imagine that the loser of a hard-fought Super Bowl refuses to accept the result.

They charge the winning team with cheating, ask to review all the plays they didn’t like and claim that the refs were in on the cheating. When their loss is certified, instead of firing the coach or getting better players or even trying to figure out what went wrong and what they could do better, they try to change the rules of the game so their team can’t ever lose again. Would sports fans accept this?

Well, that’s what Georgia’s Republican- controlled Legislature just did and there are bills like this moving ahead in 43 states. The bill that Georgia passed has a lot of the usual voter-suppression stuff: ID requirements, closing polls earlier, limiting absentee and early voting, etc. Many have commented on the rather extreme provision that makes it a crime to give water to people waiting in line to vote. That’s bad, but what would really change things is the restructuring of who chooses the electors and certifies the votes.

The new law strips the Secretary of State of his position as chair of the state election board and gives the state Legislature the power to fill a majority of the seats on that board, delay certification of votes and remove and replace any election officials they find unsuitable.

This enshrines Trump’s big lie and makes it possible for future candidates to manipulate the outcome of an election the way he tried and failed to do. Will Americans accept this? New York and Vermont are not going to be passing laws like that, but if enough states do, the next presidential election is going to be an insane mess.

One possible solution is to pass a national Voting Rights Act setting national policies for voting and certification. But even that might not help. Chief Justice John Roberts and the conservatives on the Supreme Court struck down parts of the Voting Rights Act once and would likely do it again.

It’s going to take a lot of focused action to fight these undemocratic laws in the courts. Every fan wants their team to win the game, but democracy requires that the competition be fair, and the results based on voters’ opinions about policy and the character of candidates, not demagoguery, manipulation and discrimination.

Paul Kolderie, Hoosick, N.Y.

Senate Dems must consider: What would Mitch do?

To the editor: This letter is for the Senate Democratic Caucus.

Dear esteemed senators, For those of you still wrestling with the question of the filibuster, please keep this key question in mind: “What would Mitch do?”

Sen. Mitch McConnell, the self-proclaimed “Grim Reaper,” has repeatedly demonstrated that precedent and principle do not stand in the way of attaining any desired result.

Today, the great majority of elected Republican officials have shown themselves impervious to the truth and cries against unfairness and bigotry. Their stunning attacks on our democracy, such as their war on voting rights, tear at the fabric of our country.

We know what happened when Abraham Lincoln tried to mollify the secessionists with a heartfelt plea at the end of his first inaugural address. His appeal to their patriotism did nothing to prevent one of the bloodiest civil wars in history. Regrettably, it took sheer force to bring about the reunification. Sad, but this hard lesson cannot be dismissed.

You stand at a similar crossroads, faced with an existential threat to our nation. You must use your legislative advantage. Only then will the opposition understand that political force will be met with political force. They must be made to realize the only way forward is a return to the tenets of “love of nation over party” and “respect for our institutions over gaming the system.”

If you don’t use the advantage now, you will lose it. We know what Mitch McConnell would do.

Andrew Traines, Mount Washington

A reality check after move to the Berkshires

To the editor: Many friends and family members were surprised by my announcement 20 months ago that I was leaving my downtown Columbus, Ohio, condo for a rustic home in the Berkshires.

Both aesthetic desires and the enticement of living in one of the most progressive, best-educated states made the move a no-brainer for me.

Today, I received the fourth email in recent weeks from Ohio State Medical Center where I had my lung cancer surgery in 2014 encouraging me to come in ASAP for my COVID vaccination. Most of my friends and family of all ages in Ohio and other states have gotten their vaccinations in recent weeks, and here I sit, a 65-year-old liberal Democrat in Becket staring at yet another email from the commonwealth of Massachusetts reassuring me that I’m on a waiting list for a vaccine appointment that still does not exist.

It really is never too late to realize that assumptions about the capacities of sophisticated, elected officials and bureaucrats can prove to be incredibly naive.

Mitchell S. Gilbert, Becket

No link between government health care and totalitarianism

To the editor: I’m struggling to find a single example in history where government intervention in individual health care led to totalitarianism, as Harold Bell’s letter in these pages (“Let’s hope that Trump runs again,” Eagle, March 27) suggests it does.

The United Kingdom began its National Health Service in 1948, and 70-plus years later gulags have yet to mar that island’s remote places.

Canada, most of Scandinavia, Germany, Australia — a long list of nations provide near-universal government health care without any signs of imminent communist takeover. As for doling out money to “moochers,” wasn’t it Donald Trump himself who called for $2,000 stimulus handouts just this past December? Enough of the knee-jerk rhetoric — let’s make decisions based on facts.

Robert Buccino, Salisbury, Conn.