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This week: Chick-fil-A Article Misses; New Biomass Regs: Counterproductive?; and Fukushima Disaster Not Over

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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Chick-fil-A Article Misses

I could not disagree more with Cathy Young's editorial "Tolerance Goes Both Ways" (August 16, 2012) in which she states that "the stigma against homosexuality has been replaced by a stigma against anti-gay prejudice," and that progressives are unfairly accusing Chick-fil-A's CEO, Dan Cathy, of bigotry.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines "bigot" as "a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices, especially one who regards or treats a member of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance."

CEO Dan Cathy's expressed belief that same-sex couples are not deserving of the same benefits and symbolic meaning of marriage as heterosexual couples is protected by freedom of speech. But in addition to donating $3 million to Christian groups that oppose gay marriage, Chick-fil-A reportedly donated $1,000 to the Family Research Council ( FRC), an organization that has been designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Given the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United that corporate donations constitute an act of speech, then Chick-fil-A's donation to FRC can be construed as hate speech, thus confirming that CEO Dan Cathy is, in fact, a bigot.

Actions which include boycotting or picketing Chick-fil-A restaurants by those in favor of human rights for gays and lesbians can also be viewed as acts of speech.

To make the argument, as Cathy Young does, that being intolerant of intolerance is itself bigotry exemplifies the convoluted logic that pervades her editorial, and is contradictory to principles of feminism and social justice.

David Arbeitman
via Internet

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New Biomass Regs: Counterproductive?

Though the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources' goal of incentivizing the development of high efficiency biomass facilities may be laudable, its recently finalized regulations for renewable energy credits (REC) for biomass electrical utilities may have significant detrimental consequences for the industry as well as the health of the forest, and may accelerate climate change.

Instead of offering a full credit for all sustainably managed and harvested forest biomass, layers of additional requirements and costly accounting practices have been added to receive one-half or less of a renewable energy credit (REC) for selective forest thinning.

However, if the forest is converted to a non-forest use such as a parking lot, mall or housing development, clear-cutting the forest receives the full REC credit prized by developers. Ironically, any resulting biomass is no longer a form of renewable energy because the trees can no longer grow back.

Utilization of biomass for thermal (heat) and power (electricity) has long been considered a valuable tool for removing woody debris from landfills where it biodegrades, forming oxygen-robbing methane considered to be 20 times more effective at trapping heat in the atmosphere than CO2 and, therefore, to accelerate global warming. Along with extracting biomass from the waste stream, the utilization of biomass derived from forest thinning encourages the removal of invasive species, as well as disease-infested dead or dying trees.

Researchers at the Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies recently reported that diseased trees in forests may be a significant source of methane that causes climate change, with concentrations as high as 80,000 times normal ambient air quality levels (Science Daily, August 7, 2012). "These are flammable concentrations," according to Kristopher Covey, the study's lead researcher.

But despite benefits to the overall health of the forest and wildlife habitat and a reduced risk of forest fires, the cost of removing such a low-quality product from the forest can be prohibitive for most landowners, without biomass facilities ready to offset the cost and available for disposal. Unfortunately, the excessively stringent standards now imposed by the Massachusetts DOER may soon drive these renewable energy utility companies out of business.

Genevieve Fraser
Orange

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Fukushima Disaster Not Over

Officials from California, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington and Alaska recently attended a workshop to discuss strategies for dealing with the impending arrival on their coastlines of an estimated 40,000 tons of debris from the tsunami, earthquakes and Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant meltdown in Japan.

There are not accurate estimates of the amount of radiation in the plume of water traveling to the West Coast due to the refusal by Tepco [the owner of the Fukushima reactors] to release critical data about the amount of radioactive material they have disposed of—via land, sea and sky—from the nuclear disaster. Had there been proper oversight, maintenance and management at Daiichi, the nuclear accident should have been avoided.

Here in the U.S., as the result of a petition filed by 24 groups concerned with the environmental impact of disposal and storage of highly radioactive nuclear waste in this country, a federal appeals court ordered the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to stop and consider the impacts of generating spent nuclear fuel for which it has found no safe means of disposal. Subsequently the NRC decided to temporarily freeze all nuclear reactor construction and new operating licenses in the U.S.

We have seen how disposal and waste have been handled in the recent accident in Japan. It is a good time to pressure safety officials in this country who deal with the relicensing of old, deteriorating and accident-ridden nuclear plants to start making better decisions. A good way to do this is to support environmental groups intervening in the (very costly) legal process, like the New England Coalition on Nuclear Pollution.

Amelia Shea
Peterborough, N.H.

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