ProJo Spouts More Hot Air, Guest MINDSETTER™ Seth Handy

Tuesday, January 09, 2018
Seth Handy, Guest MINDSETTER™

Providence Journal - dismissive of environmentalists concerns
The Providence Journal’s lead editorial to start 2018 (“Highest Price in the World,” January 1, 2017), as repeated on January 8 (“Curbing Pollution in the Real World”) is more tiresome, anti-investigative opinion that, sadly, requires a response. 

This time the opinions are that a lack of pipelines to move gas from the Marcellus shale in the Appalachian Basin to Rhode Island drives electricity prices up and dirties our air.  The editor blames environmental idealists for obstructing new transmission lines based on their idealistic clinging to better prospects for new renewable energy.  We’ve been over this before so I’ll be succinct; none of us has much time for such unfounded opinions.

The Providence Journal newspaper (now owned by a series of corporate entities that ultimately tracks to SoftBank in Tokyo)  editor ignores that it’s our region’s costs of transmission that are extraordinarily high and are under investigation at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.  Much better-informed experts and stakeholders are resolved that the northeast has already overbuilt our energy infrastructure.  Our path to lower costs and cleaner air is through distributed energy resources like efficiency, demand response, and renewables.  As just one example, the demand response strategy of time of use rates (uniformly recommended by Rhode Island’s experts and stakeholders, but which the Journal has not investigated or addressed in its commentary), can and will substantially dial back our demand for supply of peak energy without having to spend another cent on already overbuilt gas infrastructure. 

No electrical customer that’s smart and active with energy management is making such plans to double down reliance on natural gas.  Right here at home, the Journal could interview Toray Plastics, American Power Conversion, Alex & Ani, Virgin Pulse, URI, the Narragansett Bay Commission, the City of Providence, the Town of West Warwick, the Town of Portsmouth, Brown University, Arpin Van Lines and many others on this.  Across the country, it should talk to Google, JP Morgan Chase, Mars Inc., Anheuser Busch InBev, IKEA, Facebook, WalMart, Microsoft, GM and countless others. 

The proof is in the pudding; the way to a more affordable and cleaner energy future does not run through natural gas pipelines.  Why would the Journal advocate for ratepayers to make a long-term play on already overbuilt natural gas infrastructure?  The Massachusetts Supreme Court recently concluded that if a gas seller is unwilling to take financial risk for the construction of a new gas pipeline, that risk should not be put on ratepayers.  Does the Journal really know better?

It’s also time to address the too regular practice of belittling and undermining environmental ideology as impractical.  The trusty Miriam Webster Dictionary defines an ideologue as “an often blindly partisan advocate or adherent of a particular ideology.” 

It’s the Providence Journal that fits that definition here.  Yet, the ProJo demeans environmentalists as not living in a “real world.”  We all need to be practical about jobs and economy but where economic development aligns with environmental stewardship, as it most often does (because inefficient waste is most often the cause of avoidable environmental damage), and so clearly does on this energy question, environmentalists do not belong on defense and must not be defensive.  It is the well-aligned, practical thinking of our energy experts and environmentalists that can and will reduce the long-term cost and impacts of today’s too often short-term, dollar-driven, irrational decision-making.  The Journal ought to reacquaint itself with the kind of investigative journalism promoted by the Metcalf Institute, founded in memory of its former publisher Michael Metcalf.  Without the facts, the Projo and others that seek to discredit environmental advocacy that jibes with economic efficiency will wallow away on history’s backside.


Seth Handy, Providence Attorney
Seth Handy practices law in Providence.

Author’s note:  This time, I didn’t even try to get this published in the Providence Journal given their history of refusing dialogue on this subject.  I resolved to “GoLocal.” 

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