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Candace E. Kraft, Jamestown, N.D., Published September 07 2013

Letter: TR would disagree with PSC

In the timeless words of Theodore Roosevelt:

“Conservation means development as much as it does protection. I recognize the right and duty of this generation to develop and use the natural resources of our land; but I do not recognize the right to waste them, or to rob, by wasteful use, the generations that come after us.”

North Dakota Public Service Commissioner Julie Fedorchak’s Aug. 7 op-ed piece exemplifies the widespread attitude of today’s leadership, which sorely lacks vital comprehension of that straightforward, common-sense message from one of the most influential Republican presidents ever. She conveys to citizens an unreasonable viewpoint that “radical environmental policies” spurred by President Barack Obama and environmental groups “seek to reduce or eliminate coal altogether,” and resorts to concocting paranoid, doomsday predictions about carbon emissions regulation for electrical generation.

In the next hypocritical breath, however, Fedorchak says she “is all for innovative clean energy and conservation.”

The latent inconsistencies would be quite laughable, if only human health and environmental conservation were not such serious matters with significant, potentially irreversible, repercussions. I’m not even going to bring up the fact that coal combustion byproducts possess astronomical levels of toxic metals, like lead and mercury, and that current North Dakota regulations largely leave oversight of these waste dumps to industry.

The primary apple of discord with Fedorchak’s statements is she blatantly ignores the role that government and its daughter agencies played in allowing for coal to become such an energy mainstay in the first place.

Historically, federal and state legislative bodies, and even territorial government before North Dakota’s statehood, boosted the prevalence of fossil fuels (e.g., coal) by providing the pillars of money and public support necessary for its survival and ultimate success.

For example, North Dakota’s lignite coal industry gained its foothold with help from congressional land grants to Northern Pacific Railroad in order to transport the resource across long distances.

In Fedorchak’s eyes, since the infrastructure to utilize coal as an electrical supply already exists, then why not just maintain the status quo? But as Bob Dylan used to say before he inevitably succumbed to the lure of glittering capitalism, “The times they are a’changin’.”

The only real way to reduce reliance on finite energy resources, both internationally and domestically, is to provide similar funding incentives and public relations opportunities to established renewable energy technology, such as methane capture, geothermal and wind, and additionally promote increased research of new technologies, like cellulosic ethanol.

A wiser plan of action would be to nip the problem of fossil fuel dominance in the bud before it looms larger. And as a result, we would be physically healthier and more economically stable than China, or India, for that matter.

And, therefore, all I have to say to Fedorchak, other regulatory agency leaders in the energy sector, and to lawmakers at every single tier of government is: Just because inaction and perpetuity of outdated concepts appear to be the simplest course, doesn’t give us the right as a society to maintain that course when we now possess the ability via enhanced technology to create a sustainable America. And, if Teddy Roosevelt were alive today, I would be willing to bet he would agree.