Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Idle power plants or fish?

There is something seriously wrong when a news article about a local business deciding to idle a plant is celebrated because it means some fish won't die in the manufacturing process.

According to this article:

The Great Lakes region's $7 billion fishery likely will get at least a short-term benefit from FirstEnergy Corp.'s decision to temporarily idle three of its four Bay Shore operating units.

Tens of millions of fish die at the plant each year when all four units are running, most of them impinged against screens used to filter the water used by the facility.

The utility said it cannot predict how many fewer fish will die until it figures out how much less Maumee River water the Oregon power plant still will require for cooling.

FirstEnergy announced last week that one of its subsidiaries, FirstEnergy Generation Corp., plans to scale back operations at four plants because of the declining need for electricity during the recession, in large part because of less manufacturing.

Other jobs within FirstEnergy are being sought for displaced workers, the utility said.

No - this isn't a joke.

The 30-paragraph article never identifies how many employees are affected, though they tell us how many fish are estimated to be killed.

The solution, many local environmentalists tell us, for this same plant to build a $100 million (give or take) cooling tower. Of course, they think this is a perfectly acceptable price to pay for fish.

Personally, having lived on Maumee Bay all but the first 5 years of my life, I've not seen a change in the number of fish in Lake Erie and have not missed the "estimated" numbers they claim are being killed. I also know that, with politicians and all sorts of individuals claiming we have some of the highest energy rates in the state, I don't want to pay for a $100 million (give or take) cooling tower. While I care about fish, I don't like them that much.

I can't help but wonder if the decision on which plants to idle had anything to do with the latest push for a cooling tower at this plant. Is it possible that the parent company decided this plant just isn't worth the hassle they're having to go through? Or the potential cost they may be forced to incur because some people are upset about fish? Of course, the company denies that the issue of fish kills had anything to do with their decision...but do you really believe that? Would you factor such an issue into your decision if you were the one that had to idle some plants?

I can only imagine what the employees at this plant must think. The message is clearly that the fish are more important than their jobs.

And what is the message that other businesses in the area - or those considering coming to this area - will take from all of this? It certainly isn't good.

The problem is that there is no perspective. While I don't want fish to die needlessly, I would weigh the number of dead fish against the potential economic impact of maintaining the status quo. I'm guessing that the vast majority of energy customers would not be willing to incur the $100 million (give or take) cost of addressing what a small number of people consider important. Given a choice between paying more for their electricity or a few fish dying - my bet's on the cost, not the fish.

Unfortunately, too many on the environmental side do not care about what their desires cost. They seem to believe that no cost is too great for whatever their special interest may be. What they fail to realize is that our nation can afford to pay attention to the environment. Only wealthy nations can afford to invest real resources for the environment's sake.

The people of most nations, especially developing ones, are too focused on providing for daily needs to worry about whether or not their killing of an animal for food might lead to its extinction. They would find it inconceivable that anyone would put the needs of an animal above the needs of their own family.

The United States, however, has been prosperous enough to meet those daily survival needs and now has the luxury of paying attention to how our actions impact our environment. But if we put the needs of the environment ahead of our own, many of our citizens will see real and lasting damage to their quality of life, negatively impacting the health of their families.

There has to be a balance - not an emotional appeal that focuses on 'harm' to the environment or animals while ignoring the 'harm' to our families and our way of life.

3 comments:

navyvet said...

Sorry Maggie,

Families....are 5th....

Way of Life.....17th....

These are improvements since Jan/09

True.

Tim Higgins said...

Maggie,

Perhaps we should all celebrate First Energy's reduction in its carbon footprint. Of course such a reduction comes at the expense of not only the jobs you talk about at First Energy, but those at all of the companies that relocated or closed, and therefore do not require electricity (except for the security lights at the empty buildings).

The fact that fish are given prominence over people should surprise no one however, and I am sure that environmental groups across the region (if not the nation) are celebrating the reduction of Man's evil impact on nature.

Hooda Thunkit (Dave Zawodny) said...

Maggie,

My interpretation:

It's all about the money; the least profitable plants are shut down when the demand for electricity is low.

That said, First energy, by doing so, has botht thrown the "Greenies" a bone and laid the groundwork for higher rates for adding the cooling tower.

(And pray tell, how will F.E. obtain the water to be cooled? By sucking it past the same screens tat they do now...)

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