Monday, June 4, 2012: LePage’s wind leadership, student loans and east-west highway

Posted June 03, 2012, at 11:37 a.m.

Wind leadership

Once again, the governor has made some unfortunate comments that do not serve us well or position our state positively in national eyes. His erosive statements about wind energy reflect a theme common to most of his proclamations, in which he tries to sound like he’s pro-business and acting in the interests of Maine’s citizens but actually does a poor job speaking for us.

Both government (federal and state) and business know that there are times when it is wise to invest. If you only measure the return on investment in the short run, you’ll get bad numbers. But a scan of the return over time for our space program, Eisenhower’s ideas for a federal highway system, or companies like Cianbro paint a more accurate picture of the outcomes of wise and necessary expenditures. The governor’s negativity regarding wind power, and his veto of the research and development bond, are clear indicators of his missing the real program. It’s a serious problem because we need effective and informed leadership.

Dennis Marble

Hampden

Vague Vigue

Peter Vigue has told some Canadians that Maine is committed to New Brunswick to build a highway corridor through Maine (St. Croix Courier, April 3, 2012). The east-west corridor would give eastern Canada access to Quebec and the west.

Vigue told his Canadian audience that international trade through the Suez Canal could be off-loaded in Nova Scotia and trucked through Maine. He didn’t explain why that trade would choose trucks when it could go much cheaper by the railroad that already goes through northern Maine. Forty tons by truck would cost, with diesel at $4.00 a gallon, $230. It would cost $78 by rail.

But Vigue argues that industry calls for on-time delivery, which only the truck can do. Yes, but that is delivery from the freight’s destination point, which won’t be on the wharf in Nova Scotia, but somewhere in middle America. The freight would be off-loaded from the container ship onto railroad flat cars for maybe a 2,000-mile trip on the existing railroad through Maine for $678. By truck, it would cost the shipper $2,000.

Maybe Vigue knows something he’s not telling us hardscrabble Mainers, but we know the difference between those two figures. Truck freight costs about three times as much as rail.

Jim Loomis

Cambridge

Loan rates changing my future

Is college actually “worth it”? When Congress is threatening to double loan interest rates, I’m beginning to think that it’s not. As an incoming college freshman in 2013, I am worried about loan interest rates. America needs to solve the problem of a $6 billion loan subsidy. How do we do this? Well, we sure don’t need to scare people away from college. Last year, the average college student owed over $25,000. Why would students want to acquire that debt when they can make a modest income without a college degree? By increasing the loan rates from 3.4 to 6.8 percent, future students’ mindsets will change severely.

Aware of the situation, I have begun researching some of my own numbers. In hopes of becoming a doctor, I will have incurred a debt of $400,000 according to the increased loan rates. As a soon-to-be high school graduate, I am expected by society to enter a world that will only lead me to $400,000 in debt. How is that opportunity attractive?

I cannot provide a solution to this $6 billion loan subsidy. I am 17. That conundrum is something the Republicans and Democrats in the Senate have not solved. But one thing I can do is tell leaders who shape economic policy that I do not want more debt than I am already going to be facing. If interest rates increase, I may have to change my dream … oncologist to fast food “grease-ologist.”

Mackenzi McHugh

Corinth

Dyer truth

I am grateful to the Bangor Daily News for publishing the editorials of Gwynne Dyer, whose willingness to put truth to paper allows some of us who have become discouraged or made timid by the loud war hype to speak up. In the May 28th edition, Dyer’s “How the Afghan war ends” drew clear parallels between the Iraq and Afghan wars and the Vietnam War, none of which we “won” and all of which ended, or will end, in withdrawing our troops, hopefully “without too much embarrassment.” These un-won and wasteful wars have cost us heavily in blood and treasure.

According to the National Priorities web site, the Iraq and Afghanistan adventures have thus far cost the U.S. a trillion and a quarter dollars and nearly 7,000 lives. Further, according to recent news reports, around 40 percent of the soldiers returning from battle have filed for PTSD benefits, while many thousands of others struggle to recover from serious physical wounds. On the other side, many, many innocent Iraqis and Afghans have been killed and many others wounded and displaced. One wonders how much of this mayhem was required in the wake of 9/11. The capture and death of Osama bin Laden required only military intelligence and a planeload of SEALs. If that was the required vengeance, how necessary was all the rest?

Perhaps we could commemorate next Memorial Day by considering how to prevent the future sacrifice of young lives and the expenditure of much-needed resources. Meanwhile, thanks for publishing Gwynne Dyer’s articles. I’m glad I’m a subscriber.

Charlotte Herbold

Belfast

Wind power

I am writing in response to the May 27th BDN article, “LePage’s critical wind-power stance creating uncertainty.”

I don’t agree with a lot of Gov. LePage’s policies, but I think his energy policy makes good sense. The RPS and the Expedited Wind Law were written and passed by the Legislature as emergency measures when no one, including the Legislature, knew what the real impacts would be. Certainly higher energy prices are one of them.

Your article states, “The wind farms built in Maine since 2008 or currently under construction cost $974 million to build, according to industry data,” and the industry claims it has invested over a billion dollars in Maine.

However, one of the facts never mentioned is the amount of money paid to China or Spain or some other foreign country for the cost of buying and transporting wind turbines to Maine. According to the federal government, at least 60 percent of the total costs of a project have been spent in this manner. The $974 million shrinks to about $390 million.

Just imagine if, truly, a billion dollars were invested in Maine in the manufacturing sector or were spread amongst small contractors for retrofitting our housing stock. More energy could be saved than is being produced by wind farms. Instead of just “maintaining” existing wind-related construction jobs, thousands of new, full-time jobs could be created without environmental damage to our mountains or threats to Maine’s wildlife or its tourism industry — or without inflating our electric rates.

Greg Perkins

Holden

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