The Wrath of Winter

Member Group : Lincoln Institute

The biggest news in southeastern Pennsylvania yesterday was that the sun came out. It hadn t really made any strong appearances for the last couple of months. As this region was battered with over 7 feet of snow since December it was a most welcome site.

The wrath of winter somedays isn t easy to take. When my back had had enough of the snow shovel I began throwing money out my front door until I found two fine lads to take the load off of me. We live on a main road and a favorite hobby of the local snow plows is to see how many tons of frozen, salt laden muck they can wreak on our sidewalk. The county says nothing can be done about the practice, and the township threatens fines if we don t clear it.

My car has a new color: salt grey. I doubt that the grime will come completely off before June. The highway I travel every day was prepared for new asphalt two years ago. It still hasn t been paved. The potholes make it akin to the grand canyon of Pennsylvania. I may as well forego the front wheel alignment until they are fixed. With Pennsylvania s transportation agency s funding frozen that won t come any time soon.

At the height of the worst storm, Pennsylvania had an emergency declaration as opposed to a state of emergency. Big difference. In a state of emergency funding can be released for additional plow contractors, the National Guard can be called in to assist local authorities while managers of non-essential businesses can account to corporate masters who may be in Miami or Los Angeles and can t fathom the concept of closing a business just because of a little snow . Employees staying at home free up roads, they can be plowed more quickly and efficiently. However the real difference is the state of emergency declaration costs Harrisburg money that it claims it doesn t have.

There was only one dreaded relief from this awful scourge this year: our heat bill was slightly lower. Not a dramatic decrease but it was one of those bills that when the envelope came there was no rush to open it. But through some energy efficiency that we paid for in the fall, some smart management by our utility provider of gas reserves we actually saved a few dollars.

That may not last in Pennsylvania, if the State House proceeds to enact energy independence legislation. Understanding that any one state trying to achieve so-called energy independence is in something of a vacuum. Energy systems, especially fueled by excess capacity at nuclear power plants are inter – connected. So trying to strand Pennsylvania on its own mandates is virtually impossible.

But there s a group in Harrisburg really trying to do that and they ve got $650 million taxpayers dollars. They want to push mandates on energy generation for theoretical targets as far out as 2024, utilizing a controversial system that claims CO-2 emissions can be reduced some 90% by that year. The targets are less than ludicrous they are downright silly. They disallow the free market of any new technology that will develop while forcing generators into huge capitalization of systems that are highly controversial and unproven.

Pennsylvania is a state rich with coal. If these mandates are forced, coal s potential utilization would plunge. Experts contend that twice as much coal would need to be consumed to achieve the same amount of energy.

That s the wrath of winter 2010 in Pennsylvania. We can t afford to plow the roads that we can t afford to fix. We must play semantic games to avoid budget gaffes and the only place where there has been savings in energy the private sector and consumers could be snowed under in mandated costs if we aren t all vigilant.

Albert Paschall is Senior Fellow at the Lincoln Institute of Public Opinion Research, a non-profit educational foundation with offices in Harrisburg and King Of Prussia. Somedays is syndicated to leading newspapers and radio stations through out Pennsylvania. Receipt of this commentary is permission to publish as by-lined op-ed only. [email protected]
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