Astronomy Picture of the Day

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Guest Editorial

Guest Editorial,

My neighbor Jane posted on the front porch forum...
I really could not say it better myself and have to say the game of Monopoly came to mind to me as well. In the old neighborhood games went on forever, rules shifted, cheating abounded,
if you got away with it. meg.

Gas Metropoly?

Lately I feel I am living a Vermont version of the game, Monopoly. Instead of the four railroads, there are four utilities; Green Mountain Power, CVPS, VELCO, and Vermont Gas. Replacing Monopoly's two utility squares are “Green Energy” squares, where if you land, you pay a fee that is invested in alternative energy. These squares make you feel like you are doing something to help combat climate change. Actually, the money you invest goes to the utilities who sell Renewable Energy Credits to other states still burning fossil fuels. Indirectly, your fee on the “Green Energy” squares in turned to profit for the utilities. The “Free Parking” space is a “Free Hunting and Fishing” space. (about as common as free parking in Burlington or Montpelier.) The rest of the squares are much the same as in the original Monopoly game, only with more “Vermonty” names like Hardscrabble Road, Smuggler's Notch, Pleasant Valley, The McCullough Turnpike etc.
In this game, instead of playing with siblings or friends, I am being be forced to play with several large corporations that own most of the properties on the board at the start of the game. One Canadian corporation, Gaz Metro, owns all of the utilities as well as a few other key properties. (This is the equivalent of one player owning all four of the Railroads on the original game.)
On my first turn, I draw a card from the “Community Chest” that says, “Gas pipeline coming through your town, pay thousands of dollars in legal and professional fees.” Next turn I draw another one that says “Lost wages due to fighting the pipeline”. All the while, the other non-corporate players and I keep landing on the squares that Gaz Metro owns. Gaz Metro smiles as he takes our money. He tells us all not to feel bad, that it's all for the “public good” He will use our money to build new infrastructure that will require all players give him more money when we land on his squares. “Not to worry,” he says...”This money will go toward investments in 'clean' energy.” The “clean” energy he is referring to however, is a fossil fuel that is extracted by extreme methods that pollute the earth.
In the “Chance” cards, there are several cards that say. “Pipeline sited across your property, collect $5” which may sound like good thing, because, after all, this is a game and you won't really have to host a pipeline, right? But then you read the fine print and it says your most valuable property would be immediately and severely devalued. (Think Park Place and Boardwalk suddenly worth less than Baltic and Mediterranean Ave.) Several cards say things like, “Path of pipeline cuts across your sugarbush, orchard, or newly planted berry bush field, you get $5, but lose all future potential income”. I draw another card that says, “Property taxes due. Pay $1000 on land you can no longer use.” And another one, “Fight with town to lower property taxes on easement-encumbered land. You lose. Pay $100.”
There are also cards that say things like “Take a hike up Snake Mountain, enjoy the view” or “On a clear night, stare at the stars” and “Go fishing on Lake Champlain” But no money comes with those cards. You still only get the $200 for passing go and the rents on the measly properties you have left. It's not enough to live on. I watch as my cash dwindles....I draw another card from the Community Chest and it says, “The Public Service Board grants Certificate of Public Good to owner of utilities.” This is the ultimate death card to any player that does not own all the utilities but to Gaz Metro it means that it can grab any property that it desires by using eminent domain. Our government will even assist in the condemnation. Give up your hopes of hanging on to the land you need or value. Say goodbye to the prospect of curtailing climate change. The future is grim.
If this were really a game, it would suck and no normal person would want to play it. But what I describe is pretty close to what we are experiencing. The players are not who we want to play with (in fact, we never agreed to play this game in the first place) and the rules are stacked against us. The outcome is obvious from the start and the only way you could possibly win is if you draw a “You buy a Tri-States Megabucks card and it's a winner, collect $2 million” card which I am not even sure really exists.
It is disheartening that the proponents of this gas pipeline keep touting the economical benefits of “natural” gas while they blame the lack of pipeline infrastructure in our state for our economic woes. We see the potential of economic benefits of a gas pipeline the owner of the utilities and to big businesses that consume huge amounts of thermal energy. To the rest of us...the costs are already adding up.
One has to wonder how things got this bad. Why would our government allow one foreign company to be so heavily invested in the lion's share of our state's utilities? Why would our governor claim to be supporting a switch to renewable and independent energy sources but at the same time, back a plan that will hook us up to a fracked gas pipeline for the next 100 years? Why is a company that has no respect for agriculture and landowners, being allowed to plot and plan a design to crisscross a state renowned for it's beauty and landscapes, with pipelines carrying a lethal gas that has been extracted by extreme methods, rendering the areas it comes from poisoned and ravaged? One has to wonder, who designed this game, anyhow?
There is a groundswell of opposition growing against this pipeline. Those that have not been paying attention are starting to tune in and raise their voices against a fracked gas pipeline project that seems to be progressing along in spite of the outcries of dissent. If those outcries are ignored, they will get louder. Vermonters have a right to protect our land, our health and our economy. We have a right to refuse to take part in the desecration of our planet. We have a right to say “NO” to the Addison “Natural” Gas Project.
A+, Jane :)

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