other voices
Rachel Helm

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May 2, 2013
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A lecture to one who would lecture us

I am writing in response to Carol Kuczora’s somewhat muddled Other Voices piece entitled, “The earth we leave behind?”

Much of her overall premise is certainly laudable, which I will summarize as: “We need to be prudent and responsible in the use of our natural resources.” In this beautiful county, don’t most of us embrace her overall premise? I certainly do.

However, the tone of her discourse was self-righteous and preachy, was loaded with political hyperbole, and read more like a political rant than a serious effort to inform. The essay included impractical suggestions and off-base conclusions, all of which were more likely to alienate than convince.

Here are my suggestions on how to tailor your arguments to be more credible in the future.

1.) Don’t lecture. Writing your treatise as a series of “lessons” is condescending. Don’t address us as if you’re the only adult in the room.

2.) Speak to your intended audience and raise issues that are relevant to them, not just yourself.

Is your goal to sway the citizens of this county to accept your view? Then focus on issues that impact their daily lives. For example, you instruct us to take public transportation, especially the train. Really? Sure, the next time I go to the grocery store, I’ll trot down to the bottom of McCourtney Road and catch the local MUNI train.

You preach to us about overpopulation even though the birth rate in this country is the lowest ever recorded.

My point is, one-size-fits-all rants usually aren’t compelling. Often they’re just silly.

3.) Make sure that your lessons are based on current facts and take the trouble to think through the ramifications of your conclusions.

During your Lesson #2 (or was it #3?) you dismiss fracking technology with a wave of your hand as a technology that “pollutes enormous amounts of water and should be banned.”

My advice on this point would be to read some of the latest research on where fracking technology is today. There’s been tremendous progress made to ensure that when drilling, the aquifer is not compromised in any way, and there are also advances that are resulting in less use of water, including the re-use of wastewater. Some companies are now working on creating technologies that use no water at all. Is there much work that still needs to be done, and do states need to ensure that there are sufficient regulations in place? Yes, absolutely. California has regulations in place today and additional regulations are being proposed.

Let’s look at the possible ramifications if your suggestion that fracking be banned were to take place.

We’ll look at the potential impact on the local community first. Most of the folks who live in the unincorporated areas of this county rely on propane as a primary heating source. Given that many of us are retired, elderly and depend on fixed or limited incomes, we are very sensitive to propane price fluctuations.

Propane is a derivative of oil and gas. Consequently, the primary long-term factors in its price are the prices of oil and natural gas.

What role does fracking play in this? Today’s exploration of shale gas has resulted in our current abundance of natural gas, which has led to a dramatic drop in the price of natural gas, which in turn keeps the price of propane steady.

What would happen if fracking were banned? The supply of gas would shrink, prices would zoom, and so would the price of propane. One possible side effect that you might consider somewhat positive would be that you wouldn’t have to worry about us eating beef. The only protein some us would be able to afford would be beans.

Let’s look at the impact on the national level. Are you aware that carbon-dioxide emissions are falling dramatically in the U.S.? Greenhouse emissions are the lowest they have been since 1994.

This is in part due to the recession and increasing energy efficiency, but the most significant factor is the rapid rate at which power plants and factories are switching from coal to gas. Gas burns much more cleanly then coal.

If government leaders banned fracking, the switch from coal to gas would come to a grinding halt and so would the drop in the carbon-dioxide emissions rate. This is not a ramification you would approve of.

Bottom line: Minimize the hyperbole, treat you readers like adults and think through your conclusions.

Rachel Helm lives in southern Nevada County.

Today’s exploration of shale gas has resulted in our current abundance of natural gas, which has led to a dramatic drop in the price of natural gas, which in turn keeps the price of propane steady.


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The Union Updated May 2, 2013 10:46PM Published May 2, 2013 10:46PM Copyright 2013 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.