Hearings address public's concerns
Waste Management & Processors Inc. expects to break ground in a few months to build the first coal-to-oil plant in the United States — right here in Schuylkill County.
Naturally, there are concerns. Chemistry is involved and, in many people's minds, "chemical" and "poison" are synonymous.
The project is slated to get a boost from the U.S. Department of Energy in the form of a $100 million loan. Before the money can be disbursed, the impact of the project on the environment had to be analyzed and the public given an opportunity to register its comments.
This is all as it should be. We need to be careful. Concerns are legitimate.
Unfortunately, some of the concerns have little to do with science and preserving the environment. Yes, there are some very well-educated people among the opponents who know much about chemistry and who are up to date on the latest literature.
However, there seem to be some people — although surprisingly fewer than with previous large-scale projects in the county — who are against the project because of whose project it is.
Let's face it. We Schuylkill Countians are an emotional, passionate people and our feelings often get the better of us. There is a deep vein of that hatred, deeper and greater than the veins of coal running beneath the surface of the anthracite fields of the county.
Because of past abuses — and they were heinous abuses — nowadays, anything any mine company does must be evil, as some people see it.
This is not rational and it won't do us any good in the long run.
The people running the coal company now are not the people who forced our immigrant ancestors to shop at the company store or who allegedly perverted justice so they could hang organized labor leaders.
Maybe they have done a few unpopular things here and there, but that is true of any employer — and remember, no employee is an ideal employee either, as we are all flawed.
This project will benefit the county and could possibly herald a new era of American energy independence.
Doesn't anyone remember what that was like, the days when America didn't have to buy its energy from foreign, volatile nations? It's not so long ago, as energy independence only ended in the 1970s.
Reading Anthracite isn't Texaco or Mobil or any of the oil companies that seem to have our foreign policy under their thumb. It is a Schuylkill County operation that will build its coal-to-oil plant with Schuylkill County labor and get rid of more of Schuylkill County's coal waste.
Hopefully it will be followed with the first ethanol plant in the state — provided it can do that safely as well — and, along with our wind farms and a plan to make diesel fuel from soy products, will make Schuylkill County a showroom for alternate energy.
We deserve to be that. Energy is why this county exists.
If some people are angry because a few Schuylkill County businessmen are going to make money from all this, they should examine their consciences to make sure they are not guilty of envy. Then, they should think about how things are run in a communist country, where only the government is allowed to make money and can do whatever it wants.
If some people are genuinely afraid for the environment, they need to keep after the Department of Energy and be vigilant so that everything is done according to the rules and their concerns are noted and addressed.
In fact, they should do that because someone has to do that in order for our American way of doing business to work.
But let's keep it scientific and put old animosities aside.
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