The state income tax
rate, which voters mandated be rolled back from 5.85 percent to 5
percent with a 2000 ballot question, has started rolling again: For
2014, the rate will drop from 5.25 percent to 5.2 percent.
This doesn’t mean much
money for each of us, but I always say it’s not the money, it’s the
principle: Taxes that are sold as “temporary” should end. However,
this year it’s also the money: I am spending my share on a patchwork
flannel shirt I saw in a catalog, on sale for $49.
I’ll need this flannel
shirt, as local environmentalists who fought to close the Salem
coal-fired power plant are now fighting the natural-gas powered
plant they had always argued should replace it. As we prepare to
live in the dark and the cold, counting on emergency generators and
wood stoves, it will be nice to have a flannel shirt.
Wait, the EPA wants to
control the use of wood stoves because they pollute the air.
Proposed new rules require manufacturers of wood and wood-pellet
stoves to make them burn 80 percent more cleanly than current models
I suspect that using a
gas-powered generator doesn’t solve the pollution problem. New-model
generators can be run on natural gas, somehow, but that wouldn’t
address whatever makes enviro-radicals oppose a natural gas plant on
It’s something about
“fossil fuels” that upsets them. It is sad that dead dinosaurs,
whose species was destroyed by something going wrong with their
environment, turned into oil and are now used to damage today’s
Wait. That’s what I was
taught, but now that I think of it, this doesn’t make sense. How
many dinosaurs would it take to fuel our homes, planes and
automobiles all these years of modern civilization?
So, using the
electricity at my fingertips, I went to About.com and learned that,
according to the best theories currently available, “microscopic
bacteria, and not house-sized dinosaurs, produced today’s oil
reserves ... As tiny as the individual bacteria were, bacterial
colonies, or “mats,” grew to truly massive proportions...
“As members of these
massive colonies died off, they sank to the bottom of the sea and
were gradually covered by accumulating sediments. Over the ensuing
millions of years, these layers of sediment grew heavier and
heavier, until the dead bacteria trapped beneath were “cooked” by
the pressure and temperature into a stew of liquid hydrocarbons”,
Heartwarming. All those
little critters, whose long-ago dying helps keep us alive, allowing
other bacteria to live in our bodies, mostly doing good there.
Though I usually don’t dwell on these bacteria, I now find myself
singing “The Circle of Life.”
Maybe the dinosaurs
made coal? “During the Carboniferous, the earth was blanketed by
dense jungles and forests; as these plants and trees died, they were
buried beneath layers of sediment, but their unique chemical
structure caused them to be “cooked” into solid coal rather than
liquid oil ... but it’s not inconceivable that some dinosaurs
perished in conditions that lent themselves to the formation of
fossil fuels — so... a small proportion of the world’s oil, coal and
natural gas reserves can be attributed to rotting dinosaur
I’m glad. As I turn up
the heat in the morning for my shower, I’d rather think about
rotting dinosaurs than compressed bacteria masses. Well, since my
house is heated with natural gas, I actually think about the
substance created by the rotting and compressing, the pockets of gas
which are byproducts of the bacteria, plants and a few dinosaurs.
Thank you, Mother
Nature, for this complicated creation of stuff that humans have
learned to take from the earth and use to keep themselves warm, cook
their food, run their vehicles. The addition of the human mind is
what gave meaning to all that death and decay.
I suppose we could
build a nuclear power plant on the Salem site, but I’ve disliked
nuclear power since I learned about the Price-Anderson Act, which
limited industry liability for accidents. Whoa, I thought, even
before learning about the lack of responsible plans for storage of
the nuclear waste. You want to send it across the country in trains
to a mountain near an earthquake fault near my grandchildren?
But wait: Seabrook,
just north of us, is on an earthquake fault. I asked an Edison
executive about this once, and he told me not to worry, there hasn’t
been a major earthquake here in 200 years. But, then, aren’t we due?
And even if we aren’t,
maybe the earthquake schedule will be accelerated by the fracking
about which many people, not just enviro-rads, are concerned, not
only about polluting water supplies, but disturbing the geologic
plates near which frackers frack. Are we reassured to learn that the
government, which is overseeing Obamacare, is overseeing this new
When I first heard
about Cape Wind, my only concern was birds. I checked with Mass
Audubon, which said not to worry. But, now, I hear about dead bald
and golden eagles and learn that the federal government allows wind
companies to kill eagles free of prosecution.
Recently read about
firemen falling through solar panels on roofs. On the ground, the
panels take up acres of open space that, at least here on the North
Shore, we don’t have.
I need a bigger income
tax cut, to buy another layer of flannel shirt.