What price will we pay for power?

September 21, 2008

We asked Herald-Mail Opinion Club members this:

A major electrical transmission line has been planned to run through Western Maryland and West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle. Without it, energy producers say we risk blackouts in the coming years. Preservationists, however, worry that such a line will create a wide swath of destruction through scenic and historic landscapes, and contend that power companies have failed to provide alternative energy sources that would make such a line unnecessary. What are your thoughts?

All landscapes are scenic and historic, but preservationists do not worry about all landscapes, just some landscapes. In particular, preservationists only worry about the landscapes that are being considered for transmission lines, cell towers, subdivisions, shopping centers, and, in general, any development. Transmission lines are part of our infrastructure and they need to be maintained and upgraded to meet the needs of a growing population. The windmill farms from Texas to North Dakota that are being proposed to produce electricity will require thousands of miles of new transmission lines. I support both new transmission lines and affordable alternative energy sources.


- Daniel Moeller

Because of ever-increasing demand to support our way of life, this transmission line may be considered a necessary evil. I think that alternative routes that have the least impact to humans should definitely be considered - considering the ill effects of high-power electricity lines. Preservationists' claims regarding alternative energy sources do not consider that these alternatives still require the transportation of the energy to the locations where people live and businesses operate.

- Brian Gertz

The power companies need to uphold all of the existing regulations and they should do their best to avoid historic properties such as the Antietam National Battlefield, but unfortunately we as a society have not curbed our appetites for electrical power and our infrastructure is aging, hence the need for the transmission lines.

Our society needs to make a major commitment to finding alternative sources of energy and there is going to be a substantial cost associated with that. Unfortunately, we want things, but we're not willing to pay the price for the things that we want.

- Michael Saylor

PATH is all about better connectivity, not about more electricity. They should not be allowed to correct their transmission errors by destroying our unique scenic and historic resources. At most, they should "piggy back" new lines on existing transmission towers in existing corridors.

- Scot Faulkner, Harpers Ferry, W.Va.

The PATH "problem" is a typical NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) syndrome: almost hysterical, emotional histrionics based upon usually ill-founded rumors and imagined circumstances.

The "physical plant" of a large electrical distribution system is not easily changed. The "electrical grid" is something that has been designed and developed over many decades. It takes years of planning to achieve efficiencies and avoid disasters. This system is what we have right now and nothing is going to change it instantly.

There are several reasons why I think it is not the best of all possible systems.

1. It is highly vulnerable to terrorist attack.

2. It is always exposed to weather and the extremes that occur on a regular basis.

3. It wastes enormous amounts of energy due to the I2R-loss (power loss) from current-flow though the wires (enough to light thousands and thousands of homes).

4, Present-day non-nuclear energy sources ("fossil-fuels") sometimes cause "acid rain" and other "pollution."

5. Towers and lines are not considered "beautiful" unless one happens to love trusses and catenaries.

6. Modern technological achievements suggest that small, nuclear-powered generating plants could be easily and economically produced for individual home or small-community energy systems.

All this aside, I consider PATH to be absolutely necessary because it's the system we have at the moment. If we want to continue to have and use electric energy, then I know of only four possible ways for the average person or business to get electrical energy:

1. The present system.

2. Each energy-user generates his own energy

3. Those who reject No. 1 or No. 2 above: Do without electrical energy.

4. Or, Lord help us, the government supplies electrical energy.

Until I can afford to buy or build my own personal, home-sized, nuclear-powered generating plant, I'll be content to let the electric utility companies do that which they do best: Supply us with reliable, affordable energy without hysterical harassment.

- David Michael Myers, Martinsburg W.Va.

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