EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 3, 2014

Editorial: A look at what others are saying

The Eagle-Tribune

---- — The following are excerpts from editorials published in newspapers across New England:

The Olympic Games are often interlaced with geopolitical intrigue, dating back to 1936, when Jesse Owens foiled Adolf Hitler’s hope that the Berlin games would be a showcase of Aryan superiority.

Jimmy Carter stopped U.S. participation in the 1980 Moscow games to protest the Soviet Union’s war in Afghanistan. To retaliate, the Soviet Union led an eastern European boycott of the 1984 Los Angeles games under the pretense that its athletes would be placed in mortal peril by angry Americans.

Add the 2014 winter games in Sochi, Russia to the list. The United States isn’t boycotting the games, but this week President Barack Obama made it clear that Russian President Vladimir Putin isn’t on his Christmas list.

Obama named to the U.S. delegation to Sochi three gay athletes — figure skater Brian Boitano, tennis great Billie Jean King and hockey player Caitlin Cahow. The assignments are an indisputable poke in the eye for Russia’s anti-gay laws. In addition, neither the president nor any other high-ranking American official will attend — a clear signal the administration is angry at Russia’s decision to harbor NSA leaker Edward Snowden.

It’s fine that the president has made a statement that doesn’t prevent hundreds of American athletes from competing for their country, but we find it a bit ironic that he made his move the same week sweeping reforms to the NSA were recommended — reforms that perhaps would never have come about if Snowden had kept quiet.

— The Nashua (N.H.) Telegraph

Clean energy

For the committed environmentalist, time is a minor inconvenience. Devoted “greens” have no problem taking a 10- or 15-year trend they find disagreeable — say, global warming — and drawing all sorts of dire conclusions from it. Even a fleeting event like a hurricane or powerful tornado is grist for an apocalyptic pronouncement or two.

Rational people on the other side of the green divide are more careful. They know, for example, that the American nuclear-power industry hasn’t killed anyone in 60 years, but they’re hesitant to conclude this stands as unassailable proof nuclear power is safe. They also fret about the lack of a safe, secure, central repository of radioactive waste, and the hazards of storing this dangerous material in dozens of sites around the country. The nation’s best hope for safe storage, at Yucca Mountain, Nev., was never completed.

Worldwide, nuclear reactors have taken remarkably few lives over these six decades. The worst accident — Chernobyl, scene of the predictable failure of a reactor design no longer in use anywhere — directly killed 56 people; the number of people who died prematurely as a result of radiation exposure is a matter of conjecture. The Fukushima disaster in Japan, caused by a tsunami in 2011, has yet to cause a confirmed radiation-related death. By contrast, a single accident — a coal-dust and gas explosion in China in 1942 — killed more than 1,500. In 1907, the worst year for such accidents in the United States, 3,242 miners were killed.

Yet the combined emotional impact of Three Mile Island in 1979, Chernobyl in 1986 and Fukushima in 2011 were enough to send the nuclear-power industry into a long stall. The last time a new reactor came on line in the United States was in 1996. And after Fukushima, German leaders decided to shut down their country’s nuclear industry, wean the country off coal and rely on renewable sources. The result of this policy has been devastating in terms of energy costs and business growth.

As environmentalists are aware but seldom dare to mention, nuclear-power plants produce virtually no carbon dioxide. While the new wave of natural-gas plants are cleaner than the coal-fired plants they’re supplanting, burning gas produces about half as much CO2 as burning coal.

“Renewables” like wind and solar are too unreliable to sustain a modern industrial state like the United States or Germany, and they pose their own environmental problems, including devastation of desert habitats and the mass slaughter of birds by wind turbines.

— The Republican American of Waterbury (Conn.)