Probably, by the time this letter is published, the fires from the exploding oil train in West Virginia will have gone out. The fire, however, still calls into question our whole energy supply.

It seems that, almost weekly, another train full of highly flammable oil crashes and burns or spills its toxic contents. People are killed or displaced. Structures are destroyed. On Feb. 18, an oil refinery exploded in California.

Pipelines spring leaks and contaminate water supplies. People living in the vicinity of “fracking ” operations have tap water that catches afire and earthquakes are increased. And the damaged nuclear plant at Fukushima continues to spill radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean. Drilling for oil is being done in more and more difficult locations. The Gulf of Mexico has still not fully recovered from the BP spill in 2010. Our country continues waging wars to maintain control of Mideast oil supplies.

It’s time for us to get serious about alternative energy. People say that it’s too expensive, that it’s not economically feasible. But really, I wonder, if you add together the cost of the wars in Iraq and in Libya, the costs of the cleanup from all the spills, the actual cost of obtaining energy by fracking, the building of pipelines, and most importantly, the loss of life and limb.

Maybe it would be a lot cheaper and safer to put solar panels on every roof, windmills in every yard. Maybe it’s time to give that idea some serious thought. Other countries are already years ahead of us in successfully reducing their dependence on fossil fuel. We can do it, too.

Abby Shahn


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