While details still need to be settled, Gov. Malloy has offered a compelling vision for the future of energy use in Connecticut — greatly increasing the accessibility of natural gas.
The surge in domestic production of natural gas is well known, though its sustainability remains in question, as it relies on the possibly polluting technique of “fracking,” breaking into underground gas reservoirs with jets of chemically treated water. Not well known, as the Malloy administration notes, is that Connecticut’s natural gas infrastructure is terribly weak for a densely populated state.
While about half the homes in neighboring Massachusetts and Rhode Island use natural gas, only 31% of Connecticut homes and not that many more businesses here do, according to the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP). While gas trunk pipelines run through the state, the lower use of natural gas results largely from the lack of spur lines.
That’s what the Malloy administration aims to address with more than a billion dollars’ worth of gas main construction, financed by some combination of assessments against current and new gas customers and state bonding. The new mains would be routed first toward the likeliest potential heavy users of gas, like factories, schools, office buildings, and hospitals, and then to residences.
The plan already has generated controversy as home heating oil dealers object to any state encouragement of a competitive fuel. But natural gas service is inevitably a public utility requiring government support and regulation, just like electricity, which is also a competitive fuel, if, for many years now, an uneconomic one in Connecticut. Heating oil dealers themselves long have benefited from government-supplied infrastructure, as there would be no heating oil deliveries without roads and no heating oil systems in homes in the first place without the electricity that operates them.
Of course if the Malloy administration’s plan is ever implemented and gas main construction is undertaken in a big way, some neighbors of the new mains will complain about temporary inconvenience or appearance or the long-term danger of natural gas. Gas is more dangerous than heating oil. But accidents are rare and people who use gas choose to take the slightly higher risk. Indeed, choice is what the administration’s plan is all about, for with choice come efficiency and lower prices.
Not only that, but in pursuit of this greater competition and efficiency in energy, many construction jobs would be created for the new gas mains — DEEP estimates as many as 7,000.
The first step is to decide where the construction money is to come from. This won’t be easy, since the state budget is still running a big deficit and state government is too heavily indebted already. But this project is almost sure to save money, so maybe a way can be found to borrow against and repay from that savings.
The Malloy administration has come up with a great idea that will not only save money for state residents but make the state more attractive to business. It should be pursued urgently by the administration and the imminent session of the General Assembly.
If the proposal of the National Rifle Association to post armed guards at every school in the country is really so crazy, why, when it opened this week, was the new Sandy Hook Elementary School in Monroe surrounded by police officers and lauded as ‘the safest school in America”?
Why weren’t the shrill, emotional, and not always relevant advocates of gun control denouncing the school authorities and the police for exposing the children to more weaponry?
Or might armed security for schools and other vulnerable targets actually be a first step in addressing the country’s gun violence problem, and might that problem really be a little more complicated than wishing 300 million firearms away and pretending that certain gun-control proposals will do more than disarm the law-abiding?
Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer in Manchester.