Letters, March 20
'The Port of Dreams'
After listening to the proponents of the proposed Searsport dredging project at the Army Corps of Engineers meeting in Bangor, I realized that their arguments were similar to the those in the movie "Field of Dreams." The dream is that dredging the Mack Point port will lead to an industrial renaissance for Northern Maine. This did not seem to be based on any economic analysis or study, but rather on conjecture and pure fantasy.
After pondering that for a while I decided to come up with my own Port of Dreams, or Nightmares, as the case may be, based on more facts than dreams put forth by the dredging proponents in Bangor.
The main fact is the four entities that will benefit most from the dredging are not Northern Maine or even Maine-based companies. They are Irving Oil, Sprague Energy, Central Maine and Quebec Railway (the purchaser of MMA railroad known for the explosion in Lac-Megantic, Quebec) and Bangor Gas (the purchaser of the pipeline between Searsport and the Canadian border). Irving and Sprague are owned by foreign companies, and CMQR and Bangor Gas are owned by parent companies in New York and Ohio respectively. All four companies are involved in the distribution of fossil fuels.
The next fact is that Mack Point is primarily a fuel port. Historically more than 75 percent of it's cargo has been petroleum products. While there is one warehouse for dry cargo, the port consists mostly of petroleum storage tanks. Since 2006 the demand for imported oil products in North America has plummeted primarily because of increases in oil and gas production in Canada and the United States due to fracking and exploitation of tar sands. Today, exportation of petroleum products from North America has become an issue for the first time in decades. The Canadian government has just approved the reversal of a major pipeline from Montreal to Ontario and discussion is underway on reversing a pipeline between South Portland and Montreal. Meanwhile train transport is booming, limited only by the number of tank cars available.
Because oil imports are declining, tanker traffic coming into Mack Point has steadily declined since 2006. The current 35-foot channel depth is more than sufficient for existing tanker traffic bringing petroleum products used in Midcoast Maine. Dredging to 40 feet and increasing the turning basin and entry area would allow for the current panamax super tankers needed for large scale exportation of crude, but would still not be deep enough for the next generation of new panamax tankers.
So my Port of Nightmare vision is dredging Mack Point and dumping almost a million cubic yards of sediment containing toxic material in prime lobster grounds and endangering the Pen Bay fishing industry in order to enhance the profit margins of non-Maine (and even non-U.S.) corporations. It is true that I have built it on conjecture but its foundation is based more on reality than the "dredge it and they will come" fantasy put forth by the Bangor Chamber of Commerce and the Action Committee of 50. We need to protect the $157-million-plus lobster industry that does provide many Mainers real jobs, not risk this industry and the Maine lobster brand, for the fantasies of a few people in Bangor promoting benefits that have no real prospect of occurring.
Truth or consequences
Senator Harry Reed's recent assertion that the criticisms of ObamaCare are "all lies" is not wrong because it was scandalous but rather because it will be accepted as truth by many Democrats. Pause a moment and consider the implications of that.
What it means is that the leadership of the Democrat Party is fully aware that many of their members are sufficiently ignorant of and uninformed of current events to accept Harry Reed's deliberate untruths as truth. I think that's cruel. It is cruel because it deprives them of their right to know the truth and think for themselves. Sadly, it reduces thinking Democrats to be part of an uninformed herd waiting for directions from their ruler. Perhaps there is a sense of security in being a compliant member of a big group. It certainly works for ants. The question to ask is, if your leadership is accomplished in lying to those less knowing than you, what keeps them from lying to you?