I read with interest your editorial of September 8 on the natural gas pipeline ("Can the Appalachian Trail block pipelines?") but I prefer to back away and look at the big picture. I see some parallels between natural gas and vaping, which is also getting a lot of ink in your newspaper because of a few recent deaths. In both cases, we are being told by commercial interests that a substance is "better" than the thing it replaces (natural gas replaces coal and vaping replaces cigarettes). But in both cases, the problem remains. The problem is addiction to a substance that is damaging to our health.
Coal is damaging to our health because of the tiny particles that get into our lungs and kill us. Miners with black lung, and children who die in asthma attacks, are both examples of this. Cigarette smoke deposits tar in our lungs and causes lung cancer that is often fatal. We tout natural gas and vaping as "cleaner" alternatives. But natural gas still contains around half as much carbon as coal does, and that carbon ends up in the sky after we burn the gas, trapping solar heat and driving up the acidity of our ocean. Vaping contains nicotine. Nicotine is as addictive as heroin and damages our circulatory systems with resulting heart attacks and strokes in later life.
Does natural gas have to pay for climate change? Does vaping have to pay the medical bills of addicts? In both cases, no! The problem for both these commercial products is the fact that they are permitted to externalize the costs they inflict on humanity. The cure, then, is not an occasional lawsuit that they will see as the cost of doing business, but rather to legislate some accountability. I suggest that we should ask our members of Congress to cosponsor H.R. 763, the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, which would impose fees on fossil fuels and refund the money to American families. And I suggest that Congress should also impose fees on vaping companies to help the federal government pay for the eventual health damage that vaping is inflicting.