John Norton (Jan. 11 Juneau Empire) asked how a person concerned with global warming could oppose the road when fast ferries burn so much fuel. I would like to address that question.
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It seems to me that most road proponents don't care a whit about global warming and it is good to see that Norton does care. For the sake of addressing Norton's question, I am going to ignore other extremely important issues like wildlife habitat, wilderness character, pork-barrel spending, community participation and avalanche safety.
Norton's question is a good one. There is a lot more to global warming than fuel consumption. Deforestation is one of the primary causes of global warming and the proposed highway will pave over a lot of carbon absorbing trees. Mowing a clear cut half way to Skagway is not going to improve the global carbon budget. The ferries are fuel hogs, but they have a very small footprint otherwise. Trees grow quite fast in Southeast Alaska and the trees that do not have to be removed to build the highway offset the carbon dioxide produced by the ferries.
A highway from Juneau to Skagway (no such road is planned) would bulldoze more than 2,500 acres of land. In addition, the proposed road would literally pave the way for even more deforestation. According to the Alaska Department of Transportation, one of the reasons the road is being planned is to allow industrialization in the area around Berners Bay.
Einstein said, "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them." The Earth is warming because we have destroyed too many forests and we haven't used fossil fuels efficiently. The ferries are a waste of fuel because they often operate markedly below capacity and this is because ticket prices are too high. Filling the boats full of passengers and cars would help Juneau's economy and probably save the state money.
There are a lot of great ways to reduce carbon emissions. Creating new destinations for motor homes will not help us do our part to reduce global warming.
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