Home > Uncategorized > Guest Post – Bill Neil: “THE TIME YOU ASK FOR DOESN’T EXIST”


Doomsday predictions can no longer be met with irony or disdain. We may well be leaving to coming generations debris, desolation and filth. The pace of consumption, waste and environmental change has so stretched the planet’s capacity that our contemporary lifestyle, unsustainable as it is, can only precipitate catastrophes, such as those which even now periodically occur in different areas of the world. The effects of the present imbalance can only be reduced by our decisive action, here and now. We need to reflect on our accountability before those who will have to endure the dire consequences.  ~~~ Pope Francis

I thought I’d post this from my good friend Bill Neil as I head out the door to the public hearing on the other Pinelands pipeline, NJ Natural Gas (NJNG) – a pipeline that could be even worse than the SJG pipeline that has gotten so much attention.

Actually the NJNG pipeline is longer (30 miles) and larger (30 inch) and higher pressure (722 psi) – and it is designed to serve new growth in Ocean County.* (corrected)
NJNG is using the Pinelands as a shortcut and trying to exploit a Pinelands CMP loophole designed for military need.
And this NJNG route was developed AFTER the big battle in the Pines over the South Jersey Gas/BL England pipeline. All that didn’t make a dent in energy industry strategy.
Environmental impact assessment should not come after the drawing up of a business proposition or the proposal of a particular policy, plan or programme. It should be part of the process from the beginning, and be carried out in a way which is interdisciplinary, transparent and free of all economic or political pressure. ~~~ Pope Francis
Not only do the corporate greed heads never give up, I think they enjoy pissing people off and then asserting power and control over them.
They enjoy all the economic monopoly benefits and legal powers of a public utility, without any of the public control or accountability. Privatize the profits, socialize the costs.
Given the real potential for a misuse of human abilities, individual states can no longer ignore their responsibility for planning, coordination, oversight and enforcement within their respective borders. How can a society plan and protect its future amid constantly developing technological innovations? One authoritative source of oversight and coordination is the law, which lays down rules for admissible conduct in the light of the common good. The limits which a healthy, mature and sovereign society must impose are those related to foresight and security, regulatory norms, timely enforcement, the elimination of corruption, effective responses to undesired side-effects of production processes, and appropriate intervention where potential or uncertain risks are involved. There is a growing jurisprudence dealing with the reduction of pollution by business activities. But political and institutional frameworks do not exist simply to avoid bad practice, but also to promote best practice, to stimulate creativity in seeking new solutions and to encourage individual or group initiatives.  ~~~ Pope Francis
There is no legal way to stop this pipeline if BPU approves – and the Christie BPU, just like FERC, has not met a pipeline they don’t love.
It says so in Gov. Christie’s Energy Master Plan – we need more pipelines and instate gas plants.
Obama energy policy says the same thing on gas and pipelines – Obama even bragged about setting a record for pipeline construction, something about enough miles of pipeline to circle the earth – recall that photo with him and the stack of pipes in the background?
 At the same time we can note the rise of a false or superficial ecology which bolsters complacency and a cheerful recklessness. As often occurs in periods of deep crisis which require bold decisions, we are tempted to think that what is happening is not entirely clear. Superficially, apart from a few obvious signs of pollution and deterioration, things do not look that serious, and the planet could continue as it is for some time. Such evasiveness serves as a licence to carrying on with our present lifestyles and models of production and consumption. This is the way human beings contrive to feed their self-destructive vices: trying not to see them, trying not to acknowledge them, delaying the important decisions and pretending that nothing will happen. ~~~ Pope Francis
But Enough of my rant – let’s get to Bill’s work, which is always thoughtful, well written, and historically grounded:


Dear Citizens and Elected Officials:

July 28, 2015



I have two minutes to comment upon your more than “150” programs, and the slow, voluntary, incremental “Maryland temperament” approach. I strongly protest being forced into this two minute “corner,” but that’s where citizens seem to be these days, boxed into corners, as Yanis Varoufakis has warned us, and the fate of Greece has demonstrated.

It is true, though, that decent democracies often work that way, by slow and careful dialogue and that is as it should be. That’s mostly the way the abolitionist movement worked for 30-years, from 1830-1860, and how FDR brought the nation to the necessary intervention against fascism in the 1940’s. And that’s the way the movement to stop global warming has been working. But we are not succeeding, and we are not going to get there in time, and there are huge consequences looming if we are “late.” Forget the 150 programs to track: look at the tiny percentage of alternative energy generated inside Maryland – or the nation – under 1% of the total.

There are three major things we need to do change this. First, the public and private investments that have poured into gas and oil fracking need instead to “deploy” to solar generation and in selected locations, to wind power – and to remaking our grid. Our nation has to be willing to invest trillions to do this, just as we were willing to spend trillions on mission impossibles in the Middle East, being poised for yet another. We can’t do both. Therefore, say no unequivocally to fracking in Maryland. And to the Donald Rumsfeld like foreign policy voices, “new Russia Cold War” included.

Second, we need a public financing program, through public banks, to match on a sounder, less complicated basis what Elon Musk has done with the too complex Wall Street derivative model at Solar City, the one used in Garrett County that no one wants to talk much about.

And third, sadly, we will probably have to undergo the climatological equivalent to Pearl Harbor to change more minds, especially those in one of our two parties, before we reach a national feeling to match that of FDR’s One Hundred Days and post December 7, 1941 mobilization.

That’s where I am after reading Naomi Klein, Richard Smith, Pope Francis – and James Hansen’s latest paper. Hansen has told us “what time it is”: that we can’t afford 2 degrees of climate warming. Climate Pearl Harbor arrives with rapidly rising sea levels and catastrophic weather changes much sooner, even with one degree of warming, which we already have.

The poles which have delineated our world are melting as I speak, and the disorientation is already well under way.

My message to the Commission is the same one that James Baldwin delivered to novelist William Faulkner, his pleas to the North to let the South “go slow” in the early 1960’s, which I first read as a Lafayette College freshman in 1968, and I have never forgotten Baldwin’s stinging reply:

“… the time Faulkner asks for does not exist – and he is not the only Southerner who knows it. There is never time in the future in which we will work out our salvation. The challenge is in the moment, the time is always now.”

That’s always been the type of constructive pressure our slow moving political system has required “to get there in time.” Usually, it comes from outside the two party system.  It doesn’t always work neatly, as the Civil War demonstrated. Let’s hope it succeeds this time. More than you think depends on “getting there” in time.

William R. Neil

Frostburg, Md.



James Baldwin, Nobody Knows My Name, 1961, Chapter 7.

James Hansen et al: “Ice melt, sea level rise and superstorms: evidence from paleoclimate data, climate modeling, and modern observation s that 2 degrees of global warming is highly dangerous,” July 23, 2015, Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics. http://www.atmos-chem-phys-discuss.net/15/20059/2015/acpd-15-20059-2015.html

Naomi Klein, “Capitalism vs the Climate,” November 9, 2011, The Nation.http://www.thenation.com/article/capitalism-vs-climate/

___________, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate, 2014.

Pope Francis, Encyclical Letter, Laudato Si (On Care for our Common Home), June 18, 2015http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html

Richard Smith, Green Capitalism: The God that Failed, 2014,http://www.worldeconomicsassociation.org/downloads/green-capitalism-the-god-that-failed/

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