Proposed megaload route through Idaho

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Environmentalists protesting the transportation of large, heavy oil-processing equipment are trying to make two basic arguments: that use of oil is damaging the environment, and that the transportation of the heat exchanger will damage Idaho’s roads and bridges — and possibly trees and power lines.

If they’re really serious about these two issues, they’re wasting their time waving picket signs and trying to block the trucks.

Let’s begin with the environment. Unless these people walked to their protest sites, it’s safe to assume they drove their vehicles there. That requires gasoline. Gasoline requires oil. Without oil, society grinds to a halt. That means civil unrest and chaos. That’s bad.

We cannot even begin to wean ourselves off oil until we come up with an alternative, and as of today, there are no wind-powered cars on the market yet.

If the “megaload” protesters are serious about the world moving off its oil dependence, they should spend their time and energy raising funds for alternative energy development. With current technology, solar and wind can only provide for a tiny fraction of our power needs. We need something far more abundant.

But oil isn’t just used for power. All the plastic products in your household also came from oil. We will always need it — to some degree. Given that reality, we need to keep getting it, and the more we get from our own backyard, the less money we have to keep sending to Middle Eastern despots.

Now let’s talk about Idaho’s roads. There’s no doubt that this is a pressing issue. A report from the Idaho Transportation Department earlier this year noted that 253 bridges in the state are either obsolete or structurally deficient.

Our highways are wearing out, a fact that led to an epic standoff between Gov. Butch Otter and conservative lawmakers in the 2009 Idaho Legislature. Otter insisted on more money to upgrade our transportation infrastructure, to be provided by a six-cent-per-gallon increase in the gas tax. He ultimately lost that bruising, nasty political battle of wills.

Some have suggested an extra fee on trucking companies that use our highways because of the additional wear and tear they put on the pavement.

All in all, it’s a thorny issue, and it isn’t going away. And yes, Idahoans should be concerned about the size of this large load coming though our state.

The shippers say the 901,000 pounds is distributed across 128 tires, and that caution will be taken to ensure roads and surrounding landscape will be unaltered. ITD says it will work closely with the company to make sure of that, as it should.

If the protesters can produce valid evidence to suggest this shipment will cause harm, they should make their case via the legal system and have it stopped. Until then, they should let these people do their jobs.

* Our view is based on the majority opinions of the Idaho Press-Tribune editorial board. Members of the board are Publisher Matt Davison, Opinion Editor Phil Bridges and community members Maria Radovich, Kenton Lee, Rich Cartney, Megan Harrison and Kelly Gibbons.

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