I was there at the first “Earth Day”. Oh my goodness, we were frightened by the prophetic words of Paul Erlich; we were just going to overpopulate the world; why, in ten years the food supply would run out; we must reduce the population of the earth! The passage of time has since proved him a false prophet, but we were taken in by his rhetoric. I believed it. Now it really looks like the world’s food supply is running out, but for a different reason: ethanol. We have mortgaged the food production of this great country to subsidize a fuel that takes more energy to produce than it gives back as a gasoline substitute. Meanwhile, the rest of the world is starving because they cannot afford to buy corn, rice, or wheat. As we speak, there are food riots going on in Haiti and Egypt.
The Congress of the United States called in the heads of the big oil companies to find out just why the price of crude oil has gotten so high. They said, “We can fix this. Can we drill in ANWR?”
“Can we drill off the continental shelf?”
“Can we build more refineries?”
“No. Now how are you going to fix this problem?”
Look to the often maligned country of France. They get 80% of their power from nuclear energy. Norway gets 50% and the rest from hydroelectric. One of the founders of Greenpeace is now a leading advocate for nuclear power. He tells us most of the radioactive fuel used in the reactors comes from recycling old Russian nuclear warheads. Talk about beating swords into plowshares.
Wind power and solar can’t provide a continuous stream of power. Nuclear and coal - there is a way to cleanly produce oil from coal at $35 bucks a barrel; the technology has been sold to India and China, and their first plant is being built in North Dakota — are our best hope.
Green dental offices are fine. I’m all for it, but it comes with a cost. Recently the waste removal company in our rural area went out of business. My diligent staff, while examining the office for hazardous waste, discovered a four-ounce plastic bottle of mercury, given to me by my mentor 35 years ago to aid in my placing of amalgam restorations. Now let me be perfectly clear: I believe amalgam restorations are completely safe as we now do them with pre-measured capsules eliminating the chance of a mercury spill, and we all have voluntarily installed amalgam separators in our offices, haven’t we? In fact, there are many situations where amalgam is the only restoration able to save a tooth. But evidently a four-ounce bottle of mercury is enough to snuff out all life on earth, including the beloved polar bears. Well, we certainly had to save the polar bears; oh, how I long for the days when the polar bears used to frolic joyfully in my back yard!
Yesterday a yellow “Hazmat” truck pulled up in front of my office. A very worried looking young man came in bearing a red, five-gallon pail. He gingerly descended into the bowels of our office basement. He carefully placed the four-once bottle of mercury into the five-gallon pail and whisked it off for proper disposal. All this was done for the bargain price of $766.
And dear readers, it is only going to get worse. Incandescent light bulbs are scheduled to be banned in the near future because they use too much energy. They will be replaced by compact fluorescent bulbs. I have several of the dim little things in my house. They don’t put out as much light as our old bulbs, but they last a lot longer. Just don’t drop one. They contain mercury, so you’ll have to call the $766 Hazmat team if you break one. But even if you don’t, when it finally wears out you can just put it in the recycling bin and the powers that be will release the mercury back into the environment in a more pleasing and politically correct way. And now the powers that be are about to mandate the creation of a “Mid-level Dental Practitioner”. Excuse me? Isn’t the reason we are members of organized dentistry and attend all those continuing education courses and why we study ethics and why we have Peer Review that we may avoid at all costs becoming Mid-level Dental Practitioners? Legislate in haste, repent in leisure.
*Dr. Stein is Executive Editor of Northwest Dentistry. He is a general dentist in private practice in Aitkin, Minn., AitkinDent@AOL.com.