Santa Barbara Politics, Media & Culture

Friday, February 25, 2005

Dueling Noodle BBQ


noun : 1. A prearranged, formal combat between two persons, usually fought to settle a point of honor. 2. A struggle for domination between two contending persons, groups, or ideas.

verb : Inflected forms: du·eled or du·elled, du·el·ing or du·el·ling, du·els or du·els 1. To engage (another) in or as if in formal combat. 2. To oppose actively and forcefully.

Nick Welsh of Angry Poodle fame at the SB Independent has yet another dense and interesting column on a topic that no one else is covering. I guess journalism that requires noodle dueling is sorely lacking in today's mainstream media -- NOTE: see The SB News-Press Monday through Sunday -- but check this out:
But that’s nothing compared to some of the stinky cheese being dished out when it comes to the liquefied natural gas plants being proposed off the coast of Carpinteria and Oxnard. If you believe its boosters, LNG is the best thing since sliced bread — a cheap clean natural gas supply for the next inevitable energy crisis, whether real or contrived. The only problem is that LNG — which is natural gas subjected to such tremendous pressure that it achieves a liquid state — is also enormously combustible. In our post 9/11 world, things that make Big Booms naturally cause serious concern despite industry assurances that they shouldn’t. Just last December, we discovered that the skids were being righteously greased on behalf of the LNG industry. That’s when Pete Domenici, the Republican chair of the Senate Energy Committee, inserted three short little paragraphs into the spending bill then under consideration — which was five phone books thick — taking authority away from state governments when it came to selecting sites for LNG facilities and giving it to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Until California’s so-called energy crisis four years ago, FERC was just another obscure federal acronym. But as energy companies like Enron and Duke rigged and looted California’s system, and California’s customers, to the tune of many billions of dollars by creating an artificial energy crisis, FERC — which had the regulatory power to help — all but drove the getaway car. It didn’t put anyone’s mind at ease when the Center for Public Integrity revealed that FERC officials had met privately — at least 83 times — with LNG lobbyists over the past three years. The number of times FERC officials had met with LNG critics could be counted on the fingers of one hand — excluding the thumb. It turns out that industry officials covered the costs incurred by four high-ranking members of the Schwarzenegger administration for a whirlwind tour of LNG facilities in Australia and South Korea, where this fuel source is an accepted fact of life. One of the companies shoveling out the dough was BHP Billiton, which hopes to build the plant off Oxnard’s coast. To its credit, the California Public Utilities Commission put up a squawk over the federal preemption of the state’s sovereign authority. Unfortunately, it seems the PUC’s real argument is that the Great State of California should be the agency to give away the store to corporate LNG interests, not the federal government. According to some LNG critics, the PUC has been working just as hard as the FERC greasing the LNG skids. Last September, the PUC allowed SoCalGas/SDGE to cancel contracts to buy 1,400 million cubic feet per day of natural gas from two of the major companies supplying California’s natural gas needs. It also turns out that 1,400 million cubic feet per day just happens to be the equivalent of what two LNG plants can produce. Lest I sound like some conspiracy-minded whack-job, I’ll let you connect the dots. I know at times I’m addled, but I fail to understand how it makes sense to cancel existing contracts with established American suppliers so that we can “ensure reliability” by diversifying energy sources — as the PUC argued — by pursuing new energy supplies almost exclusively dependent upon foreign producers.
Thanks, Nick. Uh, and uh, thanks again Nick. By the way Nick, did I say thanks? Love, Sara.


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