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.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Yet Another News-Repress Editorial on Lois Capps

OK, I've had it! The News-Repress is so tiresome in their relentess pursuit of U.S. Rep. Lois Capps (D-Santa Barbara) on the narrowest of issues. Excerpts:
[...] The News-Press had hoped the 2004 listing of the island fox as an endangered species would have brought increased scrutiny to the fox recovery program. Instead, federal officials such as Rep. Lois Capps -- despite all evidence to the contrary, she describes herself as "the environmental representative" in a letter today -- haven't exercise[d] more oversight.
Excuse me? Lois Capps not a true environmentalist? What are they thinking? In a letter from the same day, Lois points out that she won the Environmental Hero Award from the League of Conservation Voters. Ask anyone who works at the EDC, CEC or CPA -- and they'll tell you, Capps is one of the best legislators on the environment we have ever had.

Ms. Wendy McCaw, editor and publisher of the News-Press, should not confuse animal rights with environmentalism. This is the person that put "the stolen meercats" above the masthead of the newspaper, with the gigantic type and huge picture taking up nearly all the space above the fold. This is the sort of headline treatment usually reserved for declarations of war or events of 9-11 proportions. I'm all for finding meercats in Texas but let's face it, it was an A-3 story.

[...] The island's "caretakers" have failed to do enough scientific study to determine what might happen to the Santa Cruz ecosystem if a multimillion-dollar campaign to kill all the island's wild pigs succeeds.
How much science is enough? This issue has been studied exhaustively since beforeRep. U.S. Walter Capps (D-Santa Barbara), Lois' now-deceased husband, took office.

The pigs have been on the island for more than 150 years, and removing them surely will have unintended consequences for the native and so-called non-native animals and plants. For example, observers say island foxes have been known to rely on piglets for food.

[...] But scientific examination takes a back seat if it doesn't fit into a preconceived plan. The island's "caretakers" have picked an arbitrary time to try to re-create on the island and, in the process, are throwing out the island ecosystem's evolution over the last centuries. Consider, for example, the lack of any interest whatsoever to determine whether the island pigs in the isolated environment now differ from their mainland counterparts.
Perhaps it is simply that the scientific examinations already performed simply don't align with the opinions and prejudices of the publishers of the News-Press. The pigs are not native and actually threaten much of the horticultural ecosystem that has been there for a lot longer than 150 years.

[...] Officials need to explain their dismissal of scientific inquiry and whether the rush involves an effort to put a hotel or other lodging on Santa Cruz.
Sheesh, if Windin Mycraw and Travis Factswrong are going to make wild accusations about hotels going up at Santa Cruz Island National Park, then they better back be able to back it up with some hard facts -- editorials are opinions, but opinion or not, this is ostensibly the opinion of a news organization -- right?


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