With the program delivered, this forum will now have a lot more comment on what is happening in the realm of the issue, as well as what is going on with the program.
Discussions with people range from film making issues, documentary theory, to the giant valley of climate, which itself comprises so many details, technical and otherwise, that any question that gets presented needs to be classified, and the most appropriate sources referenced, before a reasonable conversation can take place.
So today, thanks to the synchronicity of the universe, right here in my little corner of the earth, a classic collision of category breakdown presents itself. Off shore drilling has become, thanks to the price of a gallon of gas, the election year, and the opportunity to pit ‘common sense’ against existing policy, something to discuss.
On the surface of it, it seems pretty much a no brainer- if the price is going up because of demand, doing something to increase supply ought to drop the price. I guess that is why McCain was willing to make it part of his opening remarks when he appeared locally in June. The hundred or so who protested were emblematic of the long and strong local environmental activism. The fact that this resonates with those answering the polls that seem to guide leaders these days, would explain Pelosi and Obama allowing that lifting the off shore moratorium on drilling might be a good thing.
There is some precedent. When Reagan did this way back when, it prompted the Saudis to open their spigot and drench the western world in enough oil to give us amnesia about the embargo of the seventies. We all felt good about ‘morning in America’ with our petroleum equivalent of caffeine that we suspended the progression of CAFE standards, and started making jokes about Jimmy Carter having suggested we should conserve.
And freeing up supply worked during the Clinton administration. Twice when gas prices started to impact the inflation index, Clinton used Presidential prerogative to open the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Each time the rise in prices was halted.
Unfortunately, these are not good examples. Today no country except Saudi Arabia can significantly increase the oil supply in response to demand. They are all using all the infrastructure that exists to find, drill, pump and process. Including the United States. Thousands of unused oil leases exist, and aren’t being drilled for a really simple reason- it doesn’t make business sense to do so.
This is true locally as well as nationally. The county of Santa Barbara is home to one of the largest untapped light crude deposits in the continental US of A. It has never been tapped because the policies of the jurisdiction are considered too expensive to meet, and thus this on shore easy to tap quality reserve lies waiting to increase supply. Santa Barbara, being the self proclaimed birthplace of the environmental movement ( and with credible accomplishments and history to back that claim) has long been a leader in demanding accountability of developers of all kinds. Being of this world, mistakes have been made. Currently a local petroleum company is having its issues keeping the stuff in the tanks and pipes, and the county seems challenged in bringing them into compliance.
So into this context, bold leadership at the county level voted this week to send a letter to the state Governor recommending off shore drilling. An all day hearing included themes on improved technology for drilling, the threat of a world wide oil shortage to our national economy, as well as speakers who pointed out that at best, off shore oil couldn’t make an impact on supply for at least eight years.
The most remarkable comment was made by the leader on the Board on this issue, retiring Supervisor Brooks Firestone. Firestone, elected to pacify the north south left right rancor that the board had been known for, said that since these world concerns might make the local ones not compelling to others, they the supervisors, the representatives of the community most responsible to keep and act on those concerns, should be the first to discard them! And then, along with the other two north county representatives, voted to send the letter recommending drilling in the south county coastal waters. Thanks for healing the north south left right divides there Brooks.
Not to be left out, the minority members of the board sent a dissenting letter to the Governor.
All of this around what the LA Times termed a “symbolic’ action.
A day of activity at the highest level of county government was expended on a policy that is solely about pandering to a political agenda that by any informed experts opinion will not produce the desired reduction in petroleum pricing. County government has no authority on the drilling moratorium- that is federal and state territory. So the letter is more a state of mind play. But it begs the question of how posturing contributes to getting policy wrong. Especially high stakes policy. The fact that the input of experts was not sought, and in fact when volunteered, ignored in this case, illustrates the problem leadership, especially elected leadership, faces in having to integrate the public discourse, the facts of physics, market place realities, and what is reasonably passable as ‘common sense’. It just happens to be wrong in this case.
Increasing supply is a great idea. Why off shore, or ANWAR for that matter, is considered the economical way to do that isn’t being examined- because it isn’t. How will policy become informed, and lead the public in addressing the enormous challenges that are based in technical and scientific facts, is a question that by this example in this county, is yet to be answered.