Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Saturday Spinfest

I didn't get to phone in to Mesa County's first telephone town meeting on Saturday, but from Mike Wiggins' excellent account in the Sentinel I read some statements that had me scratching my head. For example:

(County Commissioner Craig) Meis responded by saying county residents can enjoy both a high quality of life and the economic development that comes from drilling. He said the industry slowdown will give the county time to catch up and plan for further development if and when drilling ramps up again.

I'm not sure I see the direct connection between energy development and a higher quality of life. Perhaps it's a mathematical figure based on the total amount of particle board and stucco used in a calendar year, divided by the number of white 4-wheel drive dually pickups registered in the county. Maybe it's the time of one's daily commute, multiplied by the cost of operating your vehicle.

Perhaps quality of life can't be derived from balance sheets, employment figures, the consumer price index, or the S & P 500.

Perhaps that quality is derived from knowing we are loved, and being able to love and care for others. Does that love emerge from material wealth? I don't think so.

Perhaps in the wake of the inevitable adjustments that have occurred in the wake of the greed and mismanagement in the world's credit markets, some people are becoming more inclined to take stock in those intangibles that truly define quality of life.

Perhaps the economic adjustments that have resulted in limited credit availability and reduced market prices for energy (the real reasons behind the downsizing) will result in greater acceptance of simpler living. If that happens, I feel bad for Craig Meis and those like him.
“If it were any other sector pulling back hundreds of millions of dollars, the leadership of this state would be sitting down saying, ‘How can we keep you here? What can we do to keep you here?’ ” (State Senator Josh) Penry said. “But that’s not happening in this case. It’s making a grim situation only worse.” The senator said he is confident that, in the long term, there will be “a growing bipartisan recognition that we’ve got to fix these rules.”
Any other sector of industry wouldn't be leaving the raw materials of its' business behind. The energy sector has no choice. The reason they are scaling down is because the price they stand to get for those materials has dropped to the point where it is no longer profitable. The almighty marketplace has determined this.

Growing up in the shadow of the steel industry in the 60's and 70's, I got to see the direct effects of steel production on my neighborhood. I later watched those effects diminish as tighter controls on emissions drastically improved air quality. When the bulk of the steel industry went away in the late 70's, market conditions were the primary cause.

The rule changes are in response to several years of energy activity without the rules. When energy prices and credit availability recover sufficiently, the drilling will ramp up again because the energy is still here. However, it will be extracted under conditions that will help to protect those intangible features that provide Coloradans with an exceptional quality of life.
In response to a question about alternative energy production, Meis said it’s important for other areas of the country to step up and provide energy, whether it be extracted minerals or alternative forms such as wind and solar power.
“I don’t want to be the only place supplying energy for the country,” he said. “Just because Martha’s Vineyard doesn’t want to see windmills in their backyard doesn’t mean we need to be drilling here in our backyard (alone).”
Fortunately, there are several entrepreneurs in the Grand Junction area, who along with many property owners have sufficient vision to leverage our preponderance of sunny days with solar power solutions for residential and business properties. This is an example of thinking globally and acting locally.

Also, I'm wondering if Mr. Meis has ever been to Cape Cod and the Islands. If he hasn't, then he knows not what he's talking about. If he has, then he needs to be reading up on the issue. If he wants to see windmills, Nebraska and Iowa are a lot closer anyway.

Not every participant was pleased with the tenor of the discussion that leaned in favor of the energy industry. Rowland, who acted as the moderator, indicated about halfway through the meeting that one person wanted to know if the commissioners had “given thought to having anyone on the panel with a differing opinion.”

Rowland responded by saying the meeting wasn’t intended to serve as a pro-and-con discussion of the industry, but rather as a forum for people to ask questions.

Well, they organized it, and I suppose they can invite who they want. It's still disingenuous to utilize cutting edge technology to link the community in such an innovative manner, and then try to structure the message and the participants to allow for criticism of people and ideas that have no representation, no way to defend themselves.

If, as Commissioner Rowland says, the forums are intended for people to ask questions, then the people should have the opportunity to ask them of stakeholders on all sides of an issue. Fair and balanced, right?

I'm interested in these electronic town meetings, and will probably participate in at least one over the next few months. I would hope that the commissioners will not attempt to stack the newer forums with like-minded advocates for the position espoused, in hopes of spinning the message unchallenged.

Have a good week ahead.

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