A case of apples and oranges


Kudos for Mark Bassett’s generally excellent reportage on Malibu’s opposition to BHP Billiton LNG’s proposed offshore gas factory. I’d like to make two supplemental observations.

First, the media has characterized California’s “need” for imported LNG in widely disparate terms. Some sources say that demand is desperate; others, that it’s non-existent. This confusion has been promoted by LNG producer/importers, through a deliberate conflating of the real demand for energy production capacity with a false “demand” for increased supply of natural gas itself. Presumably, a confused citizen is one more likely to believe that LNG imports can help alleviate the state’s energy crisis. But it’s a case of apples and oranges.

A strong argument can be made that California needs increased generating capacity. The solution could involve some combination of building new, more efficient plants, investing in renewable technologies, and improving conservation measures. Meanwhile, a recent report of the non-partisan California Energy Commission finds that demand for the gas itself will likely rise a negligible one percent in the next 10 years. To put it bluntly, we can get the gas; we just can’t burn it fast enough.

Ultimately, anyone weighing the apples and oranges faces a key question: if weaning society from fossil fuels makes sense for the long run, why commit ourselves now to importing gas we don’t need?

Second, I find it curious that the media has labeled me an “activist.” As I write this, I have work deadlines looming, my pets and loved ones are zipping in and out, the radio’s blaring, the kettle’s on the boil … In other words, I’m a typical concerned citizen, an occasional participant in civic affairs. I read a little, ask questions, write letters now and then. Sometimes a little effort goes a long way. That someone like me would be considered an activist seems more a comment on the relative degree of apathy in society. I mean, for our democracy to be functioning in any way resembling the vision of the founding fathers, shouldn’t we all be such activists?

Kraig Hill