Recently, there was a hearing on the draft environmental impact report (EIR) for the AERA energy project in the Santa Maria Valley. EIRs are a creation of the California Environmental Quality Act, also known as CEQA. CEQA requires that all projects that have the potential to create significant impacts to the environment be studied exhaustively. The goal is, when possible, to reduce the impacts to levels of insignificance.
CEQA has, of course, become a bludgeon in the hands of activists who use it to literally lose project applicants in the now infamous black hole of environmental review that has made Santa Barbara County infamous. Who are these local activists? Well, all of the usual suspects showed up at the hearing, including the Environmental Defense Center, the Santa Barbara County Action Network, the Sierra Club, 350.org and Forest Watch, along with some self-described bona fide, verified Marxist-humanist-anarchists, courtesy of UCSB, of course.
One of the leaders of these Gaucho Marxists (that is what they call themselves) was very helpful. They/them (her pronoun of choice), handed out scripted talking points, because otherwise the student lemmings wouldn’t know what to say because they didn’t know anything about the project they were protesting. Their ignorant default position is captured in the newest slogan to “keep the oil in the ground,” with the notable exception of the fuel they themselves used to get to the hearing.
One of the standard components of CEQA review is what is called the “No Project Alternative.” That is, the impacts of the proposed project are compared to approving no project at all to see which is environmentally superior. In most cases involving oil projects, the activists always claim that the no-project alternative is superior because of the threat of climate change. This claim is factually dubious and morally bankrupt. How so?
It all has to do with the fatal flaw in the world view of these people. First of all, they say things like, “we must quit using fossil fuels immediately because the damage to the atmosphere is approaching the point of no recovery.” With respect to the use of the pronoun “we,” doesn’t that mean all these same students who drove all the way up to Santa Maria when they could have testified from Santa Barbara? If the situation is so dire, what excuse do they have for their own personal continued reliance on fossil fuels?
Oil companies would disappear tomorrow, along with this project, should consumer demand dry up, because consumption drives production. Isn’t the onus on these anarchists to create some anarchy in their own lives by disrupting and abandoning their own personal connection to fossil fuels?
Now, back to CEQA. The no-project alternative never bothers to quantify the fact that killing a business opportunity here nevertheless means business as usual throughout the rest of the world. That is, if California did in fact reach its goal of attaining a zero-carbon footprint, it will have zero effect because global greenhouse gas emissions will continue to increase ? because China, India and Pakistan, the population behemoths that they are, will not agree to abate their emissions one iota.
Why? Those pesky foreigners would rather achieve our standard of living. That standard of living, ironically enough, can be gauged by how much energy we use.
Moreover, if the no-project alternative is chosen by county supervisors, we will simply import the same amount of oil that would be otherwise be produced here, from Saudi Arabia instead, with the added global impact of having to ship the production from halfway across the world. How is that ethical or sustainable? Finally, consider the fact that the proposed AERA project completely mitigates all greenhouse gas emissions. Take that, Gaucho Marxists!