Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Man on the Street Take on Tranquillon Ridge

The new budget deal gives the go-ahead to offshore oil drilling at Tranquillon Ridge off Santa Barbara. The on-again, off-again project has been something of a soap opera, with no shortage of innovative horse-trading, political intrigue and hardball politics.

Today's Los Angeles Times reports on community reactions from Santa Barbara to the latest news that the drilling will proceed. Now, given that it's the L.A. Times and that it's Santa Barbara, you would expect scathing reviews... but the report is surprising.

The project's long-time opponents stayed on message, but the average, everyday citizens interviewed for the piece offered unexpected report.

While one guy asked rhetorically, "Why take the chance?" (alluding to a potential spill), the other comments were mostly positive.

Here is a sampling:

"Coach Mike Maas, 57, couldn't disagree more about the so-called Tranquillon Ridge proposal. The people who complain about drilling off of Santa Barbara "are the same ones driving around in their big Escalades," he said as his team cavorted. "The economy sucks. If that is a way to get some money, why not?""

"But Reynolds Yater, who was dropping off one of his eponymous surfboards at The Beach House nearby, said Americans can't complain about oil drilling and then buy surfboards and wetsuits.Waving his arm at the store's wares, Yater pointed out that "all of this stuff is made out of oil, so it's very hypocritical to be making this stuff and then not want it drilled on our beaches."

Another person interviewed expressed concern over a spill, but his apprehension was rooted not in fear of ecological damage, but in what it would mean to Santa Barbara economically:

At Santa Barbara Trolley Tours, driver Craig Boslaugh, 60, worried that another spill like 1969 "would affect tourism, so it would definitely affect our business."

Is this just a case of selective reporting or do economic recessions trump environmental politics?