THINKING GLOBALLY, ACTING LOCO: Somehow, I managed to miss the Fight of the Century between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, whose last name is pronounced — appropriately for a boxer — “Pa-Kow!” I couldn’t scrounge enough loose change from under my couch cushions to amass the $1,500 to make the scene in Vegas. Manny Pa-Kow is now trying to have it both ways. Despite what the judges saw, Manny insists he won. At the same time, he wants us to know he injured himself while training and fought with one hand — his powerful right — behind his back. Little wonder a group of fight fans are now suing Mr. Pa-Kow for fraud.
Those relishing pugilistic encounters need look no further than Santa Barbara’s very own Air Pollution Control District, known affectionately by the 18 wonks who even know it exists as the APCD. In the past month, the APCD has been the venue for two serious knock-down-drag-outs over Climate Change, Weather Weirdness, and the future of the planet, junk science, punk science, jobs, Blobs, and how many metric tons of greenhouse gases Santa Barbara County will allow the oil companies to get away with before we say enuff.
Representing the oil industry is Andy — “the Mouth that Roars” — Caldwell, whose astonishing durability over 30 years has been surpassed only by his anti-regulatory hysteria. Throwing uppercuts for the sky-is-falling tree-hugger crowd is Katie — “The Chin” — Davis, by comparison still a newcomer. Stylistically, Caldwell and Davis tend toward shrill, accusatory, and scornful. Both are tough, smart, and armed to the teeth with dire stats. Had Davis and Caldwell showed up in lieu of Mayweather and Pa-Kow, nobody would want their money back.
In one of the great sham “meetings” of the century — held last week — the APCD board voted 8-to-2 to embrace the absolutely least stringent threshold for evaluating, regulating, and mitigating the greenhouse gases released from stationary industrial sources. The difference between the options before the APCD board amounts to millions of metric tons of unregulated, unmitigated emissions over time. As one of the agencies charged with implementing California’s historic climate change law of 2006 — AB 32 — the APCD is required to establish such thresholds. But practically and politically, it’s the County Board of Supervisors who have the first, last, and middle word on such concerns 99.99 percent of the time. To draw the “bright line” for such pollution, the county supes had scheduled a meeting on May 19. But because the county’s Planning Commission just recently voted in favor of new strict standards, North County’s Petro-Potentates had good reason to freak. And nobody gets their freak on better than North County Supervisor Peter Adam, who effectively marshaled the North County majority of the APCD board to call not one but two special hearings on such thresholds. The APCD, it should be noted, was already set to deliberate this very matter, but not ’til two days after the Board of Supervisors did. For Adam et al., that was too late. By getting the APCD to adopt the most supine standards possible, the pro-pollution lobby could point to the air board’s more modest decision as a compelling theatrical prop when arguing for moderation before the County Supes. Hence the urgency behind the special meetings.
Three of the South County supervisors who sit on the APCD board — and yes, tilt green — did not attend last week’s meeting, having notified Adam et al. well in advance they had prior engagements. (Salud Carbajal, for example, was busy being seen everywhere in the company of Secretary of State Alex Padilla as part of his nonstop campaign to succeed Lois Capps in Congress.) So, too, did Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider and Goleta City Councilmember Michael Bennett, though they sent subs. Ultimately, the APCD voted in favor of a threshold its own technical staff has officially designated the “Business As Usual” option, “BAU” for short. (Yes, that is the exact and precise language used.) Given who voted and who did not, we can say this outcome qualifies as the sound of one-hand slapping.
Eco-warrior Davis launched an impressive jeremiad attacking the legitimacy of the APCD’s advisory committee — on which she happens to sit — which voted 15-to-7 in favor of “Business As Usual.” If industry reps were excluded, she noted, the vote would have been 9-to-7 instead. You’re allowing “the polluters [to] decide what level of pollution is significant,” she objected, adding that the social cost borne by affected communities from such emissions ranges from $37-$220 per metric ton. But Caldwell took the day. He sneeringly referred to AB 32 as “the Myopic Environmentalist Superiority Act.” The enviros want to crash the economy into “the side of a mountain,” he charged, just to make a political statement. “That statement is ‘We’re fools.’” That’s just Andy getting off being Andy. What really impressed me, however, was the radical nihilism — unadorned, unrepentant, and unequivocal — Andy espoused. “We don’t matter,” he repeatedly exclaimed. If China’s belching out 10 billion gigatons of greenhouse gas and California is responsible for 500 million, why should anyone give a rat’s ass that Santa Barbara County produces a mere million? More precisely, I suppose, he could have asked, why should firms like Santa Maria Energy be forced to reduce their projected emissions down from 88,000 metric tons a year to 10,000 — as was required last year — if so doing might cost the multimillion-dollar operation 16 cents per metric ton to mitigate? Why bother, indeed?
The good news is that the real fight — before the county supervisors — has yet to happen. Better yet, it’s free. In the meantime, just remember that BAU — as in “Business As Usual” — rhymes with Manny Pacquiao’s hard-to-pronounce last name. And both, we now know, are pretty damn lame.