August 1, 2016 Dena Jensen
On Tuesday, July 26, 2016, Whatcom County Council members met for their Special Committee of the Whole (SCOTW) meeting at 1:30 that afternoon and their regular county council meeting at 7 p.m. At those meetings the council discussed the resolution (left) to send County Council Member Carl Weimer’s amendments to Chapter 2 Land Use regarding Cherry Point UGA to the Whatcom Planning Commission for further review.
The proposed amendments by Council Member Weimer have been challenged by BP and other Cherry Point Industry executives, workers, and industry boosters, which may have been part of the reason the the majority of members of the council chose to, in Council Member Weimer’s words, “not take up these proposed amendments as part of the current comprehensive plan review, but punt those decisions into the future for several months.”
Related to this issue, Council Member Satpal Sidhu read a statement at both the afternoon and evening meetings on July 26, giving his thoughtful and illuminating perspective about the our environment, the petroleum industry, and “the only constant in life.”
The transcript below (accurate to the best of my ability) of Council Member Sidhu’s statement was taken from the audio of the afternoon SCOTW meeting beginning at 1:29:45. The wording differs slightly, but not substantively, from the statement Council Member Sidhu read in the evening:
Well, let me briefly state my background. I’m an engineer and I worked in petroleum industry for over 20 years. My son is also an engineer at BP Cherry Point for past eight years. I understand the petroleum industry and its place in our country, in our state, in our community. For past several weeks, we’ve listened to arguments like “Are you for petroleum, or are you against it?” or “Are you for saving environment, or are you against it?” And I analyzed these arguments from both sides. I can clearly see that the issue is not petroleum vs. environment. It’s all about our need for energy to sustain our lifestyle.
The energy can come from water, wood, coal, petroleum, nuclear, sun, wind, tidal, and a few other things. As a society, we need to choose what form of energy is best for our use, for our environment sustainability, and affordability. The best form of energy, which is most practical and efficient to use, as we know of today, is electricity, which can be produced from any fuel: water, wood, coal, petroleum, nuclear, sun, wind, tidal. That’s what we need, is energy. For many centuries we used running water, and then we started using wood as a source of energy. And then coal became the king. And we had steam power. Then we discovered electricity, just a little over 100 years ago. And we’ve been here probably 10,000 years or more, which is proof of written history. Now we’re talking only last 100 years. And later, about a century ago, petroleum came along and opened the new possibilities for the human use of energy. And we also discovered nuclear energy.
Now we have learned how to harness energy from sun, wind, and tidal waves, which do not pollute the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the land we grow our food from. I fail to understand, what is the harm in taking steps to transition to a better option, as humans have done over time to time for the sake of future generations.
To me, petroleum is a valuable resource, but it is limited in its availability. This is something which will be part of our energy mix for many, many decades. Wouldn’t it be smart to use this limited resource wisely and sparingly, so that we can benefit from it most, and the longest time?
How do we use petroleum? Let’s look at that. What we do: we take it out of the ground. We clean it and we burn it. We take more out of the ground, we clean it and burn it. Like there is no tomorrow. We actually go to wars to get more of it. So that we can burn it faster.
How come we stopped using wood as a fuel? Because we learned better ways to use wood. It is quite stupid to cut forests and burn away one tree at a time much faster than we can grow them. We learned that half of our lungs are hanging out on the trees, because what trees give out, we breathe back. Why don’t we use nuclear energy? Because we saw what happened at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl and Fukushima. We learned our lessons.
I’m not against petroleum. I am against irresponsible use of the valuable god-given resource by burning it away like there is no tomorrow.
I believe petroleum should be $500.00 a barrel. This product will thrive economically at this price by using it sparingly and making things which we cannot otherwise make. We will extend the life of this resource for a long time.
What does it matter what fuel my car uses? All I need is mobility. If Scotty can beam me up, I don’t even need a car, never mind the fuel. It is ridiculous to argue that petroleum is the only fuel to use for our cars. All we need is something which is affordable, which does not pollute our air, our water, our land. I think petroleum does not quite fit this bill. What is wrong with this picture? If we all have cars which run on electricity, but its seats, its body, its tires are made from petroleum, what is wrong with that? Let’s be smart to use the god-given bounties on our planet.
I’m not against the industry at Cherry Point. I’m for a time-bound transition to better energy alternates available to us. We must create and develop better options for our kids and grandkids and their kids and their grandkids. How do we do that?
Certainly not by putting our heads in sand and ignore all the real possibilities in front of us. The only constant in life is change. Let’s make this change for the better. Thank you.