Young children and environmentalists share a lot of the same qualities.
With children, it’s their blissful ignorance of all the work and money required to purchase food for the table, provide clothes they outgrow at an alarming rate and pay the mortgage to keep a roof over their heads.
Greens take immense pride in their zero-emission electric vehicles charged by smoke-spewing power plants and containing batteries consisting of metals strip-mined somewhere in China or the fact that the solar panels atop their home have reduced their electricity bills to zero (but still required them to be hooked up to the grid because otherwise they can’t watch Stephen Colbert after sundown).
Over time, children can be taught that food doesn’t magically appear free of charge from boxes in the wall like in so many “Star Trek” episodes.
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Environmentalists are not so easily dissuaded from their beliefs that magical solar panels and windmills will save the planet.
Earlier this year, hundreds of opponents of Phillips 66’s plan to build a rail spur to its Nipomo Mesa refinery attended a series of San Luis Obispo County Planning Commission hearings to voice opposition to the proposal that would allow approximately 150 trains to carry oil to the facility each year.
Concerns that failure to approve the plan may mean the loss of some jobs — even if it is as few as a dozen — are casually dismissed by activists who aren’t concerned about other people’s livelihoods.
The fact that California has some of the highest gas prices in the nation and that those prices spike any time something breaks down at one of the only 11 refineries left in the state also doesn’t enter into foes’ calculations.
The fact that rising gas prices tend to hit the poor and the diminishing number of middle-class households the hardest also isn’t a concern.
No, opponents of the rail spur seem to be almost exclusively focused on the possibility that one of these oil trains will derail, explode and leave San Luis Obispo County resembling a post-apocalyptic wasteland out of the “Fallout” video games or the “Mad Max” movie series.
That such an accident will occur seems to them to be a metaphysical certainty, and no amount of planning, oversight, inspections or additional regulations will be sufficient to erase the horrors they’ve created in their minds.
Planning commissioners could require the railroad companies to increase the number and type of inspections on rail lines carrying crude oil cars — including walking inspections of the kind that might have caught broken lag bolts on the track that is believed to have resulted in the derailment of an oil train in Mosier, Oregon, in June.
They could also require that the most modern and safest oil-carrying cars be used transporting crude to the Nipomo Mesa refinery.
Even in a worst-case scenario, very little of what might happen — the loss of human life excepted — is irreversible.
Oil spills occur on a too regular basis. But we have also built a lot of technology and expertise to clean up these messes when they happen.
That’s why the Gulf Coast returned to being a tourist attraction just a couple of years after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. That’s why Santa Barbara isn’t an abondoned wasteland where property can be purchased for pocket change, even after the 1969 spill there that started the modern environmental movement.
There are reasonable requirements the county can impose on Phillips 66 and Union Pacific as conditions before approving the rail spur plan. Bowing to the will of an environmentalist cult that refuses to offer any weight to the benefits of the plan while painting the worst possible picture of the risks is not something responsible adults do.
It’s something children do.
Conservative columnist Matthew Hoy is a former reporter, editor and page designer. His column appears in The Tribune every other Sunday, in rotation with liberal columnist Tom Fulks. Read Hoy’s blog at Hoystory.com. Follow him on Twitter @Hoystory.