The Beacon Update

Interesting bits of news between the news this week in the Beacon–the first related to a fatal accident on the Navarro River which occured on Tuesday. As of press time, the victims could not be identified because the families had not been notified, but other news sources revealed that one of the victims was Joe Ranft of Pixar. The report in the Beacon is brief–three men driving northbound went off the road shortly after the 1/128 Junction. The report also mentions that the men were wearing seatbelts–ever since an accident last year where a man was not wearing his seatbelt and died subsequently, the paper has made a point of including this information in their reports.

However, the men were driving an suv, and it is my suspicion that they were probably not driving it very intelligently, a frequent problem around here. 128 is extremely long and windy–the road flattens out after the junction and the driver was probably lulled into a false sense of security. It’s also highly probable that he wasn’t used to driving that type of vehicle on the sorts of roads common in Mendocino County. Most of the accident reports in the local papers involve suvs, especially with older drivers. Suvs have an undeserved reputation for safety and reliability, perhaps because they are aimed at an urban market, where these myths may actually be accurate. It’s curious but true–despite the advertisements in print and television showing rugged outdoorsmen with suvs, most locals don’t drive suvs because they are dangerous. With their soggy handling and tippiness, they are not responsive and reliable enough for curving roads which are often slick with water and, sometimes, ice. Local residents who need a workhorse of a vehicle generally drive light trucks. Those that haul heavy loads keep a heavier-weighted pick-up around. While of course it’s unfortunate that two of the passengers in the vehicle died, I must still question their common sense, and the market that drives consumers to purchase unsafe and overpriced vehicles in droves.

The things we do for status.

In other and better news for the area, the Federal court ruled against offshore oil drilling, and not for the first time. Offshore drilling has been a major issue in the county ever since the Reagen era, when it became a serious threat. Curiously, it’s one issue about which most coastal residents are united. The hunting, fishing, and logging communities oppose it because it destabilizes the marine environment, and, by extension, other reliant ecosystems, potentially putting their income at risk. The hippies oppose it because, frankly, offshore derricks are ugly, and most people who have been to Southern California know this. The scientific community also opposes drilling, because offshore drilling is never “safe.” Consistent leaks of crude oil in one of the richest and most biodiverse marine environments in the world would be a tragedy. The tourist industry also opposes drilling, because of the threat to their income–no one travels to Mendocino to look at cumbersome structures of steel rooted to the seabed.

However, the potential for offshore drilling is a growing threat. As energy sources dry up, more and more companies, and the United States Government, are eyeing the offshore waters of California greedily. Senators and Congresspeople from California claim to be dedicated to keeping offshore drilling out, arguing that the benefit would not outweigh the immense cost. But how long can we stave off the oil industry? Shortsighted members of this country point to rising gas prices, and then to the oil reserves off the state of California, and they ask why we are not doing our part to end the energy crisis. However, no one really knows how much oil there is in California. Existing wells in the south have been in operation for anywhere between 17 and 33 years, depending on the length of the lease. Is extending drilling operations to the North really an intelligent solution? California must not be the only state which is trying to examine the energy problem with a long-term view–and that view involves independence from petroleum based energy, which is a finite resource. Destroying the world’s oceans is not the solution, weakening the power of the petrochemical industry is.