Friday, April 29, 2005

Scientists Discover: Boys and Girls are Different!

From Scientific American (I'll let it stand on its own):
Several intriguing behavioral studies add to the evidence that some sex differences in the brain arise before a baby draws its first breath. Through the years, many researchers have demonstrated that when selecting toys, young boys and girls part ways. Boys tend to gravitate toward balls or toy cars, whereas girls more typically reach for a doll. But no one could really say whether those preferences are dictated by culture or by innate brain biology.

To address this question, Melissa Hines of City University London and Gerianne M. Alexander of Texas A&M University turned to monkeys, one of our closest animal cousins. The researchers presented a group of vervet monkeys with a selection of toys, including rag dolls, trucks and some gender-neutral items such as picture books. They found that male monkeys spent more time playing with the "masculine" toys than their female counterparts did, and female monkeys spent more time interacting with the playthings typically preferred by girls. Both sexes spent equal time monkeying with the picture books and other gender-neutral toys.

Because vervet monkeys are unlikely to be swayed by the social pressures of human culture, the results imply that toy preferences in children result at least in part from innate biological differences. This divergence, and indeed all the anatomical sex differences in the brain, presumably arose as a result of selective pressures during evolution. In the case of the toy study, males--both human and primate--prefer toys that can be propelled through space and that promote rough-and-tumble play. These qualities, it seems reasonable to speculate, might relate to the behaviors useful for hunting and for securing a mate. Similarly, one might also hypothesize that females, on the other hand, select toys that allow them to hone the skills they will one day need to nurture their young.

Simon Baron-Cohen and his associates at the University of Cambridge took a different but equally creative approach to addressing the influence of nature versus nurture regarding sex differences. Many researchers have described disparities in how "people-centered" male and female infants are. For example, Baron-Cohen and his student Svetlana Lutchmaya found that one-year-old girls spend more time looking at their mothers than boys of the same age do. And when these babies are presented with a choice of films to watch, the girls look longer at a film of a face, whereas boys lean toward a film featuring cars.

Of course, these preferences might be attributable to differences in the way adults handle or play with boys and girls. To eliminate this possibility, Baron-Cohen and his students went a step further. They took their video camera to a maternity ward to examine the preferences of babies that were only one day old. The infants saw either the friendly face of a live female student or a mobile that matched the color, size and shape of the student's face and included a scrambled mix of her facial features. To avoid any bias, the experimenters were unaware of each baby's sex during testing. When they watched the tapes, they found that the girls spent more time looking at the student, whereas the boys spent more time looking at the mechanical object. This difference in social interest was evident on day one of life--implying again that we come out of the womb with some cognitive sex differences built in.

Staying in the world of science, Spiked has asked scientists what one thing they would teach the world if they could. A lot of stuff to get through over there!

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Rhode Island Requires a "Master Mariner" on LNG Tankers

The Rhode Island General Assembly haspassed a bill sponsered by Sen. Leonidas Raptakis requiring an American licensed, LNG certified "master mariner" to be on board any LNG vessel that transits the Narragansett Bay. Additionally, this individual will be responsible for signing off prior to any transfers. Senator Raptakis stated that
Many of these LNG tankers are not U.S.-flagged vessels, crewed by foreign seamen who may not be familiar with our rules or our language. An LNG-certified American master mariner present on each trip through Rhode Island waters, and during the transfer of cargo, will ensure that the vessels, at the very least, meet all operational and regulatory requirements.
"Master Mariner" sounds impressive, but what it is is a U.S. Coast Guard licensed merchant ship captain. The LNG certification may be a bit more problematic as I don't believe there are currently any U.S. "flagged" LNG carriers. Thus, while it sounds good to require the oversight of an American "master mariner," such oversight will, at least initially, be excessive and unneeded. A quick look at the practical application of these new requirements can show why.

First, all ships transiting the Bay require an American pilot (I believe in RI it is the Northeast Pilots Association), familiar with the local waters, already. The addition of a "master mariner" is then essentially a safeguard against 1) the vessel's captain making a mistake, 2) and the U.S. certified pilot making a mistake. In essence, for the transit portion, Rhode Island is now going to require two pilots for LNG tankers only. Now, I'm sure this makes everyone feel safer, but I believe it to be going overboard.

The second role that the "master mariner" would play would be to "sign-off" on the transfer of LNG. As I mentioned, as there are currently no U.S. flagged LNG carriers, I doubt there are currently and U.S. "certified LNG" master mariners (ship captains). This may not be so, but then again, how many of these live in Rhode Island? Still, putting that all aside, I'm sure that such a certification can be obtained. But now we come to a hole in the logic that troubles me. Why should we assume that an experienced, albeit foreign, merchant captain of an LNG tanker is somehow less qualified to offload his cargo than a newly certified, albeit American, "LNG certified master mariner"? Certification cannot replace experience, at least in the short term. This is not to say that a properly trained professional would be incapable. Again, it all just seems excessive.

Finally, perhaps the best and most cost-effective method would be to require Rhode Island pilots to be both "master mariners" and LNG certified. However, what the bill calls for is for these individuals "to be certified to be a tankermen person in charge (PIC) as defined in the code of federal regulations Title 46 Chapter 1 Part 13." A reading of the aforementioned revealed no explicit mention of being "LNG certified", only being certified in the transfer of "liquid gas." Now, I believe LNG falls under this, but to imply, as I believe this bill does, that there is some special certification for LNG is slightly misleading. Nonetheless, I guess that doesn't long as these rules make us all fell better.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Just War and the presumption against it

Paul J. Griffiths & George Weigel debate over whether the "presumption" is "for" or "against" war in Catholic Just War Theory. While Griffiths attempts to fashion a case for a presumption against war, based on the assumption that those who go to war must pass a series of moral and ethical "tests", I find Weigel more persuasive (heck, he agrees with me).
Let’s clarify one thing that really shouldn’t need clarification, but which evidently does. If by “presumption against war” we mean that those thinking within the just war tradition ought to prefer that there not be wars, fine. Having spent nine years of my professional life working for the World Without War Council, I don’t have any problem with that. . .the very fact that that statement of the obvious has to be made suggests one of the problems with the way the so-called “presumption against war” operates today: it subtly suggests that those who do not accept the smuggled pacifist premise within the “presumption”—that the use of even proportionate and discriminate armed force is, at the outset of the moral analysis, presumptively deplorable—are somehow thought to be warmongers. How any of this constitutes an advance in moral reasoning or moral sensibility over the classic just war understanding—that the use of armed force can be noble or wicked, just or unjust, depending on who is using it, toward what ends, and how—is unclear to me.

There are several other problems with the “presumption” and its current functioning among religious leaders and religious intellectuals (not to mention political leaders throughout Western Europe). As I have argued in these pages and elsewhere, the “presumption,” by detaching the just war way of thinking from its proper political context—the right use of sovereign public authority toward the end of tranquillitas ordinis, or peace—tends to invert the structure of classic just war analysis and turn it into a thin casuistry, giving priority consideration to necessarily contingent in bello judgments (proportionality of means, discrimination or noncombatant immunity) over what were always understood to be the prior ad bellum questions (“prior” in that, inter alia, we can have a greater degree of moral clarity about them). A similar inside-out distortion of thinking happens when the “presumption” gets to work on the ius ad bellum. For here, the “presumption” tends to give higher priority to what were classically understood as important but secondary criteria, like “last resort” and “probable chance of success,” over the classic first-order criteria: competent authority, just cause, and right intention (about which, to repeat, we can have a greater degree of moral surety).

Then there is the sad and, to my mind, unmistakable fact that people who have adopted the so-called “presumption against war” tend to get things wrong, time and again: as the U.S. bishops got the dynamics of the Cold War wrong in their 1983 pastoral letter, “The Challenge of Peace”; as most religious leaders and intellectuals got it wrong in predicting a Middle East Armageddon in the first Gulf War and the recent Iraq War. When a moral lens constantly yields a distorted view of reality, then, I submit, something is wrong with its prismation.

The “presumption” has tended to give theologians and religious leaders a bloated sense of their own role in decision-making about war and peace. Judging from the way the “presumption” works out in practice, religious leaders and religious intellectuals now imagine that their function is to set a series of hurdles for public authorities to jump—then, if those hurdles are judged to have been successfully surmounted by the politicians, religious leaders and theologians will reluctantly give their blessing to the use of armed force in question. This hubris is in contradistinction to the clear teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church—for the Catechism, while assuming a serious dialogue among government officials, just war analysts, and the public, nonetheless teaches (at § 2309) that “the evaluation of these [just war] conditions for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good.” The hubris has gotten so out of hand, in fact, that one prominent “presumption against war” advocate recently proposed that the Catechism be amended, so that a consensus of bishops, the faithful, and theologians (the last presumably shaping the judgment of the first two) be required for judging a given military action morally legitimate. One knew that certain members of the theologians’ guild thought themselves a parallel magisterium, but a parallel government, too?

Monday, April 25, 2005

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Other Postings

I've moved my internal LNG debate over to Anchor Rising and have made note of a review article on the works of Bernard Bailyn over at Spinning Clio.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Continuing the LNG debate

This quote from Philadelphia Weekly Online sums up the [only valid] opposition to LNG
"Before 9/11, these terminals were very safe," says Anne Korin, director of policy and strategic planning for the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security. "Then terrorism was introduced as a factor. The risk shifted from the remote possibility of an accident to malevolence."
And that is why the hyperbole and hysteria don't sound quite so hyperbolic and hysterical. In our post-9/11 world, attaching the appellation of "potential terrorist target" to anything will doom it. It is difficult to argue that the chances are remote, after all: We saw what happened with our own eyes. Thus, despite my strong belief that the leaders of the oppositon to LNG do so for political reasons and are using the spectre of terrorism because it is convenient (though, unfortunately, appropriate), I think what needs to be focused on is how technology can give us a safe and cost-effective method of increasing the storage and off-load capacity for LNG in both Rhode Island and New England in general.

But then these points are raised:
No offshore LNG terminals exist today. Not in the United States, not anywhere in the world. The technology might be safe but nobody has ever tried it before.

Onshore LNG is a different matter. Virtually all of Japan's natural gas needs are met by LNG. There are 25 LNG receiving terminals in Japan that receive some 600 LNG ships per year, and an LNG ship enters Tokyo Harbor more than once a day. There are some 40 LNG plants around the world, including four in the United States. With 40 years to test and advance the technology, scientists and engineers have fine-tuned the construction of onshore terminals with numerous, duplicative safety features.

Should we dismiss safety concerns? Absolutely not. Safety considerations should be the highest priority. The environmental review process involves every conceivable agency from the U.S. Coast Guard to the Long Beach Fire Department. An onshore terminal must be earthquake safe. It must be terrorist safe. It must be as safe as we can make it. We also need a dose of common sense and we need to be realistic about the safety issues.

While some present "offshore" as the "safe alternative," it is increasingly clear that opponents of a facility in the middle of an industrial port area are really saying "no" to LNG anywhere. Why is that? We don't have any test case examples of offshore LNG terminals. If LNG at a secure, controlled and "hardened" onshore industrial site is unsafe, how would you propose that we protect an offshore LNG terminal?
I think I'll have to do some research and get back to you on this.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Michael Novak on our new Pope

Michael Novak has written an insightful piece on Pope Benedict XVI's stance against relativism.
What Ratzinger defends is not dogmatism against relativism. What he defends is not absolutism against relativism. These are false alternatives.

What Ratzinger attacks as relativism is the regulative principle that all thought is and must remain subjective. What he defends against such relativism is the contrary regulative principle, namely, that each human subject must continue to inquire incessantly, and to bow to the evidence of fact and reason.

The fact that we each see things differently does not imply that there is no truth. It implies, rather, that each of us may have a portion of the truth, and that in this or that matter some of us may hold more (or less) truth than others. Therefore, since each of us has only part of all the truth we seek, we must work hard together to discern in all things wherein lies the truth, and wherein the error.

Ratzinger wishes to defend the imperative of seeking the truth in all things, the imperative to follow the evidence. This imperative applies to daily life, to science, and to faith. . .

. . . It is no more than a fact that ours is a pluralistic world, in which individuals have virtually an infinite variety of views. For Ratzinger, not only is this individual variety normal and to be praised; it shows the infinite number of ways humans have been made in the image of the infinite God. Each one of us, as it were, mirrors a different aspect of the infinite abundance of God.

But the fact of human “relativity” — that is, the fact that we each see things differently, or that the life-voyage of each of us is unique and inimitable — should not be transformed into an absolute moral principle. The fact of relativity does not logically lead to the principle of moral relativism.

No great, inspiring culture of the future can be built upon the moral principle of relativism. For at its bottom such a culture holds that nothing is better than anything else, and that all things are in themselves equally meaningless. . . .The culture of relativism invites its own destruction, both by its own internal incoherence and by its defenselessness against cultures of faith.

This is the bleak fate that Cardinal Ratzinger already sees looming before Europe. His fear is that this sickness of the soul will spread.

For Cardinal Ratzinger, moreover, it is not reason that offers a foundation for faith, but the opposite. Historically, it is Jewish and Christian faith in an intelligent and benevolent Creator that gave birth in the West to trust in reason, humanism, science, and progress, and carried the West far beyond the fatalistic limits of ancient Greece and Rome.

To the meaninglessness of relativism, Ratzinger counter poses respect for the distinctive, incommensurable image of God in every single human being, from the most helpless to the seemingly most powerful, together with a sense of our solidarity with one another in the bosom of our Creator. This fundamental vision of the immortal value both of the individual person and the whole human community in solidarity has been the motor-power, the spiritual dynamic overdrive, of an increasingly global (catholic) civilization.

GenXers: Is That All There Is?

In "Is That All There Is?", Ilya Shapiro (the infamous "Purple American"), takes stock of our generation (GenX) as it "achieves" its way into the center of American society.
We were told by our parents (and Billy Joel) that if we worked hard, if we behaved, we would achieve the good life. Well, we've achieved! Achieved!! ACHIEVED!!! and now… what?

David Brooks take note: Generation X has arrived, made its presence felt, looked around, and is wondering, "Is that all there is?"

It is a conversation I keep having, or talking around, with my friends and peers -- the type of folks who 20 years ago would have been called yuppies (which label I at least am happy to wear now, if in a descriptive rather than ascriptive way). They -- we -- have everything we could ever want in this stage of life, but still we search for meaning.

Like the government lawyer who tries to have a "parallel life" as a historian. Or the reporter who's already headed up a foreign bureau and bought a condo but is looking for love in all the wrong places. Or the jet-setting consultant who makes films on the side. Or the real estate developer who used to be a filmmaker/banker/musician. Or the law school classmates who, more likely than not, will eventually be governor (or senator or attorney general) of Ohio, Montana, and South Carolina, respectively (I swear).

Of course, this overwrought tale of late-20s/early-30s overachievers' angst relates most to Purple or Blue Americans living in major cities who are at or near what we classify as the "elite" of their professions. These are the people living supposedly perfect lives (or lives on course for perfection) yet feel empty, not being able to find meaning or fulfillment in either materialism or new age spiritualism, Porsches or pilates. (Red Americans, and those with less "ambitious" lifestyles, face their own issues, which I won't presume to tackle at the same time.)

Some haven't quite found a match between vocation and avocation, or feel trapped by their jobs or paper credentials. Others feel lost without a soulmate, or in relationships held together by inertia. Some can't quite put a finger on the source of their discontent. For most it's a combination.
Yes, it is. I guess I'm proof, huh? After all, while not a lawyer, I am living a "parallel life" as a historian. Yikes! Now, Shapiro is a bit elitist, but I think what he's really saying is that GenX is forever in search of happiness. I'm not so sure that makes us particularly unique.

Will the "Anglosphere" become a more formalized entity?

James C. Bennett has been writing about his conception of an "Anglosphere" for a few years now. (Here's his Anglosphere Primer). What is the Anglosphere? And what "isn't" it?
Nations comprising the Anglosphere share a common historical narrative in which the Magna Carta, the English and American Bills of Rights, and such Common Law principles as trial by jury, presumption of innocence, "a man's home is his castle", and "a man's word is his bond" are taken for granted. Thus persons or communities who happen to communicate or do business in English are not necessarily part of the Anglosphere, unless their cultural values have also been shaped by those values of the historical English-speaking civilization.

The Anglosphere, as a network civilization without a corresponding political form, has necessarily imprecise boundaries. Geographically, the densest nodes of the Anglosphere are found in the United States and the United Kingdom, while Anglophone regions of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, and South Africa are powerful and populous outliers. The educated English-speaking populations of the Caribbean, Oceania, Africa and India constitute the Anglosphere's frontiers. . .

The Anglospherist school of thought asserts that the English-speaking nations have not only formed a distinct branch of Western civilization for most of history, they are now becoming a distinct civilization in their own right. Western in origin but no longer entirely Western in composition and nature, this civilization is marked by a particularly strong civil society, which is the source of its long record of successful constitutional government and economic prosperity. The Anglosphere's continuous leadership of the Scientific-Technological Revolution from the seventeenth century to the twenty-first century stems from these characteristics and is thus likely to continue for the foreseeable future. Finally, beginning in World War I and continuing into the post-Cold War world, Anglosphere nations have developed mutual cooperative institutions. The Anglosphere potential is to expand these close collaborations into deeper ties in trade, defense, free movement of peoples, and scientific cooperation, all bound together by our common language, culture, and values.

Anglosphere theorists promote more and stronger cooperative institutions, not to build some English-speaking superstate on the model of the European Union, or to annex Britain, Canada, or Australia to the United States, but rather to protect the English-speaking nations' common values from external threats and internal fantasies. Thus, Anglospherists call on. . . America to downgrade its hemispherist ambitions, on Britain to rethink its Europeanist illusions, and on Australia to reject its "Asian identity" fallacy. Far from a centralizing federation, the best form of association is what I call a "network commonwealth": a linked series of cooperative institutions, evolved from existing structures like trade agreements, defense alliances, and cooperative programs. Rather than despising the variable geometry principle, it would embrace it, forming coalitions of the willing to respond to emerging situations. Anglosphere institutions would be open and nonexclusive; Britain, America, Canada, Australia, and others would be free to maintain other regional ties as they saw fit.

Anglospherism is assuredly not the racialist Anglo-Saxonism dating from the era around 1900, nor the sentimental attachment of the Anglo-American Special Relationship of the decades before and after World War II. Any consideration of the Anglosphere concept should indeed include examination of previous attempts to create institutional frameworks for the English-speaking world. However, any comparison of the ideas and times of such Anglo-Saxonists as Sir Alfred Milner, George E.G. Catlin, Cecil Rhodes and Theodore Roosevelt to those of contemporary Anglospherists must also take into account the considerable increase in understanding of the world that has come to pass over those years. Contemporary Anglospherist thought bears roughly the same relation to past Anglo-Saxonism as current evolutionary thought bears to the simplistic Darwinism of Milner's contemporaries.
The last is especially important. While Bennett essentially calls upon an ideal of "Anglosphere Exceptionalism", he does not restrict the "club", so to speak: all nations could enter, so long as their culture, etc. was compatible with those within the 'sphere.

Bennett has expanded the topic into a book, The Anglosphere Challenge: Why the English-Speaking Nations Will Lead the Way in the Twenty-First Century, which Keith Windshcuttle has reviewed. In his review, Windschuttle takes issue with portions of Bennett's thesis and makes an important qualification to Bennett's "Anglosphere Exceptionalism."
Bennett is also wrong to suggest that the notion of “the West” is obsolete. The West was not simply an artifice created in 1946 to counter the USSR. Far from being an imagined community, Western civilization is an ancient historical reality that still exerts a profound cultural influence. While Bennett is right to stress Britain’s tradition of political freedom, he downplays what the heirs of Western civilization have in common. The very way Westerners think about the human condition — through the intellectual disciplines of philosophy and history — derives from ancient Greece. All of modern European culture, including that of the Anglos, is utterly dependent on the Greco-Roman cultural inheritance.

This suggests that the prevailing differences between continental Europe and the Anglosphere are unlikely to be so deep as to be immutable. In fact, it is most probable that the bureaucratic centralism to which Europe is now committed will not be permanent. Rather than fulfill the current predictions of their economic and demographic demise, at least some of the nations of Europe are likely to wake up and stage the kind of free-market economic turnaround enjoyed by Britain and the U.S. in the 1980s.
Nonetheless, I think Bennett is on to something. Bennett is correct to assert that recent history (the last 200 years or so) has seen the Anglosphere better realize the traditional ideals of "the West," but Windschuttle is correct in his corollary that allows that those other nations (France, Germany)--who also evolved from Greco-Roman culture but have drifted--to "find their way back."

Monday, April 18, 2005

How "Gender" is the first step in redefining "Family"

Stanley Kurtz has an insightful piece on how the concept of "gender," created by academic feminists, is but the first step on the path to their ideal of an androgynous society. Why is such a society the ideal? Because it is the belief in such an ideal society, where the roles of men and women are interchangeable, that inspires much of the left's philosophy concerning the restucturing of the definition of "family." The article is self explanatory, but here's the introduction:
When Lawrence Summers suggested that biology might be partially responsible for the relative rarity of female mathematics professors, he was provoking an academic giant. Powerful as the president of Harvard may be, his influence is as nothing compared with that of the behemoth that is the women’s studies movement. The field of women’s studies originated in the heady sixties and grew exponentially through the seventies and eighties. By the mid-nineties, when Daphne Patai and Noretta Koertge published Professing Feminism, their searing critique of the field, more than 600 undergraduate and several dozen graduate women’s studies programs were up and running at colleges and universities across the country.

The intellectual cornerstone of women’s studies is “gender,” the notion that differences between men and women are not rooted in biology, as Summers had hypothesized some might be, but are cultural artifacts, inculcated by an oppressive patriarchal society. Precisely because the gender idea builds a specific (radical) political orientation into the field, Patai and Koertge point out, women’s studies proved intellectually suspect from the start. You can read that radical politics right in the National Women’s Studies Association constitution: “Women’s Studies . . . is equipping women to transform the world to one that will be free of all oppression . . . [and is] a force which furthers the realization of feminist aims.” True justice for these radical feminists means overcoming gender and establishing an androgynous society. So when Summers asserted that something besides artificial cultural roles—something besides “gender”—might account for the distinct positions of men and women in society, he was undermining the intellectual and political foundation of the entire women’s studies establishment.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Higher Energy Costs or LNG: How Hysteria is Trumping Economic Sanity

In an editorial yesterday, the ProJo, referencing a story by Lolita C. Baldor, brought attention to the non-option of an offshore LNG terminal as an alternative to the expansion of existing, or construction of new, LNG storage facilities somewhere in coastal New England. While many New England coastal communities (in predictable fits of "nimbyism") have championed this alternative, in particular a facility off of Gloucester, Mass., they didn't seem to predict that fisherman would be opposed to an offshore facility smack dab in the middle of important fishing grounds. Of course, at the forefront of those championing the "Gloucester Solution" have been all of our Rhode Island pols, most notable Sen. Lincoln Chafee and Attorney General Patrick Lynch (Gov. Carcieri has also backed off of his earlier support of expanding and modernizing Providence's KeySpan facility). According to Baldor's piece:
Mayor John Bell has a curt response to his Rhode Island neighbors.

''Good try," said Bell. ''But it's not going to solve the problem. It's just going to transfer the problem to another coastal community. The ports should be working together, not working against each other."

The offshore LNG proposals -- at least two have been mentioned for Gloucester and one for Long Island Sound off Connecticut -- are not an easy substitute for onshore facilities, such as those proposed for Providence and Fall River.

''There are certain aspects of onshore facilities that offshore facilities have a hard time duplicating," said J. Mark Robinson, director of energy projects for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission during a meeting with Rhode Island officials.

That view irks Rhode Island officials, who say they believe the federal commission considers KeySpan's plan to expand the existing waterfront terminal at Providence's Fields Point as a leading option.

''We've been told that it's not viable to go offshore," said Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick Lynch. ''I don't agree with that."
Yes, I'm sure AG Lynch is much more knowledgable in the ins and outs of the LNG industry, including transporting, transferring and storage than those both within the industry and in government agencies familiar with said industry. [Sarcasm heavily implied]. Again, from Baldor's piece:
Unlike onshore terminals, the offshore platforms have no storage space for large amounts of gas in its liquid form -- something federal officials said New England needs in order to meet periods of high-energy demand or emergencies. Because of the region's geology, natural gas cannot be stored underground in New England, so it must be stored in its liquid form in above-ground tanks.
The ProJo editorial added:
Further, bad weather could often make offshore facilities unusable. Only one offshore LNG facility exists so far in this country -- off Louisiana's Gulf Coast, where the weather is generally calmer and waves lower than in New England. (Yes, it gets hurricanes, but we get hurricanes and nor'easters.)
They then explained that the problem is rooted in an unrealistic demand for cheap energy without sacrificing the aesthetics of the "quaint" New England coastline. ProJo thinks a good energy scare would wake people up. I'm not so sure.

In today's ProJo, editorial board member Robert Whitcomb painted a clearer picture of the attitudes of the Ocean State's LNG opponents.
Save the Bay, as well as local and state politicians, mostly takes an escapist view of our waterfront, which is at the core of southeastern New England's urban center -- although the promotional rhetoric makes it sound as if criminally cute Nantucket should be the model.

To hear some people speak, you'd think that expensive condo towers, tour boats, sailboats (three months a year), nature walks, pricey restaurants, young singles' bars, and Save the Bay's fancy new Fields Point headquarters would produce a bonanza for the city -- that the waterfront could be turned into some sort of quasi-suburban maritime theme park that would bring in a wave of money from around the world.

Sorry, but Providence also needs a working port, and industry. It needs well-paying blue-collar jobs -- not just places for brokers to hang out after work.

Restaurants and condos are fine, but they tend to follow the creation of wealth, not precede it.

...Wealth is created from manufacturing, value-added trade, and intellectual property. The other stuff [service industries] mostly recycles what we already have. . . . Providence officials and others should look to leverage their working port, albeit grossly underused in recent years -- that is, if they want to make our region more prosperous. Tax revenues from the port would help pay such public expenses as the cost of cleaning up Narragansett Bay's turbid waters.

Providence's first great wealth came from foreign shipping -- just what those who today demand a yuppie waterfront don't want. But consider that the international trade that built many of College Hill's great houses produced much of the money that pays Save the Bay's bills now.
Whitcomb does laud Save the Bay for the fine work they do, as do I, but economic reality must be recognized.

Save the Bay and others have attempted (and mostly succeeded) to stifle any discussion on the economic benefit of allowing one LNG tanker a week to transit Narragansett Bay to service the LNG facility in Providence. (HINT: 1 ship = 2000 trucks, which would you rather have, 2000 trucks on the roads or one ship coming up the Bay?). Right now, the energy shortage and ways to alleviate it are not being addressed, lost as they are amidst the rhetoric of terrorist threats and catastrophic explosions.

The best place to expand Rhode Islands LNG capacity is at the current facility. While I realize there is a debate going on concerning the modernization of the facility and the capabilities of KeySpan, I expect these to be resolved. No one wants a fundamentally unsafe facility. The Coast Guard will make its recommendations concerning the true risks of a terrorist attack on the facility. Other government entities will also weigh in. However, even if it is found to be a viable option by the Federal Government, I don't for one second thing that AG Lynch, who is suing KeySpan, will let that stop his opposition. (In this, I smell political opportunism).

The question is, what prices are Rhode Islanders willing to pay to have no facility at all? It is easy to be taken in by emotional scaremongering rhetoric full of "what-ofs" and "maybes" and "it could happens." The fact is, no catastrophic explosion of modern LNG tanker has ever occurred (yeah, I know, there's always a first time...For a recap of the typical "talking points" of the LNG debate, see here).

We cannot live in an insulated and expect things to also be reasonably priced. There is a trade off. More energy storage facilities will lower prices as greater capacity can deal with greater demand more effectively. Home heating bills will go down and, more important, the energy costs paid by business and government will go down. Hopefully, prices and taxes, respectively, would lower as a result. (Though I seriously doubt the latter case!) However, if New Englanders continue on to insist on refusing to allow any type of progressive energy policy, be it LNG, wind farms or nuclear power, then they will have no one to blame but themselves for the resulting high energy prices and for the generally elevated cost of everything else. To quote from Cool Hand Luke (off the top of my head), "If that's the way he wants it, he gets it. Some men you just can't teach."