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Coos Bay doesn't need LNG, just a small leap of faith

Coos Bay doesn't need LNG, just a small leap of faith
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Recently our Coos Bay World’s editorial page carried another one of those grim rants that have cost us so much already. In a white-hot letter, Neil Marran of North Bend thundered at local “naysayers” who oppose every economic development he favors, including LNG and the railroad. (He also still considered coal exports a viable enterprise too, thus proving he is not well informed.) Regardless, he challenged the naysayers to: “give us an industry that will get us on our feet.” But not tourism: “Has any tourist ever bought a washer and dryer, an automobile, carpeting or a wheelbarrow?”
Well – I’ve got news for him. First the bad news: someone who demands that somebody “give us an industry that will get us on our feet” knows nothing about economics or history, either one. But then, that’s equally true of the eighteen economic development agencies that have tried to give us industries since the mid-seventies. Even their final ace in the hole will do us no good. That’s the LNG export terminal, whose only reason for coming to Coos Bay was that nobody else wanted it.
Way back in 1974, activists were calling for the Port of Coos Bay to hire someone “who knows all the angles,” and would “declare war on the Port of Portland.” Superman was promptly hired, and then another, and another, at rising super-salaries, but all they ever did was waste super-sums without delivering the new factories that people like Neil Marran were expecting. Still, some growth was achieved because, while ship traffic declined by 90%, the number of economic development agencies grew to eighteen. One way this bureaucratic Kudzu vine avoided being cut back was by always blaming local “naysayers” and environmentalists for its failures. Today the town still rings with condemnations of “negativists” and “naysayers” and the Sierra Club and Earth Justice, although I suspect that those organizations don’t mind getting a bit of undeserved credit.

North Spit - L to R barge slip, Southport Lumber and DB Western with the T-dock

North Spit – L to R barge slip, Southport Lumber and DB Western with the T-dock

What also started back in the seventies was the local development-mafia’s obsession with industrializing the North Spit, where the Port of Coos Bay happened to own 280 acres of undeveloped land. Oddly enough, Coos Bay’s many industrial closures ensured that there was no shortage of vacant industrial land which, unlike the Port’s hoped-for empire-in-the-sand, already had utilities and access. Moreover, the North Spit’s location, directly upwind from most of Coos County’s population, virtually guaranteed that locating obnoxious industries there would provoke public opposition.
Even so, since 1974 the development-mafia, with the Port out front, has promoted these industrial plans for the Spit, and all for naught: garbage-burning, fish-processing, coal export (1980), undersea mining, fabricating oil field equipment, a nickel smelter, chromium smelter, pulp mill, steel mill, LNG import plant, container import facility, and yet another coal export terminal in 2011. That none became reality was not due to a lack of money, since millions were spent on “studies” and “infrastructure,” with even more millions promised if the shifty prospects did build their plants.
The reason all those schemes bombed was that most were promoter’s scams or unserious proposals by sly corporations. Typical promoter’s scams were the 1980 coal export plan and the 1987 chromium smelter proposal. Both were stock market plays concocted by people who didn’t know what they were talking about; both got the royal treatment. Similar honors were heaped on the corporate proposals, including the 1990 Daishowa pulp mill, 1999 Nucor steel mill and 2007 Maersk container terminal. Those companies’ real agenda was to use Coos Bay to gain subsidies elsewhere. But they couldn’t have done it without the myopic arrogance of Coos Bay’s leaders, who still believe that their town can become a world port and industrial center. Anybody who lives elsewhere and studies the map would consider it lunacy, but it’s true.
Now they tell us that the Jordan Cove LNG export project on the North Spit will be our ultimate Superman. LNG’s few permanent jobs won’t make up those lost from 200 harbor closures a year for the highly dangerous LNG tankers, and from the widespread fear of being burned alive when the 9.0 earthquake and tsunami hit the plant, releasing an enormous floating fireball. With the obvious exclusion of economic development dignitaries, sensible people understand that with half our cities aflame you can forget about fire departments, especially with roads, bridges and utilities destroyed by the earthquake. Our leaders resemble the officials of the Japanese nuclear plants who refused to believe tsunamis could cause meltdowns. They had a 19-foot seawall around their power plant, so why worry? When the tsunami hit, its waves were between 43 and 49 feet. The wiped out the power plant for the nuclear reactors’ cooling pumps, and the rest is ominous history. (In some parts of the Japanese coast the tsunami waves reached 133 feet.) Whatever height they may reach here, most likely they will not just enter Coos Bay through the harbor entrance but run right over the Spit, instantly filling the LNG spill-containment area around Jordan Cove’s LNG tanks with water, and heading for Jordan Cove’s power plant next. In partial recognition, Jordan Cove is now planning to build its power plant on a 30 ft high artificial hill, created with dredge spoils. It is well known that serious earthquakes, such as those that have hit this coast at average intervals of 240 years, will cause land to be suddenly pushed up or lowered, while sodden soils may liquefy. The last such earthquake hit in 1700. Geologically, the North Spit is a sand shoal that became covered with dunes, and I doubt there are any geologists or engineers who will vouch for the permanent stability of Jordan Cove’s mound.
But the worst aspect of Coos Bay’s industrial obsession has been its foreclosure of more modest but also more viable options. While every other coastal town grew, people stayed away from Coos Bay which became a mini-Detroit, the only part of western Oregon mired in a permanent depression.
Neil Marran and his fellow-detractors of tourism are wrong. For a scenic place like this, tourism would have been an excellent first step toward development. That’s because people, not development agencies, are the key to economic growth.
Attract tourists, and if they like what they see they will settle in Coos Bay instead of driving on. To attract them, we need to make the town look good. But we can’t, because our most outrageous piece of corporate welfare, the Port’s resurrected, rusty, graffiti-covered, $63 million railroad, blocks all re-development of our derelict waterfront with its rotting docks. And every visitor notices.
But some day, when the Port Commission runs out of other people’s money, it will have to sell the rails, the ties and the land. That will be the day developers move in, and the bay starts looking better. More people will settle in our beautiful area. Some will be retirees, with three times the economic impact of one industrial job. Others will be younger folks, who will start businesses and . . . create JOBS! I can hear the carpers now: “What kind of businesses, what kind of jobs?” I don’t know, but that’s how real, sustainable growth gets started, and once it does, all kinds of things can happen. All it takes is one small leap of faith.

Wim de Vriend’s recently published book “The JOB Messiahs – how government destroys our prosperity and our freedoms to ‘create jobs’, has been the basis for many of his contributions on this blog.

The JOB Messiahs is for sale at the office of The Sentinel in Coquille, at Farr’s Hardware in Coos Bay, at the Blue Heron restaurant in Coos Bay, and at Books-by-the-Bay in North Bend.

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About Wim de Vriend

Wim de Vriend Wim de Vriend is the author of “The JOB Messiahs – how government destroys our prosperity and our freedoms to create jobs.” "The JOB Messiahs", available at the Blue Heron restaurant, at Farr's Hardware in Coos Bay and at Books-by-the-Bay in North Bend, chronicles forty years of failed, counterproductive efforts to re-industrialize the Coos Bay area, along with recommendations for drastic policy changes. As a product of twenty years of writing and research it is worth a great deal more than its retail price of $35. Wim de Vriend has also published "Betsy Boerhave's Diary," a translation of a 19th century Dutch housewife's journal that is available by printing on-demand through iUniverse. Two more books available at the Blue Heron and at Farr's Hardware are "Odd Customers," a collection of funny incidents in a German restaurant on the left coast and memories of World War II; and Wim's most recent book, "Everybody's War", a volume of personal stories from World War II, by all sides in the conflict. Wim holds degrees in business administration from Nyenrode UIniversity in the Netherlands and from the University of Oregon.

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15 Responses to "Coos Bay doesn't need LNG, just a small leap of faith"

  1. susanp  June 28, 2013 at 6:21 PM

    Hoad for dahma Wim, I hope that you never get angry!

    Reply
  2. Pig Nuts  June 28, 2013 at 6:23 PM

    The vision for economic development in the bay area revolves around swinging for the fences. Games are won by base hits. From the aspect of tourism for development we have the wealthiest people in the world traveling in & out to play golf. The tourism is here but that does not seem to be working either. My money is on the earthquake. Let nature bulldoze down town & the developers can dredge it out creating a world class marina surrounded by high end shopping & housing.

    Reply
  3. Wim de Vriend
    Wim de Vriend  June 28, 2013 at 8:16 PM

    I’m sorry Susan – but what does that mean?

    Reply
  4. Wim de Vriend
    Wim de Vriend  June 28, 2013 at 8:39 PM

    You just confirmed my point, Pignuts. You say: “… we have the wealthiest people in the world traveling in & out to play golf. The tourism is here but that does not seem to be working either.” Actually, those golfers don’t fly in here to see Coos Bay but to play golf and dine and stay twenty miles south of here. And on their way from or to the airport they can’t avoid seeing the Coos Bay waterfront, which is a rundown dump. So why should they stop? Fix that, and that part will start to change. But notice that I’m not advocating some big government-sponsored waterfront development. Once the obstacles are removed, private developers could create something every bit as attractive as the “old town” areas of Bandon and Florence, or even Newport.
    But you may be right in suggesting that we may need an earthquake to make a fresh start. I hope not.

    Reply
  5. Wim de Vriend
    Wim de Vriend  June 28, 2013 at 11:24 PM

    Susan — Wait — I was puzzled because I thought “dahma” was some sort of Buddhist concept. But it just occurred to me that it may be a phonetic rendition of a popular Dutch curse. Am I right?

    Reply
  6. susanp  June 29, 2013 at 4:27 AM

    Wim, you are correct, phonetically. And there is so much more. Ever lived near a major construction site. I have. The workers at the LNG factory will be short time. About 99.9% will be from out of town; most out of state or out of country. They will not be bringing family. They will work hard and play hard. Public safety is ill prepared for what will be needed. A planned sheriffs station will not help. And none will be buying washers and dryers while here.

    Reply
  7. Pig Nuts  June 29, 2013 at 11:22 AM

    Bulldozers Wim… The rail actually could be a good thing. Eco Tourism. Give your port president’s construction company a pile of money to be a consultant to a government sponsored work detail for non employed blood sucking leaches that lays down Disneyland Railroad track through the Dunes & out to Cape Arago with a mini train terminal in Historic Empire. Sell sightseeing trips for plovers, whales, four wheeled idiots in the dunes & storm watching. Take them to the casino for a whirl on the slots & a few hits of peyote. Let them share with all their friends how wonderful their trip to the spirit world was while visiting the Bay Area. Hey & don’t forget the German Cuisine with a bottle of Brook’s Tater Juice!

    Reply
  8. susanp  June 30, 2013 at 6:26 AM

    Yo, Wim: Sitting here reading jokes from friends around the world and remembering too much Jenever and pils (young not old) waiting for the late Register Guard man. The first article read was your front page Commentary section letter. Well done!

    Reply
  9. The Reminder  June 30, 2013 at 7:37 PM

    BILL MOYERS: Here’s the problem with that as I see it. The global accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers has warned that even if we doubled our current rate of reducing carbon emissions we would still be facing six degrees of warming, an almost intolerable situation, by the end of this century. Now the driver of that car with her children in the backseat hurtling down the road, not paying attention to the signs, is hardly going to put on the brakes because they heard about a report from the global accounting firm PricewaterhouseCooper.

    ANTHONY LEISEROWITZ: That’s right. It is about the warning signs. But here’s one of the real dilemmas, is that we’ve done a really good job at helping people understand that there is this thing called climate change. Almost all Americans have at least heard of it. But we’ve in our own work showed that in fact there is no single public. There are multiple publics within the United States. In fact, what we’ve identified are six Americas.

    BILL MOYERS: Six Americas?

    ANTHONY LEISEROWITZ: Six different Americas that each respond to this issue in very different ways and need different kinds of information about climate change to become more engaged with it. So the first group that we’ve identified is a group we call the alarmed. It’s about 16 percent of the public. These are people who think it’s happening, that it’s human caused, that it’s a serious and urgent problem and they’re really eager to get on with the solutions.

    But they don’t know what those solutions are. They don’t know what they can do individually and they don’t know what we can do collectively as a society to deal with it. We haven’t done a very good job of explaining what we can do. Then comes a group that we call the concerned. This is about 29 percent of the public. These are people that think okay, it’s happening, it’s human caused, it’s serious, but they tend to think of it as distant.

    Distant in time, that the impacts won’t be felt for a generation or more and distant in space, that this is about polar bears or maybe small island countries, not the United States, not my state, not my community, not my friends and family or the people and places that I care about. So they believe this is a serious problem, but they don’t see it as a priority.

    Then comes a group, about a quarter of the public that we call the cautious. These are people who are kind of still on the fence, they’re trying to make up their mind. Is it happening, is it not? Is it human, is it natural? Is it a serious risk or is it kind of overblown? So they’re paying attention but really just haven’t made up their mind about it yet. They need to be just engaged in some of the basic facts of climate change.

    Then comes a group, about eight percent of the public that we call the disengaged. They’ve heard of global warming, but they don’t know anything about it. They say over and over, “I don’t know anything about the causes, I don’t know anything about the consequences. I don’t know anything about the potential solutions.” So for them it’s really just basic awareness that they need to be engaged on. Two last groups, one is we call the doubtful, it’s about 13 percent of the public. These are people who say, “Well, I don’t think it’s happening, but if it is, it’s natural, nothing humans had anything to do with and therefore nothing we can do anything about.”

    So they don’t pay that much attention, but they’re predisposed to say not a problem. And then last but not least, 8 percent of Americans are what call the dismissive. And these are people who are firmly convinced it’s not happening, it’s not human caused, it’s not a serious problem and many are what we would lovingly call conspiracy theorists. They say it’s a hoax. It’s scientists making up data, it’s a UN plot to take away American sovereignty and so on.

    Now, that’s only eight percent. But they’re a very well mobilized, organized and loud eight percent. And they’ve tended to dominate the public square, okay. So here you have these six totally different audiences that need completely different types of information and engagement to deal with this issue. So one of the first tasks, and you know this as a communicator as well as I do, one of the first rules of effective communication is, “know thy audience.”

    If you don’t know who your audience is it’s kind of like playing darts in a crowded room with the lights off. You might hit the target sometimes, but most times you’re going to miss. And unfortunately too often you’re going to do collateral damage. You’re actually going to hit somebody by mistake and cause a backlash.

    So you know, this is why if we were to do a true engagement campaign in this country we would need to recognize that there are very different Americans who need to be engaged in very different ways who have different values and who trust different messengers.

    Reply
  10. Wim de Vriend
    Wim de Vriend  June 30, 2013 at 10:18 PM

    I was a little confused by this. Is your point that I need to address many different audiences?

    Reply
  11. The Reminder  July 1, 2013 at 5:17 AM

    No, your doing great. The info you provide is excellent. The science, the dangers,and the logic seem sound, but the problem still exists, why? Others just don’t get it.
    I thought other readers might find that little bit of conversation between Bill Moyers and Dr. Anthony Leiserowitz( director of the climate change commission at Yale University), interesting.
    The dialog and peoples perceptions on LNG and climate change need improving,just like my writing abilities. If and only when the rest of the country moves towards the “Alarmed” and “Concerned” population, that totals about 45% of the people and away from the Cautious,Disengaged, and Doubtful groups that seem to pervade this area, only then will the tide turn.

    Reply
  12. Pig Nuts  July 1, 2013 at 9:08 AM

    Reminder… Sold to you! Sold to you is the foe economy attempting to be made out of climate change. The world operates off of bubbles & the concepts of Climate Change or Global Warming or Ocean Acidifacation are man made attempts to blow an economic bubble around the arrogance of man. To give you perspective, after 911 Americas #1 enemy ABL was held up in a cave in the side of a mountain. With all the power & might of the US Government they could not blow the top off that mountain & bring to justice ABL. Albeit the demise of our world will be brought on by a dairy cow releasing greenhouse gas into our atmosphere. Mans place & mark on this world is not much different than the swollen tick riding the ass of that dairy cow.

    Reply
  13. The Reminder  July 1, 2013 at 9:56 AM

    And then last but not least, 8 percent of Americans are what we call the dismissive. And these are people who are firmly convinced it’s not happening,

    Reply
  14. Colandrio  July 1, 2013 at 2:36 PM

    And I might add, the “Bandon duners” would like nothing more than to have their own airport at Bandon or even Curry County so they can avoid going through the west coast rust belt.

    Reply
  15. Pig Nuts  July 1, 2013 at 4:34 PM

    Yes & the caddies should buff the Bandon golfer’s dimpled ball with silk hankies…

    Reply

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