Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Eruption Monitoring

As I was going through the stimulus bill a couple weeks ago, there were a few items I ran across that made me think, "Some idiot who doesn't know anything is going to pick these up and run with them." Bobby Jindal didn't disappoint last night.
JINDAL: While some of the projects in the bill make sense, their legislation is larded with wasteful spending. It includes $300 million to buy new cars for the government. $8 billion for high speed rail projects such as magnetic levitation line from Las Vegas to Disney Land. And $140 million for something called ‘volcano monitoring.’

Instead of monitoring volcanoes, what Congress should be monitoring is the eruption of spending in Washington, DC.

If you click here, there is an interactive map of all active and dormant but potentially active volcanoes in the lower 48 states. There is a tab at the bottom to see individual states, including Hawaii and Alaska. Now, I am old enough to remember when Mt. St. Helens exploded in 1980. Fortunately, it was far enough from a major urban area that the loss of human life was minimal; yet, we still felt the effects throughout the country. We had odd-colored sunsets for a few days all the way in my little hometown in upstate New York. Imagine for a few moments if Mt. Hood or Mt. Shasta went like Mt. St. Helens, and we have all sorts of horrible scenarios.

Of course, none of this includes monitoring the very active volcanoes in Hawaii. It seems to me the people there might be interested in making sure an eruption doesn't escape early detection.

Now, Jindal may think that replacing sensors that monitor whether or not a volcano will erupt is a waste of public funds. He is certainly entitled to that opinion. Yet, the USGS is legislatively tasked with monitoring such activity as a way of preparing for potential disaster. Providing for the best equipment available should be considered part of that legislative mandate. Since there's no profit involved in doing this sort of thing, where does Jindal think the money is going to come from to do this kind of work? Should a major metropolitan area suffer because some idiotic Republican refused to fund monitoring equipment, who would bear responsibility for the loss of life and the cost of destruction? Even a moment's thought should cease forever the kind of dumbassery on display here.

Virtual Tin Cup

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