Chron metro/state diarist tackles energy security

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Just before the Fourth, Chronicle metro/state diarist Lisa Falkenberg decided to step outside her area of expertise to tackle the more complicated subject of energy security — or, to be more precise, the superiority of her own knowledge of that subject when compared to our state’s candidates for U.S. Senate (because most Falkenberg columns do revolve around Falkenberg, after all).

Here are some excerpts from a metro/state column — COLUMN — that really did appear in the newspaper of record in the energy capital of the world:

State Rep. Noriega, a Houston Democrat who opposes domestic drilling in pristine and offshore areas, recently seemed to suggest that the answer is ripe for the taking beneath Iraqi soil.

“Let’s go ahead and start drilling. Let’s go drill in Iraq right now, where we have had our sons and daughters spilling their blood, and we’re sitting on those oil fields,” Noriega said last week on a Midland radio program. “Why are we going to use our resources, our limited resources, that we have control over within our own nation versus, uh, we’re sitting on these oil fields over there?”

Never mind the fact that Iraq is a sovereign nation with a constitution that says its oil belongs to its people, or that taking their oil would reinforce the “blood for oil” conspiracy theories. The remark is even more absurd coming from a lieutenant colonel in the National Guard who’s been in Afghanistan and wants to bring the troops home.

Rep. Noriega phrased his comments on Iraq inelegantly, but they are hardly as ludicrous as Falkenberg makes them out to be. Rep. Noriega surely does not believe that we need to send the Army Corps of Engineers to take over Iraq’s oil fields and start shipping the production back home — that’s Falkenberg’s (mis)interpretation. What Noriega surely had in mind is that American foreign policy can be directed towards helping the Iraqis rebuild their oil production capacity, and that supermajor expertise (including American supermajors) will be critical to the effort. That’s not nearly so ludicrous.

In the interest of equal time, Falkenberg then turns her silliness on Sen. Cornyn:

Cornyn was touting a bill he’s sponsoring — the optimistically titled Gas Price Reduction Act of 2008 — which provides for expanded domestic drilling.

“When you think about roughly 3 million barrels per day that could be provided,” Cornyn was quoted as saying, “that’s 3 million barrels less that we would have to buy from Venezuela and Hugo Chavez. … Or from Iran and Ahmadinejad.”

He should have stopped with Chavez. As any U.S. senator should know, we don’t import oil from Iran. We’ve imposed sanctions on Iranian goods and services since the 1980s.

I called Cornyn’s spokesman Kevin McLaughlin to see if he or the senator wanted to explain. McLaughlin said absolutely, and then asked if we could go off the record, which means I can’t tell you what he said.

But then he e-mailed me a statement making the somewhat convoluted claim that the senator did not misspeak but was making a point similar to one he’d made in a floor statement, suggesting more supply hurts Iran.

“Senator Cornyn was referring to collective ‘we’ as in the world,” McLaughlin argued. “You’d think a guy who has spent a decade working for an energy company would understand a global economy.”

Yes, you’d think.

Sen. Cornyn’s remarks were inelegant as well. It’s true that the United States doesn’t directly import oil from Iran, due to sanctions. And that fact is nearly irrelevant, since oil markets are global, other countries do buy Iranian crude, and therefore Ahmadinejad can indeed affect global oil markets more than we might like. Ditto Hugo Chavez (although in Chavez’s case, there is something more of a symbiotic relationship, since he needs to send much of Venezuela’s heavy crude to American refineries designed to handle it). Increased domestic production could affect global oil markets more positively, which is the point Sen. Cornyn was surely trying to make (there’s also a national-security component that shouldn’t be neglected). Not so ludicrous after all.

Pols can sound silly when they try to reduce the complex problem of American energy security to sound bites instead of more comprehensive proposals, but what of even sillier reductionism coming from a metro/state diarist at the newspaper of record in the energy capital of the world?

Just more of Jeff Cohen’s (blurry) vision for his newspaper, we suppose. It’s too bad, because the Chronicle does have journalists who can write about energy.

UPDATE (07-07-2008): Apparently, the teen-issues diarist fancies herself such an expert on energy security that she offered another inane column today.

These high-schoolish efforts on energy security must really be grating on some of the grownups who write about energy seriously for the Chronicle. Sadly, there appears to be no grownup who will make the teen-issues diarist stop.

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