03 October 2006

A Continuing Backlash

Those patriotic Aleuts are going to get some free fuel after all:

Businesses and people around the country are digging into their pockets to help four Alaska villages whose tribal leaders rejected a heating-fuel gift from the president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, a critic of President George Bush.

Donations, including a huge one from several fishing companies, have been so numerous there might be enough to replace the gift -- and then some.

Let's be clear here. What no one has explicitly begun to discuss is that the cost of living is spirally quickly upwards in rural Alaska. The fact that many rural Alaskans are eagerly accepting the gift and some people dissented from the decision to reject the Venezuelan fuel shows that this is a major issue of concern for a lot of people.

Let's look at the energy policies of three actors:
  • The state legislature cut state funding for fuel subsidy programs and failed to pass any measures this past session dealing with the promotion of alternative energy research (despite a couple of decent proposals from lawmakers of both parties). It spent all its time on a natural gas pipeline and oil tax, whose benefits are questionable and certainly won't be seen this winter.
  • The federal government is completely ignoring energy as an issue altogether, with the exception of an additional 1.5 million for LIHEAP.
  • Venezuela is giving 100 gallons of heating fuel to each home.
Given that context, it's hard to see how the Venezuelan gift should be rejected. Survival trumps patriotism every time.

This would be an ideal opportunity to be begin/continue a discussion on energy in rural Alaska and the viability of alternative sources of energy. Wind, solar, geothermal, tidal, etc. all have significant practical obstacles but that doesn't mean any of them should not be considered at all. And yet everyone - Venezuelan and American alike - prefers to demagogue on the issue instead. Maybe we could talk about solving a problem here, rather than using it as another opportunity to confirm the validity of our position.

UPDATE: But two leaders in the Bering Strait region aren't so concerned.


Anonymous said...

Hey, JD here. I appreciate your position here. I actually thought of writing a letter to the editor in the Anch. Daily News after reading some of the letters in there Sunday, I think it was. Some people are really demonizing Chavez.

The problem I see here is that our government is very good at creating boogeymen whenever it suits them, regardless if the victim earns it. Now Chavez, I don't know the whole story on him. How the heck could you with the state of news media today here in this country.

But I suspect he is a lot less of a boogeyman than he is being made to be by our media/government. I think any country's leader/people would agree with Chavez statements on Bush being a devil if they weren't scared stiff of becoming a colony - or if they already are - if they have resources the US wants and they don't want to accept the terms demanded by the US. Or any number of other reasons. The US can be an "axis of evil" if another country doesn't fit the US's vision of what it should be - which is usually a lap dog.

And I'm not blaming Bush per se - though I think his administration is as evil as we've ever seen - but I know our country has done despicable things through-out our history that never get talked about but affect the lives of those in poorer countries tremendously.

Perhaps I should come sit in on your class after all? (don't take that as a threat). Hope I made some sense but trying to keep it somewhat brief.

Jesse Zink said...

Hi JD - I wasn't planning on discussing this issue per se in class but sometimes the topics of our conversation wander far away from terrorism and related topics.

I agree that it's generally easier for politicians (and people) to make boogeyman and demonize people/causes/issues than it is to address the issue and find a solution.

That being said, I'd be careful about defending Chavez. Yes, he's elected but he's an autocrat. His impending re-election this December will be because of his control of state media and other questionably democratic campaign maneouvres.

Having said that, however, I agree that Americans (and all people everywhere) generally need to reflect how on their actions are perceived by others. The amount of power the United States has is dependent - in part - on how the United States uses it.

Thanks for the comments.


Anonymous said...


I don't doubt that it would be naive to defend Chavez. But I'm curious what your sources are on Chavez doing these nasty things - controlling state media and questionable campaign tactics. These may well be, I just want to know what you consider factual news sources. Perhaps I will add them to my bookmarks, if not already there.

You see, our government can be charged with similar offenses - jailing reporters (for refusing to name Plamegate sources) must send a chilling (controlling) effect on media. Demonizing the media for reporting on the sorry state of affairs in Iraq and elsewhere - appeasers of the terrorists.

And whoa! - questionable republican election tactics can be cited at length - many knowledgeable people think the election of 2004 was criminally stolen.

I'm convinced our administration is criminal - they are breaking laws, and they are lying. But when another country does this to its citizens, we are quick to shout them down- feeling much superior.

Hence my ponderings whether Chavez is actually that much worse. (maybe he is - but I want us to know many times we toss stones from a glass house. /jd