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LBBJ: In all of the efforts of the government to facilitate the exploration of energy and fuel sources, do you think the goal is to become energy independent?
Lowenthal: I think that there are different issues that are going on. I think what you’re saying is do we have a goal of energy independence, are we reaching it, are we accomplishing that. Is that what you are saying?
LBBJ: Is that the goal, and is that the direction . . .
Lowenthal: It’s one of the goals. Energy independence is critically important because of national security issues. If we can’t control our ability to control energy, we are at risk and wars will be fought whether we like it or not. But energy independence has to be seen in context with an energy plan that understands that the greatest risk is not just of obtaining energy through carbon-based fuels, but the fact of global warming and climate changing. Energy independence has to be tied to alternative fuels and energies and increasing our renewable; having a real plan to protect this planet, to protect the citizens and move toward an energy independence that will ultimately, one day, provide us with energy that is cheaper, cleaner and doesn’t put our population at risk.
LBBJ: Along those lines, do you think the plan that is in progress right now, AB 32, is a model for that?
Lowenthal: It’s been a model, whether it was the car tailpipe law and now AB 32. Both are models to move us in the right direction, yes. Will every part of them work? Well, we’ll see. Are they going to need to be modified? Yeah. Damn right. But there is a commitment by California that this is real. How do you involve the business community, and how do you create a credit system or all of that? We are trying to do it. We are trying to learn from the experiences of the Europeans, what works and what doesn’t. How can you game the market and not game the market and what is economically possible?
But that train has left the station. We are a coastal community. Our children and grandchildren are going to be tremendously impacted by climate change. We have got to do it. And we have lost the ability to control our own destiny. So, you know, I had a large role in “Who Killed The Electric Car?” 10 years ago. I have always looked at alternatives. They used to call me crazy, but then they adopted everything that I said. They understand that you can have a sustainable community. You can have green technology. You do not lose jobs. Economic development and environmental protection go hand in hand, it just has to be thought out. There has to be a plan.
LBBJ: And that plan would involve creating jobs?
Lowenthal: Absolutely. We are seeing the greatest growth of jobs here in the ports, and they’re all green.
LBBJ: The biggest issue, when you ran for city council, was all of the soot on windowsills and cars.
Lowenthal: That’s right, because we had the open petroleum coke piles. That’s where it all started. They said they couldn’t do it at the ports. Then I said they had to keep them covered 24 hours. They had trucks idling. I said, “You have to have ways in which you pay for it.” They all said it was going to destroy business, and then they adopted it and found out not only did it not destroy business, they are doing better. Now every port in the world is looking at them as a model. Now the question is– and Long Beach is struggling with it –how do you take that model, a world-class, clean technology, plugging in, doing all of this, and extend that out to the rest of the logistics chain? Right now we have a world-class port that dumps goods and services to a third-world transportation system.
LBBJ: But it’s improving, though.
Lowenthal: It is improving. Of course it is. But moving toward zero emissions, how much you have, rail yards in community, where they are, whether it’s all electric, where are the grants, all of these are questions that still have not been answered. But we are moving in the right direction and we are improving and we have reduced the amount of pollution.
Remember, we had, at one time when I first started - and I didn’t know very much, this was 10, 15, 20 years ago - and I said, “Tell me what it is.” They said, “Well, there’s a cloud over this community. There are no national standards, but if there are more than three hundred deaths per million persons based on modeling techniques, you have a public health crisis.” What we had coming out of the port was 2,100 deaths per million in this region. That’s seven times the national average, based on the Makes 2 Study. We have the highest asthma rates, and our heart and lung development in children on the westside of Long Beach and people who live near freeways are only 91 percent in those days. Lungs never develop beyond that. It’s not like you put them in fresh air and all of a sudden they have 100 percent. That’s it. That’s arrested development. We don’t know what that impact is, but I’ll tell you when you’re 60 and 70 years old, you don’t want just 90 percent of your lungs. That’s it. You don’t want to have asthma, especially if it’s preventable, and you do not want to have other kinds of pulmonary disorders. We can fix that, and we are moving in that direction.
LBBJ: Let’s go back to energy independence. Do you think the Keystone Pipeline is part of that?
Lowenthal: It’s a very interesting question. What you are saying is there are short-term and long-term solutions to [energy independence]. . . . Energy independence has to be tied to sustainability. It just has to be done. . . . I personally think we should be investing more in solar and wind. . . . However, if they can deal with the issue of the aquifers then that’s it, if they can deal with the potential impact on the underground water supply. The largest underground aquifer in the United States is right there, and that’s really the issue. I think now they are working on an alternative route. . . . Do I think it’s the most important thing to do, when much of that oil is sent overseas and it’s refined in the United States? Probably not. Do I think oil shale is the solution? No. But do I think there will be some resolution that will come out that will allow for the movement of oil across the country as long as it doesn’t affect the aquifer? Yes. I think that will ultimately happen, but it has to meet those environmental objectives. I think that is really where the environmental community is – not to impact the aquifer.
LBBJ: Let me get you on record about offshore drilling. With the appropriate safety . . .
Lowenthal: Never ever. In California, we are only lucky to momentarily inhabit this wonderful ecological treasure. We talk about economic development. People come to California because of our oceans, because of the climate. If we destroy that or potentially impact it, or anything like what happened in the gulf, it would destroy California. We’re not going to drill. It’s not worth the risk.
LBBJ: Our existing landfills, such as Puente Hills, are reaching capacity. What is your position on increasing recycling efforts to reverse the “everything is disposable” mindset? Lowenthal: Absolutely. I have supported every effort and every attempt in the legislature to increase our amount of recycling.
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