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Some miscellaneous thoughts

Jack Balshaw 1/30/02

Some extraneous thoughts come to me as I read or watch the TV. Nothing pressing really, just something that could be addressed. There's supposedly a decision now that the Federal Government will focus on developing a hydrogen fuel cell powered auto engine. Overlooking the fact this means there will be no effort to increase gas mileage for present technology vehicles, what unintended consequences might a fleet of hydrogen powered vehicles have?

The good part of hydrogen fuel cells is that the exhaust will be water vapor. No pollutants, no smog, maybe none of the present fossil fuels and independence from the Middle Eastern oil producers. But, what might be the impact from the water vapor?

High volume freeways will be the source of a lot of water vapor exhaust. Will it stay in the air and create high humidity or continuous winter fog near freeways? Will it condense and leave a permanent wet and slick surface on freeways? Will California cars now start to rust like those in states that use salt on their roads? While development of fuel cells is a long way off, answers to these types of questions should be part of the decision to proceed.

Another aspect of this relates to the environmentalist position on the use of cars. When cars don't pollute any more, will the environmental objection to the private auto cease? Or will it merely switch to objecting to the production of water vapor? I fear that cars will never be acceptable to some people.

Switching to a September 11 topic, what has been the impact on those held by the government for several months? It seems as if the vast majority of them weren't guilty of anything except being Middle Eastern. Did they all lose their jobs because they couldn't get to work? Has it been difficult for them to get new jobs? How did they and their families pay the rent or mortgage without a paycheck coming in? Did anyone even say, "sorry"?

If the media doesn't call our attention to such questions, we don't think about the impacts and fairness issues involved.

We've seen the estimated construction costs for our new wastewater facility triple from the time it was originally proposed until just now when construction direction was finalized. We still don't have a final figure, but it's at least triple. The same thing (tripled) happened to the flood control work and the only outcry was that the Army Corps of Engineers should pick up the increased cost.

How come there was such a hue and cry about a similar estimated cost increase for the Rainier interchange? Are triple increases OK if there's no opposition to a project but a bad thing when some in the community don't like a project?

Regarding Rainier, a brochure on the General Plan was sent to every house in Petaluma. The first definition on the first page inside the cover is about sustainability. The definition is, "A sustainable community can be defined as a community that meets the needs of its current generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs."

If some members of the City Council and community succeed in blocking any future construction of another cross-town connector ( Rainier) by designating a land use in the new General Plan that closes that corridor, how will future generations in 30, 50, 75 years ever be able to tie a larger city together? Will east/west relationships then become unsustainable?

Like complaining about increased costs on projects one doesn't like, perhaps "sustainability" is a shield to use when there is no other reason to oppose something.


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