Friday, February 27, 2009

Woah! Nobody messes with Alaska’s volcanoes


Alaskan’s are fuming, fuming mad over Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s comments in his official Republican response, calling out “volcano monitoring” as unnecessary spending included in the stimulus package.

"Their legislation is larded with wasteful spending," Jindal said. "It includes ... $140 million for something called 'volcano monitoring.' Instead of monitoring volcanoes, what Congress should be monitoring is the eruption of spending in Washington, D.C."

Bad timing, dude. Volcanoes are big news up here right now. Located right outside of Anchorage, Mt. Redoubt is rumbling and ready to create a giant mess in town in the form of volcanic ash.

I’ve talked to people up here who work in offices where they have to cover their entire workspace with plastic before leaving for the day. Why? The last time the thing blew up, ash went everywhere and destroyed hundreds of computers when it made its way inside city buildings.

From the Anchorage Daily News:

Jindal's comments provoked an eruption of their own. Alaska politicians, liberal bloggers and some scientists began pointing out how useful it is to let people know when a volcano in their neighborhood is about to explode.

"Volcano monitoring is a matter of life and death in Alaska," Democratic Sen. Mark Begich said in an open letter to Jindal.

Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski quickly agreed, noting in a press statement how "absolutely appropriate" it is to spend money on volcano monitoring. However, said Murkowski, Jindal raised "a legitimate question about funding volcano monitoring in legislation that's supposed to create jobs for unemployed Americans."

As it turns out, the $140 million Jindal said volcano observatories will be receiving actually breaks down to about $14 after all of the funds are distributed to other U.S. Geological Survey projects.

I’ve never been through a volcanic eruption up here before, so my opinion on the topic is pretty weak. The most I’ve heard is that the eruption makes a big mess, but it doesn’t seem like too many people are worried about it.

Whether it’s frivolous spending or not, I really don’t know. The next time I come across a professional geologist I’ll ask his or her opinion on the subject.

Until then, the only advice I have for Jindal is to have his interns do some better research. Don’t make harsh comments about volcano monitoring when it’s the top story on the nightly news up here.

Am I really writing about volcanoes? … Really? Only in Alaska. Really.

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