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Change is overdue 

We've seen too many unintended consequences of politics; a change in strategic thinking is needed now

In Santa Barbara County, the political class, who are strongly influenced by their well-heeled contributors, has always sought to lead the nation in environmental extremism. Their misguided governance has led to an almost total exclusion of any new and some old oil extraction facilities.

These actions have led to a reduction in general fund tax revenue and an increase in at-the-pump gasoline cost, and their influence at the federal level has now led to a shortage of petroleum nationwide. These shortages are predicted to impact users of natural gas during the winter months, and you may have noticed that your heating/cooking gas bill has increased dramatically during the last couple of months.

On a national level, the current administration launched an all-out attack on the oil industry from the first day in office; the result is that now President Joe Biden is begging the industry to "help with the problem"—a problem that the administration created itself by canceling pipeline contracts and oil exploration permits.

The same folks who oppose oil aren't shy about consuming it; I have often said that they should try practicing what they preach and do without any product that uses a petroleum derivative in its production. They wouldn't last more than a couple of hours before they discovered the folly of their extreme opposition to oil extraction.

Why? Well, petroleum is used to produce almost anything we use in our daily lives, including cellphones, microwaves, electric cooking equipment, clothing, and so on. Even the electric cars these folks want us to use require the extensive use of petroleum in their production.

Another issue is the current "interruption of the supply chain"—what is it and why did it get interrupted in the first place? The current administration in Washington has been trying to blame it on COVID-19, but was it the disease, or was it just poorly thought-out political decisions and port management that were the culprit?

The supply chain begins when the raw materials needed to produce a product are mined or grown, then they are processed, and finally those products move from the point of manufacture to their end use. Several decades ago, great political minds thought it was a good idea to stop producing things in the United States and move production overseas so consumers could save money. The immediate impact was the loss of tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs and the deterioration of hundreds of towns as those plants closed.

Now we have become reliant on foreign nations—some of whom would be happy to see our country collapse—to produce almost everything we use.

Today the nation is experiencing gridlock at the ports of entry; the Biden administration's solution was to "allow" the ports to operate 24/7, but will this help? It won't, unless the containers can be moved by truckers and/or they can find sufficient trained workers to operate the ports and move containers from ship to shore.

In California, the body politic shut down independent contractors (gig workers) when Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 5 into law. AB 5 required companies to reclassify contract workers as employees; many private contractors included truck drivers who moved shipping containers from the ports to their destination. These folks preferred to remain independently employed, so they simply left California to work in other states.

Another factor was that port managers allowed a very large accumulation of empty containers to be stored on port property designated for temporary storage of full shipping containers awaiting shipment. The result—they have no space for all those containers waiting to be offloaded.

On Oct. 19, Newsom issued an executive order to help clear a backlog of 64 container ships at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach; the result—on Oct. 29 there were more than 150 ships waiting for a berth and the number is growing every day.

The governor's office reported those two ports move roughly 35 percent of all containers in the United States and approximately 40 percent of U.S. imports and 25 percent of exports.

A wise person once said, "All politics are local," and another, "It's the economy, stupid." As you look at your wallet or see your checking account fade away over the next few months think about the choices you made last November and in the latest recall election. We can't predict with any reliability how things would have turned out, but we can see what happened because of those choices.

The government and the politicians who run it are very proficient at making unforced errors. We see the result of political groupthink that fails to consider the real-life consequences of their decisions every year. Lately we are experiencing the result of a series of catastrophic decisions that have adversely impacted our daily lives.

A change in strategic thinking is long overdue. Δ

Ron Fink writes to New Times from Lompoc. Send a response via the editor at clanham@newtimesslo.com.

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