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OUR LAGUNA: Grappling with energy issues

The Laguna Canyon Conservancy got an earful of bad news Monday.

Guest speaker, Huntington Beach Mayor Pro Tem Debbie Cook had little good to say about efforts to curb the depletion of natural resources and its effect on the quality of our lives, predicting a bleak future if energy alternatives to oil are not sought and efficiently used.

“My passion over the past two or three years has become energy,” Cook said. “I believe it is the most serious challenge in the immediate future.”

She was preaching to the choir.


The receptive audience, hosted by the conservancy at Tivoli Terrace for the first dinner meeting since the summer hiatus, included about 130 members and non-members concerned about the environment — some of them activists.

“The concerns Debbie expressed so elegantly and eloquently are the same concerns we are dealing with,” said Tom Osborne, chairman of the city’s Environmental Committee Climate Protection Work Group.

“If you want to be involved in these issues, come to our next meeting,”

The work group meets regularly, with the next meeting set for 1 p.m. Sept. 22 in the City Council Chamber. It was created by the committee following the council’s adoption in February of support for the U.S. Mayor’s Climate Protection Agreement.


Meetings have featured highly qualified speakers, one of whom was Cook.

City officials, too, have paid more than lip service to concerns about the conservation of natural resources.

Three of Laguna’s elected officials drive Priuses, and the city has added three of the hybrids to its fleet.

So what can the public do to protect the environment through more judicious use of irreplaceable natural resources?

Live closer to services, such as public transportation, advised Cook.

“Buy locally grown food,” she said. “Get used to walking and bikes.”

Oil production in many areas has peaked and is on the wane and cannot be replenished, but the world still is consuming 85 million barrels of oil a day, Cook warned. About 25% of that is used in the United States.

“Oil is the lubricant of our society,” Cook said. “The more complex the society, the more energy is required.”


Production in non-OPEC countries will peak by 2010, which will make us ever more dependent on oil from countries that do not necessarily have out best interests at heart, Cook said.

“The first lesson we should have learned was in 1973 with the Arab [oil] embargo,” Cook said. “It was a 5% drop and we were on our knees. I see a lot of gray heads in this room who were waiting in line along with me. “What are we going to do after oil?”

Not much, right now, but discourse is getting more heated as the global temperature rises.

Still, only about 6% of the energy produced in the United States is generated by renewable sources, a mere 2% from wind power, Cook said.

As for ethanol, “We will look back on this and see it as the biggest waste of money ever,” Cook said. “It’s almost criminal.”

Growing the corn and converting it to ethanol not only uses huge amounts of energy, it increases the cost of food and reduces the supply of grain needed to feed the world’s hungry, she said.

Cook said when she talks about the energy crisis she gets one of four responses: denial (not happening); blame (it’s the government’s fault); faith (technology will save us), or confusion (stemming from misinformation).

Mayor Toni Iseman is a long-time admirer. “Orange County is lucky to have Debbie. Something made her mad and she went to law school.”


Cook used her juris doctor from Western State College of Law to advance the cause of the endangered environment.

From 1994 to 2001, Cook was a member of the Bolsa Chica Land Trust Legal Team, which set the state precedent for the protection of environmentally sensitive coastal habitat, according to conservancy President Carolyn Wood.

Now in her second term on the Huntington Beach City Council, Cook also serves as the chairwoman of the Southern California Assn. of Governments’ Energy and Environmental Committee and is president of the Orange County Division of the League of California Cities.

She has been tapped to speak at the 2007 Houston World Oil Conference to be held in October.

The audience included new conservancy members Ben Dwyer, Norman and Rosa Goldfind, Les Miklosy, Joan and Dennis Silverman, Helen Frederick, Penny Carlisle and Lorna Shaw, as well as such familiar faces as former mayors Neil Fitzpatrick, Sally Bellerue and Phyllis Sweeney; former Design Review Board members Linda Morgenlander, J.J. Gasparotti and Barbara Metzger; former Director of Public Works Terry Brandt and retired City Clerk Verna Rollinger.

Also: Festival of Arts board member John Hoover, Bette and Ken Anderson, Marion Jacobs, Bill Rihn, Community Band member Bill Foster, Ben Blount and Gayle Waite.

P.S. Happy Birthday to Bonnie Hano, who turned 81 Wednesday. For more information about energy-related topics, visit web site or e-mail Debbie Cook,