Sittin’ on the Dark of the Bay…

The word “outsourcing” was not a part of the English language until fairly recently. Although it isn’t in our office dictionary, it’s a household word now. It was coined in recent years by folks who decided that they are much brighter than previous generations. These newcomers were turned off by the sight of greasy hands, coveralls and blue collars, so they figured we should become a “service” kind of a society instead. Manual labor just wasn’t their bag. It was beneath them. Factories and time-clocks were better off out of sight. Minions overseas, the unenlightened ones, were more suited for that sort of thing. TV, laptops and cell phones … that’s how we wanted to be seen. Well, we got exactly what we wanted.

Well, not exactly what we wanted. We got a lot of what we don’t want and what we failed to anticipate. Wade Graham writes in his “DARK SIDE OF THE NEW ECONOMY”;

“California’s San Pedro Bay ports located in south Los Angeles form a vast metropolis of polluting cargo ships, trucks and locomotives — a diesel death zone,” Graham said.

In this marine area, 5,800 cargo ships unload 40 percent of all seaborne goods imported into the United States annually. Everything passes through these ports including oil, cars, salt, steel, chemicals, plastics, gypsum, machinery, lumber, cotton, food and much more. An astounding 40,000 truck trips a day move containers from docks and terminals to trains and interstates for distribution.

“Shipping volume doubled from 1990 to 2000, and doubled again by 2006,” Graham writes. “A conceit of the ‘new economy’ is that it promises freedom from smokestacks and sweatshops of the past two centuries. But this is an illusion. The new economy rests not only on the grimy pollution of the old one, but propagates, multiplies and feeds it while spreading it around the world like a pandemic.”

Ships arriving in California burn low grade fuels that emit sulfur content at 3,000 times higher than fuel in new diesel trucks. Large cargo ships burn ‘bunker’ fuel that emits as much exhaust as 12,000 cars. While unloading for three days, these ships idle their engines — spewing toxic exhausts into the air 24 hours a day.

When you multiply 5,800 ships, thousands of trucks, barges, trains, homes and factories — imagine the environmental disaster for people living in the area..

“The twin ports emit more pollution than the top 300 industrial sources and refineries in the Los Angeles Basin combined,” Graham said.

By the year 2040, when quadruple the amount of TEUs are being projected in order to accommodate an additional 100 million American consumers, calculate – if you can – the plight of the citizens still living in the communities surrounding the twin ports.

Mr. Graham continues, “The crude machinery of 21st century world trade presses up against peoples’ lives like a dirty storm surge. The smoke, smog, smell, noise and glare of lights flood the area 24 hours per day, seven days a week. Trucks are everywhere; some 15,000 rigs, heavily polluting, driving on chock-full highways while they ply local streets looking for a faster way onto jammed 710.

“Total business volume expects to triple by 2020, and quadruple by 2025. Already, 50 vessels stack up at a time – waiting to unload while they idle black smoke into the skies of every port,” Graham reports. Local activists, he writes, work to get the big ships hooked up to electrical outlets for power while they unload their cargo shipments, but, for the most part, it’s a futile effort as massive growth defeats any efforts for environmental responsibility.

In the words of one such local activist, “You see and feel the smog and smoke clouds, you breathe sudden, inexplicable miasmas of chemical stench that vanish just as suddenly, your eyes sting and your head pings. In bygone days, harbors smelled of rotting fish, creosoted pilings and a thousand dank and exotic odors of the goods that moved through them. Now the overwhelming smells come from petroleum products and their combustion.”

[For most innocent and unknowing Americans, diesel exhaust and all burning creates fine particles that penetrate lung tissue causing genetic and cellular tissue damage. Diesel emissions contain benzene, formaldehyde, nitrogen, sulfur oxides, arsenic, cadmium, dioxin and mercury – all cancer-causing agents. Because of development damage to their growing bodies, children suffer the most and are the real victims of this economic greed. So don’t forget to include all that in your calculations.]

“A conceit of the ‘new economy’…”, Mr Graham calls it. The whole truth is, it’s not just conceit, it’s greed, and it’s an unforgivable evil. If, in fact, outsourcing prevails for the next few decades – although logical thought contradicts it – this insane determination to funnel the projected growth through the Los Angeles Basin will soon be detoured. It must be detoured. Former DOT Secretary Norman Mineta made it clear to all that the tripled or quadrupled volumes in the coming years meant that the status quo just couldn’t be maintained. 60 ports just won’t be enough, he cautioned. Another 200 ports must be retrofitted to handle the numbers that are being predicted, he said.

We’ve already admitted that recent generations are a lot smarter than the earlier ones – at least that’s what they’ve been telling us – but we’ve yet to read any views on the point we introduced in our Vol. X, Art. 25 commentary. We had hoped that port authorities and maritime consultants would realize that ports engaged in importing can not possibly match the TEU-per-acre production rates of ports engaged in exporting. China’s 12,000 TEU-per-acre production rate cannot possibly be matched by the importing operations of U.S. ports, and no matter how many fantasies the folks at LA/Long Beach offer for public consumption, they will remain just that – fantasies.

We need to “Run to Daylight”. We need to “Spread the Risk”. We need to divert the projected volumes of TEUs to newly-developed ports. We need to heed the words of Mr. Graham and the many, many “local activists’, and we need to follow the advice given by Secretary Mineta. And it’s about time we held authorities accountable for their conceit, their greed, and their lack of civility.