Wednesday, January 26, 2011

More spin favoring the big rigs

Posted By on Wed, Jan 26, 2011 at 2:06 PM

The heavy haul once again emerged as a topic of interest in Boise yesterday when the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry (IACI) appeared at a statehouse news conference to continue pressing its pro big-rig agenda. This time the coalition of state agencies and business owners came armed with results from a poll gauging public support for the oversized load proposals pitched by ConocoPhillips and Imperial Oil. The IACI is a member of Drive Our Economy, a band of Montana and Idaho organizations and agencies that has run a flashy and intense public information campaign backing the big oil transportation projects.

But the IACI's poll results seem a tad skewed. Of the 550 adults polled statewide in Idaho, only 150 live along Highway 12, the main artery for the loads from the Port of Lewiston and Lolo Pass. Both demographics—Highway 12 residents and residents statewide—were overwhelmingly between 55 and 64 years old, rural dwellers and conservative (lots of McCain voters in there; only 18 percent of both sets identified as liberal). Many outside the Highway 12 demographic hadn't even heard much about the heavy haul, yet still felt the loads should be allowed. To IACI's credit, the poll did offer participants a description of the proposals and an option to change their views on whether the loads should be permitted. Here's the poll's very vague, very slanted account of what ConocoPhillips and Imperial Oil intend:

There are plans in the permitting process for ConocoPhillips to ship four loads and Imperial
Oil/ExxonMobil to ship more than two hundred loads of equipment from the Port of Lewiston
east along U.S. Highway 12, taking up two lanes of traffic. Some would be more than two
hundred feet long and weigh up to three hundred tons. Each load would take three days to reach
Lolo Pass. They would have police escorts and travel only at night from midnight to 6 a.m. The
maximum allowed traffic delay would be fifteen minutes. The equipment is being transported to
the Kearl Oil Sands in Canada where it is necessary for oil production that is later refined in
facilities in the U.S.

No mention of the potential traffic delays that could result from the loads taking more than fifteen minutes to travel from turnout to turnout. Indeed, no mention of the turnouts the companies will need to construct or improve to accommodate the projects. And absolutely no mention of the fact that both the state of Idaho and the Port of Lewiston hope to turn Highway 12 into a permanent industrial corridor for oversized loads. After hearing the above description, the number of poll participants statewide who felt the loads should not be allowed dropped from 38 percent to 25 percent. Clearly when the message is packaged properly, it isn't hard to get the answer you want.

Plus, you've gotta love the poll's first question: "We’re talking to informed adults today. Are you, or is anyone in your household, employed by a newspaper, television or radio station, a political party, or by an elected official or candidate for political office?" We're not sure whether the question insinuates that journalists and politicians are uninformed, or that the rest of the populace is, but 100 percent of the respondents answered "No."

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