Alaska volcano blows smoke on Bobby Jindal

March 24, 2009

Joni Mitchell sang it, she’d seen “some hot, hot blazes come down to smoke and ash.”  Certainly Bobby Jindal’s criticism of President Barack Obama’s budget message to Congress was no love affair, but as the Toronto, Canada Globe and Mail noted, the eruption of Redoubt Volcano in Alaska made Bobby Jindal’s objection to volcano monitoring look particularly reckless.  Redoubt sent smoke and ash all over Jindal’s complaint.

This is the Globe and Mail story, really:

Alaska volcano blows smoke on Bobby Jindal

The eruption of Mount Redoubt deflates the Republican Party’s rising star

Globe and Mail Update

A month after Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal chided the Democrats for funding “something called volcano monitoring,” the eruption of a volcano in Alaska is spewing ash 15 kilometres into the air.

Alaska’s Mount Redoubt, which has erupted five times since Sunday, is likely among the sites to benefit from the U.S. stimulus package, with the money going toward monitoring volcanoes, repairing facilities and mapping.

In his official Republican response to President Barack Obama’s speech to the nation last month, Mr. Jindal called volcano monitoring an unnecessary frill in the government’s stimulus package.

“While some of the projects in the bill make sense, their legislation is larded with wasteful spending and includes $300-million to buy new cars for the government, $8-billion for high speed rail projects, such as a magnetic levitation line from Las Vegas to Disneyland, and $140-million for something called volcano monitoring,” Governor Jindal said. “Instead of monitoring volcanoes, what Congress should be monitoring is the eruption of spending in Washington, D.C.”

But judging by the events of the past couple of days, perhaps it’s prudent for the government to spend money monitoring volcanoes.

Mount Redoubt’s first eruption occurred at 10:38 p.m. Sunday and the fifth ended at 5 a.m. yesterday, according to the Alaska Volcano Observatory. The volcano, roughly 160 kilometres southwest of Anchorage, sent an ash plume more than 15 kilometres into the air as it erupted for the first time in nearly 20 years. Residents of Anchorage were spared from falling ash, but fine grey dust was falling yesterday morning on small communities north of the city.

The observatory was warned in late January that an eruption could occur. Increased activity prompted scientists to raise the alert level on Sunday. Flights in the vicinity of the volcano were cancelled because of the ash.

Asked in a conference call yesterday whether stimulus money is necessary for volcano monitoring, John Power, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey, declined comment.

Governor Jindal’s office did not return calls and e-mails seeking comment.

The issue could prove a wedge in two years, when Republicans are deciding on their nominee. Governor Jindal has been tabbed by some as a young academic from a diverse background who could be the party’s answer to Mr. Obama, while Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, who failed in a vice-presidential bid last year, has refused to rule out a shot at the top of the 2012 ticket.

Governor Jindal’s attack on volcano monitoring was met with criticism from politicians, bloggers and some scientists. Democratic Senator Mark Begich of Alaska wrote in an open letter: “Volcano monitoring is a matter of life and death in Alaska. The science of volcano monitoring and the money needed to fund it is incredibly important in our state.”

The senator’s spokeswoman, Julie Hasquet, said Monday that the eruption of Mount Redoubt over the past few days and its potential to cause damage in the state illustrate that this is “very serious for Alaskans, and we don’t appreciate it when folks use it as a laugh line or a sound bite.”

With a report from Associated Press

Alaskas Redoubt  Volcano erupted in 1990 - National Geographic photo

Alaska's Redoubt Volcano erupted in 1990 - National Geographic photo

Tip of the old scrub brush to Sara Ann.

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