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Albuquerque Tribune February 20, 2008

Tribune editorial: Bouquets & brickbats: Feb. 20

Bouquet: anti-bottle bill

Amid the roiling worldwide debate over whether plastic water bottles are good or evil, City Hall should err on the side of the environment — and stop spending public money promoting its Rio Grande water in individual, disposable containers.

City Councilor Isaac Benton is proposing an ordinance to that effect. Mayor Martin Chavez, meanwhile, says he banned the bottles six months ago. No matter: Give them both credit. It's a good idea.

It made some sense at first, as a public-relations move, for City Hall to distribute its new, San Juan-Chama Project water, taken and purified from the Rio Grande, to the public in plastic bottles.

Because the city's new take-it-from-the-river water system isn't finished, there was no other convenient way to give city water-users a taste and reassure people the water is safe to drink.

Now that the new water source has been introduced to the public, however, the city should lose the plastic bottles, for several reasons:

- The bottles themselves are made from petroleum products, and oil provides much of the energy required for their manufacture and transportation. Not good. We need to use less oil, for all the already well-publicized reasons.

- Yes, plastic bottles are recyclable, but few people recycle them, so the bottles end up choking landfills.

- City Hall would save money — though we're not sure how much — by dropping the bottling program.

- City officials blamed the recent, unpleasant discovery of yeast pollution in sample bottles of San Juan-Chama water on the bottling process — not on the city's water-purification system. No bottles, no PR nightmare.

We're not saying plastic bottles are all bad. For example, bottled water offers buyers a healthy alternative to soda in vending machines and convenience-store refrigerators.

But let's let private industries and consumers thrash out how best to imbibe their H2O. City Hall should stand on the side of environmental righteousness.

Brickbat: UFO games

A new wave of UFO sightings is aloft, Scripps Howard News Service reported Tuesday, in "UFO theories are taking flight over Texas skies."

No problem with the UFOs. New Mexico — home of Roswell — loves them. At worst, we might be a bit jealous of the Lone Star State.

What frosts us are reports that the feds are likely playing games with the possibility of extraterrestrial visitors and technology.

Defense analyst John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org, notes that the feds used UFO stories to throw people off the track of what they've been doing at Area 51 in Nevada. Bill Sweetman, editor of Defense Technology International, says the Air Force similarly exploited UFOs to mask its development of the U-2 spy plane in the 1950s. New Mexicans know well that the Roswell Incident of 1947 was played by authorities as an alien spacecraft crash when it actually was the fallout from a classified government high-altitude experiment aimed at detecting nuclear tests in the Soviet Union.

Analysts suggest the feds could be playing the same game over Texas.

This kind of UFO-baiting might be amusing for a while and a somewhat effective, cloaking and psychological-operations strategy. But it's a lot like re-enacting "The Boy Who Cried Wolf." Eventually, it won't work anymore.

Meanwhile, it's unlikely that we're alone in the universe. What happens when we find out for sure?

The feds should think of a way to just be truthful about all this.


Copyright 2008, Albuquerque Tribune