It is absolutely appropriate for our federal government to spend money on volcano monitoring. A current example is Mount Redoubt. This active volcano, which is on the flight path into Anchorage International Airport, the third busiest cargo airport in the world, and Elmendorf Air Force Base, has been smoldering since the end of January. The Alaska Volcano Observatory has been on 24 hour watch since then.
A volcanic eruption at Mount Redoubt has the potential to bring down a jumbo aircraft flying over Southcentral Alaska. Alaskans vividly remember that volcanic ash from an eruption of Mount Redoubt nearly brought down a KLM Boeing 747 as it was completing its flight from Amsterdam to Anchorage in December 1989. The volcanic ash caused the failure of all four engines on the jumbo jet.
It is understandable that citizens in the Lower 48 may not be familiar with our many active volcanoes in Alaska and how devastating they can be to our state and its citizens. In many ways, it is the same kind of danger caused from Mother Nature that the Gulf states face from hurricanes or all coastal communities face from a tsunami.
However, Governor Jindal raised a legitimate question last evening about whether it is appropriate to fund volcano monitoring in legislation that purported to stimulate the economy and create jobs for unemployed Americans. One of my key criticisms of the economic stimulus bill is that it turned into a supplemental appropriations bill, rather than a targeted approach to stimulate the economy.