Big Friendly Giants and seas of solar panels

My wife and I flew up to visit our youngest son and drive back the car he had been driving as he got a new one. On the fifteen-hour journey back, it was wonderful to see all the sights of the coast and mountains once we moved inland. Along the journey, we also took delight in seeing a number of windmill and solar farms.

We have always found the windmills to be elegant giants that are usually staggered in hilly terrain in large single digit of double-digit numbers. It is fun to count them as they go off into the distance. I feel like I am watching a higher tech version of “The BFG,” short for “Big Friendly Giant.”

Yet, clearly what we see more of is the solar farms. These photovoltaic panels number in the hundreds and thousands as they cover a field like a sea of solar panels. Solar energy jobs have been growing annually at double digit rates for years as the prices have come down. And, what is good for customers, but scary for utilities and fossil fuel companies, the solar farms need not be large enterprises to power some communities and neighborhoods.

What I have always liked about renewable energy, is these two approaches need not require any of our dear water to operate. With a global water crisis rivaling and made worse by climate change, not using water is a very good thing.

With the law signed last year, we will get to see more offshore and onshore wind energy. That is terrific. For those folks in our plains states, the sight of windmills is more customary with that windy part of the country. Texas still produces the most wind energy in the country and states like Iowa, Nebraska, and Oklahoma are seeing more than 1/3 of their electricity produced by wind.

And, yet the supporters of the fossil fuel industry have tried to pretend like it is not happening. What I find interesting is in oil rich Texas, a reason wind energy is so prolific is very quietly, the state legislature permitted the wiring to these rural locations to harness the electricity from wind energy. For those who still raise issues, please note that on a “60 Minutes” episode about ten years ago, oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens, said that natural gas will buy us time, but the future of electricity in the US is wind energy. I would add solar as well.

The future is now.

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I bruise you, you bruise me, we both bruise too easily (an encore post)

The following is an encore of an earlier post that still remains relevant.

After breaking up with Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel sang a beautiful song written by Jimmy Webb, who wrote several of Glen Campbell’s hits (“Galveston,” “Wichita Lineman,” “By the Time I Get to Phoenix”), The 5th Dimension’s “Beautiful Balloon,” and “MacArthur Park,” which was a huge hit in the 1970s as sung by the actor Richard Harris (who was the first Dumbledore for Harry Potter fans).

The song is called “All I Know.” The first stanza is as follows:

I bruise you, you bruise me

We both bruise too easily

Too easily to let it show

I love you and that is all I know

This song is intended as a love song between two people who often fight and have hurt feelings as a result. But, I would like to use this stanza as a metaphor for relationships between all of us in civil society that have gone awry.

We are too easily bruising each others’ feelings. We are also taking offense too easily, when we should not or should listen to hear rather listen to react. I was highly disappointed with the tenor of the most recently concluded political convention, when hateful remarks were the norm and not the exception. I am hoping that the one next week will be the antithesis.

As an independent voter, I don’t care if someone is conservative on a viewpoint or liberal. What I found is many people have a mixture of opinions. To this point, Ivanka Trump told the GOP audience she is an independent voter. And, she like me joins many unaffiliated Americans.

Yet, what I do not like is the lack of civil discourse and use of information which is not steeped in facts. This is modus operandi for too many politicians and opinion hosts and it is quite obvious to me who they are. The latter is a key reason I religiously check the two fact checking organizations summaries. But, let me set that aside for now and get back to the civil discourse.

I do not agree with everything the politicians or parties support. My disagreement may be material or it may be in emphasis. For example, President Obama has done a commendable job, but I am disappointed that he did not move forward on the Simpson-Bowles Deficit Reduction Committee’s report, he tends to like the use of drones where we need more governance, while he has moved the ball forward on climate change he is too fond of fracking, and he did not collaborate more with a highly uncollaborative and obstinate Congress, e.g.

What I can tell you is neither party has all of the solutions and sometimes are not asking the right questions. Neither party should be smug that their way is the only way or even the right way, especially with funding that fuels their opinions. Again, I don’t mind a conservative or liberal view, but let’s work off the right data and do so civilly, respecting each other’s opinions. And, let’s work with real solutions and not what easily fits on a bumper sticker. Bumper stickers are not policy, they are advertisements.

The debt is a huge problem. Climate change is a huge problem. Water resources are a huge problem. Poor gun governance is a huge problem. Poverty is a huge problem as is the declining middle class. Civil rights for all citizens, especially those most disenfranchised, are lacking in too many places. Infrastructure needs are paramount and fixing them will create jobs. Terrorism is important, but combatting it must be holistic and involve all of us.

Building actual and proverbial walls are not the answers. We must reach out to each other and solve these problems as the diverse Americans we are. No American is more American than the next. And, no less, either. So, let’s civilly discuss the issues in fact-based manner and demand our politicians do the same. If they cannot, then they should step down. I am really tired of those who feel they must name-call and shout opposition down.

Fishing for better news this Friday

Why do Catholics tend to eat a lot of fish on Friday? What is also interesting the grade schools seemed to copycat this serving fish as well even if they are not Catholic schools. Maybe it is due to the famous loaves and fishes story where Jesus fed a huge crowd with the bread and fish in boy’s basket. Using this theme, I am hoping Jesus can pull out some better news this Friday for that proverbial basket.

The future of America may be many things, but one thing is for sure, we will continue to live in a country where daily gun shootings are the norm and the mass shootings become more frequent than weekly. And, while some watered-down gun governance legislation was finally passed this past summer, we still live in a wild-west environment. The sad fact is the significant majority of Americans want some commonsense changes, including gun owners. Let’s start there. If the gun industry does not like, so be it. They truly have had their chance to offer reasonable changes, yet decided fighting any change was the better tactic.

This same example could be used with the fossil-fuel industry. A recent study revealed an old story that needs more airplay. Companies like Exxon have scientific data and reports in their files dating back about forty plus years defining climate change as a major problem. Another study revealed the industry has done more window dressing change than actually make change to address climate change. Like the gun industry, instead of offering reasonable and knowledgeable changes, they hired PR people to naysay climate change. They determined that blocking change was a better tactic than helping make thoughtful change.

We should have remembered the lesson we finally learned after thirty plus years about tobacco. For over thirty years, the industry has known nicotine was addictive which is why they used it in their products. Just before a whistleblower let the cat out of the bag, I watched eight tobacco CEOs sitting at a table facing a Congressional committee. When asked directly if nicotine was addictive, in a row, all eight said “no.” They all lied. And, they all knew. Within a few years, the industry was penalized with huge fine in the neighborhood of a billion dollars for their cover-up, which was not near enough. They deserved the fine.

And, what I find interesting is the PR firm that helped the tobacco industry lie and cover-up was hired by the fossil fuel industry to help them naysay climate change. My guess is they were trying to buy more time to make huge profits.

So, Jesus, you may need a bigger basket of truth and good stories to overcome these folks. There is a lot of money to be made in dangerous habits. We need someone to point that out. Of course, the PR people will paint You in a poor light as a defense tactic, but You are likely used to it.

A cautionary tale of too little water and too much water – a reprise from 2015

The following was written almost eight years ago, but holds even more concern today with fresh water crises in the US west and around the world and our ever heightening sea levels, placing major coastal cities like Miami at risk.

We have two major environmental concerns that are impacting us now and will continue to do so, unless we plan and execute a more dramatic strategy. One gets too little air time, while the other gets talked about, but is under constant attack by hired public relations people who are highlighted in the documentary ‘Merchants of Doubt” and the most recent airing of “Vice” on HBO. First, we have a growing fresh water shortage problem that is predicted to get worse in drought stricken and other areas. Second, we have an increasing intrusion of salt water in low-lying coastal areas that will also get far worse than predicted, likely displacing 300 million people by century’s end.

Fresh water is one of our two most dear resources on the planet, with the other being the air we breathe. Managing a predicted water shortage may be one of the most crucial tasks in front of us, yet we do not give sufficient news coverage to this looming problem. I would encourage you to read one of the best history books I have ever read by Steven Solomon called “Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power and Civilization.”  The book does more than look backwards as it highlights a major concern going forward and uses the term “water is the new oil.” A link is provided below to an article on the book.

Any investment that requires the substantial use of water needs to factor that use in its Return on Investment calculations. I am against fracking for several reasons, but my greatest fear is the significant use of water that we cannot let trickle back into our water supply. When this issue is scoffed at by industry people, it should be noted that in the past couple of years frackers and farmers have been fighting over water in California, Kansas and Oklahoma. It should be noted in some areas of Texas, which is heavily drought prone, about 20% of an area’s water supply goes to fracking.

I use the fracking case as an example. We must be mindful of coal ash supplies near water sources, which is where they almost always are placed. We must be mindful of developers and how run off can occur from houses built on various lakes. We must be mindful of where we have placed dams and where we may have straightened out rivers, which can be harmful. And, we must re-emphasize conservation of water through the use of waterless water heaters, planting more endemic plants to an area, less water sprinkling, gray water plumbing for toilets, and what Orange County has done with sewage water which is treated and filtered many times over and reused as drinking water (yes, it is drinkable).

The other major concern relates to the impact of climate change on coastal locations, especially those below or at sea level. Climate change has many impacts, one of which is to make drought prone areas worse, but the rising sea levels is getting more attention. And, after watching what is happening in Antarctica and Greenland on the documentary “Vice,” the scientists who measure the impact on melting ice masses say it is too late to save Antarctica from severely melting with what we have done thus far.

The “Merchants of Doubt” who are the hired guns of the fossil fuel industry note that Antarctica is growing in ice mass. Yet, this is clearly refuted by the scientists doing the annual measuring noting the PR folks are purposefully confusing sea ice with land ice. The “sea ice” is thawing and refreezing to the tune of a meter thick, while the “land ice” which is kilometers thick is melting away and that is the major problem. The scientists equate it to ice thawing in a glass and refreezing (sea ice) versus adding more melted ice to the glass (land ice) which is causing the glass to run over. I make this distinction as the “Merchants of Doubt” are very good at what they do and are well paid by the industry to cause this doubt. Just remember the overflowing glass as a metaphor for what is actually happening versus the false message put forth by deniers.

The sad truth is people and some leaders believe this messaging and it is actually harming our planet and its inhabitants by delaying what needs to be done. The country of Bangladesh is being consumed by the encroaching waters in a very noticeable way. Impoverished people who farm and fish are required to move to overcrowded cities. The country of Denmark developed a long-range plan that had to survive different parties in power, so it had the buy-in of everyone. Ecuador is fighting a never-ending battle against the relentless sea. The City of Miami’s county (Dade County) has joined with three adjacent counties to invest $200 million into plans to stave off the encroaching sea water which is coming up through the storm drains in the streets more frequently. Below is a link to an article on the renewed efforts.

The rising sea levels will impact every low-lying area on the planet and is already consuming islands like the Cartaret Islands, whose ambassadors had to go to larger islands to ask if they could move there. It is also making the impact of hurricanes worse and will continue to do so. Climate scientists note hurricanes hitting shore with higher sea levels is like dunking a basketball off a raised court. The damage is more severe. Hurricane Sandy is a precursor to what will happen more often. This is where the cost of repair comes into play which totaled in the hundreds of billions, just with Sandy.

But, don’t take my word for it, read for yourself. I am not a scientist, but I can read. 97% of scientists note that man-influenced climate change is a happening and is a major concern. Out of 14,000 peer-reviewed scientific papers on climate change, only three were contrarian. Mercer Investment Consulting surveyed the largest pension scheme sponsors on the planet and these sponsors estimate the cost of climate change impact will be in the tens of trillions of dollars. Marsh, the largest risk management firm in the world, is speaking routinely with clients about managing risk of coastal assets. Georgia State University, one of the most well known risk management and actuarial schools in the US, has a curriculum around planning for climate change. Wall Street is factoring in the cost of climate change risk in their pricing. You also have the conclusions of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NASA, the UN International Panel of Climate Change, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science on man-influenced climate change. And, it goes on.

These two water issues are critical to our future. We are past time on acting and we need to plan and execute accordingly. We do not need well paid BS artists using science out of context to further prevent action from happening. We are at a point where we must question politicians on what we should do about these issues. And, if they say climate change or global warming is hoax, do us all a favor and do not vote for them. If they do not recognize water shortage as the major problem it is has become, do not vote for them. If they say it is a jobs issue more so than an environmental issue, note that the one of the fastest growing industries for jobs is the solar energy industry, which is averaging annual double-digit growth with 174,000 US jobs at year-end. The wind energy industry is growing as well and could also grow at the same clip with even more investment. And, the sun shines and wind blows in every state, some more so than others, so the energy impact and job creation can be spread around.

If anything, please understand the importance of these two issues. Question everything, especially politicians, leaders and so-called news sources. We do not have time to wait on leaders to catch-up. We need to make them catch-up. If they don’t or are not willing, get leaders who will look at real data and listen to unbiased science and help us do something about our problems. Our failure to act has made this even more crucial.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/steven-solomon/water-is-the-new-oil_b_380803.html

http://www.law360.com/articles/613588/miami-dade-officials-accelerate-response-to-sea-level-rise

New study raises the heat on Exxon’s climate research

In an article from ScientificAmerican by Shannon Hall, called “Exxon Knew about Climate Change almost 40 years ago,” it is clear that Exxon has known about the risks for years and has purposefully obfuscated that truth when they went into the denial phase. Below are just two paragraphs, but please take the time to read the whole piece below or from one of the many other venues where it is published.

“Exxon was aware of climate change, as early as 1977, 11 years before it became a public issue, according to a recent investigation from InsideClimate News. This knowledge did not prevent the company (now ExxonMobil and the world’s largest oil and gas company) from spending decades refusing to publicly acknowledge climate change and even promoting climate misinformation—an approach many have likened to the lies spread by the tobacco industry regarding the health risks of smoking. Both industries were conscious that their products wouldn’t stay profitable once the world understood the risks, so much so that they used the same consultants to develop strategies on how to communicate with the public.

Experts, however, aren’t terribly surprised. ‘It’s never been remotely plausible that they did not understand the science,’ says Naomi Oreskes, a history of science professor at Harvard University. But as it turns out, Exxon didn’t just understand the science, the company actively engaged with it. In the 1970s and 1980s it employed top scientists to look into the issue and launched its own ambitious research program that empirically sampled carbon dioxide and built rigorous climate models. Exxon even spent more than $1 million on a tanker project that would tackle how much CO2 is absorbed by the oceans. It was one of the biggest scientific questions of the time, meaning that Exxon was truly conducting unprecedented research.”

As you read the above and the attached, please note this is not news. Exxon scientists used to make speeches and lectures about global warming for years. They were forerunners of the research. Yet, in the late 1990s, the management decided to move into a denial phase engaging a PR campaign to discredit the science. The purpose was to make sure the cash cow of fossil fuels continued for as long as possible. It should be noted is part of this PR campaign was to rebrand global warming as the less threatening sounding climate change.

What I also found interesting is that Shell Oil even did a video back in the early 1990s of the concerns of global warming. So, it was not just Exxon that knew what the future held. Ironically, when Exxon continued to be insufficient in their actions, their shareholders reacted. The day before the Trump White House announced the US was pulling out of the Paris Climate Change Accord in 2017, Exxon’s shareholders voted that management must report to them what they are doing about climate change on a recurring basis.

Again, this story really is not news, but it more clearly defines what Exxon failed to do when they knew better.

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/exxon-knew-about-climate-change-almost-40-years-ago/

Tell me why?

The chorus to the popular Beatles’ song “Tell me why?” goes:

“Tell me why you cried
And why you lied to me
Tell me why you cried
And why you lied to me”

I have been a broken record on the need to ask more “why” questions of politicians. In so doing, maybe their “undergarments of untruths” might begin to show from beneath their outer appearances. And, if they evade answering, ask it again. Politicians do not want their lying to be discovered. Plus, some lie so much, they don’t know where the truth stops and the lies begin.

Here are few questions to help bare those undergarments of untruths.

  • Why did the new Republican majority in the US House vote to defund a recent request to increase funding to the IRS on the very same day (per CNN) that “Allen Weisselberg, former President Donald Trump’s long-time chief financial officer, was sentenced by a New York judge to five months in jail for his role in a decade-long tax fraud scheme after testifying as the state’s witness against the Trump Organization.” No one likes the IRS, but they perform a needed function and this request was to make improvements and restore funding that the previous president took away. I believe his name is Trump, and his organization will be sentenced later in the week.
  • Why do Republicans only care about the deficit when a Democrat is in the White House? And, why is that same former president making hay over the debt and deficit when he did absolutely nothing about it for four years. In fact, he made it about $2 trillion worse with his tax cut that mainly benefitted the wealthy and corporations per the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. Republicans touted this tax cut would pay for itself, but that line of thinking has been horse excrement for a very long time and still is. Democrats could be much better at addressing the debt and deficit, but they are better at it than Republicans.
  • Why do people follow so-called leaders who have the most shallow of egos? Whether their name is Kim Jung-Un, Jair Bolsonaro, Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump et al, why do these supposed strong acting men act like babies when they don’t get their way? Jung-Un’s bio reads like a Greek God’s citing all of his Olympian conquests and successes. It may even say his excrement has no odor. Neither Bolsonaro and Trump can tolerate losing which shows abysmal failure of fortitude. And, Putin has screwed up royally with his Ukraine invasion and continues to add gasoline to the fire rather admit such.
  • Why are books being banned when people can easily download them from online sources? (Note: This question is courtesy of our friend Scottie’s blog). There is an old line if you want to get more people to read or watch something, ban it. My favorite banning story was I believe espoused by Senator Ted Cruz. Cruz wanted to ban “Fahrenheit 451” which is a book about banning and burning books, with the title indicative of the temperature at which a book would burn. Ironically, Cruz once did a fillibuster by reading “The Lorax” by Dr. Seuss on the floor of the Senate. This fossil fuel proponent was reading a book about protecting the environment.
  • Why does anyone follow some of the inane and mean-spirited acting people who are now in the halls of legislature, including the US Congress? Gerrymandering has created safe districts where people who should not be in these positions can find themselves elected, as so few people vote in primaries. These folks are rather overt in their comments and actions and it should cause a lot of head scratching. I want civil discourse with folks using actual facts when they are doing our business. So, we should ask these folks to explain themselves when they denigrate opponents and untruthfully opine. Direct questions like do you really believe that or you just saying it would help?

Maybe we should change the lyrics to “Tell me why you MAKE me cry and why you lie to me?”


Water crisis in Mississippi – a new norm for too many

From a piece in the Center for Disaster Philanthropy updated in November, 2022, the ongoing water crisis in Jackson, Mississippi is summarized. Here are a few paragraphs, with a link to the entire piece below:

The intersection of two disasters – infrastructure failure and river flooding – exacerbated a pre-existing water crisis in Jackson, Mississippi.

In mid-to-late August 2022, heavy rains led to flooding along the Pearl River watershed. While the Pearl was predicted to overtop, it crested below the major flood stage of 36 feet at 35.37 feet. This prevented the large-scale evacuations and extensive damages that were expected. However, localized flooding damaged one of the water treatment plants leading to an inability to produce sufficient water pressure at the O.B. Curtis treatment plant. This was combined with a malfunction of the pumps at the J.H. Fewell treatment plant.  

Water pressure was restored in Jackson on Sept. 5, but the ongoing boil water advisory remained in effect until Sept. 15. This will mark the first time in almost seven weeks that residents should be able to drink the water in their homes, without boiling it beforehand. In the absence of drinking water, the state distributed approximately 12 million bottles of water.

On Oct. 28, Governor Tate Reeves extended the state of emergency until Nov. 22. In his press release, he stated, ‘Since I first declared a State of Emergency on August 30, the state has invested nearly $13 million to prop up Jackson’s failing water system, distribute water, and restore clean running water to the residents of the city. Over this time, the state of Mississippi entered the O.B. Curtis Water Treatment Plant, identified the rampant issues that existed due to years of neglect, and immediately began repair operations. Jackson’s mayor has announced that the city will have a private operator in place by November 17, stating, ‘we anticipate having a contract in place by November 17th.’ Recognizing this, I have decided to end the emergency on November 22, to allow for a five-day transition period between the state’s management team and the chosen private operator. At that point, the State of Emergency must, by statute, end as the water system can be managed solely by local control, as has been insisted upon by the City of Jackson. The State of Emergency must only exist when a situation is beyond local control and the City of Jackson has demanded local control.”’

Per Oliver Laughland in a recent piece on the Mississippi water crisis in The Guardian,

“It underlined the daily struggle faced by thousands in this predominantly Black city, where poorer neighborhoods have routinely borne the brunt of the ongoing disaster. Simple tasks become complex or insurmountable. Greater burdens are placed on those living farther from resources. And, for many, the days are centered around an often frantic search for clean and fresh water.”

Per Laughland, this is the third water outage in two years. Why do elected officials continue to not address problems until they become a crisis? This kind of failure is as old as time and relates to two themes – money and courage. Money for maintenance or repairs tend to get put off until something breaks or fails. Courage is lacking because, for some reason, politicians do not get as much political goodwill from preventing a crisis as they do by addressing it when it gets broken. And, by the way, it usually costs more to fix a crisis than prevent one.

This relates to any infrastructure need which has been in dire need of funding for about a decade. Finally, infrastructure funding was included in the recent Inflation Reduction Bill that was passed and strides are now being made. Yet, with respect to water, we seem to be getting caught with our pants down in the US and have for several years.

It should be noted that the number one or two long term global concern per the members of the World Economic Forum for several years has been the global water crisis. Yet, here in the US we rarely hear of this until a something breaks. In the US, the problem is water supply as well as water distribution. The fight among seven states over water from the Colorado River has been heightened the last couple of years as the water diminishes. We also have farmers and ranchers raising concerns over diminishing water supply. It should be noted that climate change is only exacerbating the water problem.

And, it is common that water crises impact the more impoverished citizens. This occurred in Flint, Michigan where water was drawn for the poorer Flint area using lead-heavy pipes where the lead causes brain damage, especially in Children whose brains are still developing. This is a reason why the Jackson problem was not fixed beforehand. Fewer constituents of the Republican based legislature lived there.

I should not just pick on Republican led legislatures, as more funding is needed regardless of political persuasion. In fact, a Republican and Democrat led a bipartisan push for years for more infrastructure funding, supported by the US Chamber of Commerce and Labor Unions, but failed to get the needed funding. And, it is disappointing, but unsurprising that almost all Republicans in Congress did not vote for the infrastructure bill last year.

Water is a problem and it will continue to be one. Will we address it like it should be addressed? Of course not, especially with the new Republican majority in the US House. But, we need to spend more time talking about it and providing solutions and funding. Air and water represent two of the greatest needs we humans have. We likely should pay attention to them.

Just to illustrate one final point. In a documentary about the 2007-08 financial crisis, an investment advisor who tried to forewarn banks that it was coming and they were in danger of going bankrupt, a final statement was made. When asked what he was most concerned about going forward after predicting the housing crisis (and successfully betting against those who would not listen to him), he said the global water crisis.

A few more musings before year-end

To me, a few good things have happened and are happening this year to get us back between the white lines on the highway. In no particular order:

  • Jair Bolsonaro lost his bid for reelection in Brazil. As expected, he is pulling a Trump saying the election was stolen from him, but everyone else, including party leadership, are moving on. “But, I won by a huge margin,” he can be heard saying in Portuguese to the departing caravan of people.
  • Boris Johnson was shown the door in the UK as Prime Minister. The only good thing about Johnson’s tenure is he got to oversee the Brexit mess he helped create before succumbing to a series of unforced errors, as they like to say in tennis.
  • Not to be outdone, I was told before she was appointed by the Tories as new Prime Minister, that Liz Truss was not the best of replacements. She proved the author of this concern correct, lasting only 45 days in a mistake-filled tenure.
  • In Australia, apparently climate change, environmental concerns and paid child leave are important as Conservatives who passed on these issues, were swept out of office over the summer with the new Prime Minister Anthony Albanese taking the oath. Between the wildfires and depleting barrier reef, rising temperatures is not a friend to the country/ continent.
  • In Ukraine, Vladimir Putin is realizing what happens when someone stands up to a bully. Volodymyr Zelenskyy has shown what leadership looks like, while Putin has shown what autocratic rule looks like. Fortunately, Russians are starting to see what the world sees and his days may be numbered.
  • And, at long last, with the Tax Fraud conviction by a jury of the Trump Organization and the investigation and released Executive Summary by the House Select Committee, the former president is starting to get his come-uppance as he truly spirals out of control blasting anyone who dares criticize him or not genuflect enough. Plus, there are other legal matters in Georgia, Pennsylvania and Mar-a-Lago that he needs to contend with.
  • Joe Biden is far from perfect, but he has shown that things can get accomplished to help the greater good. I am very pleased the Respect for Marriage Act, some gun governance and an infrastructure and climate change bill were passed. Sadly, neither party seems to care about the debt and deficit, so some poor soul will have to get the blame for doing what is needed – raising revenue and cutting expenses – as the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles Deficit Reduction Plan concluded, when the debt was about 1/4 the total it is now.

Have a peaceful and enjoyable Christmas. Stay warm and travel safe.

Dimwitted is not a compliment


In an article in Raw Story by Tom Boggioni, he highlights the take of a conservative publication on the chaos in the Republican side of Congress as they attempt to choose a lead person. The article is called “‘Dimwitted’ Republicans buried by Wall Street Journal over post-midterm chaos” and can be linked to below. Here are few unflattering comments from the piece.

“In a blistering opinion piece from the Wall Street Journal on Saturday morning, the editorial board hammered House Republicans for turning their takeover of the House in the midterms election into a circus as members battle over who will be the new Speaker…

As the WSJ editors point out, there is little difference in the policies espoused by McCarthy and his detractors and the battle is not only a waste of time but evidence that the House Republicans are bound and determined to screw up their success at becoming the House majority.

In a word, the editors called un-named GOP House members ‘dimwitted.‘”

At the heart of this chaos is a large group that want to take the party further down the rabbit hole into appeasing an “Alice in Wonderland” base of voters where truths are lies and lies are truth. And, as I have noted before, the former president does an admirable job at playing the role of Queen of Hearts. “Off with his head!” he can be heard shouting to critics.

The others are comprised of a sadly diminishing number of more moderate Republicans and those in between who have long tried to play a game of appeasing both ends, appearing more moderate, while kowtowing to whatever the base has been told to believe by the former president and his lingering sycophants.

Mind you, Democrats are often the group that forms a circular firing squad as they air their debates, but whether one likes Nancy Pelosi or not, the retiring speaker is very good at counting votes and getting things done. The last Republican Speaker who did that was John Boehner, but he got pushed out when he crossed the aisle to many times to add a few Democrats to votes to get something bipartisan passed. The more strident GOP folks did not like that. They would rather beat on their chest and not do anything than dare pass something that some opinion host may say is bipartisan.

As an independent voter, I would love to see a more moderate Republican House speaker. Kevin McCarthy’s actions are far from trustworthy in my view and the party needs to find more veracity. They could start by trying to pass laws that will help people rather than begin a series of “beat-up on appointed enemies’ investigations” to bloody the other side’s chances. But, we are likely to end up with McCarthy which will hinder good governance and reveal a party that only Lewis Carroll could imagine through his looking glass.

Those are the views of a former Republican and Democrat who has been an unaffiliated voter for about fifteen years.

Pipelines breach and it is not rare when they do

In article on NBC News written by Dennis Romero called “In Kansas, crews contain largest-yet breach of Keystone Pipeline,” it tells of better news in stopping a large oil spill in Kansas. Yet, the story goes deeper as it shows the breaches are not uncommon. The last time I paid attention to this story, there had been fourteen breaches. Now we are up to twenty-two.

The full article is below. The following summarizes a few paragraphs. Just focus on the highlighted pieces for a quick thumbnail sketch.

“The operator of the Keystone Pipeline System, which carries a form of crude oil from Canada to multiple states for refining, said over the weekend that its largest breach yet has been contained for now.

The pipeline failure 3 miles east of Washington, Kansas, on Wednesday caused an estimated 14,000 barrels of crude, or 588,000 gallons of a form of crude known as tar sands oil, to spill into Mill Creek, a natural waterway, according to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration of the U.S. Transportation Department….

In the last five years, there have been at least three significant spills along the original Keystone Pipeline System, Wednesday’s being the most voluminous, according to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

The pipeline regulators also noted accidents and breaches in the Keystone system in 2011, 2016 and 2020. The affected section is part of the 288-mile Cushing Extension, completed in 2011, which takes crude from Steele City, Nebraska, to Cushing, Oklahoma, regulators said.

Environmentalists have argued that the incidents come with such a pipeline and that they’re not worth the convenience of more direct transportation for fossil fuel in a world coming to terms with global warming caused largely by burning it.

The Sierra Club said it was the 22nd time the pipeline it calls Keystone 1 has been the site of a spill, breach or accident.

‘There is no such thing as a safe tar sands pipeline and this is another disaster that continues to prove we must put our climate and our communities first,’ Catherine Collentine of the Sierra Club said in a statement.”

Oil transported by ship, derrick, train, truck or pipeline will breach at some point. And, the spills usually are disastrous. On the flip side, when an offshore windmill breaches, it causes a different result – a splash. When a solar panel breaches it causes a small outage.

Interestingly, Kansas is one of only two states that gets 40% or more of its energy from wind energy behind Iowa (see second article below). Ironically, the largest wind energy producer by volume in the US is the oil rich state of Texas. And, very quietly, Texas developed infrastructure to harness the electricity from these distributed windmills.

Let me close with the words I heard uttered by oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens on “60 Minutes” about ten years ago before he passed away. He said natural gas will buy us some time, but the future of energy in America is wind energy. It is not a surprise that the windy plains states of America are leading the way.

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/kansas-crews-contain-largest-yet-breach-keystone-pipeline-rcna61196