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Monday, January 2, 2012

Truth mistaken as elitist conspiracy is still truth

COMMENTARY: GEORGE TEMPLETON

Que sera, sera. Whatever will be will be. The future’s not ours, to see.

COMING TO THE RIM

I came to the Rim in the late 70’s. I needed clean air and a place where I could think. I would arrive at night from the Valley to the sound of frogs croaking “bud visor.” Besides hummingbirds, I had bats, glow-bugs, slugs, and the ferns from Jurassic Park. Some creeks ran year round providing swimming pools for kids. At night with the windows open, one could hear them gurgling along with the whisper of wind in the pines and the rumble of thunder as monsoon storms stuck along the rim before climbing over it. Now storms often come from the North, feeding the ever-rising equatorial rain band, and bring cold drier air to the Rim Country. The ferns and the frogs are gone and the springs are temporary.

FIRE

It was three in the morning when a neighbor rapped on our bedroom window saying, “The Dude Fire is coming, better pack up and get ready to run”. We hiked up the hill at the end of the road and could see the flames advancing in the distance. It was not a good omen. On the radio they were announcing the progression of the fire which we began to plot on our topographical map. It was on a vector towards us. The next day was night because of the smoke, and it became apparent that the fire could not be stopped. We could have been goners, but God spared us. The fire veered to the West and ran up the slopes of the Rim instead of incinerating us. That fire started on a day when the airport was closed because the temperature in the valley was 122 degrees F, higher than the maximum rated operating temperature for aircraft.

In the late 90’s, drought and beetle infestation killed over 40 large mature ponderosa pine trees on my properties. Those widow makers had to be felled. There was tension in the moment when trees teetered in the breeze before falling and release when in the hands of the Lord, they fell. How to aim, trees hanging in nearby trees, and steep slopes where the logs must be carried up-hill were all lessons. Those trees are much bigger when they are on the ground. This all came to six 40 cubic yard dumpsters and enough wood to supply neighbors who would consider burning pine. But these were not the only trees that were dying. Ancient alligator juniper trees that were wider than I am tall were dying.

I knew that the Rodeo-Chedeski Fire was coming. The radio said that I would be toast at 500,000 acres! I couldn’t stand just watching the fire. I busied myself cleaning up around the property. It is better to be doing something even if it is in vain. The fire was burning up-hill, in the canyons, crowning, and advancing faster than a VW Beatle could go. The last day the fire burned 270 degrees of angle all around us. It was even greater than nuclear war and volcanic eruption combined. The air war on the fire filled the sky with helicopters, 1, 2, and 4 engine bombers, about every 5 minutes from dawn to dusk for two days. They were slurry bombing on my side of the hill. Could this be global warming?

Even bigger, the Wallow Fire burned in the East. I have to admit the weather did not seem any warmer to me. The environment was far more fragile than I imagined it to be. Things in the Rim Country had changed in a big way and it was no hoax. You can mistake the truth as an elitist conspiracy, but the truth does not go away.

KEYSTONE

C-span aired the recent House hearing on the Keystone pipeline. It was nothing more than window dressing and anti-Obama political maneuvering. It was not to inform. We need more than the story according to those who have financial interests. The subject of climate change did not even come up. Where were the scientists?

According to Senator Kyl, the pipeline will provide 343,000 U.S. jobs. According to the State Department (and they support the pipeline), it will require 5,000 to 6000 workers for 3 years in six Republican states. The independent Cornell XL report claims 2,500 to 4650 construction jobs and $3 to $4 billion spent in the U.S. in comparison to the $7 billion claimed by TransCanada.

The pipeline, supplying only 5% of USA petroleum needs, will not give us independence from imports. However, its one million barrels per day capacity represents a threat to the giant Ogallala Aquifer that spans eight states and supplies water for two million people and $20 billion in agriculture. TransCanada’s existing Keystone I pipeline leaked 14 times in its first year of operation. Last May an existing pipeline carrying toxic tar sands had to be shut down for repairs after springing leaks in North Dakota and Kansas. The pipeline will cross an active seismic zone that had a 4.3 magnitude earthquake in 2002.

By itself, the pipeline will not be a major contributor to greenhouse gases. Expansion of dirty, expensive oil, while not having a plan for clean energy, demonstrates a lack of stewardship. The fact that third world development will increase pollution does not give America license to do the same. Worse yet, our Gulf refineries will export oil, establishing us as a world leader in dirty energy. Difficult oil such as tar sand, oil shale, and bituminous schist, deliver half as much energy as conventional crude for each unit of energy used to harvest them. Aggressive oil recovery techniques, some still experimental, result in up to 3 times more carbon dioxide than with conventional oil harvesting. It is not just Canadian oil. Oil remains a non-renewable resource that at the most will last for another hundred years or so. Sadly, oil has a history of politics attempting to control countries. Scraping the bottom for every last drop of oil testifies to our fossil fuel addiction and short-term outlook. We need to use our remaining oil sparingly and responsibly, with consideration for environment and climate.

SURVIVAL OF THE FATTEST

Free enterprise and the level competitive playing field in the energy industry are mythical. Fossil fuels receive billions in permanent subsidies and long-term tax incentives while renewable energy funding is tiny, short-term, sporadic, and discourages private investment. There is no doubt that we need oil independence from the Middle East, but we also need the Earth. What is our plan for climate change? Republicans claim that President Obama’s infra-structure jobs are not real because they are temporary. Isn’t this also true for pipeline construction? The American people deserve a vote on the pipeline as a separate issue (or perhaps as part of a policy including climate change and sustainability) not combined with payroll taxes. It has been all about winning. Tea-Party Republicans are for destroying Obama regardless of the consequences.

SOLYNDRA

America cannot compete with China in the manufacture of high-volume solar cells. China made a thirty billion dollar bet on that. The Republicans conducted the failed Solyndra witch hunt in hopes of finding some quid pro quo to use against President Obama. It’s not just Solyndra that is in trouble. Chinese dumping of solar panels at below their cost have led to talk about tariffs and a trade war. We need a “win-win” strategy. Chinese solar energy posted massive third quarter losses. The price of solar panels fell by 70 percent in the last two and a half years and that is good news for climate change and American jobs. The Federal 1603 tax incentive expires soon and that is bad news unless you advocate Darwinian Capitalism. By our waiting too long, we made it easy for China. We are mistaken when we think that free enterprise works on an international scale.

DURBAN

The third world does not have the liability of an aging infrastructure. So when they build their future they use the latest technology. There is no past to hold them back.

The 1997 Kyoto Protocol set voluntary limits for greenhouse gas emissions that were never accepted by the USA. Canada’s Environmental Minister claims that the biggest mistake their previous liberal administration made was to sign up. At that time global carbon dioxide was increasing at the rate of 1.1 percent per year. The rate more than tripled in following years. It jumped almost 6 percent in 2010.

The Durban international climate conference awarded Canada 2 of 3 “fossil” demerits for polluting. There was an agreement to determine legally binding constraints by 2015 that will become effective in 2020. California isn’t waiting. Their bill AB32 places constraints on large polluting refineries that operate there. Contrary to big oil’s claims, California has 500,000 clean energy jobs, and that sector is growing ten times faster than the rest of the state’s economy.

FINANCE

It’s not just the wealthy who should carry their fair share of building the future. Small business won’t succeed without the help of big business and government. Technology that can change the lifestyle of every human being on the earth is a good investment! The funding for the new creation must come from the old, just as transistor technology funded integrated circuits and integrated circuits funded computer chips.

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