brotherpeacemaker

It's about our community and our spirituality!

Polluting The Hand That Feeds Us

We are quickly approaching the end of the third month since the manmade disaster fifty miles off the coast of Louisiana in the middle of the gulf.  Everyday, more and more toxic oil spews into the gulf from the well where the Deepwater Horizon exploded and sank.  With reports of oil and tar appearing on the beaches of Galveston Island, Texas, every gulf state is now directly impacted and we are still weeks away from any permanent form of containment.  Everyday we tap into British Petroleum’s underwater cameras to see the cloud of oil spewing a mile under water.  Everyday we see images of birds doing their best to cope with their oil soaked wings and failing miserably.  But it is only today that I bother to think about this disaster from Yemonja’s and Olokun’s perspective.  And I call myself an Orisa devotee.

For those of you who may not remember, and for those of you who never cared to take note, my spiritual belief system is partially built on the ancient African spiritual traditions of the Yoruba people.  In this belief system, Olokun and Yemonja are the spiritual entities who are best known for, and are mostly associated with, life in the ocean and deep water.  Think of Olokun as the forebear to Neptune or Poseidon or even Aquaman.  And Yemonja is often depicted as a mermaid.  Olokun is associated with the deepest, darkest parts of the ocean.  Yemonja is associated with the top waters and the shoreline.  The two work hand in hand with each other as well as with other Orisas.

Yemonja is often referred to as the mother of life and with good reason.  While there are some people who believe in creative design theories that surmise that the Supreme Being started snapping his fingers on the fifth day and animal life just started popping out of thin air, a lot of people are aware of more scientific theories that promote the belief that life started in the ocean.  If the ocean is the source of life, the ocean is the mother of life, and Yemonja is associated with the ocean, one might conclude that Yemonja is the mother of life.

The ocean is the spiritual realm of these two Orisas, and others, and we are doing our best to screw it up.  We might give a rat’s ass about the globs of oil and tar that are appearing along the gulf shores.  British Petroleum promises to do everything possible to restore shorelines and beaches.  But is anybody really thinking about the vast parts of the waters that are not so heavily influenced by tourists’ dollars?  I remember BP CEO Tony Hayward doing his best to convince people that there was nothing to worry about in the deep waters in the middle of the gulf because all the oil is lighter than water and so all the oil will simply rise to the top.  But the reality is a lot more complex.  Water is heavier than air but somehow enough moisture gets sucked up into the atmosphere to produce torrential rainstorms.

Like the rain in the air, plumes of oil droplets are floating in the middle of the gulf like underwater clouds.  But, unlike the clouds of water in the atmosphere that have to release the moisture to impact us here on the ground, the underwater clouds of oil don’t have to release anything.  The underwater oil clouds can maintain their integrity and still impact the life of all those sea creatures.  And what effort will be made to remove these plumes and restore the ocean back to its oil-less condition?  While British Petroleum is hiring people to clean beaches and make a good show of trying to look like somebody with that outfit cares, it’s a pretty safe bet that nothing will be done to set the middle of the gulf back to its original condition.

Imagine how you would feel if somebody came to your house, started digging in your living room, struck oil and let it spewed all over your house.  And then, to add insult to injury, the only part of this disaster that will get cleaned up is the part of your property along the perimeter.  You probably wouldn’t appreciate it very much.  I know I wouldn’t appreciate it if something like that were to happen to me.  I’d be thinking I’d want whoever did it to clean the whole place or at least try.

One thing I can say about nature, it can take care of itself.  As members of the Orisa community, Yemonja and Olokun have nothing if they do not have time on their side.  Given enough time, the constant scrubbing of the water on the shore will clean even the biggest tar ball.  The plumes of oil in the gulf will eventually dissipate.  One day, the waters in the gulf will be restored.  It wouldn’t matter if we managed to fill the entire gulf with our Texas crude, we simply cannot out last nature.

What we can do is impact nature’s ability to sustain us.  We might think all we have to do is clean the beach so that the damage to our tourist industries is minimized.  But there might be a long term impact to this as well.  What would be the entire magnitude of impact if we actually managed to contaminate the source of life and a major food source?  Yemonja and Olokun work together to provide a lot for us.  You’d think we’d be more careful with the way we interact with nature.  But it looks like just the converse is true.  As humans who are part of the ecological chain of nature, we should never so callously pollute the hands that feed us.  You’d think we’d have more respect for the cradle of life.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010 Posted by | Ifa, Life, Oil, Orisa, Thoughts, Yoruba | 3 Comments

BP Could Mean “Bought Politician”

Texas Republican and House Representative Joe Barton apologized to British Petroleum CEO Tony Hayward as a way of protesting the twenty billion dollar relief fund the company agreed to finance under political pressure by the White House in order to compensate the victims of the oil that continues to spew into the gulf from the well damaged by the Deepwater Horizon explosion.  Mr. Hayward was sitting front and center at the witness table for another round of high profile reprimands from Washington politicians.

With financial contributions totaling more than one-point-four million dollars since 1990, Mr. Barton is the House’s top recipient of oil industry campaign offerings.  Mr. Barton is paid handsomely to be a friend of big oil and he was more than happy to come to BP’s defense.  After the apology, Mr. Barton went on to say that he did not want to live in a country where any time a citizen or a corporation does something wrong it is then subject to some sort of political pressure that is little more than a shakedown.  British Petroleum with its history of cutting corners and risking the safety of the public and the environment for the sake of bigger profits is the poor victim and the White House with its black Democratic President trying to look like it wants to do what’s best for the public is the nasty tyrant.

I seriously doubt if the majority of the public sees things that way.  Right now there’s a lot of anger against British Petroleum.  Anything wearing the company’s green and yellow logo is subject to be vandalized these days.  People are protesting and picketing in front of BP branded gas stations not realizing that the business isn’t actually owned by the giant oil company but is actually a mom and pop shop simply trying to earn a living.  People are so incensed at BP that these gas stations are now being penalized for their unfortunate decision to market themselves with a BP affiliation.  There aren’t very many people with much sympathy for anything BP.

Mr. Barton is cut from a totally different cloth.  None of his constituents have been harmed by anything BP has done.  That, and BP has paid him very well.  Like a good little whore, Mr. Barton went to bat for his pimp.  Political conservative have a well earned reputation for protecting the interest of big corporations.  Mr. Barton simply kicked that sentiment into high gear with his apology to Mr. Hayward and the rest of BP on behalf of the American people.

But not all Republicans were onboard with Mr. Barton.  By apologizing to BP, Mr. Barton has put the Republican Party at another disadvantage.  Rumor has it that the GOP leadership demanded that Mr. Barton apologize for his apology or have the congressman stripped of his seniority as next in line to chair the oh so important Energy and Commerce Committee where big oil could really get payback for their investment in the Representative.  Democrats are more than happy to tie the Republicans to the oil industry in the middle of this crisis in the middle of this midterm election year.  It wasn’t enough that members of the GOP continue to insist that the spewing well was some kind of natural environmental disaster.  That pipe spewing all that crude happened naturally without any human intervention.  Mr. Barton simply added fuel to the fire and gave the Democrats the best political talking points until Election Day later this year.

Smarting from his trip to the woodshed, Mr. Barton was back with a half-assed apology for his apology.  Mr. Barton wanted to set the record straight and wanted to be perfectly clear that he thought BP was responsible for this accident.  He went on to say that if anything he said earlier that morning had been misconstrued, he wanted to apologize for that misconstruction.

Not quite the contrite statement GOP leadership was looking for, Mr. Barton then issued another statement.  He apologized for using the term “shakedown” with regard to the actions by the White House and retracted his apology to BP.  He went on to say that he regretted his statement implying that BP should not pay for the consequences of their decisions and actions in this incident.

But don’t feel bad about Mr. Barton.  Radical right tea partiers will embrace him with open arms and he’ll be the next darling of their take America back campaign.  Anybody with the cojones to make outrageous statements about the Obama administration always seems to do well with this group.  It wouldn’t matter if Mr. Barton is greasier than one of those pelicans soaked in oil along the gulf shore and just as clueless.  It seems that’s just how some people like their politicians.

Thursday, June 17, 2010 Posted by | Capitalism, Life, Oil, Thoughts | | Leave a comment

Contract Terminated

CVN Republicans Crossroads

The Contract with America was a concept implemented by the Republican Party and presented to the American people six weeks before the 1994 Congressional election campaign.  It was developed by Larry Hunter with assistance from Newt Gingrich, Dick Armey, Bill Paxon, Tom DeLay, and others.  The Contract was based in part on text from one of former President Ronald Reagan’s State of the Union Address.  The Contract detailed the actions the Republican Party promised to take if they became the majority party in the United States House of Representatives for the first time in forty years.  It was introduced during the first midterm election of President Bill Clinton’s Administration, and was signed by all but two of the Republican members of the House and all of the Party’s non-incumbent Republican Congressional candidates.

Supporters of the Contract with America described it as revolutionary in its commitment to offering specific legislation for a vote, describing in detail the precise plan of the Congressional Representatives.  Its provisions represented the view of many conservative constituents on the issues of shrinking the size of government, promoting lower taxes and greater entrepreneurial activity, and both tort reform and welfare reform.  With all the promises that the Contract represented the Republican Party gained a majority of seats in the 104th United States Congress.  It was viewed as a major triumph for the Republican Party and its leaders such as Minority Whip Newt Gingrich, Tom DeLay, and for all the people who were part of America’s conservative movement.

During the first hundred days of the 104th Congress, the Republicans pledged ten bills.  Each bill was to be given a full and open debate, a clear and fair vote, and each was to be made available for public inspection. These bills were not intended as governmental reforms but represented significant changes to policy.  The main points of this program was included tax cuts for businesses and individuals, term limits for legislators, social security reform, tort reform, and welfare reform.  The Contract with America was responsible for:

  • The Fiscal Responsibility Act which would require a balanced federal budget, unless sanctioned by a three-fifths vote in both houses of Congress.
  • The Taking Back Our Streets Act which was an anti-crime package including stronger truth in sentencing, good faith exclusionary rule exemptions, death penalty provisions, funding prison construction, and additional law enforcement.
  • The Personal Responsibility Act which made cuts in spending for welfare programs by means of discouraging illegitimacy and teen pregnancy by prohibiting welfare to mothers under eighteen years of age, denying increases for additional children while on welfare, and enacting a two years and out provision with work requirements to promote individual responsibility.
  • The American Dream Restoration Act which created a five hundred dollar per child tax credit and initiated steps to repeal the marriage tax penalty and the creation of the American Dream Savings Accounts to provide middle-class tax relief.
  • The National Security Restoration Act which prevented troops from serving under United Nations command unless the President determines it is necessary for the purposes of national security, to cut America’s contribution for United Nation peacekeeping operations, and to establish guidelines for the voluntary integration of former Warsaw Pact nations into NATO.
  • The Common Sense Legal Reform Act for tort reform which instituted loser pays laws, limits on punitive damages, and the reformation of product liability laws to prevent frivolous litigation.
  • The Job Creation and Wage Enhancement Act which was a misnomer for a package of measures to act as small business incentives such as capital gains cuts and risk assessment and cost-benefit analysis and an unfunded mandate to create jobs and raise worker wages.
  • The Citizen Legislature Act was a not very seriously supported amendment to the United States Constitution that would have imposed a twelve year term limit on members of the Congress.

The Contract with America is credited by some as having helped secure a decisive victory for the Republican Party in the 1994 midterm elections.  Some parts of the Contract were enacted by the Republican controlled majority while others were unsupported by the Congress and President Bill Clinton vetoed other parts.  It was Mr. Clinton who sarcastically referred to the Contract with America as the Contract on America.

With the presidential election of 2000, the country gave the Republican Party a perfect political trifecta where the conservative right controlled both houses of the legislative branch as well as the executive branch and control of the judicial branch as well.  A Democratic President was replaced with a Republican President.  And whatever Republican President George Bush wanted the conservative Republican legislature was more than happy to provide.

The people of the United States haven’t enjoyed a balanced budget since Mr. Bush took office.  Mr. Bush inherited a budget surplus and managed to create one of the largest budget deficits in his first year in office.  The national debt has doubled to ten trillion dollars.  So much for that Fiscal Responsibility Act.  And the Personal Responsibility Act is little more than a farce as companies like Halliburton and Blackwater enjoy corporate welfare in the form of no bid multibillion dollar contracts without having to produce much in the way of results.

And all the tax cuts passed since the Republican’s took over the White House haven’t produced much in the way of jobs.  Jobs have evaporated as corporate profits soared.  Oil companies have jacked the price of fuel to record levels with their profits making their own historic records.  Companies enjoying record profits are steadily cutting jobs and outsourcing their work to the very cheapest places available.  Another round of tax cuts won’t do a thing for creating jobs.  It’s socialism to do anything to provide tax relief to the public.  It’s not socialism when we provide tax relief to corporate entities.  While the public is given a five hundred dollar tax credit per child, corporate America gets millions of dollars.

The past eight years has demonstrated our leadership’s penchant to take care of the handful of us at the highest pinnacle of our economic hierarchal pyramid.  Our troops die in a foreign land protecting our freedoms and then corporate America swoops in and reaps all the economic benefits.  And with our government that heavily favors corporate America, while many corporations are more profitable than ever, more people are struggling to make ends meet.  The tenets of socialism that spreads the wealth have been resoundingly reversed.  It got so bad that many of us couldn’t even afford gas to go to work.

But to counter the fact that we were getting economically screwed, our leadership got us focused on family values.  In order to distract us from the fact that some corporate entities are more profitable than ever, the American people were given personal issues like abortion and the protection of marriage from the evil homosexuals with their dangerous beliefs that they could express their commitment to their partners the same way heterosexuals could.  We have to defend marriage even though we do nothing to protect marriage from people who cheat on their spouse or get divorced.  The sanctity of marriage must be protected.  And while we are discriminating against homosexuals, the middle class is steadily dwindling.  And then we weren’t being patriotic to question our leadership.  It is unpatriotic to criticize our government leaders when we are involved in a misguided global conflict.  But it’s okay for corporate entities to pillage the national treasure and profit handsomely at the expense of the public through global conflict.

Mr. Clinton was very prophetic when he called the Contract with America the Contract on America.  And many people have awakened out of their political sheep slumber to implement change.  America started to initiate change in the 2006 midterm elections.  America took away the Republican majorities in both houses of the legislative branch.  Instead of seeing the signs that people wanted change it was business as usual.  The chickens of global unilateralism came home to roost.  The focus to make corporate America profitable has bankrupted middle America.  Corporate America was fat and happy as Middle America continued to lose jobs and faced entire communities of foreclosures homes and a credit crisis.  Obviously the message didn’t get through the first time.  More political change was necessary.

The 2008 presidential election was proof positive of what the people think of our contract with the Republican Party.  Since 1994 they had a chance to do what they said they would to help us all.  But I don’t feel like we have been helped at all.  I feel more like we have been gang raped and bitched slapped.  You damn skippy I’m voting for a reverse course.  Even the people who voted for this contract nonsense have reconsidered.  And the verdict is that this contract should be terminated effective immediately.  Our experiment with this thinly veiled American brand fascism just doesn’t work

Thursday, November 6, 2008 Posted by | Barack Obama, Capitalism, Democrats, Economy, John McCain, Life, News, Oil, Politics, Republicans, The Economy, Thoughts, Unemployment, Universal Healthcare | 2 Comments

Drill Baby Drill

I was listening to a now forgotten political pundit describing the Republican National Convention.  Of particular note was when the crowd started chanting the refrain drill baby drill in response to the GOPAC Chairman Michael Steele’s speech.  The political pundit said that the current price of energy has spawned serious pushes towards alternative fuels.  There’s more talk about developing wind and solar energy.  There’s talk about developing more all electric cars.  All of this talk is being fueled by the high cost of oil that makes alternative fuels that much more attractive.

The political pundit compared the mindset of the drill baby drill crowd, with its focus on keeping the drill for more oil anywhere we can find it status quo, to the mindset of anyone who resist change.  The total focus on more drilling while we are on the cusp of new energy technologies was compared to people who would embrace the old technology of IBM Selectric typewriters when the Pentium personal computers were in the early stages of development.  We could develop computers to replace typewriters and try to make the business environment more efficient.  But why would we develop such technology when we already have the proven technology of typewriters?  Type baby type!

Currently, Americans consume something like twenty millions barrels of oil per day.  According to the Energy Information Administration, a subdivision of the Department of Energy that produces official energy related statistics, and the National Petroleum Council, it is believed that about sixty billion barrels of undiscovered but recoverable oil reserves exist off the outer continental shelf.  Of this sixty billion barrels, nearly a third of it is in areas where drilling has been banned, leaving more than forty billion barrels of oil in areas that are currently open to leasing and development.  The problem with these oil reserves is that it might not be economically feasible to recover the oil with the current standards of oil drilling technology.

However, by lifting the current ban on drilling, it would be expected that by 2025 oil resources from these parts of the outer continental shelf could increase United States crude oil production by more than one million barrels per day.  But production would not start in any measure before 2017.  In an article published by Kyriacos Zygourakis in EV World that quotes David Kirsch, an oil analyst at PFC Energy, if the most promising areas off of the Florida and California coastlines were opened for drilling, their peak output could be as little as a quarter million barrels per day.  These production numbers would hardly make a dent in our consumption numbers.  The net result would literally be pennies on the gallon.

Add the fact that refineries are already operating at near capacity, and the infrastructure to deliver oil would need considerable investment as well, the idea that we can simply drill our way back to cheaper oil prices is a fallacy.  And the more we use exorbitant, but nevertheless limited, funds to fuel our oil addiction the fewer funds we will have for the development of alternative energy resources.

Drill baby drill is a mantra of people with severely limited vision for the future.  It is a chorus from people who resist change and the development of most things new.  Drill baby drill is coded language for keeping the status quo exactly the way it is.  These people do not want the uncertainty of a reality but the comfort of having a secured belief in what’s around the corner, even though the reality of what is around the corner is very, very different.

No matter how much or how many facts these people hear about what is happening and how the world is changing, no matter how much science and education is devoted to the study of issues, there is an adherence to the familiar.  Science can be refuted.  All you have to do is find a scientist who is all too willing to sell his or her shingle to the highest bidder and suddenly you have the makings of a scientific debate and can claim that the science in inconclusive.  Deceive baby deceive!

This is the stereotypical mindset of the Pacific Islanders we associate with B class movies and programs who would grab the white woman who visits their island along with the professor.  The islanders would worship Gork the volcano god.  The professor would try to tell the islanders the science about volcanoes and lava and magma.  But the islanders would hear nothing of this modern world witchcraft and would stick with their single minded, superstitious focus to please the volcano god with the greatest sacrifice they can find, the white woman.  Once the white woman is thrown into the volcano Gork will stop his rumbling and the island would be spared his wrath.  No offense to the white woman or the professor, but Gork baby Gork!

It is nothing but smoke and mirrors to think that all the drilling in the world is going to pull gasoline prices back down to a point where Dodge Vipers and Lincoln Navigators will become attractive again to the commoners.  Such excesses are a thing of the past.  The future belongs in the hands of those who are more likely to kick old habits to the curb and embrace new ideas.  Without such forward thinking the majority of us would probably be stuck on the myth that the world is flat and there are a couple of big garage door on either size of the horizon that swallows the sun at night and releases it in the morning.  The idea of such ignorant thinking in the twenty first century is ludicrous at best.  And yet, so many of us believe that all we have to do is drill our way out of our current situation.  Stuck baby stuck.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008 Posted by | Alaska, ANWR, John McCain, Life, Michaele Steele, Nuclear Energy, Oil, Petroleum, Republicans | 2 Comments

Gas Prices Are Dropping

Labor Day is just a handful of weeks away. Earlier this year, when gas was predicted to go to four dollars a gallon by Memorial Day, I made the prediction that it would easily hit four and a half by Labor Day. Predicting the future has never been my strong suit. Just yesterday I saw the price of a gallon of gas less than three dollars and forty cents. And I wonder how I could’ve been so wrong.

In the past, the price of oil would go up if there was even the slightest, unsubstantiated threat of an altercation involving an oil producing nation. I remember the price of a gallon of gas increasing a dime because there was talk of pirates harassing an oil freighter off the coast of Africa. However, in the past week or two, Russia attacked Georgia and has damaged a significantly pipeline controlled by British Petroleum. The pipeline was shut down which should have been a significant impact to an already tight oil market. And yet, the price of oil continued to plummet.

The threat of a storm in the Gulf of Mexico could send gas up significantly. Last year, a hurricane in the gulf could raise the price of gasoline at least a nickel overnight. In the past couple of weeks there have been significant storms in the gulf. Cristobal and Dolly formed in the gulf in the past month and the price of gasoline has continued to plummet.

The price of gasoline has fallen almost seventy cents in the past few weeks despite what has happened in the past few weeks. And on my way to work tomorrow, when I look at the price of gasoline as I past the station, I would not be surprised to see that it has fallen even further.

There are a number of factors that go into the price of a gallon of gasoline or the price of a barrel of oil. It is more than just the how many storms in the gulf or how many pipelines are stopped in countries at war. Even though there is a long history of these types of events impacting the price of energy commodities by sending them into the stratosphere, the bottom line is how much somebody is willing to turn the thumb screws and make astounding sums of money off of the pain of others.

The public has responded to higher energy prices by driving less, buying more fuel efficient cars, cutting back on unnecessary expenses, and paying more attention to the energy policy of the country. It has become a political issue for us to determine who is the best candidate to lead us into the future. A lot of people who claim to have our natural environment as a top priority are ready to throw that bitch to the curb when given the choice between nature and oil.

We have a choice on offshore drilling. We can better guarantee ourselves pristine beaches or we can risk a spill that can tarnish the environment for years to come. All that talk about accidents on rigs being a thing of the past is the same talk we heard when we decided to open Alaska up to oil drilling. It was virtually impossible for an oil related accident causing significant damage to Alaska’s environment. But one drunken tanker captain later and the previously unknown tanker Exxon Valdez became a household phrase. And contrary to propaganda that shows men in hazmat suits scrubbing rocks with a toothbrush and giving oil soaked birds bubble baths, Alaska has yet to recover from the damage to Prince William Sound.

If we are ready to sacrifice our coastlines to drilling why not put a nuclear reactor in everybody’s backyard. If we can take a chance on an oil spill we might as well be willing to take a chance on a Three Mile Island meltdown.

The fact that oil refineries are already operating at maximum capacity and have to be expanded or more refineries need to be built as well falls on deaf ears. The fact that it would be at least ten years before anyone would see a drop of oil is totally ignored. And whenever all that extra oil starts coming out of those offshore rigs, every drop will go on the global market and go up for bid just like every drop does so now. The only thing offshore drilling will do is make more money for the oil companies that are already making money hand over fist. I guess with all that extra dough they have available at the moment they can afford to buy all the propaganda they need to make this thing a national issue. And in typical American fashion we fall for what sounds like the easiest and most immediate solution without getting all the facts. We will simply believe what the most propaganda tells us.

The high price of oil and gasoline has actually gotten most of us thinking about conservation and saving energy and saving money. That’s a good thing. But the same conditions that have driven us to conserve and to curb our wasteful ways have also made us so irrational that we think that all we have to do is sacrifice our coast to the oil company gods and we’ll save another ten cents per gallon at the pump. In the meantime, somebody in some room somewhere will continue pulling the real strings on how much we’re going to pay for oil and gas.

With gas prices falling we will eventually forget about four dollar gasoline. We’ll think we’re getting a relative bargain when gas gets back to three and a quarter. We’ll go back to excessive energy usage and leave the alternative energy programs for the future. Just like our future tax burden where we continue our deficit spending today so our children can pay for tomorrow, we will extract every drop of oil out of the ground now so our children can figure out energy alternatives. We have a lot of faith in our children.

Energy prices are a funny thing. We don’t know why they go up and we don’t know why they go down. All we know is that we will pay whatever we are told to pay. We really don’t have much of a choice. Unless we make the choice to continue to conserve no matter how low the price goes we will continue to always fall victim to somebody somewhere pulling the strings on gas prices and making astounding profits. But then again, I could be wrong.

Monday, August 18, 2008 Posted by | Alaska, ANWR, Capitalism, Cars, Economy, Life, Oil, Politics, The Economy, Thoughts | 11 Comments

Electric Cars Are Nothing New

This morning CNN was reporting on a guy with a collection of six electric cars. One of them was a ten year old Toyota RAV4 with plug in technology. He bought off of eBay for something like four thousand dollars a few years ago. The reporter, I think it was Miles O’Brien, asked how much his car would cost now that a gallon of gasoline is running on the north side of four dollars. The man replied that he saw a similar vehicle going for seventy thousand dollars. The ten year old RAV4 had a range of one hundred twenty miles with an overnight charge. For most people, that would be more than enough for their daily cruise back and forth to work. And that was with technology from ten years ago. And the car is still running! It is a Toyota after all.

The CNN article recounted General Motor’s attempt at an electric vehicle, the EV1. When the vehicle was introduced, it was test program of something like a thousand vehicles leased to various people, mostly in California. After the leases were up, the General mandated that the cars be returned. All the electric cars were rounded up and destroyed except for handful that stays in the General’s hands. The last leased car was returned in August 2003. GM claimed it couldn’t turn a profit on the EV1 and decided to ditch the program and focus on more profitable ventures like its Hummer production.

I bet GM wished it was selling an EV1 now. Today, the company couldn’t give a Hummer sport utility vehicle away. Want to buy a Hummer? You could probably buy the whole division for the price of what it used to sell one of their H2 models for. With Toyota enjoying a year long waiting list for people trying to buy its hybrid Prius, there is little doubt that the discontinued EV1 would have been a huge money maker if GM executives had the forethought to think ahead. Unfortunately, it is the lack of forethought that has led to a situation where GM is about to lose its world’s largest automobile manufacturer status to, no surprise, a company like Toyota. Toyota conglomerate has a market value of over one hundred forty billion dollars today while GM, still tenuously number one, has a market value as about five billion dollars. Somebody like Bill Gates could buy the whole company by writing a check. The once mighty have truly fallen.

John McCain suggested that as President, he would like to create a three hundred million dollar prize for the first person or company or organization that can create the next generation battery technology for the next generation of electric cars. That might sound good. But ten years ago, GM and Toyota had electric car technology that appears to have been doing just fine without the next generation battery or a three hundred million dollar prize. The technology appears to be here. Historically, we simply made the choice to minimize it or ignore it. Most people think that buying an electric car is too expensive and too geeky when we can buy cooler vehicles like Hummers that get single digit miles per gallon.

But that’s not the most surprising part. There is a car company that is actually working on a car that runs on air. I’m about as far as one can get from being a mechanic. Although I’ve managed to muddle through it, I don’t even trust myself to change the oil on my car properly. I’m more than happy to pay someone else to do it. However, the concept is pretty simple. In the normal automobile with a combustion engine, fuel is used to make an explosion that drives the piston down that turns a crankshaft. Instead of creating an explosion, the air car uses compressed air to push the piston down.

I originally thought the idea sounded pretty farfetched until I stopped and thought about how some of the most powerful machinery in use can be driven with pneumatics. And it would be an absolute zero emissions vehicle. The engine would need a fraction of the parts the typical combustion engine needs. And without the generation of heat as a byproduct the engine could be made out of lighter, cheaper materials regardless of any thermal dynamic properties. The company believes it can bring this vehicle to market for fifty million dollars. Fifty million is a fraction of the three hundred million that John McCain wants to give for the development of another expensive car battery.

The biggest problem with bringing the air car to market is probably the same problem that made the electric car financially unfeasible. The car would do much to free its owner from the perpetual teat of corporate America. I believe the reason the electric car didn’t come to market was because it was a clear and present danger to the profitability of the petroleum companies. All those people plugging their cars into the wall at night would have rendered oil unprofitable and reasonably priced oil is the foundation of the American economy. The compressed air car would be an even greater danger. I would imagine that this vehicle wouldn’t even need to be plugged in at night. All it would need is to pull up to an industrial strength compressor for a quick shot of compressed air. The drain on our power grid would be minimal.

It’s been said that America has an addiction for the type of power that runs our cars, houses, and workplaces. But even America’s addiction for power falls short of America’s true addiction which is money. The air car would make a lot of industries unprofitable. People and companies with a lot of investment in the delivery of power, whether it be petroleum, natural gas, coal, electricity, or even hydropower, want their addiction for money satisfied and their investment in infrastructure rewarded for as long as possible and for as lucratively as possible through the protection of their business. These investors wouldn’t hesitate to pay protection money to the government or anyone else to keep others from infringing on their profitable operation. Money is the true power source.

Thursday, July 31, 2008 Posted by | Capitalism, Cars, Economy, Life, Oil, The Economy, Thoughts | Leave a comment

Feeding Our Oil Addiction

I just heard a news article about the South Africa energy producer SASOL. SASOL can produce gasoline from coal. This company has a huge, ten square mile facility devoted to nothing but the production of various forms of energy. The gasoline produced through the mining and refining of coal burns cleaner than gasoline produced through the refining of petroleum. Only problem is that refining coal produces upwards of twice the polluting emissions of refining petroleum. Yet, there are people who feel that America should adopt the SASOL technology for implementation here in the States, any contributing factors to global warming and carbon emissions be damned.

There is also talk about opening up our coastline to offshore drilling to take advantage of the massive amounts of oil reserves available there. There is talk about opening up more land that is currently restricted from drilling to the oil companies even though these companies have only taken advantage of a tiny fraction of the land currently at their disposal. There is a suggestion to open the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve (ANWR) to help satiate our national appetite for fuel. There are a number of suggestions to help lessen the impact the price of oil is having on our American way of life.

When I lived in Texas, just about every household I knew had either an automobile with an eight cylinder engine or a sport utility vehicle that easily weighed north of two tons or a pickup truck that could pull a schoolhouse off of its foundation. I knew one guy who had an accident and totaled his four cylinder Honda Accord sedan. When he got his insurance check, he used it as a down payment for an eight cylinder Ford Expedition. What really made this move stupid was the fact that the man traveled more than one hundred miles roundtrip to work. He lived in Houston and drove down to Lake Jackson, Texas on a daily basis. His Honda got about twenty seven miles per gallon on the highway. The Expedition would do well to get fourteen (the guy had a heavy right foot). His poor choices doubled his fuel bill. The truck nearly ran the guy into the poor house. And that was pre Bush when gas was relatively cheap at a dollar and a quarter.

For a long time I’ve had the belief that we waste energy here in America. We needed an increase in the price to make people think long and hard about their fuel expending choices. When the price of gas began to climb shortly after George Bush took office people should have seen the writing going on the wall. I knew two guys who parked their Dodge Rams and one of them was a super cab. One guy got a Honda Shadow and the other guy bought a scooter. Other than these two, most people went bigger and bigger.

The price of gas has impacted my pocket just like everyone else’s. I went from spending about four and a half cents per mile to drive my little blue Honda wagon about five years ago to now spending about twenty five cents a mile to drive our newer Chrysler Town & Country minivan. Going from bachelorhood to an expanding family will do that to you. I was ridiculed for not buying a little sport utility vehicle and spending even more money to move an even more inefficient vehicle. But thankfully, I am confident enough in my manhood to let any soccer mom reference roll off my back like gasoline rolling through a 7.2L V8 motor. I have to confess that it is good to see so many people regretting their poor transportation choices and doing their best to curb their fuel consumption. This energy cost crisis will have a positive impact on our environment.

The two oil embargoes of the seventies did a lot to curb fuel consumption in this country. We went from those seriously big Lincolns, Buicks, and Cadillacs to the much more reasonably sized automobiles of today. Automobile fuel efficiency was increased and we made better choices. But because we forgot the lessons of the seventies, because the rest of the economy eventually caught up to the cost of a gallon of gas, because our incomes increased while the price of fuel stayed relatively steady, we went back to buying thirsty vehicles. In order to get the big, wasteful, transportation fix of yore, people bought vehicles like the Navigator and Suburban. And we bought a lot of them.

Opening the coast to offshore drilling, developing refineries that convert coal into gasoline, allowing oil companies to drill anywhere they damn well please will do little to make a dent in the price of fuel right now. The theory is that the more fuel we produce for ourselves we can cutoff the greedy oil producing countries that refuse to flood the market with more oil, creating a glut that would drive down the price of gas and make Hummers attractive again. The only thing that all the oil companies would do is take the new oil supply and put it on the global market so that the American people will have to compete with the rest of the world to purchase it. Oil from Alaska already makes the trek to Asia. Why? Global demand means oil companies can make more when people pay more. And a company that makes twelve billion dollars in a quarter is looking to break that record.

If we can get the price of gas back down to three dollars a gallon a lot of people will be thankful. At three dollars a gallon we’re bound to think happy days are here again and go back to big sport utility vehicles and thirsty cars with big motors that waste a lot of gas. Detroit can go back to making more profitable cars and trucks again. And we can pretend that we will live happily ever after. Or at least until we make the mistake of repeating the mistakes we’ve already made when it comes to our collective attitude towards oil consumption.

Monday, July 28, 2008 Posted by | ANWR, Cars, Economy, Life, Oil, Politics, The Economy, Thoughts | 5 Comments

Speculators

A lot of people believe speculation is driving the price of oil to exorbitant amounts. With the housing bubble popping like a birthday balloon after speculators wreaked havoc and inflated home prices exorbitantly and the credit marking shrinking like a cashmere sweater washed and dried on the hottest setting in the Maytag, many speculators in control of large sums of money to invest are looking for something that will maximize their returns. Hey! It’s perfectly reasonable. Oil is something that’s getting more and more precious each and every single day! With so many investments petering out why not buy oil at a reasonable price and jack it up in the future’s market for all people think its worth?

For all of us who never thought about it, financial speculation is a fundamental part of capitalism. Buy low and sell high. The vast majority of people in America are looking for each and every advantage over their neighbor. Most people believe that it is their god given right to make a dollar by screwing everybody else on the planet. Didn’t Mahatma Gandhi become the icon of India because somebody in Britain wanted to make money for the government by taxing India’s salt, a staple for the vast majority of people and a rather plentiful commodity? Somebody was actually thinking, screw’em, if they want salt they gotta pay!

In a free market, people will look for any advantage to gain wealth as quickly as possible, as exclusively as possible. Everybody is looking for some kind of handout. Billionaires in mansions big enough to have their own zip codes will stay up at night doing their best to figure out ways to develop business ventures that would take a homeless man’s last nickel. Don’t look now but somebody is out there trying to figure out a way to pass a cardboard box tax. Get ready to pay up homeless man! It is saddening to see that the chief motivating factor of human nature these days is insatiable personal greed.

Somebody has figured out that investing in oil is permission to virtually print money. The funny part is that many of these people who are speculating in oil are using our own money as a weapon against us. Many of the investment funds that hold our 401k savings, Individual Retirement Accounts, money markets and other financial instruments that are above my understanding are taking our individual pools of money, lumping them into a giant tsunami of wealth to speculate in the oil futures, and are now drowning us in four dollar plus oil when just two years ago we were paying less than two bucks.

Speculators who invest other people’s hard earned money are ruthless. They insist that companies screw people for every cent their worth. Case in sad point, when Exxon/Mobile only made twelve billion dollars the quarter after it made eleven billion dollars, its investment rating was downgraded a bit because investors were expecting fifteen billion dollars. Investors are fueling Exxon/Mobile and the other petrochemical giants to make as much money as they can at the expense of the public’s welfare. Investors are speculating that they can inspire the oil companies to make as much money as possible if they want to keep growing their already considerable stock prices. More, more, more!

Speculation has driven up the cost of healthcare. Healthcare is one of the most precious commodities these days. Healthcare is almost more valuable than oil. Most countries have instituted a universal healthcare system that has eliminated the chance that insurance companies can make considerable profits on denying people adequate medical care. But here in America there are so many people willing to defend insurance companies’ right to make a dollar by denying medical care. Profits are down? Just say no! Instead of using healthcare premiums to hire doctors to provide more services to more people most companies hire lawyers to cover their legal exposure when they deny coverage. We are willing to allow people to make money at the risk of someone else’s life. Now that is nothing but the most despicable form of financial speculation at its finest.

American speculators are willing to tolerate people losing their lives and suffering immense financial losses because of the high cost of medical care. But when gas goes up to four dollars a gallon then we need to get some answers from the oil company executives and get our politicians involved so we get to the bottom of things. Even the American people have standards as to how far we’re willing to let things go. We have seen the speculators, and they are us.

As a people, we are willing to let speculators run amok and do whatever. For years we have allowed greed to turn other people’s lives upside down and even snuff them out without the slightest peep of dissent. Many of us are willing to let speculators turn our worlds upside down because if the situation was reversed we probably would not hesitate to take every advantage to make money at the expense of even our poorest neighbors. God bless capitalism!

Friday, June 27, 2008 Posted by | Economy, Life, Oil, The Economy, Thoughts, Universal Healthcare | 4 Comments