Pickens Plan Presentation Before Senate Committee

On 22 July 2008 Boone Pickens presented his energy plan before the Senate Homeland Security Committee chaired by Senator Joe Lieberman (I) of Connecticut. The hearing was requested by Senator Susan Collins (R) of Maine and telecast on C-Span with a rebroadcast late night 22 July or early morning on 23 July.

I caught the rebroadcast early Wednesday morning missing the first part of Mr. Pickens presentation but heard about 20 or 30 minutes of it. To me, the essence of Mr Pickens’ initiative is to convert the mass of U.S. transportation from gasoline to natural gas, especially heavy transportation, and the development of wind power throughout the heartland, from Texas into the Dakotas, with the potential of developing as much as 400 gigawats of electrical energy. In addition to these proposals, he had a plan for developing the infrastructure to carry the newly developed energy source. Of note, he pointed out that natural gas provides power that alcohol based fuels cannot, i.e., horsepower. His natural gas proposal seemed to me most realistically aimed at the current non-rail freight transport system in the country today … aimed at decreasing our dependency on foreign oil in the transportation sector, primarily commercial, by 38%. When asked, he estimated that the cost for developing this wind power would be about $500 billion with an additional $100 billion for infrastructure. He pointed out that this was still less than the current estimate ($700 billion) of the cost of oil imports for one year at the current price of crude oil. Mr. Pickens pointed out that known natural gas reserves within the United States have doubled in the last 10 years.

The second speaker was Gal Luft of the Institute for Analysis of Global Security. He pointed out that 2008 would be the first year that the United States will pay to foreign countries more than we pay our military to protect us. He challenged Mr. Pickens plan which is based partially on natural gas, stating that the United States is currently a minor producer of natural gas with only (?) 4% of the known natural gas reserves in the world. He stated that several natural gas producing nations with most of the known reserves are currently forming a natural gas cartel and that the United States would only be substituting an oil based problem for a natural gas based one. I don’t know if he’s taken into account the increase in known natural gas reserves that Mr. Pickens alluded to. Mr. Luft also pointed out that OPEC is essentially producing the same amount of oil that it was producing 35 years ago, that the 65% increase in oil production in the past 35 years has been accomplished by non-OPEC nations. He stated that OPEC has historically decreased its production as the United States has increased its production.

Mr. Luft’s proposed solution was the implementation of flex-fuel cars, able to use gasoline, ethanol and methanol (GEM). He further stated that the cost of adding the flex-fuel capacity to American autos would be about $100. Apparently, there is currently a bill before Congress that would make the flex-fuel requirement law with 50% of autos sold in the U. S. being required to have the flex-fuel capacity and 80% by 2015. He stressed that this was part of an “open fuel standard” which would allow market forces to lower and dictate the cost of fuel through competitive pricing.

The third speaker was Geoffrey Anderson of Smart Growth America. His presentation was on the future development of “walkable communities” as opposed to “drive only communities”. Basically, what he was referring to was the fact that the past century’s residential development had been geared to the development and widespread use of the automible as the primary means of transportation … to the point that most residential developments were based on the necessity of the automobile to reach required services. One fact he presented was that currently only 11% of school children walked to school as compared to 50% in 1960. He discussed a “walkable community which had been developed in Atlanta, GA. It was anticipated that the residents in that community would only drive an average of 27 miles per day compared to the typical (?) 34 miles per day that the average Atlantan drove. They found that the average resident of that community actually drove only 9 miles per day, 1/3 of their estimate. A “walkable community is one where nearly all essential services and many nonessential services are within walking distance of the resident’s home. He envisioned “walkable communities” interconnected by convenient forms of mass transportation.

The last speaker was Dr. Habib Dagher, the director of the Advanced Structure and Composites Laboratory at the University of Maine. He spoke on the development of offshore wind power and stressed the acute need for that development by the residents of Maine because of the dramatically increasing cost of fuel oil which has been paralleling the cost of crude oil. He stated that the average cost of fuel oil for the average Maine household was projected to be about $5,000 this coming winter accounting for about 25% of that household’s annual budget. He presented a map that showed three primary areas where offshore wind power could be developed … off the northern Atlantic coast, in the Great Lakes region and off most of the Pacific coast. He addressed some considerations regarding wind variability and power storage. He did admit that it would probably take five to seven years to actually begin deployment of this power source. The potential energy production for each of these regions ranged from 150 to 400 gigawatts, similar to as well as complimentary to Mr. Pickens proposal, but, as he pointed out, closer to population densities with less infrastructure requirements. He did state that all of their proposed wind generators would be located greater than 20 miles offshore … over the horizon … out of sight, Senator Kennedy … and at greater cost. I did find it interesting that he completely avoided referring to the Cape Cod area as well as the mountains in southeastern Maine as well as those in New Hampshire Vermont and western North Carolina. But he was talking only about offshore, wasn’t he?

As both Senator Collins and Senator Lieberman pointed out, all of these proposals seemed to be complimentary.

Watching nearly all of the proceedings, I was acutely aware of the similarities ( sans wind power) of the “walkable community” proposal to the small community where I grew up in middle Georgia. There were four small towns in the county ranging in size from 500 to 3500. Practically all essential services were to be found within each community or within the county. The longest distance between the towns was about 19 miles and all were interconnected by rail as well as highway. It was actually possible to travel from one town to another by rail although, by the time I came along in the 1950’s, commuter rail was already being killed by a pro-union Democratic congress more interested in subsidizing automobile use with the development of the Interstate Highway System under the guise of national defense as well as its obvious subsidization of air travel through federal control and support of airports and air traffic control.

One thing that did strike me about the hearing was the total lack of even one Democratic senator’s presence during the nearly one and one half hours that I viewed. Another thing that stuck me was that the “Massachusetts Situation” was alluded to or tiptoed around. Nantucket Sound was specifically mentioned and, therefore, Senator Ted Kennedy’s obstruction of that project was alluded to.

Frankly, it sounds like we need to back up at least 50 years … or more like 100 years … in the transportation realm … and try again. I once read that modernization didn’t always equate to progress … or something like that.

Postscript: It’s now 4:53 am and I’m watching the beginning of the third broadcast of T. Boone Pickens’ presentation. As I suspected, there doesn’t appear to be even one Democratic senator who has shown Mr. Pickens the courtesy of listening to his presentation. And least I forget, as well as to be fair, only three Republican members were present. What a bunch of … buttheads!

Roll Call:

Present:

Joseph Lieberman (I), chairman

Susan Collins (R), co-chairman

George V. Voinovich (R), OH

Pete V. Domineci (R), NM

———-

Absent: (The Roll Call of Shame) …

Carl Levin (D), MI

Ted Stevens (R), AK

Daniel K. Akaka, (D), HI

Thomas R. Carper (D), DE

Norm Coleman (R), MN

Mark L. Pryor (D), AR

Tom Coleman (R), OK

Mary L. Landrieu (D), LA

Barack Obama (D), IL

John Warner (R), VA

Claire McCaskill (D), MO

John E. Sununu (R), NH

Jon Tester (D), MT

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Barack is Concerned about the Economy?

Senator Obama is sticking barbs into General Petraus with whom his disagrees about troop withdrawals in Iraq while defending his stance saying that General Petraus doesn’t have to deal with the $10 billion that is being taken away from the American economy by the Iraq war each month.

That’s right. Barack is worried about the $10 billion that the war in Iraq is costing the United States.

Hey … over here … back in the good ole’ U.S. …

How about the $78 billion or so that the price of crude oil has been costing the American consumer each month … which, by being an advocate for higher fuel prices, you have been favoring. How did I get $78 billion … $130 avg. per barrel of oil (well below avg. cost of oil this week) x 20 million barrels (this week’s newly announced daily U.S. consumption (down from 22 million) x 7 days x 4.3 (avg. # of weeks per month). That is nearly $940 billion a year … more that $200 billion greater than Boone Pickens’ estimate. Can the United States afford the loss of 15 or 20 trillion dollars in wealth over the next 20 plus years waiting for Obama’s … and the Democratic parties’ … plan to “possibly” reach fruition? And that’s assuming that their hypothetical will work in the first place.

And let’s get this straight … I’m doing more than my share. I’ve filled up my car once so far this month … 7.5 gallons … 170 miles. I literally have to dust my car off every time I use it. If there were some rational form of mass transportation ( like rail), I would be using it. But that’s another blog.

I agree with you totally about wind and solar … but what are we going to do in the intervening 22 years before these sources of energy meet their maximum potential … in the year 2030?

How long can we afford … your wisdom, Senator Obama? You’re looking for foreign policy experience this week “over there”? How about a little domestic reality?

Obama Refuses to Give U.S. Troops Credit for Surge Success

While admitting that the surge has improved conditions on the ground in Iraq, Senator Barack Obama repeatedly refused to give American troops any credit for the improvements.

Instead, he totally evaded that issue by playing “what if”; i.e., we don’t know what would have happened if the surge hadn’t occurred … and steadfastly sticking by his vote against the surge. While adhering to his vote against the surge he also refused to apply a quantitative estimate of the effect of American forces on the improvements in Iraq while alluding to the possible effects of the Sunnis rebeling against Al Quaeda and a “so-called” cease fire called by Al Sadir supposedly restraining his Shiah militia.

Interesting.

Barack Obama supports the troops, but he refuses to give them any credit for improvements in Iraq. That must be a tremendous morale booster … knowing that someone who may be the next president of the United States has no capacity to assess troop effectiveness in a war zone which intreprets into a total lack of support … or respect … for the efforts of each individual soldier, marine, airman or sailor in Iraq … not to mention his own inability to deal with reality beyond his self-perception perpetually fed by a frenzied horde of sychophants.

Barack Obama’s ego is so fragile that he can’t recognize others efforts if their efforts … in some way … in his imagination … threaten his self image.

Well … now Barack wants to play “what if” to justify his decisions. That sounds like it’s a few steps away from a delusional madman hunkered down in a bunker in Berlin giving orders to move imaginary divisions while the city was being bombed into rubble, decaying flesh and dust around himself.

An extreme analogy?

Not really … just an assessment of a narcissistic personality and where it can go in extremes.

Now, don’t forget … this isn’t a person who wants to get the nation out of wars. He wants to get the nation out of a war that HE opposed. But … he wants to increase American presence in Afganistan … which he perceives as HIS war and wants to take it into Pakistan according to HIS assessment … but he disagrees with current military leaders who have been successful in extremely challenging situations. These military leaders are very different from Wesley Clark or “Tony” McPeak.  Remember, Wesley Clark commanded a “nonengagement” and McPeak had the responsibility of stripping the Air Force from 200 wings to 90 wings. Obama sees the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan as a failed Bush policy rather than the failure of NATO and the European community to uphold their commitment.

Don’t get me wrong about Afghanistan. I am totally for cleaning up the mess there … the fairly stable situation that we left for the Europeans and NATO to manage and the one which they’ve totally screwed up.

It will be interesting to see how he will now approach the European community. Will he be kissing European derrieres or chiding them for back stabbing the United States by failing to do their job in Afghanistan? That will be one defining difference between a politician and world leader.

Recent Terminex Ad: “Roaches Won’t Survive End of World”

I would think that anyone who’s traveled outside their home county and watched ads on a local television during their travels might have noticed that the ads are geared to the local or regional population. In other words, the ads in Richmond, Washington are different from the ads in Los Angeles, California which are different from the ads in Charleston, South Carolina.

They’re targeted toward the ad’s chosen demographic population. In western Washington state you would think the population is made up of only white cowboys, in Los Angeles only Hispanics and in Charleston only blacks since these are the predominent actors in the local commercials in each area. You would think no other ethnicity or individuals with a different social backgrounds lived in the areas. Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but what the heck. It’s a definitely noticeable trend.

Now, how many people have seen the recent Terminex ad about roaches? They claim that, because of their specific brand of bug killers, even roaches won’t survive the end of the world … complete with a view of some nuclear bombed out city. Hey … Terminex … this is pretty depressing stuff … not even cockroaches??

With all of the recent bans on pesticides, there are few that are available outside the various incarnations of pyrithrins. Now who has shared my experience that you actually have to use about a half can of Raid to literally drown that old durable cockroach?

This could be specifically a Charleston problem. With much of the downtown area developed on landfills, there have been ample breeding grounds for roaches for a long time. And, if you happen to have the time, just take a look at what comes stampeding out of the local storm sewerage system when there’s a torrential downpour.

Don’t get me wrong. Charleston is a beautiful and historic city with much of the charm of the Old South still present within its city limits. But, like any near Eutopia, it does have its distractions … alligators, various poisonous snakes, wharf rats the size of the Taco Bell dog, sand gnats, cockroaches and the official state insect … the Palmetto Bug … a smaller version of the infamous cockroach.

Cockroaches and their smaller cousin, the Palmetto Bug, have been adapting and mutating to handle and survive any and everything the pest extermination community has developed to throw at them for a long time and will most assuredly continue to do so.

So …

Terminex, I know you thought your ad was humorous in some sort of perverse way but, besides being grossly inaccurate, it’s not even funny. And quite frankly, who gives a wharf rat’s extremely long hairless tail what does or doesn’t survive after the human race is gone?

New York Times Slaps Down McCain Op Ed

Wow!!

Somehow, I thought this was the United States … and New York City was part of it … and the New York Times supported democracy … and free speech. Apparently like a two-bit, tin-horn dictator, the New York Times only supports freedom of speech when it adheres to their political agenda. I would be the first to vote for the New York Times to receive the Hugo Chavez/Fidel Castro Award for Journalistic Freedom.

Since John McCain won’t declare a timetable for withdrawal of troops from Iraq, the Times won’t publish his op ed. Since John McCain has steadfastly been opposed to a declared timetable, doesn’t this, in essence, amount to journalistic blackmail and political censorship?

Since the staff of the New York Times is an ardent supporter of Barack Obama, is this an indication of the direction that Obama’s policies on freedom of speech and political dissidence will take? I suppose the disturbing thing about this is that I’ve been listening to Democratic pundits defending the New York Times editorial position all day. I doubt that Obama himself will have anything to say about it since his usual tactic is to allow his cronies to deal with his dirty work while maintaining “plausible deniability”. Yet, that’s probably the smart thing to do, since it usually takes his campaign advisors at least four days to figure out an appropriate response and Obama rarely shows the capacity to think on his feet. Smart, intellectually adroit lawyers can actually practice their profession in the courtroom. The rest teach, work for the broadcast media where their opinions are scripted, or practice in other areas, like politics, where the demands on their mental capacity isn’t acutely challenged. Is that why Obama returned to South Chicago after graduating from Harvard Law School … to hide in the womb of like minded people who wouldn’t challenge him?

More on Barack Obama and “What’s My Line?”

I did a post on this previously but only those old enough to remember the show would understand the post. Let me explain the show for those either too young to have seen it or those who don’t remember it.

A moderator introduces a mystery guest and explains his occupation or specific talent. For Barack it would be, “I am Senator Barack Obama from Illinois and I am running for president of the United States.

The moderator would tell a little about the mystery contestant and three persons would each claim to be Barack Obama … making the statement above.

A panel of three or four celebrities would ask the three contestants questions then, at the end, try to guess who was the real person … not the two impostors.

In Barack’s game, he would alternately sit in all three chairs.

In chair #1, he would be Barack the liberal who maintained a far left position during the Democratic primary season that was unassailable by Hillary Clinton.

In chair #2, he would be the current Barack Obama, the general primary candidate who is giving John McCain a run for his money as the most centrist candidate in the history of the country.

In chair #3 would be Barack the Unknown, the Barack that no one really knows and is afraid to ask about. Except on this show, the panelists get to ask him questions. His answers will be, “I can’t tell you.”. I won’t tell you.” , “It’s a secret.” or “Wait until after the election is over.”

I don’t know why #3 is being so evasive because it perfectly all right for the impostors to lie. I think even the real person could lie. Barack should feel completely comfortable with this.

Anyway, that’s the game set up. Barack plays musical chairs catering to differing interests but universally his own and continues to hide the true nature of himself. Or does he?

Pension Funds Speculating in the Oil Market

This afternoon I heard Fox News analyst, John Gibson, do an op ed on pension funds being involved in oil futures speculation. He was right on the money … as he frequently is.

I also recall reading a short piece a week or so ago that Senator Joe Lieberman tried to introduce legislation restricting the ability of pension funds to invest in this speculative market but, apparently, he was severely beaten up by the proponents of this activity and backed off … unfortunately.

I also recall a state referendum on a South Carolina ballot several years ago dropping restrictions on the state pension funds allowing their managers to invest in foreign markets to “increase their yields”. Okay, I live in South Carolina. I was one of the minority that voted against this bill.

Members of pension funds are being told that the returns of the pension funds can be increased by moving the funds’ capital out of the American market into foreign markets as well as into commodities markets. Somehow, they aren’t also getting the message that, along with the potential for greater yields, there are also greater risks for loss.

The basis for the previous conservative investment practices in pension funds was the overiding principle of, at a minimum, exposing the principal to minimum risk with sustained gain, generally in blue chips stocks paying dividends or solid companies with realistic growth potential. No one has a crystal ball but a good financial analyst can realistically minimize the risk to the capital he’s responsible for.

Why the average person would decide to put his or her hard earned retirement funds at risk is beyond me … other than they’ve been sold a bill of goods by a fast talking person in a suit who probably otherwise wouldn’t be trusted if he were met on a used car lot. It’s the fundamental pitfall encountered by gullible people when approached by con men … an appeal to their sense of greed.

My suspicion is that, in spite of any increased yields that might be realised by riskier and more speculative activities, the basic retirement payout rates probably remain unchanged, being adjusted only by cost of living increases and based on initial pay in … probably capped to otherwise maintain the “integrity” of fund.

So, who actually benefits from investing in foreign markets or in the commodities markets?

The fund managers. Who else? They get a percentage of the returns. The more the fund makes, the more they make. But, I doubt if they pay any penalties if the fund actually looses money. It’s not their money that’s being put at risk.

Pension funds have, at least, billions of dollars. A lot of this money was pulled out of the market last fall with the collapse of the housing market and the subsequent financial crisis that ensued. With billions of dollars literally sitting on the sidelines not making any money, the pension fund managers have gone to practically the only game in town … oil speculation.

I recently heard a very seasoned financial analyst say that the current market is one that even professional investors can’t understand and need to stay out of. That’s a cue for the rest of us.

Pension fund managers, by investing in the oil commodities market, are betting on the price of oil staying high and going higher. Even if that approach does earn you another ten or twenty dollars a month in five, ten or twenty years from now, how much is it costing you today?

Of course, that assumes that, for some unpredictable reason, the price of oil doesn’t all of a sudden go down forty or sixty dollars and your retirement is wiped out. How much will that “oops” cost a lot of people looking forward to a “secure” retirement?