Sunday, March 25, 2012

This is not March!

Well, I entered a piece to another publication, so here is another one. This actually is my monthly item for the Community Spirit. It is called I'd Rather Be Wright II. My father had Number I. It is in a lighter vein.
                                                         Seriously, the Weather

To tell the truth, I wasn’t done with winter. This time of year is usually still useful for staying inside and getting house stuff done, or maybe just suffering a bit more so as to lay the ground work for being able to appreciate the warm weather. How can we know warmth if we have not experienced cold? It is just not right and I’m not the only one saying it.

It would seem we have been handed a raw deal. First off, it didn’t snow, meaning the aesthetics of winter, the Currier and Ives idealized fantasy scenarios that are so real here, smacks us like we have no artistic needs. Who wants to have the dynamic, exciting experience of ice fishing if there are only a few brief moments of ice. Sadly, due to inattentiveness and an increasing disposition of sloth, I was not able to muster the impetus to sally forth onto the ice even once because it was here and then it was gone, or as they say, “There it was, gone!”  It was a loser winter and whomever was to blame should be dunced up, put in the corner and told never to do that again.

Today, a day of some 80 degrees, the tragedy of it all started to sink in, and these are just “local” tragedies.  While lounging comfortably, face to the sun, there in my summertime yard throne, afternoon beverage appropriately placed in my relaxed hand, I was taken by two mosquitoes. What? It’s mid-March, sucker. Looking down up on my compromised hand, there thoroughly imbedded deep into my vein was a very healthy venomous insect taking liberties with my person. I was appalled and the violence of  strike almost severed my hand. While my only military service consisted of my time in a British Thermal Unit, the enemy was quickly dispatched. To be confronted like that in March is against the Geneva Conventions. Where is winter?

Now, it is not that I have anything against bugs but a little reprise from them is part of winter, a time to sit back and let the subzero temperatures lay waist to the lousy marauding hoards. There is pleasure in knowing the buzzing buggers are being brutally bludgeoned by a vicious frost.

Then today, I got the word from my wood-foraging brother that in one brief foray into the timber patch,  he attracted no less than twenty of the blood sucking, greedy ticks all with huge smiling faces and smug attitude from knowing that this year they are anticipating a significant rise in their GDP. 

Not only a pathologist can imagine the scene deep in the gizzards of those disease racked, sneaking, almost too-small-to-see deer ticks, the nasty little spirochetes who dish out Lymn  disease were revving up their engines as they began working overtime for the antibiotics cartels and the grim reaper. Maybe the thing to do is get them relaxed, over confident, a little to comfortable in their party and then ten days from now take it down to fifteen below. That’ll teach ‘em.

The bug thing is not the end of it. Truth is, the sap gathering, March loving, snow tromping, Maple syrup producing crowd is all a dither because the only flow came in February. Oh ya, a few of the dudes in the deep dark forest made a little but my 1.5 pint effort was an outright embarrassment making me look like a big city rube who mostly taps oaks, ash and cherry trees. Even the Maple trees dripped of sorrow and puffed out buds not knowing which way to turn. How are they going to feel if frost returns and slaps them across the face.

Speaking of a slapping, a week ago the peepers were out and tonight I received a call from a pond south of Iola where the peepers were in such choir that even over the cell phone the sound was deafening. I was informed that the minute frogs were madly in love. It appeared the  fine spring weather reminded them of southern France in mid May. They were going on long walks,( and some short walks) along the Rhone all the while whispering sweet nothings which here is more like screaming, “I want you  baby.”  They were by all accounts, coupling up in great glee. Is it possible the pond could freeze up again? Talk about a cold bucket of water at just the wrong time.  There would be some blue frogs.

Mind you, these tragedies are not only here. This nonsense is going on all across the country and it might have more than just a few bugs, a handful of frogs, and oh, and us, out of sequence. I want March back.

The XL Pipeline

I don't usually put my newspaper rants on the blog but due to a shortage of other entries, I am putting this one on. It is a guest editorial in the Stevens Point Journal.
                                                  Keystone XL Oil Pipeline

On Jan 27 The Journal ran an editorial advocating the approval of the XL pipeline. I thought I might add an additional perspective.

First off, it is important to know that the US uses almost 20 million barrels of oil a day (m/bl/d) and around 60+% of it comes from foreign sources. Canada sells all of their surplus oil to the US, about 1.8 m/bl/day. The Canadian oil (crude and sands bitumen) comes to us now via pipelines. The building of the XL pipeline will add another 700,000/bl/day . In total, in the future, the US might get 15% of its oil needs from a very friendly Canada---- it still is foreign oil.

The US domestically produces 5.6 m/bl/day. Up until recently the amount had been declining noticeably since  peaking at 10m/bl/d in 1972. Our new shale oil drilling has added an additional 600,000 bl/day. It is thought additional drilling in the shale may add another 600K-700K bl/day in a few years. These shale wells decline rapidly in 18 months, so the drilling rate has to be intense just to stay even.

While the US may have these new sources of shale oil, most of our other domestic sources (i.e. Thunderhorse) are still rapidly declining. So the increase coming from shale sources, may give us a small, brief increase, but, in the end our domestic oil supplies will continue to decline. Presently, we are getting over 10 million/bl/day from foreign sources. In other words, it is not possible to be energy independent. So to keep using this term, “energy independent” is nonsense.

The only way to be close to energy independent is to cut consumption in half, meaning using the same per capita as Europeans do.

There is more. The oil from tar sands requires huge amounts of energy in production and that energy comes largely form Canadian natural gas---and their natural gas supplies have been declining, so now they are talking about using nuclear power. The amount of energy it takes to produce the bitumen is massive and makes the energy invested to energy returns small. As a result of using huge amounts of natural gas to produce the bitumen/oil, more CO2 is emitted than in conventional oil production. 

The tar sands mining is catastrophic in every sense.. The environmental destruction is profound. This includes the outright plundering of the landscape and the trashing of the Athabascan River. The National Catholic Reporter Jan. 7th cited the following, “Bishop Luc Bouchard of Alberta’s St. Paul diocese, where the heart of Canada’s tar sands industry is located, wrote a pastoral letter in 2009, “The Integrity of Creation and the Athabasca Oil Sands,” challenging the moral legitimacy of the project. In an August 2011 interview with Catholic News Service, Bouchard questioned the morality of exploiting the oil fields because of the danger posed to indigenous people and the environment. He said he doubted that oil mining made necessary by the pursuit of profit and to satisfy a consumer lifestyle was worth the risk of enhancing climate change.”

We also have to keep in mind that refining and burning the bitumen/oil, which is very dirty fuel, significantly contributes to pollution and more and more CO2 production, the culprit of global weather change. The issue is the XL pipeline is an out-and-out facilitator of massive environmental destruction, of uncontrolled CO2 emissions, and definitely a question of morality.

Again from National Catholic Reporter:
Activist Bill McKibben, who in 1989 wrote the first popular book about global climate change, The End of Nature, reported being startled by a remark made to him by James Hansen, one of the world’s leading climate scientists. McKibben asked: “The pipeline will support and extend the extraction of exceptionally dirty crude oil from bitumen, using huge amounts of water and heat, which would then be piped to refineries and eventually consumed as fuel, releasing a vast new volume of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. What will the effect of all this be on the world’s climate?”
Hansen replied: “Essentially, it’s game over for the planet.”

In view of the fact that liquid fuels are presently showing a decline world-wide, most notable in net exports (meaning that which is available to purchase by an importer like the US) and that going after more difficult and destructive oil projects, is, in my view,  bordering on insanity, we must begin looking at use reduction. There will not be energy independence. Our own brief growth in shale oil and Canadian tar, cannot even offset or replace declining oil wells much less respond to rapid US population growth of 3 million a year. Americans must consider use reduction. It is the only option.


Monday, March 19, 2012

Bernie Sanders Says it All

Why is it that there are people that can say it all but no one ever seems to listen, or they just don't want to listen. I suppose that for Bernie and his admission that he is some sort of liberal socialist he is easily marked as a loser. Just get a name on him, get that label and then drive it home as if it were some sort of sin. It is rather like the old adage that Thoreau is the most famous writer and is quoted the most but seldom does anyone rally give a damn.

Kinda makes my head spin to hear these jack-asses spout off as they move through south trying to appeal to the most ignorant of our populous. Bomb Iran, throw out all those nasty family killing homos, take away women's rights. Jesus, we have real problems why do we have to busy ourselves with nonsense.

To think that many of them see themselves as being Christian makes me think they have never had any religious training or that I don't recall any of my teaching. They end up voting against their own better interest. Oh well, we are off to France in a bit and we will see just what they have going for themselves.

Monday, March 12, 2012

St Patricks's Day

My first exposure to St. paddy's day was in 1961 when I ventured off to the Univ. of Wisconsin to get some learning. About mid way through the first semester, I stumbled up on my 18th birthday, so that put me in position to experience the pleasure of beer. I mean real legal beer and copious amounts of it.

Not being real religious, this particular day rang true to me. When the big day to celebrate by drinking untold volumes of green beer arrived, it was indeed a religious experience. The good part was that so many individuals had been over served, it was impossible for the fat arm of the law to round up anyone except the most egregious of drunks. I found that if I were to just lay in the gutter, I would be left unconfronted---even though I did on a few occasions find it hard to rise.

Well, St paddy's day lives on now that we are back in Wisconsin but it is slightly more refined. It seems that some pious souls put together a pub crawl that involves carrying an empty casket around to various bars were homage is paid to those who did not make it through the year, went belly up, threw in the towel, or did the dirt nap. It is in some ways serious because we all loose friends and this is an opportunity to lift a brew, a parting glass if you will, to those. It has on occasion been quite sad.

We haul along our fiddles, banjos, drums, guitars and flutes and play a mighty tune and sing The Parting Glass in Gaelic. It is a wonderful thing, really. A great tradition that has been going on here for years and, like throwing down green beers years ago, I look forward to the camaraderie, the gathering of the community and friends. We lost no close friends this year. Others did.

The Maple Sap that never Ran

First off, I know I have been lax but when spring arrived in February, I was beside myself, meaning I was just standing there wondering just what hell was going on. Like most, I didn't complain but just took it standing up thinking it was sorta cool. "Isn't it pleasant out.?" "Why yes. I so much enjoy the warm weather instead of all that cold." she said in ignorant relief. 

But there were others, maybe the more astute that began asking other questions, like, "Just what the hell do you suppose this will mean to the tick population and all the God damn disease those suckers carry?" "So why the hell are the Cardinals singing so early and then a friend writes form Florida and says there is growing concern that the gulf is warming way too fast and too soon. Oh, it is about those hurricanes, and that is not a baseball team. Son of a Bitch, it may not all be so good not to have a winter. I wasn't even tired of it just yet. I have not even hardened up.

So about 3 weeks ago some enterprising yahoo started putting out there sugar bush buckets because they saw an opportunity to snag some early sap. Most of us just lifted our eyes skyward , shook our collective heads and thought it was some sort of anomaly put on us by a pissed off mother nature. We wanted no part of it. It was still Ice fishing time, or ass fishing as Ann calls it. 

What do ya know, some of those jackasses made a few gallons and were all puffed up like a  couple of toads. We, the more conservative, held back for the real thing. Then there came an opening of a few days of 20s at night and 45 in the day. The sap started but soon became indigent when it quit freezing and the daytime temp went to 55. There sits my buckets, forlorn, empty and disappointed. The buds are coming out and it is the 12th of March. Ain't right.

I just saw a map of drought prediction and the south looks real ugly. Time to start the garden, maybe cactus and Mesquite.