Archive for July, 2008

Can you be President? Take this test!

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

I want you to say “Congressional.”  Now try “strategic petroleum reserve.”  If you can say those two phrases without sounding like a retarded chimpanzee, congratulations!  You could be President.

This is all in relation to President Bush’s latest drumming on energy policy.  This rhetoric drives me crazy.  Off-shore drilling and ANWR are on the table, and Republicans are tacking on amendments to both House and Senate versions of the bill.  Politics aside, I’m going to break this down real simply.  It is all economics and timing.

Gas is expensive.  It is expensive for one single reason: there are no real substitutes with the infrastructure already in place to deliver on a massive national scale.  You have to drive to work, with the exception of public transit (if it is available and affordable and timely in your neighborhood, good luck), you have to put gas in your car.  The plastics, most metals, composites in your house (the fish tank, the TV, Playstation, Gatorade and water bottles) are all made by petro-chemical processes.  The nation, and for the most part the world, has no alternatives to using gas in their cars (and freight trucks for transportation) or for the petro-chemical process which brings so many modern amenities to families the world over.  There is no substitute.  If you produce the product that EVERYONE must have, with virtually no competition, how much do you charge?  The sky my friends.  I am surprised this speculation and gouging hasn’t happened sooner.

Which brings us to the SPR and the off-shore drilling argument permeating our national debate.  This infuriates me beyond belief.  New off-shore drilling along California, the Eastern seaboard and Eastern Gulf of Mexico, WILL NOT ALLEVIATE ENERGY COSTS.  The Energy Information Administration (someone please find me a link, I saw it on TV) estimated that the oil from drilling would have a negligible effect on prices, with a probable drop of 2-5 cents per gallon . . . by 2030.  In the mean time, oil companies are still receiving billions of dollars in subsidies (see this link for some useful information on tax subsidies big oil gets with your tax dollars) and Republicans block left and right bills designed to encourage the growth high tech energy jobs outside the oil industry.  I agree releasing a small percentage of the SPR into public consumption is a drop in the ocean and fairly useless, but allowing for expanded off-shore drilling is not the answer.

A national Apollo program is in order.  In 1961, JFK announced a man would land on the moon by the end of the decade.  Being beaten by the USSR to put a man in space and the possibility of Russian advancement in ICBM technology (the foundation of which is based on space flight), the US directed and funded extended research into those technologies required to put a man on the moon.  We had no idea how to do it, but eight years later, Neil Armstrong would walk on the moon.  America has the vision and drive to accomplish similar goals.  We lack the political willpower and drive to decouple our government from the corporations that they serve.  The oil industry, due to subsidies, pays 7% less in payroll tax than the average American business.  Massive policy initiatives, like lifting the ban on off-shore drilling, are brought to fruition for the sole benefit of massive companies without care or concern for the long term safety for our national security, economy, or environment.

Our development of clean energy ideas and technology could be the greatest American export in the 21st century, by transforming the world through the re-alignment of energy independence.  This is the time to look forward beyond the next political cycle, not the dog and money show President Bush is performing.  Off-shore drilling and exploration in ANWR are not the answer, short or long term.  Initiatives to research more efficient solar power, increasing hydrogen infrastructure, and encouraging nuclear plant construction with accompanying strict safety regulation are the answer.

Saltwater Aquariums: Not for the Impatient

Sunday, July 27th, 2008

So a brand new section to the site, my adventures with a new hobby: saltwater aquariums.  Friday I bought a 20 gallon tank with stand, lights, sump, protein skimmer, heater, sand, salt (not regular table salt!) and live rock.  Now I have an awesome tank . . . with rocks in it.  This is absolutely an endurance game, and if you’ve spent 5 minutes with me, you know patience is not my forte.

Saltwater tanks have to “mature.”  Since it is a closed biological system, you do have to carefully balance the mini-ecosystem.  That means no ammonia, nitrites, phosphates, etc. that are deadly to marine life.  With any luck, I will be adding some crabs and shrimps within the week once I get some algae growth (a good sign that biological filtration is ready), and have a fully stocked tank in a few months.  This tank is being constructed as a “reef tank,” so hopefully we will get to see some great colored corals, polyps, fungus, assorted invertebrates and fish.  I’ve got a few votes for a Nemo and Dorry fish, if I hear “Bubbles!” one more time out of my “housemate” over here I might go postal.

Currently I am on hour 36 since adding my live sand to the tank.  It takes a solid 48 hours for the particles to completely clear and settle, it has truly been an exercise for my OCD.  I have added two photos for your amusement from my iPhone at various levels of settlement.  For all you wise guys out there, at the moment, yes I have pet rocks with helpful bacteria.  Bite me.

Big thanks to two very helpful books.  I would highly recommend both for anyone considering taking the plunge.  It is not a cheap hobby and it does require some time, but for anyone who enjoys the ocean like myself but finds their dive gear a little dusty from the hustle and bustle of mid-twenties life, I think it will be very rewarding!

Saltwater Aquariums for Dummies, Gregory Skomal, PhD

Natural Reef Aquariums: Simplified Approaches to Creating Living Saltwater Microcosms, John H. Tullock

Not a cool tank

Not a cool tank

 

Much better.

Much better.

Major geeking out

Sunday, July 27th, 2008

I am writing my first post direct from my iPhone. With my laptop on my chest. Super nerd.