Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Dark Days

Dark Days & Great Basin Rye
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
If I were living in the Middle Ages, I'd probably think the world was coming to an end. Instead, I'm told it's only a wild fire burning in nearby Red Lodge, Montana—some 40 miles away as the crow flies.

At 5:00 in the afternoon on the 30th of July, the day should be bright, but if I didn't know any better, I'd swear a class five tornado was bearing down on my little town.

It's amazing to watch the sun high in the sky turn blood red and at times almost disappear completely. And all around me, flakes of ash fall from the sky that likely came from what was a dead or bark beetle-infested tree.

We've seen conditions like this for about five years running now. When I first moved to Powell, I never saw anything like this. Now, it's an annual event. Yet, every year as the fires start up and choke the sky, I still think to myself that all of this isn't quite right.

I suppose it would be easy for me to say something like, "If this ain't global warming, I don't know what is." But, I don't know. Perhaps it's just a little global bad luck, a hiccup in geological time.

Yet, for those who simply discount it all and confidently (or blindly) say it is only a hiccup and global warming is just another scheme concocted by liberal extremist to control everyones' lives... well, that's quite a gamble to make—with everyone's money, isn't it?

Postscript: Which is more believable: liberal Democrats wanting to control everyone's lives by forcing us to rely on renewable and unlimited energy sources or conservative Republicans wanting to continue with their great profits in maintaining the status quo regarding our dependence on fossil fuels?

What's the worst case scenario if global warming is a hoax and we buy into it?

What's the worst case scenario if global warming is for real and we ignore it?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Wallowing in the Oilzoic Era

Green Dino
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
The other day, I dropped in on a city council meeting. Upon my arrival, I discovered that the council was in an "executive session," so there was nothing to do but sit there and gape and perhaps visit with fellow gapers.

Behind me, a handful of local men were talking about drilling for oil and how easy it is—according to them, 30 days was the time it takes from when they start drilling in the Gulf until oil starts pumping into the Mainland. They were blaming Nancy Pelosi and her fellow Democrats for the high price of gas—that it had doubled since they had taken over the House and Senate. I suppose. Never mind how expensive petrol was before the Democrats took back Congress—and just barely. At least the Democrats haven't declared a mandate like President Bush who barely won a majority (arguably at that) in both elections.

I don't know any of these men or their backgrounds with the exception of one whose background is in physical education and coaching. Because I wasn't invited in on the conversation, I bit my tongue and didn't comment on how short-sighted they all sounded to me. For the most part I kept my trap shut with the exception of one quip I let out to the one I know about solar energy. He wasn't amused and quickly turned the subject to athletics—a topic that was agreeable to both of us.

During the same time, one of these men who seemed to have all the answers was talking about how the proposed drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) would amount to one letter-sized piece of paper in the oversized conference room were we waited. I assume his point was that the actual area of activity was miniscule compared with the entire ANWR region.

Yesterday I watched with sadness the developing news regarding the huge oil spill on the Mississippi River near New Orleans. I will venture to say that the source of the oil in that particular tragedy probably came from an area the size of a postage stamp relative to the designated area around it, yet look at the havoc it has brought to a river that is already dirty enough.

It appears that the Exxon Valdez was not illustrative enough for some of us—not here in Powell, Wyoming at least.

Meanwhile John McCain appears to understand the gravity of the event as he cancelled a visit to an offshore oil rig in Louisiana attributed to the unstable weather from Hurricane Dolly. But one has to wonder if the oil spill in the Mississippi River may have influenced his plans as well. Promoting off-shore drilling with a major oil spill in the same neighborhood makes for an ugly juxtaposition.

I wonder when we (as one people) will wake up to the hollow promises of the oil-dependent age we live in—its always-looming environmental hazards waiting to happen, its filth layered in greed, and its wreckless disregard for the planet we call home?

When will we rise from the dark days of the Oilzoic Era?

Postscript: As I write this, I've heard Republicans argue that Nancy Pelosi's request to immediately free up 70 million gallons of oil reserves won't bring down the price of oil, yet John McCain claims that President Bush's support to open up oil drilling has already caused oil prices to drop. Right...

Whatever happens, I hope the price of oil stays high enough to bring us to a somewhat painful, but necessary transition regarding our future in energy. I like to think of such wishes as "tough love."

The doctor has told us that we are overweight and it's going to require a long and committed effort to correct the problem rather than an overnight pill. I wonder if we—the people of this planet—have the gumption to take on this unavoidable and enduring challenge.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Let the Weening Begin

Transportation Cost
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
The word is out that the price of oil is going down thanks to the reduced demand by we Americans. Of course I noticed it is still sitting at $4.27 per gallon as I rode my bike past the petrol station today. Tomorrow or the next day, perhaps the drop in oil prices will finally start to reflect at the local gas pumps. But, you know what? I could care.

I'm going to keep right on riding that old bicycle all over town even when gas is down to under $2 per gallon (not that I think such will really happen)—even after the snow begins to fly again.

Too bad all of us can't—and more sadly, won't adopt such self-imposed behavior. If so we could have the oil companies right where we want them—over a barrel—rather than them having us right where they want us.

I wish there would never be a need again to fire up my gasoline-powered pick-up, but there will be days I'll need it. Nevertheless every time I have to carry or haul something, I'm always going to ask myself, "Can you carry it on your bike instead, even if it means multiple trips?" I suspect the answer will be "yes" on most occasions.

And when I need to trek around in the McCullouch Peaks as I often do, the bike is going to be in the truck's bed and I'll be riding over the dirt roads via my human-powered two-wheeler. I'll just use the pick-up to get me to the general location I desire.

Given how the oil companies have treated us and profited—not to mention the carbon emissions produced, I don't care how cheap gas ends up.

Let the weening of oil begin.

And while you're at it, consider this little gem of an article as well.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Watered Down 4th of July Tributes

Orange & Wet
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
I've been on a glorified hitch-hiking trip since June 23 with a truck driver documenting the truck driving life. Chris, the driver I speak of, wears a cowboy hat, listens to NPR and and loves NASCAR—go ahead, try to fit this guy to any given stereotype. It ain't happening. Nevertheless, that's another story for another day.

While delivering a truck load of goods with Chris over the Fourth of July weekend, we tuned in to Sirius Radio's NASCAR show "Tradin' Paint" somewhere in West Virginia. In their tribute to America on the Fourth, hosts Steve Post and Danny "Chocolate" Myers along with the various NASCAR personalities interviewed went on and on about how the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan are over there doing such a great job preserving our wide-ranging freedoms including our freedom of speech.

Not to diminish the radio show itself, but I found its attempt to pay tribute to America on that particular day to be rather banal—in other words, a bunch of George Bush party line bullshit.

Not that I don't support the troops, I simply don't buy that particular line about preserving our freedoms via these psuedo-wars in Iraq or Afghanistan. When Adolf Hitler was banging down everyone's door back in the '30s and '40s, I believe our troops engaging the Nazis preserved our freedoms. But it's a real stretch to think that Saddam Hussein or a ragtag group of terrorists running around in Afghanistan or Pakistan are (or were) threatening my freedom or anyone else in this great land. We should only be using our troops to strike down Osama bin Laden and then call it "Mission Accomplished." There's no war to be lost or won over there, just a rat or two that needs to be greased. I feel better about saying that the troops we have in Germany and Korea are preserving our freedoms than those in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In short, I don't believe our assorted freedoms are any safer today than they were before we invaded Iraq or Afghanistan nor are they any safer than before or after September 11, 2001, or Oklahoma City in April of 1995. Whatever freedoms we have lost—or feel we have lost—are the result of our own elected leaders and the paranoia they have instilled in us.