Monday, October 31, 2005

Big Oil: Big Sneak

Exxon has just announced profits of nearly 10 billion dollars in a quarter. That's roughly 40 billion dollars in a year if extended to the year. The other big oil companies have also ripped off the public in a similar manner, raising prices on the pretense of natural disaster, not enough refinery ability, rising crude prices, and many more excuses. It's clear that none of these excuses can be considered legitimate.

First, let's consider the problem of not enough refinery ability. You might recall that a few years ago, Exxon was allowed to buy Mobile. The first thing Exxon did with Mobile was to close down the Mobile refineries stating that they were "not profitable" and this wasn't even commented on by news, congress, watchdogs, or much of anyone. If I hadn't been watching, I wouldn't have ever known. Of course, now we can see it as a set up for future price increases and excuses for those increases. Not enough refinery production? Then why close them in advance? Clearly to gain the enormous profit already in the bank.

Crude oil prices? The crude oil prices are not out of line with the normal level of inflation and production costs. Oh, the crude prices are well into enormous profits, yes, that's true. However, since most of the oil of the world just happens to be elsewhere, we might have to pay the price. That doesn't make the actual pump price go up double in a year as we've seen. Just because crude oil costs twice as much to buy as last year, doesn't mean pump prices are doubled. It's not the same as lettuce. Oil is refined and the refining costs are actually a small portion of the final pricing (or were before this latest cost rip off).

Then there are the "highway taxes" in which we pay a dollar or so per gallon to fix our highways. At the cost of a few million per hundred feet of highway, someone is getting very, very rich. Yes, there's a lot to do to get a highway properly built. Talk to any good landscaper and they'll tell you it's essentially a landscaping job. Shape the ground, put in a good base, and the proper top material, dress it up, and open it to the public. Yet, every time I go past a road building job, there are twenty people standing around, two driving something or other, and one using a shovel. Hmmmmm. This needs rethinking.

Not enough oil? And, the Artic will only give us a year of supply even when totally sucked out? None of that is very believable. We have many sources of fossil fuel within the control of the United States of America. Natural gas in great abundance, oil shale, coal, oil sands, actual oil fields, off shore oil, north slope oil, gas, and even methane off shore in such abundance we don't have any idea how much is really there. There's a huge source of energy in the Yellowstone area and other hot underground areas of the west. There's wind, solar, tidal, wave, and so much more energy going to waste.

Nuclear power for all our electrical needs is safe and there needs be no problem with safely keeping the nuclear waste products for future use. Put the nuclear waste in glass and store it in old salt mines. That will give us a few million years to decide if there is some use to that energy we are setting aside in the salt.

Alternative energy patents have been gobbled up by big oil. Now they are just sitting on those patents with the excuse of "the price is still too low for economical use" and they can keep making huge profits from oil sales. It's not so much that there should be a cap on profits as that there should be more competition. We really have a Sun Oil-style lock on prices and production. Did any one see BP (British Petroleum) keeping prices down to attract customers and build loyalty? Or Shell (Dutch company) holding prices down and beating the others with higher sales? Were any of these companies responsible enough to stockpile supplies in case of a natural disaster that might keep refineries from production? Any of these companies care about anything but profit? No wonder they get nationalized. Maybe Mexico has it right.

This is a subject that can be written about for ever and ever, amen. More for later.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Flock: Web Browser delux.

Well, I couldn't resist it. A "WW2" web browser with lots of extras, under development, might not work, might crash your system, definitely an alpha, use at your own risk, and so on. Just had to try it. After a few hours of surfing and rustling through it's features, it really looks good. Flock is a clone of Firefox and is trying not to be a "branch" so that it will remain open source and compatable with Firefox users. But, oh my, the features.

Here's a list of thirteen things you really should try with Flock. We're bragging, of course, but at the end of the list you'll also find a few warnings about things we're still working on.


This blog and the above quote and link were made using Flock. While there's not really a lot of extra features, there are some really unique features and they work. Most of all, it connects with YOUR blog and YOUR accounts, makes remembering where you've been on the net easier, makes favorites and bookmarking a snap (well, actually a click), and keeping up with rss easily is right up front.

All in all, this is one alpha product I'd advise giving a try. Right now I'm using it on a Debian Sarge, Linux-only computer. It is fast and acts like it was designed for my system. Go get it here:

Monday, October 17, 2005

Wind Power Problems.

It seems wind power is actually under attack by environmentalists. Believe it or no, wind power has been shut down in at least one case by environmental concerns. You ask; "How can wind power cause environmental problems?" The blades kill birds. That's it in an egg shell.

At Altamont Pass, east of San Francisco, there are thousands of wind generators. Many of these are older, fast-spinning blade types. These tend to be deadly to birds. Environmentalists have objected and the company has decided to shut down a portion of the field during peak migration and plans to replace the older units with newer, safer to birds units.

Environmental groups have blocked a wind power project in the Mojave Desert, objected to one in Nantucket Sound, and noted the death of bats from blades in the Appalachians and are encouraging increased care in selection of sites and use of bird-safe blades.

While more than a million and a half homes are powered by electricity generated by wind power in the United States, it makes one wonder what environmental concerns will come up as we try to protect the environment by getting off fossil fuel.

Bleach power in your fuel tank!

Hydrogen from sodium chlorate manufacture? Yup. Canada has begun an investment in this byproduct of manufacturing sodium chlorate (link from: Vancouver, B.C.) Here's the salient quote:

"The project will develop and demonstrate clean energy solutions that make use of an existing but untapped source of hydrogen fuel: hydrogen emitted as a byproduct of a sodium chlorate manufacturing plant in the North Vancouver area. Through this project, purified hydrogen could be used to fuel a fleet of up to 20,000 vehicles in the Vancouver area, greatly reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the use of fossil fuels."

While there's more, that's the crux of the project. Sodium Chlorate is used in the manufacture of bleach and herbiicides, among much more. By some estimates there could be enough hydrogen generated as a waste byproduct from sodium chlorate manufacture to fuel up to half a million vehicles in North America. That might be a very low estimate. I wonder how many manufacturing processes generate hydrogen as a byproduct or could easily produce hydrogen with a small or easily installed addition to their manufacturing plant. Here's a link to sodium chlorate manufacturer's in North America for comparison.

It's time to wake up and use our resources. I could add so much more to that but what more is there to say? Let's get out and talk about using our resources wisely until the governing powers begin to notice and take appropriate action.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

OK, NOW is Alternative energy in the price range?

Alternative energy wasn't possible at .37 cents a gallon of gas. It wasn't feasable at 78 cents a gallon and just not quite worth doing at $1.47 a gallon of gas. Now, guys. Take a look. Gas is more than $3.00 a gallon. So, bring out the alternate energy sources. Come on. Where are these wonderful, gas-saving, energy-crisis rescue resources? Ooops! We didn't get them going, did we?

That's right folks. We had a chance to get ready for the energy crunch and what did we do? We built SUV's, we advertised SUV's, we made owing an SUV a status symbol, we bought SUV's at an incredible rate. Even Lincoln and Cadillac built SUV's and then there was the Hummer. Instead of getting ready for the energy crunch everyone knew was going to happen, we dived off the deep end of the oil patch and sucked up the energy as though there was no end in sight. Talk about grasshoppers when we should have been ants.

So now there's no alternative. Now there's no refineries converting potatoes or corn to methane. Now there's no natural gas (no matter the amazing abundance of it in the ground and being wasted). Now, there's no alternate energy resource sitting in the closet ready to ease the crunch. Are we really that stupid as a nation? Looks like it.

We could be converting natural gas to methane. Yes, we lose 30 or 40 percent of the energy in doing so but we are getting a useable resource at a needed time. We didn't get any refinery set up for that. Even though we are pushing cubic miles of natural gas back into the ground in the Alaskan North Slope and using a lot of energy to do so, we still won't (didn't) take the foresight to prepare for the actual use of the natural gas. We could use that natural gas to alleviate the heating costs of those in the northern US this winter. Won't happen, we didn't do it.

We could simply open up the strategic resource stockpile of methane (you remember that, it works like gasoline) that we SHOULD have been producing over the last 20 years to make sure we could weather an oil price hike or an Arab boycott without crashing our economy. The farmers would have profited, more jobs would have been produced, and we wouldn't have to fret over the Islamic-governed oil of the Middle East. We don't have the methane, we didn't do it.

We could have spent billions on battery storage capacity to provide battery power for vehicles that actually work and are low cost for any replacement. Nah! Why bother? We have all this gasoline. Let's buy another SUV. It's difficult to believe we can improve computer storage at the expanding rate we are doing but cannot improve battery storage at a similar rate - - - if we wanted to. Well, folks, we didn't want to. We don't have battery power that is cheap and effective. We didn't even try.

Hydrogen powered vehicles? It was mentioned. George the Second actually made a pitch for it. I guess we can quit blaming him for all our ills. We've made our own ills and now we can't stand up for what we've done to ourselves and have to blame someone else. Ok, George II has been blamed for everything else so go ahead. The real problem has been the American People. We didn't get ready. We didn't even try. Now, our whole economy may crash and we'll make George Bush a new Hoover. It wasn't him, it was all of us.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Dream teams.

Clinton/McCain and Rice/Powell would get voters out and moving. I've been voting since John F. Kennedy was president (Wow! Talk about OLD!) and have never voted for anyone that actually got elected. As a registered Libertarian, my votes tend to go as protest rather than mainstream. Once, I voted for a main party representative (Hubert Humphrey) again, mostly as a protest against Richard Milhouse Nixon. Egad! What a crook yet what a good foreign representative as a president. A real mix of good and bad was Mr. Nixon.

Clinton has been a "marked" candidate for the Democratic Party since First Lady days. Yes, it's my (not so humble) opinion given here. However, for those that actually paid attention to the second presidential candidacy of (again) President George Bush the second, you would have noticed that Kerry had little or no help from prominent Democrats. It was too soon to put "our Lady" forward and she has had to wait these four years and set up her Senatorial leadership and presence before going in as a presidential candidate. The Democratic Party really wants to be known as the party of the people by bringing the first woman president to the people.

Not a bad idea at all, Ms. Clinton as president. A real shark, that lady. Capable, self-serving, works within the rules, plays the Good Ole Boy network like a Good Ole Boy, and is smart enough to listen to those who wield the power. Not bad qualifications for the supreme leader position. A real question of electability will stand with her choice of running mate. If John McCain ever wants to be president, it's his best chance of getting close to the position. It's hard to conceive of a better set of "tough guys" running for election. Well, maybe not. There's Rice and Powell.

Rice is tough as nails and smarter than a whole bunch of sticks put together. Powell is smart and nice. While Clinton/McCain would be tough/tough and cunning/smart, the Rice/Powell duo would be tough/compassionate and genius/pleasant. A nicer man than Powell would be hard to find. If you were looking for a "man of the people" who still was capable of functioning at higher governing levels, General Powell would be the one to fill that bill. If you wanted the country run by smart, tough, capable, experienced, determined, and the list goes on, then Ms. Rice fills that bill. I only hope the Republican Party has leaders smart enough to put that combination together for the people.

The Democratic Party has shown it's accumen in grooming Ms. Clinton for the presidency. An election combining only women presidential candidates from the two major parties (why not jump in Libertarians?) would assure a woman president. About time, too. Ok, so I'm a male, even an alpha type, and, obviously old. That doesn't equate with stupid (at least not in every case) and it certainly is time for more representation "at the top" and that includes women and minorities (of which minorities I'm now a member, too).

Yes, it's a dream election year I see. One of the presidential candidates will certainly be Ms. Clinton. Please, please, Republicans get Ms. Rice to be the other. The people of America need something better than the same thing over and over. We made it to a great nation by our diversity. Let's keep it going. John McCain, get together with Hillary and "make a deal" and Collin Powell get together with Condoliza and "make a deal" also. I have to tell you that I'd vote for someone that might actually be elected for the first time as might a lot of other discouraged voters.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Changing fuels.

Calculations show there is abundant fossil fuel for the world for many decades or even longer. Calculations also show that the world will run out of fossil fuel and that fossil fuel supplies will become both more difficult to recover and much more expensive to use. In addition, we are damaging our environment by the massive use of these fossil fuels. It's time to change fuels.

There are abundant, even a plethora, of options for alternative fuels. The Governor of Florida recently stated approval for returning to building and using nuclear power plants to generate electricity. He noted that nuclear power generation is the safest, cheapest, most environmentally friendly method of producing electricity known (other than natural hydro-electric, or wind, or solar, or.....). For the massive generation of electricity, nuclear power is, indeed a safe method. Three Mile Island showed the actual safety of these light water plants rather than the danger. A bunch of bozo's doing everything possible wrong still couldn't contaminate the State Capital. Pretty good safety drill.

Electric power generation for homes aside, what about the electric power generation for vehicles? Using hydrogen is nice but it takes electric power to create the hydrogen in the first place. Why the secondary method with all the attendant losses? Iinstead of working on methods to use hydrogen why not work on methods to use electricity directly. Batteries have become smaller, last longer, and have more storage capacity than ever before. Break throughs occur at least weekly on battery storage and usefulness. It seems that would be a much better way to go than to use the electricity to generate hydrogen and lose so much of it on the way.

Then there's home heating methods. Wood stoves are certainly not the answer (no matter that I'm using one) in that they pollute more than you'd believe. Our wood stove smokes and smokes and smokes. I can just imagine every other home in the area smoking away on a cold morning. Talk about pollution! But, wood aside, there are many methods of storing heat and generating heat that avoids using fuel oil or natural gas. All right, that's got me. Natural gas is one of the fossil fuels I do approve of to some extent. There is an abundance of natural gas in our world and the gas only damages our environment and the world when released. Burning natural gas improves it. On the north slope of Alaska, the oil producers are using many large jet engines to pump the abundant natural gas back into the earth to avoid the pollution created if they just let it into the atmosphere. We could use that natural gas either as the gas or as a methane additive to the fossil fuel we are using so prolifically. Why are we paying to pump it back into the earth? Also, under the Escalante Wilderness is cubic miles of natural gas. Now, it can't be gotten because of Wilderness rules. It isn't difficult to get natural gas out of the ground and any damage to the area would be offset by the lives saved with abundant natural gas for heating. Since when does a rock come ahead of a human?

Other methods of producing electric power include wind (kills birds), solar (have to polish them mirrors, costly), tide (but who has an ocean nearby?), and zero-point energy (yeah, sure, "free" energy) among many potential methods.

The point is that there are many methods and opportunities for producing energy to heat/cool homes, generate electricity, motivate our vehicles, and more but we keep moving in "traditional" directions. We don't look carefully or deeply at electric for the vehicles because we want hydrogen to "burn" in our engines so they can rotate and go up and down and "putt putt" as we are used to hearing. Also, we want to have a "0 to 60" single digit second statistic for bragging rights. Time to grow up. As Tom Wolfe said "Look Homeward, Angel" and it's time to look at what we have and make it work.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

People are Pack Animals

We seem to have descended from some sort of pack animal and have genetically increased that tendency greatly. We don't call our groups "packs" any more. We call our packs, neighborhoods, cities, states, countries, and so on. But, it's still a pack. I suppose that's why people are always looking to be lead and begging for a leader. We even take leadership from those we know to be bad leaders and often re-elect that same bad leader to more of our misery. Can you think of an example? Hmmmmm.

Communities are useful. The group stays better fed, better protected (well, I might amend that one), have better communications, indeed, a networking of humans working together to create a supportive environment for survival and better living. Not a bad genetic code to bring along or so it seems.

Now, about that "better protected" thing. That might be so when talking about wild animals or even wild weather such as the cold winters. However, any group of humans instantly seems to be an envious target of opportunity by any other group(s) of humans who will slaughter every man, woman, and child simply to gain better survival opportunity and better living for themselves (until the next group slaughters them for the same reasons). So, this pack thing might have some downer to it. Also, it's not always healthier to be in a pack. The Aztec civilizatons may have had immense problems with disease in such cities as Tikal when overcrowding created unsanitary conditions. Of course, catching the Spanish Zealots disease did the rest of the job as the Conquistador disease robbed the natives of all ability to continue their civilization and they were infected with the "church flu" to their great loss (and ours too).

Being a pack animal, people have extended that to the god level. I am not totally conversant with wolves but I don't think they consciously have created a god. We have. Many times over, and over, and over. I used to wonder why we needed a god to tell us what to do, to pet us and say we're OK, to keep bad things away from us, and to "take us home" when bad things don't stay away. Why so many gods? Why such angry and jealous gods? "Retribution is mine, saith the Lord" and so on. My god is bigger and better than your god and my god will beat your god up and give me everything you own, give me you for a slave to be sold, your wife to be used and sold, and your daughters to be used and kept (that is if the sheep . . . . ).

Pretty strong stuff and unfortunately quite real. For those of us humans who can't quite stomach the idea of one of these privately owned gods destroying others who worship the wrong privately owned gods, there are Aliens. Now Aliens seem a good idea and we can blame it all on them. They genetically altered the pre-human race (but, according to ancient writing, we "screwed" that up and made them mad), they have visited and given advice, they have shown high-tech vehicles and equipment to the locals (now and then, and only to those no one is likely to believe), and are on the way back to do more (when we can be trusted to . . . . well, I don't know what).

And, that's the problem I see with the Aliens as a form of god. If they do exist and are visiting and did alter us genetically, and so on, they are certainly not our friends. No friend would let a friend drive a planet like this. Any "alien" who has the technological skill to visit this planet from nearly 40 light years away (more or less) also has the technological skill to assist in lowering the pack animal lust for killing that currently exists. Certainly, if we were genetically altered by aliens, they did a poor job and should come on back and do the job right. If the aliens are buzzing about, examining how we're doing, it's not to a good purpose. It might be that the aliens are watching to see just how badly their genetic alteration turns out and to "write a learned paper" about why not to do that again or maybe to show that the latest planet cleanser really works (gets queen, eggs, and all). Meanwhile, we sit here in our anger, vindictiveness, in our "my god is better than your god" and kill, kill, kill, in the name of god, country, home, and environmentally protected species (at least). We seem to have been infected with some kind of colony virus that makes us build giant colonies that actually kill us off. Are we just a test zone? I say to the Aliens (if they're there and if they're listening) "bugger off, if you can't fix or help, get our of our space and stay out until you're willing to show yourself and help properly." Take THAT you bug-eyed-monsters.