Thursday, August 30, 2007

Black Gold Booster

Yet another letter from the Mouseherder to Newsweek:

Thank you for publishing Fareed Zakaria's interview with National Petroleum Council chairman Lee Raymond. I say this for two reasons.

First, it is enlightening to know that the man who killed the alternative energy program at Exxon is also chair of President Bush's Alternative Energy Committee. No wonder this administration has made such poor progress on the topic of energy independence and alternative fuels for this nation.

Second, I want to point out the extremely self-serving industry position highlighted by Mr. Raymond's comments and the report of his council when contrasted against the independent (and less rosy) July 2007 assessment of The International Energy Agency's (IEA) titled: /Medium-Term Oil Market Report.

My only wish is that Zakaria had done more research on this subject before the interview and confronted Mr. Raymond with the true state of energy production, use and in-ground resources left in the world.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

What if Global Warming is not real? Let's Pretend...

This is a copy of a Letter to the Editor the Mouseherder wrote to Newsweek.

I take exception to the exceedingly narrow scope demonstrated by both Sharon Begley (the Truth About Denial) and Robert Samuelson (Greenhouse Simplicities). If this were just a debate about global warming and human agency in climate change, I'd be less concerned. However, Newsweek has totally missed the underlying grassroots corporate, religious and citizen movements converging on the questions of climate change, energy independence, one's duty for stewardship of God's living gift, and a parent and grandparent's desire to turn over not only a sustainably run planet but also a sustainable run economy as well.

Neither article asks this most important question: "What is the down side to acting as though climate change is real, that human agency in global warming is confirmed, and that we as a nation can do something about it?" After careful study my answer is: there are not many downsides; even if, in the end, we are wrong about our ability to effect global warming at all. In fact, we will only gain a stronger more diverse and cleaner economy with more job; we will get well funded research into alternative energy; conservation, and carbon sequestration; we will have cleaner air and water; and we could prevent the probability that our children and grandchildren will have to fight needless and endless wars over a nonrenewable and disappearing resource like oil (isn't it a little crazy to be funding both sides of the War On Terror because we have this addiction to cheap oil?). The truth is, there is a looming energy crisis not only in China, not just in the United States, but worldwide, and we should prepare ourselves for it.

Mr. Samuelson needs to rethink his proposed raising of the gasoline tax and instead support:

1. legislation removing all subsidies from the oil, gas, and coal industries and allowing the free market to find its natural price level for those products (given the likely resulting true cost of gasoline, I've seen estimates of $5-7/gallon, automotive CAFE standards will take care of themselves as drivers will then make rational choices about transportation. People will drive--or ride--what they can afford, once the government stops distorting the market price by making everyone subsidize waste). Those subsides and tax credits should be redirected to carbon sequestration research, making alternative energy affordable, and making Plug-in Electric Hybrid Vehicles a reality (which would recharge on the mostly wasted energy generated by utilities overnight).

2. strike from the tax code the provisions that allow business tax write-offs for vehicles over 6,000 lbs. GVW. This provision was intended to help ranchers, farmers and tradesmen like plumbers, but instead has been roundly abused in every sector of business to write off large gas guzzling SUVs as company cars for executives and salesmen alike.

3. Pouring massive tax credits into nationwide energy conservation efforts for utilities, individuals and businesses. In a country where gasoline consumption alone has soared 15% per year for a decade (and electrical demands even more), it is a fools errand to try to build our way to energy sufficiency on dwindling supplies of carbon resources. Instead, Congress should mandate public utilities to launch immediate conservation and alternative energy development programs, create services programs among their business and residential customers to reduce demand and then reward the utilities, home owners and businesses for their successes.

Last year our family knocked 30% off of our gasoline and utility bills with very little effort, little expense and no pain. This year, we're really working at it. Despite what Vice President Chaney thinks, this is not some weird tree-hugger fantasy. Every dollar saved through conservation is a dollar in your pocket and while we may not be able to save our way to self sufficiency, conservation is a more rational position to start from than building more energy capacity into a wasteful system.

Corporations from Goldman-Sachs to GE to Wal-Mart who have seriously studied the energy future of the nation and are adjusting not only their portfolios, but also their practices and products to position themselves to take advantage of the new energy economy. This nation should do the same. Energy Independence is Homeland Security, but it's much, much more as well. It is a means of securing a rational future for those who come after us.

Monday, August 27, 2007


I was sitting in an early morning breakfast meeting with a potential client, noshing pastries around one of those itty-bitty glass cocktail tables in the hotel lobby, when I looked down at my ankle crossed over my knee.

I was embarrassed to see at least 3-inches of my somewhat hairy but all too fish-belly-white calf shining out beyond the cuff, the sock gathered around my ankle like an old snake skin. I don't know if the client noticed, but I sure felt self conscious and awkward for the rest of the meeting. To make things only slightly worse, when I glanced down at the other foot I realized that I had dressed with one short blue sock and one medium length black.
Cheap socks in a $400 suit ruined the image I was trying to project and ruined my presentation because I became self conscious.
I didn't get the work, but I did fix the problem. I went home and took stock of my sock collection:
  • 24 pair of socks + 5 socks with no matching mate
  • short black socks
  • short brown socks
  • short blue socks
  • long over the calf beige socks
  • medium black socks
  • medium brown socks
  • one pair Argyle socks
  • one pair Christmas novelty socks
(I didn't count the white athletic socks or the white footlets that go with my--euphemistically named--"running" shoes.)
This is crazy, I thought. Who cares what kind of socks a 54 year old guy wears as long as you don't have to look at his calves?
So I took all the "dress" socks, put them in a bag, put the bag in the car and drove to J.C. Penney's where I bought eight 3-pair packages of reinforced toe and heal, over-the-calf, basic black ribbed socks.
Splurge a bit and get the the cotton/stretch nylon/spandex blend for long life and calf hugging abilities (cheap socks will eventually stretch out and fall down, so buy quality:
It's the cheap man who pays the most

  • No more pairing socks after laundry
  • No more matching colors
  • No more matching styles
  • No more pulling up short socks
  • No more exposed fish-belly white calves
  • No more sock problems, period
Look at the socks on the next homeless guy you see, odds are they're too short and miss-matched because I dropped that bag of old socks off at the Salvation Army drop box on the way home
Life's too short to worry about socks.

Friday, August 24, 2007

It's more than Ecological, it's important!

This is a copy of a letter the Mouseherder wrote to the editor of the Virginia Pilot this week. It is in response to the several anti-global warming articles published in the VP. Mostly, though, it is a reaction to those of us in the ecologocal/energy independence/stewardship of God's gift always portrayed a leftwing kooks?

It is impossible to respond comprehensively to the lengthy attack editorials on global warming run in Friday and Saturday's Virginian Pilot in the alloted 150 word limit, but allow me to hit the high points.

First of all, global warming is not the new "secular religion" (worn code for godless and democratic, I suppose). Religions are a fixed and unchanging polar star of the faithful. Global warming, on the other hand, is based on science, on evolving scientific understanding, better (and better refined) scientific data and ever more sophisticated technology. There is and always will be debate in science; it is the nature of the beast. But that does not mean that the underlying understanding of global warming is under any significant cloud. Indeed, those whose claim "the science is not settled" almost never then go on to address the areas where the science is unsettled. Instead, they launch into their own canard against some aspect of global warming, usually attacking the well understood areas of the field as if it were unsettled science.

Second, if the tactic of arguing "the science is not in" or "the data are conflicted" or "there is significant scientific debate" seems familiar, it is. Think back to the tobacco wars and the anti-smoking movement. This is straight out of the corporate tobacco play book. Let me be clear, there is no significant scientific disagreement about the basic science or observations of global warming.

Third, there are significant advantages for the United States to acting as if global warming is real, that humans have made significant contributions to the acceleration of global warming, and that we can actually do something about it, even if, in the end, we are totally wrong about it all.

Despite what your Op-Ed authors opined, global warming and the sustainability movement are not just an ecological movement. They are much, much more:

  • It is a movement of religious devotion for a growing number of congregations of all faiths--from How Many Jews Does It Take to Change a Lightbulb? (no kidding, look it up) to evangelical Christians to Muslims to Buddhists. It's about concern about our stewardship of God's gift of this planet, His environment, and His resources.
  • Is is a movement of parents and grandparents who are concerned about leaving a sustainable economy, a sustainable ecosystem, and a sustainable lifestyle to their children and grandchildren (not to mention clean air and pure water, both a particular concern for Virginians since every open body of water in the commonwealth has measurable amounts of mercury from coal fired plants upwind of us).
  • It is a movement of corporations from Goldman-Sachs to GE to Wal-Mart who have seriously studied the energy future of the nation and are adjusting not only their portfolios, but also their practices and products to position themselves to take advantage of the new economy.
  • It is a movement of labor leaders, business owners, and workers who see new (and unexportable) economic opportunities in renewable energy, energy conservation, and sustainability.
  • It is a movement of the citizens of more than 250 American cities (and growing), including Virginia Beach, and several states who have pledged to honor the Koyoto Protocols, even though the President and Senate of the United States would not ratify the treaty.
  • Finally, it is a movement of American Patriots who understand that even now, through our over dependence on foreign oil and unsustainable use of petroleum products, that we are funding both sides of the war on terror; the cost of our military and defending the nation on the one hand and the payments we make to countries from which terrorism springs on the other hand, by paying $80 to $100 per barrel of oil. (I know, most of America's imported oil comes from Canada, but research which royal families and Arab petroleum companies have major holdings in those Canadian stocks, too.)

Today's total world production of oil has been steady or in slight decline at about 300 billion barrels of oil per year for over a decade. During that same decade, American use of gasoline alone increased 10-15% per year. Substantial new finds of petroleum are reported unlikely, existing untapped reserves--such as ANWR or the fields off of the coast Virginia, California and Florida--are insufficient to meet future demands for long. And here's the kicker: if China maintains its current rate of economic growth, by mid-century that nation alone will have energy demands equal to today's total worldwide oil production, not counting the needs of India, Europe, the rest of Asia or the United States.

I for one, do not want our children and grandchildren fighting endless wars over a nonrenewable and shrinking commodity like oil. But we can win by changing the game. We can change the game by taking advantage of this unique nexus of interests--environmentalists, believers, families, future-minded corporations, and patriots--to substantially reduce America's dependence on carbon producing energy through conservation and economy, through support of alternative energy and research, through smarter design and smarter use.

King CONG--Coal, Oil, Nuclear, Gas--will put up a fight, just like big tobacco did, probably more of one. They'll use the same dirty tricks, run out the same tired arguments and trot out the same dubious mouthpieces that tobacco used. But we will not be deterred.

We do this for our God. We do this for our children. We do this for the future of our nation. We do this for our earth. And we'll do it one light bulb and one family at a time, if we have to.