Category Archives: environmental news

Where are the wind turbines?

CASPER, Wyo. — We drove 275 or so miles today from suburban Denver to this central Wyoming community and didn’t see something I thought I’d see during our entire journey here.

Wind turbines. They were, um, nowhere man!

The terrain was perfect for them. Rolling hills. The atmosphere was, too. We ran into occasionally stiff wind almost throughout our drive.

But … we saw not a single turbine spinning in the wind during our lengthy drive, producing electricity to be shipped elsewhere or to be consumed by the locals.

I want to offer this only for observational purposes. I have no particular answer as to why much of northern Colorado or western or central Wyoming haven’t seemed to have invested in this form of alternative energy.

Now, you may spare me the notion that Wyoming digs a lot of coal out of the ground or pumps oil and natural gas. Texas also has a lot of fossil fuel, albeit no coal. Still, Texas extracts plenty of petroleum and natural gas out of the ground. It also has invested heavily in wind energy, dating back to the George W. Bush and Rick Perry governorships.

I don’t know whether local politics keeps the wind farms from springing up along this vast landscape. I will concede as well that the Colorado-Wyoming countryside is quite gorgeous.

Still, Wyoming is as politically conservative as the Texas Panhandle and the South Plains of Texas. Maybe more so.

Texas is full of these clean-energy devices. Why not Wyoming? Or Colorado?

They come from all over to fight the fire

I never tire of saying good things about first responders.

The firefighters who at this moment are risking their lives — and in some instances losing their lives — deserve a good word today.

They are battling fire that is ravaging much of northern California. At last count (that I have heard) eight people have died from the fire. One of the blazes, the Carr fire, is believed to be the largest wildfire in California history.

What really doesn’t get nearly the attention it deserves, though, when these tragedies occur is the inter-state cooperation that occurs among firefighting organizations. Sure, the media report on it; they mention on TV news broadcasts that fire crews have rushed to the aid of the local firefighters.

My wife and I got a  taste of just how extensive these inter-state efforts can get. We visited Grass Valley, Calif., a year ago on our way north to Portland. We parked our fifth wheel at the Nevada County Fairgrounds and became acquainted with firefighters who had encamped at the fairgrounds, which they used as a base camp from which they would confront the fires.

One of the senior firefighters told us fire crews had come from 12 states to assist the locals in battling the blazes that were terrorizing communities all over California.

Indeed, the Texas Panhandle — which also is susceptible to wildfire — earlier this summer welcomed fire crews from as far away as Oregon to assist crews battling the range fires that have blackened many thousands of acres.

These men and women are heroes in every sense of the word. They surrender their lives in the comfort of their own communities to assist their colleagues. They thrust themselves into harm’s way to protect human beings, livestock and pets from the merciless blaze.

Such heroism is presenting itself yet again out west.

All of these individuals deserve a nation’s prayers as they keep up the good fight against Mother Nature’s fury.

What do I miss? The weather!

AMARILLO, Texas — Yep. we’re back where we lived for about a third of our lives on Earth.

Tonight I think I have discovered what I miss the most (sort of) about the Texas Panhandle.

I’ll stipulate up front that we made many friends here before departing for the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex earlier this year. I miss them terribly already.

The next thing? Man, it’s gotta be the weather.

We’ve been getting re-accustomed to downstate humidity while we have settled into our new digs in Fairview. It hasn’t been narly the struggle it was when we first moved to Texas in the spring of 1984; we left Oregon for — gulp! — Beaumont, in the Golden Triangle, or, as I like to call it, The Swamp.

Then we moved to Amarillo in 1995. It was in January. My blood had thinned out (if that’s possible) during our years way down yonder, so getting used to the Panhandle winter was a project. But we did.

We have returned for a few days while we prepare to depart for Yellowstone National Park and Grand Coulee, Wash.

We’ve had a hot, humid, sticky summer in Fairview. We parked our fifth wheel tonight at an RV park and have enjoyed the cool breeze wafting through our vehicle.

Ahh, yes! The weather. We likely are going to miss the Texas Panhandle’s version of the four seasons.

Yes, the government works for us

My wife and I — along with Toby the Puppy — are preparing for a two-week-plus journey out west where we’re going to enjoy the sights associated with two massive federal government projects.

Yes, the federal government has lured us to take in these projects’ splendor and to marvel at the genius that created them.

Our first stop will be the nation’s first national park: Yellowstone. We’ll be parked outside the west gate of Yellowstone in an RV camp in Montana.

The federal government established Yellowstone National Park in 1872. It would the first in a long line of gorgeous exhibits of natural splendor.

And yet we get rumblings from Washington that the government wants to scale back its national park land, specifically its national monuments, which also are run by the National Park Service, an arm of the Department of Interior.

I am of the view that we need to set aside more land for Americans to enjoy, not less of it.

We intend to see Yellowstone again and thank those far-sighted individuals who saw fit to create a national park system that would stand the test of time … and I hope it’s forever!

From there we’ll venture to the Columbia River in eastern Washington, where we’ll take a gander at a project that came into being during the Great Depression.

President Franklin Roosevelt inherited an economy in free fall in 1933. He then set about creating the mother of government economic stimulus packages. It included the Bureau of Reclamation, which began construction on Grand Coulee Dam in July 1933.

This is a product of what I would call “good government.” It’s a quaint saying these days. We don’t hear much about the good that government does on behalf of Americans. Grand Coulee produces electricity and also irrigates some fertile farm land where growers produce food to feed millions of Americans.

How can that ever be a bad thing?

So we’ll cast our gaze on these two governmental masterpieces. They’ll make me even prouder of the things my government has done for all of us.

POTUS fails to perform this simple task

Donald J. Trump’s supporters don’t ever seem to hail the president’s empathy, his compassion, his sensitivity to others.

Have you noticed that?

Consider what a veteran broadcast journalist, Dan Rather, has tweeted about the president.

There are many difficult things for presidents to do. Finding space in your schedule (and soul) to speak empathetically about Americans suffering from natural disasters (wildfires, hurricanes) shouldn’t be one of them. And yet Pres. Trump routinely fails in this human instinct.

The president cannot seem to bring himself to express any support for these victims. Instead, he has chosen to blast environmental laws in a nonsensical attack on the wrong culprit.

Donald Trump has failed to perform one of those tasks that we all expect of our president. Ronald Reagan rose to the occasion, as did George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. All of them had reason to speak to the nation about the suffering our fellow Americans experienced. They comforted the heartbroken. They fulfilled the role of Comforter in Chief.

The current president cannot bring himself to do what is expected of him? Shameful.

Environmental laws to blame for fires? Huh?

Donald John Trump hadn’t said much — if anything — to offer support for the first responders fighting the fires in California.

Then he weighed in with this message via Twitter:

California wildfires are being magnified & made so much worse by the bad environmental laws which aren’t allowing massive amount of readily available water to be properly utilized. It is being diverted into the Pacific Ocean. Must also tree clear to stop fire spreading!

Huh? That’s what the president of the United States has to say about fires that are ravaging one of our 50 states, killing at least two firefighters, putting residents at risk, endangering human beings?

He talks about “bad environmental laws” that inhibit use of water to fight the fires.

I realize that California went overwhelmingly for the other major-party presidential candidate in 2016. I also am quite certain the good folks in California would appreciate a word of support and assurance that the president has their backs as state and local first responders put themselves in harm’s way to protect the people they take an oath to serve.

Has he offered “thoughts and prayers” for the loved ones of the firefighters who have died?

Cities’ conundrum: whether to limit water use and cut revenue

Janet Rummel, public relations and communications officer for the North Texas Municipal Water District, has a possible word to the wise to city officials who might be reluctant to enact water-use restrictions in the face of a punishing drought.

If you are concerned about a loss of revenue collected from water use fees, then your reluctance to impose water conservation measures carries even greater risk.

You will run out of water, Rummel warned in remarks to the Rotary Club of Fairview.

Much of the state remains caught in drought conditions. The Texas Panhandle, where my wife and I lived until this past May, went through an entire winter with any measurable precipitation. No snow. No rain. Nothing!

North Texas didn’t fare much better than the Panhandle, as I have learned.

So, cities that are pondering whether to impose restrictions on water use face the mother of conundrums: Do they interfere with their revenue stream, depriving their municipal coffers of money used to fund various public services?

The NTMWD, based in Wylie, serves about a dozen communities north and east of Dallas. Rummel talked about the array of measures that the district has taken to improve the quality of water; it also is planning to spend a significant amount of money to improve the delivering of water.

From my standpoint, a city that faces the prospect of running dry — of losing its water supply — has no choice whatsoever than to impose limits, even if it chokes off the revenue it uses to pay for the myriad municipal services it provides. Moreover, I am amazed that city officials would be so reluctant to take a proactive stance that conserves this priceless natural resource.

And yet, according to Janet Rummel, cities are wringing their hands over such a decision. I find the quandary a non-starter.

Seeking no credit for this heat

When we moved to Beaumont, Texas from Oregon in the spring of 1984, I would jokingly take credit when it rained for more than a couple of days in a row.

I would give a nod to the same thought when we moved from Beaumont to Amarillo in early 1995. When we would travel from Amarillo to, oh, damn well anywhere in the States, we’d take credit for whenever the wind would blow hard.

However …

There ain’t no way I’m going to tolerate any references to our former places of residence if someone wants to comment on this damn heat.

We’re setting heat records in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. The temp hit 109 today. A record. It did so on Friday, too. There might be another record in jeopardy on Sunday and again on Monday.

The heat is an annual event in this part of the world. I’ve known that for many years.

It ain’t the same heat that blankets the Texas Panhandle. This one lingers well into the night, unlike on the Caprock, where it dissipates (more or less) when the sun sets, owing to the 3,650-foot elevation on the High Plains.

This heat requires us to get reacquainted with humidity.

The good news? It won’t last forever. I’m already looking forward to autumn.

Oh, this heat just keeps the pressure on

Just about the time I am inclined to link this incessant Texas heat wave to the issue of global warming, I think of Sen. Jim Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican and prominent global warming/climate change denier.

We’re broiling in the D/FW Metroplex with temps hovering around 110 degrees (if you factor in that “heat index”). It’s been several days with temperatures topping out at around 100 degrees. I might say, “See, I told you that the climate is changing.”

Sen. Inhofe? Oh, he quite famously walked onto the floor of the U.S. Senate during a recent winter snowstorm in Washington, D.C. He was packing a snowball about the size of a large grapefruit. He then proceeded to declare in a Senate floor speech that the existence of that snowball and the bitterly cold temperatures in the D.C. area proved that the planet isn’t warming up.

I wrote at the time that Inhofe was nuts to use a real-time episode in one community as a way to debunk an event that scientists around the world have said is occurring.

Look at global picture, Sen. Inhofe

So, with that said, I am going to refrain from linking to this hideous heat to the notion that Earth’s climate is changing.

There. Are you climate change deniers happy now?

Pruitt’s gone, but EPA’s mission remains intact

I was among the millions of Americans who cheered the news that Scott Pruitt had resigned as Environmental Protection Agency administrator.

His corruption and utter lack of ethical conduct became unbearable. I also am astounded that he didn’t get the boot long ago. Then again, he did work in an administration led by Donald John Trump Sr., so maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised.

OK, so Scott Pruitt is gone.

Is that reason to continue cheering? Hardly. EPA remains an agency under siege. Donald Trump has declared climate change to be a “hoax” concocted by China and other economic powers that want to undermine the U.S. fossil fuel industry.

To think for a moment or two that such idiocy comes from a man who admits that he doesn’t read much. He relies on TV news talk shows to inform him. He once said he knows “more about ISIS than the generals.”

So, the president who denies the existence of climate change is able to appoint EPA bosses who adhere to his nonsensical point of view. That’s what he did when he asked Pruitt, the former Oklahoma attorney general who took great delight in suing the Obama administration over environmental rules and regulations.

It might be that Trump — who likely didn’t even know Pruitt when he selected him — was unaware he was appointing an ethical slug to run the EPA.

The man in charge of EPA at this moment is deputy administrator Andrew Wheeler, who comes from the coal industry. I don’t know much about Wheeler, so I cannot comment directly about what he’ll do. I feel comfortable, though, in believing that if he signs on to run the EPA in a Donald Trump administration, he likely adheres to the climate change view espoused by the Big Man.

Am I still cheering Scott Pruitt’s departure from EPA?

Not any longer.