Tag Archives: fossil fuels

U.S. is shamefully MIA at climate change conference

ORLANDO SIERRA/AFP/Getty Images

They’re convening an international conference on climate change.

As my dear late Mom would say, I’ll give you three guesses on which nation is missing from that conference … but the first two guesses don’t count.

That’s right. The United States of America ain’t there.

We should be. Why? Well, let’s see. We’re the most industrialized nation on Earth. We are the world leader in scientific research. Our factories pour out tons of carbon emissions into the air annually. We occupy the bulliest of pulpits of any nation the planet.

But we’re not there because the president of the United States, Donald John Trump, calls climate change a “hoax.” Trump yanked the United States out of the Paris Climate Accord, saying it would be too burdensome on U.S. businesses. The accord carries the names of virtually every country on the planet … except the U.S. of A.

This is how the president intends to “make America great again” or “keep America great.” He wants to isolate the nation from a world made “smaller” in a proverbial sense by modern technology.

The United States made great strides in weaning ourselves of dependence on foreign-produced fossil fuels largely through development of alternate energy resources and, yes, more production of oil and natural gas. Trump wants to develop more “clean coal” and wants to drill for even more petroleum-based products. How is that going to stem the warming of the planet and the changing of its climate? Short answer: It won’t.

We are shaming ourselves by failing to attend the conference that seeks to find remedies to what has become established as an existential threat to every nation on Earth.

As the world’s pre-eminent economic power, we need to be heard and we need to listen to what our Earthly neighbors are telling us.

Texas is becoming the ‘windy state’

We’re No. 1! It’s a common refrain heard on fields of athletic competition in Texas.

However, Texas has achieved a top-tier ranking in a most fascinating — and one might say unexpected — category. Texas has become the most wind-powered state in the Union. Texas is known more for its pump jacks that pull oil out of the ground. They’re still doing all over the state, but wind power is not to be denied.

I just posted a blog item lamenting the lack of discussion about climate in the upcoming presidential campaign. Here, though, is a reason to hope that Texas might become a leader in the discussion and promotion of wind energy.

The Electrical Reliability Council of Texas reports that wind has replaced coal as the leading provider of electricity in this state. Yes, natural gas remains a huge energy source. Texas, though, has seen a skyrocketing rise in wind energy over the past several years.

I am happy to report that my wife and I have sat at a ringside seat while Texas has become a major wind-power producer. We used to live just a bit east of the wind farm in Adrian pictured along with this blog post. We’ve since moved on to the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, but the wind energy industry is continuing to grow significantly along the High Plains of Texas.

This is exciting news.

Wind power remains a costly endeavor. It is expensive to produce and store electricity generated by wind. Believe me, though, the Texas Panhandle has an infinite supply of wind, which to my mind is the cleanest possible energy source possible. Whereas petroleum, natural gas and coal are finite resources, the wind will always blow.

I usually am quite critical of former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, however, I want to give Gov. Perry — who is soon to depart as secretary of energy — a proverbial high five for presiding over much of Texas’s wind-power development during his lengthy stint as governor. And, no, it didn’t hurt a bit to say something good about the man the late columnist Molly Ivins dubbed “Governor Goodhair.” 

So, the wind will blow in Texas. The state’s growth will require more electrical use. The wind will continue to play a growing role in fulfilling those power needs … and our precious environment won’t suffer a bit.

Trump shows off his energy ignorance

Just about the time you think Donald Trump cannot demonstrate any greater degree of ignorance on important matters, he pops off to one of his right-wing fanatics.

The president of the United States is insisting that wind energy is a waste of money, it doesn’t work when the wind doesn’t blow and that he intends to continue to push for revival of the coal industry.

He and Fox News’ Sean Hannity exchanged ignorant rants this week about wind power, which Trump has detested for years.

I believe the president needs to acquaint himself with the secretary of energy, Rick Perry. I would bet real money that the former Texas governor might have a markedly different view of the value of wind power than the man who nominated him to the Cabinet post.

It was on Perry’s watch as Texas governor that the state became a leading producer of wind-generated electricity. Perry signed off on legislation allowing for the construction of wind turbines all across West Texas. Yep, they turn constantly out there on the High Plains, the South Plains, along the Trans-Pecos.

The electricity generated by those turbines — or “windmills,” as Trump refers to them — is replacing energy produced by fossil fuels. DOE’s website says this: “Grid operators use the interconnected power system to access other forms of generation when contingencies occur and continually turn generators on and off when needed to meet the overall grid demand.”

Trump isn’t sold. He continues to foment the canard about the hazard the turbines pose for migrating birds. Yes, some birds are injured or killed when they fly into the turbines. The Energy Department says the numbers are insignificant and that wind turbines pose less of a threat to fowl than buildings. According to IJR Blue’s website: Wind turbines do present a threat to birds, but the Energy Department points out that these deaths are rare and that habitat destruction and development of infrastructures such as roads and powerlines poses a much greater threat.

Trump’s shallowness reminds me of the time U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, a noted climate change denier, brought a snowball to the Senate floor one winter to say that because it was cold outside that day in Washington that Earth’s changing climate poses no threat to anyone or anything.

Yep. We are being governed by an ignoramus.

Give thanks to Saudis? I don’t think so

The president of the United States says Americans should “give thanks” to Saudi Arabia for the relatively low cost of gasoline.

I don’t think I’ll do that.

I will give thanks instead to a domestic energy policy that has enabled the United States to achieve energy independence. I’ll give thanks to a president, Barack Obama, who had the foresight to insist on an energy policy that sought to develop alternative sources of energy.

I’ll also give thanks to automakers for developing more fuel-efficient motor vehicles. My wife and I own one, a Toyota Prius, that we gas up about every, oh, three or four weeks.

No, I don’t believe the Saudis are our friends. They are murderers. The president likes to foment fear of terrorists coming to this country from Latin America. Hell, the Saudis are the breeding ground for terrorist monsters; 15 of the 19 hijackers who flew those commercial jets into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon on 9/11 hailed from Saudi Arabia.

Am I going to give thanks to Saudi Arabia for anything? Cheap gasoline? Energy independence? For their alliance with us against Iran and other hardline states in the Middle East?

Hah! Hardly.

Energy prices up, then down, then up . . .

Donald Trump is cheering the drop in oil prices. So am I. I don’t like paying more for gasoline than I can afford. So, I am enjoying watching the price of crude take a tumble.

But wait a second! Didn’t the president come into office declaring his intention to shore up the fossil fuel industry? He tossed some of the environmental regulations approved during the Obama administration, claiming they hurt drillers’ ability to explore for oil.

The other thing that hurt drillers was, um, the price of oil. Back when it was around $100 per barrel, pump jacks all over Texas and the rest of the Oil Patch that had gone silent when the prices fell were restarted. They began pumping the “Texas Tea” out of the ground.

Why, then, does the president say this in a Twitter message:

Oil prices getting lower. Great! Like a big Tax Cut for America and the World. Enjoy! $54, was just $82. Thank you Saudi Arabia, but let’s go lower!

His Pennsylvania Avenue cheering section seems to suggest now that he wants the price to keep falling. A lot of West Texas wildcatters are unhappy with the trend. They don’t want to see it continue. They want it to go the other way.

I happen to hope it doesn’t, just like the president.

But why didn’t the president say anything in that tweet about developing alternative energy sources? President Obama made quite a push to do so during his two terms in office. The result was that we became effectively “energy independent.” The U.S. of A. became the world’s leading oil producer. Meanwhile, we invested in wind, solar and hydropower to take the burden off those wildcatters and Big Oil to keep producing.

Which is it now? Are we going to cheer the plunging oil prices or wish them to increase?

Donald Trump, per usual, is sending a mixed — or perhaps confused — message to the world.

***

And of course, the bouquet the president tossed to Saudi Arabia — in light of his hideous acceptance of the Saudis’ denial in the murder of a U.S.-based journalist — sends another chilling message altogether. More on that one to come.

Waiting for the wind to become part of our energy policy

SNYDER, Texas — This picture really doesn’t do justice to the subject of this blog post, but I thought I’d show it anyway.

I snapped this shot Thursday as we sped along U.S. Highway 84 on our way to Interstate 20. I intended for it to show the seemingly endless array of wind turbines along this stretch of West Texas highway.

It begs a question I have had kicking around my noggin for some time: Where is U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry and why isn’t he using his new federal platform to carry the message of wind power to the nation?

I ask the question for what I believe is a valid reason. He served for 14 years as Texas governor and on his watch as the state’s leader, Texas became a model for alternative energy production through the use of wind turbines. Texas and California moved to the head of the line in the promotion of wind energy.

Think about that for a moment: Two states with wildly different political profiles had this one important energy-related matter in common!

You see them everywhere in West and South Texas. For as far as you can see — and even if you stand up on your tip toes — you see the turbines blowin’ in the wind. They are cranking out megawatts of electrical power. For every megawatt of wind-generated electricity, that’s a megawatt that is not necessarily produced by fossil fuels.

Wind energy is as clean as it gets. “Clean coal” is a misnomer, yet the Donald Trump administration keeps harping on its plan to “save” coal jobs by producing clean coal energy.

Those of us who live — or have lived — in West Texas also know that wind energy is the ultimate renewable energy source. Those fossil fuels? They’re finite, man! You pull the oil out of the ground, it’s gone forever. The wind keeps coming. It keeps blowing. It keeps providing “fuel” to make those turbines turning and making energy.

Rick Perry knows how this system works. If only he would use his Cabinet post as a bully pulpit to promote it to the rest of the energy industry.

His silence is quite unbecoming.

Is Trump responsible for gas price hikes?

I believe it was around 2011. Gasoline prices were spiking.

Republicans were aghast at the fuel prices. They couldn’t understand why the president at the time, Democrat Barack Obama, wasn’t doing something about it.

I don’t know what the president can do, short of imposing some sort of price control. That’s been tried. It didn’t work in the 1970s.

So now the price of motor vehicle fuel is climbing steadily. I thought we had a “surplus” of fossil fuels, given that we were using more alternative energy sources, driving more fuel-efficient vehicles.

Oh, no. I guess that was a mirage. Right?

The national average price of a gallon of gasoline is up about 12 cents during the past two weeks.

Hey, where’s the outrage now? Why aren’t we yammering at Obama’s successor, Donald J. Trump?

The president cannot do anything now any more than any president can limit the price of a market-driving commodity.

But … the silence is rather deafening this time.

Celebrate Earth Day every day

Why do we choose just a single day to honor Planet Earth, to call attention to the need to provide tender loving care to the only planet upon which human beings can survive — and thrive?

But … that’s what we do. Today is Earth Day, dear reader.

It was founded on this day 48 years ago to protest the damage that massive industrialization had done to our cherished planet. So, the recognition continues.

But this Earth Day is a bit worrisome to many of us.

Why? Well, we have a government agency — the Environmental Protection Agency — that is run by someone who doesn’t seem to place as much value on the protection part of his agency’s mission as many millions of us would prefer.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt seems hell bent on wiping environmental protection regulations off the books. He has the support of the president who nominated him to this job. Frankly, Pruitt’s management so far of the EPA has been nothing short of shameful.

But I prefer instead to look beyond the bumbling bureaucrat who runs the EPA.

Each of us has a role to play in caring for the Good Earth. Therefore, I won’t waste time criticizing the government — beyond what I’ve just stated in this blog post.

Our planet’s climate is changing. Coastal lowland is at risk of being inundated. We keep cutting down millions of acres of trees to make room for more cement and steel, which depletes the atmosphere of oxygen that living creatures consume to survive. We’re burning more fossil fuels, putting even more pressure on our fragile atmosphere.

Yes, there are alternatives to pursue. How do we look for them as individuals or families? We can drive fuel-efficient motor vehicles. We can perhaps invest more in alternative forms of energy. It’s windy out there and last I heard, the wind is as clean and infinite an energy supply as I can imagine.

Then there’s water. If you thought oil and natural gas were the lifeblood of a community, try building a town or a city without water. Those who live on the High Plains of Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico know the value of water. That aquifer that flows under us is receding. What are we going to do about it?

Protecting Mother Earth isn’t just a one-day-per-year event. It ought to be at the top of our minds every day.

Check this out from the Amarillo Globe-News: “Where I work we have a program called Stewardship 365, and it’s an oil and gas company” said Amarillo Environmental Task Force member Cole Camp as he conducted a recent tour of one of the City’s recycling venues at 27th and Hayes. “So we’re working to make sure people take that mindset of being cognizant of the environment home with them. It’s not just at work. It doesn’t have to be difficult. I find it really easy to do these things. It’s just as easy for me to put my cans in my recycling bin in my garage, as it is to throw it away in the trash can. It’s just a couple of more feet. So, with a little effort, we can make a lot of progress. By using the recycling facilities here in the City and keeping the waste from going to landfill, the landfill doesn’t expand nearly as fast and the City doesn’t have to pay for methane systems. By recycling we’re reducing waste and saving money.”

Excellent advice. Happy Earth Day … today and always!

Wind: a curse and a blessing

I wrote this tweet earlier today: It’s official. I have grown weary of this incessant Texas Panhandle wind. Enough … already!

Truth be told, I view the legendary Panhandle wind in two contexts.

Yes, it’s a curse. The dirt that flies gets in my eyes. It coats everything. Our recreational vehicle that now shelters us full time is constantly dusty, which drives my wife crazy; me, too, actually.

Our RV rocks and rolls as the wind buffets it. Hey, it’s March! We’re supposed to be this windy on the High Plains of Texas. I get it, man!

That’s the curse part of it.

The blessing? It provides “fuel” to turn those thousands of wind turbines one sees on our expansive landscape. When I hear the wind howl outside, when I see the trees bend and the tall grass wave I think of the benefit that the wind brings.

It provides evidence of the wisdom in Texas’s heavy investment in wind energy. I’ve noted already on this blog how Texas and California have more in common than one might think.

Both states have developed sophisticated wind energy economies. I cannot remember at this moment which of these states is No. 1 in the nation; something tells me it’s California. Texas, though, is a strong No. 2 if it hasn’t overtaken California already in the amount of energy produced by wind.

I happen to be a big proponent of alternatives to fossil fuels. I am chagrined in the extreme by Donald John Trump’s continued emphasis on drilling for oil and for the development of what he keeps referring to as “clean coal,” whatever the hell that means.

The wind that annoys the daylights out of folks like me also has contributed to the surplus of fossil fuel that has helped — more or less — keep a lid on the price of oil and natural gas.

As I keep reminding anyone who’ll listen, wind is infinite and clean. There’s no need to call it “clean wind.”

OK, so it blows a lot here. I might be officially sick and tired of it, I also recognize the long-term benefit it brings.

Boone Pickens calls it a career … for the final time?

T. Boone Pickens is retiring.

Reportedly for the third time. Something tells me that this is it for the legendary Texas Panhandle oil and natural gas mogul.

Pickens is 89 years of age. His health has been sketchy of late. He wrote this in a letter published on LinkedIn:

“Health-wise, I’m still recovering from a series of strokes I suffered late last year, and a major fall over the summer. If you are lucky enough to make it to 89 years of age like I have, those things tend to put life in perspective. It’s time to start making new plans and setting new priorities.”

Pickens recently put his vast Mesa Vista estate in rural Roberts County up for sale. He’s asking about $250 million for the 80,000-acre spread.

To say this man has left a huge footprint across the Texas Panhandle would be to say that Donald John Trump has, um, “changed” the presidency of the United States.

Pickens’s influence spreads far beyond the Panhandle, the region that helped him build the beginning of his immense fortune. And along the way, he made his share of enemies as well as friends. He once engaged in a notorious feud with the Amarillo Globe-News, where I worked for nearly 18 years until August 2012; Pickens’s beef with the paper predated my arrival there, but I heard all about it.

I am in neither camp. I am merely acquainted with Pickens. We have what I believe is a nice relationship. While working for a time as a “special projects reporter” for KFDA NewsChannel 10 in Amarillo, I had the pleasure of interviewing Pickens at his opulent Mesa Vista ranch.

I certainly know of the impact he has made on the region and on the world’s energy industry.

My intent with this blog post merely is to wish Pickens well as he, in his own words, begins “making new plans and setting new priorities.”