Tag Archives: fossil fuels

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.”

Here’s a thought: Let’s keep DST

Do not count me as one of those twice-a-year crybabies who gripes and moans about the changes from Daylight Saving Time back to Standard Time, then back to DST … and on and on it goes.

We’ve “fallen back” one more time. The sun will rise an hour earlier on the clocks we’ve all (or many of us) have turned back before we turned in for the night. It’s going to get dark an hour earlier at the end of the day, too.

I don’t object to the back-and-forth like some folks do.

However, I am beginning to wonder whether we ought to just keep it on DST as a hedge against the reason it was made a more-or-less permanent fixture in our lives back in the 1970s.

Do you remember the Arab oil embargo of 1973? We had those long lines at the gasoline service stations. Gas dealers were running out of fuel. The price of fuel spiked to a buck a gallon and we all went apoplectic at the thought.

The government imposed Daylight Saving Time to ensure a way to keep from turning on the lights in our homes. We wanted to save energy that at the time we thought was in short supply. If the sun was shining later in the day, the thought went, we could conserve electricity that in many parts of the country is produced by fossil fuels; that’s the case in the Texas Panhandle, for instance.

Where are we now? The energy crisis has abated more or less. We have plenty of fuel. You know what? It’s not an endless supply. Oil is still a finite resource. I get that the “crisis” as we once knew it has passed. But why not maintain at least a semblance of alertness to the need to conserve what we ought to know won’t last forever?

Given that I have environmentalist tendencies at heart, that is what I would like to see. I won’t bitch about switching back and forth, not even in the spring when we lose that hour’s sleep by turning the clocks ahead for DST.

Finally, we can stop the silly media chatter about whether it’s called “Daylight Savings Time” or “Daylight Saving Time.” Now that annoys — and the pun is fully intended — the daylight out of me.

Trying to process Perry’s affection for fossil fuels

I am having a bit of difficulty processing Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s recent tortured and convoluted connection between the use of fossil fuels and sexual abuse.

The former Texas governor spoke in Washington the other day and said — you have to follow this closely — that nations in Africa can avoid sexual abuse of children and young women if they burn more fossil fuels that help “keep the lights on.”

I’m still in a bit of a fog over how one connects one with the other — and does so with a straight face.

I want to offer another element in this strange conflating of energy use and sexual abuse. Actually it’s hard setting aside Perry’s nutty notion that sexual attacks occur only at night, but I’m going to try nevertheless.

When the energy secretary governed Texas, our state turned into a leader in the development of alternative energy sources. I’m talking mostly about wind power. Yet the energy boss seems to have swilled the fossil-fuel Kool-Aid served up by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, the former Oklahoma attorney general who seems enamored with the oil and natural gas industry.

If the energy secretary believes it’s important to keep the lights on, why doesn’t he fall back on the wind power that has become such an enormous presence in places like, oh, the Texas Panhandle and the South Plains?

I don’t often say something positive about Perry, but the development of a clean, renewable alternative energy source — which has an infinite supply out here on the Caprock — provides a pretty stellar legacy that should make the former governor proud.

Indeed, he ought to speak more openly and aggressively about promoting wind energy as a critical component of the national energy policy.

I haven’t heard much from Perry on that score. Instead, he offers a silly notion that connects burning fossil fuels as an antidote to sexual abuse.

Weird, man.

Follow the logic if you can

U.S. Energy Secretary Rick “Oops” Perry has made a curious leap between fossil fuel development and consumption and sexual abuse.

I’m trying to connect the dots. I am having a difficult time of it.

Perry said fossil fuel consumption can prevent sexual abuse because the “lights are on.” The Energy boss made his remarks at a forum sponsored by NBC News and Axios.

According to The Texas Tribune, Perry said: “It’s going to take fossil fuels to push power out into those villages in Africa, where a young girl told me to my face, ‘one of the reasons that electricity is so important to me is not only because I’m not going to have to try to read by the light of a fire and have those fumes literally killing people.’”

Oh, boy.

Is he pushing fossil fuels as an energy source or is he speaking about the brutality of sexual abuse suffered by villagers?

I’m going to assume — given the secretary’s former position as the governor of Texas, which produces a goodly amount of oil and natural gas — that he is pitching fossil fuel consumption.

Or is he?

Here seems to be where the Trump administration that Perry serves is missing the boat. This big world of ours is full of alternative energy sources that also can keep the lights on. Wind, solar, hydropower … they all are renewable, clean and safe. I’ll also throw nuclear power into that mix, too, even though nuke plants — which are safer than they used to be — aren’t yet totally safe from cataclysmic accidents.

Perry went on, according to the Tribune: “But also from the standpoint of sexual assault, when the lights are on, when you have light that shines, the righteousness, if you will, on those types of acts,” Perry continued.

The Sierra Club, one of the nation’s foremost environmental interest groups, has called on Perry to quit in light of his remarks. I won’t go that far.

Perry offers confusion

I do question the logic the energy secretary is employing in connecting fossil fuels with sexual predation.

He lost me.

No, sir, government isn’t the same as a business

I’ve had the pleasure of visiting on three occasions with one of the smartest men in America.

T. Boone Pickens has earned a fortune in the oil and natural gas business. He knows fossil fuels better than, well, almost anyone.

The former Amarillo resident and current fossil fuel tycoon, though, misses the mark when he says that you can run government “like a business.”

Pickens has written an essay for Texas Monthly, in which he says in part: “In the late eighties and early nineties, I considered running for governor of Texas. Now a lot has changed since that time. But one thing that hasn’t changed is the need to make sure we have a government that works.

“’Can you really run a government like a business?’ I was asked at the time. ‘Sure you can,’ I replied. ‘It’s a business to start with. Taxpayers are like stockholders, and both are entitled to a full day’s work for a full day’s pay. For a dollar spent, taxpayers ought to receive a dollar back in value.’”

Pickens is as smart a businessman as anyone you’ll ever know.

But as another tycoon is learning, government is a much different animal than a business. That tycoon, Donald J. Trump — who Pickens supported wholeheartedly for president of the United States — is learning in real time that the founders established a checks and balances system for a good reason. It is to ensure that no one branch of government runs roughshod over the other two.

The crux of Pickens’ essay was to extol the need to make the United States energy independent. He’s right about that need. He’s also got a dog in that fight, given that he owns a whole lot of fossil fuel rights in the United States and stands to benefit tremendously from pumping these fuels out of the ground.

He misses another point, though. It is that we already have made huge strides toward that goal in the past eight years. The Obama administration sought to provide incentives for investment in alternative energy sources: wind, solar, hydropower, biofuels. The big spike in oil prices in recent years has prompted much more fossil fuel exploration in this country. Add to that the fuel efficiency standards mandated on automakers and you have a sort of perfect storm that weans us from foreign oil.

Back to my main point.

Business is business. Government, though, is another creature altogether. I get that Pickens desires a business-like approach to government. However, the principles one applies to running a business do not transfer straight into the act of politicking, legislating and the making of laws.

Business executives can make decisions that stick, with no questions asked. Politicians have a different platform on which they operate. They have voters to whom they must answer. They also have colleagues who might have different points of view, a differing world view. They are as wedded to their view of the world as the businessman or woman is wedded to whatever he or she believes.

The “business” of running a government requires a certain skill set that business executives need to learn. From what I’ve seen of the businessman/president, he hasn’t yet learned it.

Perhaps someone like Boone Pickens could figure it out. If only, as he said, he had less history behind him and more in front of him.

Gov. Perry forced to eat his words

Rick “Oops” Perry called Donald J. Trump a “cancer on conservatism.”

He said his one-time Republican presidential campaign foe was devoid of “principles.”

The former Texas governor once pledged to get rid of the Energy Department, except he couldn’t remember it at the time he made the pledge.

Now the man he condemned with such harsh rhetoric has asked him to lead the department he wanted to eliminate.

Go … figure.


Gov. Perry’s nomination to be energy secretary suggests two important things to me.

One is that politicians’ views of other politicians always are subject to change when the moment presents itself. Perry’s remarks about the president-elect happened to be accurate, in my view. They didn’t stick. So now, if he’s confirmed, Perry will lead a Cabinet agency that he seems to know little about and will work at the pleasure of a man he once described in extremely harsh terms.

The other is that energy development isn’t just about drilling for fossil fuels. Perry, as Texas governor, knows that. We generate a good bit of wind energy in Texas, especially out here on the High Plains.

Trump, though, has expressed next to zero knowledge of, or interest in, alternative energy production. He keeps talking about grabbing the oil fields of the Islamic State and other terrorists and capturing the fuel for our own needs. Is the energy secretary going to assist in that endeavor or will he proceed with promoting a comprehensive energy policy that includes the myriad forms of alternative energy sources available to us?

Gov. Perry is another one of those questionable nominees with whom Trump is surrounding himself.

I am now shaking my head.