Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Happy Birthday - NASA Established, July 29, 1958

Happy Birthday NASA

On July 29, 1958, passage of the National Aeronautics and Space Act gave birth to NASA.

NASA's motto is: "For the benefit of all."

NASA's Office of Education motto is... "Shaping the Future: Launching New Endeavors to Inspire the Next Generation of Explorers."

Life on the Moon

Yesterday, July 28, 2008, NASA awarded 12 contracts relating to the Constellation Program:
"These studies provide new ideas to help the Constellation Program develop innovative, reliable requirements for the systems that will be used when outposts are established on the moon," said Jeff Hanley, the Constellation Program manager at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. [link]

Notice the word "when" in the above quote. Not "if" ...but, "when" we have outposts established on the moon.
NASA plans to establish a human outpost on the moon through a successive series of lunar missions beginning in 2020.

In addition to the Constellation Program, NASA is also working on developing lower-cost access vehicles to space, in particular the Ares and Orion programmes, and thus make access to the International Space Station (ISS) independent of Russia.

New Frontiers for Both Russia and USA

Many recall NASA being established as a response to the 1957 successful launch of the Soviet Union's artificial satellite Sputnik. While NASA continues exploring new frontiers in space, Russia continues with their own desire to break new records in science...
Russian explorers plunged to the bottom of Lake Baikal, the world's deepest lake, on Tuesday in a show of Moscow's resurgent ambitions to set new records in science. [link]

Last April U.S.A. and Russian scientists revealed that Lake Baikal, which contains more water than all the North American Great Lakes combined, had warmed faster than global air temperatures over the past 60 years. Many scientists are concerned that this could put animals unique to the lake in jeopardy.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

America's Most Important Gift

When I graduated 8th grade, heading into my high school years, our class held car washes, bake sales, collected/recycled pop bottles... everything we could do to raise funds for our Graduation trip to Minneapolis.

The highlight of the trip for me was when our entire class went to a live dinner theatre where we were able to watch an incredible cast and crew perform "Oklahoma" on stage. We were all seated up front and center, able to see the band pit and view the live action on stage.

It was a breathtaking experience for me as I had never been to a live theatre before. To this day, I can still recall some of the words to a few of the songs in this exhilarating performance. What a rush!

As an aside, I've also had a soft spot in my heart for Oklahoma for the warm memories the live performance invoked.

Last April, in my post "Pop E Quiz" I wrote:
This incredible country was united by a truly remarkable document known as The Constitution of the United States of America. It was quite possibly the greatest gift your ancestors bestowed upon you. Treasure it.

Little did I know at the time that at least one State here in the U.S.A. was actually in the process of protecting this important gift. I'm speaking about Oklahoma. Here's an excerpt from a recent article written by Walter E. Williams at Townhall.com:
Oklahomans are trying to recover some of their lost state sovereignty by House Joint Resolution 1089, introduced by State Rep. Charles Key.

The resolution's main focus is on recovering - and preserving - the Constitution and its rights in the State of Oklahoma. Quote:
Now, therefore, be it resolved by the House of Representatives and the Senate of the 2nd session of the 51st Oklahoma Legislature: that the State of Oklahoma hereby claims sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States over all powers not otherwise enumerated and granted to the federal government by the Constitution of the United States. That this serve as Notice and Demand to the federal government, as our agent, to cease and desist, effective immediately, mandates that are beyond the scope of these constitutionally delegated powers.

Thus far, the Resolution passed in the Oklahoma House of Representatives with a 92 to 3 vote, but it has yet to pass through their Senate. Here's a link to the full story.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Terra Nova Dairy vs Wabash County BZA

Indiana CAFO News Update

How many have been following the CAFO news in Indiana of late? If you have, you might already be aware of the Indiana State Court of Appeals decision with respect to "Terra Nova Dairy, LLC vs Wabash County Board of Zoning Appeals" which upheld the trial court's decision.

You can find the details listed at: Indiana Appellate Opinions - Appeals

Or, if you would like a direct link to the pdf version of the ruling, go through this link.

Indiana State Court of Appeals Decision

To loosely sum things up, the Wabash County BZA denied Terra Nova Dairy (TND) their Improvement Location Permit (ILP) Application to build their CAFO. When TND was declined by the BZA, they took it to trial court. They lost.

TND then appealed the trial court decision and from what I understand, they based a large part of their argument on the point that the initial BZA ruling was based on an unlawful CAFO moratorium.

But the Wabash County BZA argued their decision to decline TND's ILP Application for the construction of a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) in Wabash County was based on incomplete filing -- and the Indiana State Court of Appeals ruled yesterday in favor of the Wabash County Board of Zoning and the Wabash Court.

In my humble opinion, this really is a simple case of "No means NO."

But who knows if it will end here. Terra Nova Dairy still has the option to take this one more step -- to the Supreme Court -- if they desire.

And the word for the day is: estoppel

ESTOPPEL: A bar preventing one from making an allegation or a denial that contradicts what one has previously stated as the truth. [Obsolete French estouppail, from Old French estouper, to stop up, from Vulgar Latin *stuppre; see stop.] (def. from thefreedictionary.com)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

seen the new jibjab video? Check it out

I chose the term jibber-jabber in yesterday's post without realising that jib-jab was coming out with a new flash video today.

Some might find it offensive but I thought it was hilarious.

Turn up your speakers and kick back to watch the new jib jab video - Time For Some Campaignin' - about the 2008 Presidential elections.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Color Me Purple - Oil

Quick Quiz/2-Part Question: What disaster happened in November, 20, 1980, that almost sucked away an entire lake within hours of it happening... and what tiny engineering error is believed to be the cause of the disaster? (See video below for the answer.)

This is the second in a series of "Color Me Purple" posts that I will be writing leading up to the November 2008 elections.

Energy - Part 2: To Drill for Oil ...or Not?

The whole oil thing kind of reminds me of a Shakespearean drama... "To be or not to be. That is the question..."

I sincerely doubt that any single one of us knows the whole back story and behind the scenes deals that have taken place -- and HUGE deals probably taking place at this very minute -- on the subject of oil.

The brief little news soundbites that we hear throughout the day mostly revolve around pain at the pumps. Regarding the big picture, few (if any) of those newscasts have been covering stories like these:
Supply On Demand -- This is an interesting short article about the backdoor deals being made direct with drilling companies that are taking oil (and other commodities) out of the global marketplace. Could this be a large part of that "shortage" refrain we keep hearing about? In other words, is demand outstripping supply mainly because more and more of that supply is no longer reaching the market -- even though it is still there?

The Whole Afghanistan/Iraq/Pakistan/Iran Thing -- Another interesting article that refers to the huge TAPI 1,680 km long pipeline project that will... "...export gas and, later, oil from the Caspian Basin to Pakistan’s coast where tankers will transport it to the west." Rather than tell you about the bizarre deals struck on this one, you're better off reading it for yourself here.

Oil and gas deals benefit from rising commodity prices - yet another type of "deal" that has proved to be lucrative for some, thanks to rising gas and oil prices. This is a side to the industry we seldom hear much about.

Drilling Rig Shortage - Is it an oil shortage, or a drilling equipment shortage? Even as Bush lifts the Federal ban on drilling, what good will it do when "the world’s existing drill-ships are booked solid for the next five years" as reported in this New York Times article.
Demand is so high that shipbuilders, the biggest of whom are in Asia, have raised prices since last year by as much as $100 million a vessel to about half a billion dollars.
Even though the report came on June 18, 2008... the story is not new. StockIndicator wrote about the drilling equipment (and experienced labor shortage) problem two years ago, back in 2006, stating,
"During the course of our three-month investigation, we found the labor and equipment shortage applied not only to uranium but also to coal, oil and gas, coal bed methane and precious metals exploration. ...For investors, the labor and drill rig shortage has a silver lining. As inventories dwindle lower, commodity prices will continue rising."
Well, we all know today how accurate that particular prediction became.

With all the far left and far right jibber-jabber on the oil topic, it's oh-so-difficult to wade through the hype and get to the real facts. Is it speculators jacking up the price? Is it dropping supply or just supply not reaching the marketplace? Is it really increase in demand... to the point that they truly don't believe ANY alternatives will exist by the 2012 or 2015 mark when new wells are expected to start producing? Is it groups who want to capitalize on current high prices to line their own pockets and take advantage of the perceived panic being stirred up on the issue?

I don't have the answers to any of those questions. And sadly, I doubt if I would believe the answers unless they came with irrefutable evidence -- proof that the answers I get are actually the truth.

And so, with respect to the question...

Should we open up drilling rights?

In short, if it's "PROVEN" beyond a shadow of a doubt that drilling needs to open up in areas previously banned, then I sincerely believe STRONG, IRREVOCABLE PRECONDITIONS need to be set.

CONDITION #1: Zero export condition. In other words... absolutely NONE -- and I mean ZERO -- of any oil produced from wells located in those previously banned areas can be exported in any way, shape, derivative, form, etc. Absolutely 100% of all oil and/or gas and/or other minerals would have to be sold exclusively within the U.S.A. and with the condition attached that it never leave our borders -- even after refining and/or being converted into other products (such as cooking oil, plastics, etc.).

Not a single drop goes off our shores -- period.

Furthermore, severe penalties need to be put in place -- right up front -- to ensure not a drop from these protected areas goes into the global pool.

Sounds pretty nuts, right? Maybe at first glance...

Take another look at the condition and, if the oil produced from those previously banned drilling areas couldn't be used in any way shape or form for export, how quickly do you see this condition having a positive impact on energy (even food) prices here at home? Makes me curious if it would have an impact.

Hmmmm... makes you kind of wonder how many of those companies eager to start drilling will still be in the picture if this condition were attached to the rights, doesn't it?

I'm guessing even fewer of them would stick around for this next condition...

CONDITION #2: 100% Accountability. I'm sick to death of hearing how the industry has improved and how they can do things today with little to no impact on the environment.

Therefore, I say, if they are that confident, they should be able to put up substantial performance bonds in trust and remain fully 100% accountable straight through 50 years AFTER they have ceased operations, dismantled their rigs/facilities and gone away -- LEAVING NO TRACE BEHIND. The bonds would be held in trust until that 50-year dormancy period has expired.

AND if, God forbid, anything should happen... the company has to pay for it out of their own pockets -- not the taxpayers' pockets -- and not through the performance bonds. No "name the blame campaigns" or "fingerpointing" or whatever -- just fess up and pay up. Also, if something bad does happen -- they lose their bonds. The bonds go to the taxpayers. If nothing bad happens -- the companies get their bonds back after the 50-year dormancy period mentioned above.

The above is a simplified approach. I'm sure the legal eagles can hammer out the full details of how it works to protect both environment and taxpayers while at the same time, hold companies fully accountable.

Now why, oh why, would such strong zero tolerance requirements need to be in place? Well, take a look at this video to see what can go wrong from one simple mistake. It's the answer to the QUIZ above, about the Louisiana sink hole that drained an entire lake.

Here's how one small mistake can have disastrous consequences:

CONDITION #3: Shorten "Rights" Time - They don't get 25 years. They don't get 15... They don't even get 10 years. Let's give 5 MAX and a penalty if they don't do anything at all. No sitting on the rights until the climate changes or the attached conditions can be changed by bribing (oops, did I say that?) a future administration... or whatever. Use it - or REALLY lose it - period. Once you've lost it, you can't ever bid on it again. You had your chance.

Now you might think, with the above three conditions (there are more, but those will do for now) that I'm against drilling.

Not entirely. I'm just thinking most of it is too little, too late.

With that said, I am against drilling if it's intended to line pockets of companies who think more about profits, less about this country, and least of all about the taxpayers who've had to help clean up a mess or two before. Do it right, or don't do it at all.

And do it for the reasons you "say" you want to do it, and not for some hidden agenda because maybe you've made a few backdoor deals that have supposedly caused demand to outstrip supply in recent years. Do it right AND do it for us, or don't do it at all. 'Nuff said.

So, this undecided voter has given her P.O.V. on the subject of drilling for oil.

Candidates -- don't give me the big spin on "if you're for or against it." Instead, tell me, (1) if we really have to do it first, and if so... (2) what conditions would you attach? And, for the record, (3) if we really don't have to drill, will you tell me the truth and not let them drill?

Bottom line is, what really say you?

Sidenote: For the record, I'm ALL FOR SUSTAINABLE energy solutions that do NOT require fossil fuels, particularly with respect to transportation.

As a mechanic's daughter, a retired mechanic who once owned a fairly successful company specializing in hydraulic repairs, I honestly believe there just HAS to be a better way to turn and stop a wheel. Surely the combustion engine has had it's day in the sun long enough. Surely there is a better, cleaner and safer way. I just can't believe that it still takes that many parts to ...as I said... turn and stop a wheel. Take the need for transportation fuels out of the demand loop and we'll probably see a MASSIVE difference in demand -- and price.

Necessity is the mother of invention. Today's high oil prices may bring out some of the best inventions we've ever seen to date. Wouldn't that be nice? If demand suddenly fell off a cliff, then what would happen to price?

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Color Me Purple - Energy Part 1

Quick Quiz: What killed 1,700 people and thousands of cattle within a 25 km radius? The answer is below in this post.

This is the first in a series of "Color Me Purple" posts that I will be writing leading up to the November 2008 elections.

Color Me Purple = Undecided Voter (UV)

All UV posts will touch on issues (or parts of an issue) that I feel the candidates haven't clearly addressed, or haven't addressed at all... hence, my UV status. And so I begin with...

ENERGY - Part 1

If you know me, you know how I deplore wasteful Government spending -- and when it comes to the ENERGY issue, there's plenty of areas they tend to "p" away our money, flushing it down the drain on some of the most hair-brained ideas I've ever heard of... CCS being one of them.

CCS stands for "Carbon Capture and Storage," where you take the CO2 emissions from large producers of it (like coal power plants to name one source) and cram it 1.3 miles to 1.6 miles deep into the ground for permanent storage. Here's a pic to give you a better idea:

click for larger pic

It's kind of like sweeping the dirt under your rug. If nobody sees it, it must be clean, right? D'oh!

Here are two previous articles I wrote on the subject:

1. And the FutureGen Winner is Mattoon (Dec. 18, 2007)
2. FutureGen Update (Dec. 19, 2007)

You might recall one of my main concerns was the possibility of this stuff leaking out over the years. Even worse things are possible... which I'll get to in a minute.

Had the DOE not backed off on the project, we, the taxpayers, would be paying for FutureGen's insurance, plus waiving them of all liability (read responsibility) should anything leak (or worse) from the CO2 storage after a 10 year period -- AND, we would be paying (via the DOE) 74% of the costs to build the thing.

UPDATE on CCS -- It's Worse Than Even I Thought

Today, the Institute of Science in Society (ISIS) sent out a press release on the CCS subject, with some additional facts which paint a pretty horrific picture of what can happen if -- only IF -- things go wrong at a CO2 storage site.
As long as CO2 is stored in geological sites, there is a risk of slow leakage or large scale escape that will impact the surrounding environment and negate the climate mitigating effect.

A natural example of the danger of CO2 escape occurred at Lake Nyos Cameroon in 1986 following a volcanic eruption, which released large quantities of the CO2 accumulated at the bottom of the lake. It killed 1,700 people and thousands of cattle within a 25 km radius. (emphasis added by me)

A 2006 US Geological Survey pilot field experiment was carried out to test deep geological disposal of carbon dioxide in a saline sedimentary rock formation in Frio, Texas. The researchers found that the buried CO2 dissolved large amounts of the minerals in the rocks responsible for keeping the gas contained. The CO2 dissolved in the salty water, turning it to acid.

The acidified brine dissolved other minerals, including metals such as iron and manganese, organic material and relatively large amounts of carbonates that naturally seal pores and fractures in geological sites.

Carbonate is also found in the cements used to seal abandoned oil and gas wells. Dissolving these carbonate seals could release CO2 into the atmosphere. The contaminated brine could further leak into aquifers and contaminate drinking and irrigation water.

The lead scientist in the field experiment Yousif Kharaka warned that the results are “a cautionary note” that calls for “detailed and careful studies of injection sites” and for “a well thought out monitoring programme to detect early leaks of CO2 into shallow potable groundwater or to the atmosphere.”

With all the other options available to us that are -- safer, cleaner, cheaper -- why in the world would our government be yanking money from our paychecks to pursue CCS? How much money?
CCS is diverting funds away from renewable energy options. The US DOE’s 2009 spending on CCS is $623.5 million, a 26.4 percent increase over 2008, at the same time that it is scaling back programmes on renewable energy and efficiency by 27.1 percent to US$145.2 million. (read more here)

Be wary of any candidate who chimes out he is pursuing "clean energy" initiatives without detailing what those so-called "clean" initiatives are... and knowing exactly who profits (and who pays).

In the case of CCS, I say scrap it. Take that $623.5 million and either give it back to us, or put it towards free energy and/or renewable energy. Heck, even the nuclear energy option sounds better than CCS (not that I'm in favor of it, yet). At least the spent uranium becomes neutral after a couple million (or billion?) years. But that CO2 just sits there, waiting for it's day in the sun.

Archeologists of the future beware. Gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "call before you dig" doesn't it?