Friday, July 18, 2008

The cost of putting your name on something

Last night my wife and I went to a concert with a number of people from our church at an outdoor amphitheatre once known as Pine Knob. We were eager to hear Steven Curtis Chapman and Michael W. Smith. Although we normally sit on the lawn when attending concerts at this facility we were fortunate to have received free tickets in the pavilion, along with VIP parking and even a buffet supper, through the generosity of a local supermarket chain. But the concert – most of it anyway – wasn’t to be. After the opening act Steven Curtis Chapman sang his first song, after which the power in the theatre went out. The lighting around the park outside the theatre was still operating. After a few minutes without sound and light the power came back on and Chapman sang a verse of his next song, then the power cut out again. This went on until around 9:00 when Linda and I decided to leave. It was hot and Linda was beginning to wilt. And we worried about being able to find our way out in the dark. As if to underline our concern, as we walked through the parking lot, all the power in the facility went down. Not even an emergency light shined in the parking lot. This morning we called the church office and found that the power failures continued until 10:00 when the performers gave up and everyone went home.

Why am I writing this? Because several years ago DTE Energy, the electric company in the Detroit area, paid probably several million dollars to name the theatre “The DTE Energy Music Theatre.” Talk about getting egg on your face. Perhaps DTE should invest in a backup generator for the DTE Energy Music Theatre.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Bill Press on energy: More liberal misconceptions

Bill Press’ column (
For 6/19/08, titled “MCCAIN SELLS OUT TO BIG OIL” repeats a number of liberal misconceptions that need to be corrected.

He says

Just look at the difference between Barack Obama and John McCain on energy. Obama proposes a windfall profits tax on big oil companies to help develop wind and solar energy, research new alternative energy technologies, and wean ourselves from fossil fuels. McCain proposes drilling for oil off the coast, one of the oldest and worst ideas in the Big Oil pipeline.

Since when is the government a source of innovation? Government labs don’t have to show a profit, so they don’t have to develop practical, market-oriented technology. Government grants go to universities and research labs that also don’t have to show a profit. True, useful products and technologies come from university research, but they would come much faster if the universities would partner with profit-making corporations. Generally the government doesn’t require this. Jimmy Carter proposed a massive “Synfuels” effort during his administration. Whatever happened to that?

He continues

Offshore drilling will destroy our most beautiful stretches of coastline, and wreck our valuable tourism and fishing industries. And it will continue our dependency on fossil

This is based on the drilling technology of the 60’s. It’s true that some spills occurred during drilling then, but drilling and production techniques have improved since then. During Hurricane Katrina no oil was spilled from platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. Compared to spills from tankers, the spills from drilling are miniscule.

He writes
Even if the moratorium were lifted tomorrow, it would take at least 10 years to develop the offshore rigs and onshore tanks, pipelines and roadways necessary to begin production.

This is like saying, “Why should I start college? It’ll take 4 years to get a degree.” If we had continued to explore for petroleum deposits, we wouldn’t be in the fix we’re in now. If we start now to explore, the potential for new production will calm speculation in oil futures, which will apply downward pressure to oil prices. And in ten years we won't be experiencing the shortage we are dealing with now.

Continuing, he writes
By that time, with a new energy policy, we could be well on our way to a new, alternative-energy future.

No one is saying we shouldn’t develop alternative energy sources. But this will require considerable time, and current estimates indicate that known alternative energy sources are not capable of supplying the energy we currently use. So time will be needed to develop new energy sources and implement conservation measures. In the meantime we need petroleum.

Finally he writes

Offshore drilling won’t bring any relief for consumers, either. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates there are 18 billion barrels of oil in the moratorium areas. At present rates of consumption, those fields would be exhausted in less than 2 1 /2 years. According to the Campaign for America’s Future Online, lowering the price of crude by $1 per barrel saves roughly 2.5 cents per gallon. Which means that getting rid of the ban on coastal drilling would lower the price at the pump by less than 6 cents — by 2025.

Mr. Press fails to mention the huge petroleum reserves locked in the oil shale deposits in Colorado and other western states. Extraction technology for getting at that oil in an environmentally safe way is not yet available, but progress is being made.

The alternative energy sources Mr. Press mentions should be developed. But at present they are expensive compared to petroleum and not capable of supplanting the role of petroleum. For the present we need to continue to explore for and develop petroleum, while continuing to develop alternative energy sources.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Of what use are those bubbles?

What good is foam? I’m not talking about foam rubber or Styrofoam – they have their uses. But in the form of cleaning products that foam or the head on beer, the value is questionable.

Years ago a New York brewer advertised “The ten minute head”. Another brewer advertised, “Don’t pour it down the side of the glass.” What does a head on a glass of beer accomplish? It prevents the beer drinker from getting at the beer – unless he wants to coat his face with foam.

Cleaning product manufacturers like to show how their product foams. Presumably the foam shows that the cleaner is doing its job. But what the commercial doesn’t tell you is that you’re going to have to rinse and rinse and rinse to get the foam to go down the drain. When I clean the bathroom I don’t use water with the cleaner – just wipe it off with a paper towel. This cuts down significantly on the work of removing the foam. And I avoid cleaning products whose manufacturers tout their foaminess.
And foam from detergents can be a big contributor to pollution of streams and rivers. Better to do without those suds.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Reforming McCain

The following is the text of a message I sent to John McCain's campaign web site this evening:

As a conservative Republican, I am not happy about some of your positions on issues. I will vote for you, but if you want me to contribute to your campaign, please promise to work for the repeal of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance "reform" act. This law restricts free speech and should never have been passed.