T. Boone Pickens, the multi-billionaire oilman who helped fund horribly immoral ads against Democratic candidates came out with the Pickens Plan last year. After looking it over, it was easy to see he was using his wind energy plan as a front for an alternative goal. After looking into it a little further, it became obvious that Pickens only wanted to look ‘green’ so that he could control a larger portion of the natural gas market, then sell that natural gas as part of a transportation sector makeover, so that he could make billions more. Which he’s free to do, of course, in our messed up semi-market-based economy. I wrote three posts on Pickens before feeling comfortable that he wasn’t likely to succeed in his ridiculous plan any time soon -
The credit crisis is affecting most Americans, rich and poor. It is also affecting business plans, big and small. Among those business plans are renewable energy projects. The recent run-up in fossil fuel prices have made wind power much more competitive in the marketplace than it was just a few years ago. Despite the fall in fossil fuel prices since July, wind power remains nearly competitive with oil, natural gas and coal. Solar power isn’t too much further behind wind. With a little more help from the government, the wind and solar industries could be allowed to mature further. That’s where the credit crisis monkey wrench comes into play. Projects for wind and solar have been viewed as more risky than fossil fuel projects, due to maturity differences. With banks less likely to fund risky ventures, wind projects are among those suffering. That includes T. Boone Pickens’ plan to build the largest wind project in the world. I’m not a fan of his entire plan, mostly because he doesn’t view climate change as the predominant problem that needs attention. I would classify him as a delayer due to his efforts to switch our transportation system from oil to natural gas. That would keep us dependent on his businesses and delay any serious work to stop forcing the climate system. No thanks. That also means I’m frustrated that wind projects will be downsized or delayed while the credit markets come back online.
Could off-shore wind farms alter ocean currents? Sure. Removing energy from the atmosphere would have to have an impact on wind stress placed on the ocean. As a result, upwelling could occur in places it currently doesn’t (or the magnitude of processes could shift). The specifics aren’t yet well studied. This kind of assesment would require a closer collaboration between physical oceanographers, biologists and others. It should be examined further.
NASA’s Space Shuttle Endeavour is preparing for a Friday afternoon launch. It is the next mission to the International Space Station. This mission will deliver infrastructure that will allow the station to house six persons, up from the current three. That would allow more science to be done. Endeavour is bringing a spare toilet, a second kitchen, new exercise equipment and a water recovery system designed to turn urine into potable water. The water technology, if successful, could make its way back down to Earth. Water is going to become a more scarce resource in the 21st century. Any method of conservation will ease the impact of that.
Newsweek did a piece investigating our health “care” system’s emergency rooms. In the leading paragraph:
The modern emergency room, as most people think of it, has an emergency of its own: It’s packed, costly, noisy, and overrun by uninsured freeloaders who can’t legally be turned away once they walk through the ER doors. If you’ve actually been in an ER in the past few years, you know the first three things are true—but how much do you know about the rest of the people in the waiting room? As it turns out, they’re not disproportionately uninsured patients with nowhere else to turn. They’re more likely to be people who do have insurance.
A number of myths are taken apart in the interview with Dr. Manya Newton, an emergency physician at the University of Michigan. Here’s just one: 85-90% of all emergency room visits are people with insurance. The uninsured aren’t clogging the ER.
Will there be a 21st century Great Depression? With the increasing scope of the financial crisis, more people seem to think so. Survival web sites are growing in popularity.
The impacts of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq won’t be known for years. Already, the seeds of future problems in Iraq are being laid. John McCain likes to talk about how Iraq is one big happy country. The truth: ascendent, new tribal leaders have been splitting up provinces into their own private fiefdoms, weakening the central government’s power and directly challenging the “democratic” system the neo-CONS put in place. Almost 100,000 Sunni fighters are being paid by the U.S. to not attack U.S. military forces. As Iraq’s government moves to expand its role, it has refused to accept these fighters into the official Iraqi military and police forces. What happens when the Sunni fighters take up arms against the elected Iraqi government? The U.S. created a situation where Iran will likely become a much stronger regional player.
The corporate media still loves Pickens’ (Insane) Plan. Switching from oil to natural gas makes no sense. It will enrich Pickens and it will do nothing to alleviate the climate crisis. The U.S. needs to take bold steps toward zero-emission transportation. Pickens would have us wait 10-30 years before doing so. Meanwhile, the climate continues to be forced by humans.
The increase in families that are becoming homeless is described as ‘alarming’. The CONServatives’ obsession with zero taxes has put state and local organizations in huge binds. There is simply no money to appropriately address the problem.