The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Posts tagged ‘oil’

AGENDAS AND THE ENVIRONMENT

He is well spoken, succinct and presents his commentary with authority.  Patrick Moore, a Canadian ecologist gave testimony this week before a U. S. Senate committee regarding global warming.  Although the honor goes to many who claim to be in on the founding of the organization known as Greenpeace, Moore’s credentials are are strong as any of the others.

In his testimony he asserted that there is absolutely no evidence that the warming of the earth is other than a natural and regular phenomenon and is not caused by man’s activities.  Needless to say, Moore has earned himself the status of  a “persona non grata” among the most ardent of those in the environmental movement.

Moore went on to explain that the movement had lost its way and instead of trying to save the earth had focused on the far more lucrative potential of raking in the dough both through individual contributions and through government payouts.  There isn’t an “environmentalist” in a university who holds a position that does not start with the underlying premise that man is the contributor to global warming because there is no grant money in holding the opposite position.  Could it really all be about the money?

It’s always hard for me to accept statements that purport to have found global truth and certainty.  There are some exceptions to that statement.  I do believe that the earth is round, the sun rises in the east and that water is wet.  I also believe that litter is both ugly and unnecessary.  We might refer to pollution as aerial litter and therefore I support efforts to reduce or eliminate it.  But not everyone is on that same page.

Take, for example, the Chinese general who recently characterized the question of China’s pollution, the worst on the globe, as a good thing.  If you’ve ever seen a photo of any of China’s cities where the residents are wearing face masks to protect themselves from the foul air, you might question the general’s logic if not his sanity.

The general had a simple explanation for his position.  “The pollution in our cities helps protect us from the laser equipment on U. S. drone planes because it makes it impossible for them to focus accurately on their targets.”  Whether the general really believes that or he is making an excuse for China’s failure to address their  pollution problems is anyone’s guess.  We all have our agendas.

Whether it was in business or in my personal life I have always found that in order to achieve a goal it was important for me first to define what the goal was.  And then rather than leap to the end, I needed to define specific small steps which would lead me to accomplish what I intended.  Perhaps that is my biggest gripe with those who identify themselves as “environmentalists.”  I do not see many of them taking the small steps which would help improve our environment – which is something I  believe in doing.  We cannot tell other nations to meet high standards if we ourselves do not first set an example.

In the United States we produce and consume 50 Billion plastic bottles a year containing water.  Only twenty percent of those are recycled – leaving 40 Billion bottles a year to get consigned to landfills.  In order to produce those bottles we consume 17 Million barrels of oil.  If you were to add in other beverage containers for juices, sports drinks and sodas you can probably double those numbers.  By almost anyone’s definition that’s a lot of waste and a lot of oil.

To my knowledge, there are only three states which require a deposit when the consumer purchases a plastic bottle containing water, those being California, Hawaii and Maine.  The deposit is small at a nickel – although California has a variable schedule based on the size of the container.  Simply put, that deposit amount is probably insufficient for the consumer to take the environmental impact of disposing of plastic bottles seriously.

But what if there were a twenty-five cent deposit on each bottle of water?  Most consumers purchase bottled water in packages containing two dozen or thirty bottles.  Suddenly, seeing an additional charge on the grocery bill of six dollars or seven-fifty might encourage the shopper to make sure that those bottles were returned so they could receive their deposit back.  There might well be additional benefits to implementing this deposit strategy.

1)  In order to process the higher number of bottles which would be returned for recycling we would undoubtedly develop automated equipment which would handle the process and dispense a voucher for the deposit money.  That means a new industry would begin at a time when our economy is only slowly staggering toward recovery and new jobs that would be created in order to make this equipment.

2)  Consumers, faced with a charge – even a refundable deposit – might investigate alternatives to buying water in plastic bottles such as home filtering equipment which would reduce the number of plastic bottles used and the amount of oil consumed to produce them.

3)  The evidence is increasing, though far from conclusive, that plastic beverage containers leech PCB’s into the liquid they contain.  There is some concern that PCB’s are contributing factors to the development of various forms of cancer.  Thus, reducing our consumption of plastic bottled beverages might act as a way to minimize our risk of getting that disease.

There may be some downside to this deposit suggestion but I haven’t been able to think of one – other than the immediate out of pocket cost of making the deposit and the need to return the bottles for its return.  I would welcome any of my readers to offer any opposing views or any positive suggestions which they have.

My agenda for the environment is that, to the best of my ability, I want to do as little as I can to harm it and try to do as much as I can to benefit it.  To that end I produce only one small bag of garbage every two weeks – in large measure because I compost a lot of trash.  I don’t make unnecessary car trips and try to organize my travel so I can accomplish my errands in one organized run rather than multiple trips.  I watch the thermostat and put on extra clothes in the winter rather than turn up the heat and rely more on ceiling fans in the summer than air conditioning.  In the summer I let my clothes sun dry rather than using the electric dryer.  (In addition to saving electricity, the smell is infinitely nicer).

That plan might seem insufficient to some of the more radical environmentalists but it’s my agenda and I’m sticking with it.  And now it’s time to go.  Gracie needs her morning walk and I have bigger tofu to fry.

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GAS IS FIVE DOLLARS A GALLON

Once again the price of gasoline is on the rise.  Part of that is the tension developing in the Middle East – Iran threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz – their saber rattling regarding Israel – and that state’s reciprocating with its own.

Although the price of light sweet crude has remained in a trading range, the price of gasoline has risen regularly.  (Today I saw an eight cent increase over the price I paid for it the other day).

The “experts” predict that when we hit the peak driving season this summer, we should expect to pay an average of about four dollars a gallon.  Personally, I did some analysis and think that number could be closer to five dollars.  There are two reasons for my conclusion.

By this summer I believe that the Federal Reserve will again engage in what it calls “Quantitative Easing” – a polite way of saying we’re going to further devalue the dollar.  Since the oil that we consume is denominated in dollars the effect is to raise the price of that oil.  That increase will naturally translate to increases in the price of “derivatives” – that is products that are made from that oil – one of which is gasoline.

Second, the refineries are not making any money based on the price of oil and the current price of gasoline.  As a result they are limiting the production of gasoline and will only increase the amount of their output if they are able to get higher prices for it.  Combine that with the increased demand from drivers and that’s how I arrived at my five dollar guestimate.  I sincerely hope that I’m wrong.

We know that when gas prices increase it drains money from consumers’ pockets and has a negative impact on the economy.  Since consumer spending constitutes two-thirds of the economy you can see the effect that increasing gas prices will have on what is only a poor recovery.

Those are the economic facts as I see them.  Having said that I would like to offer my readers a few common-sense ways to combat the vacuum cleaner that is preparing to suck the money out of your wallet and put it in your gas tanks.

First and foremost, slow down when you drive.  We know for a fact that combustion engines operate less efficiently at higher speeds (burning more gasoline) than they do at slower speeds.  At a time where we should be doing everything to encourage conservation – the Congress currently has a bill pending that would increase the speed limit on national highways from the present 65 to 75.  (That I am on the other side of Congressional thinking is like receiving the Good Housekeeping “Seal of Approval”).

Group your trips to minimize your gas consumption.  A little bit of planning can result in your driving fewer miles, getting your chores done more productively and save you some time.  I have gotten in the habit of asking a few neighbors if they need anything from the store or would like to drive with me when I shop.  One less car covering the same route is one less car burning gas.

While none of us can control the price that retail gasoline stations post for their product, we can control how much of it we consume.  And the added benefit is that we can not only save ourselves money but reduce the carbon footprint we are leaving on planet earth.  That  is reason enough for becoming thoughtful conservationists.

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