Saturday, September 27, 2008

Budget, Rediculous, Crisis, Ludicrous, Debt, Stupendous.

It's extraordinary to me that the United States can find $700 billion to save Wall Street and the entire G8 can't find $25 billion dollars to save 25,000 children who die every day from preventable diseases. - Bono

Leave it to a rock star to put it all in perspective.

The national debt is incredibly large. When Bush showed up, the debt was being paid down.

The government is enormous. Bush campaigned on smaller government and then made it larger than ever before, at a rate greater than ever before.

Christians are commanded by Jesus to care for the poor. Bush lowered taxes for the rich. McCain wants to do it even more.

The latest spending bill has slipped under the radar due to the Wall Street mess. It's $634 billion if it slipped under your radar too. Yeah, just like that stupid bailout plan. Do you people understand how much a billion dollars is? Do you understand that a billion is a thousand millions? Do you understand that a trillion is a thousand billions? That's a million millions. Do you understand that the national debt is going up at a rate of around $30,000 per SECOND? Do you know that it's already at nearly 10 trillion dollars? Let me write that out for you with a few zeros. That's $10,000,000,000,000. Do you understand that each and every one of the Americans reading this owes over $30,000 on that bill? Three people in my house nearly equals the entire cost of my house for crying out loud. At normal tax rates, how long is that going to take you to pay off?

I want you to look at something.

Do you see what "trickling down" does to the debt? Do you see what Reagan republicans do? Do we really need another "tax cuts for the rich" republican in the White House? Do you see what happens when we let rich people for rich people run the show?

How long do we put up with this?

I can't run my house this way. Why should the federal government be able to do it?

Reagan Republicans obviously either have no understanding of how economics works, or they play it to their own benefit and ideology.

I'm done with it.


Friday, September 19, 2008

Who Am I Voting For?

Oh, yes, it's the long awaited election post.

Now before I do this, I want to make a few thing perfectly and absolutely clear. First, I am not supporting any candidate. That's right, I don't have a horse in the race. My dog's not hunting. I am merely voting for one dude over the other. Second, I am not voting based on any sort of spurious parameter such as things like Obama's a Socialist (you know who you are) or McCain is a warmonger. This decision, finalized just this morning and still subject to reconsideration is made based on very finite and factual parameters.

Parameter number one: Taxes. John McCain's tax plan includes tax cuts for everyone, Obama's plan calls for tax increase for the top 20%, and cuts for everyone else. Under McCain's tax plan, the top .1% of tax payers would get a tax cut of $140,000, while the bottom 20% would get a cut of only $19. For the all important middle class, of which I am part, McCain would give me approximately $319 while Obama would give me $2136. Tax policy is an extremely important issue, and I will not vote for another person who gives the biggest tax cuts to the people with the most money. In fact, I'll not be voting to anyone who offers tax cuts to the wealthy. It is simply wrong to shoulder more of the burden on the people less able to carry it, that's Biblical.

Secondly, the economy. John McCain is by default, by his own words, against regulation. We all know what money will do when you let it loose, we've just seen that. Money only cares about money.

Lastly, I don't believe we should have a former soldier in charge of the military. That's like leaving a militant terrorist in a van full of dynamite in the middle of Manhattan. You're asking for trouble. Military men need to take orders, not be the ones watching over "the button."

I'd love to hear some feedback on this one. Remember, these arguments are based on pure factual information. Tax plans, regulatory opinions, and former soldierhood are not up for debate, these things are facts. Based on the the FACTS, I have made my decision.


Saturday, September 13, 2008

Visitors Searching for "The Shack"

I just checked my web tracker, and it appears that well over half of all my visitors recently have been referred to my blog after they searched for a subject related to "The Shack" by William P. Young.

What to do about this, I don't know.

So, I am asking you. Should I blog more about it, what should I address?

Comments have been mostly positive, though as you can read, some are not. So leave me a comment, I'd like to hear from you, what should I do?


The Pickens Plan

As you've probably seen on TV, the Pickens Plan is getting alot of press, due in large part to T. Boone Pickens supporting and promoting it with his own money. Let me explore the Pickens plan for you.

The plan is fairly simple in scope, but much more complicated in application. The plan is to build massive amounts of new wind power, up to 20% or more of current consumption, then use that to stop using natural gas for generating power for the most part, then use the natural gas to power cars.

I am a natural cynic at heart, my tendency is to disbelieve things at the outset, especially things championed by old rich white guys who own oil. But I do see some light in the Pickens plan. If the first phase (the wind turbines) goes off well, we will all be in a better place environmentally, and for reasons of health. Anything that can displace burning of fuels to make energy is a success. However, when it comes to the natural gas aspect of the plan, I am not so optimistic. True, NG is at a great price now, but start feeding millions of cars with it and prices change. It will likely become as volitile as gas prices. Additionally, NG is still a burnable fuel, it is not without its own pollution, and NG is a limited resource just like all the rest of the fossil fuels. It does bring us closer to renewability because biogas can be substituted in, but I don't think it's the real big idea for the future.

For instance, I believe the Tesla Motors guys said that if you burn natural gas in a power plant (which is much more efficient than a car) and use the resulting electricity to power an electric car, you can go something like twice as far. Now I'm not sure if that's accurate, but it's something to think about. I do think CNG has a place in future energy infrastructure, but not a big one. I think CNG hybrids are a possibility for longer trips that BEV's can't do, but I don't think it's a fuel for everyone. Additionally, Amory Lovins points out that the problem today is not a fuel issue, it's a car design issue. Our cars are massively inefficent, not including the engine. His Hypercar is made of carbon composites, is aerodynamically efficient, and is super light and insulated. All this without a fundamental change in propulsion, though he believes one is needed. Toyota has just contracted a company to make carbon fiber parts for them, so we'll see where that goes. One of thier recent concepts is called the 1/X, and with the same interior space as a Prius, weighs 1/3, uses 1/2 the fuel or better, with an engine 1/4 the size.

I think CNG would be useful for tractor trailer rigs. With a hybrid setup and a CNG generator on board, I think stuff could happen there. A truck is not lacking of space, just look under the thing, but weight issues are the key, and trucks are vitally necessary to our society, so there needs to be a solution there.

Overall, I don't like solution that leaves our energy sources to "oil men." Sure the fuel is different, but it's in the hands of the same people. I still like electricity primarily because I can make it myself. And I don't need solar panels to do it, I can make all sorts of apparatus out of all sorts of pieces and parts, it's quite straightforward. And if I want to get all Lance Armstrong, I can make a power generator substantial enough to watch TV as long as I want as long as I keep pedaling. Of course the bigger the TV, the harder I'll have to pedal.

Overall, the Pickens plan is a good start, and I think it has a good goal, but we don't need any more stopgap measures, the solutions are here. We do need that much wind power though, that is for sure. We need a fundamental change in the way we do things, cars especially, ask Amory.

We need to have great cars, and we also need to drive them less. - Amory Lovins

Friday, September 12, 2008

Gas prices jump $1.50 before second hurricane THIS MONTH!!!

I'm just gonna go ahead and say, good. Good good good good. You skittery shifty cock-eyed consumerists can pay all the money in the world for your go-juice, and I'm loving it because it will get me that much closer to electric cars. I'm not loving it for the prices, but I'll sacrifice to reach my ideals, the American people don't seem to be much into that these days.

Every few minutes my wife comes in and tells me the latest news about runs on the gas station, prices up to $5. The gas stations are raping you in the back seat of your own car and you're lining up waiting for your turn.

Let me explain is this way. If your car gets 40 miles per gallon (I'm being real generous here because likely 3% of you reading this have a car that can do that,) you are spending about 35 cents to travel four miles at yesterday's gas prices. An average electric car gets somewhere around 4 miles per kWh, which means for that same 4 miles, they're not paying 35 cents, but more like 9-11 cents in this area. That means if you travel 400 miles, you're paying $35 in a gas car, while you're only paying $10 in an electric car. It adds up perty quick. Just think, if your car gets 20 mpg, you're paying $70 for 400 miles, and you're paying 18 cents per mile.

Electricity prices aren't going to rocket up like gas prices every time someone gets scared of a storm or terrorism or whatever. I can't make gasoline in my backyard, but I can make electricity, in fact, there's a little solar panel charging a battery in the shop as we speak on this bright sunny day before the hurricane ever even hits. I'd also like to mention that we just had a hurricane LAST WEEK and nobody panicked then. Electricity prices are very stable compared to oil because there are many diverse sources of electricity. In fact, when all else fails, we have backup generators. If one plant goes down, you can divert power from another one, and you may only just barely have a blink in your power, or you may not notice at all. There are 66 nuclear power plants many with more than one reactor, nearly 500 coal plants, 2000 hydroelectric plants and tons of natural gas plants. Oil pretty much only comes from one place, and once it's gone, it's gone. And let me be the one to tell you, it's almost gone. Prices will go up. Prices WILL go up.

One good note on the hurricane, Texas is going to reap a boatload of wind energy from this storm.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Synthetic Oil for Engine Awesomeness!

You've probably seen commercials for synthetic oil on TV. Of course you know commercials never tell the whole story, that's why there's so much of that tiny print at the bottom, top, sides, and if it is a car commercial, pretty much across the whole screen.

There's another problem with these commercials, and that is because in America, Chevron sued to be allowed to tag the "synthetic" name on hydro cracked oils made from crude oil. So now virtually every "synthetic" oil is actually just modified crude oil, and it should be pointed out that the rest of the world do not consider these substances to be synthetic oils. These are classed by the American Petroleum Institute as "Group III" oils, and they are not the ones I'll be talking about.

The oils I will be talking about are shown in the pictures on your screen, these are API Group IV and V oils, true synthetic oils. Group IV oils are produced by making polymers from alkenes, essentially the same as regular oil, but one end of the molecular chain is different. Group V oils are made from acids and alcohols.

The brands I'll discuss are Amsoil and Mobil one, but only the Extended Performance Mobil 1, not the rest because they like most everybody else switched to cheaper to produce Group III base stocks. Amsoil also has a line of Group III oils, but these have significantly less performance than Group IV PAO (polyalphaolefin) oils and they are designed for a specific requirement and market.

I use Amsoil in just about everything, and Mobil EP in everything else. I use their motor oil, grease, oil filters, transmission fluid, chain lube, two stroke oil, bar and chain lube, gear lube, food grade grease, and one day maybe their anti-freeze too. I use Mobil for breaking in lawnmowers or anything that uses alot of oil, like the lawnmower I just gave away.

The reasons why I use these products are several. First, like all my green stuff is money. Amsoil lasts about 25,000 miles in cars with the proper filter, which is also Amsoil because they have the best filter media. This means I can bypass five to eight normal oil changes which saves a significant amount of time and money because I do all our oil changes at home. You might find it interesting that our car with nearly 80,000 miles on it has just had its fifth oil change. A normally oiled car should have had 15 to 30 by now.

The second reason is the crude oil use and waste. Most cars use over a gallon of oil per change and somewhere in the range of five changes per year if someone is taking care of them. Tractor trailer rigs use somewhere in the fifty gallon range, but they don't change theirs as often. For the hundreds of millions of cars all over the US and somewhere in the range of a billion in the world, that adds up to alot of oil that gets used and has to be discarded somehow. Plus that oil has to come from somewhere, and much of it comes from countries that deal in religious oppression and violence. The more I can do to avoid both of those problems the better.

Thirdly, synthetic oil just works better. Lots of people brag about how well their car works and all, but synthetic oils have proven to get better gas mileage which helps the problem above. It keeps engines from wearing out as fast and that means less energy is put into production of new vehicles. For me, the proof is in the clarity. For most of you using regular oil, you'll notice that your oil is black within a thousand miles and is mucky black by the time you change it. At 20,000 miles the oil in our Corolla is still see through though slightly darker than when it was put in. When I change it sometime between there and 25,000 miles, it is still much clearer, and you can easily see light through the stream coming from the drain hole. Another proof is the tail pipe. My push lawn mower still after three years doesn't have the characteristic ring of black soot around the exhaust pipe. And small engines work absolutely wonderfully on synthetic oil, they start MUCH easier, and they idle much better at lower rpm's. When I brought my bees back from Oregon, I had to rebuild the hubs on my trailer. My dad warned me to be careful to check to make sure that the hubs didn't get too hot on the trip. I put synthetic grease in them and was quite surprised and delighted to find that during the whole trip the tires were warmer than the hubs. After my second fill of synthetic oil on my motorcycle, I still have not seen a noticeable hint of darkness in the oil. One downside, it makes it difficult to check the oil sometimes because it's so clean you can't easily tell where it is on the dipstick. That cleanliness translates to less wear in the engine.

And the fourth reason is because I want stuff to last longer. Like I said before, the longer stuff lasts, less energy is required to make new stuff. Metal work is a very energy intensive process, that's why metal plants are almost always located quite close to power plants.

In the end I guess all these things boil down to efficiency. Efficiency is something severely lacking in our society and that needs to be remedied. I do try to convince people from time to time that synthetic oil is better, not that much convincing needs to be done, it's obvious, but most people are just too lazy or cheap to do it. The thing is, it saves so much time and energy, like many things, it just requires an outlay of resources at the onset. It amazes me that people still want to pay so much in finance charges and things so that they can have a lump sum of money now, that's what credit cards are about. It's a huge waste, and I'm against waste.


Thursday, September 4, 2008

Somebody Stole my Hammock!

I was out surveying the damage from hurricane Gustav today and the first thing I noticed was that I live on an hill in Arkansas, and thus I remembered that our thunderstorms often make Gustav look like getting peed on by a toddler from an overhead balcony. I doubt even a leaf was disturbed from any one of my sensible number of trees.

Secondly, I noticed that my Honduran hammock was missing. It was back in the trees, the only way you could see it was from the driveway of the neighbors who live behind us. I bought that hammock when I was in Honduras on a agricultural mission trip a few months ago. I am supremely bummed out. This marks the second time in as many falls that I have had something stolen, last time it was a quite large watermelon (the one I got to keep was 42 lbs.)

Who is stealing my stuff? And why don't the go for the more expensive stuff like the air compressor or the chainsaw? Who would walk onto my property and steal a freaking hammock for crying out loud. I feel violated. Like somebody sneaked in and put my boxers on their head.


Monday, September 1, 2008

Back to my Roots, Sustainable Living.

I took a few minutes to do some introspection last night and realized on a wide variety of fronts that I have stepped away from my personal roots, philosophies, and expertise. I think I’ve become sarcastic and cynical, quick to discount anything that I’d rather not deal with, and honestly, I’m disgusted with myself. Last night, we were talking about politics, and I went off half cocked, and Heidi called me out on it. I admit, I had only woken up a few minutes earlier and was not really in my right mind, however, I believe that it’s the things you do when you aren’t paying attention that shows your true inner content. Anyway, to my friends, I apologize for being a douche, and to my readers, I also apologize, but for ignoring my roots in sustainable living and theological exploration.

So, that being said, I’d like to write about a subject that I have not really explored before and since my trip to Oregon (a medicinal marijuana state) have been thinking about a bit more. I’m gonna write about hemp and cannabis. I’d rather not use the word marijuana, because as you will see later, it was a term used by chemical companies and the media to destroy this a great competitor to the emerging petrochemical industry. The hemp I will refer to is the industrial use of the plant scientifically known as cannabis sativa subspecies sativa. The cannabis I will refer to is the more chemically enhanced variety known as cannabis sativa subspecies indica. The species is highly varied, containing many varieties, ranging on a scale from the industrial used hemp and seed production varieties with virtually no psychoactive THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) to the more druggy ones with more like 25% THC.

A little history. This is interesting, some researchers have found that hemp and cannabis may have been domesticated before the vast majority of the food crops we have today, the reason? Hemp is a widely useful plant, as food, fuel, fiber for cloth, and of course a recreational drug. But more recently, you might be surprised to find that all those old sailing ships we learned about in history class had hemp rigging and sails, each ship totaling up in the many tens of tons worth. The first printed paper was made of hemp, the Declaration of Independence written on hemp, and the first jeans were actually made of hemp canvas like the sails on those ships I mentioned earlier. The first American paper company used hemp exclusively and was started by Benjamin Franklin, and many of our nation’s fathers grew it on their plantations.

I’d like to make something clear here, I’m not campaigning for the legalization of medical cannabis, though I think it has some use and would serve the public much better regarding criminality if it were legal medicinally. What I want to focus on is the use of hemp, the non THC version, for industrial purposes and in minor ways for food. I am campaigning for the completely legalized and broad adoption of hemp for textile and industrial uses as a sustainable replacement for many items currently provided us by petrochemicals. Many products are made of oil and other inefficient resources that would sustainably be made of hemp such as clothing, paper, rope, plastics and fiber reinforced composites.

For example, if you grow a hectare of hemp for paper, and the same of wood, after twenty years, you’ll have 4 times as much fiber for paper and the best part is you don’t have to wait twenty years to harvest, you can harvest every year and do it sustainably. Also, hemp is a much superior medium for making paper because while wood fibers reach about 2 cm in length, hemp fibers can reach 4.6 meters. Long fiber length equals stronger more quality paper, and hemp paper making requires far fewer chemicals only needing to be bleached with hydrogen peroxide, or not bleached at all.

Hemp vs. cotton is an even bigger issue. Hemp produces 4 times as much fiber as cotton while using 50% of the chemicals that cotton does and having three times the tensile strength. Hemp also grows in a way that naturally eliminates weeds because it is so tall and dense at the top. This is especially significant since cotton is one of the biggest contributors to problems caused by crop production. Hemp can be made into many kinds and grades of cloth from heavy duty canvas (the word actually comes from cannabis) to ultra fine fabrics nearly indistinguishable from silk. Many famous paintings were made by artists painting hemp paint onto hemp canvas.

Hemp can be used for fuel, either the seed oil for biodiesel or the whole plant fermented for ethanol. The kicker is that hemp produces more energy per hectare than corn, sugar cane, or any other crop currently grown for fuel.

So why is it mostly illegal today? If hemp is such a wonderful product, why isn’t it used? And if it was used before, why not now? The answer comes back to big money and industry, the sources of so much destruction and draw away from clean technologies. Back in the 1930’s, William Randolph Hearst, who seems to have had ties to the forest and chemical industries published articles in his papers linking hemp to marijuana and attacking marijuana usage with all sorts of wild eyed stories that we today would think were ridiculous. Stoners today are stereotypically seen as lazy, Hearst’s papers painted them as psychotics. Believe it.

So, in 1937 it was all made illegal though the hemp industry had just begun a rebound as new technologies had sprung up making it far more competitive with then emerging markets. But petrochemicals gave us plastics and nylon, and something people could grow in their backyard was not to be tolerated even though a US Department of Agriculture film called “Hemp for Victory” in 1942 tied our utilization of hemp with winning the war because it was such a useful substance. After the war though, hemp went the way of the electric car.

Fortunately today, hemp is still going the way of the electric car, making a comeback. Hemp clothing is extremely popular and its market share is growing and not just because of stoners, it is being driven by environmental awareness. A quick search will net you tons of websites that sell hemp clothing, in all styles, sizes and colors. The unfortunate thing for the American economy is that hemp is not allowed to be freely grown because it is a relative of marijuana. This puts us in a disadvantageous position because hemp is still a popular substance and virtually all of it must be imported.

Now another question. What is my stance on actually using cannabis? As I’ve mentioned to a number of people, if I get cancer and have to have chemotherapy, I’ll most certainly use it. However, I would never be a recreational user, just as I am not a recreational user of alcohol. I value my clear and unenhanced, unmodified consciousness. It is what makes me who I am, and it is one of the things I value most. I believe I agree with the Bible in this aspect because the Bible prohibits drunkenness, which I’d imagine is quite similar in scope (though not effect) to being stoned. I believe God calls us to be in control of our minds. The Bible says that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit which I believe accurately refers to the mind as well the physical body. Eating too much food results in a body that is not fit, so too would be the effect of excessive amounts of drugs (alcohol or any other) on the mind. Moreover, we must remember that the Bible never puts any sort of prohibition on the consumption of alcohol, or any other drug, only the over-consumption, of which it is very direct.

In conclusion, for reasons of sustainability and the economy, I believe the use of low THC hemp should be legalized in the United States. And yes, I’m willing to take the abuse and have my friends call me a hippy for what I believe.