Blog Archives

How do the candidates stand on America’s energy future? Here’s a radio piece from NCR

Energy policy, defining how we use energy to power our economy and our lives, is among the most pressing issues for the next four years. In this special edition of BURN, stories about the power of one: how, in this election season, a single person, place, policy or idea can — with a boost from science — affect the nation’s search for greater energy independence.

The new reality…

A number of political economists and business authorities are predicting that a 9%-10% unemployment rate has become the norm and will remain so for at least the next generation. And what has caused this? The banks? The politicians? The President (or the preceding presidents?)

Perhaps it is none of the above… perhaps it is the mix of our inventiveness, technology and and our growing productivity.

Think about this: we make more and more automobiles, with more advanced engines and technical attributes, but we use less and less employees to manufacture them. Through the use of advanced robotics we have taken what used to be thousands of workers on the assembly lines and replaced them with hundreds. That means 90% of previous employees are no longer necessary due to our technical advances… and more of these are coming. What if the hundred worker line becomes the ten worker line? It’s not only possible, it’s likely.

I heard someone on television ask “When was the last time you dealt directly with a bank teller?” The answer, of course, is that with debit cards and ATM machines, we handle our own deposit activities, get our own cash, check our balances, etc. Do we wonder, then, why the number of bank employees have fallen off?

The people in retail stores who used to mark items with price tags have been replaced by preprinted bar codes which are scanned at checkout counters to connect with computer listed prices. And now, in grocery stores for instance, there is a marked increase in checkout lines where you do the bar code scanning yourself, replacing  the cash register employee. In my supermarket, eight checkout lines are now customer scanned and are observed and approved by one employee at the end of the aisle, thus eliminating seven cash register employees. As the self-checkout system grows, fewer and fewer cash register lines are even lit up and open… this almost forces many people into the self-checkout so they don’t wait in a long line.

The one set of industries that would employ larger numbers of people… construction, both on housing and in repairing our highways, bridges and infrastructure… is being ignored by Congress in an obvious and serious political confrontation with the President. By voting down the Jobs act (or not letting it come into being) there is no support for this help to Americans and their country.

Then there are teachers, firemen and police officers, all who have faced extreme layoffs due to budget cuts after tax income has been reduced due to increased unemployment. There are smaller towns that have eliminated their police departments altogether, if you can believe that. Schoolrooms now have larger and less teachable classes in order to cope with less teachers… and the academic achievements of our children have diminished accordingly. We are becoming both poorer and less educated at the same time.

If there is a solution to all of this… if there is a response other than absolute anger, as the Occupy movements are showing… I don’t know what it is.

This is a new America which we must find a way of dealing with. I’m not sure we will in the near future.

We’re supposed to have fireworks tonight…

…but we are currently being hit by a string of thunder storms passing over us toward Hagerstown. The Fire Department Carnival, which is supposed to present the fireworks at 10:45 PM,  hasn’t announced a cancellation yet… if they do, tomorrow night is the rain date.

The Weather Channel, however, is predicting a 70% chance of thunderstorms tomorrow and tomorrow night. Shepherdstown Fire Department has not listed another rain date…yet… so maybe we will or won’t have fireworks this year. These are the ones I really like, since Elly and I can sit on our back deck and not have to leave the house or find parking.

Oh well, we’ll see what happens.

Went to Green Drinks in Harper’s Ferry…

Green Drinks is a group that gets together once a month so that people with interests in conservation, green energy and related subjects can interact with each other. Elly has been going to this since it relates to Sustainable Shepherdstown. Tonite I went along with her.

There was a speaker this evening, something I’m told doesn’t usually happen at these events. His name is John Amos and his company is SkyTruth. This is an organization which uses satellite and aerial photography to evaluate the effects of oil drilling and shale fracking and other destructive things that people do to the earth. He has been especially involved with viewing BP’s oil leak history in the Gulf.

Amos gave a slide presentation with amazing pictures that got us all worked up and had us considering what we could do to help correct the situation… not an easy thing to do.

More on the solutions later.

I just spent some time looking at the Solar Roadways site… What a great idea!

When we talk about getting away from oil, coal and other carbon power sources and toward wind and solar, very few ideas seem to be massive enough to solve the problem. Lately we are seeing proposals for massive off-continent wind farms (Massachusetts and Maryland are currently pushing these) and other projects. But the idea of the Solar Roadway is not one we hear a lot of.

Take a look at this:

Here’s where to go to explore the project: It’s full of information to get your interest up… you can even see their TED presentation where Scott Brusaw was given 18 minutes to present it. It’s a really successful 18 minutes and worth your time.

A statement like this makes me wonder why the government isn’t getting involved here:
Everyone has power. No more power shortages, no more roaming power outages, no more need to burn coal (50% of greenhouse gases). Less need for fossil fuels and less dependency upon foreign oil. Much less pollution. How about this for a long term advantage: an electric road allows all-electric vehicles to recharge anywhere: rest stops, parking lots, etc. They would then have the same range as a gasoline-powered vehicle. Internal combustion engines would become obsolete. Our dependency on oil would come to an abrupt end.

If you are really interested in alternative power, go have a look at the Solar Roadways web site.

Maybe we should get US/Iran Politics out of this…

clipped from

Iran renews offer to help on US oil spill

The National Iranian Drilling Company (NIDC) has renewed its offer to assist the US in reining in an ecologically disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Mehran Alinejad, the head of special drilling operations at NIDC, pointed to the experience gained by Iranian experts in containing huge oil leaks during the eight-year Iraqi-imposed war in the 1980s, and said, “Iranian technical teams have had major achievements in oil well capping and the Gulf of Mexico oil rig is not a great feat in comparison.”

Washington, which has been pressing on with a campaign to impose a fourth round of tough UN sanctions against Tehran over its nuclear program, has yet to respond to the Iranian offer.

BP officials say that the ruptured undersea well is spewing some 5,000 barrels of crude oil a day. However, analysts believe that at least 70,000 barrels of oil is spewed every day.
blog it
If Iran has experience and offers help, I’d take it. It might get us over our current communication problem with them at the same time.

Is technology oppressing our lives?

It is an odd kind of thing to be presented by a guy who lives on his blog many hours of the day, but this article in New Scientist by Yair Amichal-Hamburger attracted my attention.

I’ll give you a clip from it, but I suggest you read the whole thing:

clipped from

“THE age of melancholy” is how psychologist Daniel Goleman describes our era. People today experience more depression than previous generations, despite the technological wonders that help us every day. It might be because of them.

Our lifestyles are increasingly driven by technology. Phones, computers and the internet pervade our days. There is a constant, nagging need to check for texts and email, to update Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn profiles, to acquire the latest notebook or 3G cellphone.

Are we being served by these technological wonders or have we become enslaved by them?
In many homes, the computer has become the centre of attention; it is the medium through which we work and play.
In this era of mass consumption, we are surrounded by advertising that urges us to find fulfilment through the acquisition of material goods. As a result, adults and children increasingly believe that in order to belong and feel good about themselves, they must own the latest model or gadget.
  blog it

Quote of the Day

“It was just way too much trouble so I gave it up.”

– Bill Gates commenting on Facebook.