American Elephants

What We Can Learn From Spaghetti Sauce by The Elephant's Child

Malcolm Gladwell, author of Tipping Point and Blink, talks about the food industry’s search for the perfect spaghetti sauce, and makes some larger points about human happiness, and the nature of choice.


It’s Not Easy Being Green, And It’s Hard to Stop. by The Elephant's Child

Predictions: This one comes from Carlos Ghosn, the chief executive officer of the Renault-Nissan Alliance. Michael Economides, in an essay at the Energy Tribune describes him as a man who has a firm grasp on the big picture. Ghosn told an industry gathering that “several paradigm shifts” have the potential to severely disrupt the auto industry — and the planet. He predicts that, by 2050, there may be as many as 2.5 billion vehicles on earth, compared with fewer than 1 billion now. China and India will account for half the growth. The transportation sector is overwhelmingly dependent on fuels derived from crude oil and will be for the foreseeable future.

On the other hand, the ideologically blinkered Obama administration continues to behave as if it can magically banish the fossil fuel economy with more Solyndra-like subsidies to cronies, punitive taxes on U.S. energy producers, and politically motivated delay tactics.

For three years, the White House has declared war on fossil fuels, which is like saying it has declared war on the U.S. economy. The ideologues in the White House are marching in lockstep with their masters in the environmentalist movement. They are dangerously ignoring the “demand shock” that has characterized energy markets in recent years, and the warning from the International Energy Association (IEA) recently that, “In a world full of uncertainty, one thing is sure: rising incomes & population will push energy needs higher.”

By its deeds – not its flowery words and talking points – we saw last year how the White House failed to develop energy policy according to this new global reality. President Obama punted on the crucial and urgent need to greenlight the Keystone XL pipeline, which would bring 700,000 barrels per day of Canadian crude oil and would ignite $20 billion in related economic activity, knit the U.S. into the vast Canadian oil sands, and dramatically strengthen our energy security.

In Europe, governments have been crippled by European Union requirements that a significant percentage of their energy come from “renewable” sources. With a succession of very cold winters, and suffering economies, they are taking a hard look at those requirements. The Dutch, for whom those wonderful old windmills are an iconic symbol, have thrown in the towel on offshore wind power. They cannot afford subsidies for expensive wind turbines that cannot produce electricity at economically competitive prices.

Germany, in love with solar energy because the get so little sun, has found that solar power is at least four times more costly than the energy from fossil fuels. And, of course, it has the habit of not working at night just when electricity is needed most. They are cutting their subsidies, and planning to completely phase out taxpayer support over the next five years.

In Britain, 101 Tory Members of Parliament have written to the Prime Minister demanding that the £400 million-a-year subsidies to the “inefficient” onshore wind turbine industry are “dramatically cut.”Joined by some MPs from other parties, they have called on Mr. Cameron to tighten up planning laws so that local people have a better chance of stopping wind farms from being developed and protecting the countryside.

Chris Huhne, former Energy Secretary, was an enthusiast for wind farms. At least 4,500 more turbines are expected to go up as required by the government’s legally binding targets for cutting carbon emissions.

The IPCC scared governments with their computer projections of global warming. Those have proved to be fraudulent, and the IPCC has moved on, but governments are not ready to admit that they were mistaken. Freezing winters that play hob with power supplies, kill people from the cold, and troubled economies are bringing a new caution. Renewable energy is turning out to be very costly and is not producing the energy promised.

Here in the U.S. the majority of states have required their utilities to get a significant portion of their energy from “renewable” sources. They will not meet those goals. The EPA requires 8.65 million gallons of cellulosic fuel to be blended into gasoline for 2012. The only problem is that no cellulosic fuel is being produced — it’s still a fantasy.  But nevermind. The Obama administration pushes on. They do not grasp the nature of the big energy picture, nor do they have an energy policy.  Neither rain nor snow nor scandals nor bankruptcies will slow their drive to be ever more green.

Don’t Make Promises That You Don’t Intend to Keep by The Elephant's Child

   President Obama’s Promises — Under the Presidential Bus

President Obama said “If you misrepresent what is in this [health care] plan, we will call you out.” So we’re calling him out.

PROMISE: “If you like your health care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health care plan, period.”
UNDER THE BUS; Research shows that as many as 30 percent of employers will dump their employees out of their existing health care coverage. New coverage mandates are forcing plans to change, even for those who have moral objections.

PROMISE: “I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits—either now or in the future.”
UNDER THE BUS: The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reports that the deficit reduction associated with PPACA is based on budget gimmicks, sleights of hand, accounting tricks, and completely implausible assumptions. The new law is actually a trillion-dollar budget buster.

PROMISE: “I will protect Medicare”
UNDER THE BUS: Medicare costs are to be held down by severe cuts in payments to physicians and other medical suppliers. Taxes on makers of medical equipment will reduce availability, and the Independent Pay Advisory Board will decide what tests will be available. Bureaucrats will decide if operations will be available or only palliative care.

PROMISE: “I will sign a universal health care bill into law by the end of my first term as president that will cover every American and cut the cost of a typical family’s premium by up to $2,500 a year.
UNDER THE BUS: Heritage lists 12 ways that ObamaCare will increase premiums instead of reducing health care costs, like allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ coverage and offer preventive services with no cost sharing.

PROMISE: “Under my plan, no family making less than $250,000 a year will see any form of tax increase.”
UNDER THE BUS:  A list of new taxes and tax hikes shows an increase of more than $500 billion in 10 years. The 2.3 percent tax on manufacturers and importers of medical devices will raise $20 billion between 2010 and 2019.

If People Won’t Do What You Want, Just Make it a Law, So They Have To! by The Elephant's Child
February 28, 2012, 4:20 pm
Filed under: Politics

A pair of major light bulb manufacturers, Philips and OSRAM, are teaming up with the United Nations in an attempt to pressure countries into participating in a “global transition” to more energy-efficient light bulbs. The two companies are both major manufacturers of the types of bulbs that would replace incandescents under the plan.

How utterly and completely offensive! Stupid people aren’t rushing to buy our new CFLs and LEDs fast enough, so let’s just get governments to mandate their use. Incandescent light bulbs have been cheap (a problem for light-bulb companies) and excellent in their ability to supply good light for general purposes, and for reading and fine work. CFLs are not up to that standard. Nasty light. LEDs are fine for outdoor light, but not ready for prime time for ordinary lighting purposes. But the manufacturers make a lot more money on CFLs and LEDs than on incandescent bulbs.

Governments have no business telling consumers what to buy, let alone what they must buy. Of course, getting your product mandated by the state will enhance the bottom-line. But politicians aren’t smart enough to make those decisions. The impulse to tyranny lies within us all. If people don’t seem to want to do what you want — just order them to.

At some point, LED or other light bulbs may prove to be superior and be offered at a desirable price. You win consumers over with the excellence of your product. People revolt against tyrants, big or little.  It takes a degree of restraint and wisdom to recognize those simple facts.

The United Nations needs to successfully master any of the tasks which the world has assigned to them, before it embarks on an effort to garner more power to itself. They do not have a record of accomplishment.

Obama’s Got the Economy Running on Empty by The Elephant's Child

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels was on Fox News Sunday, and remarked” Let’s give the president credit for one domestic policy that works. He wanted higher gas prices and he got them.”

Gas prices are on the rise and nobody is happy about it.  President Obama hastened to explain that it wasn’t his fault, there were no quick fixes, we can’t just drill our way to lower gas prices, there is no silver bullet that will bring down gas prices or reduce our dependence on foreign oil overnight — what we can do is get our priorities straight, and make a sustained, serious effort to tackle this problem — and then he suggested — algae.

Leftist loon, Edward Markey (D-MA) promptly suggested opening the spigots of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. I think it was just last week that he sponsored a bill to cut funding for our nuclear arsenal by $100 billion, which would result in unilateral disarmament. He’s also a true believer in global warming, and supports every effort to defend ourselves from the horrors of CO2. But I wander astray. Why don’t these people understand “strategic?” Is it too big a word? The reserve is not there to be used every time people get upset about gas prices.

President Obama’s story on gas prices is priceless: 1) Gasoline prices are beyond his control, 2) but  oil and gas production is rising in America due to his energy policies, 3) higher prices are another reason to raise taxes on oil and gas drillers, and 4) investing in algae will be just the brilliant new idea we need. Oh, and since people are so angry about the Keystone XL pipeline, he’ll let them build the Southern part, from Cushing, Oklahoma to next-door Texas. An attempt to pacify the perturbed, that accomplishes nothing much.

Oil prices are futures prices and depend on the outlook for the future price of oil. When the Middle East is afire, Iran is threatening to close the Straits of Hormuz, Syria is in chaos, and the world is trying to cut off Iran’s sales of oil to deter them from making a bomb, it gets a little dicey. On the other hand, when Reagan cancelled a moratorium and Bush cancelled a moratorium the price of oil immediately dropped. Actually, if President Obama simply guaranteed …nevermind. He doesn’t understand the laws of supply and demand, and what he offers with one hand, he taxes with the other.

Today’s price is $3.89.  I don’t know if that is with or without state taxes. The average state tax is 48.8¢ per gallon. New York is the highest at 67.4¢ followed closely by Connecticut, California, Hawaii and Michigan. The lowest are Alaska 26.4¢ and Wyoming at 32.4¢. But for Obama to claim he has nothing to do with gas prices ignores history:

  • In 2008, Senator Ken Salazar (D-CO) refused to vote for any new offshore drilling.  In a conversation with minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Salazar objected to allowing any drilling on America’s outer continental shelf—even if gas prices reached $10 a gallon.  Obama named him Secretary of the Interior.
  • In 2008, Steven Chu, head of the Lawrence Livermore Laboratories at U. of California Berkeley, told the Wall Street Journal that “Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe.” he also said “We have lots of fossil fuel; that’s really both good and bad news.  We won’t run out of energy, but there’s enough carbon in the ground to really cook us.” Obama named him Secretary of Energy.
  • During the 2008 campaign, candidate Obama said “Under my plan of a cap-and-trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket.” And “So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can.  It’s just that it will bankrupt them.” He was elected president.

Energy production is up, but because of drilling on state and private lands, and offshore on permits granted by previous administrations. On the other hand, when oil prices ramp up, it brings into production more costly resources around the world, increasing the world supply which drives down the price. It also lets the world become less dependent on cheap Mideast oil.

At today’s price, gasoline has reached  a price that in real inflation-adjusted terms it has reached only a few times in history. It fluctuates with global events. We cannot put Obama’s solar and clean wind energy in our gas tanks, biofuel is a flop, switchgrass never got off the ground, ethanol is an expensive flop but still required, and algae is years away from becoming a fuel and unlikely to boot. Here in the Seattle area, gas is up by 44¢ this month.

(The picture is from I Own the World. They suggest carrying a pack of post-it’s and a marker with you to leave your small protest at the pump)

Gloom, Doom, and Pessimism — in Prodigious Amounts. by The Elephant's Child

Headline at Business Insider: “Americans Are Incredibly Pessimistic About the Future of  The Country.” It refers to a Politico poll that asks “Do you believe that the next generation will be better off economically than the current generation.?” The answer was No/strongly 49%, Yes/strongly 20%. No information on the sample.

Headline from Wyoming’s  Star-Tribune: “Wyoming House advances doomsday bill. CHEYENNE— State representatives on Friday advanced legislation to launch a study into what Wyoming should do in the event of a complete economic or political collapse in the United States.”

House Bill 85 passed on first reading by a voice vote. It would create a state-run government continuity task force, which would study and prepare Wyoming for potential catastrophes, from disruptions in food and energy supplies to a complete meltdown of the federal government.

The task force would look at the feasibility of Wyoming issuing its own alternative currency, if needed. And House members approved an amendment Friday by state Rep. Kermit Brown, R-Laramie, to have the task force also examine conditions under which Wyoming would need to implement its own military draft, raise a standing army, and acquire strike aircraft and an aircraft carrier.

Adjacent headlines on the Drudge Report this morning:

— Credit Card Debt Nears Toxic Levels
— Oil Price rise causes specter of global recession
— U.S. Water bills to Triple
— 3 Doomsaying experts who foresee economies devastation ahead

Many reports of gun sales up dramatically. Ads for emergency food for long-time storage— survivalist food.

Not a cheerful, optimistic start for a Monday. People are not confident, they are worried. Gas prices are up, and more increase ahead. President Obama is threatening massive tax increases.

Nevertheless, the sun is shining, there’s blue sky for the first time in days. There’s a Townsend’s Warbler with his flash of bright yellow at the bird-feeder, and a varied thrush cleaning up the spilled seed. Long term, I’m an optimist. Short term — not so much.

Can You Remember When You Were in the Fourth Grade? by The Elephant's Child
February 27, 2012, 6:52 am
Filed under: Environment, History, Science/Technology | Tags: , ,

When you were in fourth grade, did you love dinosaurs?  Jack Horner, Curator of Paleontology at the Museum of the Rockies and Regent’s Professor of Paleontology at Montana State University in Bozeman illustrates in this talk for TED how scientists got it all wrong to begin with, and how they got it straightened out.

Jack has published more than 170 professional papers, 9 popular books, and more than 100 popular articles. His book Digging Dinosaurs was described by New Scientist Magazine as one of the 250 most important science books of the 20th Century. Jack also directs the largest dinosaur field research program in the world. He was the technical advisor for Steven Spielberg on all of the Jurassic Park movies, and has worked with National Geographic, and The Discovery Channel on numerous dinosaur specials.

Try to feel like a fourth grader again and enjoy this video.  Great fun.

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