Thursday, June 3, 2010

We're in Deepwater Now

Yay for new posts!  Now let's get down to business.  I'm sure everyone has heard about the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  Big news!  Well, I was watching Rachel Maddow recently when I heard an interesting bit of information.  

Apparently, a spill by the same company as the one going on right now, happened in the same place - the Gulf of Mexico - back in 1979 AND - here's the kicker! - they used all the same techniques to try to get rid of it and guess what!  Yeah, they didn't work then, either.  

Alright, first of all, I'm pretty upset about this whole thing.  It seems obvious to me that we are simply not ready to handle drilling offshore in such deep waters.  (Sorry, a little pun there, unintentional if you believe it.)  The oil spill going on right now is about 5,000 feet below sea level.  If you look back, the similar one I mentioned from 1979 was about 200 feet below sea level.  That spill lasted an amazing NINE MONTHS.  I kid you not.  So, why in the world would we believe we can handle a spill in 5,000 feet if it took us nine-friggin-months to clean up a spill 30 years ago in only 200 feet?  

Well, perhaps you think, well we have better technology now.   Perhaps we do, but if I recall correctly, the same sort of back-up system in place in the Deepwater Horizon was used in the 1979 spill.  And, yeah, it didn't prevent a spill then, either.  Perhaps if we had better methods for cleaning up the spill, then it would be okay to delve so far beneath the ocean waves to pump up oil.  But, yeah, we don't.  The same methods are being used to clean up this one as 30 years ago.  The same chemicals are being sprayed into our oceans (endangering sea life) now.  And it's been proven these chemicals are unsafe to the animals whose habitats our greedy oil tycoons have invaded in the first place.  But, we keep on using them.  

Apparently, these chemicals are not only unsafe for the animals (and also, not biodegradable, big shocker there) but they are also not actually supposed to be used for getting rid of the oil, only dispersing it into a larger area.  Seriously.  As if killing more wildlife will make the situation any better.  Their cap didn't work either.  What about relief wells?  They're expected by August.  Yeah, two months away - and that's just the best case scenario.  (Side note: have you seen all the ways people are thinking up to soak up the oil?  Human hair, goat hair, etc. - but no one is taking them seriously.  What if these things could work?  It's better than shoving golf balls down there, like some doofus at BP suggested.)

Let's talk about how BP has lied about the output of this gushing well from the beginning, shall we?  At first they were saying less, then they were saying 5,000 gallons a day (which happens to be the number they said they were cleaning out of the well, too - strange, huh?), now we know it's closer to 40 to 50,000 BARRELS a day - each barrel containing 50 gallons.  I cannot even comment on this, it's just too shocking.

On top of all this, the oil spill is also threatening the marshes lining our coasts.  Big deal, right?  Well, these marshes, besides being home to countless species of animals and plants that deserve better treatment, are really important for slowing down the progress of hurricanes that come on shore.  The marshes literally save lives every year.  And they are currently being destroyed by this completely out of hand leak.  (And I hesitate to even use the word 'leak' as it's a ridiculous understatement - as if it were a leaky faucet, dripping out oil every now and then.)

I'm sure you can tell I'm pretty ticked off by this issue.  And I will go a step further.  I do not believe we should be drilling offshore.  Not only can we get dangerous leaks such as the one still gushing 2,500,000 gallons of oil every day (I hadn't actually written out the number until now; can you even fathom that much oil?  It's an absolute travesty!), but the simple truth is that we just do not have enough oil on this earth for it to be a sustainable energy source.  

However, looking at the website for the U.S. Energy Information Administration, it seems coal could become a bigger problem (see the link below, there's an interesting graph on page 66, on the right (don't worry, the link is only 5 pages long) showing that coal is projected to have the largest share in our energy sources by 2035.

Still, what about all those great renewable sources like wind and solar?  According to the EIA (mentioned above), in 2007 we used a total of (maybe you should sit down?) 101.545 QUADRILLION Btu (Side note: "The British thermal unit (BTU or Btu) is a traditional unit of energy equal to about 1.06 kilojoules. It is approximately the amount of energy needed to heat one pound of water one degree Fahrenheit." - direct quote from Wikipedia.)  I wasn't even sure that kind of number existed!  It's like a thousand trillion (which is a thousand billion, which is a thousand million, etc.)  It's like a thousand times our national debt - Times another hundred!  It's ridiculous.  Out of that, 86.212 Quadrillion Btu came from fossil fuels (total).  Petroleum was accountable for 39.773 Quadrillion Btu.  Coal was close behind with 22.776.  But the renewables? - total, about 6.813 Quadrillion Btu, with wind at 0.341 and solar at 0.081.  

We're really in a pickle here, folks.  That oil isn't going to last forever, and as we can see from this oil spill, which I forgot to mention before is way way worse than the Exxon Valdez spill up near Alaska, drilling offshore is dangerous.  Our economy can't handle importing so much fossil fuel from the Middle East and other countries.  I don't know much about Natural Gas (23.637 - usage in 2007), but coal pumps harmful greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.  I generally think Obama is doing pretty well, but where's all that renewable energy he was talking about?  I wish it were more of a priority for him (though I understand what kind of mess he has to clean up after the last ding-a-ling in office).

Everyone should take a look at the report on electricity, here: as well as the energy usage report I quoted, which can be found here: 

I am truly sorry for any inaccuracies, and don't forget to post your comments!  This should be a good one for discussion.

Progress on the book:  somewhere around 15 pages so far, and major plot developments worked out, at least in theory.  It's looking pretty good.  When I don't have any ideas for the scene I'm doing, I go back and do some editing.  Overall, it's going well.  I'm currently reading another Danielle Steel book called Toxic Bachelors.  I think I'll start making a little note of what I'm reading, from now on.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Remembering, Hoping

Well, as everyone knows, today is Memorial Day.  I actually did not think up this post because of the (then) upcoming holiday, but because of a book I read recently.  Just fyi, it was called Message From Nam by Danielle Steel and it was very good.  I can overlook the overly romantic bits (but not in the tawdry sense, mind you, it wasn't a trashy romance novel, but there was some unrealistic falling in love going on) because it was a great story about growing up and realizing that life is not how we always hope to believe when we're young.  The book made me realize two big things.  One is that no one gives enough respect to servicemen and women, especially those from Viet Nam.  Second, I think I understand better why so many Americans believe in some kind of god.

First, I know I really have no concept of what Viet Nam was like or what those men went through fighting that war.  It was one of, if not the worst wars we have ever been involved in, especially if you look at the casualties.  I think this book helped me understand war a little better.  I know part of the reasoning behind her view of the war is still idealistic, but I'd like to think a lot of the boys over there were fighting for the people they'd lost and those that they loved.  Maybe not all of them had that motivation for fighting.  And I'm sure not all wars had the same motivations for their soldiers to fight.  I don't know.  I will not pretend like I know much about war or others' motivations for anything at all.  And I am a huge idealist, and still pretty young, so there are a lot of things I have yet to understand.  But I try.

I wish people would stop hating the soldiers and start hating the wars.  Most soldiers are there because they believe in something good and worthy - freedom, for many - and they want to protect that.  I'll be upfront with the fact that I am a complete pacifist and don't support war as a concept.  But I'm not quite naive enough to believe that war isn't sometimes necessary.  Whatever the reason is - be it misled notions, religious fervor, greed, failed communications with other nations, or something else - war is sometimes unavoidable.  I guess I like to think that we just aren't quite there yet - the place where all of us can live peacefully together and use communication to get what we want and need, instead of force or fear.  But the truth is that there are people in the world that do bad things.  I can't let myself believe that there are bad people out there.  There are sick people, who have psychological problems, there are hurt people, angry people, wronged people, people who have let greed or vengeance overtake them.  But we don't start out bad.  I can't believe that about humanity.  All I know for sure is that I am not a bad person.  I don't want to take anything from anyone.  I don't want to wrong, or hurt, or kill.  I have to believe that it is circumstances that make us do desperate or bad things.  And who knows where I'd be if something terrible had happened to me - like if someone had murdered someone I loved or something.  Who am I to say I wouldn't be changed by that and perhaps do something I would not do, as I am now?  But I'm getting off track here.

Whether you believe we are fighting the current wars for a good reason or not, whether you believe the soldiers fighting are brave or stupid, noble or crazy, courageous or irresponsible, it does not matter.  They are still our boys and girls fighting and dying for what they believe in.  Fighting and dying for us.  So it really doesn't matter what any of us think about the war - good or bad - we still need to support our soldiers out there, who place themselves in danger every day for us.  

Secondly, I recently lost my great-grandmother, but I have not lost someone very close to me.  I wish I had known her more and been closer to her, but the fact is that I didn't see her much and she hardly recognized anyone at the end.  I don't know what that kind of grief feels like.  But I do know now that it is very hard for many people to think that someone they love dearly and have put so much energy and time into, was just gone.  It makes the pain a little less to think that maybe there is a god out there and the person you love is out there, somewhere, in a better place than this.  Especially if you lost someone like the character in the book, in an ugly war, for no reason, so young and hopeful and scared.  To think that the person you love is just gone is really hard to bear.  I don't blame anyone for hoping there is something better out there and that maybe, one day, they can see that loved one again.  I wish there wasn't so much animosity between people that believe in god and those that don't.  I'm guilty of fighting about the issue, too.  And I wish we could all just give each other peace and respect.  We all have opinions and struggles.  We come to our conclusions and decisions by different means and for different reasons, but we should respect that in each person we meet.  Some people who disagree with us seem irrational, defensive.  But everyone is scared, underneath it all.  The truth is just that we do not know what is out there.  We do not know what is after death, if anything.  And we can all at least recognize that none of us have the answer, none of us know for sure.  

In the end, each one of us dies.  In the end, we each face that unknown and have to meet it.  What lies on the other side, none of us can know.  But we will all meet the same end.  And that is that, my friends, nothing more.

In other news, I am busily writing a book.  My goal:  100 pages by the end of the summer.  I want to finish by the time that I graduate with my B.A.  I want to publish and I just get excited thinking about it.  Well, I'm about a tenth away from the summer goal, which sounds ridiculously small, but if I keep at it, I know I can finish.  And besides, with my track record for writing books, I'm doing pretty dang good.

Thank you to everyone who reads this blog, and I apologize for not having the opportunity to write a lot.  We hope to get dial-up at the apartment soon, because no one has service in our podunk little town.