Belle of Liberty

Letting Freedom Ring

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Clean Energy, Dirty Politics

“It's just unconscionable what is being done to the once great engine of freedom .” Rush Limbaugh

Americans are troubled and angered by the sight of oil-drenched pelicans along the Gulf of Mexico, as they should be. What should trouble them more is how unnecessary such a dismaying sight was. They should be asking many angry questions, particularly about the oversight of an oil company that contributed so much money to this president’s campaign.

The Media sounds a clarion call as though this were the first oil spill to ever occur, barring the unusual incident of the Exxon Valdez. They tell us no one knows what to do because no one has ever faced a disaster like this.

But there have been other oil spills, particularly back in the 1960s along the California coast. The Torrey Canyon oil spill (an oil tanker accident) off the English coast was another. In fact, there have been quite a number of disasters.

Several months before the Exxon Valdez incident, the Canadian oil tanker Odyssey suffered an explosion and sank 700 miles off the coast of Nova Scotia, spilling 132,157 tons (43 million gallons of oil) into the ocean, four times as much oil as the Valdez spilled. Luckily for the environment, though not so lucky for the crew, the ship caught fire before it sank in bad weather, burning off most of the oil. The rest was dispersed across the Atlantic. Only belatedly did BP try to burn off the oil from Deepwater Horizon.

In December 1976, the Argo Merchant, loaded with 7,700,000 US gallons of heating, sailed for Boston from Venezuela. The ship carried two unqualified crew as helmsmen, a broken gyrocompass, inadequate charts, and an inaccurate radio direction finder. On December 15, in high winds and 10-foot seas, the tanker drifted off course and ran aground on Middle Rip Shoal of Nantucket Island, Mass. The thirty-eight members of the crew were evacuated, but the shallow waters and weather conditions made it impossible to offload the oil or salvage the ship. Six days later, the Argo Merchant broke apart, emptying its entire cargo of fuel oil. Fortunately, northwesterly winds blew the 60 mile oil slick offshore, and coastal fisheries and beaches were spared the worst.

But it was the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill that gave the Liberals the “oil platform” upon which they stand today. A blow-out on Union Oil's Platform A, six miles offshore, in the Dos Cuadras Offshore Oil Field. Over a ten-day period, an estimated 100,000 barrels of crude oil spilled into the channel and onto the beaches of Santa Barbara County in Southern California, fouling the coastline from Goleta to the Rincon and all four of the northern Channel Islands. An estimated 10,000 birds were killed.

The current operator of the platform, along with the other three platforms on the Dos Cuadras field (Hillhouse, B, and C), is the private firm DCOR LLC, of Ventura, California. They acquired the platform from Plains Exploration & Production in 2005. DCOR is the fourth company to run the platform since Unocal sold its Santa Barbara Channel operations in 1996.

The oil spill prompted a Congressional moratorium in 1981 on new offshore oil leasing, with exceptions in the Gulf of Mexico and parts of offshore Alaska, that remained in effect until 2008 when Congress did not renew it.

Oil is not a new energy source. It’s not like it was discovered yesterday. There is no energy source to which Liberals can point where there is no danger or impact on the environment. Coal? They’ll tell you all about the horrors of strip mining. Nuclear, the cleanest energy source of them all, particularly efficient for heating homes. Fughedabouddit! Natural gas? All those terrible pipelines tearing up the wilderness.

We’ve come a long way since the Santa Barbara oil spills and the industry has learned a great deal about containment. Unfortunately, politics have not changed. Within three days, Dutch ships could have been in the Gulf to clean up the mess. But Obama turned down their offer, along with offers from other nations, as well. They didn’t have “the paperwork.” That is, there was some union clause that wouldn’t allow non-union foreign crews to enter American territorial waters to do the job quickly and more efficiently. So much for the pelicans.

Pelicans eat their fish whole – and live – and apparently we’re supposed to swallow this administration’s Liberal oil bilge water in the same manner. This was a ready-made disaster that really makes one wonder what actually happened out there on Deepwater Horizon. Initially, the Media tried to blame the contractor, but that fish didn’t digest well. According to witnesses, the contractor told BP they were making a mistake, that what they were doing was dangerous.

BP’s answer: keep drilling.

Every American should be asking why this wasn’t stopped sooner. The answer is: follow the money. And the bandwagon. Obama is looking to get his cap-and-trade bill passed. Opposition has stopped it. He may have needed that oil to keep flowing and pictures of those oil-drenched birds to plead his case tonight.

He and the Liberals want a permanent ban on all American off-shore oil drilling. The president and the Liberals, including Barney Frank, have a lot of money invested in this clean energy movement. And why shouldn’t they, since they intend to create a captive market that will be forced to buy their product, just as Americans will eventually be forced to buy into government health care.

First, though, they have to convince Americans that they are evil, capitalist consumerists “addicted” to oil, and that this “addiction” is detrimental to the environment. “We” killed all those poor pelicans along the Gulf Coast. We should just slap ourselves into environmental prison right now. If they’re going to shake oiled pelicans at us, why stop there? Why not throw all the poor roadkill that die every year under the bus while they’re at it? Never mind that we have a surplus deer population problem that the car has inadvertently solved.

How else can they get Americans out of their cars? There’s the real problem. It’s not so much that we’re “addicted” to oil, as we’re “addicted” to freedom. Oil and the internal combustion have made that freedom possible.

The Liberals have lied to us before. They told us there was a severe oil shortage. That the oil was running out and that we’d better find alternative sources of energy. This oil rig blowout has revealed that there’s a practically unlimited supply under the earth’s crust, though more difficult to get at it. Every day they don’t cap that well tells us just how much oil is down there.

But oil-soaked pelicans are worth their weight in political capital. The sight of those poor birds will certainly gives us pause when considering a ban on drilling the oil. The longer they suffer, the more likely Congress will get its cap and trade bill passed. Since there’s no one to counter the media picture, nor anyone who can light a fire under this arrogant president and his cohort oil company to cap that well, he may well succeed.

Liberals understand all too well how much Americans love their freedom. There’s no better symbol of that freedom than the car. They’ve managed to seize America’s number one car manufacturer, though they didn’t hook Ford. Now they must go after the fuel source of the internal combustion engine.

What works in their favor is that there are more American women than men. Not only can they be manipulated more easily, but on the whole, they don’t know anything about cars. One of the reasons the internal combustion engine, with petroleum as its fuel source, has been the mainstay of the American road is the fuel distribution infrastructure. Thanks to oil tankers, tanker trunks, and pipelines, there are gas stations all across the country.

Gasoline also has a high energy density per pound of fuel. That means you can go pretty far on a pound of fuel, which is important in a country the size of America. Even in a diesel engine, you still need to stop to fuel up.

The electrical motor the Clean Energy gang proposes can’t produce enough energy for a car to go any appreciable distance. It’s okay for city driving, but get out onto a highway at highway speeds, and you use up your store of energy in no time. The motive power has to be stored in a device, a battery, and it would take a pretty big, heavy batter to store enough energy for long-distance highway driving. The government wants to limit your ability to drive from Point A to Point B, from Atlantic City to Bakersfield – and back – without their knowing about it.

Hybrid vehicles have a wider application in the U.S. because you can use the electric in the city and gas on the highway without the energy winding down and stranding the motorist. The internal combustion engine automatically fires up and the car be driven on the electrical motor, without all the gears and other mechanical devices in a typical internal combustion engine car. It’s just that at the high speeds at which Americans are accustomed to driving, that energy doesn’t last very long.

Performance depends on the size of the motor and batteries. The batteries can be stored in the wheels or in the single, electric motor. Because the car doesn’t need a transmission, it can save weight.

Natural gas is an option to which many large, municipal fleets have turned. Natural gas vehicles run on the internal combustion engine, which emits less pollution. However, the distribution relies on natural gas mains. A station must be attached to one of these mains in order to distribute the fuel, and in some areas, this just isn’t possible.

Propane works well. But the MPG is not as good as gas or diesel. In very cold climates, natural gas and propane vehicles are difficult to get started. They will not vaporize in cold weather. In addition, propane requires a gas combustion to ignite it, then a switch is flipped to start the vehicle.

Diesel engines are notoriously difficult to start in cold weather, something that would be unpopular with cold climate motorists. This another fuel that does not vaporize in cold weather. Diesel fuel gets better mileage than gas because it runs on a very high compression ratio (that means you can squeeze more power out of the fuel). But diesel fuel prices are high because manufacturers are taking advantage of its demand as an efficient fuel. Diesel cars don’t sell well because of their difficulty in starting in cold weather and the pollution that they cause. Manufacturers have spent millions researching exhaust filter systems and experimental fuel injection systems.

The fuel cell is a long way from the finish line in terms of being a practical answer to the internal combustion engine. It’s too early in development. These cells use noble metals, such as platinum and palladium, in their architecture. They’re expensive, fragile, and in limited quantity, making them cost-prohibitive. At the New York City Auto Show, Ford demonstrated a fuel cell engine. It made the car work, but you wouldn’t want to go the moon in it. Apollo 13 had such fuel cells. When the fuel cell exploded, the astronauts were in big trouble.

And that, my blogging friends, is a fuel primer from a knowledgeable mechanical friend.

On his radio program, Glenn spoke about the possibility of some sort of civil war and armed violence, which he deplored. My company held its annual picnic last week. Every year, they feature an antique and classic car show. The employees love it, in lieu of more active antics like hoola hoops and other such frivolity that doesn’t play well in a bad economy. They came flocking out to see the cars in the lot, mostly owned by employees.

As I looked at the so-called muscle cars of the late Sixties and early Seventies, the souped-up Challengers and Barracuddas and what have you, I reflected on how much Americans love their cars and their freedom. Judging by the way they speed down the highway in today’s vehicles and how much they revere the speed cars of the past, the Greenies aren’t going to have an easy time of it squeezing an unconvinced American public into golf carts or taking public transportation that’s less reliable than a Yugo and won’t get them there during an almost-given transit strike. The hybrid car that showed up one year didn’t get as many admirers as the golden 1962 Chevy Corvette or her more sinister-looking younger brothers, the black fastbacks across the lot.

You can huckster Americans into buying flourescent light bulbs, fat-free cheese, and American flags made in China. But try taking away their cars, and the Liberals may just get their armed conflict after all. Electric cars may be all right for the cities – and that’s where populations are burgeoning and incessantly voting for tree-hugging Liberals – but electric cars and alternate fuel cells aren’t going to fly in the suburbs.

The Liberals probably know that and are using the boiled-car method, or in this case, the oiled pelican method (seriously, the poor creatures), to beat their oil drum. The young, weak-minded and impractical will soon succumb. Someone is just going to have to jump into their soaped-up, 1971 Challenger and ride around, Paul Revere-style, crying, “To arms, to arms, the skittish are coming, the skittish are coming!”

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