Dumb Bears

15 02 2011

A senior sales director for MXEnergy, “the fastest growing natural gas and electricity retail provider” states, “As we observe the unrest in Egypt and other parts of the world, we recognize the volatility of the natural gas market.”  What?  He like many others “on both sides of the aisle” use the Middle East and our real dependence on foreign to twang the audience’s emotional strings.

The goings on in Egypt will have nearly zero affect on natural gas prices here in the mainland, U.S.  Why?  Because nearly all of our natural gas is produced here and we import from hostile regimes like Canada.  LOL!  The guy is using Middle East unrest and the threat of rising oil prices to translate to high gas and electricity prices here at home.  I think renewable energy at maybe 1-2% of our electricity supply may produce more electricity than oil does.  C’mon.  Don’t feed me this bull dung.

Then there is Al Gore’s movie the inconvenient truth, lower case on purpose.  The movie is one giant tug at the heart strings with flooding, starvation, cuddly polar bears dying.  In reaction to the movie, the president at Veriform, a steel fabricator, was so moved by the film he reduced his energy bills by 58% by investing $46,000 to save $90,000 annually.  Something tells me there is a little bit of number manufacturing and/or trickery going on here.  This leads the reader to believe that $90,000 is the 58% but it’s a little hard to fathom a steel fabricator with a $160,000 annual energy bill.  And what was the guy doing before?  Heating his facilities with electricity with all the doors and windows open?  He saved this with lighting, heating controls (e.g., thermostats?), and insulation?

One time we had a coworker of my wife’s over for a cookout and he was describing a program on Discovery Channel, if I remember correctly, that chronicles a polar bear that starves to death.  So I mentally roll my eyes and think, I’ve got to see this program.  The next day or next week I tuned in watching the polar bear swimming around in open water, jumping in, climbing out, jumping in, swimming, and at the end he’s on an island with nothing but gigantic walruses, the things with 18 inch tusks.  These things are too huge for a polar bear to take down.  They have skin an inch thick and about three feet of blubber.

The bear is after the cub, calf, pup, piglet, baby, squab or something like that – the little ones.  But the five ton adults are pig piling the little guy like a loose ball at the line of scrimmage in an N.F.L. game.  The bear is jumping on the backs of these school-bus size blubber bags – like a guy trying to tackle a Clydesdale.  He of course gets nowhere and walks away with a dejected look with sad music and depressing voice over.  Who knows if the bear actually died or they just made up the whole story fabricated from lost footage of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, with Marlin Perkins.

The conclusion: global warming was destroying the habitat of the bear’s favorite food, seals, and therefore, the gasoline you are releasing into the air when driving your car, killed the bear in the film.  My conclusion: assuming the bear really starved, what a dumb bear that doesn’t know how to hunt.  What about the seals that were spared?  Somewhere a bunch of seals that would otherwise be dead are basking in the sun.

Back to Al Gore’s film.  When I first saw the film’s promotional poster (you can get an eleven by seventeen keepsake for fifteen dollars) I immediately thought this is fitting and wonderfully ironic.  If you know anything about the weather at all – anything, you know low pressure systems, hurricanes, snow storms, rainstorms, and tornadoes spin counterclockwise in the northern hemisphere.  Yet the hurricane cartoon on the movie poster spins clockwise.  Chances this was intentional to represent a storm in the southern hemisphere: 0%.  All credibility: gone.  If this had one bit of “scientific” “peer review” (aka like-minded conspiring), why couldn’t anybody see this?  Al Gore won an Oscar and a Nobel Peace Prize, while the U.K. has all but banned the film for being full of bull dung.

We don’t need these convenient lies.  Get it?  To sell energy efficiency.  Exaggerating, embellishing, and just plain manufacturing facts catch up with you.  This, like climate gate, does our industry no good.  Just the facts ma’am.

Tidbits

Lisa Jackson, EPA administrator, is convinced ever increasing regulation is going to be an economic boom.  Did you know every dollar the EPA levies in regulation returns $40 to the economy?  Wow!  What is the ticker symbol?  I’ll margin my account to the max.

Saying these regs will be a net job generator is ludicrous – like the breaking windows to put people to work parable.  That’s exactly what this is.  Just look at this report, and specifically page 7.  Where is the higher cost of energy factored into the equation?  Somebody has to pay for all this stuff.  Higher energy prices are like higher taxes.  The more that is spent on energy, the less there is left to buy goods and services – that are provided by workers, formerly located in the United States.  This doesn’t even pass the laugh test.

written by Jeffrey L. Ihnen, P.E., LEED AP





Disaster in the Gulf

4 05 2010

Like millions of people around the world, I have been following the slow nightmare that is unfolding in the gulf.  Many topics and thoughts come to mind.

First, our company mission is “make every project a positive experience for our clients”. It’s simple but guides everything we do.  When there is a potential mistake or an angry client calling or emailing us complaining about something we are involved with, it’s a code red in our office.  Engineers and managers meet immediately to plot the course of events leading to where we are and we clearly define the problem and plot a course to make amends.  We focus on the immediate problem and take corrective action later as necessary.

Unfortunately, as usual, the political class engages in a food fight while Rome burns.  Many politicians’ first reactions are to figure out how to get the political upper hand, not collaborate to mitigate the effects of the disaster.  Bush was tarred and feathered for Katrina as though he started the storm and drove it right into New Orleans on purpose.  It is true however, that corporate America, including Wal-Mart, was quicker to provide relief than the government.  This current disaster is in many ways very similar, EXCEPT it is unfolding in super slow motion.  It’s already been two weeks since this started.  It will be interesting to see how this administration is treated in the court of public opinion.  Thus far, it has mainly been right wingers flinging their verbal nunchucks, but apparently so has the New York Times!  Whoa.  So President Obama may be headed for a similar unfounded meat grinder.

Second, there is a tendency to underestimate the disaster.  This was true with Katrina and it is unfolding once again with this mess.  First it was a thousand barrels a day.  Then 5,000.  As of Saturday, it was floated that it may actually be 25,000 barrels a day.  One of the best business books I’ve read is “Winning” by Jack Welch, long-time CEO of General Electric.  He dedicates a chapter to crisis management and the first of five responses to a crisis is to assume it is much worse than it seems.  Again, I’ll refer to my days in the nuclear Navy.  The tiniest of “incidents” were formally reported and acted on.  This may include lessons learned, more training, somebody’s head rolls, or a procedure changes.  The incident might be the first in what would have to be about six mishaps carried out “perfectly” with precisely the right timing.  And, IF all that were to happen there may be equipment damage or worse.  There is safety mechanism on top of safety mechanism, but regardless of how many layers there are, mishaps are taken very seriously.

Which brings me to the third thing; apparently the rig lacked an emergency shut-trigger to close a valve because it was too expensive.  A 2003 report by the Minerals Management Service said these triggers “are not recommended because they tend to be very expensive.”   The trigger costs $500,000.  Let’s see.  At current leak rates and oil prices, about $500,000 worth of oil is currently leaking every day and it’s costing BP $6 million/day to manage the disaster.  The rig was worth $560 million.  $500,000?

For the love of Pete!  The government declares a $500,000 safety device is too expensive for private industry.  Wow!  Write that one down.  Is this the same government that shakes down 75-year-old grandmas trying to get on an airplane?

Aside from the government, it seems BP has major culpability in this disaster.  Mistakes and accidents always have, and always will occur.  This seems like a major oversight or act of negligence.  It seems like such an obvious safeguard – like dangling from the side of a building on a stepladder hanging from ropes 100 feet in the air – you use a safety harness in case of falling.  (You would have to see this to believe it but I watched it across the street while the telecom people were installing cellular phone transmitters on an elevator penthouse).  Any other oil companies that don’t use these devices can thank their lucky stars and better get with it.

Fourth, where is the outrage?  Exxon got whipped for at least 15 years after Valdez.  Maybe it’s because Valdez is pristine and nobody lives there.  This spill will affect millions on the coast and wreak financial havoc on a great many businesses, so what’s the big deal?

Every president since Nixon has run on a promise to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, but yet with the exception of recessions, our dependence has increased every single term.  Recessions don’t seem like a good way to reduce oil imports.

President Obama made the right decision a few weeks ago to allow for expansion of offshore exploration.  If we are going to reduce dependence on foreign oil, domestic production has to be part of the mix, like it or not.  The disaster with the Deepwater Horizon was borne of negligence and stupidity.  If somebody can engineer to dig an 18,000 foot well under 5,000 feet of water and move the oil ashore, somebody can surely find several ways to absolutely kill a leak.

written by Jeffrey L. Ihnen, P.E., LEED AP