Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Whatcom County ride listening to the Punjabi station

Bike ride on a beautiful day with a different twist. Here's a picture of Mount Baker with zoom lens and a radio tower. It's the radio station in Ferndale. 1550 on the AM dial. Broadcasts in Punjabi and plays music from India.

Why in Ferndale? There was a station for sale a few years back in Ferndale and an outfit jumped on the opportunity to have a station in that location, close enough to Surrey, BC. to beam Punjabi programming into Surrey's large Indian audience.

I sometimes listen, here in Bellingham as I like Indian music; for a while at least. Sounds like Bollywood.

Today, I listened as I peddled. Got as far west as Douglas and Lake Terrell Roads before turning back to Bellingham.

A few more of the towers of KRPI pictured below. Located near the east end of Douglas Road.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Calling for tax increase on oil companies may be bad political strategy for Obama

When oil company revenues go up, it sounds good to ask, "why do they still get tax breaks?" Problem is, if they loose their tax breaks, they'll just pass that cost on to the consumer and add to the price of gasoline. Rising gasoline prices seems to be a thorn that Republicans are using in their campaigns against Obama.

Rising gas prices are a reality that's here to stay due to peak oil and not really Obama's fault. Still, it's being used as a thorn in Obama's side. Adding more tax to oil companies would just give the oil companies more reason to raise their prices as they pass the cost along to consumers.

Taxes are basically good especially since the government does need the money, but people who depend on cars are grumbling and the price of gasoline is becoming a campaign issue.

What we really need is to reform society so it's less dependent on fossil fuels. Central to that strategy is changing the way we plan cities. We need planning with more density. With density, commutes can be shorter and more errands can be done on foot, bicycle or public transit. Car commutes can be shorter also. There is too much sprawl in the way American's plan their living habitats.

Obama doesn't talk enough about city planning and how it plays such a big role in our energy future. Sure, it is more of a local issue, rather than a national issue, but Obama does have the "bully pulpit." Talk about city planning is a missing link in Obama's green energy strategy.

Green energy is not really that easy of a pill for Americans to swallow without changes in the way cities are planned. This doesn't have to mean whole scale rebuilding of our landscape. It can start by just encouraging a lot of simple changes in people's lives at the grassroots level. Moving closer to a job, for instance.

The reason why green energy is hard to swallow, without denser living environments, is a matter of cost. Green energy tends to still be more expensive than fossil fuels, even at today's higher gasoline prices. People are grumbling about high gas prices now, just imagine how bad it would be if folks had to pay the even higher cost of green energy!

Another form of tax on oil which is often suggested by folks fighting global warming is a carbon tax. Grumbling about things like high gasoline prices would really make it hard to impose a carbon tax since such a tax would just push gasoline prices higher.

All of these things, like taxes on oil companies and carbon taxes, are likely to be passed on to consumers and add to the grumbling. I hear that carbon taxes have been tried in Australia and a few other places, but the political fallout from higher fossil fuel costs makes these taxes improbable to sustain. Politicians can't survive the onslaught.

We really need to learn how to make society less dependent on inexpensive energy as a way help us afford the transition to greener technology which, at first, tends to be even more expensive.

Maybe, in the long run, green energy such as solar and wind can compete on a price level with fossil fuels, but that day is still in the future.

In the meantime, we need to adjust our society, lifestyles and city planning to accommodate higher priced energy.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Picture of moldy cellphone

Mildew at least. Is your phone old? I recently found mine in the bottom of my bicycle pannier where just a bit of moisture caused it to look like this. Wiping it off with bleach water and it was good as new. Still works even though my prepay plan has now expired.

I don't use phones very often as I prefer email where one has time to think about what one is saying.

I mostly use the cellphone while traveling long distance by bicycle. Have been riding around the local area, but not using the phone. Before this summer's traveling season, I plan to reactivate the prepay plan, or possibly get a Smartphone. Besides the phone, I also bring a netbook computer for WIFI access to the internet from stops along the way.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Oil shale is plentiful, but it's not cheap

I recently tuned passed Rush Limbaugh only stopping for a moment to hear him claim that America could get $2.50 a gallon gasoline from oil shale if only the politicians would get out of the way. He's forgetting one thing. It costs more than $2.50 per gallon to produce oil from our shale. If gas was to go down to $2.50 per gallon again on the world market, our shale production would probably just shut down and go dormant waiting until the price went back up. They aren't going to exploit our shale at a loss. We have plenty of oil, but it's the more expensive variety from oil shale.

People sometimes say we have reserves of oil comparable to the Saudis so the price should be low, but it's not liquid petroleum, its shale so it doesn't matter that we have a lot as far as the price is concerned. We can't produce it at a loss. We can "drill baby drill" and grind up that shale if we want, but we can't do it for cheap. We are producing from our shale today. People just lack patience.

Oil is not likely to get cheaper, unless something like another recession cuts demand. Society will just have to get smarter and learn to thrive in an era of oil from higher priced sources.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

If this recovery transcends the gas price cycle, it's more solid

As the economy and fossil fuel consumption speed up, gas prices rise. this often pushes the economy back down again, but maybe that cycle can be broken. Is a robust economy always dependent on cheap fossil fuel?

We might be learning to have an economy less dependent on oil. That could be good news in the long run.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Slideshow video of my bike trip across USA

Just under 10 minutes.
From my first bicycle trip across USA with the music of Grieg in the background (from the Youtube approved music library).

Trip took place in 1991 from Bellingham, WA. to Salisbury Beach, MA. in 2 months. Then I took Amtrak back from Worcester, MA. and shipped my bike.

I also did a cross country trip in 1993 as well as other smaller trips in other years including 2011. See more detailed description of my 1991 trip, or my entire trip archive 1986-2012.

I just finished editing this video. Maybe I'll get around to doing more from some of the other trips in the future.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

One thing possibly missing from coal free Bellingham campaign?

Petitions are starting to circulate around town to put something called the Bellingham Community Bill of Rights on the ballot.

If passed, this measure would allow the city to have some say about what is transported through city limits. This issue comes up in regards to the coal trains that travel through Bellingham on their way from coal fields in Wyoming and other places to a coal port in Canada and (most importantly) a proposed port just north of Bellingham.

It's kind of a legal experiment to see if local jurisdictions can regulate the flow of interstate commerce that happen to go through their borders.

Can this be done or does it violate powerful interstate commerce laws and precedence?

Proponents of the measure provide some examples of other cities that have regulated various forms of commerce within their borders. Cities banning the use of fracking for natural gas or factory farming are given as examples. These are things being produced, or mined within a city. Cities often do regulate things like mining within their borders.

Here's what seems to be missing.

None of the examples, I have heard so far, involve something just passing through a city on it's way from point A to Point B. Can this form of interstate commerce be controlled by each location along the way?

Could that bring us back to the days of trolls under the bridge blocking commerce? On the other hand, should the free flow of commerce and the obvious derivative being multi-national corporations always rule the day?

It will be interesting to see how this issue plays out both at the ballot box and in the courtrooms where it will, most likely, be discussed.

I, at least, signed the petition so it could be on the ballot and start the discussion. Could bring some interesting attention to Bellingham. I'm not sure exactly how I would feel about localities regulating interstate commerce. There are pros and cons, but the discussion of these matters will prove to be interesting. Part of the free flow of ideas, at least.

More information on the Bellingham Community Bill of Rights is available on the Coal Free Bellingham web site.

Another strategy that people who oppose the coal trains are using involves the permitting process with county government and state department of ecology about the proposed coal port north of Bellingham.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Cheap gas is like white sugar. Expensive gas is like honey

Honey is basically just another form of sugar to the body, but since it's more expensive, people tend to use it more wisely than white sugar or another form of sugar we call corn syrup.
* This can be disputed, see comments below.

When gasoline is too cheap, like eating unhealthy white sugar, society tends to promote sprawling development.

More expensive gas would support use of public transportation and compact urban development. Stuff the Growth Management Act, in Washington State, tries to promote. Growth Management tries to focus development into certain areas, but like a leaky sieve, development keeps sprawling. It sprawls one spacious parking lot at a time.

More expensive gasoline can create economic incentive for focused growth.

More expensive oil can help domestic energy production as well. I hear that America now produces more oil than it imports. When gas prices go up, oil deposits like the Bakken Shale, in North Dakota, become more viable. Green energy becomes more viable also.

Like using honey instead of corn syrup.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Less Rush Limbaugh, more diversity in radio

I'm kind of glad to see yet another scandal rock the Rush Limbaugh empire. Not that I'm against free speech, but there are some areas of the country where it seems like Rush Limbaugh is the only thing on the radio. Thank goodness for the Iphone which can bring more diversity in radio to any spot within cellphone range. The days are declining when pretty much all of the stations one could get in some rural areas would simulcasted the same thing. Either Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity or Savage Nation.

Repeat, repeat, repeat, or maybe country and western music with a few fire and brimstone preachers to toss in the mix.

Locally originated programming? Forget it. Doesn't pay the bills.

Okay, NPR has relays covering much of those areas also, but most of radio has been pretty monotone.

Calling someone who testifies before Congress a slut and even suggesting she make videos for the taxpayers gets noticed. Unfortunately, in an era with a lot of background noise, the sensational is what's heard.

The mighty empire must be fed. Propping up the big voice on commercial radio, but it can overreach. Hard to know where to draw the lines.

Takes a big and voice to be on at all, when access to the airwaves is limited and expensive. Sensationalism is often used to prop up the ratings. Hopefully there can be more voices and smaller voices in a more diverse age of internet based radio.

Move over Rush Limbaugh, especially with the Iphone and the internet, more voices can be heard.