Sunday, December 2, 2012

A Rude Awakening

I arrived in Montana in April of 1980.  It was a bit of a shock both culturally and environmentally for me.   As a born and raised North Carolinian, I had become accustomed to both rural and city life.  I was used to four seasons that came with almost complete certainty.  Montana stood in stark contrast to everything that I knew to be normal.

Anyone that knows me realizes that I am an outdoor person.  If it can be done under the open sky I will do it.  My passion is water, and water means fishing, swimming, exploring. Montana provided everything I needed, and then some.

Memory is shaped by many factors such as smells, temperature, sounds...May 18th, 1980 provided all three of these to shape a memory that never fades.  So, let me set the stage for this flashback to the 80's.

I was lucky enough to have the day off from my military duties, and as with any day off, my friends and I were going to live it up on the Missouri River.  The Missouri River runs through the middle of Great Falls, Montana.  Great Falls gets its name from a series of very large waterfalls that were chronicled by the American explorers Lewis and Clark.  Of course the Great Falls have changed quite a bit since the Corps of Discovery passed through.

The biggest change being the establishment of dams that use the power of the Falls to generate power.  My favorite of these Falls are the Black Eagle Falls (so named because of Lewis seeing what he thought was a Black Eagle in the area), The Rainbow Falls (when running at full speed they create a perpetual rainbow in the mist), and the Horseshoe Falls (well, they are horseshoe shaped).  Starting at Black Eagle Dam, the Missouri river runs through a deep, steep-walled canyon.  Our goal on this day was Rainbow Dam.

Rainbow Dam


We picked Rainbow Dam for several reasons...first it was fairly isolated.  It had a small island that remained above water when the dam was open. Most importantly, the wind was normally calm at the river bottom.  Great Falls has a wind we used to refer to as the Hawk.  It was fast and a cold blooded killer. To reach the dam you had to traverse a very steep and treacherous series of cliffs to reach the river bottom. This meant we would travel light.  Our plan was to fish all day on Sunday, camp on the island (actually a great big rock), then fish most of the day on Monday.

The Rock Island and Cliffs.
The Island is the one to right.


The weather was warm with temps in the 60's and the sky was clear.  Certainly a day where Big Sky is the best description of Montana. None of us had been in Montana long enough to know the danger we were placing ourselves in.  Weather, especially in spring, can go from wonderful to deadly in the space of a few hours.  But we were young and could manage anything.

The trip to the river bottom was uneventful, with the exception of a few slides here and there we managed to make it to the Island in just over an hour. Since the canyon was so dangerous and deep the rule was, if you couldn't take your supplies down in one trip...then you didn't take it. So we were very light...and skipped taking sleeping bags and chose to take only field jackets with liners, a canteen of water each, a bag or two of snacks (we planned on eating fish by dinner time), a couple of us brought handguns, and of course fishing gear.

Sunday was a bust.  Our only discovery was that some Suckers had setup home in the rocks around the small island we were on, but none of us were that desperate to eat those. Near sunset we started a small fire as the temperature began to dip into the 40's. Like all good fishermen and poor gamblers, we expected the next cast to bring a big payoff, we fished through the night.

The Sucker Fish.


As the night progressed, the stars which had been brightly sparkling above, were now covered by a shroud of mist.  We figured it was just fog.  Most of us were good southern boys and fog was part of our life.  Nothing to worry about.  Something that should have clued us in was...that as the fog grew thicker...the warmer it was getting.  In fact, it became downright comfortable. At some point...one by one..we gave in to the sleep monster.

I remember one of the guys waking us all up.  It was now early morning, about 6am or so.  The sun was obscured by that same fog, but the land around us was covered by a thin layer of grayish dust.  In fact, it was clinging to our clothes and skin. We rinsed it off of our eyes and skin with the cold clear water from the river and began to try and make sense of it all.

Of course, since we provided security for nuclear weapons, our first thought was that there had been a nuclear war and we missed it.  But we quickly dismissed this..since we were alive and not dead. Regardless of what had happened, we knew it was something on a massive scale and we needed to get back to the base. So we began the long climb out of the canyon.

Breathing was an issue.  The dust was easily disturbed and when we coughed we had to spit it out in clumps.  It took us nearly two hours to climb out, and left us exhausted.  At the top of the canyon, for as far as we could see, the Earth had gone from multicolored to gray, with the exception of the telephone poles and fences...the Earth was now the Moon.  My buddy's car gave us an opportunity to look at the dust.  It was very fine, almost like talcum powder and dissolved very easily from the moisture on our fingers.  Odd.

As we arrived on the base the guards at the gate all had their chemical gear on. This was an alarming sight, maybe we had missed the big war. The guards told us to go back to our barracks and stay there. So that is where we went.

At the barracks we learned that Mount St. Helens in Washington had erupted.  Of course rumors had it that we would all be dead men because we had breathed in the deadly ash.  Thankfully, this was not true...that I know of. For the next few days we were required to wear a dust mask if we went outside.  Because of the hazard that the ash posed to vehicles, we gained another two days off.  Bonus!

Mount St. Helens goes boom

Ash


Life in the Military was weeks of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror.  I would not have traded that life for anything.




Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Blood and Guts

Being a part of the Security Force assigned to protect Nuclear Weapons Convoys was an honor.  You didn't get assigned to this team, you competed for it.  Well at least when I was doing this back in the early 1980's.

As I stated in the previous articles in this series, the Convoy Team consisted of Fire Teams.  On the ground our vehicle of choice became the Peace Keeper Armored Car.

Peace Keeper Armored Car.
With run flat tires and a bullet resistant shell and windows, the Peace Keeper was an upgrade from the standard pickups we used to use.  As with any upgrade there were "issues".

One issue was how the armor was attached to the main chassis of the vehicle.  Any rough treatment would end up with the body falling off.  There was a misunderstanding concerning the winch.  Since it had a winch we thought the vehicle could go off road.  It can't, and the winch was not nearly powerful enough to pull the 5 ton vehicle out of anything. 

Since a convoy consists of machines, at some point in time it will break.  When an important vehicle broke down we would set up a National Defense Area.  This is a temporary area that becomes important Federal Property.  Our team practiced setting these areas up and managed to do so in just seconds. 

The Mission

On one mission I was assigned to one of the Fire Teams that followed directly behind the Weapons Van.  The Weapons Van had an issue with its brakes, so we had to stop the convoy and set up a National Defense Area until it could be fixed, or replaced.  My Fire Team immediately raced ahead of the convoy where we would block traffic. 

I jumped out and ran up the road a short distance and began to stop traffic.  The first vehicle I stopped was a tractor trailer with a couple from Canada.  Behind them were several smaller cars.  The couple in the vehicle looked at me in astonishment.  I could understand the look given the fact I was dressed in full battle gear, but they just kept staring at me in amazement.  I was sort of puzzled.

That is when my Fire Team Leader came up and said, "Hey you have blood streaming down your face!"

I touched my hand to my face, and sure enough..blood was streaming down my face from the crown of my nose.  The night prior to the Convoy the nose pads on my glasses had broken, and getting out the the vehicle I remember my helmet hit the top of the door.  I guess that had jammed the sharp point where the nose pads connected into my nose.  It didn't hurt much, but I guess it did add a certain charm to the situation.  I smeared the blood around a bit to make it more dramatic and carried on.

Blood scares the hoola hoop out of people.




Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Death Before Dishonor

Airborne Fire Team Charlie

In the previous post I talked about one of the missions that put us One Breath Away From Death, this article is the second part of this series.  

I talk about Fire Teams a lot in these articles, so I will tell you what a Fire Team is.  This definition was true as of my retirement in 1995. A Fire Team consists of 4 people.  There is a Leader, Rifleman/Grenadier, Machine Gunner, and Assistant Machine Gunner.  The standard rifle of choice was the M-16 A1 (later on we got the A2 version).  The M-16 allowed for three type of fire settings...Safe (no fire), Semi (1 round per trigger squeeze, and Auto (as long as the trigger is down it would fire).

M16 A1
There is a civilian version of this weapon called the AR-15.  The AR-15 is often confused with an assault weapon.  The M-16 is an assault weapon (since it allows for full auto fire)...the AR-15 is not (it only fires on semi-auto.  I know the Anti-Gun nuts will freak out, but what a weapons looks like does not make it an assault weapon.  

The Rifleman/Grenadier carried a combination M-16 plus one of two types of grenade launchers.  The older type grenade launcher was the XM-148. This weapon was horrible. It was difficult to fire, and was very prone to breaking. 

XM-148
The newer type was the M-203.  It was much easier to fire, and was very reliable. 
M-203
The Machine gun we used was the iconic M-60.  Used since 1957 the M-60 was a nightmare to carry.  The gunner had to carry the gun and 200 rounds of ammo. The assistant gunner carried the spare barrel kit, and additional ammo. The running joke was that the shortest man got the M-60.  I will say it tended to work out that way.

M-60
Aside from the weapons and ammo we also carried the good old Metal WWII style Helmet, with a Vietnam Era Flak Vest, and our load bearing equipment (LBE). 

Helmet


Flak Vest


Load Bearing Equipment.

And of course the most hated piece of gear the Vietnam Era Gas Mask

Gas Mask with cover.

All of the combat gear, and cold weather gear was stored in our Hawk Bag.

Combat Vogue Circa 1980's

When in a mission we wore the Helmet, Flak Vest, LBE, Gas Mask on our side in its carrying bag, Ammo, Canteen, cold weather gear, and of course an empty plastic bottle. Other gear included code sheets (lose these and go to jail). 

To unsuspecting civilians we could look very dangerous...or very uncoordinated...that stuff was hard to move in.

The Mission

The Charlie missions were always an iffy affair.  If the Helicopter worked...If the wind was not too bad...If the temperature was not too low...If the rain/snow was not too heavy...If the clouds were not too low...then we went. If not..we still went...just a different way (which I will not tell you about). 

This particular day the weather was on the edge. The cloud cover was sporadic and ranged from a few hundred feet to about 1 thousand feet.  Since we were required to have a visual of the convoy throughout most of its movement, the clouds would mean we would by flying lower than normal. 

When the warhead reached its final destination we would orbit within visual range of the team on site.  The site we were at was in a canyon that was open on one end and closed on the other.  On the way to the site the clouds lifted to a higher altitude of about 3000 feet above ground level, high enough that we could safely maneuver above the convoy.  At the site the clouds appeared to be at that same level...the difference was the hills that made up the canyon were around 2 to 3 thousand feet above the site itself.  

We began our orbit of the site and went through several evolutions of the pattern when suddenly the front of the cockpit went from white cloud,  to white cloud and trees...very big...very close trees.  The pilot...who was normally a pretty quiet guy...screamed...yanked hard on the stick and we began a very hard turn.  I swear I could see the astonished faces of the squirrels as we barely..and I mean by feet...missed hitting them.

The term "Death Before Dishonor" is a nifty thing to have on the back or your flight helmet...but being killed because you hit a squirrel would make for a lousy epitaph.
 






Monday, November 19, 2012

One Breath Away From Death



Working with Nuclear Weapons is actually a lot of fun.  At least most of the time. During my time at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana I had the pleasure of being volunteered to join our elite Convoy Team.  Several (not going to tell you how many) Fire Teams (people with guns) would escort particular parts  (normally the ones that go boom) to the missile sites, and provide security for a particular period of time.

I loved this job, but the one position in the job I really wanted was the Airborne Fire Team.  As soon as I made it on to the Convoy Team I volunteered to go Airborne.  As it turned out, not many people really wanted the job.  The Airborne Fire Team had to be there several hours ahead of everyone else, and normally did not get done until several hours after the convoy ended.

Our chariot was the UH-1 helicopter (if you ever saw a Vietnam War movie, you have seen the UH-1).


Many of our missions lasted from 6-9 hours, with the occasional 12 hour and sometimes overnight trips. When flying in the UH-1 during a convoy you should be ready for doing a lot of circles.  The Airborne team is the cavalry in case someone gets the bright idea to try and steal a nuke.  Should they get lucky enough to actually look like they might overrun the ground team...then we would come swooping in to mess up their day.  I have plenty of stories about this particular assignment, but this is my favorite.

The day started out as any other, I arrived at the hanger 2 hours prior to the mission start, picked up my weapon, checked the orders, and looked over who was on my team.  I was only a Senior Airman at the time, but because of my stellar performance (I had actually scored pretty good on my quality control assessments) I was the Fire Team Leader.  My Flight Sergeant ( I am not making this name up) Staff Sergeant Thomas Rock (seriously that was the man's name) called to make sure I had all of the gear I would need.  Soon the pilot arrived.  I wish I could remember his name...but I will never forget the tag on the back of his flight helmet.  It read "Death Before Dishonor".  Rumors were that he had been a pilot in Vietnam.  The man was not boring.  This has significance in this..and future stories.

The pilot gave us the safety briefing which included things like kept you from getting your head, face, and hands from being cut off, or you falling out of the helicopter. None of which would make for a great day.  We went through the normal..if we crash scenario...which is helpful in making you think you will survive a crash.

This particular mission would be about 8 hours, this meant the chopper would refuel twice. Once on the way out, and once on the way back. Our refueling stop was a small grass airport in who-knows-where Montana. The team I had on this mission were experienced so there was no messing around, or having to show someone how to close the door. 

The typical mission was actually mostly boring.  If you can imagine having someone constantly kicking your chair while tipping it from side to side and back and forth for about 4-6 hours, then taking a short 30 minute break, then doing it all over again.  It works on some people really quickly, they puke...and puke...and puke.  My problem was...it worked on my bladder.  So, each team member carried an empty plastic bottle.  Imagine trying to pee in a bottle while standing on a trampoline...it takes skill. 

The flight out was really boring. The wind was constant but strong.  This meant the pilot had to tack the helicopter like it was a sail boat.  Halfway through the mission we landed for fuel.  The team quickly ran inside to refill on coffee and stretch our legs.  30 minutes later we are back in the chopper for the rest of the mission.

The engine began to start..then it stopped.  It began to start again...and then something I have never seen before or since happened...the pilot jumped out..and began yelling at us to get out.  So we did.  When I looked back smoke was pouring out of the battery compartment on the chopper.  We took the fire extinguishers and flooded the compartment with foam. 

If this had happened in the air...who knows what the result would have been. Helicopters do not glide all that well and need a bit of altitude to even attempt it.  It is a lesson that we are just one breath away from death.




Friday, October 5, 2012

Energy Security: Vital to a Nations Independence

This is the fourth part of the series on Energy Security.

Part IV

Barriers to Energy Security.


In the previous parts of this series we discussed how Energy Security is vital to our National Security, how much energy is available, and broke down the costs associated with the energy we use.  We have focused on Oil, but that is far from the only source of energy available.  In this part we will look at the obstacles facing Energy Security.

There are two major categories of Energy Sources.  The first category is the Fossil Fuels.  Fossil Fuels include Oil, Natural Gas, and Coal. The second category is Alternative Fuels. Alternative Fuels include Bio-Fuels (ethanol, methanol, etc), Wind, Solar, and Nuclear.  Each of these energy sources face Technological, Economic, and Regulatory barriers.

Technological barriers are the easiest of all barriers to overcome.  15 years ago oil in North Dakota was considered non-recoverable. Prior to that time oil was drilled vertically.  You drilled straight down.  The difficulty with a well of this type was you needed to position the well directly over your target.  It would take many wells, on many different pieces of property to recover the oil.  Then along came horizontal drilling. With a horizontal well you could drill to multiple sources from one piece of property.  It was not only more economically feasible, but it was environmentally friendly.

Economic barriers are often the greatest barrier.  Recovering coal or oil that costs more than can be bought from other sources does not make sense. As pointed out with the North Dakota example above, the horizontal drilling resulted in economically feasible recoverable oil.

The overwhelmingly greatest barrier to Energy Security are the Regulatory Barriers.  Before any energy undertaking can begin the legal battle must be fought. This is fairly easy at the state and local level, however, when the Federal Government gets involved the idea of Energy Security is replaced with political agendas. It is here we discover that an economically feasible endeavor becomes too expensive for the market.  This is not to say there should not be regulations, but as with most Federal Regulations they over step common sense and dance into "What If".

Fossil Fuels
The Great Satan

There are certain truths about Fossil Fuels that must be considered.  They are dirty when compared with some Alternative sources.  The recovery, refining, and use of Fossil Fuels do indeed have hazardous bi-products. These bi-products include sulfur, radiation, nitrates, and mercury (to name just a few). There is also a direct impact on the land used during recovery.  This is especially true of coal.  There is no escaping the fact that Fossil Fuels are not as clean as other forms of energy and they are not a renewable resource. It is also true that they are not as dirty as some would have you believe. 

Coal provides 49.61% of the electricity in the United States.  Oil (3.03%) and natural gas (18.77%) provide 20.80% of the electricity generated in the U.S. In total Fossil Fuels provide over 60% of the electricity generated in the U.S. 
The Great 
"What If"

Like many educated people I count on the principles of science to describe the world around me.  Although the Scientific Method begins with a "What If...", it quickly moves to the "What is...".  The greatest "What if" involves Global Warming...more specifically Human Caused Global Warming (HCGW).

The "What If" of HCGW is based on the premise that human activity contributes to Global Warming. This is a scientifically sound principle..everything on earth is intertwined and will affect the environment in either a positive, or negative way.  However, the "What If" of HCGW exponentially expands from speculation of a contribution by existence, to a major cause of Global Warming.  It is in this stretch that HCGW jumps from science to politics.

By far the most common argument among those that support the HCGW idea is..."The Vast Majority of Scientists agree that humans are the major contributor to Global Warming." Once upon a time the Vast Majority of Scientists also agreed that the Earth was flat and the Sun orbited the Earth.  Luckily for us you don't vote on the truth of science...but many people will vote on the Politics of Science.  For the sake of argument we will assume that the Great "What if" is true.  How does that affect Energy Security?

Satan, The Great What If and Energy Security.
The Quest for Alternative Energy.

A very good friend of mine in Montana is at the forefront in the quest for alternatives to Oil. He is an innovator of new lubricants that are affordable, renewable, and have minimal impact on the environment.  He has spent the last 15 years and large sums of money attempting to tackle one aspect of of the Energy equation.  He uses organic materials to create his lubricants..this means he grows them on his farm.  

So far he has created a lubricant that will work under certain environmental factors..sadly the environment they will work in, is not found in Montana.  Although his lubricant is renewable, its impact on the environment is unknown...and it is not affordable.  I have yet to see any new technology that is initially affordable. 

The technological ability of an alternative source of energy to be effective requires that it be economically feasible.  If we could use corn as a method to supply our energy needs, make that corn burn super clean, it would be of little use if it cost $10 a gallon and pushes the price of food up.

The extremes of the HCGW debates are all or nothing views.  This is not an intelligent, or even secure point of view. The environmentalists would have everyone believe that energy producers want to destroy the environment.   On the other hand there are those who want to just drill or dig for energy. They both want to scare you into making irrational choices. Fear is not a good position to be in when making security decisions.

Drill, Dig, Nuke, Windmill, Solar Panel, and Who Knows What Else?

When deciding your best course, you should know where you are.  At present the machines of human life run on fossil fuels.  These are the same machines that put the Western World at the top of the game.  Nuclear power is a cheap alternative that could replace the use of Oil and Coal as forms of Energy. Wind and solar energy is in its infancy, but they too show an ability to create viable power systems. 

By removing the irrational regulatory barriers to fossil fuels we buy enough time to create sustainable, economically viable, renewable energy alternatives.  We will have the time to create clean battery technology to make Wind and Solar power work.  We will have the time to look at the impact of bio-fuels. But most importantly we build an Energy Secure nation.

Summary

In this post we looked at the barriers to Energy Security, and how those barriers are/can be broken down.  In the next post we will bring it altogether in a plan for building an Energy Secure Nation.




















  

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Energy Security: Vital to a Nation's Independence

This is the Third Part of the Series on Energy Security.

Part III

What is the Cost of Energy Security?


Most of us realize the cost of energy.  We see it when we put gas in our vehicle, or pay our power bill.  The cost to us, and its effect on our economy does not stop there.  Everything you come in contact with has an energy cost. To understand these costs we will focus on Oil as an energy source.

At the time of this blog being written the cost of a 42 gallon barrel of oil was $98. From a average barrel of oil you will, through the fractioning process, get about 19 gallons of gasoline. Do the math..Cost per gallon=$98 per barrel/42 gallons in a barrel.  Cost per gallon $2.33.  Keep in mind this is pre-production cost...nothing has been refined yet.  Refining adds another $.50 per gallon...which brings us up to $2.83 per gallon.  Of course there is a tax with that.

Federal Taxes are a flat 18.4 cents per gallon.  State, and local taxes are highly variable based on where you are.  In Florida the total in taxes is 38.4 cents per gallon.  That now makes the price of one gallon of gas $2.90 per gallon.  Of course the company that refines the gasoline must transport it to the pump, advertise it, pay employees etc...this adds another 29 cents per gallon. Leaving us with a flat cost of $3.19 per gallon.  At present, (20 September, 2012) the cost of gas at my local station was $3.70 per gallon.  That would mean the gas companies are making 50 cents on every gallon...right?

Not so right...that 50 cents does not account for other taxes (income, property, etc).  This is where things get  difficult to track on a per gallon basis.  The other factors that affect cost at the pump are so highly variable that it becomes nearly impossible to accurately track..so that this point I must make an educated guess.

In 2007 Exxon's stated after tax earnings were 10.4 percent. That is higher than the industries average earnings for that year of 8.3%.  Those numbers are after-tax income.  To make maters worse those earnings include the sales of non-gasoline items.  Yes..those $2 Twinkies add to the company's profits.

In the retail world (and you are buying gas at retail prices) the cost of an item already includes all of the associated expenses.  This includes the actual cost of an item, advertising, employees, sales space, and other operating taxes.  Then they bump that to "what the market can bear" or what is commonly known as the markup.  Jeans for instance carry a markup of 100% to 350%.  Now lets say that your local gas station shoot for Exxon's 10.4% profit.  It would appear that the sale of Jeans is much more of a greed issue, than the sale of gasoline.

But what about the base cost of $98 per barrel of oil?  Where does that come from?  We have all heard of the theory of supply and demand.  The greater the supply and the less the demand the less money something is worth...and the inverse is true as well. There is another factor at play...Market Sentiment. There is a mistaken belief that investors in oil control the price as part of a grand conspiracy.  There is some truth to that...but that is something to be discussed a bit later.

The way most people invest in oil is by investing in the oil company.  This has no impact on the cost of oil one way or the other.  The oil companies profit as we described is not just from oil, but from all of the other products they sell as well.  However, there is a special group of investors, and they do affect the price of oil. They are called Futures Investors.

Futures investments mean that a purchaser agrees to pay a particular price for a product on a specific date.  This is an extremely important method of investing since it allows a company to plan for a rise, or drop in prices of a particular product. Futures investors come in two flavors...the Hedger..and the Speculator.

An example of a Hedger would be an airline.  They buy oil based on a set price.  This protects them from unexpected hikes in price that would affect the cost of their business. A Hedger intends on actually buying the oil.

A speculator is a totally different animal.  They use guesses (educated sometimes) to determine what the price of oil will be at a future date.  They have no intention of buying the actual product. This type of investing can be a roller coaster to doom, or a ride to great wealth.  And the determining factor in both is Market Sentiment.

The mere belief that oil prices will rise..or fall is enough to result in the immediate increase, or drop in prices. This is like letting your cat play the piano...he might hit some comforting notes...but he is just as likely to drive you nuts.

Although Futures Investors play a significant part in the price of oil world wide, there is of course OPEC. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries is the largest organization that controls the price of oil. The list of member countries in OPEC reads like a Who's Who of unstable dictatorships, and theological opposites of the western world.  But there is a symbiotic relationship.  OPEC needs the money from the industrialized nations of the west to survive, and the west needs the OPEC to continue forward.  Or so they want you to believe.  As much as I would love to jump into that discussion right now...it will be saved for the next installment of this series.

Part III
Summary

You have learned the reason gasoline costs what it does.  The fact that nothing in this nation moves without it has been a fact since the invention of the internal combustion engine.  In the days before the train goods were moved by horses.  A horse could move twice its weight 30 miles per day.  So if you wanted a nice orange from Tampa, it would take 25 days to have it transported to North Carolina.  In that time..it would not be so nice. Prior to the invention of the train your food had to be locally grown. A train can move that orange in less than 12 hours.  Add refrigeration and you can get fresh orange juice year round.

Look around your home...everything there is tied to the price of oil.  For manufacturers of goods, energy is a prime consideration in what you pay for those goods.  I have watched those shows were people get "back to nature".  They brag about their independence from the normal world...while they cut wood with an iron axe.  That iron was mined using modern methods of digging.  It was smelted in large furnaces fired by coke (a coal derivative).  It was transported to the store by truck or train using petroleum products.  The people who mined the ore, smelted it, and eventually sold it..all used Oil to survive their day.  Try as you might...oil is a requirement.

The Cost imposed by Government equates to 56.4 cents on every gallon of gas sold in Florida (86.9 cents in California) compare that to the before tax profit of the Oil company of 50 cents and it is clear that the entity that profits the most is the Government. 

Most of the argument about Oil comes from those who dislike big oil companies (I call that jealousy) and the environmentalists (I normally write that environMentalists). As far as big oil goes...they profit no where as much as the Government..and they take all the risk.  In the pricing scheme the post Oil per barrel cost is peanuts compared to what the raw product costs.

The next installment in this series will deal with the issue of how we can become independent of outside influences in creating Energy Security.

Read Part I and Part II 



References
http://www.api.org/News-and-Media/docs/Testimony-Archive.aspx
http://www.oil-price.net/
http://www.floridastategasprices.com/Tax_Info.aspx
http://www.wisebread.com/cheat-sheet-retail-markup-on-common-items
http://www.investopedia.com/articles/economics/08/determining-oil-prices.asp#axzz26zrfE0H0
http://www.opec.org/opec_web/en/press_room/178.htm



Monday, September 17, 2012

Energy Security: Vital to a Nation's Independence

This is the second part of the Energy Security Series.
To read Part I Click Here

Part II

Measuring Energy Resources

When measuring Energy Resources there are some fundamental ideas you should know.  For many energy resources such as, Coal, Oil, and Gas there is a big difference between how much exists, and how much can be recovered economically, or within the confines of current regulations.

The economics of recovery is affected by not just the difficulty in recovering the resource, but also recovering it within the confines of current regulations. The basis of how much in recoverable resources is based on these two issues.

According to President Obama's administration the United States has 20 million barrels of "proven" oil reserves.(1)  When the President refers to "proven" reserves he is talking about resources that can be recovered given economic, technological, and regulatory constraints.(1) What does this mean?

When they say economic constraints this basically means the oil can be sold at a competitive price. Probably the most self-regulating portion of any business is the ability to sell the product at a profit.  For U.S. producers this means waiting for the price to be increased by OPEC before they can sell what they have.

Technological constraints are a bit different.  15 years ago much of the oil located in North Dakota were not technologically accessible.  However, in the 15 years since then drilling methods have made the oil not only technologically accessible, but economically accessible. Technology has opened all new sources of Oil alone and continues to do so.

Regulatory constraints is a government created obstacle.  It takes approximately 10 days to get a permit to drill for oil in North Dakota...it takes a couple of 14 days to get a permit to mine coal in Ohio...it take 27 days to get a permit in Colorado...it takes almost 307 days to get permits from the Federal Government..and in the case of coal..it may take even longer.  Some will probably argue that the Federal Government is more concerned with the environmental impact.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The States are very keenly aware of the impact that drilling or mining may have on their natural resources, and people's lives. Why does it take the Federal Government so long to approve a new well or mine, when the States can do so in at most a few weeks?  Maybe we can answer that question by the end of this series.

What about he President's opposition? The Republican party uses a USGS study that says there are 198 billion barrels of oil that is "Technically Recoverable".(1) Technically Recoverable includes not just oil we know is there, but also oil we think is there based on geological surveys and can be recovered by present technology.  The estimate does not take into account the economic feasibility, or regulatory constraints.


As you can see by the chart there are 763 barrels of undiscovered oil..and the United States has 26 percent of that oil. Is this an accurate picture of the oil resources for the United States.  No, it is not.

The USGS only takes into account traditional oil. You know the kind that squirts out of the top of an oil well.  However, it does not take into account the oil found in the tar sands of Canada, or the shale oil in North Dakota and Montana.

Using these numbers it is easy to see that President Obama is underestimating the amount of oil resources available. Though it may look like the Republicans are over estimating the amount available it may very well be likely they are underestimating that amount as well.

A much more detailed study that included all forms of Oil concludes that there is approximately 1442 Billion Barrels of oil in the United States alone. According to Energy for America if we include the 320 barrels of oil in Canada, and the 31.2 billion barrels of oil in Mexico we have a total of 1.7 trillion barrels of oil.  That is more oil than the world has drilled since the discovery of oil in Titusville Pennsylvania 150 years ago, or enough oil to power the United States for 250 years.(2)



Invariably someone will ask, "What about Alternative/Renewable Energy Sources?" What about it?  We certainly will not stop researching and testing alternative sources of energy, but on the other hand why would we cripple our economy now on untested alternatives?  If we can't find a viable alternative energy source in the next 250 years...maybe we should all find a cave now?

In the next installment of this series we will look at the Economic impact of Energy.




References Used.
(1)http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/04/how-much-oil-is-really-in-the-us/256186/
(2)http://www.energyforamerica.org/inventory/

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Energy Security: Vital to a Nation's Independence.

Part 1
The Importance of Energy Security

For a nation to be able to exist it must be free to make its own decisions independent from influence from other nations.  There are three key elements that empower that type of freedom.  They are Economic Security, Energy Security, and National Security.  These three elements are connected to one another and a weakness in one, will cause a weakness in the entire system.

Security Pyramid 

Many will tell you that Economic Security is a very complex system that requires years of advanced study.  In reality, you are an expert (if you are not in debt up to your eyeballs).  If a nation owes other nations then it is not free to pick its own course.  Economic Security is closely tied to National Security.

National Security is defined by the Instruments of Power that a country can use to remain free.  These Instruments of Power are defined by the D.I.M.E theory.  The D.I.M.E theory can be quite complex but I will attempt to make it easy to understand.

Diplomacy is a very important part of National Security.  Diplomats negotiate with other nations on nearly everything.  Social issues, Import/Export treaties, Peace treaties, Military access, and mutual support agreements...and many more.  A nations leader may say one thing to the public, but his diplomats convey the real message to other nations, or in some cases try to head off something a politician said that was stupid.

Information about ourselves and other nations is key in National Security.  This information comes from many sources, with a huge portion being gathered, analyzed, and distributed by a nation's intelligence agencies.  The release of this information is sometimes carefully scripted to lead a nation's enemies in to believing one thing, when in fact something else is true.

Military power is the sword of National Security.  The size, arms, training, logistics, and demonstrated ability to project this power where needed greatly enhances a nations ability to project power and achieve National Security.

Economic power is the funding that can be wielded against an enemy, or even friends. It allows a nation the ability, should it need to, to act independent of any other nation.  It enhances diplomacy, helps gather information, and builds a strong Military.  Without it a nation will not last long.

Energy Security is a mainstay of modern nations.  Without energy industry does not create anything, products do not move to consumers, armies do not fight. A nation must have its own source of abundant energy to claim Energy Security.

The importance of Energy can not be understated, it is the vital to the survival of any nation. The following video is a presentation by Congressman Allen West, Colonel US Army (Ret). during the RNC as part of the NewtUniversity series.






Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Difference Between Make Believe and Reality



You wake up one day and notice you have a painful rash on your leg. It is so bad you go to see your doctor. The doctor gives you a cream to put on it, and sends you home. After a week the rash has not gotten any better, so you head to the doctor again.

This time he gives you some pills and a new cream for the rash. You take the pills and use the cream exactly like he says you should. After a week the rash has not only not gotten better, but you now have it on both legs and your butt. So, off to the doctor you go.

This time the doctor decides to give you a shot, stronger pills, and some more cream. Everyday you take the pills, put on cream, and visit the doctor for a shot. Gradually the rash goes away and the doctor with a smug look of victory declares you cured.

What neither of you knew..is that very week your wife had changed back to her old detergent.

Just the other day on Twitter a famous actor (not really super famous..but well known) said that FDR's New Deal was the best thing to happen to this country...his followers added that it was responsible not only for ending the Great Depression, but also winning World War II, and making the United States a superpower. I was so stunned that anyone would believe that...that I was almost speechless...almost. I was expecting one of them to claim that the New Deal was responsible for Cracker Jacks and Pop Rocks. Apparently even they have boundaries.

Here is an interesting fact about the Great Depression...Scholars do not agree on what caused it. In fact, their political belief often drives their conclusions about the cause of the Great Depression. Just like the rash...if you can't define the cause...you can not call it cured.

What I do know about the New Deal is this...It was a full on assault on the U.S. Constitution. From FDR's attempt at stacking the Supreme Court, to his Alphabet Administration (that was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court).

Again Scholars will argue that the New Deal did/did not end the Great Depression. Some will argue that FDR didn't spend enough money...other will argue that he spent too much. Some argue that Government did too much...and others that it didn't do enough.

This is not to say that FDR's attempts to stay the hand of the Great Depression was a total loss...lots of communities got Civic Centers, and Libraries. Vegas got the Hoover Dam...which would later give mobsters and gamblers a place to hang out. Of course a capitalist by the name of Andrew Carnegie built more Libraries...and they are prettier.

In 1939 Europe entered into the darkness of World War II. Japan was continuing its march across Asia. The US began its lend program to provide materials to both sides prior to war, and after war was declared it began providing supplies to what would become the Allied Powers. If anything takes credit for pulling the nation out of the Great Depression, WWII is that thing. In 1941, unemployment was unheard of..America was at war and full production war at that. The New Deal had nothing to do with the winning of WWII. The US had 3 years from 1939-1941 to build its production facilities. In fact, the Great Depression had more to do with positioning the US for war. There were plenty of workers available, and farmers now had a consumer to buy their goods right here at home..and abroad armies were needing our surplus.

One freaktard suggested that the boom of the 1950's was due to the New Deal...staggering stupidity is amazing. The Marshal Plan, had more to do with the American Economy of the late 1940's and all of the 1950's. Not to mention the growing Cold War. Americans realized that to keep themselves safe a strong standing Army was the wave of the future...of course...we can't forget Nukes.

The final claim was that The New Deal made the United States a Superpower. Nothing could be so incredibly false as this. The US had been a Sleeping Giant. All of the resources, brains, and pure balls of stone rested within her borders. World War II woke that giant and sent it reeling across this planet in an unrelenting flood of military might, humanitarian love, and a creativity never known on this planet. Thoughout the rest of the 20th Century America dominated in Science, Culture, Military power, and Agricultural strength. Inspite of our own governments attempt to stop her. We also make a dang good rum.

I replied to the semi-famous Actor that “The New Deal was not such a good deal.” He called me insane...he might be right...but I am not wrong...or silly enough to believe everything a politician tells me...just because I identify with his/her party.

I dedicate this to the political naivety of Mister John Cusack, and the difference between Make Believe and Reality.




Saturday, January 14, 2012

What's it Gonna be Boy...Yes...Or...No.


Politics reminds me of the classic Meatloaf song.."Paradise by the Dashboard Light"...its all about hitting a home run.


Who I will be supporting in 2012 Presidential Election.


It is easy to lose perspective when discussing the situation that the United States finds itself in. Discussion of the most pressing issues normally devolve into a worthless finger pointing exercise. Almost any attempt I make at discussing these issues someone always says “Well the [insert your party here] is/is not [insert complaint here]”.

Let there be no doubt, no point of contention, no mystified misdirection, my goal is to see that Barrack Obama is not elected President of the United States...again. With that in mind I have looked at the political landscape, and have finally decided who I believe the best person to accomplish that goal is.

Before I make the announcement I am sure you have all been waiting for, it is important that I lay the background of this decision.

In 2008 I did not support John McCain for president...at least not willingly. I watched a man I did not like to begin with act like a total moron. In fact, I wondered then if he was intentionally losing the election. I still wonder that to this day. Because of this train wreck of an election, I feel that not only should I make my choices known...but I need to be loud about it and educate as many people as possible as to why I have decided to support my choice this time.

Who does not get my support and why is an important part of the process. I put every candidate up against four criteria.

Criteria #1: Fiscal Responsibility. At present our Government is running on stupid. Social philosophy and experimentation has taken the place of responsible fiscal decisions based on known fact. Of course Fiscal Responsibility is not easy. There must be a balance between revenue, and expenditures. Reality is...there will not be a chicken in every pot.

Criteria #2: Adherence to the Constitution. Sounds really easy. Its not. There are candidates who throw the word constitution around like they are discussing their favorite beer. There is one candidate in particular that when they mention the Constitution I get a sick feeling. I am sure this is a topic I will discuss frequently in the coming months.

Criteria #3: Free Markets. American companies must be free to compete. This has not been true for a very long time. Over regulation based on theoretical climate guess work, environmental lies, and financial chicanery has so hampered American Capitalism that it is making Americans into consumers, not producers.

Criteria #4: Electability. The candidate that I support must be electable. That is they must have the best chance at removing Barrack Obama from office. This holds true in any election in which the opposition does not positively impact the first three criteria.

Before I go into the who I support part of this diatribe, it is important to note that the candidate I want to run, isn't. So, I am left with those that are. So now I present the people I will not be supporting.

Ron Paul. Congressman Paul has some good ideas...very limited..very narrowly defined good ideas. But he is not what he wants you to think he is. Congressman Paul is a very good politician. He helped craft legislation that brought a good amount of ear marks to his constituency, and when he was sure the bill would pass...he would vote against it. Pretty damn clever if you ask me. His ideas on Americas role in the world is like that of a child....when we were protected by oceans his ideas make sense...that world is gone. Not being involved in world events and problems is like fighting with a bag over your head. Every time he says “Constitution” I seriously want to barf. He reminds me of that crazy uncle you try to avoid at family gatherings. His electability rating is Zero.

Rick Perry. There is no doubt that Rick Perry is certainly a fiscal and social conservative, but he falls short in the electability category. Americans are not ready for his type of conservatism. He has failed to educate the public on his vision. Too bad really, he could have been a contender.

Jon Huntsman. Poor Jon reminds me of the guy who went to a formal party dressed as a clown. The bright spot in this is his daughters may be able to wrangle some sort of media gig.

Newt Gingrich. There is no doubt when it comes to policy, fiscal responsibility, knowledge of the Constitution, and support of Free Markets there is no one as smart as Newt. For a time I was on the cusp with Newt, but does he have what it takes to get elected? Sadly I don't think so. Newt is fighting a game in which he is his own worst enemy. Forget his marital issues, his ethical issues...he loses his temper a bit to fast when under pressure. His method of educating the public is a bit...annoying. Even with the baggage Obama brings to the race, Newt is just not electable.

By now you may have figured out who I will be supporting, but I think it may be worth mentioning.

Mitt Romney. He is not the perfect candidate, however, he does meet the first three criteria. Not perfectly, but good enough. His demeanor (with a few exceptions) lends him as the perfect (relatively that is) candidate for educating the electorate. He will grab those independents, and I believe enough of those to the left of center, to defeat Obama. That is my primary goal.

I could stand at the helm of my ship and maintain a rigid course toward port and run straight and true into the rocks...but with a little course adjustment I can begin to gently steer the nation back to the fundamentals that have served it well. On this part of the journey Mitt Romney will serve his purpose.

I enjoy comments on this subject and would love to know who you support and why. It is what makes the political season fun.

Visit my website at www.captblackegle.com

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Bang a Gong...Get it On

The Race

The Iowa Caucus is over and we now know..well..nothing.  Statistically it was a three way tie...Romney, Santorum and Paul. Newt placed a distant (statistically) fourth.  What we do know is that Bachman is out...and that other guy is not looking too well.  But not all is lost...we now present you with New Hampshire.

New Hampshire shares similarities with Iowa...it is a small state in relation to some of the primaries that follow. This allows candidates on a budget to compete with the big guys.  It also allows amateur and professional statisticians to practice their art.  Yes it is an art.

If I had to predict this next race I would stack them up as being statistically the same as Iowa, unless...and the unless is the thing that will screw up statistics, there is a story we have not yet heard.

There is a story I want to focus on...what does the other side think?  Keep in mind the Republican Primaries are not just Republicans trading punches, but an opportunity for the other side to get involved.  Debbie Wasserman Schultz has certainly gotten involved. As the head of the Democratic National Committee she is part of the Democrats plan to influence the Republican nomination process.  Conspiracy?  Of course it is...it is the game of politics.

What can we learn from their activity?  First they are afraid...they know that they have not produced what they said they would, and this is a problem for them.  They need to make it look like they are the ones who are working to improve America.  This will not be easy for them. 

Second, they want to convince us to vote for the person they feel they can beat.  This will be made up of very complex statements intended to mislead us into picking a candidate they feel they can beat. 

To counter their attempts we just need to put aside petty differences in candidates and pick the person that will best counter Obama.  Even if that person does not exactly fit into what we think the perfect candidate would be.  Not that I want you to put aside your personal beliefs, but instead compare and contrast those individuals with Obama.  He is after all NOT a good choice.

Here is an exercise for you...select the historical President you most admire.  Decide why you admire that person.  Then select a contemporary person that best embodies those traits.  Finally compare and contrast that person to the candidates running for President.

My next blog will be how I am using that process to pick the candidate that I will support for President.

Good luck to all the candidates as we move to New Hampshire.



Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Year Gone by...The Year Ahead.



I am sitting here, smoking a dark Dominican cigar, not an expensive one...but decent. I am drinking instant coffee..no sugar...very strong. The lights in the room are dim, a TV is on somewhere in the house. My headphones are on..and I am listening to the Eagle's. This is the scene of my reflections on the Year Gone by, and the Year Ahead.

2011 was an instrumental year of a five year plan that began in 2008. 2008 is the year that I began to question many things in my life, chief among those was the direction my country had taken. The inspection of my country led to the introspection of my life in general. Inspections and introspection can be a dangerous thing...I do not suggest it unless you are prepared to see what was hidden...and act based on what you find.

What I found out about my life...was almost crippling. Someone else was dictating what I did, who I did it with. I was not my own man, but the pawn of someone else who took advantage of me...on an emotional level. Emotions are not something I express, or for that matter paid much attention to. I learned an important lesson about life...one that I will never forget. With the blinders off, I set about to recreate my life and its direction. A daunting task...and one that brought me to the brink of personal disaster. Luckily, the truest of people were there to help me...and my God was there to guide me. Which brings me to 2011. The year of the greatest changes, and a path to the peace that I hope everyone can enjoy one day.

On a professional level I have moved up a notch toward my final goal of professional peace. I enjoyed...yes enjoyed...some spectacular failures. Failure is something to praise, not be fearful of. Some people get all crazy when they fail, but to fail means you are still in the game. Giving up is not an option. At present I have a job that is well suited for where I am now. Because of the nature of the job, and the possible problems disclosing it could cause...I will just say..I am closer to where I want to be than I had planned on.

My personal life has been a very mind expanding experience. At the time I was living with the most incredible person I have ever met. I thought I knew what love was...but quickly realized I had no idea about it. That is where Gina has become my mentor, and an example of the complexity of love. We have had some incredible discussions on the subject...and though we disagree about some aspects of love...we do so in a loving way. My lifestyle as a result has taken a turn toward what I have always wanted it to be...simple pleasures..and simple love. I am free..in a way that I find hard to express...but I will try.

Gina...what you have done is nothing short of a miracle. I came into this relationship with my guard up. Nothing would ever own me again was my pledge. But you...somehow have managed to steal my heart...but that is OK with me. This time I feel that it is in good hands. Your strength is immeasurable, your love is not exactly patient, but it is relentless. I know when I get home I will see those eyes of love...and understanding...eyes I have never seen before.

Though your first husband left this world unexpectedly, I am touched by the way you honor his life, and know that I will be honored as well. I listen to your stories about him and your life with him, and it makes me proud to say that I am in the presence of such a person as you..and that I am now one of two that has known your boundless ability to love.

When we are out together I have heard others speak of your beauty...they are only seeing the outside, your true beauty lies within..and in this last year you have filled me with beauty. That is why I am happier than I can express that you are now my wife...we sail this sea of life together.

To the reader...this is a poor example of how I feel about my personal life over the last year...but it is as personal as I will probably ever be with someone I barely know.

My political life has been rather quiet...a post here and there...a phone call to representatives..or an email or two. That will be changing. I have taken a sabbatical of sorts in 2011, but I have been writing and will post those articles throughout 2012 as I press to change the destructive course our Government has set for us. It is not all Obama's fault...but he and his ilk are certainly to blame. So if you are a staunch Republican or Democrat...but fail to understand the problems or offer Constitutional solutions...you are in this Pirate's sights.

In closing I leave you with a military axiom...when surrounded or ambushed...Attack with extreme violence...you have nothing to lose in trying...but you will lose everything by hesitating.