When I was about 6 years old, my mother was a Water Safety Instructor (WSI). And, since I had to go where she went most of the time, I learned to swim. Not from her, you understand. It is a well-known fact among aquatically inclined people that you cannot teach your own children to swim. Your own children will cling to you like a second skin and refuse to let go. They won’t do that to a total stranger – at least not until puberty.
So, Mom was teaching swimming to Intermediates which includes a child of the other WSI who is teaching Beginners – myself one. It makes for a free child-care situation which was good because Mom had a way of spending money on things…actually many things…actually everything.
I remember once when I was being dragged out to a department store while Mom was shopping. That happened a lot, you see. Mom was using the ancestor of a credit card called a “Chargaplate” – a thin metal plate with Dad’s name and a number embossed on it. By this time, I knew that this was just an IOU and Dad would pay later. Mom might have seen me eyeing the chargaplate and said to me, “Now, don’t tell your father I bought this.”
You might say I was a clever child, but this one seemed a no-brainer to me. I knew darn well that Dad would be writing a check for this amount later in the month – and he wouldn’t be smiling. One of my earliest memories was Dad cutting up credit cards with a pair of scissors (Chargaplates required tin snips). Mom would then go back to the store and say she lost them and ask for new ones. How do I know? Didn’t I just tell you she dragged me along on shopping trips? It all ended in Divorce not long after that.
We are trying to get back to swimming here and so, just to even out my criticism of my mother’s spendthriftery, I’ll relate a true story of her Water Safety credentials. She and Dad were at a party down at the Galveston Yacht Basin where our doctor kept his boat. Dad was an early adopter of “Bartering” – way before it became a hippie status symbol. If you wonder why, re-read the paragraph above.
For example, Dad repaired our Doctor’s boat motor in return for the Doc sewing up the wound in my arm. It took five stitches – I was swinging on a rope tied to a telephone pole. The rope parted and I wound up hanging by my impaled right arm from a hurricane fence. All the other kids who had encouraged the Big Guy to swing on that rotten old rope ran like thieves. Mom came out and “plucked” me off the fence and took me to the Doc.
File photo detail of a hurricane fence. These were universal around the houses in my neighborhood. The “barbs” at the top were intentional to discourage climbing. We climbed these pretty much on a daily basis in the summertime. These days they install the fencing itself “upside-down” so there is just a blunt corner at the top – for obvious reasons.
When Mom brought me home with my arm stitched up, the “backdoor” neighbor had hammered down all those barbs along all her fences – not just the common one. She was a Catholic with about 8 children.
Anyway, Mom and Dad were – at the Doctor’s invitation – attending a Yacht Basin party. There was a little boy – maybe three years old – playing with a dog. Actually, he was trying to push the poor animal over. Doggy departed suddenly and the boy plunged into the water of an empty boat slip. The water is quite deep there, as these were big boats.
My Mother immediately and instinctively jumped in, grabbed the kid and handed him up to Dad who was by that time prone on the deck and reaching down. The party-goers were stunned and amazed. The parents of the kid were very thankful. Mom had her faults, but Dad and I both were very proud of her that day.
Swimming, we were talking about swimming, right? I learned to swim at an early age and it became a habit. I was good at it, unlike other sports and swimming does not require a lot of equipment. Plastic goggles go for about $10 these days. It is not hard on the ankles, dogs don’t chase you and instead of sweating through a 105° day in Houston-August I was in a pool full of water.
There was swimming in Charles F. Hartman Junior High School (grades 7, 8 and 9), but it came with a very weird requirement. The excuse was that they did not want wet bathing suits in the lockers because they go all moldy and stink. The requirement was that you had to swim nude…unclothed, in the buff, in your birthday suit. So, I would have to strip down and “cavort” with a bunch of naked boys if I wanted to swim? No thank you very much. This was not “co-ed”, of course, or I would have reconsidered. That wasn’t the only weird thing about Junior High School, but we are trying desperately to get to the swimming story as the title suggests.
I still went swimming outside school, though – properly attired of course. We had a membership for a pool club called the Tropicana. I was actually on their swim team for a while. Pool clubs were quite common in those days because few houses had anything resembling air-conditioning (Yes, that’s what I said) and summers were Murder in Houston. The Summers still are, but everything that can hold a living human body inside has A/C now.
The Tropicana was a unique aquatics venue. It was an indoor pool in a metal building. If you looked closely, you would find that the building was supported by steel wheels on a railroad track. When the weather was appropriate, the entire building rolled back and the Tropicana was now an outdoor facility.
There was another quite interesting pool in town, as well. The part under the diving boards was actually about 15 or 20 feet deep. That left room at the bottom for a clear plastic hemisphere about five feet in diameter. This dome was held down by chains connected to the concrete below and air bubbled up from a hole in the bottom beneath the center of the dome. By that time, I was an accomplished pool denizen and was quite comfortable descending to pop my head in the dome and watch the swimmers around me. I would occasionally make forays out into the water when I saw coins tumbling down from the pockets of the diving board users. As often as not, I could re-coup the admission fee and once I had enough left over for a hot dog. It was best to get there early, because the dome usually filled up with other wannabe scuba divers and became uncomfortably claustrophobic.
This is a “file photo” of something like that pool dome.
The pressure was considerable higher that deep and ears had to be “popped” by attempted exhalation while pinching the nose. Ascending afterward also required re-adjustment of the ears and discharge of the expanding air in the lungs. All this would, of course land the pool’s managers in Court with a cornucopia of lawsuits, these days. I don’t remember the name or location of this place, but I am quite sure that the “diving bell” feature is no more.
I swam in Austin at the University of Texas in one of three pools there. In my last semester, I was working in a metal shop and showed up at the dressing room in rusty old jeans, a dirty army-surplus jacket that I wore while welding and worn, old steel toed boots(I had them resoled and I wore them on the Walkabout). I showered and dressed out for swimming and then afterward, I walked away to class in slacks, a Hawaiian shirt and boat shoes (my Clark Kent mode).
I am still swimming today. Since we still have the gym membership until unemployment bankrupts me, I swim every day. I have been building up in distance and I swam 63 laps only this morning – it’s some old guy’s age. To be clear, a lap is two lengths of the pool (one northbound, one southbound) to arrive at the starting point. The pool is 25 yards and the total distance is one and three-quarters of a mile. It takes about two hours. I am quite sure that the twenty-somethings swimming around me are utterly incapable of such effort.
As you might imagine, swimming laps is extremely boring. The mind tends to wander and I used to lose count of the laps quite often. I have a rule that when faced with uncertainty over whether it was 10 or 11 laps (e.g.), I always choose 10. That way there can be no doubt of the final count as a minimum. While this has the effect of maximizing the exercise, I found myself forgetting every few laps as my attention drifted. The logical extension of this problem would have me swimming excessively with a dismally small count.
To remedy this, I have developed several strategies to force myself to remember the correct count. Visualization: The brain – or at least MY brain -seems to remember visual clues much better than mere numbers. So I adopted the habit of counting laps on my fingers in front of my goggled eyes.
So, what do I do when I get to 10? There is a really clever way to count – unambiguously – to 99 on two hands. It is a system used by Korean schoolchildren and it is called, “Chisemba” if I remember correctly.
One moment please…
Okay, I don’t find it online, so I will explain it, myself. Or, rather I will visualize it for you (see photo below)
So, we got to 9 on one hand. Next is a “1” on the left hand to indicate 10 and so on up to 90.
You see that we can count all the laps we are likely to need on two hands. Only for a brief glance at the push-off, I don’t swim with my hands like that, in case you wondered. It does make an amusing mental image though.
Now the problem is that sometimes, when distracted by neighboring swimmers (or talkers) I forget to make the visual count. So, another form of memory aid is needed to back this one up. Say we have decided to swim 30 laps. By the time we get to lap number 3, we have covered 1/10th of the total. At 5, one 1/6th is done. Then at lap 6, 1/5th , at lap 7 ½, 1/4th at lap 10, 1/3rd, at lap15, one half. If you need something to fill the long gap between 10 and 15 laps, then 12 laps is 2/5ths. I might forget the count but remember that I just passed the half mark, and so on.
There are also points along the way that represent fractions of a mile (9,18,27 and 36=1 mile). I used to work in nautical miles so (10,20,30 and 40 =1 nm). I can also “go metric” and come up with kilometers (11, 22=1k, 33, 44, etc).
In the higher lap counts, there are oddball combinations like ½ a mile and half a kilometer (29) and in case I really get bored (everyday!) there are integer squares (4,9,16,25…) and prime numbers (1,3,5,7,11,13,17…) and 42 (the Answer to Life, the Universe and Everything according to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy).
And at the end of the swim, we count down by fractions as well, when 2 laps shy of 30, there is 1/15th remaining, 1 lap is 1/30th, a half lap is 1/60, then 1/120, 1/240, 1/480…etc. Each of these distances – while small – must take some finite time to accomplish, right? So, I never finish and I am still in the pool right now reaching out with my index finger toward the side of the pool, trying to cover that infinite series of fractions, yes?
File photo* of a swimmer reaching to finish that infinite number of fractional laps
That is one of Zeno’s Paradoxes. Zeno was an Ancient Greek who evidently got paid to think up goofy stuff like that. Where do I sign up for that position? I may be overqualified!
*Art Nerds among you will recognize Michelangelo’s God Creating Adam currently on permanent loan to the Sistine Chapel. That is the image that popped into my head when I imagined the infinite series of fractions. I would have used the Adam portion of the image, since Adam doesn’t have all those Cherubs around him – but Adam is doing the backstroke and is attired for the Charles F. Hartman pool, if you get my drift.
Steven Blake Campbell
Resume will be sent on request. Click the “Contact” button at upper right for email.
October 16, 2017
I am a Geophysicist with decades of experience. I have been directly involved with field research, data acquisition, processing and quality control – as you may see by requesting a resume to be sent (click “Contact” at upper right). Software instruction, technical documentation, marketing presentations and client interaction are also among my strengths.
I also performed a great deal of seismic modeling – FD, ray tracing, attribute analysis, source modeling, e.g. I wrote prototype programs that expanded capabilities when in-house software was left behind by the increasing complexity of seismic operations. My survey designs have won contract bids valued at tens to hundreds of millions of dollars. Assignments varied, but I would estimate about 10 years involvement in management.
My health is excellent and I am currently swimming about one mile per day. Most people half my age are incapable of such effort.
I hold a Class A CDL with Haz-Mat, Tanker and Double/Triple endorsements. I have approximately 130,000 miles of over-the-road tractor-trailer experience.
I am fluent in English and Spanish and have some familiarity with French and Russian.
I would offer this article in particular as an example of my technical writing: Changing Energy Use in the United States
I write science and travel articles as an avocation and method to sharpen my writing skills. You will find a collection of those at this website: Goingwalkabout.blog.
I can be available at short notice. Any reasonable remuneration will be accepted. I would accept a temporary or short-term position.
Remote or overseas assignments for long periods would be quite acceptable. Just get me home every once-in-a-while or re-locate me! Travel is no problem. I have travelled extensively in South America and I hold a current US passport and Brazilian visa both of which do not expire until 2022.
Steven B. Campbell
The St Louis Arch is a reminder that the Peace of the Open Road will come to an end in Memphis tomorrow afternoon and the next day that “grim obligation” returns.
Walkabout convention: When you see text like this in italics it means that I am speaking in the moment of the date and place of the subtitle. When the text is like this I am speaking of another time or place or both.
Loves Truck Stop, Interstate 29, exit 44 St. Joseph, Missouri – September 9, 2017
Tomorrow will be the fourth day of driving from Wallula, Washington to Memphis, Tennessee. These are the most pleasant of times, when the toil of obtaining or liberating a cargo is absent from the list of exasperating tasks that must be fulfilled in a day’s work. There is only the highway and most of it is in the most agreeable form – the open road.
The Pacific Northwest is blessed with long stretches of highway that seem to go on eternally and present the observer with vast tableaus of intricate, awe-inspiring landscape. To amble through this wonderland for days – without the grim obligation of mucking about in yards, wrangling trailers and dealing with guards and clerks – is a pleasure that transcends the mundane toil of what is a demanding and unrewarding occupation.
To amble through this wonderland…
Pilot Truck Stop, Interstate 20, exit 26 Atlanta, Georgia – September 12, 2017
Tropical Storm Irma has become a blob of rain and wind and I am somewhere near its center. There is only a constant drizzle this morning that replaces the steady downpour in which I found Atlanta.
The truck stop was level one full when I arrived – meaning that all the “designated” parking was taken and not likely to change. Level two was just beginning, which means that the “outliers” were finding the unofficial spaces where they won’t be in the way of commerce, i.e., not blocking the entrance, exit, fuel islands. Your Humble Narrator found a really good spot over near – but separated from – the automobile gas pumps. I was worried that I would be asked to move, but that was purely paranoia of a person that does not often break rules. Now that I awake, there are trucks parked beside me that begin to encroach upon the entrance. No one is blocked, you understand, but every truck now entering is inconvenienced and has to carefully avoid my late-arriving neighbors. After this “late stage two” comes stage three where emergency measures are in effect and trucks impede traffic, ignore no parking signs and pavement markings and occupy public street-sides to the point of impeding traffic. I have only seen that once, in Ontario, Oregon where I was “snowed in” for about 30 hours. You won’t hear about these parking “levels” anywhere else, because I just made up the system. I think three levels are about appropriate, with the third being open-ended to include complete paralysis of traffic (a la Ontario) at its most extreme.
The delivery in Memphis went particularly well. The staff at the receiver was polite, efficient and helpful. The road to Atlanta was mostly unobstructed, but the rain began at Birmingham, Alabama and intensified steadily until it was the aforementioned “steady downpour” at Atlanta with wind gusts of an estimated 30 miles per hour.
The time has come to prepare for departure. I deliver a second installment here in Atlanta and then on to Fort Mills, South Carolina and the Final.
Receivers Staging Lot, Atlanta, Georgia – September 12, 2017 – 9:22 AM
After five days of enjoyable driving, it is time to pay the piper with some uncompensated misery. Arriving at 4:30 AM for a 6:00 AM appointment, we find a queue of trucks at the entrance. I fall in line behind the last of them and wait. I call the contact number and get voice mail where I leave my name, company, load number and phone. Eventually, patience runs out and I walk to the gate, only to find another driver who also walked in. No trace of any gate guards or receiving clerks. Eventually, one of many autos entering stops to talk to the groups of drivers now numbering four. Word is: after Six, if nobody shows up, enter the yard and pull up to the next gate.
So, then we are lined up outside the next gate and I wander around looking for someone in authority, then give up and go back to the truck. I call the contact number and leave another voice mail. Finally the line starts to move and when we arrive at the front, I get out – bills in hand, safety vest on and they tell me to wait in the truck. Ten minutes later the same guy tells me to go park down there and wait in the truck. An hour later, I call the contact number and leave another voice mail – and an hour after that, I opt for the operator, who passes my call to Tweedledee, who passes my call to Tweedledum who passes my call to voicemail. A call to the Company is next, just so they can share the pain. Grim thoughts and depression begin to consume the day.
Finally, I decide it’s time to do some writing – another uncompensated activity but far more satisfying – and a lumper shows up at the door to tell me to back into door 345. Odd how that works.
Backing into doors has become less traumatic and this one – despite being a tight fit between a trailer and a full semi – is done with a minimum of trouble. A message to the Company for the authorization of a lumper fee is completed and a check written. The trailer is already gyrating with unloading activity.
You see how the mood has shifted from the open road to grubbing around in a Receiver’s yard!
Pilot Truck Stop, Interstate 70 exit 188 Warrenton, Missouri – September 14, 2017
I passed road cuts in both North Carolina and Tennessee that looked like Black Marine Shale, or something similar. My presentation “Energy, Oil, Gas and Shale” includes a list of shale plays in the US that lists the Chatanooga Shale in Tennessee and the Cumnock Shale in North Carolina. Whether these were the formations I glimpsed is unknown, but possible. After all, I re-discovered the Utica Shale while passing through Midstate New York.
I will look these up when I have a good internet connection.
A preliminary search reveals that both the Chatanooga and Cumnock formations have been drilled and assessed to be productive sources of Natural Gas. My impression is that the economics of both are as yet marginal – depending as they do on the price of Natural Gas. Comments that a rise in the price of Natural Gas would stimulate activity and prosperity were common to the articles I read. It occurs to me that both these and many others such plays should soon profit from the advancing technological advances in efficiency of NG production. That would transcend the question of rising prices.
Houston Base (the kitchen table) – October 5, 2017
Once again, I am “at liberty”. That’s a thirties era expression for unemployed. Let’s call this a Leave of Absence.
I am, however, reunited with my long-suffering family. My health is recovering from the constant stress of non-stop driving and I get to go swimming every day again.
The job market seems to have improved. I say “seems” because I am applying to jobs that match my experience very well. None of them yet have even called me back for an interview and, as usual there is no address for a follow-up. I’ll try to track down some humans to speak to at these places, but they prefer to hide behind job web sites. At least one job disappeared and then re-appeared, so I applied to it again. I had expected to get a message to the effect that I had applied already, but it went straight through to “submitted”. Perhaps this is their strategy to weed out the less desperate.
One application came with a word problem math test. They trick the questions up. For example, with changes in units like days, hours, weeks and “two-week periods” all in the same problem. And one question about income from customers said “they get 7 customers every month, starting with 10 in the first month.” This is a set-up to assume that they mean seven MORE customers every month. But that is not what that sentence says. So, I suspect that the total number of customers in a year is 87, not the 495 that accumulation would suggest. The question is ambiguous and requires an assumption. Bastards. Software managers – but I repeat myself.
It was a timed test as well, not allowing for the contemplation that revealed the deception. I expect I did better than most would, but it has been years…alright decades…since I have dealt with such “trip-you-up” exam vultures as these. If they do offer me a job, I will double my very meager and desperate salary request, just to compensate me for having to work with such Smart-Asses.
Back to the Walkabout now
There were some dastardly receiving yards in the last weeks that tried my nerves. One, in particular assigned me a parking spot (number 253) where I was bound to insert my empty trailer before I could hook the loaded one to actually go out and earn money. The montage below shows the passenger side (L) and drivers side (R) when finally I managed to make the empty fit into the space – well over one hour later.
Montage of Empty Slot Number 253
I was fortunate to capture a yard worker on the passenger side for to give some idea at the scale. You will notice that the man’s head would not fit between the trailers. Yes, I left more space on the driver’s side and drivers will know why. I have to squeeze my XL body into that gap to crank down the landing gear and pull the fifth-wheel latch to disconnect the trailer. My head HAS to fit between those two trailers. It was – just barely – possible. The Yard tractor has a hydraulic lift that can do without these activities. And before I get through complaining – there were trailers across the way that made a “straight-line backup” impossible. I TURNED the trailer into this space – backward while looking in a mirror, people! I will remind you of what I have said many times. This activity I do FOR FREE, just so I can get back on the road and actually earn money! I won’t tell you who this yard owner is because they might sue me for revealing how they abuse the people who carry their stuff.
P.S. Don’t worry TVS – I’ll keep it “civil” for your article. 🙂
My Kitchen Table in Houston – October 6, 2017
I signed up for a freelance writing website where they will supposedly pay me for articles. They have not yet said how much for what or how often that will be. I expect that dozens will submit competing articles and only the winner will profit. There was a screening process where I answered 40 grammar and usage questions, all straightforward. Then they gave me two hours to write a 500 word essay about landmarks.
Never being one to waste text, I’ll include it here since they won’t pay me for it. I have further edited this copy since I now have the time to be careful instead of being in a blind rush to meet a deadline. I have added the pictures from the Battleground website and a copy of that marvelous painting in the State Capitol.
The word “landmark” gives you the primary reason for such places. These were commonly known guide points for travelers. The word has – of course – come to mean much more. Landmarks are also cultural, historic, academic or spiritual centers that draw both local residents and visitors from afar who would like to learn more of those aspects of the place they are visiting.
An example from my home city of Houston is the San Jacinto Monument. While its structure is a simple spire resembling the Washington Monument in DC,, it represents a history that is common to residents of Texas but not at all well-known to others. Locals come to be reminded of that history and tourists come to learn.
The San Jacinto Monument
Texas was born when settlers from many European countries and the United States were invited to join Spanish land holders in a hot, often stormy climate where hostile renegade Indians looted from and killed the settlers. When Mexico split off from Spain in their own revolution, the Texans became Mexican Citizens in good standing.
Then along came President Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna who soon proved to be a dictator. He demanded that Mexican States all dissolve their legislatures and submit to his autocratic rule, Some Mexican States rebelled. Texas was among them and was the only State to succeed in their rebellion.
General Sam Houston, a Mexican Citizen of Texas, led a rag-tag , outnumbered army that he knew had just one battle in it. His forces in San Antonio, under the leadership of William Travis and Jim Bowie had disobeyed orders to retreat and held off the murderous army of Santa Anna for 13 days. Both commanders were also Mexican Citizens and Bowie had in fact been the President’s friend, until said President became a dictator. Bowie parlayed with Santa Anna, but came to no agreement. The dictator warned Bowie that “no quarter would be given” (i.e., the dictator would kill all concerned, whether or not they surrendered).
The Texans fought to the death and their sacrifice at the Alamo gave Houston time to build forces, but still he retreated eastward in the face of overwhelming numbers on the Mexican side. His tactics divided Santa Anna’s forces, but still left his army to face a much stronger and well-trained force. It was the low-lying swampy place known as San Jacinto that at last became the scene of the final conflict of the Texas Revolution.
There, Houston’s army surprised the Mexicans and killed them by the hundreds while suffering less than ten deaths on the field. That battle established Texas’ freedom from a murderous dictator that made any King of England look like a Saint.
This Painting in the Texas State Capitol.
In the aftermath of the battle, a defeated Santa Anna stands (hat in hand) before a wounded General Sam Houston. The dictator had hidden in a Private’s uniform among the prisoners who kept addressing him as “Presidente”. That was a bad idea. Besides the obvious cognate, all the officers in this Texas Army understood Spanish, of course. 😉 That fellow with his hand to his ear is Deaf (rhymes with beef) Smith, the “spy” who tracked Santa Anna’s army.
The victory is celebrated by the Monument and the story of the battle is engraved of the four sides of the tower. Inside are many fascinating museum exhibits and if you are patient, you can make the line to go up the elevator to the apex of the star-topped tower for an unparalleled view of the area.
The Star at the Top The Observation Deck
Don’t forget to stop off at the Battleship Texas nearby. The Texas fought in both World Wars and was retired to scrap. Schoolchildren across Texas helped raise funds to buy the old ship and renovate it for posterity. More fascinating History is on display there.
The Battleship Texas
These are two landmarks, a simple tower and an old ship. But their deeper meanings are the source of so very much more. Things like Pride, Glory, History and Freedom.
Next Year, the Carnival Vista be arriving at her new home in Galveston, Texas.
This nearly-new ship is slated to take up voyages to the Western Caribbean.
The Vista will be making 7-day excursions to Montego Bay, Grand Cayman and Cozumel, Mexico. Those departures start on September 23 and repeat every two weeks.
Alternating with itinerary are cruises to the ports of Mahogany Bay (Roatan Island, Honduras), Belize and Cozumel. Departures start September 30, 2018 and also repeat every two weeks.
There will also be only one round trip cruise by Carnival Freedom in 2018
The First 14-day Panama Canal itinerary will depart Galveston on October 27, 2018 and visit Montego Bay, Jamaica, Aruba, Curacao, Cartagena, Colombia before making a partial transit of the Panama Canal. After that she visits Limon, Costa Rica, Cozumel, Mexico and returns to Galveston.
But, if you can’t make that one in 2018, you won’t have long to wait. There will be another round trip cruise by Carnival Freedom in 2019
That next cruise will depart Galveston on January 19, 2019. Freedom will call at Grand Cayman, Aruba, Bonaire and Cartagena before making the partial Panama transit and then return to Galveston by way of Limon and Cozumel.
And now for a Unique Southern Caribbean Cruise
The Carnival Breeze offers a rare opportunity for a unique “relocation cruise” when she leaves Galveston for her new home in Port Canaveral. She will depart Galveston on September 16, 2018 and will visit Grand Cayman, Aruba, Grenada, Barbados, Dominica and St Maarten before arriving at Port Canaveral, Florida fourteen days later.
As always, please contact Dream Vacations for the best service by Vacation Specialist Maria Campbell by call 281 407 4189. Or, just click the link below or the card at the top of the page for the website:
Steve Campbell November 2015
It is a habit of modern environmental advocates to insist upon doing away with fossil fuels and using only “renewable energy”. Fossil fuels are defined by as “a natural fuel such as coal or gas, formed in the geological past from the remains of living organisms.” (1). According to the US department of Energy, renewable energy includes “solar, wind, geothermal, bioenergy and water (hydroelectric)” (2).
If asked whether that replacement is possible or practical, most of those same environmental advocates (hereinafter referred to as: “Greens”) would enthusiastically reply in the positive, as if it is an obvious thing. It did not seem obvious to me and so I made an examination of modern energy use in the United States. At some point in the following pages, I will express a few opinions. But, I promise to end with some solidly founded conclusions.
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory does a yearly assessment of energy use in the United States. It includes sources of energy, amounts of each source and what use is made of it by what sector of the economy. They publish a very interesting summary (3) of the results which you will see in Figure A. The amounts of energy are in Quadrillion British Thermal Units (which are mercifully referred to simply as “Quads”). A Quad is the equivalent of about 180 million barrels of petroleum. But, the important issue in this analysis is the portions that each source contributes to the total.
Figure A: Energy Use in the United States 2014
I will just look at the total energy use for this analysis. The numbers on the left side of the chart are detailed in the table in Figure B, below. The Non-renewables are in blue, the renewables in green. I have included Nuclear with the fossil fuels only because greens are as strongly opposed to that as they are to fossil fuels, if not more so. The table is depicted in a pie chart in figure C.
Figure B: Energy sources and amount contributed to the total
Figure C: Pie chart of values in figure B, labeled by percent of total
The next pie chart in Figure D, has the fossil fuels and Nuclear plotted as blanks to show what needs to be replaced in the “total renewable” scenario. The result speaks for itself. Ninety percent of the current energy use is unacceptable to the Greens.
Figure D: The renewable fraction of US energy use in the US in 2014
So, we are left with these ten percent which must expand to fill 100 percent. The simple idea that we just multiply the capacity for each source by ten will quickly run into some serious problems. I will, of course elaborate upon them next by considering each source individually.
Biomass in the transportation sector is mostly ethanol made almost exclusively from corn or biodiesel from other food crops like soybeans. Both are driving up the global price of food and are not profitable without government subsidies. I would just add that energy is used in growing crops, transportation to factories, fermentation, distillation and transportation of the biofuel to market (in tanker trucks because ethanol corrodes pipelines). Fertilizer is typically manufactured from natural gas. So, unless all that energy use is also converted to renewables, you have not accomplished much change.
According to the New England Complex Systems Institute (4):
“1. The amount of corn used to produce the ethanol in a gallon of regular gas would feed a person for a day,
- The production of ethanol requires so much fossil fuel energy that its energy benefit is only about 20%…
- The cost of gas made with ethanol is actually higher per mile because ethanol reduces gasoline’s energy per gallon…
The US used over 45% of its 2011 corn crop to produce ethanol, up from under 15% before 2005 …–a rise dictated by federal mandate and promoted by federal subsidies. The drought in 2012 is leading to questions about whether using corn for fuel is reasonable while people go hungry due to a world food shortage…
The total amount of ethanol produced in the US in 2011 was 13.95 billion gallons, enough to feed 570 million people that year.” (emphasis mine, SC)
I tried to check these numbers and I keep coming up with 535 million. Until I am able to resolve this difference, I will use the lesser figure. But the difference is small and number is still staggering.
In either case, that number was so staggeringly big that I reviewed the assumptions in the calculations in Albino, et al (4). There are a few mitigating factors. For one, the caloric requirements cited were the minimum for survival. Also, the field corn used for ethanol production is otherwise used for animal feed and for intermediate products like corn flour, meal, starch or oil. In all those cases, the food value ultimately is less than in direct consumption. Nevertheless, the 500+ million figure is still correct, in theory. The potential use of the corn produced for fuel could supply that much food.
As I mentioned previously, we are trying to imagine increasing by a factor of ten the portion of energy that is “renewable”. In the case of biofuels, to increase by ten times means that the United States alone would be burning enough food to feed over Five Billion People. That is more than two thirds of the Earth’s population. That is simply not acceptable.
You will note in Figure A that the majority of biomass contribution is not in transportation, but rather in Industry. The burning of agricultural and industrial waste for heat or to generate electricity is a good example. Imagine a sawmill that accumulates tons of sawdust. That waste represents a good deal of energy. You may note from Figure A that Industry is the most efficient of all energy using endeavors. They use biomass because it makes economic sense. I would imagine that most such opportunities are already in use. So, an increase by a factor of ten would seem impossible.
Hydroelectricity is quite efficient, clean and reliable. While it does require a specific sort of geological setting, it could probably be increased a great deal. A factor of ten might be possible, at least in theory. The problem with Hydro is that its Green “credentials” have expired. Greens are beginning to call for the removal of dams from rivers and are not enthusiastic about increasing hydropower. According to the Hydropower Reform Coalition (5):
“There is a place for new conventional hydropower development in our nation’s renewable energy policy, but such development should be limited to projects that use existing water and infrastructure and do not place additional stress on river ecosystems.”
I can only imagine that they are expecting an improved efficiency from “existing water and infrastructure”. Without new infrastructure, there can be no other way to increase production. Figure E shows the Energy Information Agency (EIA) numbers for amount of hydropower in the US over the years 1990 to 2010. While other renewables have increased, Hydro is in a definite decline. Note that the increase of “other renewable” is about equal to the decline in Hydro. This is far from a candidate for a massive increase. We will be lucky to retain what Hydro now exists.
Figure E: EIA graph of hydropower and “other renewable” electricity amounts.
Wind turbines can generate substantial amounts of electricity when the wind conditions are right. Because of government subsidies, wind power has expanded rapidly. As of 2014 Wind represents 2% of the energy mix in the United States. There is room for expansion. However, as it turns out this is a much more complicated subject than the previous energy sources.
The cost of wind power has been claimed by Greens to be less than fossil fuel power plants. This claim is ignoring a multitude of hidden costs, including massive subsidies at taxpayer expense. According to Ed Hoskins’ detailed analysis (6), the cost of wind is at least double that of natural gas. The chart in figure F shows these figures and I have included the Solar photovoltaic numbers to refer back to when I get to that source.
Figure F: Comparison of cost per unit energy for Solar, Wind and Natural Gas electric generation
But the point here is not cost, but rather reliability. Wind turbines have a range of wind speeds. There is a lower limit of wind speed below which the turbine cannot generate power. There is also a high speed limit where the turbine must be “feathered” or turned sideways to the wind to avoid damage to the blades. When those periods occur, the electric demand must still be met and other sources must be called upon to provide the power. There are electric storage systems like flywheels that can store power and smooth fluctuations, but their capacity can be measured only in mere seconds. This means that a coal or natural gas fired power plant has to be kept idling, ready to pick up the entire load with a moment’s notice. Idling is a particularly wasteful thing to do as it burns energy for exactly nothing.
There is one argument to the effect that “It’s always windy somewhere”. By that they mean to say that one windfarm can take over for another. There are regional weather systems where stagnant (i.e., near windless) high pressure sets in across most of the country. This can be during a heat wave or a frigid cold wave where power consumption is already high. The fact that it is windy in Romania is irrelevant. There is no free lunch. Wind power must have a 100% back-up or leave its customers in the dark when the going gets tough.
Now we get to the carnage. These wind turbines are sited in zones of prevailing wind, which by no coincidence are the same zones where birds migrate. Windmills chop up birds at a horrifying rate. The Greens are trying to sandbag this by pointing out that cats kill far more birds than windmills. I expect they are exaggerating, but it does not matter. My cat, for example brought me a few mocking birds and, once a blue jay. But he never dragged a Golden Eagle carcass up to my back door. Furthermore, nobody ever claimed that cats are “Green” as they have claimed about Wind for decades. Windmills do not discriminate and kill many thousands of birds of “endangered species” per year. Certainly they are endangered! Yet, Wind currently has a “Get Out of Jail Free Card” to do so for the next thirty years. They will not be fined.
Then there are the bats. For example, in Central Texas there are large populations of bats. Those flying rodents eat the insects that would otherwise eat our food (and Biomass!) crops. They are murdered by the thousands by the windmills there. You might think that their echo-locating senses would help them avoid the spinning blades. Well, they don’t even have to be struck by the blades. The low-pressure zones behind the blades collapse their lungs. Birds are much tougher, but they never see the blades coming, especially at night. The toll on bats is large – perhaps more than on birds.
While I would never be accused of being Green, I find the situation unacceptable and I object to these bird and bat choppers on environmental grounds. In my humble opinion, Wind ain’t Green. And Greens are starting to agree. They forced a wind farm in California named Altamont tear down their windmills and replace them with larger ones that supposedly kill fewer. I suspect, but cannot prove that the larger mills just throw the dead birds farther away so they are out of sight and not counted as damage.
Solar energy is not a new idea. It has been exploited for longer than human history. I am sure that my Ice Age ancestors dried their meat with Solar. For local reference, my mother used Solar to dry our clothes when I was young. Later, I saw coffee farmers in Venezuela, who to this day use Solar to dry their beans. Solar is respected in architectural and industrial design. In remote locations photovoltaics if properly managed can provide electricity in medium amounts but not continuously.
There is nothing wrong with Solar until someone wants to make it a baseline electricity source. Now we are in trouble – and for obvious reasons! Beyond the totally obvious fact that the sun goes down at night, there are times when the weather will cover the sun and not provide power, neither for photovoltaic, nor for solar thermal plants. You might put these way out in the desert where there are few clouds, but then you must build the powerline infrastructure to get the power to someone who will pay for it. That is far from free.
Now is when I will ask you to look back at Figure F, at that Cyan bar that shows that “Photovoltaics Large Scale” is almost four times the cost of natural gas generation. Looking further than cost, there is reliability to be concerned. In the desert, there might not be much concern about sunlight, but even there, the sun goes down. Storage of electricity is to this day, quite difficult and inefficient. To put it like Tom and Ray Magliozzi (Car Talk) when they speak of electric cars, “It’s all about the batteries and it always will be”. You might imagine that Elon Musk will build all the batteries we need with his mega-plant. You would be wrong. There is a place called Cushing, Oklahoma where there is a great tank farm that is the core of the distribution center of petroleum for the central United States. The reserve of energy in Cushing is such that it would take FOURTY of Elon’s “Super Factories” ONE HUNDRED YEARS to match it in energy storage. Cushing is the largest tank farm in the country, but there are hundreds of others.
(Wikipedia (7)) Geothermal energy is thermal energy generated and stored in the Earth. Thermal energy is the energy that determines the temperature of matter. The geothermal energy of the Earth’s crust originates from the original formation of the planet and from radioactive decay of materials (in currently uncertain but possibly roughly equal proportions). The geothermal gradient, which is the difference in temperature between the core of the planet and its surface, drives a continuous conduction of thermal energy in the form of heat from the core to the surface. The adjective geothermal originates from the Greek roots γη (ge), meaning earth, and θερμος (thermos), meaning hot…. …Geothermal power is cost effective, reliable, sustainable, and environmentally friendly, but has historically been limited to areas near tectonic plate boundaries.
Geothermal energy also works well, in appropriate locations. This is another source that could be expanded and maximized. In the US, it contributes 0.2 Quads (far less than 1 %) of the national total. While this analysis is about the United States Energy sector, it is instructive to note other countries’ efforts in this regard. While the US capacity is small, it still represents 29% of the Geothermal in the world! No one else comes close. Figure G (again from Wikipedia) shows the amounts and contributions of geothermal generation of various countries. Of particular note are Iceland, which supplies 30% of their national energy use and also the Philippines with 27% and El Salvador with 25%. These countries have the advantage of local geology that make Geothermal a convenient and cheap source of energy. The US has many such zones that have already been developed to some extent and there should be reason to expect more.
The drawbacks? Well, the first thing they do in geothermal development is to drill holes in the ground and then fracture the rock structure so the water can circulate and pick up heat. While I have no problem with fracturing, an entire radical, hysterical contingent of Greens do have such problems! If they will allow fracturing for geothermal then they are colossal hypocrites.
Figure G: Geothermal generation of electricity by country (Wikipedia)
- Biofuels right now consume enough food crops to feed over half a billion people. That is astonishing in itself. To multiply this burning of food by ten is nothing short of horrifying. This nation should stop the use of ethanol based fuel immediately, in my humble opinion.
- Hydro is being assassinated by Greens and will be fortunate to not decrease. It could otherwise be increased substantially.
- Wind is not a good idea for baseline power. Any increase will come at great cost and massive loss of avian life. And again, it must be backed up with Real Energy.
- Solar has many of the same drawbacks as Wind. Even if it does increase by ten times, it would still represent only about 4% of the energy total and it still needs 100% back-up.
- I see no reason why Geothermal could not increase by a factor of ten. That would make it about two percent of the energy mix.
- While I have skipped over it because it is opposed so vehemently by Greens, Nuclear could take the majority of the energy burden. Don’t hold your breath!
Question: Can Fossil Fuels be replaced?
Short answer: No!
- Defining “Fossil Fuel” http://www.bing.com/search?q=define+fossil+fuel&qs=n&form=QBLH&pq=define+fossil+fuel&sc=9-18&sp=-1&sk=&cvid=D3703532B4D94B9F8098F2638D006AED
- Defining “Renewable Energy” http://energy.gov/science-innovation/energy-sources/renewable-energy
- Lawrence Livermore Energy Use Chart https://flowcharts.llnl.gov/content/assets/images/energy/us/Energy_US_2014.png
- D.K. Albino, K.Z. Bertrand, Y. Bar-Yam, Food for fuel: The price of ethanol. arXiv:1210.6080(October 4, 2012). http://necsi.edu/research/social/foodprices/foodforfuel/
- Hydropower reform Coalition hthttp://www.hydroreform.org/abouthydro/renewable
- Ed Hoskins WordPress.com site https://edmhdotme.wordpress.com/
- Geothermal energy https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geothermal_energy
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Once, I accepted – without examination – the idea that human activities might cause Global Warming.
A Geologist colleague did not debate me, but rather challenged me to research the topic and come to an informed conclusion.
He was right and I am a Geophysicist with the tools, talent and temperament to do such research. That was over twenty years ago and I have since “done the math”, “paid my dues”, “done the due diligence” and examined the facts.
My conclusion is that the idea of Man-made climate change is a political fiction.
If I can get people to sit still and listen to me present the facts for an hour or so, I can show them (with facts, charts, graphs, data, references and quotes) exactly how I came to that conclusion. That has happened a few times. But, most people do not or will not willingly sit in a room and listen to a lecture. It’s too much like going to school and they spent a large fraction of their youth doing that and most of them don’t want anything to do with further such activity.
So, I have come up with this idea. Take ONE FACT about the subject and present it with clarity and completeness. Then, do that again with another fact.
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Ninety Percent (90%) of the World’s Glaciers are GROWING
You have undoubtedly read or heard the panicky, desperate, shrill complaints that “the glaciers are melting” and we need to live in caves and eat organic lettuce to save them.
The warnings are false. The panic mongers are lying to you. They like to say that Antarctica’s glaciers are shrinking. They fail to mention that is only the case mostly on the Antarctic Peninsula and some islands. They also fail to mention that there is volcanic activity that might account for that.
The opposite is the case in remainder (a very large remainder) of Antarctica. What you have not heard is that the ice cap there is growing and has been for thousands of years. That ice cap contains and feeds 90% of the world’s glaciers.
This conclusion is based on 16 years of measured observations (not computer models or “projections”). The source is NASA.
Qualified statements, expressed in percentages seem to be a complexity that is beyond the panic mongers. They must have “blanket”, all-or-nothing declarations. So, in that spirit, the truth is this:
“The Glaciers are GROWING!”