Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Great Game IV

What strikes me as odd about the posturing over Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran and Israel, is how unnecessary it all is. When US oil consumption dropped last year by ten percent, oil producers were thrown into chaos. Tankers around the world were sitting idle, loaded with crude waiting for someone to buy. There was more oil to be refined than any number of refineries could cope with. Just a ten percent drop in consumption by the US caused massive, unsustainable over production. Imagine what would happen if we got serious about alternative energy.

The argument goes that alternative energy is a socialist tree hugging plot to ruin the economy and pave the way for the End of the US As We Know It. Well, yes, in a sense that's true, but it could actually be for the better. In seeking independence from oil we would at last be seeking independence from foreign energy markets. Not since the 1970s has the US produced all the energy it needed. And ever since then energy independence has been a political catch phrase with no substance to back it up.

There is market in this country for alternative energy, and that market would provide jobs and light industry, which can't actually be bad for the US. It would be different for sure to make our own solar panels, our own windmills and our own gas and bio fuel plants, but in feeding those industrial dreams Americans would be working for their own benefit not for shareholders in the world wide oil bonanza.

The biggest issue I have with opponents of alternative energy is that they impose their own blinkered limitations on any proposals to move away from oil dependence. firstly there is no rule that says it has to be done all at once. Secondly we don't have to replace our oil obsession with any other single replacement. Liquid propane gas is a commonly used substitute in Europe and it produce one third less carbon than equivalent consumption of petroleum. Hydrogen technology can still be studied, and bio-diesel projects can also be implemented. There's no reason we can't increase the number of windmills and solar panels. Pickens has abandoned his plans for wind power in the Texas panhandle saying energy is too cheap to justify it, yet one wonders why subsidies aren't worth considering to make them worth while. If your child was off to fight an endless oil war in Afghanistan or Iraq or Iran a wind power subsidy instead might look cheap, and worthwhile.

And yet, even though these ideas have been kicked around for years, and none of them are particularly radical we live in apolitical atmosphere where sensible debate has become impossible. Politics used to be known as the art of the possible. The recent health care reform proposals which were shot down uniformly by the Party of No, illustrate clearly how far we have moved from the days of partisan bickering and back room deals and public unity. Nowadays a unified proposal for energy independence could never be more than a pipe dream. The Democrats would never have the nuts to propose it and the Republicans, funded by Big Oil even more than the Democrats are, would never even agree to begin to think about it. I'm just glad, selfishly, I have no offspring to donate to the cause of Big Oil and the Great Game. Because if we are to continue to be consumers and not citizens someone has to die to get us the fuel to feed the American Dream in it's current incarnation.

Fire On Upper Duval

In the early hours of this morning we received a call that flames and smoke were to be seen on the 1200 block of Duval Street.It was a big blaze from what we in dispatch could gather. All the city's fire units responded and the US Navy Fire Department kindly stood by in case of further calls for service across the city. Police officers evacuated the surrounding buildings including one guard dog in a business who was housed safely in a police car until his owner came to pick him up.
It is unclear at the moment exactly why the fire started or how much damage it caused but several buildings in the middle of the 1200 block are reported to have suffered damage, some severe . This is the second major blaze on Duval Street in less than a year. I guess this very wooden town, with buildings thrown up very close together is lucky, or sensible, to have the Fire Department it does. What a crappy night. The hole created by the fire last March on the 500 block is still there; and now this. It's like Duval Street is becoming gap toothed.

South Sugarloaf

On the southern side of Sugarloaf Key we find a road that parallels the sea, and dead ends here. This is old County Road 939 or State Road 4A that turns west at the bottom of Sugarloaf Boulevard and many years ago used to run along the south side of the islands. These days, all that's left of the old road is a trail that disappears into the bushes at the dead end of the modern roadway:It's a wild and woolly place this trek through the mangroves:The road bed is quite narrow these days though you can see where the surface used to be wider under the bushes. There is also evidence that vehicles of some sort travel the old road, possibly all terrain vehicles or something that leaves tire marks:
The trail runs alongside a body of water to the south for quite a stretch. barely visible through the trees:One is never far from water in these islands and the difference between wet and dry can be a tide or a just a few inches in the rainy season:Even though the islands have the appearance of rolling greenery, it is somewhat deceptive as the trees are much shorter than they may appear, and if they are red mangroves they are actually growing out of the salt water.
The Keys are a mixture of mud, rock, tree and water: And birds, let's not forget herons and stuff flying around looking for dinner: The evening Cheyenne and I walked the sky was overcast with a promise of cold or rain or something nasty. The breaks in the cloud cover never seemed to want to amount to much:The day seemed washed out of all colors:Cheyenne was new to this place and busy finding whatever there was to smell. She treats these walks as a vacuuming exercise snorting and snuffling her way to the end and back:It seems there are people who come out here for a good time and very enterprising I think it is too, with signs of a splendid bonfire and no visible trash. I can only imagine how pleasant it must be in company with chairs and roaring fire far from the cares of the world in the dark of night.I fiddled with my camera and Cheyenne found something disgusting and appetizing and disappeared into the bushes. I only found out after I nailed a couple of still lifes that she was snacking on something smelly.At first I thought this discarded commercial fishing float had a series of letters printed on the side ESL, but as I ruminated, wondering how this artifact of the sea got here I figured I was looking at it upside down and it was really numbered 753. I really should be a detective.I heard a rustling in the bushes and before we knew it we were set upon by a graybeard on a bicycle which required deft footwork by yours truly. Cheyenne doesn't do well around wheels so I lunged for her collar and let him by. "Twice a week" he replied over his shoulder, not stopping when I asked him if he had got to the end of the trail. Which by my calculation is 3.5 miles end to end.We had ambled for an hour and it was my executive decision to head home. The light was failing anyway, not that a dog would care about such trifles.

It wasn't much of a sunset but it made a pretty picture nevertheless. Water and mangroves always help in these situations. I'm lucky to have them to hand.