Sunday, September 28, 2008


Since Jack and Dick faced off in 1960 presidential debates have allegedly become more and more important to the point that expectations for the events are far far too elevated. In those halcyon days before the 24/7 news cycle and the current tsunami of web and broadcast punditry most people were much more unfamiliar with the personalities of the major party candidates. Consequently the debates were often the first opportunity many had to observe the pols in real-time, gauge their reactions to questions, and in general see how they handled themselves. By the time the debates roll around now the gen-pub is practically sick to death of the whole insanely protracted ultra-covered enterprise. The idea that the debates are somehow crucial to swing or "undecided" voters doesn't seem to me to have much basis in reality. Those still undecided at this point in this campaign season must be a spectacularly gormless lot. If you haven't decided at this late date then maybe you should stay home.

If those supposed undecided voters were of a clearly centrist relatively non-ideoligical bent then McCain would have this thing in the bag. That he doesn't seems to imply that the country has already split along left/right fault lines both in terms of general ideology and candidate appeal. I suspect that the level of "base" support for candidates is far more solid than what the inumerable polls supposedly illustrate and that it may be over 45% in each respective case. That leaves very few voters to decide the election and the idea that some magic set of words or concepts uttered during a debate will cause some number of those undecideds to slap their foreheads and exclaim, "Well of course!", and promptly vow to vote for A instead of B.

The Palin gambit has energized the Republican's conservative base, to put it mildly, but it's likely to have zero effect on progressive partisans and is likely to be a wash for the undecided. That's why McCain's veep choice was such a master-stroke. The most salient danger for McCain's aspirations was the extremely lukewarm, might as well sit this one out, attitude of conservative base voters. Seen strictly as a get-out-the-vote strategy it should be highly productive in courting voters who considered, and still do, McCain to be only a political hair's breadth away from Hillary.

From a strategic standpoint deciding to stay home may have given some emotional satisfaction to the disgruntled conservative but the fact is that McCain is not running against Hillary but against someone significantly to the left of her. Consequently the gulf between the candidates has widened from a bare glimmer in a McCain/Clinton matchup into a yawning chasm in the case of McCain/Obama. That some conservatives were still willing to sit the election out is puzzling but the fact of it was real. And it is no more so now we have a real horse race but how many undecided voters have been decided by Palin is unclear. What all this does portend is that there is a very good chance of the popular vote winner and the electoral vote winner being different people. It could even easily be an electoral tie which would truly toss a hand grenade in the political frog-pond. It would be an unholy mess which might result in a months-long screaming purple-faced logjam in the national leges. Well a guy can hope can't he?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Wind Damage

After Ike's little ramble through the middle of the oil patch much may be made by those subject to ODS (Oil Derangement Syndrome) about how hurricane damage to both offshore installations and onshore refinining infrastructure reinforces the point that we are too dependent on hydrocarbon production. What I've not so far heard much about is the damage such a storm would do to wind power infrastructure---as in pretty much destroy it completely. The large offshore wind projects now being contemplated will be routinely subject to maiming and dismemberment by storm winds that have relatively little effect on the massive steel bulks of oil production platforms. Even with blades completely feathered 400ft. tall wind turbines bid fair to fail spectacularly thereby rendering repair hopeless and necessitating complete replacement. This is not just a problem of the Gulf of Mexico. Turbine killing storms visit every part of the U.S. coastline in the fullness of time.

Large installations will require many months or even years to replace while conventional onshore infrastructure will be repaired and running in days or a few weeks at worst. Building large turbines to survive such pounding may be possible but costs will be wildly higher than for mid-country installations which of course in the "Wind Belt" will have their own atmospheric nemeses. Tornado damage is simply beyond any technological pale. No conceivable technology exists that would avoid complete destruction of even the most stoutly built wind turbines in even mild tornados. If turbines become scattered thickly across the midwest landscape as devotees foresee then tornados will savage a fair proportion of them in any given year. Additionally the building of the thousands of new miles of transmission lines needed by large scale wind power developement will present countless juicy new targets for twisters, hurricanes, blizzards and powerful thunderstorm gust fronts. All that lovely "free" wind power will become ever more absurdly expensive as we blithely sail through our green future.

An old friend of mine used to say of folks who gave no thought to the practical dimensions of an endeavor as being "in the groovy dimension". This thoughtlessness towards practicality perfectly describes those who think that wind power can replace the much bandied about twenty percent of U.S. generating capacity. Oh sure it could do that but our utility bills will need extra space in the "amount due" line to handle the far larger numbers.

There are several aspects to this groovitational mindset. First is the fact that when pressed about the cost those of windy bent declaim that it is "necessary" so that we can reduce our CO2 emissions and that if it costs a lot more then so be it. Now I'm sure that T. Boone Pickens or old Al G. can afford to have their electrical bills triple as presumably can the many well-to-do greenies and nitwit celebs who won't mind a bit. Me and thee on 'tother hand will bellow in outrage when presented with six or seven hundred dollar electric bills. There is no lifestyle change that the sane person will contemplate that will cause him to use 60 or 70% less electricity so as to keep their bills in manageable territory. There are no available or contemplated prodigies of conservation that will achieve this either. One of Hunter Thompson's most famous pieces was "When the Banshee Screams for Buffalo Meat". Well what the average Joe Banshee may well scream for is Democratic Hide. The alleged "selflessness" of progressives who are determined to cram modern society into an economic straightjacket to service the dubiously grandiose project of reducing AGW will not only pay at bill time like the rest of us but will court electoral suicide as well.

Further groovitational analysis reveals that proggies have convinced themselves that vast numbers of "green" jobs will be created by sundry goverment fiats designed to force acceptance of not only wind power but also an extensive array of other renewable fuel boondoggles, er excuse me, options. The figure of five million green jobs is touted by the Obama campaign. How this figure was, er, figured is completely unconvincing and is more akin to pulling a number out of where the sun don't shine than any projection based on reality. It is a virtual certainty that if the vaunted five million green jobs come to pass they will be entirely offset by the loss of five million presumably un-green jobs. Even if the job loss/gain results were a wash it is highly unlikely that the people who do jobs that become collateral damage in the mad panicked rush to Greeness will simply stop what they are now doing and begin making and servicing wind turbines, manning bio-fuel plants, and laboring serenely and greenily at sundry eco-political make-work projects. This five million figure isn't so much in the Groovy Dimension as in the Gullible Bird-Brain Dimension.

Another consideration that has escaped the groove-thang is the little matter of eco-terrorism. Plenty of wearin' O' the green whackos have bitterly denounced wind projects that muck-up any remotely scenic vistas and/or require extensive road and transmission line building in areas of supposed eco-fragility. This is an excitable and irrational bunch and such as the Friends of the Earth are undoubtedly already aware that a couple pounds of C4 per tower will suffice to Paul Bunyonize entire, and mostly unguarded, wind farms. That would be a F.O.E. slam dunk wherein they could Fight The Power by vandalising the panorama polluters and risk little or no human collateral damage.

Not in the groovy dimension but certainly in the patronization of fly-over country dimension is the attitude, voiced most recent by 'ol T. Boone, that the inhabitants of the plains of Texas, Kansas, and other wind corridor states are, gullible bumpkins that they are, much more likely to welcome wind farm visual, auditory, and land use interference, and lease payments, than those snotty NIMBYniks on the right and left coasts. The Midwest is not the only area where there are exploitable wind resources but it is much more of a place where the locals actually see where sausages and bacon come from on a daily basis and consequently are less sqeamish about having literal engines of economic benefit in their backyards.

Residents of more intellectually "nuanced" locales such as San Francisco and Nantucket would, presumably, rather freeze in the dark than allow wind turbines to distastefully clutter the horizon. Overstatement? Not in light of the intense resistance to such plans in many coastal areas which is perhaps just as well considering what a supremely bad idea it is in general to site turbines in areas of high storm potential, corrosive salt water, and heavy seaborne navigational density.

Okay so we un-nuanced unsophisticated un-progressive dopes in the Red States will now not only feed the Blue States we'll also be responsible for powering their plug-in hybrids, laptops, and capuccino makers as well. Fine. That'll be ten trillion dollars. Cash only please--we don't take checks or MasterCard.