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Friday, March 27, 2009

Committees of Jurisdiction

I noted a couple of comments during President Obama's recent press conference on March 24.. 

" I’ve said that we’ve got to have a serious energy policy that frees ourselves from dependence on foreign oil and makes clean energy the profitable kind of energy."
"And what we have to do is invest in those things that will allow the American people’s capacity for ingenuity and innovation, their ability to take risks but make sure that those risks are grounded in good products and good services that they believe they can market to the rest of the country, that those models of economic growth are what we’re promoting"

So it should be clear from the Presidents comments that he continues to encourage "Yankee Ingenuity," as well he should. The shining city on the hill should offer everyone the highest quality of life possible, at the least cost to the overall environment. Yes, there will always be shipbreakers in India, Pakistan and China, but fewer and fewer of those hulks should be VLCC's and ULCC's. Energy independence and the efficient utilization of renewable energy, and the increasingly efficient utilization of non-renewable energy is not a new idea.

With this in mind I would respectfully suggest that Senator Lisa Murkowski and Senator Mark Begich, pose questions like this to the Secretaries of Defense, Energy and Commerce, in their respective Committes of jurisdiction.They might also want to ask the Presient himself. After all, he is promising a new openess and transpaarency to government.

"In line with the goals and objectives of the Obama Administration, the Congress and the American people, will you (Mr. Secretary) commit to a thorough declassification review of technical intelligence, classified patent applications, government funded research and development and archival matter relating to any and all topics regarding the use of energy in all its forms (excluding of course properly classified Restricted Data and Formerly Restricted Data and munitions information) in a manner that permits the public to view and use it to promote inventiveness and innovation?"

Or something like that. The point is that the US Government has an incredible amount of information on energy utilization (think fuel cells instead of litium batteries for cars, for example) locked up that if turned loose on an unsuspecting world could result in an economic and technical revolution rivalling the microcomputer and internet!

Look at how long we've been screwing around with laser ignition. Lets see what the governemnt has, let people do their own messing around in university labs, basements and garages. One can only imagine the sorts of breakthroughs we might see ove the course of the next 10 or 15 years!

Kinda gives you a sense of perspective, doesn't it?

This is a satellite image of Mt. Redoubt puffing away. Now, anyone who doubts that volcanoes add to the introduced gas load in the atmosphere and above it really ought to think again. Likewise huge forest fires and, yes, LA freeways!

Hey - At least he's anti-death penalty...

Since I can't say any of this better, I'll just link to an excellent post on the subject of yesterdays nomination (is it in writing yet?) of Wayne Anthony Ross as Alaska Attorney General.
The always amazing Writing Raven posts at Alaska Real with the killer (and true) headline: Palin says final farewell to the myth that she cares about Native people.

Wayne Ross has been a thorn in the side of Rural Alaska and has never been able, or it appears, willing, to defend his positions in any forum requiring honest debate that I have ever seen. He has cut a fat egotistical hog as the mouthpiece for the professional hunting industry in Alaska. I won't begrudge him as a 2nd Amendment supporter, since I am one as well, and I was at least slightly heartened to read in the ADN this morning that he is anti death penalty (and yes, as a staunch Catholic, anti abortion as well, so he is consistent in THAT regard).

What bothered me most listening to the wind whistle past the microphones yesterday was the absolute lack of mention (if indeed unreported) of the Governors marching orders to Ross on, umm, ENFORCING THE LAW!
Well, actually I might (when I find some time) be able to shed a little light on the lack of interest by the Palin administration on things like violence against women. She is on record as saying some, to my mind, pretty provocative things on the stay tuned.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

"Dependency Creep"

Just found the above phrase in an editorial on New Scientist. Got there via a piece on a recent (January) National Academies report on severe space weather.
Now, the idea that Ol' Sol, our 93 million mile distant friend could turn on us in a fury is most emphatically NOT the stuff of science fiction fantasy. In fact, a sudden, severe solar eruption in the direction of Earth represents the greatest threat mankind faces, barring a cataclysmic space body collision.
Severe Space Weather Events--Understanding Societal and Economic Impacts
Workshop Report
is described thusly:
The adverse effects of extreme space weather on modern technology--power grid outages, high-frequency communication blackouts, spacecraft anomalies--are well known and well documented, and the physical processes underlying space weather are also generally well understood. Less well documented and understood, however, are the potential economic and societal impacts of the disruption of critical technological systems by severe space weather.

As a first step toward determining the socioeconomic impacts of extreme space weather events and addressing the questions of space weather risk assessment and management, a public workshop was held in May 2008. The workshop brought together representatives of industry, the government, and academia to consider both direct and collateral effects of severe space weather events, the current state of the space weather services infrastructure in the United States, the needs of users of space weather data and services, and the ramifications of future technological developments for contemporary society's vulnerability to space weather. The workshop concluded with a discussion of un- or underexplored topics that would yield the greatest benefits in space weather risk management.

Space weather risk management: to a ham radio operator like me, that means buying a nice tube radio!
But back to "Dependency Creep." The Coast Guard recently announced the demise of LORAN-C. Now, as an old Coastie who helped build USCG LORAN Station Tok, I am kinda bummed. The fact is that when we start getting sunspots again, (which I personally hope come back with a vengeance since I would like to work some DX before I die,) and GPS satellites start having problems, LORAN-C will represent the best game in town.
Since it's a Departmental (DHS) budget decision, maybe Congress can take a good, hard look at the significant historic investment in LORAN-C and keep this fine system alive for another decade.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Red Sky at Morning

Sailors Take Warning...
The sky was pink here in Bethel this AM, perhaps because of the volcano, perhaps in anniversary of the worst shipwreck in Alaska history.

It was dark when the Exxon Valdez set sail that fateful evening from the oil dock in the town of it's namesake. Captain Joseph Hazelwood, an experienced and respected mariner couldn't have dream t in his worst nightmares what was to transpire over the next hours, days and decades.
I wrote then and I'll write again that although he holds responsibility as Master of the ship for what happened, he was completely justified in leaving the deck and the conn to the mate who, for whatever reason neglected to keep the supertanker on course.
But the taciturn voice of Captain Hazelwood will always stick in my mind, as I heard it on the radio that early morning 20 years ago, just waking up, in Hooper Bay...
"We've fetched up hard on Bligh Reef...and we're leaking some oil."

Monday, March 23, 2009

Bring it on, Big Boy!

Stratovolcano! Has a real ring to it, doesn't it?
Well, the much predicted (and, I must say, vaunted) eruption of veteran Alaskan stratovolcano Mt. Redoubt is underway. A "thin film" of ash was reported to me from Willow this morning, but so far no major complications seem to have arisen from the high ash cloud.
Of course, real concern exists for the safety of the Drift River Oil Loading Facility which sits, for all intents and purposes, at the base of the mountain. The Anchorage Daily News reports:
"The AVO staff also warned authorities at the Drift River Oil Terminal -- on the western shore of Cook Inlet downriver from the volcano -- that mud flows and flooding from melting glaciers might be headed their way.
Cook Inlet Pipe Line Co., which operates the terminal, said early this morning that it had begun shutting the facility down.
At a 3 a.m. press conference today, John Powers of AVO said given the hot material landing on snow, mud and snow slides could be expected and staff would check the Drift River area at first light today.
Protective dikes have been constructed at the terminal since Redoubt last erupted nearly 20 years ago..
Powers also said -- looking at the history of Redoubt eruptions -- that this event could be expected to go on for some time, even months."