Archive for the ‘Going To Texas’ Category.

Thoughts on States’ Rights and Local Control

It seems that conservatives push states’ rights when they disagree with the federal government. But when a state does something they do not like (usually a state other than their own), they have no issues siding with the federal government. They go on and on about local control, but they have no problem butting in when someone somewhere else does something they do not like.

Right now Wendy Davis is running for governor of Texas. A few months ago, the Texas Tribune Tribcast said it might look bad for her if most of her money comes from out of state. A lot of Ted Cruz’s campaign money came from out of state. The guys who ran against Hillary Clinton for Senate got money from outside of New York. A lot of Tea Partiers have gotten money from outside their states/districts. For people who go on and on about unchanging values, they sure seem willing to cast them aside when it’s convenient. IOKIYAR.

Many of them say gay marriage is a states’ rights issue. A lot of the money for Proposition 8 in California came from the Mormon Church in Utah. Why can’t those Utah conservatives mind their own business? There are a lot of states with laws against gay marriage. But I bet if they thought they had a chance of getting an amendment to the US Constitution passed, they would go for it.

When New York passed a law allowing gay marriage, Rick Perry said that was a good thing. He said if you’re okay with that, then live in New York. If you are not, you can live in Texas. I think that how they want people to think they view states’ rights. But then after he said that he was quiet for a few days, and said that gay marriage is always bad. I wonder what happened. Perhaps some of his paymasters had a talk with him about it.

Ted Cruz recently criticized the Obama adminstration for not going after people for marijuana laws. As some have pointed out, he doesn’t seem to think that states should not make their own laws on gay marriage, gun control and abortion. But don’t hold your breath.

And when a level of government below the state does something a conservative does not like, they think it’s okay for a state to make a law overriding a local law.

Travis County has required companies running gun trade shows to perform background checks for all “person to person” gun sales. And Greg Abbot had threatened to sue Travis County. Why can’t Travis County do what Travis County thinks is best? Would it really be so hard to have it in a different county? I have heard Taylor really wants to build up its economy. And Hutto has nowhere to go but up. (Hutto is northeast of Austin. It is about as small and rural as it sounds.)

One of the things I forgot to mention in my review of my first year in Austin is that Austin recently banned plastic bags at retail stores. At first I kept going into HEB and get to the counter and realized I did not have a bag. And I still see people walk out of the store without stuff in bags and they put things in their car one item at a time.

Well, a Repub in the lege from another part of Texas proposed the Shopping Bag Freedom ActHis objection was that it could spread disease and bacteria, and it is an overreach of big government. I wonder how he feels about chemical plants polluting rivers and blowing up. To see why a bag ban can be a good idea, see this page.

Sometimes repubs have this magical view that state goverments can do no wrong. Unless they pass a law allowing people to smoke pot or allowing gay marriage.

Then there is the issue of Park 51 in New York City, aka the “Ground Zero Mosque”.  A lot of conservatives were against it, even though it got approval from a local zoning board. And let’s not forget, that Constitution they all claim to love says we ALL have religious freedom. I thought it was funny seeing all of these repubs fall all over themselves screaming about this. They don’t want outsiders telling them what to do, yet they have no problem sticking their noses in other people’s business. The best part: Seeing conservatives get soooooo concerned about NYC. Usually there is a competition amongst conservatives over who hates NYC the most.

Sidebar: This country is becoming more urban and less rural, and they seem to think that only people in small towns are “real Americans.” How can these people say they love America, when they hate most of the people in it?

These people talk about freedom. My question for them is: Freedom for whom to do what?

I am not saying that states’ rights is not a valid issue. But if you look at segregation and gay marriage, it seems to get the most airtime when Southern conservatives see something they do not like. If they only time you talk about states’ rights is when you want to kick someone around, do not be shocked if some people do not get on board.

Image from Wikipedia, assumed allowed under Fair Use

Share

Second Last Post On First Year In Austin

This is my second last post on my first year in Austin. (Not my second-to-last, or penultimate, post on the subject, but the second time that I think I am writing the final post.)

One thing I noticed that was not a surprise is there are a lot more trucks here. Sometimes when I am going somewhere I think for a second that someone stole my car or I have no idea where it is. Then I walk ten feet and I find that it was obscured by a truck.

I have also noticed that a lot of parking lots have thin spots. Some of them are almost too small for my car. I find this odd since there are so many trucks. If I can barely fit in some of these spaces, there is no way they could fit.

Image from Wikipedia, assumed allowed under Fair Use

Share

Last Post On First Year In Austin

I use Meetup to find things to do. I joined a few years ago when I was in Chicago. I actually have a couple of accounts: One I use for technology meetups, and one for everything else (atheism/skepticism, science, sci-fi, gaming, Celtic culture, etc).

When I moved, I left the Chicago groups and found groups in Austin that I was interested in. I have noticed that a lot of Meetup groups will sometimes charge for events. It seems like a lot of them are people using them to run their businesses. It strikes me as a bit unseemly. I like using Meetup.com to find stuff to do that does not cost a lot. Sometimes the organizers of groups that I am in will ask for money to cover the organizer fees. That I do not have a problem with.

Anyway, I don’t remember too many events requiring a fee in Chicago. It seems to be more common in Austin.

Another thing that I have noticed in both Chicago and Austin is that a lot of people love to do stuff on Tuesdays. It is true for technical user groups and the non-technical groups. It is pretty frustrating. It seems when people talk about starting a group, they will say, “When should we do this? I know! Let’s do it on Tuesdays!”

I can see why people do not want to schedule something on Fridays. But what is wrong with the other three days? A lot of times when I am planning my week, I will notice that there are at least two things on Tuesdays that I want to attend, but Wednesday or Thursday (or both) will be completely blank. In all seriousness, I do not understand why people reflexively want to schedule something on Tuesdays. When I hear about people say they are thinking about starting a group I ask them to NOT pick Tuesdays.

I generally like to go to regular, monthly meetings. I generally do not like to go to one-off events. Perhaps the rest of the world likes to go to one-off events and I am the only person who does not.

But the Tuesday Reflex seems odd to me.

Image from Wikipedia, assumed allowed under Fair Use

Share

More Thoughts On Austin

I realized something about Austin that I really don’t like.

A lot of people will cut across two or three lanes of traffic right before the exit. This happens a lot.

I also have noticed there are a lot more types of trucks on the highways: many types of large equipment being transported, wind turbine blades, lots of stuff like that. Sometimes I wish that I had a camera to take pictures of these large trucks. I don’t remember seeing so many types of large trucks in Illinois.

Image from Wikipedia, assumed allowed under Fair Use

 

Share

Thoughts On Austin

I have been in Austin since October, 2012.

When I moved here, a friend of mine from college let me stay for a couple of months in a condo she owns. I spent that time looking for a more permnanent place. It was harder than I thought.

I was still on a contract, not a full-time employee. Some landlords had a problem with that, others were concerned that I had been unemployed. I made a copy of my savings account statement. I have enough in there to live for a year. The guy at the bank was impressed, but apartment companies did not care. If you brag to other states about all the jobs you have, you are going to get some people with spotty histories. I wondered that if someone had no job and no savings, then would they be able to find a place to live here? So much for second chances.

Just about all the apartment complexes have a pool, which I have no interest in at all. I guess it’s nice if a family has kids, but I still do not like the fact that I have to pay for something that I do not want.

Costs are starting to go up here. I was paying $675/month for about 575 square feet. I looked at a few other places, but I was not able to find anything better in time. Besides, I think with moving I would come out behind. But still, my rent is now $715/month. A new person moving into that space would pay $750. I am also paying more for cable, as I have mentioned before.

I would have liked to find a studio like I had in Chicago, but I could not find any small apartments. I did not want to live near campus. I have heard that everything around campus is very expensive.

There is not much mass transit here. There is a system that seems geared towards the university. Needing a car to go everywhere is a real drag. My brakes started making some grinding noises, and I thought that I might need a new car. But I got them fixed.

The traffic lights are not as rational as Chicago. There, north and south get the left turn, then the green light. Then east and west get the left turn, then the green light. I have never quite been able to discern the pattern here. Honestly, I get too frustrated sometimes to try to sort it out. I think it is something like north gets the left turn, then north and south get the green light, then south gets the left turn, then east and west go through the cycle. What I can tell you is that I have spent quite a bit of time at red lights when people travelling in three directions are waiting, and there is nobody going in the direction that gets the green.

Plus merging onto and off of highways can be a pain. When you go onto a road, you are merging to your left, but when you get off you merge to the right, into the same lane as people merging into the traffic. I am surprised there are not more accidents. I wonder why the roads were not designed such that you enter on the left and exit on the right.

There are a lot of yoga studios here, as well as a few Zen groups. I would like to spend more time on those. I might look into living in an “intentional community”. There are a couple of those in Austin. I’ve been unemployed, so technology takes priority over other things. So if Secular Texas meets on the same night as the Groovy/Grails group, I go to Groovy. So I am not as involved in the atheist community here as I would like.

The atheist community is not as large or robust as I would like. There is a podcast made here called “The Atheist Experience”. I have not gotten around to listening to it yet, but a lot of people in other parts of the country listen to it. I somehow got the impression that the atheist/skeptical community would be bigger. I have heard that the people who make the show do not mix much with the other atheists in Austin. There is no group with the work “Skeptic” in their name.

There is a branch of the CFI here, and that is a good group. They usually have something once a week. Secular Texas is a spin-off of that. They also have a group for atheist/skeptic women called Secular Suzies. Perhaps I will find my dream woman in Texas.

I have been going to quite a few meetups. There are a few oriented around games and science fiction. Geekdom is pretty large. It is for people who are into science and technology, as well as science fiction, fantasy, comic books, and stuff like that. Sometimes somebody there gets on my nerves. There is a LOT of science fiction out there. If you think about how much there is to “Star Trek”, “Star Wars” or “Doctor Who”, there is a lot of stuff. I hate it when someone quotes a movie or something, and I ask them what they are referencing, and they will look at me like I have two heads and say, “Haven’t you seen XYZ?” No I have not. There is a lot to see.

I have also started going to the Austin Celtic Meetup. When I was in Chicago, one of the most Irish cities in America, I never really looked into Irish or Celtic culture. But somehow I found out these guys were giving Gaelic lessons, so I decided to go. In Chicago I also went to the Latino Atheists group, and now I live in an area with a lot more Latinos, yet I do not really know too many Latinos.

I have met Hispanics who grew up in Texas, yet do not speak any Spanish. Granted, it has only been a few so far, but it was surprising. It seemed odd since this used to be part of Mexico.

Sometimes I think Austin needs to get over itself. I am sure there are people who grow up in small conservative towns all over Texas, who dream of the day they can get out. To someone like that, Austin would probably seem like heaven. But if you have lived in another big city (like Chicago, Portland or Madison) or another college town, it is easy to look at Austin and not see what the big deal is. I guess nobody told them that it is not the only place in the world with a few blocks of bars.

I said this at a meetup, and there was a woman there from another part of Texas, who told me that “you just don’t get it. I have lived all over Texas, and Austin is different.” I did not respond, because it was hard to without calling her stupid. I stated I had been here less that a year. Maybe Austin is unique compared to the rest of Texas, but if you think about the whole country it is not that unique. Besides, if you cannot think about the world beyond Texas, then perhaps Austin is not the place for you.

I don’t know if I will spend the rest of my life here. I would like more control. Right now I do not feel like I have it. Things are not going too well at my job.

Everyone has the best BBQ in Texas. It’s like a religion. They can’t all be right. One guy from Chicago thought it was funny that Austin has a reputation for good food and restaurants. He said it’s a good place if you like beef.

One of the things that was really bugging me about Chicago was there always seemed to be parades, or street fairs, or art fests, or streets getting closed so a few hundred people could ride their bikes. Buses were getting re-routed for these things, and it could make it hard to drive around. If I want to go somewhere, I just want to get in my car (or on a bus or on a train) and go from point A to point B. I shouldn’t have to check a website to see if I need to change my route.

Now Austin has Formula One. (It might also get a soccer team, or something.) I had to travel for work the same day as Formula One (or the day after). So it was really crowded. I would like to live someplace where I can just go about my business.

One thing about Chicago that I really did not like was the constant sirens every night, and sometimes all day. Here I can go several days without hearing a siren.

I have noticed that people from different parts of Texas seem to not like Houston.

People keep mentioning that Texas has no income tax, as if that is the only reason to live here. It is easy to have no income tax when you have oil. Sales tax seems pretty high. Perry is trying to convince more people from blue states to move here. Why not try to recruit from states that have Republican governors? If you are goint to brag to people in Missouri about Texas’ lower costs but not do the same for New Jersey, then you are a liar, an idiot, or both.

Those blue states have higher taxes because they actually build roads and educate their kids. (So Perry is a typical conservative: Someone else foots the bill, and he takes the credit.) If people in Texas want the growth to continue, eventually they will have to start paying for roads and schools. Either Texans will start paying more, or the model will break down. You can’t steal smart people from other states forever.

Sometimes I think that this is all a dream, or illusion. I’ll be putting gas in my car, and I will think, “This has been nice, but I am going to go to sleep tonight, and tomorrow I will wake up in Chicago, and get on with my life.” Over the past few days, I have thought a few times: I was in Chicago, then I was in Austin, now I am here. How did that happen?

Image from Wikipedia, assumed allowed under Fair Use

Share

Thoughts On Crazy Conservatives

I have stated on this site that I think a lot of conservatives are pathological. Nothing is ever conservative enough, and each thinks that THEY are the only TRUE conservative.

Now we are seeing that the Tea Bagger voters are upset that the guys they sent to Congress are “waffling”, or “not conservative enough”, or, as some might put it: realizing that not everybody in the country agrees with you. One article about this was published in The Guardian.

Another was published in The American Prospect. I think the last paragraph is a nice summary:

As many a Republican politician will tell you (ask Marco Rubio, for one), convincing the Tea Party that you’re sufficiently conservative and that you hate Barack Obama enough isn’t just a full-time job, it’s a game that almost everyone will eventually lose. At some point you’ll take some position or express some opinion that is interpreted as less than maximal anti-Obamaism, and all it takes is one slip to be declared a traitor forevermore.

But I have an issue with the last sentence: So as crazy as Republican politicians sometimes seem, don’t forget that they’re under constant pressure from a base that is even crazier.

I wonder what was going through the author’s head when he wrote that. Are we supposed to have sympathy for these Tea Bagger congressmen? They chose to suck up to the crazies. Some of them bad-mouthed people who did not vote for them, or Democrats/liberals in general. And now they are choosing to not stand up to the Tea Baggers.

————-

A while back I mentioned the Texas Tribune Tribcast. I got through the first half of 2013 about a week ago. They also make the Tea Baggers sound pretty crazy. The TB’s don’t want to spend any money or raise any taxes. Two of the big issues in the past regular session and the special sessions were transportation and water. As I have stated on this site, lower taxes are nice, but they are not the answer to all the world’s problems. Neither is cutting spending. Cutting taxes won’t repair roads, and cutting spending won’t make it rain more.

Usually when you want to deride someone for magical thinking, you say, “XYZ does not just fall from the sky.” In the case of rain, it does fall from the sky. However, you have no way of making it fall when and where you need it to.

Image from Wikimedia, assumed allowed under Fair Use. Because Tea Parties are for little children with imaginary friends.

Ideology does not trump reality.

Share

I Hope Voting Makes a Comeback

I have voted in every election since I turned 18. I recently moved to Texas, and I got my registration card the day before the election. So my voting streak is unbroken.

I know a lot of people who do not vote. They think there is no point and that nothing ever changes.

There is a great line I have seen on the web: If voting is not important, why are Republicans always trying to stop you? I have noticed the Same Old Party goes on and on about invalid registrations. So their solution to this non-existent problem is to purge the voter rolls. They never seem to have any interest in registering people properly.

You have probably heard about or heard the recording of Mitt Romney’s statement about the 47%.  That was at a fundraiser with an admission price of $50,000. That is about the median income in the US. I bet the people at that fundraiser all voted.

If you don’t vote, you give people who can spend your annual salary in one night even more power. You are giving them more say in our government. You are causing the very thing you say you want to prevent. Granted, it takes a lot of median income people voting to equal the voice of a wealthy person. But if you don’t participate, then who will?

I think it’s funny when people say that there is no point in voting because it never changes anything. By itself it might not do much. But if you are not willing to stand in line to press a button every couple of years, then what are you willing to do to change society? If you won’t press a button, then how exactly is society supposed to change?

I think that slowly things are changing. People are starting to realize that a lot of things happen at the state level. The Trayvon Martin incident. The Wendy Davis filibuster. The Moral Monday protests in North Carolina. I think people are staring to organize. Secular Texas is part of this.

This really hit me after a few exchanges on Twitter (archived here). Do not ignore what happens at the state level.

Image from Bobbi’s Blog, originally from Political Loudmouth, although I could not find it there

Share

Freethought Radio and The Texas Tribune Tribcast

I generally do not listen to podcasts as they are released. I let them pile up for a few months. Sometimes when I find a new one that I like I will go back and download all or some of the older episodes.

Over the past few weeks, I listened to episodes of Freethought Radio from 2012. Freethought Radio is produced by the Freedom From Religion Foundation. One of the things that they do is file lawsuits against various state and local governments (and sometimes the federal government) over church/state separation.

They have members all over the country, and their members are informing them of First Amendment issues all the time. Many times the communities the FFRF is contacting complain about “outside groups telling us what to do.”

First off, it’s an outside group with local members. Secondly, it is amazing that so many people claim to be all for the Constitution yet do not understand it. Many people complain about the FFRF trying to “take away our religion”, or something like that. The case law is pretty clear that government cannot endorse religion. The FFRF is not trying to shut down churches. Opening a city council meeting with a prayer does violate the First Amendment. There is nothing stopping people from praying on their own time.

Recently they had a case down here in Texas in a town called Kountze near Houston. They talked about it quite a bit on Freethought Radio.

It was also mentioned on another podcast that I listen to: The Tribcast produced by The Texas Tribune , “a nonprofit, nonpartisan public media organization covering Texas politics and policy with verve.” I started going through the 2012 episodes right after I got done with the 2012 episodes of Freethought Radio.

The governor and the attorney general played the whole “outside groups coming in and trying to tell us what to do” angle. It’s still a load of BS. (Are they that stupid, or do they think the voters are that stupid?) What really shocked me was that when the Tribcast talked about it, nobody on the show seemed to know how a group in Wisconsin found out about this. (They usually have four people on each episode; they rotate amongst their writers and editors.) That really surprised me. I generally like The Tribcast, but I think they fell down on this one.

I found a couple of links on the Texas Tribune site about this case: here  and here. There may be a few more that I did not look at, and maybe I skimmed these two a bit too quickly, but neither of them mentioned that the FFRF acts on complaints from local members throughout the country. There are some quotes from some locals, the AG and the governor, and there is a lawyer for the students who is mentioned by name. There is a link to a PDF of the original letter from the FFRF to the school, but no link to the FFRF home page, no quotes from the FFRF, why they would have standing to file a lawsuit if they were to do so, or mentions of any attempt to contact them.

If I am wrong, send me a link or point out a paragraph that I missed.

As I see it, it just seems like really bad journalism. Maybe the hosts of Freethought Radio were too busy to talk on the phone, or the FFRF lawyers were swamped, but I honestly think that if the Texas Tribune called the FFRF that they would have gotten some answers.


There are pictures of the staff members on the website. Reeve Hamilton sounded like a young guy, but he looks like he is still in high school. I guess the rarified air of Vanderbilt will do that to you. And that is a really WASP-y name. Jay Root and Ross Ramsey kind of look like what I thought they would. Sometimes when I see a picture of someone whose voice I have listened to, I realize I had formed a picture of them in my mind that I was not always aware that I was forming. But Evan Smith definitely looks like what I thought he would look like.

Image from Freedom From Religion Foundation website, assumed allowed under Fair Use. It is from a page called “Logos and Photos”. 1. I think it is kind of funny they of all organizations have a page called “Logos and Photos” considering that Logos has a theological meaning. 2. If they have a page with a few different pictures of their logo, I guess that means it is okay to use elsewhere.

Share

Thoughts On Abortion and Religion

As you may have gathered, abortion has been in the news a lot here in Texas lately. Juanita Jean has been keeping me informed on what is going on. Many people at Secular Texas were at the rallies and the hearings. I was not able to go since I work full-time. A big chunk of the people in Secular Texas are either retirees, freelancers, or work much closer to the capitol than I do.

As with many abortion debates, many people on the pro-birth side are men, who try to use religion to justify their positions. I wrote “pro-birth” on purpose. We need to stop letting them get away with saying they are pro-life. If you fight tooth and nail for an unborn child, but then refuse to lift a finger once the child is born, you are not pro-life.

Over the past few weeks, the Talibaptists in three states used underhanded tactics for pro-birth bills: Texas, Ohio and North Carolina. Either they stacked the deck for scheduling testimony, or they introduced bills or amendments at the last minute.

If you have to lie or obfuscate to do the right thing, are you really doing the right thing?

On the pro-choice side are a lot of women. There are a lot of old women. Grandmothers who are too old to get pregnant. Yet they fight pro-birth bills tooth and nail.

Religious people like to think they are better than us atheists since they believe in something greater than themselves.

Which leads to a couple of questions. If they can see the big picture, why can’t they see this issue from the perspective of the women on the other side? Shouldn’t the fact that women who are too old to get pregnant are so vehemently against abortion restrictions make the big thinkers stop and think why these women fight tooth and nail for something they themselves will never need?

Alternatively, shouldn’t these people who believe in something greater than themselves be able to persuade people who disagree with them?

I am starting to realize that religion and libertarianism are just a way to put fancy words and catchphrases around selfishness and control.

Image from Wikimedia, assumed allowed under Fair Use.

Share

Tweets by GOP on Science, Oil, Technology

A few days ago some GOP nutcase in Texas tweeted about oil and gas (see articles here  and here).

In addition to saying a few wacky things, it seems like a good time to write up some of the notes I have been accumulating.

The main tweet that got attention was “The best thing about the Earth is if you poke holes in it oil and gas come out.”

Unless you happen to be George W Bush, who poked a lot of holes in West Texas and managed to not find any oil.

He also made a few cracks about liberals and environmentalists being against science and technology. And human progress.

Let’s start with human progress. A lot of conservatives think that atheists should have fewer rights than Christians. And that other races should have less rights than white people. And that woman should have less rights than men. And that homosexuals should have less rights than straight people. And of course that actual people (human beings) should have less rights than paper people (corporations). Liberals think that the powerless should have the same rights as the powerful. That all people should have the right to vote. That everyone should have a say in their lives and their community. I like all the things that oil allows us to do, but “finding more places to drill more oil” is a pretty narrow definition of human progress.

But then again, conservatives seem to love narrow definitions.

He thinks that liberals and environmentalists hate technology? What about solar panels? They may not be much good at night, but they have come a long way in the past decade. And who has been for them? Liberals and environmentalists. And a lot of liberals are for nuclear power. Listen to “The Atomic Show” with Rod Adams. He has had quite a few pro-nuclear liberals on his show. I would say if you are pro-nuclear, you are pro-science. He’s a Navy man from the southeast, but he sounds pretty liberal to me sometimes. He thinks that we should build more nuclear power plants because he has been to poor countries and seen how people live without electricity. He also thinks it is the best solution for climate change.

Yes, climate change. That thing that a lot of conservatives say is not happening. (I love the fact that a scientist funded by the Koch Brothers to refute climate change came to the conclusion that it is happening. Recently, Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Committee in the House requested hearings on climate change, but were denied by the Renutlican leadership. If conservatives love science, what’s the problem?

Conservatives have been wrong/lying about evolution for a long long long time. And let’s not forget about all the comments about sexual assault and pregnancy that were spoken by Republicans in the 2012 election. (I am thinking of the original comments, and the douibling down by many others in the conservative community.)

The only science and technology that conservatives seem to love is science and technology that helps the fossil fuel industries.

A lot of conservatives seem to think that oil, gas and coal are the only worthwhile forms of energy. I also see this in the media. A lot of people are still part of the “Drill, baby, drill” crowd. That is fine, as long as there is something left to drill. But for how long will that be the case? Yes, the earth is still producing oil,but we are using it faster than the earth is making it.

The DBD crowd says it makes no sense to drill out in the middle of the ocean when we have plenty of oil on federal land. I say: Go ahead, drill on that federal land. You will wind up back in the middle of the ocean in a few decades. If the DBD crowd isn’t thinking about non-fossil fuel energy sources now, why would they starting thinking about it in their Alternative Yellowstone Derrick Future?

Even with all the advances in shale oil and fracking, I still only see predictions about our oil and gas supply for about 150 years. The nuclear industry says we have enough uranium for 6,500 years. Apparently there is a lot of uranium in sea water. I am not a math genius, but 6,500 is a lot more than 150. Plus, I don’t think we should use oil and gas for cars or electricity. Let’s save them for fertilizer and plastic. I guess on a finite planet, eventually everything goes to zero. But some things are much closer to zero than others.

I don’t think we should put too much faith in fracking. People say that thanks to fracking, the peak oil debate is over. That might be a hasty conclusion. The depletion rates for these wells are pretty high. And they have high environmental costs. A lot of pro-oil people say that we will never hit peak oil because “technology and the market will find new ways to get more oil.”

I have two responses to that. First off, we cannot be so sure that there will always be new ways of extracting oil which get discovered when we need them to. A lot of the people raving about fracking did not see it coming ten years ago. If fracking and horizontal drilling were not around today, all that oil would still be in the ground, and our oil supplies would be in decline. Where would we be then? We may reach a point where the market does not find a way. This is related to a post by Tom Murphy, an associate professor of physics at the University of California, San Diego. He has a post on his blog “Do The Math” detailing a conversation he had with an economics professor about the fact that there are real physical limits to the amount of energy this planet can produce.

Secondly, there may very well be limits oil extraction. There may be technological limits, and there may be societal limits. Fracking and the Canadian tar sands are pretty controversial. Even if the petroleum industry finds more ways to extract oil, we may be reaching the limit of society’s tolerance for the environmental costs of oil extraction.

Image from Disney movie John Carter. Copyright owned by Disney, assumed allowed under fair use. John Carter is the name of my representative.

Share