Friday, March 30, 2012

An Alternative View of Bike to Work Day

Just to show that I am not necessarily the most cynical person in the world. Have to say, though, that there are a lot of BTW Days where I find myself in agreement with Mr. Cooper.  A snippet below from The Desegregated Cyclist:

"On one day this May, thousands of motorists in cities throughout the US will dust off their badly neglected bikes, oil the rusty chain, pump up the tires, climb on and join together in the biggest one-day circle jerk in the cycling world. On their way to work, many of them (in some cities) will stop off at various vendor stations to pick up pre-purchased T-shirts that will proclaim their onanistic 'achievement' for everyone to see...."

Heads up on bike lane closures

From Jonathan Niehof

Several sections of bike lane throughout town are being intermittently
closed for brief work on/under the sidewalk (the network initiative?)
Most are easy to spot, but the section on southbound Diamond across
from the high school is closed just after the north overpass, meaning
you can't see the cones until it's almost too late. The limited
sightline back then makes a merge difficult. Cyclists should keep an
eye out. Coupled with avoiding the right hook at Sandia and Metzger's,
this might require controlling the lane for a good long stretch. So
motorists should also keep an eye out.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

So long, Adrienne and Earl

We lost two big people yesterday.  Since its not really all about the bike, a tip of the tinfoil helmet to Adrienne Rich and Earl Scruggs, who made our lives richer.

Earl Scruggs, 1924-2012

Adrienne Rich, 1929-2012. Text of poem here.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Making an Ass of Yourself on the WWW

A good friend of mine at work has told me there are some parts of the country where people, often inebriated and driving a pickup truck, have their last words on this earth written down as "Hey, Watch Me Do This". I thought of that while watching the video below, posted to the Web by a member of a paceline of bike racers (or racer wannabes) demonstrating the ability to trash a perfectly functioning paceline by screaming through a stop sign and then having to belatedly and abruptly (recall that you NEVER do anything abruptly in a paceline) brake for cross traffic, resulting in touched wheels or other bike parts and an excellent example of someone winning the coveted Ass Over Handlebars Award. That's a serious blunder, guys. Proclaim it to the world and get defensive about it? Ya just gotta there no limit to bad taste?

Prof. Andy Cline has taken particular umbrage with the cyclists in this video, suggesting it shows all that is wrong with sport cycling. I think highly of Andy's writing, but also think there might be a bit of overkill in Andy's voice in this case, given he is working hard to make bicycling a solution to environmental and urban problems while these folks are using bicycles as toys and with great hubris, flaunting the traffic laws and public decency, thus providing those critical of cycling with more ammunition of why we simply can't be trusted. To those who condemn these folks while not looking in the mirror, I caution you to remember the old admonition about not throwing rocks at others if you might be worthy of a few chucked your way.  This behavior is stupid, risky, and it puts us all in a bad light, but we should not condemn cyclists any more than we condemn motorists based on the widespread hubris show by Driving While Cellular motorists in Santa Fe or other locations with cell phone bans. We all derive from the same gene pool. Sadly, we all fail to recognize the connection between ourselves as bad actors and the fate we therefore deserve or impose on others. That's the bottom line as I see it.

Accidents don't just happen. They are often driven by supremely bad judgement or arrogance as shown in the example above. Racers, racer wannabes, and Weekend Warriors whose training plan doesn't include stop signs, as well as commuters who are too important or delicate to obey the law and painfully sacrifice a little momentum, are not immune from the results of their decisions. Their decisions can drive up the crash rates we all hear about when someone tells us how dangerous bicycling can be. As a bike racer back when I was a younger man, I learned that lesson about the tradeoff of safety vs. ego the hard way, via a very intense instructional moment with Mr. Pavement. Man, that was also the wrong day to be wearing a white jersey!

Politics aside, just be careful out there and stow the hubris. The traffic code is there for a reason.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Aging Motorcyclists Hit the Road, But at Greater Risk of Injury, Death

Interesting study here on age vs mortality in motorcycle crashes. Pardon the pun in the title. Its theirs, not mine.

I suspect its not just motorcyclists who are more vulnerable as we age, but anyone in an active sport where you can bang yourself up and heal more slowly. I recently did an amusing biff on the mountainbike down in Bayo Canyon, and joked to my wife later that night, while cleaning up the wound, that it was my annual bone density exam. Fortunately, in that particular tete a tete between my forearm and Mr. Bandelier H. Tuff, neither side was bruised beyond repair. There would be far less humor if I came home in a cast.

But this paper (Univ of Rochester School of Medicine/Strong Memorial Hospital "press release" version shown in that link) suggests that as we age, we need to be more careful of consequences of being a weekend warrior. To wit, "...The increase in injury severity for older (motorcycle) riders may be related to the reduced capacity to withstand injury as the body ages. Age-related changes, such as decreases in bone strength and brain size, may make older riders more susceptible to injury. Other factors associated with aging, such as impaired vision, delayed reaction time, and altered balance contribute to motorcycle crashes in this population, explaining in part the researchers’ finding that older riders crashed more often as a result of loss of control than younger riders...."

I think fit bicycle riders have it easier in two regards. One, you are usually going slower, wide-open descents out of the Jemez Mts. on Rt 4 notwithstanding. Two, compared to those aging warriors who have taken up motorcycling after a long hiatus, an active cyclist may have preserved those critical balance and coordination skills. If he or she has been a lifelong fit adult involved in cross training, he/she may be less likely to have suffered undiagnosed bone density loss. Of critical importance is brain shrinkage in older people, which I assume makes you more susceptible to brain damage in a head impact due to the brain loosely bouncing around in the skull, thus the need to wear a helmet (and its effectiveness).  Anyway, go read the original. I'm not a doctor and don't play one on TV.

This article, in part, applies especially to those who have returned to motorcycling after a long hiatus. Um...for example, me.  But its good reading for anyone interested in the interplay between active lifestyles, the aging process, and injury risk.

I jogged my memory a bit and remembered that my good friend and pen-pal Maynard Hershon crashed his bicycle (not even with a car) in 2008 and blogged about it. It was a bike path crash. Maynard is a few rotations of the sun ahead of me, and his crash involved a very difficult recovery. Some of his comments here and here and a few more in between. I know some local riders who are This Side Of The Hill who have had difficult crashes, but don't want to violate anyone's confidence.

Stay fit and prosper. Keep riding,by all means, because the fun factor AND fitness factor are far too important to walk away from. Frankly, a sedentary lifestyle is far more hazardous to an old coot like me than an occasional (and minor) biff from the bike saddle. And lest Steve has to remind me, I'll remind you: cycling is fun and safe!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Dancing with cars on Diamond Drive

Posted this to the LANL employee's page a couple days ago. Feel free to chime in.

This morning (March 21), I was riding my bicycle to work going south on Diamond Drive, in the bike lane and passing the Metzger’s gas station at Orange/Sandia. Speed probably between 15 and 20 mph. A northbound government vehicle started to make a left turn across my side of the road into the gas station and then stopped abruptly in mid turn as he saw me, with the van partially in the inboard southbound lane. I spotted the first sign of the turn and was out of the saddle with my hind end behind the saddle making a quick stop at the same time, in case the vehicle kept turning.

I made the next right into the gas station and pulled up to the driver and asked if he had not seen me. He said he did not see me until halfway through his turn, when he saw my helmet. He hit the brakes immediately. He was quite apologetic and a little upset. I quipped that he was probably more shook up than I was, which was true. I teach that scenario and mentally prepare to deal with it.

I noted to him that this was one of the likely car vs. bike accident scenarios on roads that are wide and which have bike lanes, e.g., Diamond, since drivers preparing for a left turn are often scanning for other cars approaching in the oncoming travel lanes, and are not always watching as far over as the oncoming bike lane. I think he understood the scenario. No harm, no foul. I wrote it up to an effective teaching moment—for both of us.

Some lessons learned:
1. Motorists—it’s spring. Start seeing bicyclists, and make sure you start seeing pedestrians and motorcyclists. They will be coming out of the woodwork.
2. Cyclists—apparently all that yellow fluorescent tape on my helmet does some good, even in the daytime. Bright colors on helmets and vests are a good idea, even if people think you are a geek. So does being alert and practicing your situational awareness. (note added here--bike lanes make you more vulnerable here because you are to the right of what motorists are looking for--oncoming motorists).
3. Handshakes, which were exchanged this morning, work much better than raised middle fingers in helping promote learning and understanding. Sure, one can get pretty ruffled when you see two tons of vehicle headed your way. Chances are that it is an honest mistake, and the person involved will be a better driver if you are a better teacher.
4. Be careful out there. Near misses are indicators.  When all of the factors in an accident scenerio go wrong at once, you get a crash.  It’s better to be a near miss than a mishap, so its up to you to make sure all those crash factors are not lined up in a row. Avoid The Big One. If nothing else, you have something unusual to talk about at the coffee break.
Shamelessly stolen from Steve A at DFW Point to Point
A near miss is more common (and less deadly) than a hit
A hit means all the stars lined up--against you
As I said in an earlier post to LANL on safe sidepath sharing between cyclists and pedestrians. Traffic is a dance; all parties must share the responsibility of not stepping on each other’s toes.

I am not terribly keen on adding bike lanes to wide roads with a lot of turn opportunities, and have seen hits and near misses in these situations before. If anything, such arrangements call for more rather than less bicyclist competence than simply riding in traffic. Unfortunately, that is not how bike lanes are sold to bicyclists.

What we really need is a solution with some human values..

Hawaiian treasure Rev. Dennis Kamakahe

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

John Allen's letter to his Congressional delegation regarding the MSP provision in the Federal Transportation Bill

Original is here.

I suggest folks send similar letters to our delegation.

Boston area cyclists –
I have sent the following e-mail to erika(underline)paulhus at scottbrown dot senate dot gov, in Sen. Scott Brown’s Boston office.
I intend to do the same for Sen. Kerry, and for Rep. Markey. I encourage you to express your opinions as well.

Ms. Paulhus –
Caroline, in Sen. Brown’s Boston office, has referred me to you.
I think you for the opportunity to comment on this issue.

Apparently at the instigation of the National Parks Service, the Senate version of the Transportation Bill includes a mandatory sidepath provision for bicyclists. There is a similar provision in the House version. That is, if there is a paved bicycle path anywhere near a road, bicyclists are prohibited from using the road. What is worse, the provision doesn’t even say that the path has to be usable, or serve the same destinations. I call this the “you can’t get there from here” law.

Mandatory sidepath laws presently are on the books in only 7 states. All of them at least require the path to be usable. Some set stricter requirements for the condition of the path. Massachusetts has no such law and has had none at least since Sen. William Saltonstall effected revisions in state bicycle laws in 1973. Over the past couple of decades, state after state has repealed these laws. The recognition has spread that, if a path is suitable, bicyclists will use it.

A Federal mandatory sidepath law would be a tremendous step backward. Here in Massachusetts, “Share the Road” signs on local roads in the Cape Cod National Seashore would be replaced by signs prohibiting bicycling. The law would also affect the Blackstone River Valley National Historic Park.

I have discussed this issue in more detail on-line, at this address:
I compare state mandatory sidepath laws with the Federal provision, here:
I would be happy to visit the Boston office to discuss this matter further. I thank you for your attention!

Also, good essay here from across the Pond.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Hoist with our own petard?

U.S. Senate to bicycling

In a bipartisan move lacking in any kind of proper planning or foresight, the U.S. Senate, led by the leadership of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee including Sens. Boxer and Inhofe (just to show that we can't blame one side more than the other), has just told you to get the hell off the road by inserting a mandatory sidepath provision that applies to some Federal roads. Sadly, we may have inadvertently given them the tools with which to do this.
A case of our own 
advocacy tools backfiring?

 pe·tard  (p-tärd)
1. A small bell-shaped bomb used to breach a gate or wall.
2. A loud firecracker.

Word History: The French used the word pétard, "a loud discharge of intestinal gas," to describe a kind of infernal engine, i.e., a directed charge, for blasting through the gates of a city. "To be hoist by one's own petard," a now proverbial phrase apparently originating with Shakespeare's Hamlet (around 1604) not long after the word entered English (around 1598), means "to blow oneself up with one's own bomb, be undone by one's own devices."

Andy Clarke, President of the League of American Bicyclists, has alluded that the current language in the Federal Transportation Bill that would ban cyclists from some Federal roads was  "...inspired by one or two powerful Senators (and/or their staff) here in the DC area being irritated by cyclists riding on one or two area roads that are on Federal land and happen to have popular trails alongside them...".  Such actions if true would represent a gross misuse of Congressional power. But those of us who have historically been supportive but wary of the separate facilities movement are distressed but not surprised. There is, as we all know, a tendency for motorists to ask "why are we paying for those bike facilities and still find those pesky bicyclists riding on OUR roads?"

Mind you, I don't condemn the path movement. I think paths can be good, and just as motorists enjoy fire roads, neighborhood streets, country lanes, collectors, arterials, freeways, and parkways, we bicyclists should not be told we can only use one type of facility.  I've seen Amish buggies on state highways in Upstate New York. Why not bicyclists on Federal agency roads? What I do condemn is the philosophy that cyclists NEED their own dedicated space and without it, cannot ride their bikes out of fears of being unsafe. Turned on its head, that can translate into "well, then why are you cycling on the road if it is so unsafe and there is that sidewalk over there?"

Well, we ride on the road for a few reasons:
1. Its there and we paid for it.
2. It is usually (but not always) more direct and designed for efficient movement.
3.  Parallel paths are often slow, indirect, and often unsafe by design for shared use due to being scenic rather than engineered for expected bicyclist usage (e.g., Canyon Rim Trail) and heavily used by joggers, walkers, and other non-vehicles. What happens when you sail around one of numerous blind curves on the Canyon Rim Trail at 10-15 mph into a klatch of startled folks walking their dogs and pushing their trams? They don't like it. I've seen the reaction. The design bicyclist for most paths is, no offense intended, a slowpoke. Tell that to someone trying to get to work on time. He might end up driving.
4. Fearmongering aside, there is not a lot of data suggesting that roads are all that unsafe for a cyclist who knows what he or she is doing, at least on a per hour exposure basis.
5. Paths are, often enough, not a complete and connected system.

In the case of the Federal bill, someone apparently replaced the blanket ban with a qualified ban, trying to use the bicycle level of service indicator (BLOS) to carve out exceptions in order to do some level of damage control. Unfortunately, BLOS is a level of comfort and an inferred level of safety, not a true level of service, at least as used in surface transportation-speak, and further, there is no widely accepted BLOS for sidepaths (although there is a calculator at the link below). Not to mention, I think the BLOS to some degree begs the question on what you or I consider comfortable.  Indeed, some sidepaths can be downright uncomfortable, not to mention hazardous, to ride at any reasonable speed. So there is nothing in the bill to test the quality, or level of service, of sidepaths against the BLOS of the road so an official can judiciously make a decision (assuming anyone would be so noble). If  the path is there and is paved (again,  no standards for acceptably paved), you will use it.
Descent and sand on the Province Lands path, 
Cape Cod National Seashore, Massachusetts
Photo from John Allen's discussion and site

Further, BLOS was designed to help planners design complete streets meant to encourage your average Joe or Jane to ride a bicycle, not strictly as a safety metric for cycling and definitely not as a tool to use to prohibit bicycling.  I don't think there is published data to show that a given BLOS ranking has a specific, translatable crash per mile safety index that would justify its use as a regulatory tool (chime in if you know otherwise--is there a John Pucher in the house?). Finally, the BLOS ranking of A or B put in the bill would exclude a lot of perfectly acceptable roads. Our own Bandelier National Park road would probably rate a D.  Thankfully, there is nowhere to put a path along the Bandelier roadway short of widening the roadcut along the cliff.  The bottom line is that BLOS was meant to improve roads, not get us kicked off of them. This bill turns that original idea on its head, hence the title of this piece.

Some background on BLOS:

BLOS and BCI calculator:
Sidepath Suitability Score Form:

The bottom line is we need more clout--in this case, it seems like the LAB had little ability to push back on this with sufficient force. This disaster is a vivid reason why cyclists need to form a single powerful alliance along the lines of the National Rifle Association. I therefore support the notion of the three national bicycling organizations melding themselves into one powerful voice–with the caveat that we have one powerful message–Protect the Right To Keep and Ride Our Bikes Free of Bullshit Laws. One other caveat–when we circle the wagons, we have to have the guns pointing out, not in.

Can anyone imagine Congress passing a bill that included a provision banning hunting and gun possession on vast tracts of public land on the whim of a couple of senators who say "well, you have a gun range and a hunting reserve, why do you need public space?".  Wouldn’t happen. There would be a national outcry a national mobilization, and those responsible would be diving under their desks while backpedaling in terror. One example of how this would work:

Meanwhile, mobilizing and directing bicyclists is akin to herding cats. We would sooner bicker and divide ourselves than stand up for fundamentally important rights. We have to get our act together and stop bickering about stuff. I was on the Board of Directors of the U of Hawaii state faculty union a decade ago when we had similar deep divisions among different faculty groups. We had to bury the hatchet, and not in each other, go get anything done. There is a lesson there and it was why I supported the community college faculty even more than my own research folks–they were in more dire straits.

Another option–every cycling organization in the U.S. needs to send out a message to its members to BOYCOTT purchasing of national park and similar passes and tell the Park Service and our Congressional representatives why. I buy an Eagle pass every year, in part because Bandelier National Park is part of my regular summer training ride and in part to support the park system. Chances are, we in BombTown won’t lose that road because it is built into a cliff, so there is little chance of a sidepath being built any time soon. But should I support this travesty with my check knowing others will be screwed (see Frank Krygowski's post)? No. Neither should you.

Finally, a reminder to League leadership. This issue should not be categorized as pertaining to "vehicular cycling", as in an unfortunate comment made, perhaps in exasperation, on the League's web site. That word has, unfortunately, enough inflammatory baggage that we should probably avoid it.  This is about equal access and a cyclist's ability to travel freely on the public way. Bicyclists are granted the rights and responsibilities of vehicle operators, to be sure. But this is about equal access and fairness for all cyclists, as in the League's Equity Statement. The last thing we need is more encouragement of bike bans or punitive restrictions, which there are enough of already. At a time when rising gas prices, oil instability, carbon emissions, and public health crises all benefit from the choice to ride a bicycle, we need to make sure cyclists are welcomed on our public roads.  Road use bans in state laws

Friday, March 16, 2012

Federal Transportation Bill Guts Cyclist's Rights on Federal Land

I won't re-invent the wheel, but direct you to John Allen's post over here. Given the amount of Federal road in the West, I suggest you call your congressional delegation and ask that the offending provision be removed. Here it is:

(d) BICYCLE SAFETY.—The Secretary of the appropriate Federal land management agency shall prohibit the use of bicycles on each federally owned road that has a speed limit of 30 miles per hour or greater and an adjacent paved path for use by bicycles within 100 yards of the road unless the Secretary determines that the bicycle level of service on that roadway is rated B or higher.

Details of what that means are covered pretty well in Mr. Allen's analysis.  I concur with John that there is little in that language which would make you safe and a lot that would restrict your ability to ride your bike.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Keystone Pipeline is the least of it

"Why didn’t they look around, realize what they were doing, and stop before it was too late? What were they thinking when they cut down the last palm tree? "
— Jared Diamond, EASTER’S END

Lost in the discussion of the Keystone Pipeline eventually traversing the Ogallala Aquifer is the environmental cost to Canada of mining bitumen (not oil, sensu stricto) out of oil sands. Nice article in the NY Times discussing that question, reviewing a PNAS article.

There is, after all, no free lunch. A comment made to the Times by one of the study authors (Rebecca Rooney) hits the nail on the head when she says "...the most important point is that decisions about whether to approve new mines need to be made with all the facts about the environmental, social, and economic costs on the table..."

No kidding, Dr. Rooney. We will undoubtedly make some additional mess in our continued use of fossil fuels, especially since we will need to extract more and more unconventional resource. No omelet is made without breaking a few eggs. What is needed is a bit of intellectual honesty among us all regarding costs, benefits, winners, losers, and overall effects.  The alternative is that at some point, we will shit our nest called Planet Earth to the point of no return. At least for us.

Not to mention that these resources are only mined as the cost of end product justifies them. The Keystone Pipeline, therefore, is not a ticket to cheap gas. Just a ticket to continued decline.

Study Disputes Oil Sands ‘Restoration’ Pledge

“Claims by industry that they will ‘return the land we use — including reclaiming tailings ponds — to a sustainable landscape that is equal to or better than how we found it’ and that it ‘will be replanted with the same trees and plants and formed into habitat for the same species’ are clearly greenwashing,” researchers from the biological sciences department at the University of Alberta write.

This link courtesy of Jim Rickman's second comment.

Sour Grapes 101: An Ohio city official attacks advocates by misapplying a law

Steve Magas is an attorney in Ohio, a co-author of "Bicycling and the Law", and has represented cyclists on the trial and appellate level.

This case, described fully in the link below, is an example of why careful wording of the law, and carefully groomed relationships and proper separation of responsibilities and authorities between Boards and Commissions and professional staff is critical to avoiding trouble. Also a good reason to watch your back.

By: Steve Magas, March 12, 2012

"Jerry Walling and Roger Brislawn do what many, many cyclists around the country do – they sit on the Bicycle Advisory Committee of their community.  They never dreamed that accepting this role, and reviewing bike crashes, would lead them to the brink of “large fines and imprisonment...

...From 2000-2011 the Bikeway Advisory Committee seemed to work well in Beavercreek – or so Jerry & Roger thought.  That changed in August 2011 when Jerry & Roger received a little present in the mail – a certified mail letter from The Ohio State Board of Registration for Professional Engineers and Surveyors....

...The letter cited the men to Ohio Revised Code Section 4733.01 – the code section which defines the “practice of engineering.”  The Board stated that it had received a “complaint” alleging that work the men had done for the Bikeway Advisory Committee “may fall into the realm of traffic engineering and could effect public welfare, safeguarding of life, health or property…"

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Has anyone had a close call with the right turn only/sharrows (bike) thru lane on Diamond at Canyon?

Sharrowed Right Turn Lane, looking North
The LCI list got into a recent discussion of having sharrows in the left half of a motor vehicle right turn lane when the lane userps the shoulder or bike lane.  Below is part of the discussion. Note that our situation is legal because it is marked by the County with sharrows.

Has anyone had a close call with our example?

From John Allen:
"I wouldn't be so rigid about this. Riding *near the left side* of a right-turn lane does not violate the destination positioning rule, inviting right hook collisions. When the shoulder of a road becomes a right turn lane, and resumes after the intersection, this lane positioning is in my opinion often entirely reasonable, though strictly speaking it is illegal. Laws and markings are being devised to change this in a number of places."

At 11:15 PM 3/5/2012, Bert wrote:
Rather than list my concerns, I would like to hear your comments on the use of Sharrows within a right-hand turn lane but for straight moving bikes. I have serious reservations about this proposal, possibly for NYS. Cyclists should stay in the right-most lane in the direction they are travelling.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Heather Wilson to hold Town Hall Meeting to Hear Concerns About LANL Job Cuts--but not about $2.50 gas

Heather Wilson Holding Los Alamos Town Hall Meeting to Hear Public’s Concerns About LANL Job Cuts

Since you need to have a job in order to ride yer bike to work...not to mention, no job, no food, go read more at Carol Clark's Los Alamos Daily Post. And no, this is not a political endorsement for Ms. Wilson, the former 1st District House member and current candidate for U.S. Senate. I'll ridicule various candidates here regardless of party, but only endorse them on North Mesa Mutts. unless the other contributors to this blog concur with an endorsement.

From The Daily Post: "Wilson encourages the public to attend her town hall meeting beginning at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 14 at the Best Western Hilltop House Hotel."

Welcome to BombTown, Ms. Wilson.To her credit, she now seems to regret creating yet another government bureaucracy for taxpayers to feed . Question is, can she do something about it?

On another subject, and speaking of awarding the Order of the Bronx Cheer, I do get a kick out of Newt's continued bombast about returning two fifty a gallon gas to the pump. Reminds me of those old "a chicken in every pot" speeches made by other highly honorable, ahem, politicians.
That's a Bronx Cheer
A couple comments. One, back in the early eighties when gas got expensive, a lot of my fellow grad students who knew something about sedimentary geology bailed out of grad school and took lucrative jobs in the oil patch. My good friend Joe Smoot, formerly a geology professor at Stony Brook and now a senior geologist with the USGS, grumbled that his master's student was instantly making more dinero than he was.

But when gas and oil prices fell a decade later, many of those budding petroleum geologists got laid off. Oil companies are not charities: they don't explore for cheap oil. The cheap stuff has already been pumped out and burned. Companies now explore for more exotic formations (deeper water, more complex geological formations, secondary recovery and other advanced techniques) when the market will pay them handsomely to do so. We used up most of the easy stuff.  Estimating ultimate world reserves, including those recoverable using advanced techniques, is an elusive target. According to a 2007 American Association of Petroleum Geologists conference  "World oil production will reach a peak plateau by 2020-40...depending on the ultimate level of world oil resources -- which is substantially uncertain -- this plateau of maximum production is likely to last for 20-30 years before world production begins its ultimate decline,” (Hedberg Research Conference , 2007 AAPG Annual Convention in Long Beach.). Of course, that forecast is five years old.
From the Hedberg Conference (2007) report

Two, we live in 2012, not 1970. The rest of the world is racing to catch up to us in auto use and competing with the US market for gasoline, which is why we are now exporting gasoline as a finished product. Dem ferriners, you guessed, pay for it with all those dollars we export overseas for products you buy at the local Big Box Store. If you want to save at the pump, you simply have to use less of the dino juice. Get a smaller or more efficient car, something I don't see enough of on the road. Leave the horse hauler home and ride your bike. Get your kids on bikes to school so you can do the same. Ride the bus. Carpool.  Etc. Just don't buy a big SUV you don't need and then bitch about the price of gas.

Its not that I like paying more at the pump, but its simply supply and demand. To be sure, and with all due respect to professional, election-year liars, the US is now supplying more of is own fossil fuel resources, not less, as a function of the total we consume. You can thank Big Oil more than politicians for that (as well as a lot of very smart little guys). But that is because technology has advanced and prices support the costs of recovery while providing tidy profit for the industry.

 If, by contrast, you want government meddling with gasoline and oil, go back to the 1970's. Government controls are basically what Newt would have to do in order to convince people to explore, drill, recover, and sell cheap. As far as the 1970's attempts by government to regulate gasoline prices, consumption (remember the national 55 mph speed limit?) and distribution (remember "odd-even")? It wasn't pretty.

It took Ma Nature tens to hundreds of millions of years to make that oil and we burned a heck of a lot of it in about a hundred years; our consumption rate is accelerating. The big science now, aside from developing more conventional and unconventional resource, is to find a cost-effective way to circumvent the slow process (i.e., biofuels, etc) while not loading up the atmosphere with enough CO2 to worry even the skeptics. Until we do those things, I suggest we conserve what we got.

If elected, I promise to bring back the past.
Especially more Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs

Monday, March 5, 2012

Lucky You Live in BombTown?

If you listened to This American Life yesterday (podcast here), you can get an idea of how bad things can get in a community when the economy goes south and takes the municipal budget down with it. I doubt many of us would want to trade our economic situation in Los Alamos for that of Trenton, NY or Colorado Springs, CO. But with the budget cuts coming down from Uncle Sam and the reduction in force at LANL, I think we better start thinking about teaming more than one horse in our economy rather than figuring out how to spend all that money from Uncle Sam at the local Big Box store. Said it before, say it again here. There is no free lunch.

By all means shop locally, but one has to have paychecks to do that. Plus, I'm not sure the buying binge of toys and crap of the last thirty years is sustainable.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

To run or not to run, that is the question

County Council seats are up for grabs this fall. Last time around, I declined an organizational request that I run for office. Same question this time. Any thoughts out there?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

We are the other guy

Given the last post's discussion, I had to find this old video. I would say we are all "the other guy" from time to time. Eschew arrogance and overconfidence.

Sixties vintage TV Public Service spot. Watch out for the Other Guy