OK. I am going to tell you a couple of things you might not know. With the Affordable Care Act, there are lots of things we don’t know, and will not know until it is too late.
The Supreme Court made a big issue of the penalty tax in Obamacare for people who choose to NOT buy insurance. Out of 21,000,000 uninsured, there are bound to be people who will make that choice since paying the penalty tax is cheaper than the insurance. It’s a no brainer.
But, let’s take the case that there special classes of people who don’t want or need the health coverage. Just because they choose to not buy insurance doesn’t mean that they will have the penalty.
We should have known. The long awaited Supreme Court came in today with a ruling, which in my opinion, is a bit on the contradictory side.
First of all, the so-called Affordable Health Care Act is not constitutional as a mandate, which it is. Secondly, it is constitutional if it is a tax, which it is. Wow! It is two, two, two laws in one. Apparently the government can pick and choose its own definition, and win any case it wants by simply pretending.
The whole thing is double talk. Apparently, the US Congress can pass laws that tax our pants off, but they cannot pass a law telling us what to buy. This still does not change the fact that we will be forced to buy the insurance whether the government calls it a tax or not.
So, want started out as a horse suddenly takes on a unicorn appearance. The law is all things to all people, constitutional or not.
The big lesson is to trust no branch of government.
This is one of those articles that is tough to write. Our miniature dachshund, Sam, is almost sixteen years old, and just can’t get it together, anymore. It is time for Sam to go home. His black long-haired dachshund buddy, Dash, died almost three years ago. Dash was fifteen years old, and had epilepsy.
Although the dogs were not blood related, we always thought of the younger Sam as Dash’s dog. Sam was our daughter’s pet, and there seems to be a natural law that when your kids get married, they do not take their pets with them. At that time, we didn’t want to separate Dash and Sam.
We remember the good times. There was a time when Sam was young, healthy, and could jump. Jumping is something most dachshunds are not very good at because or their relatively short legs. Their legs are so short, their bellies almost drag the ground, along with other appendages. Sam never liked to go outdoors when the grass was wet and cold.
When Sam was a puppy, he adopted my wife as his favorite, even though he belonged to our daughter. Sam would watch my wife when she walked into the den, and wait until she was in the act of sitting down. Uncannily, the little dog could launch himself at just the right time to land in my wife’s lap. He would jump while she was still in the motion of setting down.
Plus, Sam rarely ever growled at anyone. My daughter found a way to elicit a gruff growl by pushing his rear end with her cold feet. Sam was really sensitive about his butt. He never bit anyone, to my knowledge, except me. That happened a few months ago, and he was not doing well, at all.
Poor Sam has gotten to the point that he cannot hike his leg. He also doesn’t bother with waiting to do his bathroom duties outside, either.
He has cataracts and is virtually blind, and he bumps into things in and outside of the house. His sense of smell has disappeared, too. He can’t even smell a piece of cheese three inches from his nose. His joints are stiff, and he seems to be in pain.
A lot of what I say sounds like a way to relieve my guilt at what I am about to do. Undoubtedly, that’s correct.
Jim Cantore is one of the most famous meteorologists on television. He is always at the very worst part of a storm coming ashore, and people revel in his knee deep storm reporting. The joke is for people to pay attention to where Cantore is reporting from, and go in the opposite direction.
In March we started planning a Florida vacation. My wife studiously searched the web for condos on Florida beaches, and came up with what sounded like a good deal. So, we bought a week’s worth of beachy bliss for later in the summer. It will be hot, but that’s why they have pina colada’s and cold beer.
In the last two weeks, Jim Cantore made an appearance on the section of Florida beach were we are going. Can you imagine that? Cantore was on my beach!
I should have known. This is an El Nino year, and Atlantic storms and hurricanes are more plentiful during that phase of the Pacific oscillation. El Nino years are hot years, as you can witness with the current heat wave across the entire United States.
Hind sight is great. I should have bought trip insurance, but I got cheap when I did the booking. It’s too late for that, now.
It looks like it is possible for us to be sharing our beach with Mr. Cantore.
Looking at the bright side, maybe Mr. Cantore will let me buy him a beer, and give me his autograph on my receipt for the condo. You gotta keep a positive outlook.
My wife tells me that nobody reads my rants about the environmental scams, but I gotta try something.
I stole a line from the poem, “Song of Hiawatha” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, to use as the title for this blog hoping people would think that some neat prose would follow. Confession ends, here.
There are millions of people living by shining big sea waters in the United States. Maybe most don’t actually live next to the water, but within reasonable flooding distance. These people have the fun of wading through hurricanes, tropical storms, and just plain high water when the opportunity presents. When the surf is up, that can spell trouble.
This brings me to talk about today’s big scam, rising sea levels. I am writing this blog in response to a much ballyhooed NAS report released recently on the threat of rising sea levels. It is a remarkable report, and it looks like a couple of dozen respectable scientists were involved. That in itself does not make it correct, or even ethical.
Let’s understand the historical aspect of sea levels. Sea levels around the world have been rising for the last 160 years or so. Following the Medieval Warm Period when the Vikings settled and farmed Greenland, there was a period of time called the Little Ice Age about two hundred years ago when the Delaware River froze, the Thames River in London froze and the Brits held frost fairs on the frozen river. Glaciers that had almost totally melted during the Medieval Warm Period were reconstituted. Crops failed, and millions of people starved to death around the world.
Napoleon tried to conquer Russia in the middle of the Little Ice Age, and hundreds of thousands of his troops starved to death in that God forsaken time. The Russians were starving by the thousands, too. George Washington’s troops marched through three foot snows on occasion in New York and New Jersey. The Germans and English gave up on most of their vineyards, and started drinking beer, instead.
For some reason, most likely solar activity, the Little Ice Age ended in the mid to late 1800’s. The new warming had nothing to do with carbon dioxide or man’s interference with Mother Nature. The sea levels have been on a slow, and steady rise ever since. That happens when ice melts.
So the average global temperature is up right now, and that is one reason why ice is melting and sea levels rising. However, sea ice extent in Antarctica (South Pole stuff) is increasing! So, don’t look for much sea level rise as the Greenland and Antarctic ice are not melting as advertised by the money hungry scientists.
Sea level rise is minimal right now, and is only at about 1.7 mm per year. So, how can they make all their catastrophic predictions? Simple. They take the worst data of the last thirty years and extrapolate it forward to the present.
Don’t worry. Hiawatha will not get his moccasins wet, nor will old Nokomis’ teepee float away in the shining big sea waters because of rising levels. Most of all, New York City is not in danger of being flooded out, and you will not make a ton of money by opening Totes galoshes stores in Miami, Florida.
In my last blog post I took the position that natural gas hydraulic fracturing (fracing) is a good thing. This is an assertion that is born out by the history of natural gas drilling around the world over the last twenty to thirty years. Indeed, hydraulic fracturing has been used in one form or another for the last seventy plus years!
The technology has enough history, and the practitioners enough expertise that hydraulic fracturing should not be a problem, anywhere. It is physically impossible for seepage from a fractured shale formation over a mile deep to get to the surface. There are just too many layers of other, different types of rock prohibiting that seepage. The greatest risks for environmental problems lie elsewhere, not with the actual fracturing of a shale structure.
The environmental risks of any drilling technology can be expressed in three categories:
Water – This is perhaps the most common pollution problem found at a drilling site. The hydraulic fracturing itself does not cause a problem. Most environmental problems linked to fracing are caused by the mishandling of drilling muds, fracing water, waste water, transportation spills of toxic chemicals, and improperly constructed wells. The literature is very clear on this account. If the well is properly constructed, and if the fluids are handled properly, there is no problem. Please read this article from the Shale Gas Wiki.
Much of the so-called evidence against natural gas hydraulic fracturing is anecdotal. It is just one uninformed, emotional story after another. The people in New York State are rightfully concerned about the natural gas drilling into the Marcellus Formation. The same shale formation underlies portions of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio.There have been reports in these states of methane pollution of the drinking water. This is not unusual.
In one study it was found that out of 60 water wells tested in Pennsylvania and New York, eighty-five percent showed thermogenic methane content. This means that the gas was caused by natural seeps from deep in the earth. Thermogenic methane comes from deep underground, and biogenic methane is the stuff produced by biomass (garbage, etc.) near the surface. There had been no natural gas or oil drilling in that area.
The Marcellus shale structure shows up at different depths across Appalachia. In some places it is barely 1,000 feet under the surface, and in others it is over 8,000 feet beneath the surface.
Water drawn from wells that receive water from a coal seam has methane and other toxic chemicals with it. Water wells are a large source of the methane problem, but the consumer doesn’t know this because methane is colorless, odorless, and tasteless. There are about 20,000 unregulated water wells drilled in Pennsylvania and New York, every year. The probability of getting methane in the well water from natural sources is high.
Also, in about a thirty year stretch lots of gas wells were drilled in the Marcellus shale. Mistakes were made as the technology was developed. Many of the negative attitudes and stories originate in that development period.
Fracing is blamed for a lot of things. Just because there are natural gas wells in the area does not automatically mean that hydraulic fracturing is at fault.
Air Pollution – Natural gas is mostly made up of methane. In the natural gas extraction process, there are natural gas liquids produced, also. These are ethane, butane, and propane. There are some nasty gaseous compounds removed, also, and this is where air pollution can occur. If the removal processes are faulty, there will be escaping gas into the atmosphere.
Because there are over 860,000 oil and gas wells in the USA, it is safe to say that the oil company people have figured out how to keep the air unpolluted at drilling and processing sites.
Environmental activists go overboard on the danger of methane, and the risk it may pose to the environment. Remember, the natural gas drillers cannot make money from gas that is escaping to the atmosphere. They have a huge incentive to be safe and responsible with their operations.
It comes down to the fact that air polluting wells are not a technology problem.
Land Use – Here come the earthquakes. One of the most misunderstood risks about hydraulic fracturing is that they can produce earthquakes, usually micro-seismic events. We are not talking about the New Madrid quakes of 1811 and 1812 (the largest in the nation’s history). The seismic events caused by hydraulic fracturing, for the most part, cannot be felt on the surface. So, when someone says that they felt an earthquake and it was caused by fracing, season the information with a little salt.
Drilling wells is an ugly business. Ugly is pollution, too. The drilling structure is from fifty to one hundred feet tall. There is cleared land to accommodate the drilling equipment, fluid storage, and transportation equipment. Plus, roads have to be built to access the sites. With all those roads and tanker trucks come chemical and toxic water spills. This is the most common and greatest environmental risk in the whole process. This is also the most manageable portion. There are state and federal regulations about drilling, transporting, and cleaning up spills. Spills are avoidable.
So, there are real risks linked to natural gas shale hydraulic fracturing. All these risks can be properly mitigated. The technology is basically not a problem. The problems are management problems. With proper well construction, liquid transport and handling, and attention to details, environmental risks are relatively small.
Sometimes you just have to take the bull by the horns and look something up, or study a technology to learn the truth. I had to do this with global warming, and I am having to do it with natural gas fracking, technically known as hydraulic fracturing.
I have known that this process existed in the drilling of oil wells since we lived in Houston in the 1970’s. A simple Google search will tell you that fracking in oil wells has been done since the 1940’s. There are over 840,000 oil and gas wells in the United States, and about 1.2 million wells world wide. In most of these wells some form of hydraulic fracturing was used.
This is a paper written for the Society of Petroleum Engineers International, the professional society of engineers engaged in the petroleum industry. As such, their members have generated reams of technical studies about hydraulic fracturing. There have been over 550 papers on shale fracturing, and there are over 3,000 papers on all aspects of horizontal wells. This is one of the most studied and researched technical areas in science.
Whenever an oil or gas well is drilled, a risk matrix is constructed for that well and field by the company. Those guys have been at it for so long, and have done this so many times that these estimates of risk are pretty much everyday things. They know how to do this.
Here are some of the salient points of the paper.
1. Polluted ground water is not caused by hydraulic fracturing. Fracking in and of itself cannot pollute ground water because the fracking takes place over a mile under the surface. It is usually a well construction problem, and that is a problem easily mitigated. Most often, ground water pollution is caused by water well drilling, and the water seeping up through the well has come through a coal seam, and is already polluted. This is a well known problem, especially in New York and Pennsylvania. If you remember the first oil well was drilled in Pennsylvania in 1859. They didn’t drill to discover oil because it was laying all over the ground. There are thousands of places where oil seeps to the surface and contaminates ground water, naturally.
2. Risk of earthquakes is extremely over-stated. Earthquakes can be caused by hydraulic fracturing, but very few will be felt at the surface. We are not talking about San Francisco scale earthquakes, here. The quakes caused by hydraulic fracturing are usually micro-quakes, and very few reach the intensity high enough to be felt on the surface.
3. General surface pollution can be caused by other processes. There are many sources of pollution around drilling sites. Thousands of gallons of drilling mud are used there, along with the water used in the fracking process. Pollution can result from accidental spills, or from the transport of those fluids to the drilling site. Care has to be taken in these areas.
In the introduction the author makes the following statement:
“The spectacular increase in North American natural gas reserves created by shale gas development makes shale gas a disruptive technology, threatening profitability and continued development of other energy sources.”
Yep! Natural gas from shale takes money out of the pockets of coal companies, solar companies, and wind turbine companies. Natural gas from shale fracking is so cheap that everybody is against it except the consumer.
Now, you know why there is so much press against fracking in natural gas wells. There is no evidence that it will pollute the environment, or that is can poison an entire region’s water supply. There is no reason to panic, unless you are invested in solar and wind power.
I was going to write a Dad’s day blog about my father, and what a great man he really was. Even though he was a poor man, had not finished high school, or even entertained college, he was fairly intelligent. He had actually been a school teacher at one time during the Great Depression.
But, now you are stuck with me. Yep, I’m a Dad, and I am proud of it. My two children lived to adulthood, although we lost one when he was twenty-one years old. It was fun to be around him, and others agreed saying that wherever he went there was sunshine, music, and laughter.
One day he called from his college saying, “Dad, I had an epiphany. While I was in the bathroom I realized that I am just like you”. Yes, he was a clown, too. Even at that, I was very pleased to hear those words. It was one of those little jokes between father and son.
My daughter is one of those musically talented people. She is an artist. She, like my son, went to college on a voice scholarship. Now, she is a music teacher, and has delivered two of the most beautiful children on the face of the earth. It matters not whether they are as talented as my daughter. The idea is for them to be the genuine, loving persons my daughter and son became.
With the exception of my wife, my daughter is the most important person in my life. She is always concerned about my health, and promises to be an absolute health tyrant with her old man. She is unrelenting.
I was treated to a set of allergy tests, yesterday. Before the attendant could administer the tests, I was given several forms to sign. More than one was long, and I was wondering if the attendant would be patient enough for me to read every word. When asked, she said, “No problem”. Yeah, sure. She wanted me out of there so she could clock in another paying customer.
The form in which I was particularly interested was the one that gives the doctor and his staff permission to do the tests, and exhonerates them of any culpability in case there are any problems. I had read these, before.
There was one side effect I was looking for, and I found it at the very end of the list.
Yes, every medical form in the United States serves as CYA to doctors and other health professionals if something goes wrong. There is not one doctor who can guarantee you will walk out of their office alive and well.
The medical world is this way because of lawyers. There have been so many bogus lawsuits that medicine is now being practiced on a Cover-Your-Ass basis. It is the fault of lawyers.
Sure, there are creepy and incompetent medical doctors out there, but there are more creepy and corrupt lawyers. There are lawsuits that are justifiable, but many are not. Witness the lawyer ads on television pimping one ambulance chaser or another. These guys are now specializing in whether they go after whiplash, internal injury, or asbestos cancer cases. They advertise the drugs for which there are class action suits.
The medical sector is a big target for our lawyer friends. They are fishing for victims.
Tomorrow, I go to a medical doctor to have a growth removed from my back. I will look, once again, to see if I am excusing them for killing me if things go wrong.
I am paying someone to stab me in the back. If he kills me, he cannot be held responsible, nor will he give me my money back for botching the job.