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Tuesday, January 01, 2008

FAR Future, Episode 18: Political Theater

The in-laws have a superstition that whatever you do on New Year’s Day establishes a pattern for the year ahead — thus, it’s a good day for doing things you want to do all year and avoid things you don’t want (like work). I’m not sure if it’s a southern belief, or specific to the in-laws — but I figured holding back on this FAR Future post for one day might be just the thing I need to establish a pattern I want in the year ahead. By this time next year, I hope to be posting Episode 60 or thereabouts.

Happy New Year, everyone, and don’t forget to go easy on the fossil fuels!

Friday, February 8, 2013
Political Theater

The whole secession thing died back for a while — it turned out a lot of the people who were willing to pander to the lowest common denominator weren’t quite willing to cut the cords. Planet Georgia, as I said back in December, huffed and puffed about “respecting our values and concerns” after the people turned out to be seriously conflicted about the whole matter. Other states mostly followed suit, although Wyoming and Utah look a little shaky these days. After this week, though, it might start making more noise again. Or not.

The new Congressional leadership agreed to “hear and seriously consider the proposals of the minority,” which is even smaller than before. I don’t know how they managed to say “seriously” with a straight face; the goplets, which great enthusiasm, took the opportunity to really show their butts to the entire nation. They crafted a big ol’ grab-bag of their pet legislation: drill ANWR (nobody believes it will make a difference anymore, but that didn’t stop them), abolish the NFRB (rationing), eliminate heating fuel subsidies for low-income families, big tax cuts for their patrons, eliminate pollution controls (in the name of “energy efficiency” of course)… basically, attempting to re-do all the damage that Bush-league did and we’ve all worked so hard to undo.

I think at the highest levels, their plan was to introduce the legislation, let it die in committee or via filibuster, and tell the base that the government wasn’t interested in their wants. Instead, the committees let each bill go through, with no amendments and no serious opposition — the last few rational goplets started trying to kill the bills themselves when they saw what was happening, but to no avail. C-SPAN then got to show the supporters doing some incredible verbal contortions. Naturally, when it came time for a vote, each bill went down in flames. “Hear and seriously consider” has nothing to do with “support,” thankfully.

Boy, did Shotgun Sam get an earful though! A bunch of callers were complaining “what were our guys thinking, wanting to kill heating assistance, me and my family would be freezing to death without it!” and “whose brilliant idea was it to try repealing rationing, it’s the only way I can get enough gas to get to work.” Once again, he was having a hard time steering the mood of the listeners. Indeed, repealing heating assistance went down 427-6 or something like that — the only goplets with the stomach to deal with their voters on that one were in Florida or some of the high-income districts. Or both. I guess it goes to show that not even the most rabid right-wing voter has more sense than their candidates, who seem willing to hurt himself for “the cause” — in the end, the goplets ensured that a few more of their own voters will sit the next election out, and maybe lose a couple more seats.

Well… we’ve gotten past the worst of the winter, unless we get a late freeze. In a few months, we’ll be wishing it was cold again. We’ll be “looking forward” to blackouts all summer long, I’m sure. I’ve got as much wind & solar generation at FAR Manor as I could afford, and it should be enough to run my computers for work and keep a fridge or two (mostly) going. I’m actually looking forward to some warmer weather; going to the creek to cool off is tons easier than chopping food & feeding a stove.



  1. Happy New Year FAR! Ha! Really like your inlaws superstition! Hope it's true, as I'm watching the Michigan/Florida game as of now! As well as doing some posting, I'll take the dog hunting rabbits later, and probably do some snowmachining. I suspose, going snowmachining does'nt bode to well with your advice of going easy with the fossil fuels!

    Last winter, I was maintaining a fleet of vintage racing snowmachines. This past summer, I got rid of them and only kept a couple of the more durable machines. Just in case I have to bug out of this place in a quick hurry, some day. I'd rather try to out run bullets or buckshot on one of these instead of on my snowshoes! ha! ha! However, nothing replaces snowshoes around here during a survival situation. That is, you cannot survive without them, when the power of fossil fuels is gone. Of course, you know this, having lived in Houghton. Ha! I think it was JMG who remarked only "real men" would attempt to live here under such conditions! I can remember replying, "or dead ones trying".

    Gee, liked your article! I hope the tax base is still there to subsidize heating fuel for the poor.... I'm going aganist the grain here, in predicting fuel will only be available to those that can afford it, (Sharon's theory). Fetching wood will be on the order for most people, I suspect. Did you know, if everyone in Michigan began heating with wood, that our forest would continue to grow in density and boardfoot? That is a fact. The equivalent of btu's used would not surpass the btu's being produced. Unbelieveable, eh? I suspect Planet Georgia is the same way...

    I'm somewhat surprized that you implied that the worst of Planet Georgia's winter is basically over at this time. Up here, the months of Jan., Feb. and even March are considered the worst months of winter!

    Thanks, yooper

  2. Hi Yooper. Does snowmachine = snowmobile, or is that more like a Sno-Cat? I know they're mostly recreational vehicles, but in a pinch they can still get you from Point A to Point B. A couple college buddies bought snowshoes back in the day & said they took a little getting used to. And of course there were/are x-country (and downhill) skiers…

    Interesting stat about wood heat. Did you see the Oil Drum article a couple weeks ago? Here, we try to stick to using deadfall — if we cut down a tree, it's because it's leaning toward the house or something. That helps to prevent ugliness on high-wind days like today.

    As far as winter goes, January is the coldest month here. But March is when we get the heaviest snow. (Freak late freezes, like we had in April this year, are pretty rare.) Here, if it's below 25, it doesn't snow at all… and above 33 or so, it's just rain. When we get snow, it's usually the wet sticky kind. Today's FAR Future post is dated February 2013… so January is already past.

  3. Hey FAR! Snowmachine as snowmobile. About 10 years ago, I did an investigative research project for a certain society. This was a co-operative effort between the society, the M.D.N.R., U.S.F.&W., U.S.F.S. and certain societies guarding sensitive information at the Washington Archieves. After almost two years in the making, I came forth with, "Continuous Aging of Michigan Forests".

    Not only was all recorded forest related data retrieved, compiled and analyzed, the study included aerial photography,(dating back to the 1920's) and latter satellite imagery.

    I cannot tell you what a bitter pill this was to swallow. As you might expect, this showed in pictures an undenialable decline, here.

    Much of this forested land was once owned by hugh paper companies, now is owned by China. This trend of the forest continuing to grow is not expected to change anytime soon. The forest in Michigan, Wisconsin and Minn. is now larger than when the first Europeans saw it.

    We've become very good at putting out fire. In effect, we are destroying the natural process of habitats. Without perferable habitat, certain spieces will die-off, those that cannot adapt. Something like JMG's successional thing.

    It takes many, many years to comprehend population dynamics and to correlate our human population over the last 100 years to that of spieces that cycle, displaying similiar dynamics, is tricky business. However, if I'm correct, the onset of die-off happens rather suddenly once the availability of resources being used has peaked.

    I missed the article over at the Oil Drum. I was very, very busy at that time, I'll go back to find it.

    Thanks, yooper

  4. Hiya FAR and yooper.

    FAR you are farther North than me and if there's any snow this year, you'll get it.

    I don't know about the forests for Alabama, but logging has become big business down here. When my brothers and sisters bought the family farm, the first thing they did was plant trees, pine mostly. One of my brothers pointed out some trees to me one time and told me that's his daughter college money there.

    I think I agree with yoppers that once heating oil goes out that we would revert back to wood, and coal for that matter. Regardless of what you think the environment should be and how to help out, if you're freezing, you'll burn whatever you need to stay warm. That's another thing I was thinking about when the cheap heating and A/C goes. Houses will be smaller. It takes a lot to keep these big houses warm/cold. Of course the rich will always have big houses, but the average person will see the sense in a smaller house.

    We're supposed to get down to 20 tonight. Just wish there was some precipitation to go along with the temp.

    FAR hope the knee is feeling better, and if not, drink some more champagne. ;)

  5. Hey family man! I could'nt agree more about the forest industry being big down there! This is where "Southern Pine" is grown and is superior in strenght compared to our northern pine, (pine, spruce, fir). Southern pine grows faster, the fiber being more dense and heavier. Southern pine is shipped here and is basically used in roof structure, trusses and such. Most common sizes are 2X8 and 2X10.

    Soft wood on the other hand is generally imported from Canada. It's used basically in wall/framing construction and most common sizes are 2X4 and 2X6. Imports of this wood is down around 75% as compared to a few years ago when the housing boom was going full steam.

    Generally speaking, houses here in the Upper Peninsula are much smaller in size, than our lower Michigan counterparts. The reason is they are much easier to heat. Heating with wood is very common here and in years to come will become much more common.

    I also think that heating with coal will also make a comeback. Especially in schools and larger buildings where coal is more practical than wood.

    Of course this will only exasperate the problem with global warming, but, as you pointed out, what choice do we have? Recently, a nuclear electrical generating plant was dismantled in favor for a coal driven plant, here. State regulations made it impossible for the nuclear plant to stay in operation.

    Thanks, yooper

  6. Hey guys.

    Speaking of wood heat, our friends brought over a cast-off Earth Stove fireplace insert today. It has a fair amount of surface rust (OK, a lot of surface rust), that I need to skim off then repaint.

    Yes, people will burn all sorts of stuff for heat if the gas is out. I mentioned that in the previous episode. ;-)

  7. Hey FAR! Yup, you're in business now with that Earth Stone fireplace insert! I can remember them being advertized in Mother Earth News years ago!

    We have a very good (400 lbs.) airtight woodstove and accessories,(pipe, protective shield, etc.)ready to go in the garage, just in case. It's not UL listed but once this baby is put into use, I doubt very much if we'll be carrying fire insurance any longer....

    Mrs. Yooper is allergic to wood smoke. I'll likely install this woodstove along the wall in the living room and will feed it from the outside.

    As of now we heat with propane, that is why I got the diesel generator. It will handle the deep well pump, the furance fan, the whole house. Diesel generators generally outlast their gas counterparts 10 to 1..

    Thanks, yooper

  8. Hey Yooper.

    Sounds like a good plan, feeding the stove from outside. You don't have to carry the wood into the house that way, even if it's rather miserable to go out & toss a log on the fire.

    I used to have a pretty good gas generator -- when we had Ice2K, it ran the house for 5 days straight without a hiccup. I simply ran it every couple of weeks for an hour or so to keep it limber, so to speak, then shut off the petcock & let it run the gas out of the carb (to prevent gumming up). It's probably still chugging along, but The Boy "borrowed" it for some of his friends who had their electricity cut off, and it get "stolen" (i.e. most likely sold to buy drugs with) from there.

    Of course, in the long run, getting fuel to run either kind is going to get difficult....

  9. Hey Far! I went back and checked that article on the drum. Very good! Yes, dead standing timber would not even begin to solve the heating problems we're sure to experience in the future. Here's the real kicker, how much of the precious fossil fuel would be required to obtain firewood? To even take it one step further, how much bodily energy does it require to obtain firewood, would it be an net energy savings or just a "sink"? This is so important for people to realize. If it takes more energy than what it's worth, then why bother?

    I used to laugh at people buying generators, thinking they'll get by.... Again, you must weigh the gains you hope to recieve against the cost of operation. Is it worth it?

    It's been a tremendous leap of faith for me to come to think that this might be a slow collaspe. Perhaps, I'm wrong,(again) and I'll be happy to have the generator, during spot, short outages.

    FAR, I live not six miles away from a prison that houses 5,000 violent men. I have some very realistic grave concerns about the amount of time before these men would manage to escape or be let out during a lenghty power outage. At this point, I'm not going to risk my life or that of my wife, we will be forced to flee. It's just that simple for me. We have a place to go where it will be safe.

    Think my situation is unique? Think again. Perhaps, your generator being "ripped off" would be the least of your worries during a lenghty power outage....If your generator can be ripped off during times like these, what might happen when people become really desperate? It's something to think about.....

    Thanks, yooper

  10. Hi Far. Happy new year!

    As to heating with wood, I'm amazed at how many of my friends and neighbors are doing it. Unfortunately, we haven't been using our wood stove because it gives madame b some breathing difficulties.

  11. Yeah, losing my gennie was really an inside job, but stuff does walk away. I suppose if I lived 5 miles from a max security prison, I'd be looking for a bug-out point too. But I suspect it's just as likely that "they" would just turn off the water, lock the place down, and walk away. The inmates would be dead in a week, maybe two if they drink out of the toilet.

  12. Hi FAR, this story is getting so REAL. I find myself worrying about your safety. I hope you aren't seeing the future.

  13. KB, it's Yooper who lives close to a prison. We throw some ideas around on The Archdruid Report; the Archdruid is on vacation for a month so we're just yakking over here.


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