Thursday, March 29, 2012
No one could have predicted that oil prices would rise to today’s levels. Saudi Arabia’s oil minister, Ali al-Naimi, says they are irrationally high, pointing out that world demand is lower than the available supply and that Saudi oil inventories around the world are largely untapped. The “irrational” cause, of course, is fear of a war with Iran. But it would also have been unpredictable that a 47 percent hike in oil prices since November 2010 would not cause a major slowdown in the U.S. economy. One reason it hasn’t might well be the rise of shale gas.
By now, the basic facts are well known. It was only a few years ago that most experts were warning of an imminent shortage of natural gas in the United States. But thanks to the efforts of a small private company, Mitchell Energy, combined with a horizontal drilling procedure called hydraulic fracking, it has become possible to extract vast quantities of natural gas from shale, which this country has in abundance.
As with so many stories of American ingenuity, Mitchell Energy had a little help. In the 1970s, the federal government initiated the Eastern Gas Shales Project and funded dozens of hydro-fracking demonstration projects. The Energy Department pioneered a technique known as massive hydraulic fracturing, a key step along the way. It subsidized Mitchell Energy’s first successful horizontal drilling in the North Texas Barnett Shale region in 1991. Between 1978 and 1992, the federal government spent $137 million to develop these technologies.
Whoever gets the credit, the effects are widespread. The United States has 860 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas, which would give the country 75 years’ worth of gas consumption at current rates. More important, the United States has become the world’s low-cost producer of natural gas. That fact is already changing the future of U.S. manufacturing. Companies such as Dow Chemical and Westlake Chemical are finding that low U.S. energy costs can mitigate the lower cost of labor in Asia — making it economical to keep and even build manufacturing facilities in the United States.
That might also help explain why high oil prices are not slowing down the U.S. economy as much as has been feared. Robert Hefner, a natural gas entrepreneur and author of “The Grand Energy Transition,” points out that the cost of heating 65 million American homes by natural gas has fallen $20 billion annually.
The environmental concerns are well taken. But the best studies out now — such as one by a committee that included the head of the Environmental Defense Fund — suggest that fracking can be done in a safe and responsible manner. Many of the riskiest practices are employed by a small number of the lowest-cost producers, a situation that calls for sensible regulation. Larger companies would probably welcome a set of rules, because they would want to follow best practices to protect their reputation and brand.
The age of natural gas will have geopolitical consequences. Until now, oil has been traded on a global market, but natural gas has been local. Because it is difficult to transport gas, countries with abundant resources and good pipelines get to set the price. Russia is able to demand up to $17 per thousand cubic feet from neighbors such as Ukraine and nations in Europe. The United States can produce natural gas for $2.50 per thousand cubic feet, and it has the world’s best and cheapest liquefying technology. Liquefied natural gas will create a single global market, and when long-term Russian contracts with Europe expire, Moscow will face a dramatic shortfall in revenue. We will move from a world in which a few countries — Russia, Iran, Qatar, Saudi Arabia — control the price and supply of natural gas to one in which this energy source is far more dispersed. (For now, Iran has access to none of the technology needed to capitalize on its resources.)
Oil is famously found in difficult, dysfunctional places — and oil may be the cause of those problems. The new finds of shale gas are not in traditional resource states. The largest deposits appear to be in China, with sizable ones also in Argentina, Mexico, Poland, Canada and Australia. The geopolitical ramifications of these deposits are many, but some things are clear: It will be a blessing for Poland to have its own secure energy source and not have to depend on the vagaries of the Kremlin.
The rise of shale gas is shaping up to be the biggest shift in energy in generations. And its consequences — economic and political — are profoundly beneficial to the United States.
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Monday, March 26, 2012
Sunday, March 25, 2012
Friday, March 23, 2012
The 1988 Mustang 302 V8 has been "cobra-ized" a bit. It has an electronic ignition - an Edelbrook carburetor - and bits of chrome here and there. It is amazing how few wires and hoses are under the hood. The engine bolted right into the old mounts - there seems to be plenty of room.
Thursday, March 22, 2012
THIS week, Robert De Niro made a joke about first ladies, and Newt Gingrich said it was “inexcusable and the president should apologize for him.” Of course, if something is “inexcusable,” an apology doesn’t make any difference, but then again, neither does Newt Gingrich.
Mr. De Niro was speaking at a fund-raiser with the first lady, Michelle Obama. Here’s the joke: “Callista Gingrich. Karen Santorum. Ann Romney. Now do you really think our country is ready for a white first lady?”
The first lady’s press secretary declared the joke “inappropriate,” and Mr. De Niro said his remarks were “not meant to offend.” So, as these things go, even if the terrible damage can never be undone, at least the healing can begin. And we can move on to the next time we choose sides and pretend to be outraged about nothing.
When did we get it in our heads that we have the right to never hear anything we don’t like? In the last year, we’ve been shocked and appalled by the unbelievable insensitivity of Nike shoes, the Fighting Sioux, Hank Williams Jr., Cee Lo Green, Ashton Kutcher, Tracy Morgan, Don Imus, Kirk Cameron, Gilbert Gottfried, the Super Bowl halftime show and the ESPN guys who used the wrong cliché for Jeremy Lin after everyone else used all the others. Who can keep up?
This week, President Obama’s chief political strategist, David Axelrod, described Mitt Romney’s constant advertising barrage in Illinois as a “Mittzkrieg,” and instantly the Republican Jewish Coalition was outraged and called out Mr. Axelrod’s “Holocaust and Nazi imagery” as “disturbing.” Because the message of “Mittzkrieg” was clear: Kill all the Jews. Then the coalition demanded not only that Mr. Axelrod apologize immediately but also that Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz “publicly rebuke” him. For a pun! For punning against humanity!
The right side of America is mad at President Obama because he hugged the late Derrick Bell, a law professor who believed we live in a racist country, 22 years ago; the left side of America is mad at Rush Limbaugh for seemingly proving him right.
If it weren’t for throwing conniption fits, we wouldn’t get any exercise at all.
I have a better idea. Let’s have an amnesty — from the left and the right — on every made-up, fake, totally insincere, playacted hurt, insult, slight and affront. Let’s make this Sunday the National Day of No Outrage. One day a year when you will not find some tiny thing someone did or said and pretend you can barely continue functioning until they apologize.
If that doesn’t work, what about this: If you see or hear something you don’t like in the media, just go on with your life. Turn the page or flip the dial or pick up your roll of quarters and leave the booth.
The answer to whenever another human being annoys you is not “make them go away forever.” We need to learn to coexist, and it’s actually pretty easy to do. For example, I find Rush Limbaugh obnoxious, but I’ve been able to coexist comfortably with him for 20 years by using this simple method: I never listen to his program. The only time I hear him is when I’m at a stoplight next to a pickup truck.
When the lady at Costco gives you a free sample of its new ham pudding and you don’t like it, you spit it into a napkin and keep shopping. You don’t declare a holy war on ham.
I don’t want to live in a country where no one ever says anything that offends anyone. That’s why we have Canada. That’s not us. If we sand down our rough edges and drain all the color, emotion and spontaneity out of our discourse, we’ll end up with political candidates who never say anything but the safest, blandest, emptiest, most unctuous focus-grouped platitudes and cant. In other words, we’ll get Mitt Romney.
Saturday, March 17, 2012
Friday, March 16, 2012
Thursday, March 15, 2012
Written by Jim Lamar of the Tallahassee Democrat
NASHVILLE — A traveling party that numbered 114 people and included members of the Seminole Sound band and the Golden Girls made it obvious that this was no ordinary road trip.
But the Florida State men's basketball team did everything possible to make sure the 70-minute, non-stop flight to Nashville did nothing to distract from the business at hand.
From the comfort of their first-class seats on the Delta-chartered airplane, players slept or watched movies on their various portable electronic devices. (Senior guard Luke Loucks used the 70 minutes of free time to complete an essay for his "Sport in Media" class that is due this morning.) FSU coaches sat 20 rows behind the players — buffered by student assistants and team managers, support staff, administrators and a handful of boosters — watching game film of St. Bonaventure on their laptop computers. At one point, FSU coach Leonard Hamilton leaned across the aisle to grab assistant coach Corey Williams and say, "These guys are good."
Even as the group arrived in Nashville and headed directly to the Downtown Sheraton hotel — just a block or two away from the strip of bars and "honkey tonks" that helped earn the nickname "Music City" — players and coaches continued to keep their focus on the business end of this trip.
"It's a little bit different flying with the band and the media and the Golden Girls," Loucks said. "It's usually just the team and the support staff. Obviously there is a little more excitement in the air. But I think all of us guys are focused in that this is a business trip and we're here for a basketball game."
That basketball game tips off at approximately 2:45 p.m. on Friday, leaving the team a chance to absorb some of the Nashville atmosphere. A short break at the hotel gave players enough time to freshen up for a team meal at a restaurant in the downtown area that specializes in "Southern and country" cooking.
Afterward, the team returned to the hotel to continue mental preparations for Friday's game. A film session was scheduled as was a review of scouting reports.
That helped snap the players back into work mode, especially after a wild two days that followed the victory over North Carolina that clinched FSU's first ACC championship.
"With the veterans we have on this team, everyone knows what to expect in this tournament," Loucks said. "We'll be focused and ready to play."
Finding that focus hasn't exactly been the easiest of tasks the last few days. More than 100 fans showed for a special send-off celebration for the players and coaches on Wednesday and the buzz on campus has been even stronger.
"It's been crazy," senior guard Deividas Dulkys said. "We're trying to refocus. There is a lot of excitement still around campus. Everybody keeps talking about it. But you go to practice and try to stay focused and remember the task is to win more games."
FSU players will take part in an open practice session today at Bridgestone Arena, the site of Friday's game, from 2:15-2:55 p.m.
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Monday, March 12, 2012
Sunday, March 11, 2012
It is a little tiring hearing about how Florida State is a football school. The fans of Duke and Carolina are used to having everything their way. They get the best seats in the arena - they get to pick the city where we play - it seems they get to pick the best restaurants - hotel - decorations - cars - and bling. They do not like some little upstart basketball program from "the land of the misfit toys" to come to town and challenge their supremacy.
Saturday, March 10, 2012
The Residence Inn Atlanta Downtown is a 21-story hotel tower occupying the former Rhodes-Haverty Building at 134 Peachtree Street NW and Williams Street in the Fairlie-Poplar historic district of downtown Atlanta, Georgia. The building was designed by Atlanta architects Pringle and Smith. At the time of its construction in 1929, it was the tallest building in the city, and remained so until 1954.
The building and the district are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Lulu booked it because it was close to the Arena - it has free wifi - free breakfast - and free happy hour.
Friday, March 09, 2012
We are at Lenox mall. Nancy landed 4 tickets together. Front row. For session 4. Both the Duke and FSU games. She got them for $22 each. They are $60 face value. Front row but upper deck! Scalpers were asking $150 each last night for them. We can always move down or sell them if we get better tix. Jackie and Tami are coming - Jackie is LuLu's brother.
Thursday, March 08, 2012
Walked about 5 blocks from our hotel. Gobs of scalpers. Ready for tip off. Clemson and Va Tech. Tickets are 4 two games. Nice new arena. Philips arena.
Added later - Clemson beat VaTech - Miami beat Ga Tech. FSU will play Miami at the 9 PM game Friday. It will be an expensive ticket because Duke plays in that same session - Session 4.