Blog Archive

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

on Relocalisation.

It seems like every week , or so, there’s a new, improved Bogeyman that we should all be terrified of….an Existential Threat to Mom and Apple Pie and all things American. These new “threats” send us caterwauling blindly into inaction, or worse, counterproductive action…action that actually makes things worse, mostly in quiet, unnoticed ways.

The recent spat over the “Islamic Threat” is case in point…Tea People get worked up over a threat that does not exist, and the handful of Democrats feel strongly enough about it to speak up…and around we go!

Meanwhile, electric bills are high, gas is high, propane is high, meat is high and even the crappy produce we get around here is high. Water is scarcer than ever. There’s lots of problems, right here….and with DC and Austin stuck in Ideological Amber, it’s foolish to wait for help from that quarter.

What can we do?

Several years ago, when Hurricane Rita blew through Houston, we had an opportunity to see just how thin the Patina of Civilization is…the trucks stopped running…our supply line was all but cut. Gas ran out, first Regular, then the next grade up, till all that was left was the “Premium”, high dollar stuff. The grocery store , without regular trucks, began to run out of the things we need, want and rely on.

I have news for you. Oil is getting scarce….at least the “low hanging fruit”…The oil that’s left is hard to get at, due to geology, geography and quality. Heavy oil, as opposed to “Light,Sweet Crude” is hard to get out of the ground, and even harder to refine.(there is currently One (1) refinery in the US that can handle the heavy stuff, and last I looked, it was owned by Venezuela). Things like Tar Sands, Oil Shale, and the like are even worse…not only environmentally, but economically,. EROEI, energy return, on energy invested, is a concept that must enter common parlance. If it costs more energy to get a barrel of oil than is contained in that barrel of oil, then getting that barrel doesn’t make sense.That’s why there are so many idle pump jacks in West Texas…the field is played out…Texas(and the USA, in general, save Alaska) reached Peak Oil in 1971. This situation is also why the rigs, offshore, are getting deeper and deeper. The Easy Oil has already been sucked out and used up.

I could go on, but you get the picture. Further information can be had with a google search of “Peak Oil”…or you can ask me.

The rub is that we will have to do more things for ourselves, in much different ways than we are used to. There is simply no “Replacement” for Cheap Oil. A Relocalization of Everything is in order, if we want to salvage a modicum of Civilization. Mason , without Cheap, Easy Oil, is a Wilderness Outpost.

I note that while the drought has all our Ranchers scrambling to get rid of their herds, the price of meat actually goes up. Thousands of Cattle pass through Mason, every week…hardly a pound of hamburger stays here.Too, when I drive to Fredericksburg to get Lamb Chops, they are expensive, and come from Australia…after I drive past 1000 sheep on the way there! We need a local processing/slaughtering facility. Sadly, the Giant Meat Packers (all 4 of them!) have succeeded in jiggering the Regs to all but prevent Local Meat Processing. A Coop is probably the only way around this, but it needs to be done.

I also note that while, as mentioned above, we get pretty crappy produce around here(due to business practices, and the nature of the Factory Farm Model), it’s very difficult for any local gardener to sell produce, locally. Corporate Grocers require enormous Liability Insurance, and have quite silly policies regarding the sourcing of produce…again, the Regs are partly to blame, as they were written by the Big boys. This, unlike the Meat situation, is easy to fix. The city should make available space for a Farmer’s Market, or two….without the usual fees and unnecessary rules.

These two things, alone, would do wonders for Mason, in my opinion….not the least of which is a little income for all the poor people around here.

Hand in hand with these is so called Value Added Foodstuffs. One is required to make jelly, salsa, and whatnot( everything that is not fresh and raw, basically) in a “Code Kitchen”. These are expensive to build and maintain, and there’s not a lot of opportunity for profit making to justify such endeavors under the conventional model. The City could facilitate this by, at the very least, easing up on some of the taxes and codes for such a place…perhaps to be run as a “nonprofit”. Again, a source of income for all our poor folks, as well as an alternative to the boring, homogenous corporate controlled fare, available now.

On Energy, there is an enormous resource currently being vented to the atmosphere…and for which the city and county have been fined; Methane. Methane is “Natural Gas”, and is produced by every living thing. Our sewer system, and landfill and the feedlots, produce gobs of this stuff. All that is needed is to capture it, run it through charcoal, and burn it…to produce heat, electricity…to cook with. The septic tanks, out in the country are already(somewhat inefficient) methane digesters. My napkin calculations indicate that my little bunch, chickens included, produced enough Methane to negate our need for Propane, in an average Winter. Perhaps a tax incentive to our local Propane companies is in order to ease the pain of a transition.

Wind, too, is a viable alternative. I understand that no one really likes the idea of gigantic turbines on the hills, but wouldn’t it be great to have cheap power, for us? The recent flap over powerlines is a direct effect of the Centralization of Power Generation. As much as 40% of what is generated is lost in Transmission. I reckon the Power generated Here, should stay Here

The difficulty of doing all these things is why I’m a Democrat. Who, but Government, has the resources to undertake such large, but arguably essential, endeavors?

Most of these things require a large initial investment…and unless there’s a Bill Gates lurking in our hills, with an overriding concern for the welfare of Mason County, I don’t know where else to look. We can consider it “Creeping Socialism”, “Big Government” and all manner of other Evils…or we can look at it like a WPA, a CCC, for the 21st Century….an Investment in Us, for Us and by Us.

Just food for thought.

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