Passing thoughts, observations

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Following is some information and some excerpts from High Country News. In 2011, we exported, for the first time, more refined gasoline, diesel and other petroleum-based products than we imported. U.S. refineries produce almost 2 million barrels of refined fuels each day destined mostly for Canada and Latin America. The Wall Street Journal states, “The secret to making a profit these days is to source crude oil domestically and sell refined products to U.S. consumers at prices based on imported oil.” The American Petroleum Institute has been warning for years that if domestic drilling is restricted, we will freeze to death in the dark but now admits that we’re producing more than we’re consuming.

We’re exporting increasing amounts of crude oil. Since 1975, the Energy Policy and Conservation Act banned exports of domestic crude, but its provisions were relaxed during the Reagan and first George Bush administrations “in the nation’s interest.”

Despite continuing exhortations that we urgently need “energy independence,” there has never been a ban on exporting refined domestic products. Is it any wonder why U.S. consumers are charged so much for gasoline, diesel, and heating oil?

Not long ago, we were importing liquefied natural gas (LNG). As a result of recent methods of extracting natural gas from shale deposits, the domestic supply has dramatically increased, and the push is on to convert LNG import facilities into ones that can export LNG. Producers would stand to gain, but the price U.S. consumers should expect to pay would increase up to 25 percent within five years. Who besides the producers would stand to gain by an increase in the price of natural gas? Obviously, coal companies and oil companies that are not involved in gas production.

Environmental groups, led by the Sierra Club, are mounting a campaign to oppose exporting LNG, and are joined in the effort by some business leaders and elected officials, notable among whom is Oregon Senator Ron Wyden. John Kovash, writing in High Country News, states, “It’s time for the issue of energy exporting to become part of our overall discussion of America’s energy policy, because where we’re heading has everything to do with environmental degradation and nothing to do with energy independence.” Educators can receive a subscription to H.C. News free of charge (hcn.org/edu).

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Lee County commissioner Sheila Eckman contacted the Department of Transportation about the repaving of St. Rt. 14 and learned that the activity began at the Shug Jordan Parkway ramp and will extend westward to the Macon County line, a distance of 11 miles. The total cost is $4,489,510, is considered “routine maintenance,” and will be completed sometime between late March and early May. She was told, “It is considered wiser/cheaper to maintain the road before it starts to disintegrate.” As of Sunday, as nearly as I could determine, the resurfacing has been completed up to about four miles east of Loachapoka. (Note: Many of the residents that have been inconvenienced by the activity are constituents of Commissioner Eckman.)

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Advice to couples wishing to achieve conception. An article in the British Journal of Sports Medicine gave questionnaires to 188 healthy young men and analyzed their semen. Those who watched television more than 20 hours each week had a 44 percent lower sperm count in their semen than non-watchers. The researchers also reported that men who did moderate to vigorous physical exercise had 73 percent higher counts than men who were least active, but warned that certain exercises, such as bicycling, could increase scrotal temperatures, with consequent lowering of sperm production.

Also, it’s a well known fact that jockey shorts (tighty-whities) hold the scrotum closer to the body than boxer short do, keeping the testes warmer and lowering sperm production. (WebMD) Soaking in hot tubs also lower sperm production.

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“A diet high in fast foods seems to increase the incidence of asthma in young children and adolescents, survey data from more than a half-million people finds.” (Science News, Feb. 23) The report also states that consuming milk and fruit at least three times weekly appears to protect against the breathing disorder in all youngsters. Higher levels of saturated fats, trans-fatty acids, sodium, carbohydrates, and sugar were cited by the researchers to be “biologically plausible mechanisms” linking junk food to asthma and allergic diseases.

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A relative sent me an email containing the following. “I didn’t realize until now that my wife’s grandfather, Virgil C. Griffin, was the first US Naval aviator to take off from an aircraft carrier. He and his family were all originally from Opelika, Wetumpka and Eufaula. I suspect you have tramped over the same ground.” The carrier was the USS Langley, and the take off occurred in 1922. I asked some Geezers if they had ever heard about Virgil Griffin. None had. Has anyone else? If so, let me know.

 

Bob Mount is a Professor Emeritus with the Dept of Zoology and Entomology, Auburn Univ. He writes about birds, snakes, turtles, bugs and assorted conservation topics.

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