Sunday, February 17, 2019

Things That Are Making Me Angry

Well, I've been good, I've stayed off of politics, but now I have a couple of things that are just setting my hair on fire.  It's good to share.

The Tennessee Valley Authority board of directors has voted to close two coal fired plants that generate electricity; despite significant pressure from the administration to keep them open.  They're old, they've passed their expected lifespan and they are not economically viable.  Closing them will save rate payers $320M.  Among the board members appointed by the current administration, only one voted for keeping it open.  Why, you wonder, is there such a full court press from the administration to keep these plants open?  Maybe it has something to do with this.  
Murray, founder of Murray Energy and a leading donor to Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, has been pressing the president to help prop up coal-fired plants since the beginning of the administration. Murray Energy gave $100,000 to the Trump campaign, $300,000 to the inaugural committee and $1 million to America First Action, a political action committee for the president.

In Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s first month in office, Murray presented a four-page “action plan” to rescue the coal industry. The plan said that commissioners at three independent regulatory agencies “must be replaced,” Environmental Protection Agency staff slashed, and safety and pollution rules “overturn[ed].”
For more, you can read the WAPO article.   There is also an article in a Tennessee paper that does not appear to have a paywall.  The coal guys are not going down without a fight.

Thursday the administration approved the expansion of two coal mines in Utah.  These are strip mines.  From the Salt Lake Tribune we learn that:
A $12 million project to expand a mine run by Alton Coal Development LLC will produce an estimated two tons (1,800 kilograms) of coal each year on land about 10 miles (16 kilometers) west of Bryce Canyon National Park and about 25 miles (40 kilometers) northeast of Zion National Park.
The other project was for lease modifications at a Sufco mine in Utah’s Sevier County in the central part of the state, which the agency says will extend the mine’s life by five years.
"American coal jobs matter," said acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt in the news release. "By approving these projects today, we will ensure that these mines are operational for years to come, providing well-paying jobs and affordable energy to the people of Utah."
Tourism creates more jobs and more money than the coal industry.  I found a really well written piece on the Outdoor Adventure blog that makes this point very succinctly.
Economically speaking, coal doesn’t come close to outdoor recreation and tourism—the outdoor recreation industry in Utah dwarfs the energy industry. Coal extracted on public lands in Utah contributes $748 million a year, the Department of Interior says. The Utah Geologic Survey puts the amount at $448 million from federal lands. Outdoor recreation generates $12.3 billion—16 times that of coal extraction. Outdoor recreation supports 110,000 jobs, more than energy (18,000 jobs) and mining (32,000) combined.
Despite 280,000 critical comments about this, the Department of the Interior has decided to go through with the expansions.  It will create more pollution, put coal trucks on US 89 in a high tourist traffic area.  Coal fired plants are closing - they're losing out to natural gas.  Why on earth does the administration want to strip mine some of the most beautiful country there is.  Even if it were ugly country, strip mines are ecological disasters.

So this is one of the many things that's making me crazy.

In other news we had a decent sunset yesterday, so that was good.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

It's Good to Turn Around and Live

Today we took the trail that branched to the left.  Yesterday, we went right.  I think right might be the better of the two forks.  It was windy and cool today.  Both of us were wearing long pants and long sleeved shirts, which is something of a rarity for Tucson.  It was, however, a pretty day with clouds moving through making shadows.

Someone was nice enough to make a cairn to indicate there was a trail split.

The trail continued up.

Unfortunately, I didn't get any pictures of the trail.  It was a steep little trail, and was side hill for much of the really steep part.  It kept getting more narrow, and was starting to give me the willies.  We reached this point.  I had to turn around and go back down.  Jim is looking at it contemplating his mortality.  What you can't see, because I had to retreat, is that you have to go around that outcropping and make it across a 12 inch wide piece of trail that's TOTALLY exposed.  One would have to not use the poles, face the rock and move the feet sideways.  Not today!  Falling would be fatal.

We went back down.  If you look dead center in the photo you can see the outcropping that we did not walk around.

Cactus are really tenacious.  This is a Cardon, which is a false Saguaro.  They don't grow arms.  Anyway, he's growing out of a rock.

Here is Jim, sitting on another rock.

The left arrow is where we were today, the right arrow is where we were heading yesterday.  I think next time we'll go right and try to make it to the top of the ridge.  Those trails are not side hill and aren't as willie inducing.

It was a good hike.  We're both really pleased at how many trails there are which can be reached from the house.  It the high winds don't die and the temperatures don't increase, we're never getting back on the bikes.

Friday, February 15, 2019

New Trails with No Names

We hiked a new to us trail today.  As is the case with much of Tucson Mountain Park, it's not on the maps and doesn't appear to be named.

As we headed out we could see Little Cat (farthest right, but closer to us) and Cat Mountain (farther back).

We were headed in this direction.  Gates Pass is on the other side of the ridge.  We think that's Ringtail Ridge.

On the way up we discovered a nasty batch of Buffel Grass.  It's estimated that in 100 years the Sonoran Desert will have been taken over by this grass.  It's very disheartening.  The root system is so large it requires a caliche bar to dislodge it.

We kept going up.  It's surprising that anyone took the time and effort to construct trails here.  Part of it is a water course, but part is actually constructed.

Look on the far right and you can see Little Cat and Cat Mountains.

We gained some elevation.  The trail entered a stretch that was really steep and full of loose rocks, so we turned around.  Coming down is way harder than going up.

See the dip in the center of the picture?  We were just about to crest the ridge there when we bailed.

Coming back we saw more deer.  It's interesting how often we see deer on hikes.  The cross bow hunters are always complaining that they don't see any.  I guess they are not traveling far enough to intersect with them.  There is another fork in the trail that we want to take next time to see where it goes.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

The End of Opportunity

NASA has ended the Mars Opportunity mission.  The rover's last transmission was that his battery was low and it was getting dark.  For a rover whose lifespan was supposed to be ninety days, the fourteen plus years spent on Mars was a major accomplishment.