Saturday, February 25, 2006

Dubya and Dubai

It's been entertaining to see the hysteria surrounding the deal to sell the firm that manages six U.S. ports to a United Arab Emirates firm. There has been a bipartisan eruption of dismay and disbelief at this, and the President, who wasn't involved in the decision (there's a shock) has admonished the opponents of the deal for being racist.

There is a certain satisfaction in all this. This Administration has hearkened back to the terrorist attacks of 9/11 to justify all sorts of abrogations of our rights and liberties domestically and treaties internationally. Bad behavior, whether it's reclassifying documents, holding U.S. nationals without habeas corpus or torturing prisoners, is justified due to the fight against terrorism. There are some shameful commercials running now in Minnesota which again tie the Iraq war to the 9/11 attacks. Now, let us be clear about this; Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 and none, not one, of the 9/11 hijackers was Iraqi. Neither did Iraq have weapons of mass destruction and many in our intelligence community knew it and were ignored or suppressed. Now we find ourselves with over 2,000 dead Americans, thousands more wounded and maimed and a bill approaching half a trillion dollars.

Compare that to the United Arab Emirates, where Dubai is located. Two of the 9/11 hijackers were Emiratis (both on United flight 175), money to fund the operation came through banks located in the Emirates and the country has been a common route for weapons proliferation activities, including facilitating the transshipment of nuclear weapons materials to Iran from A. Q. Khan, the head of the Pakistani nuclear weapons program and probably the world's worst proliferator.

Now, given the utter lack of involvement in 9/11 of Iraq and the war there we've pursued regardless, doesn't the involvement of actual Emirati personnel and financial institutions in the 9/11 attacks and the participation in weapons of mass destruction proliferation activities give this Administration even a moments' pause? I watch television and these patriots on the commercials tell me that the war in Iraq is justified and reminds us of the 9/11 attacks with photos even though, to reiterate, Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. (The commercials also tout the great strides in Iraqi democracy, about which I don't give two hoots, but are silent regarding weapons of mass destruction or the utter lack of planning for the postwar occupation). Then I see the President wonder why there is any concern when a nation who had citizens participate actively in the 9/11 attacks takes over running several major ports.

Should we be all worked up? You know, probably it's no big deal, running the ports involves scheduling trucks and maintaining cranes, more than likely a company from Dubai is as good as anyone. The security at these ports is lax already, it's not likely to be any worse now, if you can call that reassuring. Also, the people who actually do the work of running the company tend to be Westerners, American, British, Australian, etc., not actual Emiratis. Realistically, it's probably not a security threat, but our President has used hysteria at every turn to justify the Iraqi war and the excesses of the war on terror so should not be surprised when that same hysteria is turned against him on what can only be described as a tone-deaf political decision.

In at least a snippet of good news, our President during his State of the Union speech talked about our addiction to oil and all the alternative energy programs we're working on at the same time the actual National Renewal Energy Laboratory announced that it had to fire 32 people working on ethanol and wind energy projects due to a $28 million funding cutback. As part of a tour to tout his energy programs Mr. Bush visited the lab. The hypocrisy of touting these energy sources as the key to future on one hand and simultaneously firing the actual researchers on the other was apparently too much for even Mr. Bush to bear and the Department of Energy rustled up $5 million to restore the positions cut, although the actual employees hadn't all been called back the day Mr. Bush visited. The lab's funding is still down $23 million from last year. They're going to cut back on employee travel, conferences and subcontractors.

Bikewise, it seems a quiet time of year. The initial novelty for new winter riders has passed and we're into the dreary, ugly part of the season. The evenings seem pretty bright, the worst of the cold snaps is behind us, the snow's ugly, the streets dusty with sand and salt so that passing cars can leave a salty taste in your mouth. There is a Bike Swap at the Saint Paul Academy School Gym on Sunday which I might go to. I had planned to do a circuit of all the stores carrying used bikes to see if there were any good 3-speeds available for the Lake Pepin Three Speed Tour (for a friend of mine, I despair of finding one my size) but my buddy bought a Rudge off eBay so even that isn't needed now.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Shoot First, Answer Questions Later

Vice President Richard "Dick" Cheney's shooting of 78-year-old hunting companion Harry Whittington last Saturday has brought on an onslaught of jokes and comments. There are a couple of angles which I don't think have got a lot of coverage.

Locally, has anyone tied this to our former Governor Jesse Ventura's comments about "you haven't hunted until you've hunted man"? Minnesotans may recall that Jesse was being interviewed at a time when his choice for the Department of Natural Resources commissioner was under question. Jesse dismissed deer hunting as being for wimps, and said that until you've hunted man, a prey that can shoot back, you haven't really hunted, alluding to his time in the military. By his reckoning, I guess Vice President Cheney has now really hunted, though he kind of cold-cocked Mr. Whittington. Pity he hit him in the face, it sort of ruins the trophy.

It's also illuminating to recall that during the 2004 election, John Kerry was mocked by the Bushies when he went hunting. As I recall, Mr. Kerry never shot anybody accidentally (he did shoot people while in the employ of the United States Government, much like Mr. Cheney just did, but that was in Vietnam, and he didn't just wing them). The sniggering mockery looks pretty lame now, as Mr. Cheney's gun handling skills appear deficient.

Mr. Kerry was also mocked during the 2004 campaign for having an $8,000 bicycle. Mr. Cheney's shotgun is a custom-made Italian Perazzi that runs $7,500 or more. Both men are plenty wealthy, they can spend their money where they want, but why is it worth mocking to have an expensive bike but not to have an expensive shotgun? Appropriately enough, the Perazzi home page has a graphic of a man with a sight aimed at him. Now, if you were John Kerry, wouldn't it be deeply tempting to say Mr. Cheney, if you like shooting so much, why didn't you come and join us in Vietnam rather than getting multiple deferments? The Army would have shown you how to handle a firearm properly too, so as to minimize these friendly fire casualties. (I particulary like Mr. Cheney's baby deferment: one day the government said married men without children would no longer be exempt from the draft. Nine months and two days later, the Cheneys had their first child. That's performing on demand!)

Finally, it's interesting to note that the Law and Order Vice President didn't have the required Quail Stamp for his hunting license. He's since sent in a check for $7 to get this. No word on whether or not he had the Lawyer Stamp, or what the bag limit is on 78-year-olds.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Some UK Cycling Notes

Some various notes from the last few days.

I rode to church again. It was our priest's last Sunday, so for the third week in a row we did an 11:00 Festival service rather than the usual 9:00 Stodgy/11:00 Lame service schedule. Since the choir sings the Stodgy service (which is becoming somewhat less stodgy as time goes on) and has to warm up, we need to be there before 8:30 most Sundays, and at up to an hour and a half to ride in requiring a 7AM departure, it's unlikely I'll be riding in on Sunday mornings for a while. It was another cold morning, 16F when I left, but clear and dry and a routine ride. After church, I partook of my new favorited Sunday afternoon riding tradition, not finding a bike store whose location I more or less know. Last Sunday I rode obliviously by the new Hiawatha Cyclery; this Sunday it was the turn of Sunrise Cyclery. I remembered this as being at 31st and 3rd Avenue, rode there, and trolled up and down a couple of blocks without success. Turns out that it's at 31st and 2nd Avenue, I was a block away, but by then I'd given up, got on the Midtown Greenway and ridden home. I was going to look to see what Sunrise had in the way of used 3-speeds; I bought a 1967 Sturmey-Archer AW 3-speed hub from the Sibley Bike Depot on Saturday (another ride, but this time I at least knew where Sibley was!) to build a wheel, but a friend of mine is looking for a 3-speed for the Lake Pepin Three Speed Tour in May. Oh well, I'll have to try Sunrise some other time.

Speaking of English 3-speeds, there was an article in the New York Times last week about how accurately Woody Allen's new movie Match Point portrays London's geography. This is the photograph from the article:

Match Point photo from NY Times
I like how the main prop in the photo is a bicycle, what looks to be an English 3-speed. I hope it's locked, because from what I can tell, bicycle theft is a big problem in the UK, especially in London. One wonders what the prop would be in New York. A hot dog stand? A yellow cab? Cops beating some Critical Mass riders?

Speaking of English bikes, I rode a week ago Sunday to a friend's house in Bloomington to watch the Super Bowl. I parked my bike in their garage, and then, when leaving, saw what looked like an English 3-speed in the garage. The wife in this couple is from Northern Ireland, so I inquired at choir practice on Wednesday. Turns out this is a Cyclemaster, a 25.7cc two-stroke gasoline powered bike her father, a priest, bought in 1950 and used for several years to make the rounds in his parish before he could afford a car. The bike cost 25 pounds, the Cyclemaster accessory was 25 pounds more, at a time when he made 400 pounds a year. They've kept it all these years and now the husband has got it running again.

Cyclemaster in Ireland  1963
This is a photograph of the Cyclemaster in 1963, still in Ireland. This couple has a scan of the owners manual and I slapped it together in a PDF file and have posted it to the web. Once the weather warms up, we're going to get this thing out and play with it and take some photos. It looks like good fun. It would be fun, and truly British, to take on the Lake Pepin Three Speed Tour but that might be unsporting.

More English cycling news. The Tour de France is starting in Britain in 2007, the Prologue in London and the first stage from London to Canterbury:

2007 Tour de France  Stage 1  London to Canterbury

Well, my family's English, I have a heap o' cousins over there, so I looked up a couple of addresses in the Yahoo! UK Maps and compared them with the roads in my Ordnance Survey Motoring Atlas of Great Britain. It looks like one cousin lives about 1.5 miles off the route early in the stage when the race goes from London towards Greenwich and another lives one mile off the route as it passes through the Kent town of Tonbridge. Sadly, none of my cousins had the foresight to move to Canterbury. Although I doubt that I will do anything about it, it is tempting to imagine hiring a motorcycle (from Scootabout in London, where a friend and I rented Honda 500s for a couple of happy weeks in 1985), catching the race going by in London, then zooming off to Tonbridge to see it pass there as well. Well, we've got more than a year to consider it.

These cousins are the children of my Uncle John, who died in December. As related in an earlier entry, I was unable to attend the funeral. However, we were sent a copy of the Reflections on Uncle John's life. From a cycling point of view, these bits are interesting:
"As a teenager he was a keen cyclist, making expeditions alone equipped with a small tent or sometimes accompanies by his friend Trotter Trout....He still cycled and traveled during the vacations and in 1939 whilst his family were camping in Folkstone he and a friend were on bikes well in to France. Heading east near Reims they encountered refugees fleeing in the opposite direction and decided the wisest course was to turn around and pedal hard for the Channel ports...[he was] commissioned into the 109th Field Artillery of the Royal Artillery and spent time training at various locations including Northumberland and Cumbria. He rode a large motorcycle for a short time until he hit a milk van head on but was saved by flying over the roof and landing on the road, only cutting his leg with a small scar that he would show us when we were small."
I stayed home Monday, wife's on jury duty, daugher's sick, and left only to pick up my truck. It was making some hideous noises from the back. It's a 1996 Ford Ranger, made right here in Saint Paul, a little less than 67,000 miles on it, and it needs a differential rebuild. What do you do? I OK'd it, and it was $1,700. Funny how you just swallow and pay up to fix a motor vehicle, even a cheapish one that is running into problems way too early, when spending that kind of money on a bike is something I agonized over for years. And I like bikes. I rode my bike up to the dealership to pick up the truck, then tossed the Marin in the back and drove home. On the way up, when cars passed by, the dust they kicked up tasted salty. We're in for a cold week these next few days, but it won't be long and winter will be over.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

A Cold and Frosty Morning

I've been riding some more. Once you get used to this cold weather thing, once you're over the fear that you're going to freeze to death, it's kind of fun. My rides remain mostly to church. Sunday the Bishop was visiting so the main service wasn't until 11:00 so there was plenty of time to ride (typically the choir needs to be there at 8:30 or so, and it's unlikely that I'll be out the door at 7AM on a Sunday to make this). I set out in 8F temperatures amid frozen icy particles drifting about and cloud-thinned sunshine. It was pretty, and kind of fun to take the same route I've been using Wednesday nights but in daylight.

State Fair Grounds in February
The State Fair Grounds on a February Sunday morning. There was just a light dusting of snow on the ground.

Mississippi River north from Lake Street Bridge
Looking upriver from the Lake/Marshall Bridge. The river is finally icing up, having remained open water through our warm January.

Ice on the Mississippi  February 2006
Not that I'd want to walk on this ice.

Frosty Matt on Lake Street Bridge
I'm looking nice and frosty. I like the frost on the ear covers, my breath flowing back in the slipstream and freezing. I had to pick a lot of ice out of my beard when I got to church--I'm only halfway there at this point.

There are enough cyclists in these Cities that even at 9:00AM on a frosty Sunday morning I wasn't the first bike down these streets. Down Pelham, across the Lake/Marshall Bridge and then down 46th Avenue I followed in the path of someone else. They had carried on down 46th as I turned onto 42nd Street.

Once church was over, we were invited to watch the Super Bowl at some friends' in Bloomington. By now it was 1:30 and I figured there wasn't much point in riding home, just to turn around and drive down. Karla and the kids headed home in the car while I set off on the bike.

I thought I'd take a crack at Hiawatha Cylcery, which I recalled being on 54th Street somewhere, down towards the eastern end. I rode down the Minnehaha Creek Trail for the first time since early November, alongside the icy creek and past the dog-walkers who seem to be the main users now. I met one other cyclist coming the other way. It was in the low 20s by now, but sunny, and felt warmer. I rode right the way down 54th Street and didn't see Hiawatha Cyclery though I must have ridden right past it. Oh well. I crossed over to Minnehaha Park and rode the upper path to Fort Snelling. The main obstacle here is the airport--I wanted to be south of it. My choice was to circle all the way around the western end or take the Fort Snelling State Park loop to the Post Road. I did this.

Me at Fort Snelling  February 2006
Me up by the Fort. Fort Snelling was established in 1829 and one wonders how these folks kept warm through these frigid winters. They wouldn't be all that impressed that I ride a bike in this weather.

Local cyclists might be familiar with the very steep hill right next to the fort that takes you from the blufftop to the river valley. This ends abruptly at a T intersection right at the bottom of the hill which merits caution even in summer. This path hadn't been cleared and was still snow-covered and in some parts pretty icy. I gingerly rode down, dragging the back brake in particular all the way down, then set off into the park. The roads were cleared and I made my way around and then up the park entrance road to the Post Road. Here, consulting my excellent Twin Cities Bike Map, I plotted my course down past the Humphrey Terminal to Old Shakopee Road and eventually to 106th Street under the Interstate and to our friends' house where I staggered in baying for beer and football.

The novelty of this was that all the trip south of the airport was new territory for me, places I hadn't previously ridden, yet I was content to plug along finding my way through even though it was 20F outside. It was like it was a day in May. I ended up doing 32 miles from the time I set off from home, this on a bike I don't think I've ever ridden more than 35 miles in a day, and now hobbled with snow tires and chain grime. I would hardly call myself a dedicated winter cyclist, for these conditions (cold, dry and sunny with mostly dry and sandy roads) are pretty easy, but this whole winter riding thing does take some getting used to and I think I'm getting there. It is worth noting that I didn't ride home, instead slapping the bike rack on the back of the Toyota and hauling the bike back when the game was done.

I rode again Wednesday to choir practice and then, uncharacteristically, rode home. I was helped in part by my new headlight, a Light and Motion Solo Logic SL. I couldn't be happier with this light, a 13W halogen headlight that casts a bright and wide beam (you can actually focus it), is non-fussy on the bike (just a battery and the light head, no auxillary switch wires or other nonsense) and has a plug-and-forget charger. The light casts a beam virtually as bright as a car headlight, just narrower (I was noting that I could still just make out my light patch on the street as cars overtook me with their lights on). With this lighting my way and the three blinkies on back (albeit on steady, not blinking), I feel like a pretty visible road user.

Mount for two blinkies on Marin
This is my mount for two taillights on the rack. I figure that these will look like one bright light at a distance and resolve into two smaller lights as people draw closer. I also have some reflective tape here.

I also got a good demonstration of the studded tires in action. I took a slightly different route to church including riding down 32nd Street. This dumps you into Powderhorn Park and the map says to go around the northern end of this. This was the wrong direction by a block or two, so I instead rode through the park. This drops down to a frozen pond with people skating on it, then up a short, sharp hill to the street. This sidewalk wasn't cleared but had been trodden down and then frozen and I rode up. Going up, in a low gear, I was pushing hard enough that the rear wheel would spin a fraction of a rotation and then grip as the studs reasserted themselves. Without another bike there to try it, I can't be certain, but I think a non-studded tire would simply have spun on the icy sidewalk and I would have been unable to ride up the hill. I rode triumphantly off at the top and headed on south.

I am pretty slow. I keep finding myself seeing 14 and 15 mph on the computer but then averaging 10.2 mph or something over the whole trip. Maybe it's because I'm not looking at it when I grind my way up some slippery sidewalk at 4.5 mph or whatever. Also, I can't read the computer most of the time unless I go under a streetlight.

On the way home, I noticed as I went by Como Lake that my cheeks got really cold. This was nearly at the end of an hour and twenty minute ride. It was perfectly clear out, harbinger of a cold night to come, but it was still 17F when I got home a few minutes later. I think that some colder air had settled in the small valley Como Lake lies in and that as I came down the hill to the lake I descended into this cooler air, then climbed back out up towards home. It was the only point in the ride where my face felt very cold. Funny how you notice things like that on a bike.

So I'm building some experience. I haven't ridden in bitter winds yet, I haven't ridden in driving snow or icy treacherous streets where out-of-control motorists could be a real threat, I haven't ridden in miserable 35 degree rain or biting -10F temperatures. You know what? Probably I won't, either, driving and the bus remain options for me and there are times when comfort, safety and convenience will have me do those rather than ride. Sure this makes me soft, but even for a softie like me there is much to enjoy in winter cycling once you get over the psychological barriers of "Ride a bike? In the cold? Are you nuts?".

So since I'm sure everyone is just dying to know, here's what I've been wearing:

A pair of silk sock liners, then a nice thick pair of SmartWool socks, and a pair of Timberland walking shoes. These are pretty bulky and when I finally put my XL PowerGrips this last week they fit much better and I haven't kicked off my pannier since.

For my legs, I'm wearing a pair of black SmartWool long underwear. I bought these pretty recently and they are great. I had a pair of polyproylene long undies I got a Target for $13 but they were kind of short and I wasn't all that pleased with them. These SmartWools are wondeful, long and warm and delightfully soft, I'd wear them all the time if it wouldn't make me sweat to death. On top of those, I wear a pair of wool dress pants. They don't look so dressy anymore, they have pilled badly, and the styling's a bit odd, with cargo pockets, but they are comfortable. So far, not having ridden in the wet or bitter winds, this combination of long underwear and trousers has been plenty warm. Oh, I generally also wear a pair of cycling underwear, like Andiamnos, under all this. I noticed early on that one's, ahem, parts can get kind of chilly whilst riding, and this helps in that area.

For the upper body, it's a SmartWool t shirt, an Ibex or WoolyWarm long sleeved wool jersey and then a Cabela's lambswool commando sweater, all topped with an REI cycling jacket, just a windshell, nothing insulated. This all keeps me pretty warm, warm enough that I've left the armpit zippers open for all this riding.

For my hands, it's a pair of Acorn merino Shearling mittens. They are toasty warm, windproof, breathable and extremely easy to get on and off even while riding.

For my head, it's a balaclava shockingly not made of wool! I top it with a Bell Metro helmet in which I have installed the Cold Weather Kit (plugs all the vents, has ear flaps over the ears). I own a face mask I haven't worn yet, instead putting a bit of lotion on my cheeks and nose before setting out. When it's been below about 20F, I've worn a pair of goofy safety glasses to cut the wind on my eyes.

On these rides to and from church, which extend to well over an hour, I've also been listening to the radio. I have a little Walkman and put an earphone in just the right ear, leaving my left ear open to hear traffic. Sometimes it's music, sometimes it's NPR, sometimes it's sports talk radio. Wednesday night I listened to the Timberwolves game, very unusual for me as I don't give a rat's ass about basketball, because Henry's singing the National Anthem at the game Friday (along with the rest of the Minnesota Boychoir) and I'm going and so thought I'd get a taste of what I'm in for. What I'm in for, it sounds like, is a team that leads by 15 early, has the opposing star player have an off night, and still loses by 6 at the end. Oh boy!

Monday, February 06, 2006

Groundhog Speech

The President gave his State of the Union speech the other night. I didn't watch it because I can hardly bear to hear the man talk. I see a breathtaking amount of hypocrisy in this administration and don't like the culture of corruption, cronyism and incompetence it has engendered. Still, reading the post-game reports, one bit sounded familiar:

Keeping America competitive requires affordable energy. And here we have a serious problem. America is addicted to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world.

The best way to break this addiction is through technology. Since 2001, we have spent nearly $10 billion to develop cleaner, cheaper and more reliable alternative energy sources. And we are on the threshold of incredible advances. So tonight, I announce the Advanced Energy Initiative, a 22 percent increase in clean-energy research at the Department of Energy to push for breakthroughs in two vital areas. To change how we power our homes and offices, we will invest more in zero-emission coal-fired plants, revolutionary solar and wind technologies and clean, safe nuclear energy.

We must also change how we power our automobiles. We will increase our research in better batteries for hybrid and electric cars and in pollution-free cars that run on hydrogen. We will also fund additional research in cutting-edge methods of producing ethanol, not just from corn but from wood chips and stalks or switch grass. Our goal is to make this new kind of ethanol practical and competitive within six years.

Breakthroughs on this and other new technologies will help us reach another great goal, to replace more than 75 percent of our oil imports from the Middle East by 2025. By applying the talent and technology of America, this country can dramatically improve our environment, move beyond a petroleum-based economy and make our dependence on Middle Eastern oil a thing of the past.

We've been hearing about this before. In 2003, President Bush...

"...announced a $1.2 billion hydrogen fuel initiative to reverse America's growing dependence on foreign oil by developing the technology for commercially viable hydrogen-powered fuel cells to power cars, trucks, homes and businesses with no pollution or greenhouse gases. Combined with the FreedomCAR (Cooperative Automotive Research) initiative, President Bush is proposing a total of $1.7 billion over the next five years to develop hydrogen-powered fuel cells, hydrogen infrastructure and advanced automotive technologies."

Hmmm, we're three years in, how's that going? I think Honda has a couple of hydrogen cars (a couple of vehicles, not a couple of models) it's leasing to families, was that part of the initiative? It's always great to announce these programs with long time frames so that the real costs arise after the current administration is gone, and this administration is by no means the first to engage in this bit of long-term grandiosity.

In 1998, Bill Clinton was on the case in his State of the Union speech:

"We have it in our power to act right here, right now. I propose $6 billion in tax cuts and research and development to encourage innovation, renewable energy, fuel-efficient cars, energy- efficient homes. Every time we have acted to heal our environment, pessimists have told us it would hurt the economy. Well, today our economy is the strongest in a generation. And our environment is the cleanest in a generation. We have always found a way to clean the environment and grow the economy at the same time."

In 1980, Jimmy Carter gave a terrific speech. It's hard now to remember what a good man he was, how uncynical compared to recent presidents. It's worth reading the whole thing, but unlike the empty rhetoric we get now with no action to back it up, Carter was clear:

"The single biggest factor in the inflation rate last year, the increase in the inflation rate last year, was from one cause: the skyrocketing prices of OPEC oil. We must take whatever actions are necessary to reduce our dependence on foreign oil--and at the same time reduce inflation.

As individuals and as families, few of us can produce energy by ourselves. But all of us can conserve energy--every one of us, every day of our lives. Tonight I call on you--in fact, all the people of America--to help our Nation. Conserve energy. Eliminate waste. Make 1980 indeed a year of energy conservation....

Our material resources, great as they are, are limited. Our problems are too complex for simple slogans or for quick solutions. We cannot solve them without effort and sacrifice. Walter Lippmann once reminded us, "You took the good things for granted. Now you must earn them again. For every right that you cherish, you have a duty which you must fulfill. For every good which you wish to preserve, you will have to sacrifice your comfort and your ease. There is nothing for nothing any longer."

The Oil Crises predated Carter. Here's Gerald Ford in 1975:

During the 1960's, this country had a surplus capacity of crude oil which we were able to make available to our trading partners whenever there was a disruption of supply. This surplus capacity enabled us to influence both supplies and prices of crude oil throughout the world. Our excess capacity neutralized any effort at establishing an effective cartel, and thus the rest of the world was assured of adequate supplies of oil at reasonable prices.

By 1970, our surplus capacity had vanished, and as a consequence, the latent power of the oil cartel could emerge in full force. Europe and Japan, both heavily dependent on imported oil, now struggle to keep their economies in balance. Even the United States, our country, which is far more self-sufficient than most other industrial countries, has been put under serious pressure.

I am proposing a program which will begin to restore our country's surplus capacity in total energy. In this way, we will be able to assure ourselves reliable and adequate energy and help foster a new world energy stability for other major consuming nations.

But this Nation and, in fact, the world must face the prospect of energy difficulties between now and 1985. This program will impose burdens on all of us with the aim of reducing our consumption of energy and increasing our production. Great attention has been paid to the considerations of fairness, and I can assure you that the burdens will not fall more harshly on those less able to bear them.

I am recommending a plan to make us invulnerable to cutoffs of foreign oil. It will require sacrifices, but it--and this is most important--it will work.

I have set the following national energy goals to assure that our future is as secure and as productive as our past:

First, we must reduce oil imports by 1 million barrels per day by the end of this year and by 2 million barrels per day by the end of 1977.

Second, we must end vulnerability to economic disruption by foreign suppliers by 1985.

Third, we must develop our energy technology and resources so that the United States has the ability to supply a significant share of the energy needs of the free world by the end of this century.

To attain these objectives, we need immediate action to cut imports. Unfortunately, in the short term there are only a limited number of actions which can increase domestic supply. I will press for all of them.

I urge quick action on the necessary legislation to allow commercial production at the Elk Hills, California, Naval Petroleum Reserve. In order that we make greater use of domestic coal resources, I am submitting amendments to the Energy Supply and Environmental Coordination Act which will greatly increase the number of powerplants that can be promptly converted to coal.

Obviously, voluntary conservation continues to be essential, but tougher programs are needed--and needed now. Therefore, I am using Presidential powers to raise the fee on all imported crude oil and petroleum products. The crude oil fee level will be increased $1 per barrel on February 1, by $2 per barrel on March 1, and by $3 per barrel on April 1. I will take actions to reduce undue hardships on any geographical region. The foregoing are interim administrative actions. They will be rescinded when broader but necessary legislation is enacted.

To that end, I am requesting the Congress to act within 90 days on a more comprehensive energy tax program. It includes: excise taxes and import fees totaling $2 per barrel on product imports and on all crude oil; deregulation of new natural gas and enactment of a natural gas excise tax.

I plan to take Presidential initiative to decontrol the price of domestic crude oil on April 1. I urge the Congress to enact a windfall profits tax by that date to ensure that oil producers do not profit unduly.

The sooner Congress acts, the more effective the oil conservation program will be and the quicker the Federal revenues can be returned to our people.

I am prepared to use Presidential authority to limit imports, as necessary, to guarantee success.

I want you to know that before deciding on my energy conservation program, I considered rationing and higher gasoline taxes as alternatives. In my judgment, neither would achieve the desired results and both would produce unacceptable inequities.

A massive program must be initiated to increase energy supply, to cut demand, and provide new standby emergency programs to achieve the independence we want by 1985. The largest part of increased oil production must come from new frontier areas on the Outer Continental Shelf and from the Naval Petroleum Reserve No. 4 in Alaska. It is the intent of this Administration to move ahead with exploration, leasing, and production on those frontier areas of the Outer Continental Shelf where the environmental risks are acceptable.

President Ford was also wringing his hands about a budget deficit that might hit $45 Billion and a national debt that would top half a trillion dollars. Funnily enough, only Democratic President Bill Clinton's administrations have run budget surpluses since then. Fiscal conservative Ronald Reagan ran big deficits; so did George Bush I, though he tried to rein them in with some tax increases and got savaged for it; George Bush II has spent money like a drunken sailor, seen huge budget deficit increases yet finds tax cutting to be the correct policy prescription for nearly all our ills. We will one day rue these developments. Now we have an $8 trillion national debt and it rises about $2 billion a day. The half trillion dollar national debt isn't as much as is proposed for defence spending in the budget just submitted (ok, I'm being unfair here and using nominal dollars, not constant).

Richard Nixon, soon to resign under threat of impeachment for, among other things, domestic wiretaps and coverups, addressed the issue in early 1974:

Looking at the year 1974 which lies before us, there are 10 key areas in which landmark accomplishments are possible this year in America. If we make these our national agenda, this is what we will achieve in 1974:

We will break the back of the energy crisis; we will lay the foundation for our future capacity to meet America's energy needs from America's own resources....

We will establish a new system that makes high-quality health care available to every American in a dignified manner and at a price he can afford....

In all of the 186 State of the Union messages delivered from this place, in our history this is the first in which the one priority, the first priority, is energy. Let me begin by reporting a new development which I know will be welcome news to every American. As you know, we have committed ourselves to an active role in helping to achieve a just and durable peace in the Middle East, on the basis of full implementation of Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338. The first step in the process is the disengagement of Egyptian and Israeli forces which is now taking place.

Because of this hopeful development, I can announce tonight that I have been assured, through my personal contacts with friendly leaders in the Middle Eastern area, that an urgent meeting will be called in the immediate future to discuss the lifting of the oil embargo.

This is an encouraging sign. However, it should be clearly understood by our friends in the Middle East that the United States will not be coerced on this issue.

Regardless of the outcome of this meeting, the cooperation of the American people in our energy conservation program has already gone a long way towards achieving a goal to which I am deeply dedicated. Let us do everything we can to avoid gasoline rationing in the United States of America.

Last week, I sent to the Congress a comprehensive special message setting forth our energy situation, recommending the legislative measures which are necessary to a program for meeting our needs. If the embargo is lifted, this will ease the crisis, but it will not mean an end to the energy shortage in America. Voluntary conservation will continue to be necessary. And let me take this occasion to pay tribute once again to the splendid spirit of cooperation the American people have shown which has made possible our success in meeting this emergency up to this time.

The new legislation I have requested will also remain necessary. Therefore, I urge again that the energy measures that I have proposed be made the first priority of this session of the Congress. These measures will require the oil companies and other energy producers to provide the public with the necessary information on their supplies. They will prevent the injustice of windfall profits for a few as a result of the sacrifices of the millions of Americans. And they will give us the organization, the incentives, the authorities needed to deal with the short-term emergency and to move toward meeting our long-term needs.

Just as 1970 was the year in which we began a full-scale effort to protect the environment, 1974 must be the year in which we organize a full-scale effort to provide for our energy needs, not only in this decade but through the 21st century.

As we move toward the celebration 2 years from now of the 200th anniversary of this Nation's independence, let us press vigorously on toward the goal I announced last November for Project Independence. Let this be our national goal: At the end of this decade, in the year 1980, the United States will not be dependent on any other country for the energy we need to provide our jobs, to heat our homes, and to keep our transportation moving.

To indicate the size of the Government commitment, to spur energy research and development, we plan to spend $10 billion in Federal funds over the next 5 years. That is an enormous amount. But during the same 5 years, private enterprise will be investing as much as $200 billion-- and in 10 years, $500 billion--to develop the new resources, the new technology, the new capacity America will require for its energy needs in the 1980's. That is just a measure of the magnitude of the project we are undertaking.

But America performs best when called to its biggest tasks. It can truly be said that only in America could a task so tremendous be achieved so quickly, and achieved not by regimentation, but through the effort and ingenuity of a free people, working in a free system....

I think all of us recognize that the energy crisis has given new urgency to the need to improve public transportation, not only in our cities but in rural areas as well. The program I have proposed this year will give communities not only more money but also more freedom to balance their own transportation needs. It will mark the strongest Federal commitment ever to the improvement of mass transit as an essential element of the improvement of life in our towns and cities....

Unrelated to energy but of remarkably current interest:

One measure of a truly free society is the vigor with which it protects the liberties of its individual citizens. As technology has advanced in America, it has increasingly encroached on one of those liberties--what I term the right of personal privacy. Modern information systems, data banks, credit records, mailing list abuses, electronic snooping, the collection of personal data for one purpose that may be used for another--all these have left millions of Americans deeply concerned by the privacy they cherish.

And the time has come, therefore, for a major initiative to define the nature and extent of the basic rights of privacy and to erect new safeguards to ensure that those rights are respected."

Nixon would resign that summer in the fallout of the Watergate scandal. We were driving down the 401 in southern Ontario at the time he resigned and my parents let me, a new driver, try driving 1t 65 there since the U.S. speed limit had been dropped to 55 to conserve oil. Something was being asked of us.

There are a number of things that stink about getting older (although, as my mother once said, it's better than the alternative!) but one satisfying thing is seeing the fuss and buzz of daily news resolve itself into longer story cycles. The Peak Oil predicitions made in the 1950s said U.S. oil production would go into decline around 1970; sure enough, it did, President Ford alludes to it above. The resulting increase in dependence on foreign oil combined with Arab anger at the Yom Kippur war got us an OPEC embargo, higher gasoline prices and, in some places, lines at gas stations (though I never saw any personally). This was around the time I began driving.

The reaction to that lasted a decade, as we dumped the huge, heavy inefficient (and often pretty crappy) cars for smaller vehicles that polluted much less and got better mileage. My own experience saw me go from a 1972 Plymouth Valiant, a compact in the parlance of the day, which had a 318 cubic inch (5.2 litre) V-8 and just managed 20 mpg on the highway, to a 1986 Saab 900 with a 2-litre inline 4-cylinder that would manage the upper 20s. 1986 also happens to be the year the U.S. passenger fleet reached its peak in fuel efficiency. That year oil prices collapsed to around $10 a barrel, cars started to creep up in size and the expectation for horsepower went up as well. The 110 horsepower of my Saab 900 would be laugable now; our Totota Avalon has 225 and the new ones have 280. In the last decade the number of vehicles exempt from even our unambitious fleet fuel efficiency requirments has increased, particulary pickup trucks (and yes, I have one, a 1996 Ford Ranger, 25 mpg on the highway, around 20-21 in mixed driving) and sports utility vehicles. Attempts to raise the requirements or to impose the same safety and efficiency requirements on these vehicles in get shouted down amid cries about the safety of America's children (lighter vehicles=less safety, goes the logic) even though it has been shown that SUVs have higher death rates than sedans.

So, OK, gas is $2.09 a gallon, sounds like a crisis, any call to sacrifice? Any "For every right that you cherish, you have a duty which you must fulfill?" Any "Ask not what your country can do for you?" Any "I have nothing to give but blood, sweat, toil and tears?" How about raising gasoline taxes, perhaps 10 cents a gallon a year for the next five years? How about eliminating tax breaks that encourage the purchase by individuals of trucks over 6,000 pounds? How about encouraging some conservation?

Nope. The extremely patriotic Vice President Dick Cheney (patriotic now that he doesn't need to worry about his draft deferrments) went on the very patriotic Rush Limbaugh's show (for you Family Values types, that's the drug addict guy who recently divorced his third wife, which seems not to faze the Bible bashers despite the good book's clear injunctions against divorce) to say the Administration would continue to push to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling. How about some sacrifice? Samuel Bodman, the Energy Secretary, said that "many Americans believe they're already sacrificing by paying the prices they're paying for gasoline and heating oil and natural gas." Hmmm, it's $2.09 a gallon over at the corner gas staion, cheaper than it was in 1981 in real terms. That's some sacrifice! Our leaders, supposedly engaged in a war againt terrorism, have asked nothing beyond that we keep flying and go shopping. And don't worry about those wiretap things.

So in the meantime, our oil imports continue to creep upwards. The lofty goal of eliminating our dependence on Mideast oil is pushed out to 2025; even though it's under 20% of our oil consumption, we continue to send tens of billions of dollars a year to the Middle East, including to Saudi Arabia, our strong ally and, oh yeah, home of 15 of the 19 September 11, 2001 hijackers. Our purchases help keep the price high for everyone, ensuring plenty of funding of our adversaries, of those who work to kill our troops. Al Qaeda and the Iraqi insurgents don't get their money from bake sales, they get it from oil.

Will the situation be any different in 2025 than it was in 1974? That's a 50 year span, and 30 of them have passed and the situation has deteriorated. Will we still have brave talk, rousing calls to action and a continuing addiction to hydrocarbons produced by unsavoury regimes, a continued drain on our economy and a continued funding source to those who hate us? Probably. Our leadership is unwilling to take any hard steps. Jimmy Carter asked for sacrifice and was voted out for an Alzheimers sufferer. George Bush I tried to be responsible and pay for our spending and was summarily despatched from office. Bill Clinton ran surpluses, attacked Al Qaeda bases in Afghanistan and contained Saddam and he was savaged by the party who has found it preferable to spend money like water, expand entitlements, involve us in a needless war and alienate our allies.

For all the brave talk Monday of biofuels and switchgrass, the Energy Department is about to lay off 40 scientists who work on biofuels due to budget cuts proposed by this President and passed by this Congress. For all the talk of increased competitiveness in technology and research, this Congress just passed cuts in student loan programs that help university students.

I'll keep riding my bicycle to substitute for some trips in our cars, I'll keep working to make the house more energy-efficient, but I fully expect to hear a State of the Union speech twenty years hence saying that our dependency on imported petroleum is reaching a crisis point and something needs to be done about it, just like I heard last Monday and just like I heard thirty years ago. By then it will hardly be my problem any longer, and I can pass it on to my children and to theirs. The time for brave action is, ummm, then. In the meantime, keep the gas flowing.