Republicans Running Scared

You know Republicans are running scared when they turn on those who helped them get elected. In the 2004 election cycle the oil industry gave $20,581,289 to the Republican Party according to opensecrets.org while giving less than $5,015,135 to Democrats.

It seemed to be money well-invested last year when The House approved an energy bill that provided “billions of dollars in tax breaks to boost domestic energy production, over the objections of lawmakers [i.e. Democrats] who called the measure a costly giveaway to the energy industry.“ Though even President Bush complained that the bill granted too many tax breaks, “the president, who began pushing for the bill with Vice President Dick Cheney’s energy task force four years ago, has been urging Congress to send him the legislation, especially as polls show widespread public frustration at the rising costs of gasoline.“

When the legislation was passed Bloomberg.com noted that “Oil companies such as Exxon Mobil and utility owners such as Southern spent $367 million over the past two years lobbying Congress on energy legislation, according to data from PoliticalMoneyLine and the Center for Responsive Politics. The legislation contains tax breaks of $1.6 billion for oil and gas producers and refiners and $3.1 billion for utilities.“ Though it seems unlikely that such lobbying efforts would sway savvy politicians, it does cast some doubts on the sincerity of recent Republican politicians who argue that such subsidies should be withdrawn now that voters are outraged by record prices at the gas pump.

Today, though, nearly all Republicans, including the President, are calling for those tax breaks to be repealed. On Tuesday Bush called on “Congress to rollback $2 billion in tax breaks for oil companies over the next 10 years for items such as write-offs of certain geological and geophysical expenditures or for research and development for deep water drilling.? according to CNN.

Perhaps not unexpectedly, though, he also announced that he would “grant temporary waivers of some environmental regulations“ and renewed calls for drilling in the Arctic, though it was unclear how these efforts might help stem gas price increases in the near future.

Far be it from me to suggest that this sudden reversal of policies smacks of hypocrisy and to wonder if such concerns will last beyond the next election. Of course, one might also wonder if voters‘ memories will stretch even that far.

Making Do

On days like Friday I find myself wondering if it’s just my imagination, or is it true more often than not that I bring the wrong camera/lens when I’m out walking.

About half way through my walk at Nisqually, it became obvious that the highlight of the walk was the beautiful flowers and that a 400 mm telephoto lens is not the best lens to be taking pictures of flowers.

It’s difficult with a telephoto to sharply focus on more than one element of the photographic, particularly when the subject is relatively near:

It’s more difficult to isolate particular elements than it would be with a close-up lens

And it’s harder to get a sharp image of various elements:

On the other hand, if I’d brought my close-up lens I would never have gotten this shot of a Golden-Crowned Sparrow

nor my first shot of the diminutive Common Yellowthroat which kept its distance no matter how patient or quiet I was

I suppose I could carry multiple cameras and multiple lenses, but then the walk wouldn’t be nearly as pleasant and it’s unlikely I would walk as far as I do.

Running on Empty

When I heard a young man complain at a party this weekend that it had cost him a $100 to fill up his gas tank I was shocked, not by the price but by the fact that anyone who drove a vehicle that held a $100 of gasoline would even be fazed by the price of gas.

What I wanted to tell him, but wouldn’t at a party, is that he doesn’t HAVE a problem, he IS the problem. Considering that the most I’ve ever put into my gas tank is $34, his gas guzzler probably gets somewhere around 8 miles per gallon, since all gas tanks are supposed to get you the same total miles and my car gets around 25 mpg.

If we drive the same number of miles a months, that means he’s using three times the amount of gasoline that I am (though, in reality, as frugal as I am I’m sure he’s burning much more gasoline than that). Even now when I’m driving very little, I try to combine trips to avoid driving any more than I absolutely have to.

While I’m happy that the democrats seem to be gaining additional traction at the polls because of high gas prices, I’m not much happier with their reaction to the problem than I am with the Republicans’ reaction. In fact, the only positive action I’ve seen is the almost universal agreement among politicians, starting with the President himself, that recent tax breaks granted to giant oil companies should be revoked, though there seems little agreement on which tax breaks should be repealed.

It doesn’t take an economic genius to realize that gasoline, like everything else in our society, unfortunately, is subject to the laws of supply and demand. Use less gasoline, and companies stuck with large oil surpluses will cut the prices they are demanding as will refiners who find that they have to lower prices or idle expensive refineries.

While I certainly don’t expect politicians to be economic geniuses, I’m as upset as Dana Millbank of the Washington Post when “Lawmakers talk gas, drive away in SUVs,? though I’ll have to admit that I was happy when Millbank noted that

A sampling of senators’ and staff cars parked along Delaware Avenue Northeast found that those displaying Democratic campaign bumper stickers had a somewhat higher average fuel economy (23 mpg) than those displaying GOP stickers (18 mpg).

While I think government should have a positive role in encouraging better gas mileage, in the end it’s citizens that have to truly solve the problem by buying more fuel-efficient cars, driving less, and using mass transit when we can.

Reading the Signs

After nearly three weeks of constant yard work, including unloading six pickup loads of potting soil, hauling another pickup load of brush and clippings to the recycling center, and faced with another week or two of trying to terrace a front yard that slopes away to total disaster, I understand all too well why paeans to Nature were almost invariably penned by wealthy gentlemen who lived in the city or by those who had slaves or peasants to handle the work in the garden.

It’s hard to idealize Nature while bent over a garden trying to fight back Nature’s many manifestations or trying to reshape Nature to YOUR concept of Natural. Why is it that Nature is so much fonder of dandelions, moss, and crab crass than Kentucky Blue? Why is that even hand-picked native plants only want to grow in the woods across the street?

Still, if for no other reason than to show my mindless adherence to my principles, I’d planned to offer another photographic tribute to nature this week. Monday was the nicest day of the year and, amazingly, coincided with the annual migration of shorebirds through Aberdeen and Hoquim. I dragged my camera AND tripod with me in order to capture pictures of distant birds. And I got some amazing pictures of Sandpipers, Sanderlings, and Caspian Terns at the Refuge.

Upon being told that six Snowy Owls had been sighted on the peninsula at Ocean Shores, I trudged the sandy shores for at least six miles in pursuit of them. In doing so, I managed to get my first pictures of Pacific Loons in breeding colors. I suppose I could also claim that I got brilliant shots of the Snowy Owls, but, of course, that’d be lie ‘cuz I never saw a one.

And I’m almost glad I didn’t get a shot of them, because when I got home Adobe Bridge and Photoshop, except for the very first image, wouldn’t recognize the images, stating they were in a format that Photoshop didn’t recognize. Heck, when I put them back into the Canon D20 it didn’t recognize them either, although it still showed that 80 pictures were on the Compact Disc.

I shoulda known that life couldn’t be that easy, that such an alignment of weather and birds was unnatural, and augured [i.e. noun historical
(in ancient Rome) a religious official who observed natural signs, esp. the behavior of birds, interpreting these as an indication of divine approval or disapproval of a proposed action] badly for taking successful pictures.

Nature obviously intended that I should be out pulling weeds on the sunniest day of the year, not gallivanting across the country trying to capture pictures of birds.