Rage Against Greenhouse Gas

Preface: WordPress’s word of the month for April 2022 is “Green”. Dark-green happens to be one of my favorite colors, yet I can’t think of anything I want to write specifically about the color. Earth Day was just a few days ago, so I’ll write about greenhouse gases..

***

Winter no longer happens during the months we’ve historically recognized as “winter”. When I was a child, autumn started alongside school, in late August. Winter arrived after Halloween and lasted until Groundhog Day. Basically, it was expected to be cold from November through February.

This expectation held true even in humid, Southeast Texas.

At least, that’s the way it was in the good old days. 

For the past decade, our winter weather has been expressed in frontal waves, and doesn’t have the staying power it once had. We get a few days of “winter” here and there in Texas. Sometimes, we get “winter” all at once in January or February, as has happened these past couple years[1].

This alarming pattern is seen in many of the Northern states as well. My family recently went north for a more traditional winter holiday, but was slightly disappointed by the lack of ice and snow.

What’s causing this to happen? 

I’m not an environmental expert, but the basic science we’ve been learning in school for decades has taught us these changes are caused by human activity. Our media, which may be sponsored by major businesses, spotlights natural sources of global warming gases such as: volcanic activity, subterranean gas, or gas trapped in ice. 

I tend to agree with the theory that human activity bears most of the blame for the changes happening to our planet, but who’s to say this isn’t part of a natural extinction cycle the earth goes through. For all we know the last ice age may have been caused by a long-dead civilization who tried to fix global warming. 

Alternate Theory:

For all we know, an intelligent species or ancient race of humans may have experienced the problems caused by greenhouse gasses and developed non-carbon producing technologies to help the planet heal. They may have captured CO2, methane, and other gasses to store in permafrost ice sheets. They may have thought storing those gases in ice that never melts was a sufficiently permanent fix, because, surely, nobody would make the global warming mistake again.

Perhaps that civilization’s efforts worked too well and caused the last ice age.

That civilization either died off or left the planet…

And then comes humanity, with no prior knowledge of what caused the ice age. Humanity was born burning resources and makes the same mistakes with carbon-emissions. Maybe we’re inadvertently releasing all the stored greenhouse gases as our modern pollution heats the planet and melts those ancient ice “warehouses”.

I pose this alternate theory to show it doesn’t matter who’s to blame for global warming.

It doesn’t matter if certain nations are more at fault than others.

It doesn’t matter which generation is more negligent.

It doesn’t matter how much money is spent redirecting blame.

What does matter is how we respond to the problem we’re faced with. Are we going to stick our heads in the dirt like a cartoonish depiction of an ostrich[2]? Or, will we stop burning gases and develop new energy solutions to fix the problem? 

Wind is a natural resource found pretty much everywhere on the planet. Large-scale wind energy is expensive when you factor in the cost of the unit, transporting parts, construction, and then regular maintenance over the years. However, small home turbines can be purchased as low as $150! Unfortunately, most of us don’t know how to connect the generator to a battery bank, much less the grid.

Solar is another resource available everywhere on earth[3], and photovoltaic solar panels don’t require complex maintenance like wind generators. But going solar is prohibitively expensive. Each large panel can cost anywhere from $500 to $1,000. Add installation, and you may end up paying around $20,000!

I think solar is the way to go from a practical point of view. All that’s needed after installation is to keep the panels clean and clear of obstructions, and maybe replace a damaged unit over the years. It’s truly much easier to go solar and forget it.

If only we could develop better and cheaper solar technology to make it accessible to people of all incomes. If we can solve that problem, we may buy the planet enough time to recover. 

But won’t that ruin certain industries?  

No, it won’t. The mighty corporations we worship and get a pitiful allowance from will survive. Even the major oil companies will be just fine. Most oil and chemical manufacturers have a broad range of products they sell besides gas. They make additives and other materials which are used in everyday items like: cosmetics, lotions, soaps, household cleaners, plastics, some clothing materials, and much more[4].

The only people who’ll be ruined by such an economic shift are the cartels who extract the base-product, and the citizens of those oil-producing nations. The Middle East has been at war or angry at everyone else throughout human history anyways, so will we notice if there’s even more unrest in that region?

***

We may never agree about what’s causing global warming and casting blame is irrelevant. Greenhouse gases are heating the planet and melting the polar ice caps, and may be driving the extreme weather patterns we’re experiencing. What’s relevant is what we do to fix it.

Our species has repeatedly met the challenge of physical threats. So why is the threat of extinction not enough incentive to give up our addiction to wealth-at-any-cost? Someone needs to have an intervention with our leaders[5] and remove toxic industrial influences, so we can ween ourselves off “easy” money.

I fear our species doesn’t have the strength to go through that rehab program.


[1] Winter, all at once: Can you believe The Weather Channel started naming winter storms? We used to only have to worry about named hurricanes, but now they’re naming winter storms.

[2] Ostrich: According to a Zookeeper I overheard talking to a group of kids at the Houston Zoo, ostriches don’t bury their heads in the sand when scared. However, they will try to blend in by laying on the ground.

[3] World-wide Solar: You can count on light from the sun to be available everywhere on the planet except for the polar regions of the planet. Both the north and south polar regions experience months of darkness because of the Earth’s axial tilt.

[4] Petroleum Products: I once worked at a major oil company and learned what we sold and how it’s used in everyday things.

[5] Violence Disclaimer: I would like to remind my readers that I do not condone violence, criminality, or rising up and overthrowing your legitimate government.

Ukrainian Super-soldier

Snapshot from my neighbor’s Newspaper, the Wall Street Journal 📰 . Seen February 24, 2022

Ukrainians have historically been lauded as the best super-soldiers in modern times and science fiction.

Take a moment to look at this image shot from my neighbor’s paper. I’ll admit that when first I looked, I saw this sexy AF soldier and wanted to be his anything…

However, this man does not look like he’s looking for a date. He looks worried as hell that he may not see tomorrow.

Ponder that as you arm-chair quarterback this war. Or worse, post memes like this description…[1] :

Sexy male tomb raider-style pic with caption: ‘This is me on the frontlines of Ukraine looking for my man’.


[1] Sorry, I spent hours looking for the meme on the 3 gay groups I’m a member of on Facebook. Unfortunately, I think my comment may have scared someone into either removing the post, or the author may have blocked me instead of addressing the issue.

State Inspections are a Sham

It’s that time of year again when pretty much everyone needs to visit the nearest registered State Inspector to pay our annual bribe or “tax”. This is a necessary bribe that allows car owners to display a permit showing we have permission to use the car we already paid a hefty sales tax on. I guess the over 20% in hidden taxes that go into our $3-ish per gallon of gas isn’t enough to support the services our government provides[1]

What is the annual state inspection and why is it necessary?

According to the Texas Department of Public Safety (Tx DPS) website, an annual inspection is required to ensure compliance with safety standards. The website lists 20 or, depending on how you look at it, 21 items the state inspectors need to certify as functional[2]. The website also states that emissions testing is only required in the state’s 17 most densely populated counties (basically, the areas around: Houston, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Austin, and El Paso)[3].

And that’s pretty much it.

Why are state inspections a sham?

There’s a few reasons why I think state safety inspections are a sham. First, there’s no proof these required inspections make cars safer, and it only seems to be an extra tax imposed on drivers. Then, if you read the language of the inspection process, it becomes very apparent that one industry in particular stands to benefit from these inspections (and from pretty much every single traffic stop in the state[4]). And finally, it’s too obvious that Texas half-asses emissions testing.

Despite several attempts to drop the state-mandated safety inspection, Texas is still one of 15 states in the country that requires them. The last real and widely publicized attempt to remove the requirement was passed in the Texas Senate in 2017. But since I’m writing this article today, it means the bill didn’t go through[5].

Supposedly, the purpose of the annual inspection is to ensure that 20 listed safety mechanisms on a vehicle are functional or comply with the state’s safety standards. But before the list even starts, the inspector is required to check for evidence of “Financial Responsibility” (also known as insurance). Financial responsibility is better known as “proof of insurance”, because most people can’t afford the $55,000 bribe to the state Comptroller or County Judge where the car is registered[6].

That means the Inspector won’t look at your car unless you have proof of insurance, which also means you can’t pass the inspection.

Now I’m just a simple American writer, but it sure seems like one particular industry has a vested interest in maintaining the status quo and holding our ability to drive hostage. Which also ensures the over 22 million registered vehicles in Texas are insured by a paying customer[7].

In Texas alone, that’s at least $11 billion every year.

Another official part of the test is to ensure general conformity of the federally mandated clean air requirements. However, out of the 254 counties in Texas, only 17 require emissions testing. Which explains why we see vehicles, that obviously can’t pass an emissions test, continue to belch black smoke on the road.

If the state wants to refute my claim that the annual safety inspections are a sham, then they should require emissions testing across all counties in the state. If they do that, the fact they’re fleecing drivers for more money will be less obvious.

And the environment may thank us too.

But state-wide emissions testing won’t happen because Rednecks from across the state will go up in arms when they find out those muscle cars and trucks won’t pass inspection. They will demand a change, and/or they’ll vote someone else into office. With that scenario, we’re more likely to see our politicians ignore the insurance lobbyists and do away with the annual safety inspection altogether. 

Now, I’d like to describe how different my first and second inspections were.

I bought my first car 2 years ago and when it came time to renew the inspection, I made the mistake of going to a scummy shop. The inspector claimed my gas cap failed the emissions test, but I can easily fix it by purchasing a new cap from a nearby AutoZone.

I had no knowledge of the gas cap emissions test and what it actually did beyond the inspector telling me my cap didn’t pass the test. I didn’t care all that much about buying the gas cap. I simply didn’t want to waste any more time on this needless inspection, and was willing to jump through any hoops to get it over and done with.

While driving to buy a new gas cap, I brooded over how this whole inspection stinks of a scam. There’s no way a gas cap can determine what emissions are coming out of the car. Gas goes into your tank and the cap keeps contaminates out and prevents fuel from evaporating into the atmosphere. 

If there’s something wrong with any residue on the cap, then the state needs to go after the gas manufacturers for producing low-quality or contaminated gas. Or, the “Inspector” is getting a kickback from AutoZone for sending customers to buy gas caps or some other unnecessary part. 

When I returned with the replacement cap, the inspector told me the new one didn’t pass. I couldn’t believe what I just heard.

This is a brand-new cap! How the Hell can it fail the test?!

I must have given him one of my “gay fury” expressions, because he tested the new cap again. After a couple attempts, he handed it back and said it barely passed. He also said I may need to have the fuel filler examined in the future, but I didn’t care. I was overjoyed my car passed and I didn’t have to waste any more time on this damn inspection.

Fast-forward one year…

While doing research for this article, I learned a few things about the fuel cap test:

  1. There’s no official or technical information available online about them or what they do[8]. The most informative website I found on the subject is Amazon, and that’s only because the site needs to describe the product to sell the testers (by the way, the average price is about $1,000).
  2. They are called Fuel Cap Pressure Tests, and they check a fuel cap’s ability to hold pressure.
  3. The testers come with several adaptors to fit different makes and models of cars.

Now that I know more about the test, there probably wasn’t a problem with my gas cap to begin with. I could swear the tester being used at that shop was corroded. Either that, or the guy wasn’t using the correct attachment.

Regardless of what shady business happened last year, I was determined to get this year’s inspection done at a different business. The business I went to didn’t even do the gas cap test. All he did was ask for my insurance (of course), plug my car into the computer[9], and test my lights and horn. 

I was in and out in less than 20 minutes.

Now, all I need to do is pay for the sticker which tells police that I paid my annual tax/bribe. The easiest way to do that is to log into the state website and pay online, but I’ll have to pay a $2 online payment fee…


[1] U.S. Energy Information Administration. (2021, March 2). Gasoline Explained: Factors Affecting Gasoline Prices. Retrieved from US EIA: https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/gasoline/factors-affecting-gasoline-prices.php#:~:text=Taxes%20add%20to%20the%20price,of%200.1%20cents%20per%20gallon.

[2] Safety Standards: The website has a list of 20 items to inspect, which includes:

0. Proof of Insurance, 1. Horn, 2. Windshield Wipers, 3. Mirror, 4. Steering, 5. Seat Belts, 6. Brakes (system), 7. Tires 8. Wheel Assembly, 9. Exhaust System, 10. Exhaust Emission System, 11. Beam Indicator, 12. Tail Lamps, 13. Stop Lamps, 14. License Plate Lamp, 15. Rear Red Reflectors, 16. Turn Signal Lamps, 17. Head Lamps, 18. Motor, Serial, or Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), 19. Gas caps on vehicles, 20. Window Tint.

[3] Texas Department of Public Safety. (2021). Vehicle Inspection Program Overview. Retrieved from https://www.dps.texas.gov/section/vehicle-inspection/vehicle-inspection-program-overview

[4] Every officer doing a traffic stop asks/orders us to show our “driver’s license and proof of insurance.”

[5] Texas Senate Bill 1588: The bill was passed by the Texas Senate, but never made it to the House floor before the session ended.

[6] Texas Transportation Code, 7, Subtitle D. § 601.122 & 601.123 (1995). Retrieved from https://statutes.capitol.texas.gov/docs/TN/htm/TN.601.htm

[7] Texas Department of Motor Vehicles. (2022). About Us. Retrieved from Tx DMV: https://www.txdmv.gov/about-us#:~:text=Currently%2C%20there%20are%20more%20than,’%20highways%2C%20roads%20and%20bridges.

[8] No Information: There may be some official or scientific information about them available online. But I spent about an hour tearing the internet apart using various search parameters, and I think it’s safe to say there’s “no information”.

[9] Computer: We don’t know what data is being recorded when the inspector plugs the analyzer into your car’s computer. Supposedly, it’s monitoring emissions and running a diagnostic, but I wonder is what else is being collected and saved. Keep in mind this this device is plugged into the same port Progressive’s Snapshot uses.