Monthly Archives: July 2015

An Email to the PRC of New Mexico

An Email to the Public Regulatory Commission of New Mexico by Peter Burrows elburropete@gmail.com – silvercityburro.com 7/25/15

The New Mexico PRC web site has the email addresses of all five members.  Go to http://www.nmprc.state.nm.us/.  The following is an email I sent  to each of them July 25.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the PRC,

You have been holding public meetings for input concerning Public Service Company of New Mexico’s proposed plan to shut down two of the four coal-fired boilers at the San Juan Generating Station. If the meeting I attended in Silver City on March 16 is any indication, well over 50 percent of those giving public testimony favor eliminating all four of the coal-fired boilers.

These well meaning people cite two primary reasons for their position:
(1) Increasing levels of CO2 in the atmosphere will lead to catastrophic global warming, and coal is the number one contributor of  CO2.  Implicit in this argument is the assumption that shutting down the San Juan Generating Station will make a meaningful contribution to reducing world CO2 levels;
(2) Renewable energy, specifically solar and wind, are cheaper alternatives.

Both of these arguments are terribly misinformed.

(1) A study published in March of this year by The Sierra Club and CoalSwarm, a project of Earth Island Institute, titled “Boom and Bust – Tracking the Global Coal Plant Pipeline,“(1) reveals that there are 276 gigawatts of new coal plants under construction today and 1,083 gigawatts in the planning stage. (2)

Considering the recent history of project cancellations, and the strong likelihood that the current slowdown in Southeast Asia, especially China, will continue, it is possible that the planning stage projects will be cut by two-thirds or more.  Still, if only 25 percent of the 1,083 gigawatts in the planning stage actually gets constructed, that would mean that the total of new coal-fired capacity coming on stream over the next decade or so would be 547 gigawatts. (276 + .25×1,083)

The San Juan Generating Station generates 1,848 megawatts from all four coal-fired boilers.(3)  Assuming the planned projects are completed at a 25 percent rate, shutting down San Juan completely would represent a reduction of .34 percent of just the new coal-fired capacity coming on stream (1,848,000/547,000,000). That’s POINT 34 percent, about one-third of one percent, and that‘s probably  high.  The percent of total coal-fired capacity would of course be much, much lower.

This is a meaningless reduction in world CO2 levels.  I believe the PRC should reject the CO2 argument as simply not relevant.  To ask New Mexicans to save the world from CO2 when the rest of the world quite obviously doesn’t want to be saved from CO2, is something that appeals to only a minority of New Mexicans, and probably a small minority.

(2) Many who testified in Silver City said that renewables are cheaper than coal.  Anybody asserting that has probably not considered the costs of intermittency and transmission.  Nonetheless, I would like the PRC to direct PNM to survey its customers to see what percent each customer would like to have of their bill reflect the cost or savings from renewables.

For example, PNM could ask each customer how much of the electricity they receive would they like to be from  renewables. Some would certainly want 100 percent, others, like me, zero percent.  PNM would then allocate the incremental costs or savings from renewables accordingly.   If the solar/wind proponents are right, my electricity bills will increase while theirs decrease.  It’s a chance I’m willing to take.

On the other hand, the $5.39 Renewable Energy Rider on my last PNM bill just might disappear and be billed to those who support renewable energy.  Sounds fair to me.

Thank you for your consideration,

Peter Burrows
Silver City
575 590 8602
elburropete@gmail.com

(1) http://action.sierraclub.org/site/DocServer/Coal_Tracker_report_final_3-9-15.pdf?docID=17381
(2) Ibid pg 6
(3) Powering Past Coal at the San Juan Generating Station, Wild Earth Guardians http://www.wildearthguardians.org/site/DocServer/San_Juan_Generating_Station_Fact_Sheet.pdf?docID=1342

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Move Over, Neville Chamberlain

Move over, Neville Chamberlain Published on Tuesday, 07 April 2015 10:29, Posted 7/19/15

By Peter Burrows 4/6/15 elburropete@gmail.com and silvercityburro.com. (This article was not published on 4/7/15 due to author oversight, which is a nice way to say I screwed up.)

The recently concluded talks in Lausanne, Switzerland, did not put a stop to Iran’s nuclear program. There is some confusion about what the talks actually achieved, depending on whose press release you read (1), but it now appears more than likely that Iran will eventually get its nuclear weapons. (Putting the UN in charge of inspections is hardly a reassuring note, given the UN’s record in Iraq on a similar mission.)

History has put on this play before. Neville Chamberlain was the British Prime Minister, who was succeeded by Winston Churchill at the start of WW II. He will always be remembered for September 30, 1938, when he returned from a conference in Munich with a nonaggression pact signed by Adolph Hitler. His statement to the cheering crowd at the airport included the now infamous phrase, “peace for our time.” World War II began less than a year later.

Sometimes well intentioned people are caught up in situations they cannot understand. For whatever reason, their vision of how the world works is just plain wrong. That was the case when Chamberlain met Adolf Hitler. Chamberlain totally misread Hitler. Maybe he wanted to, or maybe he didn’t realize that such madmen can appear quite normal.

Winston Churchill wasn’t fooled. While Chamberlain was enjoying the acclaim of the world, Churchill rose in Parliament and was shouted down when he said, “We have sustained a total, unmitigated defeat.” Churchill could read Hitler like a book. Chamberlain couldn’t, and “peace for our time” turned out to be perhaps the dumbest thing ever said by a world leader. (Churchill had actually read Hitler’s book, Mein Kampf. I can’t find if Chamberlain had read it.)

In his history of WW II, here’s what Churchill wrote about Chamberlain as 1938 ended: “Mr. Chamberlain continued to believe that he had only to form a personal contact with the Dictators to effect a marked improvement in the world situation.” (The Gathering Storm, pg. 305.)

Does that sound eerily contemporary? The political ego doesn’t change, but the times do, and we are living in an age of weapons of mass destruction. We can’t afford to have another Neville Chamberlain, but I’m afraid we do have one, and the parallels are distressingly similar.

I refer to President Obama. As Chamberlain didn’t understand Germany’s leaders, Obama doesn’t understand Iran’s. For proof, look no further than Obama’s shockingly delusional assertion that Iran isn’t working on nuclear weapons because “—according to their Supreme Leader, it would be contrary to their faith to obtain a nuclear weapon.”(2) Chamberlain couldn’t have said it better.

If Iran gets nuclear weapons those words will seal history’s judgment of Obama forever. People won’t talk about Neville Chamberlain anymore: Barack Hussein Obama will be the all-time dunce. He doesn’t understand that, if anything, it would be contrary to the Iranians’ faith NOT to obtain and then USE nuclear weapons.

Over a year ago in “Monsters From The Id,” I wrote that Iran is ruled by Mahdaviats, an Islamic religious sect who believe that when the world is in the chaos of the last days, there will return to earth the Twelfth Imam, also known as the Mahdi, or Hidden Imam, to lead Shiite Muslims to victory and restore order and peace — Islamic peace. (3)

The Mahdi mysteriously disappeared in the ninth century, and the faithful have awaited his return ever since. After over a thousand years, they can wait a few more while the Imams build a nuclear arsenal. The last Iranian president, Mahmoud Amadinejad, had a boulevard in Tehran widened to accommodate the triumphal return of the Mahdi. Why would he do such a thing?

Because, incredibly, it appears the Mahdaviats are actually motivated by “End of Days” beliefs. We must not dismiss this simply because WE think such beliefs are insane. If the Iranian leaders are in fact religious fanatics determined to initiate the Apocalypse, the only thing that will stop them is a preemptive strike. Threats won’t do it. A nuclear mutually assured destruction, MAD, is not a deterrent to these people, it is an encouragement!

Iran’s leaders, like Nazi Germany’s, plot world domination, build their arsenals in secrecy and are totally contemptuous of Western leaders. Barack Obama, like Neville Chamberlain, is all too eager to bring home a “peace in our time” agreement, in spite of Iran’s ongoing war of terrorism against the West, especially against the United States, a.k.a. “The Great Satan.”

The “Supreme Leader” Obama referred to, The Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, constantly declares “Death to America,” most recently while the nuclear arms negotiations were underway! Why doesn’t Obama listen? Why doesn’t somebody have the courage to tell Obama he’s wrong?

I think, like Hitler, the Ayatollah means what he says. I hope I’m wrong, but it looks like Benjamin Netanyahu is the Winston Churchill of our time.

(1)http://www.jihadwatch.org/2015/04/irans-persian-statement-on-deal-contradicts-obamas-claims?utm_source=Jihad+Watch+Daily+Digest&utm_campaign=bbbd00f5ae-
(2) http://www.bizpacreview.com/2015/02/10/obama-takes-a-stupid-pill-dont-be-afraid-of-iran-nukes-are-contrary-to-their-faith-178739
(3) https://silvercityburro.com/2014/02/26/monsters-from-the-id/  or http://www.grantcountybeat.com/columns/libertarian-leanings/14557-monsters-from-the-id


The Deadly and Suicidal Side Effects of the First Amendment

The Deadly and Suicidal Side Effects of the First Amendment by Peter Burrows elburropete@gmail.com, silvercityburro.com 7/19/15

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is only one sentence long, but it packs a powerful line-up of freedoms most of us think essential:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Implicit in those freedoms is the idea that they cannot be used in ways that do harm, e.g. the famous adage that freedom of speech does not give one the right to yell “Fire” in a crowded theater.  There are gray areas, however, where society has to weigh the pluses and minuses.

One example that comes to mind is the freedom of the press to publicize acts of depravity, which to some extent may be motivated by the very publicity such acts generate.  The recent mass murder in a Charleston church  generated tons of publicity for the moronic little punk who committed the crime, including pictures of him posing with the Confederate flag.

I strongly suspect that such tragedies would be reduced if the media were under publicity constraints of some kind.  I realize that a total blackout is not possible with the Internet so ubiquitous, but if television, newspapers and magazines would limit coverage to victims only, not show pictures of, or name, the perpetrators other than to describe them as depraved, mentally deficient, etc., I think that would remove at least some of the motivation for such acts.

Passing laws abridging press freedoms to cover these atrocities is not my first choice.  It used to be that the press never printed the names of rape victims.  There was no law saying so, just an unwritten code of conduct most journalists, print and media, followed.  Why not have the same sort of thing for coverage of mass murders?

This is something President Obama could initiate.  The press likes to say he is worried about his legacy, maybe he is, maybe he isn’t.  (He sure as Hell SHOULD be.)  I think history would look very favorably on a White House summit that gathered television, cable and print executives together to propose they voluntarily refrain from what could be described as “infamy enhancing” coverage of acts of mass murder and terrorism.

It’s worth a try.

The above is fairly trivial compared to another part of the First Amendment that is VERY troubling.   This is the part that prohibits laws that restrict “the free exercise” of religion. The problem is that the religion of Islam, if allowed to be freely exercised, advocates the prohibition of all other religions.  Furthermore, it commands its followers to use murderous force to achieve this.

The recent incident in Chattanooga, where a Muslim killed five U.S. military recruiters, has authorities scrambling to determine if the killer had ties to ISIS.  How stupid. Of course he had ties. It’s called the Koran.  The infamous Verse of The Sword, sura 9:5, commands Muslims to “slay the Pagan wherever you find them.”  So, you think, “I’m no pagan, I’m Jewish,” or “I’m Christian.”   Sorry, infidels.  Sura 9:29 says to fight anybody who doesn’t acknowledge Islam as the “Religion of Truth,” even if they are “People of the Book,” i.e. Jews and Christians.(1)

Essentially, the First Amendment, if slavishly followed, amounts to an assisted suicide of our Republic. At the very least, we have to prohibit the free exercise of Islam within our borders, but how to do so constitutionally?  My first thought was to more tightly define the meaning of  “religion.” The dictionary definition is of no help:  Religion 1. A. Belief in and reverence for a supernatural power recognized as the creator and governor of the universe. B. A particular integrated system of this expression: the Hindu religion. 2. The spiritual or emotional attitude of one who recognizes the existence of a superhuman power of powers. (2)
Sorry to say, but Islam fits.  There is no way to square the circle. Islam is protected by a law it would do away with. I’m hardly the first to notice this conundrum. Google: “Islam and the first amendment” and you will find extensive discussion of this inherent contradiction.. I especially liked “Islam and the First Amendment” by Tom Gilson 1/21/15 Breakpoint Columns. This link will get you close:
http://www.breakpoint.org/features-columns/breakpoint-columns/entry/2/26740

I’m sure the Founding Fathers would have qualified “the free exercise thereof” phrase had they known Islam would someday be a problem.  They didn’t, and we’re stuck. I think a Constitutional Amendment is in order, and ASAP. Until then we will have to rely on common sense and a universal law that has existed far longer than the Constitution: The right of self defense.

(1) I’ve written nine articles about Islam, not all of which were published in The Grant County Beat. Go to silvercityburro.com and see:

Monsters From The Id, 2/25/14
Groucho, Chico and Islams’s Useful Idiots 12/4/14
Islam 101, Part One 12/18/14
Islam 101, Part Two 12/27/14
Islam 101 Part Three 1/6/15
Islam For Smart Dummies 1/11/15
Islam 101 Part Four 1/18/15
Move Over, Neville Chamberlain 4/6/15
Slandering The Prophet 4/26/15

(2) The American Heritage Dictionary, Second College Edition, Houghton Mifflin 1991, pg. 1044.

Water Follies

Water Follies by Peter Burrows, elburropete@gmail.com 7/7/15

I wonder how many thousands of hours people in our area have spent in the last ten years traveling to and attending meetings related to the Arizona Water Settlement Act?  Add another thousand or so over the past few weeks as Luna County, Grant County, Deming and Silver City elected officials held hearings and voted on whether or not to be a part of the governing body that will build and run a proposed $500 million to $1 billion project to tap “excess” water from the annual flooding of the Gila and San Francisco Rivers.

Emotions are running pretty high, with the two sides roughly divided into “Boondoggle” vs. “Build it for our children.”   I’ve attended a number of meetings on this issue, and my unscientific sampling of attitudes is that about 90% of the participants are in the “Boondoggle” camp.

This hasn’t done much good as far as persuading elected officials to not be a part of the governing group that will oversee the proposed project. All the above governments voted unanimously to participate, with the exception of Silver City, which voted unanimously to NOT participate.

Silver City’s attorney had some strong objections to becoming entangled in an open-ended project that he thought could involve the city in huge liabilities.  Since the Joint Powers Agreement specifically states, Section III (f), that any financial support is up to the individual governments, i.e. not subject to majority rule, I’m not sure that’s the case.

In any event, I thought it would be a good idea to get all the government-retained attorneys involved, from Grant County, Luna County, Deming and Silver City, in a public forum to publicly vet the legal pros and cons. Since three of the four gave different advice than Silver City’s attorney, I thought that would be a fun forum.

A wiser friend, Vic Topmiller, looked at me and said, “Wait a minute, Burro. You think you can get four  attorneys to air their differences in public for FREE?”  I immediately saw the utter stupidity of my idea. Still, it would be nice.

Some of those opposed to a huge diversion project e.g. Dutch Salmon, have long maintained that the big diversion was the goal of the NM Interstate Stream Commission (ISC) all along. Such cynicism was warranted.

Last July, the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) released a report with the somewhat lengthy title, “Appraisal Level Report on the Arizona Water Settlements Act Tier -2 Proposals and other Diversion and Storage Configurations – Technical Support Provided to the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission.”.  The graph on page 18 says it all: A few minor projects  MAY make economic sense, but not the big $500 million-plus diversion that the ISC is pushing.  That one’s way off the chart.

As soon as I saw the BOR report I called Craig Roepke, Deputy Director of New Mexico’s Interstate Stream Commission (ISC) and asked him if the BOR report was the death sentence for the big diversion. Oh, gosh no. The ISC disagreed with the BOR study and the ISC had their own much better analysis that supported the big project.

That’s when it hit me.  “Burro,” I thought, “you are a damn fool.  Dutch has been right all along. This diversion has been the goal of the ISC from day one. All the hearings, all the studies, just a big Kabuki Dance.”  (Years ago I read “Cadillac Desert,” and I should have known that if there’s a cup of water anywhere in the Southwest, some bureaucracy will spend a billion dollars to save it.)

I like Craig Roepke. I met him a few years ago when he addressed the TEA Party here in Silver City about the AWSA.  He is passionate about the water future of New Mexico, and  he worries that we are using, in his words, “Ice Age water” that isn’t being replaced.  Combine that with the time honored practice of bureaucratic empire building, and of course he’s all for the big diversion project.

This big diversion project has crowded out all other less grandiose projects that have been proposed, some of which could be paid for out of funds that will be spent on environmental and archeology studies necessary for the big project to begin. That will take years.  But it needn’t get that far. The big, perhaps insurmountable hurdle is financing.

The only possible way to raise the necessary funds is through a public bond offering. Any public bond offering has to be accompanied by a prospectus that lists all the pertinent details concerning the project, including all the potential problems. This means the prospectus will have to include the conclusions of  The Bureau of Reclamation.  It will also have to include the objections of Norm Gaume, an engineer and former head of the ISC.

Norm has described the project with the memorable word “infeasible.” His studies raise big doubts about the amount of water available, doubts that have been vindicated by proponents of the project suddenly talking about the need to tap the San Francisco River as well as the Gila.  That should raise the cost considerably.

Norm presented his objections in some detail at a well attended TEA Party sponsored presentation last summer. (Damn, our local TEA Party is GOOD!!)

The bottom line is that nobody’s going to buy bonds to finance a project with such huge questions concerning its viability.  Kyle Johnson was essentially correct when at the recent Grant County Commission meeting he said, as reported in The Grant County Beat, that investors “want a guaranteed return, water or no water.”

In my opinion, to get that guarantee bond buyers will need the backing of the state of New Mexico, something I doubt very much will be forthcoming, especially given the state‘s two existing financial tar babies, The Rail Runner and the Spaceport.  Too bad those boondoggles didn’t get the public scrutiny the water diversion is getting.

Having a government guarantee means the bond will be a general obligation (GO) bond as opposed to an industrial revenue bond, which is a bond backed by the financial results of the project itself.  Bond buyers would balk at buying bonds only secured by the financial results of a project so vulnerable to such unknowables as the amount of rain in the area.

A lot of time and money could be wasted  before this financial roadblock is faced. Best to accelerate the process with the following suggestions for the new Central Arizona Project entity.

1. Contract with a major construction firm to do a cost estimate independent of either the ISC or the BOR.  Off the top of my head, I would suggest calling Fluor Corporation, down in Irving Texas.  If they can’t do it, they probably know of a firm that could do it. Regardless, it should be a big, respected construction firm with expertise in water projects.  This may cost several million dollars, but a hard cost estimate is absolutely essential before anything else.  Once this is in hand, the financing can be responsibly addressed. Not before.

2. With cost estimate in hand, call in at least two investment bankers for their opinion on financing feasibility, given the caveats that must accompany any financing.  G.K. Baum has been involved in the background of all the discussions about the diversion project, so they are familiar with the details and should be one of the firms, but not the only one.   Their recommendation(s) will include the advisability of an industrial revenue vs. general obligation.

3. If, in the unlikely event the bankers give their approval contingent on the offering being a New Mexico GO,  the next step is take it to the state legislature for approval, where it will not fly.  If by some unbelievable lapse of judgment the bankers think the four county area could support a GO, then it should be put to a referendum vote,  ASAP, where it will be overwhelmingly defeated, IMHO.

The idea is to get a yea or a nay on the project as soon as possible.  This could save a lot of money that would otherwise be wasted in  environmental and archeological studies, and perhaps lawsuits, if the skeptics are right