HOW YOU GET OIL
The Crazy Horse was writing a screenplay about the shipyards in San Francisco, so he took a job there. Among other things, he had to work refitting an oil tanker. What occurs below the fold comes straight from the unpublished real-time novel on which he was experimenting at the time. He didn't know what blogs were, though the novel might have made a fine blog of those delirious dot.com days. At least he knew something about windpower, and this evidence of what windpower was trying to replace.
Here's the part about seeing the reality about oil: beyond intellect, beyond politics, beyond power and insanity. This is how it gets to your tank.
Friday night. A fucking Friday night, a fucking foreboding Friday night. Foreman says be ready, we're going into some foul shit. Cover up, this is a real slop tank. Me already anxious about going into this tank, on a fucking Friday night when everyone in dot.com creation's getting ready to celebrate the next million.
And me going in a tank even the foreman's got forebodings?
The staging pile's already on deck, we've been clambering over main deck pipes for hours bringing the staging, and even the open hatch propped by the pile looks ominous. Me, renewable energy champion for decades, standing on the deck of an oil tanker, surrounded by pipelines like some oil field labyrinth, preparing myself to submerge into some tank eye ain't even seen yet, but i can tell from the look on the foreman's face, we're in for some shit. The huge, ear-splitting fan's pumping down the next hatch four meters away, humming drummers at the gates of hell. Somehow eye already know, this is why i'm here.
But me got five weeks of getting the job done, me ready for anything.
Check tools hanging off me waist, climb over the hatch lip, swing my legs into the abyss, can't see a damn thing beneath the hatch, just some black singularity from which no light escapes, feel around for the first step, there, solid, second step, grip the hatch edge, duck my hardhat, descend, i'm in. Nostrils slapped awake by the invasion of crude, first hints of nausea gurgling from somewhere below my suddenly heaving chest. Few more steps, eyes, such as they are, adjust, another step down, beloved steel-toes, protectors of me feet, me strong but hurting feet, carried me fifty years this far, boots sliding on the steel rung, what the fuck is that shit? Peer down, ugh, that's fucking sludge on the ladder's rungs, my boots are sliding. Search for the safety rail, where the fuck's the safety rail, perhaps it was forgotten in the haste to build another oil tanker. Eyes search deeper into the hold, me trying to get my bearings, looking four stories down, it's all black, the black that sucks up all light, everywhere i look it's black with oil sludge, hard steel angles cushioned by Squish sludge layer of black tar, as far as the eye can see, limited by sharp shafts of blinding light from the few spotlights lighting our way, and bordered by acres of pitch black pitch, hiding who knows what. jeesus keerist all monopoly, this is a fucking oil tank, this is the crude oil bunker, how could i have not figured this shit out.
No time to figure nothing, my breathing becomes more labored with every descending step. Gloved hands sliding along the ladder rails, can't believe my stuck gloves already full of tar, or sludge, or whatever foul shit called from the depths of hell this hold holds.
Ain't they supposed to clean this shit out before we work?
Keep descending, finally hit the first level. Boots sliding on the slick sludge on steel, foul, grab a rung for a handhold and my gloves are black, and sticky, and fetid, eye can't even look at them for that increases the stench. Peering below to my two partners, of course Tick's the first one down, both on the hold bottom, slipping in the muck. Chrome Carl falls on his ass, into an inch of sludge, even he's cursing more than i've ever heard in my life. Me try to find a spot on the landing with firm footing, not a fucking chance, every square inch of surface, even underneath, is mired in half-inch thick sludge, sludge with an evil mind of its own, grabbing you and sucking you down into its filth, every hand hold where you search for purchase just a slick trick delusion of something solid, gloves sliding along the rail, nostrils almost closed to keep out the fetid invasion, me just won't breath while i'm down here.
Look around, nausea overwhelming the disgust, trying to get my bearings. Struck hard by the chilling hypocrisy of the safety meeting. They hand out cute little decals for your hardhat or locker, safety decals, then send you down into the depths of hell for $15 bucks an hour, dosing you with government approved doses of crude oil death. And there ain't no safety cage, no rail on the ladders. And there's only one rail about waist high on a steel ledge thirty feet above your death, one thin landing rail, and there's not one inch of stable footing, and everywhere you grab you either stick to or slide off. Dangling participles of death.
Takes moments that never end before the crew's ready up top to send down the first piece of staging. Me in the middle of it's descent, have to guide it, no, lever it past the landing and out into the black hole, guide it down the hold, to the waiting shipwrights below. First piece comes down, get out of the way Randy, hey slow it down up there, cocksuckers, grab the staging rail, try to lever it over the side rail, one boot slips off the landing, into the deck hole twelve yards below, where the ladder continues its descent, grab for the rail with my stomach, saves my ass, maneuver the fuckin' steel, send it down, first one done, and i'm still alive. Piece after piece, now even the ropes are fucking sticky with tar, me sweating like pig wrapped in rubber, can't wipe the sweat off my face, can't touch a fucking living part of my being, can't wipe the fog off the safety glasses, AND CAN'T FUCKING BREATHE!
Just to hug my son once more.
Tick's yelling from below, but between the roar of the fan and the clanging echoes, i can't make out a fucking sound except i know he's screaming. What? Can't hear you. What? Me yelling i can't hear you so many times i can't hear myself.
Hits me like a staging plank falling from the last vestige of the world out that tiny hatch twenty feet above my head. Right at this moment, Tha's going on stage for the press preview of her first performance in San Francisco since she's been back.
Me can't tell the anger rippling through my system from the growing nausea.
She's on stage, this talented wonder who captured my heart, freely given, who gave me hope that eye was worth something, who excited me in every way a man can be excited, and then topped that (Remember the Paris story? GVI), who counted on me for strength to support her actress insecurity, she said eye believed in her more than anyone in the world, who i brought to Sundance to introduce to the Indie film world, she's on stage right now, she won't talk to me, but she made sure i knew her schedule, she's walking on stage, and i'm mired in a fucking slop tank where i can't see nothing but crude oil sludge, can't breath nothing but crude oil fumes, can't touch nothing but tar, crude, sucked from the bowels of the earth tar, coating every warm fragile cell in my being, being in hell, oil slick hell, coal tar hell, can i die from this hell, what's he yelling hell.
More staging descends, more sweat mixes with the carbon diarrhea, now there's even tears fogging my safety glasses, better cut that shit out right now, if i want to see to keep from dying, steel myself, starting to sway from the power of this moment, decades of struggling to get you to embrace the sun, and here i'm locked away from all life, away from everything soft and gentle, here i'm locked in the tank that you sent your kids to the desert to fight for, here i'm locked away somewhere only polite people would call purgatory, this is a fucking crude oil hold on a crude oil tanker bringing fucking crude oil to america to fucking burn as if we had the right to suicide by poison fire.
Twenty five years of renewable energy activism, of crafting legislation, of starting companies, of doing deals, of getting projects built, of making clean power from the sun and wind, and here i am sucked into the steel belly of the beast, building staging so the pipefitters can come down here in hell to maintain the valves needed to pump your poison fucking carbon blood.
You sent me here, Reader.
Tha Oner, can't you feel me at all? Why this, how this, what could possibly be worth putting my fucking lungs on the line, life on the line, to be in black hold tar goo devil's come sludge crude tanker world that i've spent my entire life fighting to end? Can't bear the remembrances of soft organic oils poured over her rich pulsing breasts, skin sliding with the joy of sliding into each other, slithering loving memories clashing against the foul slippery dank of this tank. This tank is everything wrong with modern civilization, everything missing from intelligence in the species, everything gone from the heart, everything lost to the ages, everything poison to the soul, everything hurtful to the skin of the planet, hurtful to the air that brings the breath of life, the water that washes us clean, everything hurtful to each new generation, every violence committed to anyone, any power grab to make up for no orgasms, every slimy attempt at asserting the power of the material world over the soft strength of seed, every drop of the fossil history of our earth, burned in a few foul generations so you can continue to hide from your own godhood, sleepwalking, surrounded by your oil burning treasures.
God Damn It Randy, Get Down Here I Can't Breathe!!
Tick's cries finally break through the sludge.
Get your ass up if you can't breathe.
Come down and take my place, i can't breathe.
Get your ass up if you can't breathe.
Get down here, take my place i can't breathe.
If you can't breathe, get your ass up. Eye ain't coming down. Get up here now.
More pieces of staging, and me feel like hurling them through the hull. Didn't they show Tick that stupid, life-saving, training video?
It's really bad, i can't breathe.
Then get your fucking ass up here, i ain't saying it again, GET YOUR ASS OUT OF THE HOLD NOW.
What the fuck's going on down there?, chirps the foreman.
My skull screams death you idiot, but my voice screams Tick can't breathe.
Here's the last piece, stow it then get up here.
Deal. Last piece Tick.
Clang echoes forever as the last rail hits.
Get your fucking ass up top now.
Me already trying to breathe too soon, before i've finished climbing, and me flop like whale over the hatch rail, gasping.
Again, shipyard air never was as fresh. Gasping. Shaking. Soaked.
Slimy. Get those gloves off. Shed the slicker. Don't touch anything.
Break time, wander off to the bow staring at Frisco's effervescent city lights.
For you, motherfuckers, for you.
Hell ain't fiery, hell's a sludge tank, full of leftover oil for the dinner of your materialism. Suck my cock, Reader, bound and gagging, you know not what you...
Catch my breath. The godhead pours into me.
The Light illuminates, the tar sludge poison is dead.
From this moment on, when i speak of the need to move immediately to the soft energy path of the sun, my words will contain the full power of knowing whereof i speak. I've been there, eye am here, in the fetid hold of your society's fuel, dark and poison, foul, death, and not worth the lives you sacrifice for your fucking SUV's.
Back to the crew, splayed exhausted amidst the death tanker's Gordian knotted death pipes, we're all getting ready to go to the depths of the slop tank and build staging. Silent stare into foreman's eyes.
You know, boss, i don't think i can go down there again.
In the tank, or home.
Heart lifting, home. Sorry, boss, home it is. Me tell him truth. Saying, what you guys don't know is i've spent my whole conscious life fighting to bring a renewable energy future into reality, for everybody, and it just don't seem right to go down there. i know i can't ever work with you guys again, for there's no way i can choose not to share the whole job, can't expect you to cover my ass if i won't cover yours.
Eye can tell by the foreman's eyes he understands exactly, viscerally, where i come from. But he says, you're done.
Me so glad to be done. My heart, still pounding in my chest, my lungs, still throbbing in my chest, begin to calm, knowing me going home.
My last look at the guys.
Me proud, aware that it goeth before a fall, but me so damn proud.
DRYDOCK, I GOT THE STORY!
Shuffle off over the pipes, along the deck, across the gangway i built, lungs heaving, along the east wingwall, staring at the tanker berthed in this steel womb, blankly staring, not fully comprehending what's occurring here, down the drydock stairs, course upon course, jump to the dock, turn and fix my last look at Drydock One, power building inside, the godhead's strong, i'm an arrogant fuck but i'm right, and what's more, i'm going home, no more poison, no more life on the line, no more romantic brushes with death. Last shuffle along the quay, steel-toes strangely light, heart lifting with every step, me going home. Last climb up the shipwright stairs. Won't be making this climb again. Open the locker, and slowly, slowly, take off my oil-encrusted gear, tar stench and thick slime. Don't touch anything.
Me going home. I got the story. Oil kills, and Eye know why.
Monday, September 22, 2008
HOW YOU GET OIL
Thursday, February 22, 2007
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Monday, January 29, 2007
One of the most respected pioneers from the world of windpower, Dr. Forrest “Woody” Stoddard, passed away this weekend. Woody's decades of work in the design and testing of modern wind turbines not only has long-lasting effects on the evolution of modern windmills, but his influence on the legion of today's top engineers is unparalled.
I'll tell a story or two about my bro below, trying to cut through the sadness. But first, here's what the industry association had to say about him last week:
U.S. WIND ENERGY INDUSTRY HONORS FORREST (WOODY) STODDARD WITH LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
Visionary Engineer, Teacher Pioneered Wind Turbine Design,
Continues to Mentor Many in Industry
The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) today awarded its annual Wind Energy Lifetime Achievement Award to Forrest (Woody) Stoddard, a visionary wind energy leader, teacher, and pioneer. This award is presented in recognition of years of outstanding industry leadership and support.
“The U.S. wind energy industry is proud to present this award to a passionate, inspiring expert to whom we owe so much: Woody Stoddard,” said AWEA Executive Randall Swisher. “In addition to his many engineering achievements, Woody nurtured talent and instilled enthusiasm for wind energy technology in students and colleagues alike.”
Dr. Stoddard was the lead developer of the 25kW Windfurnace at the University of Massachusetts in the mid 1970s. It was the largest operating wind turbine at the time. During the project Stoddard became the mentor of many engineers who graduated from the UMass renewable energy program and who eventually filled the growing ranks of the industry. The WindFurnace itself laid the engineering groundwork for the commercial wind turbines later deployed by US Windpower (which later became Kenetech Windpower) in California.
“Stoddard helped lay a foundation of design tools at a time when the nascent wind energy industry barely had any at all, and his PhD thesis from the mid-70s remains the state of the art of wind turbine dynamic analysis,” said AWEA Board Member and fellow engineer Brian McNiff. “Since that time, he has been a strong, principled voice promoting wind energy development and research, and a major contributor to wind energy’s success.”
“What Woody did for us, we American engineers of all disciplines who made our careers in wind, is believe in us, making us feel we were part of something good, something useful, and a hopeful future,” said Walter Sass, founder of Second Wind, Inc., with whom Stoddard worked on a project testing turbines. “He made us feel we were -- and are -- part of wind power.”
Dr. Stoddard will be presented with the award at a ceremony in Cambridge, Mass. on January 26.
Alas, Woody wanted to go, and passed away before the award was given. I first met Woody while visiting the Toward Tomorrow Fair in Amherst, MA, near where the windpower mafia was born under the tutelage of Prof. Bill Heronemus and his engineering program at Umass. Woody said he needed some hands to help pour the nacelle for the Wind Furnace turbine, so I came, having already met Heronemus the year before. That turbine, under Woody's lead, was the first to incorporate some of the principles still defining modern turbines.
The Captain (Heronemus), Woody and some top students went on to form US Windpower Associates... the nucleus for what became america's first large turbine manufacturer US Windpower. (Newly elected Congressman Jerry McNerney worked many years on the engineering side of this firm, giving him the energy background we so need in Congress.)
In a classical scene recounted in the book about our pioneering exploits, Reaping the Wind (Peter Asmus, Island Press, 2001), Woody tried to convince the Board that the first test turbine wasn't ready to fly. He was overruled, the Board came to watch to startup, and the turbine pitched a blade across the highway.
Woody was unceremoniously fired (not right away), probably the most bitter pill in his career. I went to San Francisco to help midwife the birth of the modern industry. In 1980 or 1981, Woody and I snuck out into an Altamont Pass field where the crates holding the first six USW 56-50 turbines were waiting erection. Woody kept circling the crates, so I thought, hell, and opened one.
Woody asked me to just look, and tell him what I saw using my “feelings.” (I'd barely been through a year of university before taking another direction, and here the top designer in the industry is asking me for my opinion. Through the decades he often trusted my intuition, as i trusted his experience.) “Spindly,” i said, “like a spider. Ain't enough steel.” He laughed and told me i got it right, then explained why.
Several hundred of these turbines were installed in the first few months. But the project was shut down before barely commencing, because it was too dangerous for the crews to be out in the field with the turbines self-destructing in the Altamont winds.
The financial people in the company had overruled the engineers, a problem we would find time and again throughout the industry. Woody continually railed about the effect on the industry of decisions such as these. But a deep and lasting friendship, already growing, was cemented that day in the field.
Woody and I drove through Denmark together researching the state of the art of the industry, early 80's. We visited many of the companies and installations. Perhaps i'll write my recollections of that amazing trip sometime. Just the high points now. Touring Riso National Laboratory with him was an honor.
The conversations with him and industry leaders, including Helge Petersen, Per Lundsager, and a host of top young engineers (we were all young then, except Helge, who's still with us), set ideas in motion that had an effect on the industry's growth. and Erik Grove-Nielsen's hospitality was tops. They were still in contact up to the end, and according to Woody's last email to me, the continuing respect for Erik was an important part of his wind world-view.
Over the next decades, Woody was not only my closest colleague, he earned my deepest friendship in the industry. He was constantly hovering over my left shoulder, helping me understand the complex dynamics of modern wind turbines. He and The Captain were my mentors, helping to guide my career. (The Captain once called me “a loose cannon on deck.”)
He slept on my couch, and i his. We climbed towers together, and i always learned something new. Hell, Woody was special, and not just because he went to high school with Soft Path Energy expert Amory Lovins. His latest poster paper for an AWEA conference a few years ago showed he's still thinking outside the box. He and Heronemus made the case that arrays of smaller turbines may be more efficient than the modern super rotors.
Sure, i just lost a friend i'll never stop missing. But the industry has lost its most expert cantakerous voice. We will miss his perspective, and his deep and inate understanding. I know i'll still be hearing his voice in my head, helping me keep my eyes on the prize.
We still have a long hard road to travel to bring windpower to its proper place in amurka's energy mix.
Love and Respect, Woody. Onward.
Posted by The Global Village Idiot at 1:02 PM
Friday, January 05, 2007
(NOTE: The author of the Blueprint for Peace is not the CIA trained former Prime Minister Iyad (Ayad) Allawi.)
Published today in the Independent (UK), former Iraqi Defense Minister Ali Allawi's coherent plan begins by finally stating the obvious:
“The Iraqi state that was formed in the aftermath of the First World War has come to an end. Its successor state is struggling to be born in an environment of crises and chaos. The collapse of the entire order in the Middle East now threatens as the Iraq imbroglio unleashes forces in the area that have been gathering in virulence over the past decades.
It took the American-led invasion and occupation of Iraq, and the mismanagement of the country by both the Coalition Provisional Administration and subsequent Iraqi governments, to bring matters to this dire situation.
What was supposed to be a straightforward process of overthrowing a dictatorship and replacing it with a liberal-leaning and secular democracy under the benign tutelage of the United States, has instead turned into an existential battle for identity, power and legitimacy that is affecting not only Iraq, but the entire tottering state system in the Middle East.”
Allawi intelligently recognizes that the chaos in Iraq is actually the chaos in the entire Middle East, whose weak foundations have been shattered by the illegal invasion orchestrated by the Madman President. Bush's vision of securing amurkan energy while bringing on the Rapture is clinically insane, as is the large portion of amurka who nearly choked on this pretzeline logic.
But Allawi has opened the gates of rational policy analysis, and while this Plan is only an opening to the debate, it is the first intelligent discussion i have seen. While the key players will surely debate the specifics, i have seen no finer foundation on which to debate the solution to the chaos that is what amurka brought to the land of the sand and the home of the oil.
As Allawi so clearly states, the nearly one hundred year “system, carved out of the wreckage of the Ottoman Empire” was held together by “foreign occupation, outside meddling, brutal dictatorships, and minority rule.” It is indeed this underlying horror unleashed by the PNAC fantasy.
Allawi then details the situation on the ground with a precision perhaps found only within the erudite halls of scholarly Mid-East policy analysts, but which nevertheless rings clearly with the power of insight. The upshot of his analysis, however, is chilling. The region will explode in a crossfire of religious, tribal, economic and political violence crossing all the borders of the Mid-East, including Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Iran.
He predicts that with a Shia ascendency in Iraq will come an equal and opposite repression in the lands where Shia remain minorities, similar to the “pattern that accompanied the Saudi-led campaign to contain the Iranian revolution of the 1980s.”
There is far more detail in the original, which deserve to understood and debated. But far more important is the precision with which Allawi Blueprints the steps and framework necessary to provide a path out of the miasma. I await the verdict of wise men like Robert Fisk on the Plan, but the detail in Allawi's vision is a true opportunity to end the madness.
Allawi's solution begins:
“It requires genuine vision and statesmanship to pull the Middle East from its death spiral. The elements of a possible solution are there if the will exists to postulate an alternative to the politics of fear, bigotry and hatred.
The first step must be the recognition that the solution to the Iraq crisis must be generated first internally, and then, importantly, at the regional level. The two are linked and the successful resolution of one would lead to the other.
No foreign power, no matter how benevolent, should be allowed to dictate the terms of a possible historic and stable settlement in the Middle East. No other region of the world would tolerate such a wanton interference in its affairs.”
Bush's mad vision is over. Announced only after the Democrats have formally retaken Congress, Allawi uses diplomatic-speak to drive a stake into the heart of the Bush Doctrine. He acknowledges legitimate amurkan interests in the region, “but the future of the area should not be held hostage to their designs and exclusive interests.”
His major points must be examined in detail, and fleshed out out over months and years of regional negotiation, which process alone will change the region. Summarizing, all the forces unleashed by the invasion must be taken into account, while the forces must accept limits as well. Shia and Kurd will have their day, but only if they accept limits. Sunni must be assured that they will not be marginalized; behind all of this is a serious program of revenue-sharing.
And finally, as continuing chaos will inexorably spill over Iraq's border, there must be a regional administration of the entire process. Turkey, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and the other at-risk states will have to join in a regional administration of the process, without which they will remain threatened.
Initially the soution would become a decentralized Iraqi state supported in power and resources, focused upon the equitable sharing of oil revenue, enforced in a form of federalism. Then comes the zinger:
“The second essential outcome would be a treaty that would establish a confederation or constellation of states of the Middle East, initially including Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan. The main aim of the confederation would be to establish a number of conventions and supra-regional bodies that would have the effect of acting as guarantors of civil, minority and community rights.”
From this beginning, there is always the possibility for the evolution of something approaching the European Union for the Middle East. This is perhaps the most visionary part of Allawi's plan. In fact, he details how this could evolve, and why it is indeed necessary.
He admits to one of the two elephants in the room. Allawi does not believe the US can be ignored in this process just because it has so catastrophically failed to date, admitting amurka “is still the most powerful actor.” But he does politely stick the knife in Bush's insanity, stating, “ Whatever project (the US) had for Iraq has vanished, a victim of inappropriate or incoherent policies, and the violent upending of Iraq's power structures.”
Allawi does not, however, address the other elephant in the room, the Palestine-Israel madness. When the regional proposals address this issue, then there could well be real progress in the Middle East. But check out the Allawi proposals in detail, and see if you don't agree it's the most heartening news to come out of the miasma since Murtha opened the door for the intrusion of reality.
ONE FINAL IMPRESSION:
That Allawi has beaten Bush to the punch, publishing his Blueprint for Peace before Bush announces his surgescalation, is not to be lost upon the faint-hearted amurkan pundits pundicrying about the change in Congress, Bush's new program, his WSJ editorial, and the rest of the Rovian timetable. Whatever is really behind the Plan, Allawi simply changed the rules of Rove's media game before Rove knew what hit him. Imagine this plan circulating throughout the world, and then Bush announces a new version of more death and "willful ignorance?"
At the very least, Allawi has introduced to the debate a concrete plan to get the occupiers out of Iraq, or as we say, to bring the troops home.
(Ed. note: this is an unedited post, posted in haste because of the importance of Allawi's proposals in changing the terms of the debate. It will likely be rewritten to allow for more detailed analysis.
Posted by The Global Village Idiot at 1:40 PM