Decisions: Good and Bad

English: Ameren lineman practicing a rescue.

English: American lineman practicing a rescue. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Right and wrong. Often we think of them as the two sides of a coin as it were, and often they are, but are they always? Let’s dig a little deeper here.

As a power lineman, and as an electrician I often deal with power that is concentrated enough to kill you quick. Not that it’s always in the line of duty.

Many years ago, a woman friend of mine had a TV fall into the bathtub with her child. The child was killed. It was called a horrible accident, and it was. Or was it? She knew, or should have known that you don’t let electrical appliances get anywhere near the bath, yes some, such as hairdryers are less dangerous because of safety regulations but still, you are taking a risk. And a CRT television (which was the only kind then) is very high on the list, risk wise. There are very high voltages and some are stored for a time. Bad news. She lost the bet. Sadly, although nothing could replace that child, neither could she have another. And so a woman who by most measures was a pretty good mother, is now childless. But it really is her fault, because of her carelessness. But I did and do feel sorry for her as well as the child.

Another story which I’ve told before

They were lucky but, every time Chris looks at his buddy, he’s reminded. Just as that woman in the first story is every time she sees a small child. We say it so often but do we believe it Actions have consequences. Believe it, they do.

And as a responsible supervisor, it is entirely my responsibility to make sure my crew is safe, from hazards known and unknown. Acts of omission can be (and often are) just as bad as acts of commission

I’m very glad neither of those accidents are on my conscience, I’ve been in a measure lucky but I was also taught to be careful, and what can happen when you are not. And yes, I do have some scars from near misses, both physical and mental. We do our best, that’s all we can do.

Church-of-EnglandWhat started me thinking about this now was that yesterday, my co-author Jessica’s fiancé was ordained a priest in the Church of England. And yes, I am extremely happy for them, and even more for the congregations that will have their services over their lifetimes. But what made me think about those stories above is this.

A few months ago, a young woman came to his rectory because she had heard she didn’t need an appointment to talk to a curate. She was in trouble, she was single, and she was pregnant and she didn’t want to be. But let us let Jess tell the story herself, because she was there and she shared with us then. Please do read it, it is here.

It is a remarkable story isn’t it? Especially the part about how she knew she had done wrong, what we would call grievous sin, although that term had no meaning to her.

And that is something that Jess and I have talked about with each other. In the United States, nearly everybody has some passing familiarity with Christianity, it may be entirely wrong, and yet, as a rule people, while they may think us judgemental (and sometimes we are) and with our noses in other people’s business (ditto), they have an idea of what we believe. In Britain, I gather that is not nearly as true. It is entirely possible to grow up and live your life without ever once coming in contact with Christianity. How that interacts with having a state church, I have no idea but, in any case it’s sad.

Most of you know that I consider abortion to be nothing less than infanticide, a fancy name for murdering your child, and I do.

But here’s the thing. In my examples above the actors knew what they were doing, they made an informed choice. In the case of Jess’ friend, she really didn’t. [As an aside here, she has become a stalwart member of the congregation, helping to run a homeless shelter, and very happy in her new-found faith, or so Jess tells me. I admire her greatly, and pray for her often.] But in Britain as in America, for a large part of the population, abortion is a convenience, used to avoid problems in your career and in your love life. In truth that was the case here.

But here, God in some hidden recess of her told her that she had sinned, and from what Jess said, I would guess that she was close to the point of adding suicide to her list of sins. I don’t know if you have ever been close to that black place of despair, I have, a couple of times, and one does not come back without help, of a friend, of a counsellor, or a pastor, and /or God himself. But if you do, you tend to come back stronger.

And that, my friends, is why I don’t condemn people. I do not know what they know, nor do I know how they reached their decision. This young woman reached out to those who were supposed to help her, and they were too busy, but she persisted and found a willing ear in a CofE curate. he listened and sympathised, as was right because he couldn’t make the decision for her. He moved her enough for her to want to see him after her abortion, and in that meeting, the three of them, plus God himself, saved that woman’s life. But reminding her that while those of us that are guilty (and that is all of us) must not cast the first stone, Jess’ friend as well as the woman at the well was instructed (as are we) “Go and sin no more“.

And the way I remember that is to always remember that one can only make decisions based on the knowledge that one has, if we have more complete knowledge, and they ask us, we must share our knowledge (and belief) but we may not, and even God does not, force them to use our knowledge. We all answer individually.

Who We Really Are…On Father’s Day

This is based on an article from Tracie Louise Photography from a couple of years ago and wanted to add quite a lot for Father’s Day. Read her work, it made my monitor blurry, not many do that.

I had told George that I have barely looked at a photograph of my mother since she crossed over, 9 years ago this past Easter.  She encouraged me to get out some pictures and look at them, but this was my response:

… she was my best friend. If I am at all wise, or creative, or kind, or spiritual, it’s because of her. And I know exactly what she would say to this comment… if I want to see her, I only need look into my own eyes, and my own heart. And she would be right. She left her body 9 years ago, and moved onto bigger and better things. She was never that body, it just housed her for a time (way too short a time). But it was never who she really was, and looking at a picture of it, will not bring us any closer. I hope you understand what I am saying… I think I might actually be channelling it directly from her, as it seems far to wise to have come from me 

I lost my grandfather when I was 20 years old.  Pop and I had one of those special bonds… you know the ones.  They don’t require words.  There is just this “knowing” between you.  Mum taught me a great deal about life and death when my Pop passed.  She taught me that if I ever wanted to spend time with my grandfather, to look no further than my own heart.  She taught me that there was no need to visit a cemetery because I wouldn’t find Pop there.  She said that Pop would never be truly gone as long as we were around to remember him… to honour him… to live our lives in a manner that would make him proud.

Please do read Tracie’s wonderful post, Who We Really Are…..

This is exactly how I feel about my Dad, who passed in 1978. I still, in quieter moments feel him around me. One of the more unusual things in my family is that almost all of the men are built alike, right down to suit size, and going completely grey in our twenties. In fact, Dad was buried in his son-in-law’s suit because I needed the one I had for the funeral, all three of us, and most of my uncles as well could have traded clothes. Dad pretty much never lectured, he led, he taught, and he disciplined when necessary rarely was more than “I’m disappointed in you.” necessary. In truth my sister (who was 20 years older than me) said, after he was gone that he had always scared her. I understood what she meant immediately. He never did me but, he sure motivated me. I’ve said before that our family motto is “If it’s not absolutely right, it’s completely wrong,” that came from Dad.

He had a command presence in any company. Once after he retired he took a wrong turn with his motorhome in southern Georgia, near as I can tell, he ended up at the main gate of Fort Benning. He found it funny that the gate guard looked at him took a step back and snapped off a parade ground salute, I figured it was normal. He looked and acted like he was at least a colonel, in fact he acted more like a colonel than most of the colonels I’ve met.

In his professional career he was simply the best: Lineman, Project Superintendent, General Manager, and the job nearly killed him because he was also a micromanager. He knew (the bad part is that he was right) that he could do everyone’s job better than they could. He didn’t tolerate sloppiness or second-rate work. He built the house he lived in for the last 30 years of his life. I mean built with his own two hands. He told me once not long before he passed that it had always bothered him that the house was out of square. A friend of mine from college was selling one of the new laser total stations and I talked him into a demonstration one weekend. Dad was right, the house was out of square, 1/32d of an inch in 135 feet. Dad insisted he could see it.

In his career the people that he got along with best were the operations people, he was one of them, and in the time I was around they were almost all World War II combat veterans. They had the same belief system: right or wrong, yes or no. That’s where I first learned “Yes, sir; no, sir; three bags full, sir”.

He trained me as a lineman, with help from the crews, There wasn’t a piece of utility equipment I couldn’t operate (pretty well, too) by the time I was 14, He let me wire an outbuilding on my own when I was 13, he inspected it and took off some hide verbally on a minor violation of Article 250.

To this day he is there looking over my shoulder, every day. Each and everyday my first thought on a problem is what would Dad do? It’s served me very well, not so much financially, that was never the point, but every decision I’ve made, I could defend to the toughest judge I’ll ever face on Earth, Dad.

But you know the other thing about that. When I got my first few jobs as an electrical contractor, I asked him to back check me both on the plans and in the field. He absolutely refused. It hurt my feelings a lot but now I understand. He had taught me and taught me well: now it was up to me to perform. When I did with few problems, it was a huge confidence booster.

We never talked much, we Norse are world renowned for being taciturn but, you can tell just how men feel about each other when they shake hands, words are superfluous. So I know Dad always knew how much I loved him even as I knew how much he loved me. And like Tracie said, If I want to see him, all I have to do is look in a mirror.

The other thing that I realized is that I give all too often a two dimensional portrait of Dad. There was another side (several in fact). The other family tradition is music. Grampa did two things, ran the town light plant and directed the town band, both were passed down. Of the 7 brothers, 3 worked for utility companies, the other 4 directed high school bands (good ones too, even including one that toured Scandinavia and England). Which is how we got here in the first place, my Great Grampa first came to America on a band tour of Iowa and Minnesota, guess he liked what he saw.

Over at Ace’s yesterday, there was a thread about where would you go back to in history, and given the clientele of the site I wasn’t too surprised that most would go back to the old (what I often call “My”) America, usually about from 1880 to 1920 or so. I feel that way myself often. British Airways a few years ago summed up the wonder of the years pretty well with this.

And that was still another thing about Dad. He never lost his sense of wonder at the marvels we had wrought, He’d watch an airplane from horizon to horizon, had the first TV in town, (and the first air conditioner, I think), and one of the first color TV’s as well, which he built himself. I wonder what he would have thought of the internet. Actually, I don’t. He would have loved it, he loved anything that increased the knowledge and power of the average man, that is one of the main reasons, I think, that he loved and honored America, all his life.

I realize this is getting a bit long but one other thing sticks out in my memory. he married one of the prettiest and likely well-off women in his home town, although I doubt he ever took a dime from his father -in-law, he did it himself. But I don’t think he ever looked at another woman, as a woman again. I can remember commenting on a girl’s looks when I was a teenager (she was beautiful). he just looked at me and said, “I didn’t notice.” He was married to Mom for better than 50 years and completely satisfied, it may have been the strongest partnership ever.

I hope he is half as proud of me as I am of being his son. Let’s end with the quote from Tracie that set me off.

She said that Pop would never be truly gone as long as we were around to remember him… to honour him… to live our lives in a manner that would make him proud.

Happy Birthday, Dad.

Saturday, again, huh? Well we all know what that means here, don’t we? Time to unwind a bit, it’s been a stressful week.

But it’s also the 1st of December, an that’s an important day for me. My Dad would have been 105 today. He’s been gone for over 25 years now but, every time I have a problem one of my key questions is, “What would Dad do (or say)?. If I listen closely, he often tells me, still.

“I cannot trust a man to control others who cannot control himself.”
― Robert E. Lee

The last couple weeks he has seemed especially close, reminding me of a man’s duty. So, I thought maybe we should look at some of the things he loved.

One thing he dearly loved was music, his father did two things: ran the town light plant, and directed the town band, in truth it was the family band practically, of the 10 of them 6 of them were my uncles plus Dad. In his opinion, this was the last great American composer.

I have some problem disagreeing!

I can’t remembering him ever going to a movie, I suspect he got it out of his system when he moonlighted as a projectionist. He’d watch on TV though, usually something like this.

He liked technology a lot too, he had the first TV in town, and when color TV’s started coming out, he didn’t think he could afford one, so he bought a kit and built one. What was on? Good shows, like these.

And for all his insistence that their were no composers after Sousa, he never seemed to have much trouble watching this.

or this

In fact, even the commercials were neat.

But for all that he was a serious man, devoted to keeping the lights on, while keeping his people safe, and he would brook no compromise. He was one of the people who made our lives in the field both easier and safer

Dan Miller ran this song this week, in another context, and in truth he and I both saw it over at the Mad Jewess’es shortly after the election as well. It’s considerably too new a song for Dad to have heard but, it’s a pretty good summary of this article.

It seems a sad song on first listening doesn’t it? But, it’s not really, it speaks to us of the eternal dreams and battles we fight for what we believe in. And those dreams live as long as we are remembered.

A perfect man? Nope, he surely wasn’t, but he was the best I’ve ever known.

“Duty is the sublimest word in our language. Do your duty in all things. You cannot do more. You should never wish to do less.”
― Robert E. Lee

That would have made a good epithet for him

Happy Birthday, Dad, and Thanks.

Along the Line

English: Cameron, LA, 11-10-05 -- Lineman Mari...

English: Cameron, LA, 11-10-05 — Lineman Marion Chappell from Utah repairs a damaged power line from Hurricane Rita. FEMA is helping Local governments get Roads, Bridges, and Utilities back in operation so residents can move back. MARVIN NAUMAN/FEMA photo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The other day over at The Watchtower we started off discussing relevance as applied to the church, and as often happens with that brilliant group of commenters we wandered a bit off topic. Incidentally these comment streams that Jessica promotes are one of the wonders of the world, if you haven’t, you really should join us. In this case, Jess’s co-author and I had a quick aside on teaching theory. We were talking about the generation raised in the ’60s for context.

ChalcedonThere was much folly in that generation and its response to ‘student rebellion’. If you let the young think that they know it all, you are not telling them anything they do not already know. If you tell them they don’t, you stand a chance of teaching them something. In 40 years of teaching that has stood me in good stead. Probably explains why they stay away.

Me: To amend a bit, if they stay away, I would bet that you can be quite intimidating, I suspect SF and I also have the knack, it cuts down on the nonsense. Those who want to learn will persevere. :-)

Chalcedon: Neo – in relation to your comment, I have always found that the students who stayed away were most welcome to do so; those who came seemed to learn something. University is meant to be fun as well as a place of learning; too often people forget the second part of that.

Me: I agree, although my teaching is of another kind entirely, those who are too busy skylarking to pay attention are better off elsewhere, and so are the rest of us, they cause accidents and injuries. I’ve sent a couple home on foot.

Jessica: In your line of work, not paying attention can be rather serious.

Me: Indeed it can. I need to write a post on some of the stupid things that happen when attention isn’t paid. The funny ones, not the deadly ones.

This is the result.

A line crew is a team, I know that’s very trite but, it’s also very true. every man is important as is his job. It doesn’t matter whether your the grunt running the shovel, the operator on the digger, the lineman up the pole, or in the bucket, to be safe and effective it has to be a smooth functioning team. one of the key parts of that is that you pay attention. About 25 years ago I was working for a contractor, replacing poles, hot, of course. I was the second lineman on the crew so most of the time I was playing grunt, backfilling, tamping, framing poles, all the stuff you do learning the business. It’s in some ways the hardest job on the crew because you can really screw up production if you’re slow or get things wrong. Physically, it depends on conditions. I enjoyed it then, and probably still would, at least sometimes. We had a great crew, if we had the proper soil type and pole selection we could drive up and change out a pole in 15 minutes, hot. And we had fun as well.

Anyway, I got jerked of this crew about the 4th of July because one of our tree trimming crews got caught without a hot qualified lineman on it, (most linemen detest tree trimming but it’s part of the job). So, I spent most of the rest of the summer out in Montana screwing around with a mess of trees (which mostly seemed to be Russian Olives, which are ugly as sin itself) after the cottonwoods bloomed, with so much seed that we were cleaning radiators every half hour on our chippers. Anyway that contract ended Labor Day and I came back and worked with Art’s crew again through about Thanksgiving, and then a week in North Dakota‘s Bakken field. And then I got laid off for the winter, as is normal.

Shortly after New Year‘s the office called and asked if I wanted to head down to Kansas for a job they had running, and liking money, I said yes, and again hooked up with Art. The point to all this is that when I was playing grunt for Matt, our senior lineman, or him for me as well, the framing was nearly perfect and because the we both knew the sequence to follow, the next part needed was always hanging on the handline, ready to go. We paid attention to what we were doing.

A few weeks later, they asked if I’d come up here because the new kid lineman they had on vegetation management (as we call tree trimming now) thought he was too important to do it and wanted to build line. So,, that’s how I got to Nebraska.

A few months later, Art’s crew was doing a job a few miles away from us so one Sunday we popped over for a few beers with them. By then I had heard the story but wanted to hear what Matt and Art said.

While they were still down in Kansas we had heard the had energized a 3 θ extension without deadend insulators (Bells we call them, that what the insulators in my Gravatar are) which of course burned the pole down, nobody got hurt but it’s expensive and embarrassing. Knowing who was there, I thought I knew what happened, and I was right. After I left, they had a couple of new graduates from lineman school assigned. Like so many kids in the trades, the were too busy screwing around, skylarking we call it, instead of paying attention.

What Matt told me that day is a good lesson for us all. This is very nearly a direct quote.

If you had been there, NEO, it would have never happened because even if I forgot, which I did, when I reached for the assembly on my handline, the bells would have been there, and if I had tried it you would have stopped me because you always paid attention to what we were doing.

He’s right and it’s also true that if I had been in the bucket, he would have caught it for the same reason. We are professional linemen, and because we are professional, we know we’re not perfect and so we check each others work. Doesn’t matter if your a 60 year old lineman, like Matt and I or a 22 year old fresh out of school. The first thing you need to learn is to pay attention. The Devil’s always in the details, like insulators, because a piece of southern yellow pine slightly bigger than a 4X4 six feet long isn’t going to stop 13,000 volts for long. I bet it was pretty spectacular though, somehow they didn’t get any pictures of that one :-)

OK here’s the quiz for today.

Mary’s father had five daughters, the first was January, the second February, the third March, and the fourth April. What was the name of the fifth daughter?

And here’s your reward

Hurricane Response

Did you ever wonder how after a major disaster like a hurricane your power gets restored? Here’s a roundup from some of the trade magazines I get.

From Entergy

Hurricane Isaac’s high winds and slow trek through southeastern Louisiana have caused extensive outages to Entergy’s power grid. As of 5 a.m. Wednesday, 409,000 customers were without electricity in Louisiana.

Isaac came ashore in Plaquemines Parish at 6:45 p.m. Tuesday with maximum sustained winds of 80 mph. Its slow crawl along coastal Louisiana parishes caused high winds and rain squalls to continually pound southeastern Louisiana throughout the night. The storm’s high winds are lingering in south Louisiana, causing the restoration process to be delayed. Crews are not able to hit the streets in full force until the winds are below 30 mph.

“Isaac is testing everyone’s patience with its slow movement through south Louisiana,” said Bill Mohl, Entergy Louisiana, LLC president and CEO. “We are ready to mount a counterattack to Isaac’s onslaught just as soon as the weather conditions allow us to do so.”

Entergy spent the past several days amassing a workforce of more than 4,000 company and contract workers to respond to Isaac’s aftermath….
Read more: http://tdworld.com/overhead_distribution/hurricane-isaac-entergy-0812/?NL=TDW-01&Issue=TDW-01_20120829_TDW-01_334&YM_RID=%60email%60&YM_MID=%60mmid%60#ixzz24ygAmulr

On the EMC front thing are much the same

More than 100 workers and a large contingent of equipment from eight electric cooperatives in Georgia are headed to parts of Mississippi and possibly Louisiana to help restore power in the aftermath of Hurricane Isaac.

According to Jim Wright, vice president of training, education and safety for Georgia EMC, and the statewide crew assistance coordinator for the EMCs, co-ops have been awaiting instructions from EMCs in areas hardest hit. In Georgia, the statewide association works from an emergency plan that coordinates crews during emergencies such as ice storms, tornadoes and hurricanes.

“We’ve been in contact with Mississippi and Louisiana’s EMC disaster response officials since yesterday,” says Wright. “It takes time for them to refine their plans to address this specific situation and to conduct damage assessments after the storm moves through.”

At this time, crews are headed to Kiln, Picayune and Laurel, Miss. Additional crews and equipment could be sent to other areas across Mississippi and Louisiana in the days ahead.

And.

OG&E Electric Services today announced that 71 employees are on their way to Louisiana to assist with power restoration following Hurricane Isaac.

Crews will assist Cleco Power with restoration efforts. OG&E team members will stage at Cleco’s corporate headquarters in Pineville, Louisiana, and from there will be dispatched to various areas in need of additional support.

From PECO

As Hurricane Isaac continues its movement through the Caribbean and as forecasters predict the storm will hit the state of Florida today, PECO is responding to a call for assistance from Florida Power and Light, sending nearly 50 employees to Daytona Beach, Florida to support the potentially massive effort necessary to restore power.

PECO crews gathered at the company’s Baldwin service building in Eddystone, Delaware County Friday for final vehicle inspections and safety briefings before beginning the journey to Florida. The aerial line mechanics, foremen, supervisors, fleet and safety personnel traveled in 28 vehicles and were expected to arrive in Daytona Beach on Sunday, Aug. 26.

This is a fair overview of the process
And from FPL

As Isaac moves closer to Florida, Florida Power & Light Co. has fully activated its emergency response plan and is prepared to respond to power outages that will be caused by the storm’s anticipated high winds and rain. FPL urges customers to be prepared for power outages as bands of severe weather move into the area.

The latest forecast from the National Hurricane Center indicates that Isaac’s winds extend out more than 200 miles from the center of the storm, and hurricane and tropical storm watches and warnings have been issued for a large part of Florida. Based on Isaac’s size, path and intensity, this storm will cause damage to overhead lines and possibly to underground electric lines due to flooding and saturated grounds. Damage could be caused by flying debris, fallen trees, winds and flooding, among other factors.

“Isaac is expected to produce strong, sustained winds and rain that will cause power outages. We’re in full storm mode, with more than 7,700 workers dedicated to the restoration effort,” said FPL President Eric Silagy. “In an effort to restore power as quickly as possible, as conditions permit, our crews will be working throughout the event as bands of severe weather from Isaac cause power outages. Safety is our first priority, and we urge our customers to stay safe and make their preparations, too.”

Most (maybe all) of these reports are from before Isaac made landfall, and they document millions of dollars already spent by utilities from as far away as Pennsylvania to repair the electric lines that this storm may/will damage or destroy. It’s an incredible effort that is often undertaken with no notice to repair your electrical service just as soon as it can be. I’ve seen crews work well over 100 hours a week on storm duty, some times they just have to shut down and sleep for awhile before they get hurt. It’s hard work but, you know what, it’s usually very hard to get on these crews, the linemen and groundmen (or whatever we’re calling them this month) dearly love to go do this type of job. The money isn’t bad, either :-)

Value Streams

Value stream mapping is defined by Wikipedia as a lean manufacturing technique used to analyze and design the flow of materials and information required to bring a product or service to a consumer. At Toyota, where the technique originated, it is known as “material and information flow mapping”. It can be applied to nearly any value chain.”  While I’m no expert on Lean Management, I suspect a good part of it is formalized common sense. This isn’t a tutorial; on lean management anyway but, it does offer some insights, not readily apparent.

This is the current drought map for the US.

It’s a pretty ugly map.

Furthermore, if you look again at it, you’ll see that what is often called the corn belt is almost  all listed as D2 or higher. Why do I write about corn again? It’s the most American of crops. It’s native to the new world to start with, it’s good to eat, it makes good whiskey, it makes pretty reasonable fuel, and it can be used to make almost anything else. It is incredibly versatile, that’s why we grow and use so much of it.

We’re good at growing it too, when I was a kid in Indiana, a farmer was doing really well to harvest 60 bushels per acre. Now here, in Nebraska, 200 bushels per acre is routine. Think about that, cause it’s really amazing.

It seems like nearly every year we have a record crop, but not this year, I saw a report last week that this years crop will be the worst in six years. That’s going to echo through the economy, ranchers are already selling cattle early and some are starting to sell cows. Cows are where calves come from, as opposed to the calves that are raised for market, it can take years to replace good cows, so ranchers try very hard not to. This year they really haven’t got a choice. In addition, because the EPA mandates that ethanol be used in gasoline, fuel prices are going to go up, corn is used in many, many food products, and it’s also used as a feedstock in making plastic. Corn is a basic necessity to American life, It’s value stream touches each and every one of us, and most of the world as well. And its going to be a bad year.

It could be worse though, here in Nebraska a very high proportion of our corn is irrigated, it has to be to get a good crop. of the standard the market requires. So for the most part our crop will be pretty good, not as good, from what I hear and see, but pretty good. But corn during the peak growing season can use up to an inch of water a day, a center pivot irrigating a quarter section of land will pump about 4-600 gallons of water per minute, it will take about 24 hours at a minimum to put an inch of water on the crop.

Center Pivot Irrigation via USGS

So that’s close to ¾ million gallons of water in each of those circles in that picture in 24 hours, most of it’s pumped by electricity (sometimes diesel and natural gas are used) it can take anywhere from about 20 to 300 horsepower motors to run the pump. That takes a lot of energy.

So here’s a value stream for you. somewhere about 50-70% of Nebraska’s economy is directly or indirectly dependent on agriculture, inability to irrigate will cut that market by at least half, I’d call that severe, ‘dirty thirties’ severe or worse. Here’s another one, a lot less corn on the market and we’ve already talked about what’s already happening here.

How could that catastrophe happen? Easy, King Coal,you see we generate about 60% of our electricity with coal, we have nuclear and we have some wind and hydro but our base (the power we depend on) is coal and nuclear, mostly coal, and the administration and the EPA have declared war on coal. The rest of the corn belt, while not as irrigation dependent as we are, need  affordable electricity as much as we do, and you guys in the cities do too.

Think about this, we’ve had a drought this year, it’s also been pretty hot, how do you think your nice sealed office would be on a 102º day, without electricity, no computer either you realize, cel phone either once you run your battery down.  We’ve been lucky this year, we’ve had usage warnings and unscheduled outages but we’ve managed for the most part but, our coal plants are still running, for now. It’s possible to convert them to natural gas, although not cheaply, and the cost per KWH is about a third higher. Ready to have your light bill go up by 30%?

But there are other value streams involved here as well. I don’t know as much about them so I’m going to let the Lean Submariner tell you about them. He is a lean Six Sigma expert so he really knows what he’s talking about.

Here’s Mac:

It’s a “black” thing; you obviously don’t understand Mr. President 1

Growing up in Western Pennsylvania, I learned some lessons on how the economy works

It’s a black thing and that black thing is coal. Southwest Pennsylvania has produced coal for energy and steel as long as most folks can remember. The area was blessed with an overabundance of this material that literally comes right out of the ground and has provided generations of people with jobs for centuries.

John C. McPherson worked at the railroad in Boston PA

When you talk about helping the middle class, the economics of coal is at the heart and soul of this region. Immigrants of every type came here in the 1700-1800’s to dig holes in the ground to bring it to market. They risked their lives and their health but the results were nothing short of amazing. This nation that we helped to build (yes, we did build this) was fueled by the energy and materials we made using that energy. It wasn’t perfect by any means, but it did the job. We did the job.

But the current administration and their EPA cronies have made coal Public Enemy Number One. They are convinced that coal is an evil and insidious enemy that must be stopped. Obama even said that in his lead up to the election. He was going to make it so expensive to use coal, it would cease to be an effective energy source. I am willing to bet that since this state went Obama in the last election, the people here were either not paying attention or did not think he was serious.

He was.

The once vital economy of this country and especially this region has been the prime victim of his liberal and uninformed ideas. It has led to some interesting changes in the Mon Valley.

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But who is really affected by the closing and marginalizing of the mines? After all, its kind of ironic that the labor union led by Trumka would be the biggest loser in this attack on an American icon. Are there other victims?

Yes there are and the list is a lot bigger than you would suspect.

A picture says a thousand words.

The picture above is looking down on the Monongahela River near a small town called California. This was coal country. It all starts with those chunks of coal being dug from the ground by people and machines. Its dirty, it burns and gives off unwanted bi-products, it needs careful handling in large quantities and it vexes environmentalists who are willing to sacrifice an entire region at any cost. What it also represents is something called a Value Stream: Money for countless generations of Western Pennsylvanians and many more beyond the valleys.

First Value Stream: The Mines.

The miners were paid decent wages with benefits and health care plans secured by their unions. That money went to buy houses, cars, food, vacations, luxury items, educations for their children, clothes and other consumable items. Their communities benefitted from this through taxes, Churches benefitted from tithing and gifts, and all of the retail and service people benefitted by having paying customers. Retail stores and building supply companies grew and prospered from the wealth created by these miners. …

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Mac’s last paragraph is telling on how serious this is:

Last note: The valley still has local fairs and festivals this time of year. I went to one this afternoon and noticed the local democratic party had a little booth set up. This particular Township has been a died in the wool blue area for as long as anyone can remember. I walked by it and saw some literature for the local congressman and a few local issues near to their hearts. It wasn’t until I started to walk away until I realized something.

There was not one single Obama-Biden sign, poster, picture or sticker anywhere in sight. Not one. Oh, I know they were probably there, probably just below the table. What a difference four years makes.

Continue Reading It’s a “black” thing; you obviously don’t understand Mr. President.

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