Saturday, December 31, 2011


In case you didn't know, NIMBY stands for “Not In My Back Yard.” 


Polluting industries have used this “NIMBY” accusation to marginalize resistance to polluting for years now. But there is a converse attitude that never gets mentioned. The financiers of the polluters appear to find destructive and poisoning behavior perfectly OK as long as the pollution is not in their own overpriced back yards.

I would like to call these OK-NIMBYs.

OK-NIMBYs find it OK that they make money on others' suffering. But don't get me wrong. OK-NIMBYs may not be so much evil as callus (or even ignorant). They invest their money in hedge funds, the stock market, or even their retirement plan with no real idea how the money gets invested. All they want is to maximize their investment.

But what are the real-world consequences of that?

Their back yards get polluted too.
They get poisoned too.
Their future gets compromised too.

That is the inherent fatal flaw of paper profits.

...My story begins in 2006.

That was when a power utility paid $100,000 to a global warming skeptic. Now, this wasn't just any power utility. This was a rural cooperative. Which means the board spent $100,000 of its customers' money to pay an opinionated “scientist” to speak out against global warming science.

Now, your first question might be; what in the world is a rural cooperative paying a scientist for anyway – to do anything? That has nothing to do with their mission. However, many members of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association burn coal. And Intermountain Rural Electric Association General Manager Stanley Lewandowski must have believed so much in the cooperatives' decision to burn coal without pollution “controls” that he wrote a memo to the National Association to convince other rural cooperatives to send money to global warming skeptics also.

(Did more contributions come from other rural electric cooperatives? We don't know yet. If it happened here with Mt. Wheeler Power, no one who would be critical of the act is likely to have checked.)

The “scientist” who was paid (off) was Patrick Michaels, former Virginia State Climatologist – who was drummed out of his position for his controversial industry funding.

Here in lies a paradox. When you think about the thousands of scientists who have contributed tons and tons of evidence for man-made global warming, it seems very peculiar that a dozen or so vocal global warming skeptics should carry so much weight. But there it is, right on mass media news for all of us to see. What they call fair and balanced reporting just happens to weigh greatly in favor of their fossil fuel sponsors. Ain't that a coincidence? NOT!!!

So, after five years of do nothing politics on global warming, I'm looking out my window here in the mountains of Eastern Nevada. It's new year's eve day, and there isn't any snow. In fact, it's quite warm for the middle of the Winter in the mountains. If there were snow, it probably would have melted. WHERE'S WINTER???

...But that's just the tip of the iceberg.

Russian science vessels have located huge fountains of methane evaporating from the oceanfloor. “We found more than 100 fountains, some more than a kilometer across... there should be thousands of them.” Said Dr. Igor Semiletov. (In case you didn't know; methane is 30 times more powerful a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.)

Can you say “tipping point”?
(In case you didn't know what “tipping point” means; that is the point in time where there is no turning back. In the case of global warming; it is when, even if we totally stopped emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, the Earth would continue to get hotter.)

This isn't just evidence.
This is proof!
Methane is melting in mass amounts!
We're already at the point of no return.

We can believe the scientists, or we can believe the sell-outs.
If he's still getting paid, I'd bet our Cato Institute “scientist” would still be claiming that either there is no global warming, global warming is not caused by human activity, we are not near any tipping point, or “sorry, it looks like we're past the tipping point – there's nothing we can do about it now. You may as well buy more fossil fuels.”

This is exasperating! Air temperatures near the poles have increased by about 4° F! Water temperatures are higher too. The polar ice caps are melting! And the only people excited about this are the oil companies!

Oh, and one more thing. If you have read my blog before, you may recall a post where I suggested that some of the recent earthquake activity may have been caused by global warming. Well, more evidence is in. Read here.

So, with all this bad news, one would expect that we might see some changes... Nope.

The big issue at the end of the year wasn't extending the renewable energy rebate. No, it was extending unemployment benefits. That was important, of course. But in the long run, it's going to look like re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Without an environment to support us, no government can keep extending unemployment benefits indefinitely.

The very best America (and the world) can hope for won't happen until year after next. If the Democrats (or some Party even more enlightened) win many new seats – and take over the House, maybe – just maybe; we can get a comprehensive Energy Bill Passed.

But don't expect that to be the end of it.

Even though we've had another big oil spill...
Even though closer analysis shows that that big American natural gas strike is all on paper – and the supply most likely won't last anywhere near 100 years (more likely 10 to 20 years)...
Even though The Daily Show gets more viewers than Fox “News” now...
Even though most Americans want clean energy, and are willing to pay for it...

...The exploiters have been able to keep this in court for years.

A Federal Judge just blocked one of California's greenhouse gas emission regulations. The regulation was written to force producers and refiners to reduce their fuel's carbon footprint by 10 percent by 2020. Though the law would have only reduced California's greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels, it would have been a major step in the right direction.

And another Federal Court just delayed an EPA rule on coal-fired power plants. These rules were originally mandated by a bipartisan Clean Air Act in 1990! It's been over 20 years, and it's still in court. Amazing! ...Amazingly stupid. This EPA rule would limit emissions of mercury, arsenic, and other poisons. In fact, the EPA claims that 11,000 Americans might not die every year if the rules were adhered to. This isn't about doing what is right. It's about holding the door shut until they've taken everything – and left us with the mess to clean up.

And have we learned our lesson?

With all of the damage that has already been caused by global warming, which has been documented by the insurance industry; we still hear people claiming that the answer to our problems is to drill for more oil.

This is the biggest conspiracy in the history of humanity.
It is so big that it permeates our entire information system.
For, example; the Discovery Channel is airing a seven part documentary with only one of the parts missing – the issue on global warming.
...Of course, this happens every day on the mass media news channels.

The OK-NIMBYs are getting their way. And if we really are about to run out of fossil fuels, they're about to make a killing... on us. Which means we will be double-over-charged. We will have to pay the over-inflated prices of diminishing fossil fuels (and the peculiar rate increases such as Nevada Energy's recent 10% rate hike). And much worse, we will have to pay the huge environmental consequences of burning fossil fuels.

We know better.

It's not OK.
Even if it's not in my back yard.

Follow The Money

My guess is that you suspect something is wrong – terribly wrong.
Somewhere along the way, our marginally functioning system has become critically dysfunctional. What went wrong? Follow the money...

Ignorance of bliss is not bliss.
Ignorance of reality is dangerous.
Ignorance of danger is self destructive.

In every society, there is a constant struggle between the builders and the predators – the innovators and the extractors – the nurturing and the exploiters – sometimes even the slaves and the slave-holders. The course is never clear, and the choices never easy. But the struggle has made us stronger. It has also made our would-be exploiters smarter.

The primary issue is simple; carrying capacity.

There's only so much milk the cows can give – especially when they aren't fed well any more. And there are only so many taxes the people can pay – especially when they aren't paid well any more.

The wealth extractors always want more – because there are always more of them.
...And as always has been, the more powerful the wealth extractors get, the more they become like slave-holders (or even predators).

It appears that today's wealth extractors have become more powerful than the government of the United States of America. Face it; we know who tells whom what do in our government... We know that our votes don't count nearly as much as they should... The oligarchy ignores us. But only because we let them.

The biggest monopolies are multinational now. Our nations will have to work together to limit their power. This is the one thing the super-rich oligarchs fear – which is why you see so much “one world government” negative propaganda. They want us to keep fighting amongst ourselves. They don't want us to organize. They don't want a UN with real power.

If humanity organized worldwide, we would have the power to break these monopolies up – and sometimes, we really really should.

If they come to us for bail-out money; we should break them up.
If they callously break the law, and people die; we should break them up.
If they stifle life-saving innovation; we should break them up.
If they manipulate our governments to loot our wealth; we should break them up.

But we haven't promoted authentic capitalism. We've allowed the biggest companies to merge and acquire each other for decades now – until they've become “too big to fail.” (Translation; too big.) These dangerously big companies are growing even stronger now – and more predatory. For example; the big banks forced America and Europe (and the world) to give them billions of dollars because they gambled away our savings. And behind our backs; they borrowed trillions from theFederal Reserve (at our expense).

Most of the time; what we see anymore is really only pretend capitalism. Check for yourself. Take a drive across town in the nearest city. Every five minutes, you see the same set of big corporate business signs (and you know that many of them are owned by one of the other corporations). Local businesses are like endangered species. I see an oligarchy. I see a small group of people making greedy decisions that are, at best, only good for themselves, and only for only a short while.

As simply as I can put it; taking is not making. And a take over is not a make over.

Monopolies are well known for two things: eventually selling us garbage, at over-inflated prices. Ultimately, this isn't good for anyone – because good ideas (which our society desperately needs) get ignored.

Let's face it; we're all trying to get ahead on the same planet.
But if we trash the planet in the process, nobody gets ahead.

Paper profits don't amount to shit in a crappy world.

If we bring back real competition, good ideas will follow. If we nurture that competition in the right direction, we could even create a stronger civilization in a healthier environment. That's what we really want.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

How To Bypass The Corporatocracy

Have you been thinking that the monopolization of just about every industry in America is somehow inherently wrong?

Are you tired of voluntarily financially supporting the oligarchy?

Have you decided to support small (even mom and pop) businesses?

But there's one big issue holding you back; you're caught up in the machine? You know who the big companies are, because they spend millions on advertising. And you know that some of those small businesses are small because they're lousy. So, you spend your money with the big mediocre companies because you don't want to deal with the bad ones. In time, most everyone herds to the big companies. And eventually, there are no small companies left to do business with. We have to face the reality that we are a part of the problem.

At least for some industries, it doesn't have to be that way. The service and travel industries still have small and mom and pop businesses. All you have to do is figure out whom to do business with.

Enter “

...I know. What a strange name for a website that ultimately could help us save capitalism.

Of course, the answer to our problem is both simple and complicated. If we don't want to support big remotely owned companies that siphon off our local economy, all we have to do is support local businesses. But which ones?

In a nutshell, Yelp is a referral system. We submit the reviews. We share our knowledge of local businesses. If the big business chains stand out, and are far better than the local businesses; the reviewers will tell you. But much of the time, at least one local business is the best.

When we travel, the point is to get out. So, why go to the same old place in a different location? For example; here in Ely there is a McDonald's. It gets tons of business from travelers, who are too scared to take a chance on local mom and pop restaurants. But with Yelp, travelers can check to see the reviews of the local non-corporate food. One of the highest rated restaurants here is the Twin Wok (locally owned and operated by authentic orientals). Twin Wok is almost across the street from McDonald's. So it isn't out of the way. And they serve a lunch buffet, which is even faster than fast food.

But until travelers had Yelp, they didn't know.

Monday, December 05, 2011

What Is The Matrix?

The Matrix is the web of lies that keep us slaves to an irresponsible and corrupt system that will ultimately collapse.

Why do we accept the Matrix?

Because it gives us permission to be irresponsible too. 

But... not like this... 

They have systematically rigged the game. 

To see how the most dangerous of them do it click here.

How can we wake up?

By committing to thorough, common sense, long term, outside of the box thinking – with the will to do what is necessary to develop a healthy systematic process of living and interacting.

In other words; by keeping an open mind about doing what is right – and mustering the will to follow through.

In other words; by consciously evolving. 

But how will that matter? 
Because then our society will be compelled to force America to become a true democracy - and we will vote on issues directly

When our representatives' authority is reduced to the authority of clerks, it won't be worth corrupting them. 

And maybe, just maybe, those who are draining America's strength will consciously evolve and realize that in the long run we all lose if we allow America to fail. No collapsed civilization in history has ever had a group of people cruise through unscathed - no matter how rich they were before the collapse. In the end, the rich just become the biggest target for crime.

(...Or you can watch Fox "News", CNN, or CNBC... 
They blame it all on the liberals.)  

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Toxic Air Fresheners

Think about the insane irony of this:

We live in a country that allows companies to sell us toxic air-fresheners.

...This is a sign.
This is a really bad sign.
This is a sign that our system is fundamentally flawed. And this isn't the only sign.

We live in a country that subsidizes (with billions of taxpayers' dollars) the sale of toxic fossil fuels by filthy rich companies – who make tens of billions of dollars in profits every fiscal Quarter by hiding the real cost of fossil fuels.

We live in a country that essentially authorized the sale of hundreds of billions of dollars in toxic debt – only to force the taxpayers (us) to pay the crooked banks' debts when their schemes failed. 

Are we all so jaded by bad news that we aren't willing to see the obvious?
Our system rewards bad behavior. We're shitting in our own mess kit. Or at least we're allowing others to pollute, in some way or another, everyone's mess kit.

We can't just keep letting them get away with this. Everybody suffers.

Our country is being run by the least scrupulous among us. They're the ones willing to pay the highest price to influence politics. This process is so infused into our system that we perceive it as the “real world.”

But our “real world” is in dire trouble. And if we don't fix things, ultimately there won't be anything left to fix.

We desperately have to fix our political and reward system, and we're running out of time.

But fixing things won't be easy.
Because we can't fix anything until we've fixed everything.

I believe a lot of people have figured this out.
I think this may be what the #OCCUPY movement is about.

I support them. And I hope to join them soon.

What this Country needs is more democracy.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

It Doesn't Make Sense To Rob From Our Own Future

First the good news:

Actress/Writer Suzanne Somers has grown a new breast.

This may not seem important to anyone but Suzanne Somers, but the implications are astounding.

Back in 2001, Suzanne Somers had a lumpectomy and radiation therapy that left one of her breasts as flat as if had been a mastectomy. To rebuild the breast, she chose Cell Assisted Lipotransfer – which involves transferring fat from another part of her body and mixing in stem cells to enhance the survival rate of the fat grafts.

To best explain the success of the procedure, I'll quote Suzanne Somers in Life Extension Magazine:
If I can brag a little, it is beautiful – high and firm and real and soft and unscarred. Talk about reverse aging. My breasts look like they're from a young woman. I cannot tell you what this has done for me psychologically.”

That's going to sell...

How about some more good news:

Mayo Clinic researchers have shown that “senescent cells” contribute to aging related diseases. They have shown, in genetically altered mice (that allow senescent cells to be killed by drugs), that many age related diseases can be avoided. In the picture here, both mice are 9 months old. The mouse on the right received drugs to eliminate its senescent cells.

The New York Times article reporting on senescent cells states:
In both mice and people, senescent cells are few in number but have major effects on the body’s tissues. Killing the cells should therefore have large benefits with little downside. The gene-altering approach used on the mice cannot be tried in people, but now that senescent cells appear to be harmful, researchers can devise ways of targeting them.

Drugs already exist to combat some of the inflammatory hormones secreted by senescent cells. The body’s immune system, which probably clears away senescent cells all the time but does so less efficiently with age, could perhaps be trained to attack senescent cells more aggressively. Or researchers could one day develop specific drugs to kill the cells, when the differences between ordinary and senescent cells are better understood.”

That's going to sell too...

Science has been marching on. The technology to help us live a healthier old age and likely live far longer is being worked on. At this point, we have no clear idea where this is taking us. But we have to consider the possibilities. We have to consider the possibility that those of us who can afford it may live far longer than we might expect.

In other words, those among us who have the most power to influence history really need to start thinking longer term – because they might still be alive in the distant future.

The irony of the super-rich money making tactics could be that they may be creating their own hell. They need to consider what is the pleasure of living for hundreds of years on a polluted and dying planet?

Environmentalists worry about animals and plants and ecosystems. “Captains of Industry” worry about profits. But the reality is that damaging the only home humanity has is damaging our future. And not just our distant future. And not just the future for the poor. Everyone will suffer. The air is polluted for everyone. Our food is contaminated for everyone. Everyone is already suffering the initial consequences of Climate Change. And the Earth is already suffering the biggest mass extinction since the loss of the dinosaurs.

The #occupy protestors are right. We need radical and fundamental changes to our systems if we intend to create something more like a Heaven on Earth instead of a Hell.

This shouldn't be just about taxing the rich. This should be about rewarding good business behavior – and changing bad behavior to sensible behavior.

What our systems need a lot more of is common sense.

The 'invisible hand” of commerce would work far better if long-term greed were rewarded better than short-term greed.

This will require a fundamental change in how our economy works – which will require the pressure of those most rewarded by our present systems.

Think about it; what would you do different if you knew you might live to 150?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Success at the Great Basin Water Forum

I witnessed a beautiful moment today. I witnessed the metamorphosis of an idea into a movement. I won't claim it is my idea. Many people should have figured this one out by now. But I have been promoting this idea for a couple of years now. It felt good to see it accepted. Today I saw an idea become everyone's idea. Within hours, we came to an informal unanimous consensus that desalinating water for California in exchange for more water from the Colorado River is a far better goal than the SNWA Groundwater Development (desertification) Project.

We now have an agenda.

We have a better idea... an idea that will get us all more water.

One of the speakers, Mike Dunbar, made it perfectly clear to everyone. Sometimes the best answer is not the simplest. Sometimes the best answer is not stealing water from your neighbors. Sometimes the best answer is to create more – and live in abundance. Mike Dunbar is the General Manager of The South Coast Water District – who provides water to Dana Point and Laguna Beach, in Southern California. During his presentation, he practically asked us to build them a desalination plant. Of course, what he was actually asking us to do was to press SNWA to buy them a desalination plant. And he made sense. He told us that 70 to 80% of his community realizes the need for desalination. Many Southern Californians live in dread that if an earthquake were to damage the levies on the Sacramento Delta, their community could be out of reliable water for up to six months – when there's an ocean of water right there.

He even sounded like he already had a desalination plant sight in mind.

Someone else in the crowd stood up and said power shouldn't be a problem either. SNWA could build solar power facilities in Nevada to send to (or trade for) power for the desalination facility. This would mean jobs in Southern Nevada. Jobs saving rural Nevada.

There is a win/win option. Of course, the organization formerly known as SNWA will end up owning some desalination and solar energy facilities. But in the long run, my guess is that they will be more profitable than drilling for water in the desert.

It appears that everyone at the forum all agreed. All we have to do now is get the message out.

And finally, with this many of us clamoring for a response, SNWA can no longer ignore the better idea.

To the speculators:
Instead of just maximizing your profits, let's maximize everyone's profits. All I'm saying is that we could all live happier. All I'm saying is let's get together and decide together what the best course of action should be. Let's vote on it.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Organized Crime - In Power

There are a number of psychologists who have compared the captains of industry and the richest investors on Wall Street to criminals and psychotics. Their results are alarming. Not only do the greediest among the criminals and the most dangerous among the psychotics share traits with some of the richest Americans, they also share traits with our corporate and government systems. These traits are so powerful that they have become the dominant traits of our culture.

We love money.
We covet it.
And some people are more than willing to bend the rules, accept some collateral damage, and not even care about anyone or anything else to get it.
and get all of it, if they can.

There are some among us who treat capitalism like it's war. And of course, all is fair in war. There will be blood. But there also will be the spoils of war – the exploitations gained from the exploits of war.

There are those who believe that this is just the best way to win at this game.

Which is the fatal flaw in their thinking.

They treat life like it's a game.

We have been trained to think inside of the box. We've been trained to think that life is like the game of Monopoly. We've been trained to think that money buys happiness. We've been trained to think that it's patriotic to go shopping. We've even been trained to think we can buy our way out of any crisis. 

Our culture ignores the real world.

Moreover, our oligarchy controlled mass media omits the information that might offend their advertisers (or them). Our free news isn't free. It has cost us a part of the truth. Our perception of reality has been tampered with.

All I ask of you is that to try to think outside of the box.

We can create a better future.
We can make better decisions.
We can fix our systems.
We can create a more functional democracy.

But we can't do it by letting the craziest among us run amok!

Consider the Watergrab (the Southern Nevada Water Authority Groundwater Development Project). If someone could get $5,000 an acre foot for the “delivery” of the estimated 200,000 acre feet per year SNWA wants to cannibalize from its neighbors, that would amount to one billion dollars a year! ...And SNWA has already paid as much as $10,000 an acre foot for water from the Mesquite area. This is a sign. Someone may be hoping to get as much as $10,000 an acre foot from Southern Nevadans soon. That would be two billion dollars a year.

But is this what is best for the people of Southern Nevada?
They'll be the one's paying for this.
We already know that this isn't what is best for all of the people of Nevada. We already know that the Watergrab is exactly what ecocide looks like. And we already know that offshore desalination is cheaper, far less financially risky, and far less environmentally destructive.

The Watergrab should only be a last resort for a civilized people. Draining our reserves is an act of desperation. Or at least it should be. Especially when there are less expensive alternatives. Especially when there are alternatives that will provide more water. Especially when there are alternatives that won't turn rural Nevada into a giant dust bowl.

This isn't that difficult of a problem. SNWA cold just desalinate water off the West Coast for California in exchange for more water from the Colorado River. Problem solved. No pipeline necessary.

But then they wouldn't be able to charge $10,000 an acre foot for water. We already know that desalination costs far less than $2,000 an acre foot. They can only charge so much more for desalinated water before they're accused of overcharging. ...But if it's the last of the desert's water, they can charge whatever the market will bear.

In short, creating an artificial shortage is good for business. If you're in the business of destroying our economy, our government, our civilization, and most of life on Earth.

We do love money, don't we...

Since no one could accomplish this scam on their own, our hypothetical “someone” would have to share the wealth. Which is what makes this scam so common. Municipalities all across the country have been getting themselves deeply into debt with boondoggle projects. This leads to the same scam that brought down Greece. The construction companies make exorbitant profits with cost overruns. And the banks make exorbitant profits from predatory loans.

On top of that, since the municipalities will consequently lose the faith of the community, they are vulnerable to privatization – and subsequent price gouging.

Scarcity favors of those who control what is left.

As we all know; we the consumers want abundance. Of course we want abundance. It's only natural. It's only healthy. More water is good. And no matter how one looks at it, desalination means more water. Desalination means more water for the people of Southern Nevada and Rural Nevada. Desalination means more water for future generations. Desalination means more water for the environment. And desalination also means more water for California.

But the same scam is also going on in California. The oligarchs of California have already conned the people of California to pay for water projects to make the oligarchs even richer.

Here's the scheme:
  • The speculators and developers cash in because they con the people into paying for developments for somebody else.
  • The big construction companies cash in on the project and the inevitable cost overruns.
  • The banks cash in on the loans, the many fees, and high interest loans for the cost overruns - on a project that has extraordinary commitment (to be finished or it's worthless).
  • The water “providers” cash in when they privatize and charge what the market will bear. (They'll find a way around Nevada Water Law. If they can't, they'll find a way to change it.)
  • Smaller construction companies cash in when even more people move into Southern Nevada – no matter how unsustainable the population becomes.
  • Local retailers expect to cash in when more people move into Southern Nevada. (But these new people will probably move into new communities with new stores. So most likely, the retailers will be disappointed).
  • And some construction workers will cash in when they get jobs – jobs to devastate the environment (which ultimately will cost them more than the money they earn).
  • While the unsuspecting populous get stuck with the bill.
  • And the hotel/casinos get stuck with the image of Evil Empire destroyers of the Environment. (Which can't be good for their tourism business.)

This super-project boondoggle scheme is so profitable for so many people, that gradually the scheme has become the system. And the system that was created to function for the people has been transformed into the system that feeds off the people. Our democracy is becoming a cleptocracy.

And what was once a democratic republic becomes a nation of debt slaves and oligarchs.

Our government system has reached a stage where it can't make the right decisions.

SNWA could offer a trade with California for more water than they are presently getting from the Colorado River – and financially help the negatively effected farmers. This is a win/win arrangement. California's coastal cities could get more water. And SNWA could help California farmers with investments in water conservation technologies such as:

...If there were the will to do it, we could all end up with more water and more food.

But the executives at SNWA don't want to do the right thing. They know the cost of desalination has dropped drastically. But they would look like fools for wasting hundreds of millions of dollars on an unfinished boondoggle. They fear that they might lose their high paying jobs if they admitted that desalination is cheaper now. They might even lose the opportunity at those even higher paying jobs they might have been offered when the revolving door swings their way – as they step out of public “service.”

And where are the regulators and bureaucrats who are supposed to see that things like this don't happen? Most likely, some of them are looking forward to the high paying jobs they might get when the revolving door swings their way too.

But even if they're not; most of the time, the regulators' hands are tied. In the case of this Watergrab EIS; the BLM is only able to decide on whether the pipeline is a bad idea – not on whether taking out a river of water from a place that has no rivers is a bad idea. The pipeline is only a tool. The pipeline is like a knife. It doesn't really do that much damage – unless it drains the life blood from something. But, of course, draining the water is not to be considered in the EIS.

If those at the BLM can't consider the water, they're not really considering the Watergrab. This just looks good on paper. In reality, the EIS is just an exercise in distraction and whitewashing.

But it doesn't have to be. If those within the BLM were to deny the Watergrab pipeline, it would be a serious setback on a ridiculous effort that could end up being highly disruptive to Nevada's economy and the world's future. Sure, SNWA could go to court and probably win in the long run. But what would they win if public sentiment were solidly and enthusiastically against them.

A no action decision would be a serious blow to the legitimacy of the Watergrab. It would be an opportunity for the public to pay more attention to the implications of this boondoggle project.

This “robing Peter to pay Paul” project will ultimately drive us closer to a more serious shortage in the long run.

The Watergrab may as well have been designed for maximum exploitation.

A no action decision would not hurt Southern Nevada. It would help them take a more sustainable path.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

The Watergrab Has Become A Multi-Billion Dollar Predatory Loan Scam

Want to know what the next big bank predatory lending scandals will be?
Hint, they'll have help from local insiders – pushing boondoggle municipal projects.

The Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) Groundwater Development Project (Watergrab) is an excellent example. Even though water deliveries in Southern Nevada have gone down for the past three years, and no one is going without water, SNWA wants to start construction on the Watergrab next year!

This isn't about water, it's about money.

SNWA's Ability to Finance Report (page 36) estimates that the Watergrab will only cost Las Vegas households about $57.91 a month – until the year 2078 (page 35) – projected worst case scenario. That's eventually $700 per year, or a total of $35,869.73 per household! (With corrections made for lower payments initially and payments towards other projects removed.) Sounds bad enough, but... we're being low-balled again. And bait and switched.

I won't go into how many times we've been lied to by SNWA here. But I will say that I personally expect more lies than truth from them. The half-truth list is very long. And the price just keeps on rising.

Will it continue to rise? Absolutely.

All the while being less than forthcoming about the cost of construction of the watergrab pipelines and pumps, SNWA has never given us a price tag on the cost of power to pump all that water south. Pumping water takes enormous amounts of power. And the price of power just keeps on rising.

For example: The California Energy Commission reported (in the report; California's Water-Energy Relationship) in 2005 that “California's water related energy use consumes 19 percent of the state's electricity, 30 percent of its natural gas, and 88 billion gallons of diesel fuel every year.”

That's a mighty big chunk of change to omit.

The cost of power to operate the SNWA watergrab pumps will be huge. But no one knows how huge, because we can't predict the cost of power.

Since SNWA hasn't shared accurate numbers for the consumption of power to commit the watergrab, I'll have to consider a likely scenario – SNWA power bills will likely be comparable to California's. Using California's statistics, we can estimate what Southern Nevadans might be expected to pay. I'll be conservative and ignore the natural gas and diesel consumption. That leaves 19 percent of Southern Nevada's electricity bill.

So, for a quick and dirty estimation; Las Vegans will be called upon to pay an even higher water bill to pay the watergrab power bill – maybe about 19 percent of their total power bill. The average Las Vegas power bill in Las Vegas is about $135. That calculates to about $30 a month more residents of Las Vegas could pay in water bill. (Remember your algebra. Thats 19% of the new higher power bill. Not 19% of what they're paying now. $135/81% = x/19%)

Which brings the subtotal household water bill increase up to $88 a month more – to pay for power and to pay off multiple loans for the next 50 to 66 years. (That's over $53,000 dollars per household.)

But that's not all.

No construction cost overruns were predicted. No cost overruns? Sure, there could be a miracle; and no cost overruns. But that isn't anywhere near an accurate prediction when you look at past SNWA projects. They've all had cost overruns.

(1990s) The second intake and Lake Mead had a 31% cost overrun.
($83 million - $63 million) / $63 million = 0.317
(2000) The River Mountains water treatment facility had a 27% cost overrun.
$31.3 million / ($146.6 million - $31.3 million) = 0.271
(2007) The Springs Preserve had a 30% cost overrun.
($235 million - $180 million) / $180 million = 0.305
And the cost overruns for the third water intake are still mounting. They already have a 10% cost overrun with only a third of the project completed.

Stuff happens. Cost overruns happen. We have to be prepared for that. But it looks like SNWA doesn't want us to think about that possibility.

We've been consistently lied to about the cost of the project. For years, we've been told 3.5 billion dollars. But that's not what they told the State Engineer. They told him 7.3 billion dollars. I guess you could call that extra 3 billion dollars a cost overrun. (I see it more as a cover-up.) But the next big question is; is this the last cost overrun? ...SNWA haven't even gotten started yet. Not a chance.

It wouldn't be out of line to expect at least a 20 percent cost overrun. That would amount to at least another $12 more per month, or $144 per year – for the rest of most Las Vegan's lives. But it could be worse. Cost overruns are a huge financial risk (read higher interest rates) and potentially a huge burden on Las Vegas' economy. Someday, in order for ratepayers to continue to pay at the same level on these loans and cost overrun loans, SNWA might be forced to refinance some of their 30 year loans for a longer period. The fees for that can be very high. That's part of the scam. (Just add another decade of payments to the bill.)

So, add another $12 a month to that water bill increase. Which leads to a probable worst case scenario increase in household water bills by at least $100 a month – $1,200 a year – for at least 50 years ... which adds up to at least $60,000.00 per household!

SNWA's argument is that this isn't as bad as it looks; because new people will move to Southern Nevada and help pay this massive bill. But don't expect rates to drop that much – especially if there are cost overruns and unexpected bank fees to cancel out any new source of revenue. In fact, the increase in Southern Nevadan's water bills will be so much that they might even chase many Las Vegans away. There is no provision in the SNWA plan to deal with a contracting Las Vegas population – except to raise the rates on those who are left.

The banks will insist on being paid – no matter what condition Las Vegas' economy is in, whether the pipeline delivers water or not, or even whether the project gets canceled half way through construction.

Of course, bankers have to make a profit too. And for every feature, you would expect a charge. But sometimes bankers just get out of hand. They can charge higher interest rates for financing the cost overruns. They can charge extra fees. They can get SNWA to refinance for longer terms – with more fees... etc. etc.

This watergrab smells fishy.

This project is risky, expensive, and unnecessary. Which makes it a candidate for being a massive con job... Follow the money.

A likely outcome that needs to be seriously considered is that Las Vegas could drown in debt for water they could get for much cheaper. This isn't just happening here. It's happening all over the country. Municipalities are getting themselves in way over their heads on boondoggle projects all across the Country.

There is a pattern of corrupt local officials working hand in hand with predatory lenders that has driven many U.S. communities to the verge of bankruptcy... And the ball is already in motion in Southern Nevada. Follow the money. It's leaving Las Vegans.

Here's an example of what a likely (real life) worst case scenario might end up looking like; Jefferson County, Alabama. A Jefferson County sewer project, that was originally estimated as low as 250 million dollars ended up putting their community over 5 billion dollars in debt! That's 20 times the original estimate! SNWA has been throwing around a cost estimate of 3 billion dollars for a few years now. Imagine, 20 times the original estimate. That would be 60 billion dollars! Preposterous, you say? Maybe, but I'm sure that's what the people of Jefferson County, Alabama once thought too.

Nonetheless, this Jefferson County scenario does beg the question; how much is too much? 20 billion? 30 billion? 40 billion? For the executives at SNWA, there is no price too high. They have already committed hundreds of millions of dollars. The project is worthless until it is finished. And no matter how much cheaper desalination gets, they don't intend to quit now. It would be an admission of their poor management skills. And besides, they don't really care how much this project costs. It's not their money.

Now is the time to be on guard for a massive scam.

Big municipal projects have the perfect storm potential for multi-billion dollar cons. They're expensive, which means there's plenty of money to go around. One can spread the con over thousands, if not millions of ratepayers, thus maximizing windfall profits. And municipal representatives, not ratepayers, make the spending decisions. (Remember, representatives can be “influenced.” The revolving door swings wide when there's big money involved. Just ask the former State Water Engineers who later worked for SNWA.)

Not surprisingly though, some Southern Nevada “representatives” won't have to be influenced. They already expect windfall profits from growth towards their own land “investments.” This is how local politicians have been getting rich in Southern Nevada for decades. They buy some cheap remote land, develop around it, and sell high.

It sure would be interesting to know who among the SNWA board, Clark County Commissioners, and City Councilmen has property alongside I-15 out to the California border (or in Pahrump, Coyote Springs, or out along the Tonopah highway). This seems to me like it would be a conflict of interest.

...But of course, this is all just the tip of the iceberg in this scam.

All of this debt that Las Vegans will be burdened with – all of this financial risk – all of this responsibility for so much environmental damage – will be to pay for water for somebody else.

The people of Las Vegas already have enough water. In fact, consumption has dropped for three consecutive years.

Even if water rationing restrictions were imposed, and the people of Las Vegas had to use 15% less water, they could comfortably handle it. So, what's the big panic? There isn't one.

The watergrab is a back door maneuver to get the people of Las Vegas to pay billions for development, so greedy developers don't have to.

This is how old communities end up subsidizing new ones.
This is how the poor end up subsidizing the rich.
This is how the workers end up in debt to the bankers.
This is how the environment ends up ruined for us all.

Nevada is not a wasteland.
Let's be certain it never becomes one.

The Watergrab is not an act of a healthy democracy.
Obviously, even the people of Las Vegas would vote against this.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Top 10 Reasons Why Desalination Is Better Than Desertification

The Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA), speculators, and developers have been fear mongering us to believe that the 15 billion dollar (minimum) Groundwater Development Project (Watergrab) is our only option to save Las Vegas from the reality of living in the desert. Any rational person would advise them to live within their means – and that sustaining unsustainable growth is not sustainability.

We've tried. But since the money grabbers don't want to hear that, the rest of us need to minimize their plundering. Just in case nobody noticed, there is an ocean of water just one state away. And desalination costs have plummeted in the over 20 years since the official commitment to take water away from Las Vegas' less politically powerful neighbors. Let's consider the costs/benefits:

  1. With desalination, there will be more water. No matter how we look at it, desalination adds to the total fresh water available to Southern Nevada. And by saving Nevada's underground reserves for desperate times and/or future generations, we add to the economic stability of the area. Nevada has a simple choice; we can plan for abundance, which is good for the people. Or, we can plan for scarcity, which is only good for the profits of the water providers.
  2. Every big project has environmental consequences. However, wisely designed desalination facilities can greatly minimize potential environmental damage. Presently, most municipal plans for desalination plants are massive facilities right on the beach – with lots of consequences. But desalination plants don't have to be designed that way. Floating desalination plants have been used for decades on ships and near oil rigs. Floating desalination plants can be located out to sea, away from sensitive coastal waters. And floating desalination plants will likely be smaller, creating a smaller impact in the immediate area. Floating desalination plants can even be powered by wave and wind energy. And most importantly, Florida based Water Standard Company claims that they can desalinate water offshore for 30% less cost than land-based facilities.
    ...On the other hand, the Watergrab environmental effects will be severe and immediate. Localized areas of mass extinction are inevitable when what little water there is in the desert is taken away. Water tables will drop within just a few years, which will result in the killing of everything dependent on ground water and springs. “Mitigation” can never be more than the equivalent of band-aids on severed limbs. A few water troughs may provide enough water for larger animals, but what are they going to eat? Moreover, not just the valleys are in danger. Water flows downhill – even underground. Which means water levels in the surrounding mountain ranges will drop also. Inevitably; open range will become desert, forests will burn, plants and animals will die in mass, Wilderness Areas will lose their wildlife, and the natural environment of Nevada's only National Park will be irreparably damaged.
  3. A common misconception is that desalinated water will have to be piped to Las Vegas. Actually, no pipeline is necessary. SNWA can just trade the desalinated water for more water from the Colorado River. In fact, SNWA has already committed to this concept by teaming up with the Yuma Desalination Facility.
    ...What this means is SNWA has a choice of building a multi-billion dollar (economy crushing) Watergrab pipeline or desalinate water and not build a multi-billion dollar pipeline. If politics weren't involved, the decision would be obvious.
  4. Desalination is cheaper. The price of desalination has dropped to about $2000 an acre foot. Yet SNWA has spent as much as $10,000 an acre foot for water in Mesquite. Is this an indicator of what SNWA plans on charging for water? (If so, this isn't about need, it's about greed.)
    ...But we can look at this is a different way. Aquafornia reports that a new desalination facility will be built in Baja California that will make 5.7 million gallons of fresh water per day (6385 acre feet per year). The Watergrab, on the other hand, is expected to steal about 180,000 acre feet per year. That's 28 times as much water as the desalination plant. The cost of the desalination plant is 41.5 million dollars. So, 28 x 41.5 million = 1.2 billion dollars. That may sound like a lot of money, but the projected cost of the watergrab construction is 7.5 billion dollars! Which means the Watergrab construction costs are over 6 times the cost of building the equivalent in desalination facilities!
  5. Desalination just keeps getting cheaper – while the cost of pumping water from some other part of the State just keeps getting more expensive. For example:
    a. NanoH20 Quantum Flux reverse osmosis membranes increase water production by as much as 70%.
    b. Spectra Watermakers Inc. sells a pump that recaptures up to 80% of the energy wasted in a conventional desalination system.
    c. The Aqualyng Recuperator recycles waste desalination energy up to 98.5%.
    d. Energy Recovery Inc. pressure exchanger energy recovery technology promises over 60% energy savings.
    e. Memsys Clearwater combine both thermal and membrane technologies to utilize low-level waste energy for thermal Vacuum Multi Effect Membrane Distillation (desalination). The main advantage of this process is that it does not require high pressures.
    f. Oasys Water has developed a forward osmosis desalination technology that uses one tenth of the power of conventional reverse osmosis.
    g. Researchers have also come up with many more ways to bring the price of desalination down. In time, many of these designs may augment, or even replace the least expensive desalination methods possible now.
    ...The reason falling costs of desalination are so important is because SNWA wouldn't have to buy some of the desalination plants until much later. Desalination plants can be built as needed (in much less grandiose of efforts than the Watergrab). This means it is very likely that Southern Nevada's desalination needs can be achieved even cheaper than we expect.
    ...And since the price of power keeps rising, the cost of pumping water out of the ground and across the state will very likely be much more expensive than we expect.
  6. Risk is very important. Finance charges are higher for riskier projects. And the risk of huge cost overruns for big projects are often very high. Since the Watergrab project is hideously expensive – and worthless until it's finished, commitment to it is very risky. Smaller projects that can be built as needed are a much lower risk. With desalination, SNWA doesn't have to invest billions of dollars all at once – hoping that there really is water out in the desert – and there will be someone left in Las Vegas to pay for it when the bills come due.
  7. Who pays for the project is very important. With smaller, less expensive (desalination) projects, the burden of paying for new water projects can be paid for by new residents. On the other hand, the cost of the Watergrab is so expensive that present residents will be paying a huge bill for water for other people.
  8. Offshore desalination doesn't ruin anyone's tourism economy. California beaches can still look pristine, and Nevada deserts can too.
  9. Offshore desalination can actually help Las Vegas' tourism economy – by Las Vegas not being perceived as the evil empire. Las Vegas does not want to project their image as callus destroyer of vast ecosystems (like in the movie Rango). That image just doesn't sound like a fun place to go.
  10. Without a watergrab, the rural counties next to Southern Nevada will continue to have viable economies, which will prevent them from becoming the nation's toxic waste dump site – right next door to Las Vegas.

Bonus Reason:
  1. With offshore desalination, no one will have to explain to their children what the desert, the open range, and the mountains of Nevada looked like before Southern Nevada killed them.


If offshore desalination is such a good idea, why didn't SNWA commit to it 20 years ago?
Because no one anticipated the cost of desalination, wind, and wave energy to drop like they did. (Wave energy is as cheap as PV solar now.)


If offshore desalination is such a good idea now, why hasn't SNWA changed their minds?
  1. After spending hundreds of millions of dollars on the Watergrab, it would be political suicide to admit they made a mistake.
  2. Nevada water law is written such that if SNWA backed down, somebody else would just take the water. Sadly, there is no provision in Nevada water law to save water for future use. (The future doesn't have any lobbyists to support their cause.)
  3. Because of the way our political and campaign systems (dys)function, our politicians and bureaucrats are not politically permitted to make wise long term decisions.
  4. There is a potential here for a few corrupt local officials to get very wealthy by selling out Las Vegas to predatory lenders.

This is too important a decision not to be voted on.