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Caseythoughts I've never seen much point in making New Year's resolutions. As a long time (and very observant) friend once said of me: "If he says he's going to do it, watch out, he's going to do it." Some of her other observations of my behavior were more pithy, no less observant, but I generally stick with "going to do it" as a rule throughout the year. One of those things at this point in the new month/year is to thin out the newspaper clipping clutter of my work desk. So, in the interest of resolving to simplify (not quite a la Thoreau, as he had little to 'de-clutter) here's a collection of random thoughts that need to see the light of day after languishing in that pile of clippings.

All the talk of transportation these days has centered around the electric car, the 'EV' and its growing popularity and ubiquity. Elon Musk is now producing Teslas in China at a pace to rival GM or Ford, and there are some incredible predictions for how many EVs will be on the world's roads by, say, 2030. I believe EVs are currently a very small minority of vehicles currently, but their numbers could reach upwards of 30% or more of registered vehicles in ten years. I am personally leery of this unfolding event for a couple of reasons. Here are a couple of those reasons, in ascending order of their relative importance.

It's not come to New York, yet (it's a mystery considering Albany's penchant and appetite for new sources of income) but states around our good ol' US of A are recognizing that an EV isn't going to pay gasoline tax (or, if a 'hybrid', much less), so these states are upping the bounty for registration to make up for those lost taxes. Owners of EVs in Oregon, for instance, will now (2020) pay $110 more per year (on top of the registration fees), while Utah (UTAH!!) owners are anteing up an additional $90 annual fee.

Twenty six states have imposed additional fees on EVs to make sure that your initial calculations of money saved on gasoline will at least be modestly less. Twenty six states, and more are considering enacting the extra charge: Arizona, Hawaii, Kansas, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Texas (!!!). Minnesota and Missouri are considering raising EV registration rates from their current $75. If you point out that gasoline taxes are charged to pay for road maintenance, I'd like to point out that in states like New York (among others) the gasoline tax is not a 'locked box' and was raided a long time ago: that tax is now a part of general revenue subject to all the shenanigans of any other source of income for gobbeldy-hungry states, thus partially explaing the deteriorating condition of our roads and bridges, both locally and state-wide.

I'm sure you will object, especially if you own an EV or hybrid, saying the savings on gasoline will cover these extra taxes on transportation. May I point out that most of those states are probably already taxing your electric bill, as well as taxing the utility providing power for your electric-powered, gas-less mojo. But, I leap to point out two other interesting items relating to this EV-phenom, as you go out to plug in your vehicle.

As you might imagine (and readily accept as reality) utilities are under immense pressure to provide so-called 'clean energy' and by all accounts their efforts to provide power with 'renewable energy sources' are commendable. But what do you do with the power once you collect it or generate it? You must transmit that electricity, and it appears that some green groups are making transmission of that power from old and new sources to your EV plug-in very difficult to accomplish.

According to Jim Carlton of the Wall Street Journal, there are currently 2500 planned or newly completed transmission projects in the U.S. last year. 900 new plants, most of which produce renewable energy, were proposed last year. But in Oregon, for instance, groups have banded together to stop building power transmission lines to "protect wildlife areas." Wisconsin residents have banded against the Cardinal Hickory Creek power line which has its source as 'totally clean and renewable' energy. In New Mexico, Robert Redford and like minded friends and activists fought a proposal to build a 30 mile transmission line that would add capacity for more renewable power originating in a wind and solar 'farm'.

These efforts to stop transmission lines seem, to me, to directly contravene the efforts of the same groups (I assume) to petition to build more solar and wind 'farms' to provide renewable and 'clean' power for their electricity. Our consumption of electricity, even discounting the probable explosion of EVs in the next ten to twenty years, has always increased year to year, yet coal powered electricity plants (and of course nuclear) have been attacked, outlawed and closed over the past twenty years. Even natural gas is being discounted and attacked by green groups as 'dirty' and 'dangerous'. So, the utilities try to assuage the rate payer with clean power sources but they 'can't win for losin' ". Now they're being told, by demonstrations, court injunctions and other mystifying actions that even if power is renewable, they can't transmit it. Makes one wonder if the real intent is to bankrupt the utilities (like Pacific Electric and Gas, among others) so they can be taken over by the government in a subtle but threatening socialist move by government and the green groups who make no secret of their socialist ideas. The people who demonstrate these objections, though, want power for their computers, microwaves, phone chargers and electric vehicles, yet don't have the slightest idea what the scientific or economic process is that brings that reliable power to them. Unless, of course, my assumption is correct that their real game is to nationalize the utilities so profit, loss and 'real life' don't matter as long as the 'people' own the power. I don't think that's an unreasonable assumption and suspicion.

Locally, Dryden residents objected to a 'solar farm' with one citizen complaining it was too close to a village cemetery. And, get this from Las Vegas. A 7100 acre solar farm that could power 130,000 homes, with lithium-ion batteries to store power for night usage is being demonstrated against. Nevada has a renewable energy goal (promoted and pushed through by the same environmental groups) of 50% by 2030. Nevada currently generates 20% 'clean'.

Environmental groups are suing to stop the farm, saying it would disturb the habitat of the desert tortoise, the kit fox and other desert denizens. In their suit they are quoted as telling the court: "...there is no justification for this project that outweighs the importance of the desert tortoise, its habitat..." ad nauseum, blah blah blah. Again, an interesting and worrisome thing to contemplate that these groups have, as their ultimate goal, to find ways and reasons to bankrupt certain entities and then have government take them over in a socialist world.

It's going to cost, folks, to go to an allegedly 'fossil fuel free' environment, and it's too bad that some extremists (a few, not many, but so loud they drown out practically all reasonable people) closing power plants, stopping transmission lines, suing to stop gas lines and solar farms, and claiming environmental damage, haven't taken a course called Economics 101. But, maybe they have, and covertly feel that free enterprise (and the reliability that free enterprise enables) is an enemy. Practicality, reality and clear thinking are in short supply these days.

Two quick notes that can reference previous columns and add additional 'weight' so to speak on those past topics.

I wrote several weeks ago about a Chinese scientist who admitted to gene editing (called Crisp-r) a human embryo which was roundly criticized as unethical. In all reality, this was an honest expression of scientific exploration freely acknowledged in a submitted paper to peers, but, no doubt, also being done secretly in other laboratories who won't admit it. The scientist's name is He Jia Kul and he has now been convicted in the 'People's' Republic of China of "illegally practicing medicine" and his effort to "profit" by the gene editing of the now born and healthy twin girls (who are now, allegedly, AIDS resistant) was a violation of Chinese law. He received a three year sentence in a Chinese prison, as well as a lifetime ban from practicing in the field of reproductive life sciences. Regardless of the ethics of his work, I cannot help but think what a loss to science his sentence and lifetime ban is. He may have a lot to teach the world, and methinks you should remember the name. It may not fall from the annals of research into the human genome, especially if he survives a communist prison, and can find his way to a more 'open' society.

And, in reference to my columns about gun violence I have proffered to my readers, I offer this: On New Year's Day in the United States, there were forty five non-suicide gun deaths. Adding in gun suicides on that first day of the year alone, the number was 177 gun deaths, three of them children. I've no idea what to say other than the idea that we cryingly need a solution. Yet, I hear nothing rational coming from either side (at least what's being said in the media, unfortunately), and in a presidential election year (possibly the most important and participated in for a long, long time) all we will be hearing will be same-old-same old. Has everyone lost their minds? Can't we figure this one out to rational and reasonable solutions? I use the word 'insanity' with cause, and in mourning: the FBI reports that in 2017, 6,839 black men and boys were victims of homicide, more than four times the numbers of their white counterparts. Most of these victims were between 15 and 34 years of age. A civil war rages in our country, in plain sight, but yet unseen, while America fiddles, oblivious to a situation that can only get worse. Whether these weapons are legal or illegal, whether used by sane or insane or criminal, we are really in a state of siege.

I'm waiting for ideas from what's left of the presidential candidates (both 'sides'). I guess I really don't expect any real thinking proposals, but I have a feeling that I'm not alone in my wait for some real answers to our very real challenges, of which increasing gun violence is one of many challenges and threats. But, as Shawn Phillips once sang: "...for the country's not run by the statesmen, now, but by the gentry..."

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