Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Media Matters, Harmon Division

Yesterday was an atypically crazy day at work, starting with critical medical calls, a barn fire, numerous wrecks from slippery roads, a house fire, a SWAT callout for a homicide suspect, and culminating in the rescue of two snowmobilers from the Uncompahgre Plateau.

It was tough to wind down after getting out of there; I had a nice conversation with Leslie that helped a lot. There's something to be said about the power of a loving voice and a hug, even if it is a virtual hug from 1700 miles away.

The last incident was made all the more difficult because they were two guys that I know. I stayed well past the end of my shift, helping to handle communication to and from information sources, associates, and family members until the word came down that both of them were OK.

I found out that they both have a Spot Satellite Messenger device, which allows them to send one-way messages through a satellite network to friends, family, or an emergency call center, depending on the circumstances. The call center fed us their GPS coordinates after they pressed their help buttons when their snowmobile finally became inexorably stuck in an area with no wireless phone service. Search and Rescue found them in the snow cave they had built not too long afterward, but it was 3 1/2 hours that I bet they won't forget soon, given the precarious position they found themselves in.

Speaking of precarious positions, it was a little more difficult to wind down last night after reading Gary Harmon's blog post from yesterday. Seems like he was trying to draw a parallel between Ted Kennedy's endorsement of Barack Obama and the unfortunate events at Chappaquiddick nearly 40 years ago. From what I can gather, Gary saw the initial reaction of certain officials of NOW to the endorsement as akin to what happened to Mary Jo Kopechne on that fateful night.


To be nice, that's a stretch, especially given the position of National NOW on the endorsement, which carries a good deal more civility. Then again, Gary's blog isn't really about those kinds of things. Gary seems to specialize in single-paragraph, from-the-hip sniper attacks that may be entertaining for a second or two but can be significantly off the mark. He apparently saves the better-researched vitriol for his weekly column.

Gary's post of January 24 had similar problems. Gary referenced an excellent article from Wired about the potential for water supplies and small communities to be threatened by the rapid emphasis on crops that can be used to make biofuels such as E85 Ethanol and Biodiesel.
He attempted to label this as an additional unseen cost of Hybrid Vehicle technology.

Oh, really?

First, the article was based on information from a UN summit held in Thailand, with a specific focus on Asia and the Pacific. I'm not sure that these concerns translate so well to the high desert of Colorado.

Secondly, I think that Gary confused hybrid technology in vehicles with the alternative fuel technology that the crops are produced for. I’m no expert, but I did enough research to know that hybrid cars such as the Toyota Prius can largely power themselves a lot of the time through technology such as regenerative braking, and can burn standard gas when needed.

Aside from the costs associated with replacing and recycling spent batteries, the lower operating cost and lessened environmental impact associated with hybrids is impossible to ignore. Gary's all-too-brief assertion to the contrary amounts to a misrepresentation of the linked article (which makes good points), and an unjustified bad rap on hybrid technology.

From a local standpoint, wouldn’t it be interesting if a re-commitment of some of the Grand Valley’s shrinking agricultural land base to bioenergy crops struck a balance with oil, gas, and shale production and their associated environmental impacts? At the same time, we could be revitalizing our local agricultural economy and holding off unwanted sprawl. Could be a win-win for our area.

I don't know if that's a "dose of reality", but I believe it's a good shade closer than what I've been reading under that tagline of late. I guess it's a good thing that Media Matters is busy enough with other local stories.

Count your blessings, and have a great day.

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