Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The risks of coming up with blog concepts at 4:00 a.m.

The 19 Minutes staff needs to lay off the potato chips before bed. For some reason, my body seems to think that a handful of chips at 10:30 p.m. leads to the promise of more potato chips at 3:30 a.m. Or something like that, because I'm roused from an otherwise fine night's sleep and kept awake (regardless of whether I actually eat something) for a good hour or so.

This morning, this enabled me to tune in for our extra-special early morning broadcast of NPR's Morning Edition, on which I learned that the cost of heating a home could go up by as much as 50 percent in places this winter, especially for people who heat with natural gas, propane, or heating oil.

There are a number of factors analysts blame, ranging from the impact of Hurricane Katrina, to energy policies that have largely favored the use of fossil fuels, to policies which have tied the hands of the power industry, to the fact that Coca-Cola inexplicably changed the name of Mr Pibb to "Pibb Extra".

Personally, I blame the elk.

Stick with me. Two stories (one of them, I'll confess, was reported by me) on NPR this morning referenced the problems related to the burgeoning elk population in the Intermountain West. Mainly, the elk are eating too much aspen and other vegetation. (We also learned that they make weird noises when they mate, but that doesn't seem like an especially troublesome issue, at least as far as heating prices go.)

But right now, we're dealing with a situation in which tens of thousands of tourists are flocking to Colorado to watch elk mating season before it ends, and tens of thousands of people are flocking to northern Arizona to check out the changing leaves on aspen trees before the elk eat them all. The disappearance of those tens of thousands of people from other cities, like Denver and Albuquerque means those cities lose out on the heating effects (car exhaust, chimney smoke, etc.) of a percentage of their regular population. This drives the ambient city temperature down, driving up the demand for heating fuels.

If that weren't bad enough, the increased number of warm elk bodies in the West leads to a faster snow melt. The runoff from this snow ends up in communities like Flagstaff, or Santa Fe, or Durango, and then freezes on the roadways overnight. This leads to more accidents involving trucks transporting fuel oil, exacerbating the shortage. And that, in turn, leads to more stories on local TV news about the accidents, which makes for an added drain on electricity, which is supplied by natural gas-fed power plants.

So I'm recommending proactive measures. If you encounter elk mating, be sure to honk your horn, or yell "Get a room!" from the safety of your car. If at all possible, yell it from Denver or Albuquerque. They could use the hot air.

It's 19 minutes past the hour.

2 comments:

Carol Davidson said...

It's logic like this that got George W. Bush elected the second time.

Personally, I blame the potato chips.

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