Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Warning! Winter Gas Bill Alert

It's time for all of us to be forewarned about this coming winter's heating bills. This is not to blame anyone, especially ONG or your local gas utility. It's just to let you know about what is now happening and how it will affect your utility bills.

We are nearing the end (end of October) of the current year injection cycle for natural gas. As a nation, during the low natural gas demand months of May through October all the excess production from producing gas wells is injected into underground storage. It is assumed that 3 to 3.2 trillion cubic feet is the needed amount in storage at the end of the cycle to get us through a typical winter. You can monitor the storage numbers here. Even with the disruptions caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, it looks like we will get to at least 3 trillion. That's good news.

The bad news is that it has been injected into storage all during the injection season at $10-$13 per MMbtu, more that double the price from last year, when it was injected at $5-$6 per MMBtu. Tack on the storage charges on top of this. The result is that your local gas utility will be withdrawing this gas during the winter and charging you the cost at that time. Your gas utility bills could be at least doubled from last year's.

What can we do? Lot's of things. But you better get on them now. You can go to an average payment plan if your utility company offers it. That will smooth out the bumps temporarily. You can caulk, weatherstrip, add storm doors, storm windows,and add insulation. Consider a heat pump or some other type of secondary electric heating. The electric prices are at their lowest during the peak winter months. Consider changing out old and inefficient central heaters that can only produce 50% efficiency for a new one with 80% efficiency. Turn down the thermostat on your gas heater and wear more clothing. Turn down the thermostat on your gas water heater. These things should keep you busy.

The point is that its coming and you can do things now to soften the blow.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Tulsa Interfaith Alliance - True to their creed?

Tulsa recently had a forum to discuss the role of religion in public schools. You can see a brief article from the KOTV website here.

The event was hosted by the Tulsa Interfaith Alliance. Here is an excerpt from their purpose statement, "Tulsa Interfaith Alliance is an organization of individuals. It is not actively or passively connected to any specific political, religious, or denominational group.
It refuses to accept financial support from any political action groups, nor will it act as a Political Action Committee to promote the exclusive political agenda of any group." This looks like they say they take great pains to eschew the political arena. The funny thing is, can there be any more political entity that the public schools? It is raw politics at the local level.

Reading that statement again makes me think of what someone else has said, "those who stand for nothing, will fall for anything". Or maybe we could paraphrase and say that an organization that believes in nothing will espouse anything. It may all sound good, but you peel the onion back a little and see that it a front for the banners of diversity and multiculturalism.

I wonder if the U.S. culture needs fixing so much, why did all these people from foreign lands come here in the first place? Why not choose to blend into our melting pot culture to enrich and enhance it? See this for my thoughts exactly.

This forum will do nothing to improve the education of students in Tulsa. While it did promote communication (a good thing), the comments from some on the KOTV article show that seemingly prominent citizens know nothing about our heritage, our culture, our history, and so, sadly, we may be doomed to repeat the mistakes of our past.

Education is taught with a world view. Whose world view will prevail?

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The TPS School Board

This is a picture of Matt Livingood, the current President of the Tulsa Public School Board.

I found this link that gives a very good overview of the Board. It includes elections, organization, roles and responsibilities, current members, etc.

Having been the member of a Board myself, I really do respect each of these Tulsa citizens for their involvement and committment to public education. It appears that several of the current Board were elected just this year. Let's hope they bring a fresh and innovative perspective to the direction of TPS, the state's largest school district.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Tulsa Is Well Represented

I want to add my congratulations to each of the 2005 Oklahoma Academic All-Staters. You can check out the list of 100 here. You must be nominated to even be considered for one of these awards. It is rigorous to say the least.

The Tulsa area is well represented with 1 from Bixby, 2 from BTW, 1 from Memorial, 6 from Jenks, 2 from Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics, 1 from Union, 1 from Broken Arrow and 1 from Owasso. If I left someone in the area out, I apologize.

I was a little surprised that there was not a representative from Tulsa School of Arts and Sciences. TSAS scored above every one of the schools mentioned above on ACT scores, except OSSM. They certainly had students that were qualified. Maybe the judges didn't think a charter school is a public school.

Check out the Oklahoma Charter School Act. It clearly states that charter schools are public schools. "B. For purposes of the Oklahoma Charter Schools Act, "charter school" means a public school established by contract with a board of education of a school district or an area vocational-technical school district pursuant to the Oklahoma Charter Schools Act to provide learning that will improve student achievement and as defined in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, 20 U.S.C. 8065"

Maybe next year?

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Once a Stately Tree, Now a Mere Stump Posted by Picasa

These are examples of the mature trees that we have loved so much over the years Posted by Picasa

The Bear was made from a tree the same size as the one left standing Posted by Picasa

Another Neighborhood Tree Sculpure Posted by Picasa

A Well Done Wood Sculpture-A Sad End to a Mature Tree Posted by Picasa

The Ultimate Effect of AEP/PSO Tree Trimming Posted by Picasa

The Voluntary De-forestation of T-Town

I was happy to hear that AEP/PSO listened to the concerns of Tulsa homeowners and have modified their tree trimming practices and those of their contractors.

Maybe just coincidently, I have noticed a disturbing trend in my mid-town neighborhood of voluntary de-forestation. By that I mean, homeowners are cutting down mature trees at an alarming rate.

We longed to move into our present neighborhood for years, but housing prices were too high for us then. Along came the oil bust of the mid-80's and corresponding decline in housing prices in Tulsa. Then came our chance. We loved the central Tulsa location. Convenient to just about everything, and still is! We loved the style of houses and how neatly the yards were kept. But we especially loved the canopy of mature shade trees, no doubt planted so carefully by former homeowners. You see, you plant a tree as an investment in the future. You know someday, someone or something will enjoy the shade, the beauty, the fruit, the leaves, etc. I love Joyce Kilmer's poem about trees.

I can remember driving to work in the mid-70's down 21st Street and admiring the beauty of those trees lining both sides of the street. Trees add so much to the esthetic beauty of any place.

I have included some pictures of trees that have been cut down recently. These are the ones that are just a block or two away from my home and on my walking trail. They are being cut down at an alarming rate. All of these in the last year. Some in the last few weeks.

The last picture is a tree that I had to have cut down. It was severely trimmed by PSO a few years back. This set the tree up for borers and it slowly died. I hired a contractor to cut it down as it was between two houses and close to the power lines. PSO would not cut it down.

All the rest of the pictures were of trees not previously trimmed or in power line easements. Our neighborhood is starting to turn over with lots of new people. I guess they don't love the mature trees as I do. At least two of them turned the tree into a form of art.....

Does anyone else know of this voluntary de-forestation going on in Tulsa?

Friday, September 09, 2005

Price Gouging in T-Town

To my knowledge, gas prices didn't hit the price in this picture (from San Diego, California, by the way), but they did get to $3.19 in the recent panic run-up. Quiktrip, seemingly is the local gasoline price setter. Make no mistake, I think Quiktrip is a great company and am glad it is here in Tulsa.

Prices have retreated somewhat, so our fears have temporarily waned. But the genie is out of the bottle and Katrina exposed our soft underbelly. The exposure has spawned a number of manifestations, one being outright price gouging. The national news reported that nationwide the average price of gas post-Katrina was $2.89. Why with refineries in West Tulsa, did the price here spike to $.30 above the national average? I can think of two main reasons.

One way is because of EPA ozone regulations, and Tulsa's propensity to exceed the EPA limits. Our city government in the past agreed to use a blended form of gasoline in the Tulsa area. This is a repeat of what is going on in the rest of the US. Kudo's to Engine of the Future for his insight and for this map that shows the areas effected. The EPA rules that govern this created shortage of blended gasoline have been suspended nationwide until September 15, 2005. That's far too short a time to do much good. I say suspend those rules until we have built an additional 10 refineries here in the USA. One result of the blended gas scenario has been artificial market pockets around the country with associated shortages and higher overall prices.

Another way is simply price gouging. This means that people make the conscious choice to raise prices to take advantage of a situation. And the price gouging is certainly not limited to gasoline. One local TV station reported the day after Katrina struck that in Tulsa Oklahoma the price of plywood went from $2.00 per sheet to $3.00 per sheet IN ONE DAY! Mind you, not one piece of plywood could have even been shipped to the affected area. In fact, it took the military several more days before they could get their specialized equipment into the area. No, this was pure and simply price gouging and those responsible should be punished, per the laws of our land. I think they should be made a public spectacle as well, but that's another story.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Let Tulsa Offer Hope

Just some quick thoughts about what we as Tulsans can do to help to those affected by Hurricane Katrina.

With the net loss of at least 15,000 jobs during the reign of Mayor LaFortune, its obvious that Tulsa has spare room. Let our Chamber of Commerce, City Leaders, County Officials, and our good citizenry get together and offer hope to at least some.

We have ample and readily available space for business, housing, transportation, you name it. We share the love of Jazz music with New Orleans and we too love great food and cajun music.

I am reminded of the flyers that were distributed when Oklahoma was still territory (before statehood) that offered such hope to encourage people to immigrate here. Let's get the word out that Tulsa is ready to take in 15,000+ from those people displaced. We need the restaurants, the jazz music, the gaming employees, the energy business. You name it and we need it. Leave the Vodoo, the culture of dependency behind. Tulsa offers hope to those who want a fresh start, to those who want to help themselves.

With space to spare and the need for a shot in the arm, we can offer incentives to get the people here. Offer a temporary break on taxes, rent, public transportation. In the long run, we will reap a greater reward than what we give up just now.

I challenge our officials to show true leadership at this time of great need. Tulsa can help, is helping,and will continue to help!