Roger Marolt: Roger This
August 21, 2009
I stood at the feet of giants. They live in Abilene, Texas.
If you haven’t lately driven the hundred miles, or so, between Abilene and Big Spring in the Lone Star State you are in for a big surprise the next time you do. My suggestion for the trip is to not spend so much time glancing at the outside thermometer built into your rear-view mirror and use the time to see somebody’s vision of the future.
I know the intoxication of watching the temperature rise to big sky heights while air conditioned and comfortably cruising at 90 mph through the tumbleweed beneath the unfiltered West Texas sun on a late summer afternoon. Anything above 100 is ironically gratifying because it’s so common in August, but it beats watching the odometer to check your guesses at the distances between bona fide bends in the highway that are long enough to make you feel that an oil change somewhere between tilts of the steering wheel might be prudent.
Of course the giant visions I am referring to are wind turbines sprouting in the scorched dust along with the mesquite and oil pumps. It creates an incongruous image for the traveler much as would an encounter at a traffic light with a teenage boy in a Prius sporting an air scoop in the hood, a wing on its tail, legitimized by a throaty, if not digitalized, rumble from the tailpipe.
Impossible to count while passing by and spread out over the range of a Zap Car with a full charge, the landscape is blighted with these behemoth monochromatic pinwheels that we’ll never allow in ANWR. There are thousands of them in this un-foreclosed upon land. The blades, which you often encounter being transported to the area by semi-trucks, appear to be a hundred feet long, based on the time it takes to pass a rig carrying one.
In seeing this marvel of engineering and construction that has literally sprung into being over the past two years, there was but one thought that crowded my open mind: A crackpot with a ton of money hit the panic button too soon. This can’t possibly be what is going to make this country energy independent.
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Of course I don’t have any scientific or engineering data to support my position here. I am going on a gut feeling. You can’t help it when you see the things in motion. There is no sense of awe, as I suspect there was when man first put a match to kerosene.
I would spare you the quixotic metaphors if for no other reason than because, despite what I-Hoppers peering through cafeteria windows over I-20 and into the prairie call them, these contraptions are not windmills and nobody donned a bucket over their skull for a fight to keep them away. But, using the simple clarity of vision of Sancho Panza, one might conclude that using an enlarged version of ancient technology to address the future energy crisis is like taking a gigantic step backward to propel your body forward; the logic makes sense only after imbibing.
If we are inclined to think like this, we might as well consider the sperm whale as a possible addition to the short list of reincarnated former reliable energy sources. Apparently all it takes is a little big thinking. Imagine – farmed whales in giant pens built below the surface of the seas. Pump them up with steroids and growth hormones and there’s no telling how large they could get, and judging by David Ortiz, very quickly at that. Think of each of those aquatic monsters as a self-propelled submarine full of precious oil. Best of all, whales are renewable.
And you thought drives through Texas couldn’t be productive. While the highways through The Panhandle are as straight as a drilling bore into the Permian Basin, the route your mind takes through the state is necessarily a circuitous one. My examination of wind-for-energy took its unexpected turn toward the recycle bin around Amarillo the week before I had my close encounter with the modern desert dinosaurs with the airfoil arms.
In our own quest for nostalgia at any cost, and even better at $89 per night, we settled down at a place called The Big Texan motel, located conveniently near the Air Force base on the seedy side of town with its own “horse motel” to put your animal up within struttin’ distance from your bedroom. In the ’60s it must have been something.
Then, as now, the rooms in the front wing are false-fronted with a theme. You could sleep in the saloon, the general store, the jail, or even the blacksmith’s shop. Our room was in the annex, which in whole was a replica of The Alamo. In each bathroom, for a shower curtain hangs the proud Texas flag, mildewing under a coating of Prell and Ivory. The rooms are clean, proving that the minimum wage is adequate in some parts of the country. Best of all, the swimming pool is the shape of the Lone Star State, with Austin, the political capital, near the drain. Trust me, this is one of those places that was so great in its day that it is still tolerable today, despite regular sallies of flies on reconnaissance from the stables.
What got me thinking about whales as an energy source, though, was the 72-ounce steak they serve at the Big Texan Steak House next door. No, I didn’t eat one, but I venture to guess that I could have run on a single one of them for a week, assuming I could coax it through my digestive tract at an acceptable pace. Oil, wind and meat; why do all the great energy sources originate in Texas?
If you care to know, too much time is spent thinking in offices, libraries and laboratories. I would guess that most people do their best thinking while driving, and driving in Texas is pretty darn good. Obviously, the people who came up with the wind farm idea don’t get out enough. I wonder if they’ve ever even seen what a real one looks like.
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