On a cold but clear afternoon in the wilds of rural Linn County, here's my first sketchy reaction to Governor Kitzhaber's speech on the first day of the 2013 Oregon Legislature.
Maybe it's lucky that we don't believe the hyperventilating about global warming in the papers and other mainstream media. If we relied on them, we might be tempted to think it's been getting warmer in Oregon. And then we might step out the door into freezing fog without being properly dressed.
Even if the weather did not remind us that it's winter, we can check the facts online. I did just that the other day. On one of the data sites maintained by NOAA, an agency of the federal government, I got the average annual temperatures for Oregon about a century apart, for the period from 1900 through 1912 and then for the years from 2000 through 2012. The first thing I noticed was that the year 1900 itself was slightly warmer in Oregon than the year 2000. In both years the annual average temperature was 49 degrees Fahrenheit. But in 1900 it was just slightly above 49, and in 2000 slightly below, 49.2 versus 48.7.
Then I averaged all the annual medians from a century ago and did the same for the first 13 years of our current century. And here is what I found: The average for the period right after 1900 was 48.1 degrees, and for the first part of this century it was 48.9. A difference of point 8 degrees, less than a single degree Fahrenheit over 100 years. And remember, if the averages mean anything, 1900 was a bit warmer or less cold than 2000. But only a slight bit.
These averages show that while annual mean temperatures have gone up and down slightly over the decades, essentially there's been no change over all this time. (hh)
From Nancy Sturm: It's a frigid 15 degrees in Applegate (Ore.) this morning, and I for one am grateful for global waring. Think how cold it might have been.
No, Senator Merkley, the concept of an Oregon vehicle mileage tax does not require people to disclose where they are going. It requires only that the in-state mileage on public roads be recorded. That's so the owners can pay a road user fee instead of the gas tax.
Jeff Merkley, Oregon's junior member in the U.S. Senate, held a town hall meeting in Corvallis the other day, on Jan. 12. Someone evidently asked him what he thought of the Oregon proposal for a road user fee for vehicles that get very high mileage. Since these vehicles use no or very little gas, their owners now don't pay a proportionate share of the cost of maintaining roads the way regular fuel buyers do. During this coming session the legislature will get a bill authorizing ODOT to start a road-user fee program by 2015.
According to a sketchy account of the Merkley town hall meting in the local Sunday paper, the senator said he would not support such a program if, in the words of the reporter, "it means people have to disclose where they are going to and from." This idea that the state might track where people go has been a common fear about the program. But the fear is misplaced. If vehicle owners choose the electronic mileage measurement option, the technology would record how many miles they drive on Oregon roads, but not where and when.
Besides which, people can already be tracked if they use cell phones, as we have learned over the years from various news stories about searches for people who get lost. The public does not seem to be worried about tracking of cell phones. So why worry about a system which, very much like the common odometer that each vehicle has, just measures how far the car goes? (hh)
NASA now says the chance that the asteroid named Apophis will slam into the Earth in 2036 is so small as to be not worth worrying about. So we are supposed to feel reassured. Actually, some of us were never all that worried. There's a pretty good chance we won't be around in another 23 years to find out what happens with that asteroid. But of course we should be worried about the younger generations. And we are. The asteroid measures about 350 yards across. That's a pretty hefty chunk of rock, and if it slammed into us at asteroid speed, which I guess is thousand miles a minute or something like that, we would probably know it. Or not. More likely it would be over before we knew what hit us. This giant rock apparently passes by the Earth every few years. And after it was discovered, in 2004, it was thought it might come pretty close to Earth in 2029. Further observation proved that fear was groundless, but a chance remained for a collision in 2036. On Jan. 10, though, NASA scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena announced that they had now ruled this out. Ruled it out? Well, not quite. They said they had "effectively ruled it out" because they had determined the chance of a collision was less than one in a million. A chance of less than one in a million is still a real chance, as a lot of Powerball and Megabucks players keep thinking as they plunk down their money in the hope of getting rich overnight. Still, as far as that goes, it now appears life on Earth will in all likelihood go on past 2036, which among other things means that Congress really should try to figure out how to keep Social Security solvent well past that year. (hh)
When the Oregon legislature approved a special deal for Nike and possibly other job-creating companies last month, it threw a bone to rural areas in the state. But it doesn't look as though it means anything, at least in the case of Nike. In the one-day special session on Dec. 14, lawmakers approved a bill allowing the governor to make contracts promising that Oregon will make no change in the tax policy on corporate excise taxes for a company that will invest at least $150 million and, within five years, create 500 additional jobs in Oregon. These contracts promising no tax change can last any number of years. The bill says the duration of each contract of this kind should be determined based on factors including the number of jobs to be created, how much the jobs pay, what other incentives the company receives, "and the extent to which the qualifying investment will create employment opportunities in rural Oregon." Governor Kitzhaber since then has signed a contract with Nike saying the method of calculating its Oregon income tax will not change for 30 years -- thirty years! So you'd think that maybe the creation of jobs in rural Oregon would have been one of the factors that prompted such an extraordinarily long contract. But then, the Portland Oregonian reported on Jan. 11 that Nike was considering two or three sites for the promised expansion that caused the legislature to approve this bill in the first place. The sites were close to the Nike campus in Beaverton and near downtown Portland. Rural jobs? Apparently not. Evidently, the language in that bill was just window dressing. It doesn't seem to mean anything at all. (hh)