Friday, March 6, 2015

Things Sweet and Sour but otherwise mundane

Another month and Obama sets another record of continuous months of job growth, now at 59 months, and this was a good one. According to employers they hired 295,000 new workers in February and the household survey of workers dropped the unemployment rate to 5.5%. This is half the rate that Obama inherited, but the Republicans insist this simply doesn't count because of the 'low' Workforce Participation Rate. The official Conservative Talking Points don't mention Participation so much anymore since the rate actually started to edge up five months ago even though Baby Boomers continue to retire.

Oil has been trending up in price lately as well as gasoline, but the people who keep track of the big storage tanks in the US are saying that most of them are full, and by mid-April there will be no place to put oil. This suggests that we're likely to see a market crash taking the price back to pre-Operation Iraqi Liberation (OIL) levels. The main reason that there is an oversupply is that there are two basic types of oil 'light sweet crude' and 'heavy sour crude'. The difference between sweet and sour is the sulfur content of the oil, and because in the old days refinery men would actually taste the oil in order to tell what was in a railroad tank car.

Most oil imported into the US is sour but much of the domestic production is sweet and most refineries only handle one or the other. This gives you competing supply sources that both wish to keep refining instead of shutting down. Venezuela produces sour crude and they own their own US refineries which they've been unable to sell recently so they need to keep those running.

Gasoline prices aren't directly connected to oil prices but could plunge if domestic oil production remains high as light sweet crude contains more gasoline. The veto of Keystone XL by President Obama maintains the supply of oil as the pipeline was to be a loophole in 1970s law prohibiting the export of US oil. The Koch Brothers would have done this by terminating pipeline in a Free Trade Zone in Texas created under NAFTA to process Mexican produced oil. Tar Sands oil is too thick to pump through a pipeline by itself and they are allowed to thin it with domestic oil.

From the 'kinder, gentler machine gun hand' file: the Pentagon has announced that the US and coalition forces engaged in Iraq and Syria will not be using Depleted Uranium ammunition. This applies mostly to 30mm anti-armor munitions fired by aircraft like the A-10 Warthog that is being used heavily in the conflict. The Bush Administration was a big fan of the Uranium ammunition and used it for everything from vehicle mounted weapons to helicopters and aircraft of all types. Technically DU isn't radioactive, but since it vaporizes on impact in order to burn through armor it produces a persistent heavy metal dust that is a gene scrambling poison. In such a dry climate DU's effect of creating Iraqi birth defects will probably never end completely.  

In other news, it's possible that a historical miscarriage of justice could be corrected. The National Transportation Safety Board announced in late February that they will formally consider re-opening the investigation into the plane crash that killed Buddy Holly. This determination came shortly after the 56th anniversary of his death in an Iowa plane crash. Popularly known as the Day the Music Died, Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper Richardson and Ritchie Valens were killed along with their pilot when their plane plowed into a snowy corn field at full speed some six miles from take off.

The crash of the new Beechcraft Bonanza Vee-Tail aircraft was officially blamed on pilot Roger Peterson's lack of experience. Persistent rumors circulated that a gun known to be carried by the Big Bopper and found two months later had discharged causing the crash. An autopsy was done in 2007 to lay to rest rumors that Richardson had initially survived the crash.

The likely conconclusion of a new investigation will lay blame on the aircraft as a number of similar crashes occurred with the same model until a retrofit was done by the manufacturer. It appears that control cables to the plane's tail surfaces would bind causing altitude loss or a stall. The company never accepted responsibility for any of the 'unsolved' accidents.

Twitter @BruceEnberg - It can be the most mundane things that profoundly alter history.