I had the opportunity to explore more of Southwest Oklahoma recently.
Actually, I was headed someplace without understandable directions — turn at mile marker such and such, when there were no mile markers, and go to the “old” store that hasn’t been operating in the past five years — got lost and had to accept the fact the I was just “supposed” to slow down, maybe even stop and smell the roses.
I was on the way, rounded a bend and over a hill and came upon huge field of yellow wildflowers on the right. I never would have seen them if I wasn’t taking the time to look for something I couldn’t find.
Later, I was north of Blair on the way back, when I took the time to pay attention to details.
I noticed a crop duster in a bright yellow aerobatic plane making runs on a local row of plants.
The pilot would circle up high into the air, loop around and swing down close to the ground before releasing the spray along the rows of plants. Then, on the other side, the plane would loop up again, just over a fence and power lines, only to make a arc and then swoop down again for another pass at the crops.
I watched this for a while, mesmerized by the extended figure-eight pattern of loops on either end, marvelling at how little room there was for error.
I took flying lessons a few years ago — only about 20 hours in the air before my situation changed — so I’ve flown and landed a small plane, in addition to riding dozens of military aircraft.
I kind of had a unique perspective and respect for this pilot. I don’t think that you could pay me enough to do that.
It must have been a great day for flying, because a little later I saw someone airborne in what I would call a paraglider with a power tricycle and fan on the back.
It was out in the direction of Friendship and he was just putting along a few hundred feet in the air. It looked like a very light contraption that shouldn’t really embrace a strong crosswind. Part of me wanted to be up there and another, maybe more sensible part, didn’t.
That was kind of how I felt this week at my second legislative luncheon during my brief time here.
It has amazed me how smart some of these guys are and there are some very in-depth side conversations about cause and effect.
I know that we’re in a small community with a great deal of pride in itself, but sometimes there are things outside of our sphere that affect us.
I’m learning that the local economy is one of those things, particularly with the oil industry.
I’m told that if the industry is exploring 150 oil and gas wells, then it’s economically productive. But 200 rigs are even better and dropping to 100 rigs leaves the local economy in a shambles.
What makes these profitable is the cost of oil on the “open” market. If oil is selling for $50 a barrel, then Oklahoma is booming and if not, then profits just aren’t there.
So, if countries like Saudi Arabia, who are otherwise supposed to be our allies, decide to flood the world market with oil and bring the cost down much lower, halfway across the world, it changes our quality of life in Altus.
Fortunately, some countries like Venezuela, also an OPEC member country, would like the cost of oil to be higher to make it profitable for them as well.
We’ll see what happens with that, but in the meantime, do we need to think about alternative energy?
I know it’s an emotional issue, but there are some very friendly and accommodating people in the wind industry. So maybe, just maybe, it’s time to give them a chance to put some windmills on local property.
As far as the electric cars, we might be headed that way too.
Convenience stores don’t make much money on the gas pumps. They earn their profits on the “convenient” products.
I’ve seen a trend in some areas, some of which are already in Oklahoma, to support electric cars with charging stations at businesses. There are some stores and some restaurants already doing this. Sometimes the car manufacturers will even foot the bill for the power.
Imagine having a clean, efficient and renewable car to drive around town that you can charge up when you’re out shopping or inside eating a meal.
I think it’s only a matter of time before these concepts become more readily accepted — such as “net positive facilities.”
These are homes or businesses with a lot of efficient appliances, insulation and several types of power generation — solar water heater, geothermal exchanges and solar electric cells.
If a facility makes more power than it uses, then it even sells the extra back to the power company running the local grid.
It might be a good idea for all of us to be in the home power business.
Reach Eric Steinkopff at firstname.lastname@example.org or 580-482-1221, ext 2072.