DUCKS

THE CONTRARIAN

WILLY BRANT’S DIARY

 

Joe stopped in with his rattley old truck this morning, said he was going to town and could he get anything for me.  That’s a surprise, Joe hates shopping, he hates traffic, and he isn’t too fond of people.

So I says “Nahh, got to go myself one of these days, fix up my car insurance.  You might as well have a coffee while you’re here; I just made a fresh pot.”  Which was true, it was fresh when I made it an hour or two ago.  While Joe pours a cup, I say “I was just reading in this old National Geographic magazine about something called ‘Ducks’.  They are little floating generators which they throw into the ocean, with an anchor on the bottom.  When a wave moves them up and down, the anchor pulls a cord in and out and that generates electricity.  Great idea, isn’t it?”

Joe made a face as he took a pull on his coffee, said “Great coffee.  Yeah, there are lots of bright ideas out there.  I been thinking for years that I ought to anchor a raft off that rocky point in the river behind my place, put a paddle wheel on it like a Huckleberry Finn steam boat, and run a generator off the paddle wheel.  The river runs all the time, so that would be useful power.  The trouble with all those wave machines is they don’t generate when the wind doesn’t blow, so you need backup.  And folks want the lights to come on when they flick the switch, which means the backup has to be instant.  Sort of makes the whole thing a wasted effort.”

“Yes,” from me, “I guess that is the root of all Ontario Hydro’s problems, all those windmills only run when the wind blows, so they have to have gas plants running all the time, kind of takes away the benefits.”  “It’s worse than that,” says Joe, “we pay through the nose for that expensive power, wind and solar costs like 10 times as much as nuclear, but we think we are saving the planet by reducing our CO2 output.  But the latest news, a guy has ciphered out that having those gas plants idling, and the whole system going up and down when the wind doesn’t blow or the sun doesn’t shine, means we actually burn more fuel than if we just generated from gas in the first place, so we aren’t saving any CO2 emissions at all!  Looks like the government got slickered!”

“Well,” from me, “It’s not all the government’s fault. Our city folks are sooo goody-two-shoes, we have to jump on whatever little politically correct idea comes along, and wind-mills look so good from a distance, marks us as progressive and so on.”

Joe finishes his coffee and gets up, says “Gotta go; get to town before the stores get crowded.  The real kicker on this hydro stuff for us Dryden folk is that our mill has the equipment in place to generate more electricity than our district needs, by burning forest biomass.  It would be useful power, there when you need it, but Hydro won’t buy it.  They say they don’t have capacity to carry it, at the same time as they are busy building a multi-million dollar solar farm right outside town.  Too bad, might make the difference whether our mill survives these tough times.  Gotta go.”  And he did.  Wish I hadn’t brought up the ducks.

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