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Tuesday, May 25, 2004

No Oil Left Behind

Bill McKibben recently wrote a book called Long Distance, recounting his experiences training and participating in marathon cross-country ski races. Anyone that has done any X-C skiing knows of the two speeds, pokey and blazing. The pokey skiiers shuffle along appearing to waste lots of energy, without a lot of progress. On the other hand, the fast skiiers basically skim over the snow like water-striding bugs. Strong skiiers sometimes look as if they go faster up-hills than on the flats. Still, to do this for 35 or more miles requires pacing and conservation of energy. The way he recounted his experiences, I guarantee McKibben understands energy and I would classify him a blazer.

McKibben is also a reknowned environmental issues writer. Check out his set of reviews of recent energy treatises in the New York Review of Books. It covers both the Peak Oil and Global Warming aspects of our current situation and does a good job summarizing the automobile outlook, capturing both the promise of hybrids (key here is the efficiency of city driving, tyically as high or higher than highway mileage) and some of the new diesel technology (I believe coming out of Germany). The following quote could have come from Long Distance:
Similarly, my hybrid car saves energy in part because of its brilliantly designed engine but also because it comes with a display that tells me constantly how much gas I'm using and this, as a consequence, has cured me of a heavy foot on the pedal.

For another author, even crazier on the X-C skiing and RAAM cycling scenes, check out anything by Stuart Stevens, a world-class endurance athlete. His recent journalistic foray into performance enhancing drugs (cached) is way over the edge; he basically experimented on himself. I recall my Peace Corps volunteer brother running into him in sub-Saharan Africa, as Stevens was traveloging the country for I think his book Malaria Dreams. The other even stranger angle on Stevens is his political side; he was a media consultant for both G.W.Bush and Dole (and currently the K Street cable TV show producer ?!?). Stevens was the consultant for the third televised debate with Gore -- the famous zone of privacy debate.
And for the third debate, the two sides spent a lot of time discussing rules of movement and space in ways that would have made an air-traffic controller proud, including arguments about privacy areas, zones of separation and what constituted interference. "The Bush people seemed constantly concerned that Gore was going to move," someone involved in the talks said later. "They seemed spooked by Gore's size." At one point, the two sides discussed a warning light that would fire if one candidate violated another's space. In the end, all that was scrapped for a large no-man's-land and a tiny zone of privacy around each man's chair. In retrospect, Bush might have wished for a fence. During the third debate, Gore ranged so widely over the stage--and at one point came so close to Bush--that after it was over, Barbara Bush quipped, "I thought he was going to hit George."

Closing the circle Why didn't the White House hire Stevens to coach Bush on how to complete a 17 mile mountain bike jaunt without falling down on the home stretch? For me, this will go down in political annals with the Jimmy Carter 10K run. Those darn media consultants -- never there when you need them.


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