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Why is it that for every dumb problem, there is an overly complex & doomed to failure “solution”?

The Gulf of Mexico is quickly becoming choked with thick brown oil sludge as “fix” after “fix” fails miserably. As if things weren’t bad enough for Israel, last weeks “siege” of a cargo ship filled with “humanitarian aid” to the 1.4 million people living in the Gaza Strip has even Israel’s allies questioning their policies. And last but not least, the unemployment figures for May came out last week. Despite the seemingly good news of 431,000 jobs created and the Unemployment Rate ticking down two points to 9.7%, only 41,000 (less than 10%) of the jobs were created in the private sector. All the rest were temporary jobs hired by the Census Bureau.

What is most frustrating of all is that all these “catastrophes” (quite possibly) have relatively simple solutions. But there’s no apparent public place for people to offer up their solutions to the people in charge. So let’s correct that.

This week, I’m going to proffer three simple solutions to the above problems, and I invite you to offer your own. Maybe… just MAYBE… someone with some pull will stumble across our ideas and put them to use. I myself emailed the White House with a simple solution on how to stop the leak in the Gulf. I never heard back from them. Here’s my idea. Tell me what you think:

1) Why not simply pinch the oil pipe closed with a hydraulic press? It seems so obvious, doesn’t it? And at the very least, if it doesn’t “stop” the leak, it will at least slow it down. If a stupid “cap” over the wellhead is supposed to be capable of stopping the oil, then I see no reason why simply crimping a section of the pipe together, like a soda straw, can’t stop the flow of oil. I even worked up this crude 3D animation:

Mugsy’s Pipe Pincher

By fitting a crimping device like the one I crudely fashioned above around any exposed section of pipe, hydraulic pistons on either side would then compress two rounded bars together, pinching the pipe closed. You must use round bars to avoid ripping or breaking the pipe as the two sides are pressed together. If you don’t stop the leak completely, at the very least, you slow the leak down until the relief wells are finished later this year (August by the earliest). Okay, now I am fully aware there may be extenuating circumstances as to why such a solution may not be possible, due to the nature of how the pipe is lying, how much of it is exposed, and the condition of the pipe itself. But here are some of the (pathetic) excuses I heard as to why an idea like isn’t possible:

1) it is too cold, near freezing at that depth, so the pipe would simply snap/break. This is nonsense. First off, the temperature of the oil bubbling out of that well must be in the hundreds of degrees. Friction from the oil rushing out is heating the pipe as well. And if all that isn’t enough to soften the pipe to the point where it can be crushed, we can always use welders torches and such to heat the pipe till it softens.

2) The pressure of the oil is too great. Again, stupid. If a “cap” or “dome” can plug the well, then so can this. And if you have to, use two.

3) Crimping the pipe in one place will simply increase the leak someplace else. Again, I refer you to the “cap”, but I’d also point out that the simple answer to that is to crimp the pipe at its base. Yeesh! Is that so hard to figure out?

An actual, honest-to-goodness 21- year old genius came up with the opposite idea to “inflate tires (or more precisely, innertubes) inside the pipe”, plugging the well, much the same way an angioplasty balloon is inflated inside a human artery to clear blockages. The biggest stumbling block with her idea: how to you get innertubes inside the pipe while oil is blasting out at 8,000 gallons a minute? (and on a personal note, what is the likelihood of inflated rubber tubing stopping tens of thousands of pounds of pressure pushing on a blockage inside a well-lubricated metal tube?) Personally, I think my idea is easier and much more practical.

One REALLY DUMB idea making the rounds is to use a “nuclear bomb” to “collapse the well”. This insane idea has received so much coverage that even President Obama himself was forced to respond to it, with Administration officials (rightly) calling the idea “crazy”. First, there is no guarantee you won’t just create 1,000 new fissures for the oil to leak up from. Second, the nuclear radiation will kill off more life in an instant than the oil will over the next two decades and create a “dead zone” in the middle of the Gulf for 100 years (if not longer). Talk about using a sledgehammer as a fly swatter. Why is it the most manifestly insane, yet highly dramatic “solutions” receive the most coverage, but practical common-sense solutions die an orphan?

(To date, approximately 75 million gallons of oil have poured into the Gulf of Mexico thus far. The “Drill Baby, drill” crowd sees all this oil as an argument IN DEFENSE of more domestic drilling, arguing that this proves there is a lot more oil to be found domestically if only we allowed for more drilling. In fact, the amount of oil spilled into the Gulf would supply the U.S. with less than ONE HOURS WORTH OF OIL, used not just as fuel, but in lubrication, road repair, and in the making of rubber and plastics. If we found 8 THOUSAND more wells exactly like this one, if would only satisfy our oil needs for ONE YEAR. Increased domestic drilling is NOT a path to energy independence.)

Next “disaster” in need of a simple solution: the blockade of Gaza requiring the stopping and searching of aid ships that resulted in a deadly confrontation. Last week, Israeli commandos repelled from helicopters down to the deck of a “relief” ship seeking to bring humanitarian aid into Gaza, where an Israeli clampdown has permitted no outside aid into the region for THREE YEARS. The Netanyahu Administration (and Fox News) insists that “there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza”. ABC News begged to differ in a report during last Friday’s broadcast.

During “Fox news Sunday” yesterday, Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, when asked to respond to Iran’s threat to provide “armed escort” to any aid ship headed to Gaza, repeatedly said that Israel would “do whatever was necessary to defend itself”… an implicit threat to fire upon any Iranian vessel entering Israeli waters.

Tell me, doesn’t this all sound a bit insane to you? It does me. The cost of enforcing the blockade of ships bound for Gaza must be tremendous. And the potential cost of an armed conflict can be counted not only in dollars, but in increased aggression towards Israel by the enemies it already has and isolating the friends it still has left in the world. It seems to me it would not only be FAR CHEAPER, but a tremendous PR move for Israel to simply increase humanitarian aid to Gaza. Not only would it be cheaper, but you would render the need for “aid ships” moot (so the next ship you see headed in, you will KNOW they are up to no good). By being the de facto suppliers of aid to Gaza, Israel would know EXACTLY what was going in, rather than “guessing” whether a humanitarian aid ship might be carrying something other than “humanitarian aid”. The blockade of Gaza can’t continue indefinitely. Eventually, you would be left with one giant welfare state sapping the nations coffers dry. At some point, Israel needs to set up a “trade zone” with the people of Gaza, to stimulate job creation and inject some stability into the region.

Which brings me to Obvious Solution to Problem #3: unemployment. As May’s job figures demonstrate, the government has the ability to do ONE thing to stem unemployment… create government funded jobs. But you can’t simply add “temp jobs” like Census Workers that have no long-term impact on the country. You must create infrastructure jobs.

I posted a petition on this subject last year (see “Petitions” link on left) recommending that the government hire people to “greenify” all government buildings by making them more energy efficient. Solar panels on the roofs, insulated glass in the windows. More energy-efficient computers in the offices, etc and so on, not only creating jobs that span industries, but adding value to our infrastructure that will last for decades, and save the government money to boot in energy costs. At the same time, convert the nations fleet of postal delivery vehicles into hybrid-electric vehicles. Buy new hybrids to replace older vehicles that aren’t worth upgrading. Spread the contract across the Big Three U.S. automakers to help out those struggling corporations. Not only do you create a slew of new jobs across a range of industries (not just car makers, but electronics makers, engineers of all disciplines, manufacturing, suppliers, R&D, etc), but you save money on fuel (meaning less of a need to “Drill baby, drill” or import oil from our enemies), offsetting the cost of the upgrade. The number of jobs created and the amount of money spent would give us the jolt we need to spur a lasting “green jobs” economy.

Why must they make everything so damn difficult? Do you have a simple solution to a major problem? Add your ideas in the Comments section below.
 


 

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