A little energy

It’s been a good while since I’ve talked about gas prices. In previous blog posts I’ve looked at what we pay in a national context, and I’ve compared it to what we’d be shelling out were we still living in central Ohio. Let’s do that again.

As of this morning, according to AAA, the national average for a gallon of 87 octane is $3.627. Statewide in Arkansas it’s $3.212, in Ohio $3.520. In this county we pay a little more than the state average, while in our former home county the price is a hair under the Ohio average.

Getting specific (which I like to do), pump prices at a couple of metro-Columbus stations we once patronized are $3.479 and $3.559. Here in the Harrison area, our go-to stops are $3.249 and $3.259. That’s a difference of between 7% and 10%, and because yesterday we had a coupon code for ten cents off at Murphy USA, we “saved” as much as 13%.

So yeah, it’s good to be buying gas in a state with the second-lowest prices in America, especially as Deb and I pull in and conserve our resources. But now I want to look at a bigger picture.

That picture takes the form of the national map, clipped this morning from AAA. Notice, please, the cluster of dark-blue states — one of very few times it’s good to be in a “blue state,” that’s where we reliably pay less for gas than drivers in other states.

Leading the pack today is Mississippi at $3.108, with the region’s highest statewide average going to Kansas at $3.377. Of course, lower gas prices tend to reflect a lower cost-of-living, lower taxes and fiscally more conservative government (though not always). It’s worth a closer look, just for fun, to see what else might typify these states.

Here are two more maps, both of which you’ve seen before on Ubi Libertas Blog. The first illustrated the 16 states with a Republican governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general; Republican majorities in both chambers of its legislature; and two Republican US Senators.

The second map took the first and eliminated three states that can’t claim an F grade from Giffords, leaving what I called “A New Thirteen.”

You know what’s coming next, right? How many of the New Thirteen pay less for gasoline?

The answer is eight — Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.

Ohio didn’t make the first cut and, for all the hype about “The Free State of Florida,” it didn’t make the second. I want to be fair, however, to the five states that got bumped over gas prices — Idaho, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming. Transportation costs to the Northern Plains and the Mountain West clearly are a big reason why, just as the same factor benefits states on (or within a stone’s throw of) the Gulf Coast.

Florida, obviously, can’t use that as an excuse for prices that regularly top the national average. Its 36-cent gas tax (compared to Arkansas, for example, at 25 cents) ranks mid-pack, and market forces (an economy driven by tourism, that is) certainly play a role.

I know that this exercise oversimplifies the examination of where Liberty lives — there’s a lot more to it than GOP, guns and gas. It cherry-picks, failing to consider myriad other factors determining ubi Libertas. Let me say this about all that.

Liberty is local. It’s not universal within any state, though some states create a more favorable climate than others, where local Liberty can flourish.

And we have to begin somewhere. If we know what we’re looking for and recognize it when we find it, we can make sound decisions about where best to gather with others of like mind.

This is a tool. It’s a start.

As long as I’m slingin’ maps, I’ll move on to another topic related to energy. Early this week a reporter for KY3, the NBC television affiliate in Springfield, Missouri, dropped in to cover the controversy over siting a crypto-mining operation on the south side of Harrison. While here, she traveled to neighboring Carroll County to file another story, a proposed $300 million wind farm near Green Forest.

Right now there’s only one wind turbine in all of Arkansas — our state doesn’t have nearly the wind potential of those to our west and north. The new installation would put 43 turbines along ridges in Carroll County, all on private property, the owners of which would receive compensation if they participate. Each power-generating “windmill” would stand over 500 feet tall.

The site of this wind farm is 60 miles west of our Home on The Mountain, but it got me thinking — could such a project someday come to Marion County? The question sent me digging for maps showing average annual wind speed across Arkansas, specifically in our area.

The best ones I found are published by the US Energy Information Administration, which offers two versions — winds at an altitude of 30 meters (essentially at ground level) and at 80 meters above terrain.

At 30 meters, the average annual wind speed in the vicinity of The Mountain is 4.0 meters per second (m/s) or less. At 80 meters, it’s between 4.5 and 5.0 m/s, with areas north and south of us as high as 6.5 to 7.0 m/s. The EIA says that it takes an annual average wind speed of 5.8 m/s (about 13mph) or greater to support a utility-scale turbine.

So on one hand, it looks like we’re not a likely candidate for a wind project. On the other hand, those maps are pretty general — a high ridge like Hall Mountain, for example, may well have an average annual wind speed strong enough make it an attractive site. The same may be true of locations north toward Bull Shoals and south toward the Buffalo River.

I’m no fan (pardon the expression) of wind turbines. We saw hundreds of them in our travels, maybe thousands, in places like Texas, South Dakota and Montana. I believe they do far more harm than good, to say nothing of being visual abominations on the landscape.

Ultimately, wherever wind power rolls in, it comes down to a struggle between preserving the land’s character and defending individual sovereignty — the current scheme doesn’t (yet) employ “eminent domain,” so it’s up to property owners to decide whether to plant wind turbines on their land.

Over in Carroll County, that KY3 reporter interviewed a fella who summed it up well.

“People in other parts of the community will say, ‘No, I don’t really like lookin’ at ’em.’

“But when you ask if they want to regulate what someone can do on their own farm or land, they say, ‘No. I don’t want anyone tellin’ me, so I don’t want to tell them what to do.'”

That’s how it is here. And as much as I hate those other-worldly machines, that’s how it oughta be.

Take care of yourselves, Patriots. Stay calm. Stay sharp. Stay free.

#WiseUp #LibertyOrDeath

#LetsGoBrandon #FJB

(Deb captured today’s header image on June 21st, 2021 as we traveled from Abilene to Lubbock, Texas, passing through the largest concentration of wind turbines in the US.)