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Writers and Authors
Wednesday December 29, 2010
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There is one more MULLINGS to go in 2010 so, this one won't be the End of the Year Number, but judging from the number of "out-of-office" replies I've been getting since last week, not many of you will see that one, either.
That being the case, I'll just ramble along here for a while …
I am a professional writer. Not an author, but a writer because I have never had a book published (at least, in part, because I've never written one). According to Webster's Third Unabridged an author is defined as, "the writer of a literary work (as a book)."
See the difference?
I just counted the number of MULLINGS I will have sent out by New Year's Eve this year: 146. Each is about 750 words - the length of a standard newspaper op-ed. Allowing Excel to do the arithmetic, that totals about 109,500 words. Add in the Secret Decoder Ring pages, Tweets, and responses to the 120+ e-mails I get after each column (most pointing out grammatical, arithmetic, and/or logical errors), and outside writing assignments, and I think we can safely round up to 110,000 words.
That's about the size of a standard thriller or mystery novel and about twice the size of a romance novel (which used to be called a "bodice ripper" but I don't think they are now, more's the pity). The point being, I am a pretty skilled professional writer, but not an author.
As a professional writer, I write for other people. Just as any press secretary who has ever worked for any politician - candidate or office-holder - I write things that have other peoples' names on them: Op-eds, essays, a letter-to-the-editor, and so on. I used to write speeches, but I don't do that anymore.
Also as any press secretary will attest, the problem isn't finding new things to write about, it is finding a new way to say the same four things you've been writing about for the past 18-months.
One of my favorite projects - maybe ever - has been working for Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens on the Pickens Plan for the past couple of years. I now know a lot about carboniferous shale, the wind corridor through the Great Plains, electric transmission lines, and the differences in greenhouse gas emissions between gasoline and diesel, and natural gas.
Just to be clear: I get paid to work on the Pickens Plan, but I don't have to get paid to admire a guy like Boone.
He has made several billions of dollars (and lost about one of those billions during the crash of 2008) in the oil and gas business. He is a huge supporter of his alma mater, Oklahoma State University, but his foundation supports organizations ranging from smallish charities in Dallas to the Fisher House charity which builds houses near major military rehabilitation facilities so the families of wounded service members can be close to their loved ones.
Boone says he wants to give away a billion dollars during his lifetime. I believe he's about three-quarters of the way there.
When the Pickens Plan began in the summer of 2008, oil prices had spiked to $145 per barrel and gas at the pump was routinely above four dollars a gallon. Boone determined that we needed to utilize domestic natural gas as a substitute for imported oil.
But, at the time, natural gas was considered to be a resource in decline; so to free up the natural gas which had been used to produce electricity to be used as a transportation fuel, he proposed massively increasing our use of renewables, chief among them wind power, and Boone was a big, big investor in wind.
Came the recession, the collapse of oil and natural gas prices, the inability to get transmission lines to his huge proposed wind farm in Texas (it doesn't make sense to produce electricity if you can't get it to the main grids) and that part of the plan came to a halt.
Boone said at the time, and he still says, "I'm for anything American" when it comes to energy; so he is certainly has not become anti-wind.
At the same time all that was going on new techniques were being developed to release the enormous amount of natural gas which is contained in the massive shale deposits under the continental United States - well over a 100 year supply of the stuff.
Oil is on its way back up to $100 per barrel. Three dollar gasoline has become the norm in most places, and we are still importing something on the order of 60 percent of the oil we need - the overwhelming majority of which is used to power our cars, SUVs, and heavy trucks.
The Pickens Plan didn't quite get over the goal line in the 111th Congress, but knowing Boone he will keep pushing the ball forward.
He sees this has his greatest legacy. I really like the guy and I hope gets to see it succeed for him and for the rest of us.
On the Secret Decoder Ring today: Links to a discussion of romance novels and to Boone Pickens. Also a season-appropriate Mullfoto and a Catchy Caption of the Day which made me seasick just looking at it.
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