A reality based independent journal of observation & analysis, serving the Flathead Valley & Montana since 2006. © James Conner.

20 March 2017

Solar notes — observational and political

Did your children’s schools march their students outside today to measure their latitude with a ruler and vertical stick? Yesterday, today, and tomorrow, the sun’s altitude at solar noon in Kalispell is 42 degrees, and solar noon, formally known as meridian transit, occurred at 1345 MDT on Sunday and today, and occurs at 1344 MDT tomorrow. At that time, the shadow cast by a stick perpendicular to the ground points due north, and the height of the stick divided by the length of the shadow yields the tangent of the sun’s altitude. At the equinox, 90° minus the sun’s altitude equals the latitude. If you don’t live in Kalispell, the U.S. Naval Observatory’s online calculators will generate the time of meridian transit for your community.

A simple experiment, but one everyone should understand. If your children’s school didn’t take advantage of this opportunity, give the science department a failing grade, and let the school board know.

The curve of blinding rhetorical enervation. Rob Quist’s campaign consultants removed the words “solar” and “wind” from his new energy plank:

Quist’s original energy plank. I stand for the development of new energy technologies and utilizing Montana’s natural resources to put us on the cutting edge of wind and solar power. In an age, where countries are going 100% green, we have to be more competitive.

Quist’s new energy plank. Rob supports an energy plan made for Montana and written by Montanans. He understands the importance of developing a comprehensive energy plan that utilizes Montana’s natural resources while exploring new energy technologies that will put Montana on the cutting edge and serve the needs of all Montanans.

Montana Democratic Party’s energy plank. As we confront global climate change, Montana Democrats believe that we must reduce our reliance on fossil fuels through a combination of energy conservation, energy efficiency, and the development of clean, renewable energy sources. We believe that we can achieve this goal AND create or provide transitions into good Montana jobs.

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Montana Republican Party’s energy plank. We urge, through private enterprise, the development of energy resources, including alternative forms of energy. We oppose any federal or state government mandate to purchase or subsidize energy development in any form. We oppose any tax on carbon emissions. All cost effective forms of energy shall have equal access to the grid as specified by deregulation. We oppose the federal government yielding to any international pressure to oppose any regulation on domestic energy production or consumption. We oppose any classification of CO2 or other greenhouse gasses as dangerous gasses or pollutants. We stand strongly in support of the completion of the Keystone Pipeline. We are in favor of only those Federal administrative rules that do not exceed the authority of the statute.

Quist’s new energy plank is a Rorschach plank made from weasel wood. It’s written so that voters with very different positions on energy can find in the plank’s generalities support for their preferred policy. The MDP’s platform mentions climate change — but Quist’s new platform omits any mention of global warming or climate change. Even the MT GOP’s platform mentions “alternative energy,” a commonly accepted code phrase for solar and wind and renewables.

Quist’s consultants wrote this energy plank to appeal to weak Republicans and the mythical horde of independents that conventional wisdom believes must be wooed to win the election. Instead of getting credit for taking a clear stand on energy, Quist will earn scorn for pussyfooting around the issue. That’s not how elections are won.