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October 2012 Letters

TCP Talk

Letters and comments from our readers

Editor’s note: The August issue, ”Water For All?” elicited a higher-than-usual volume of mail. We thank all of you for your thoughtful responses.

About Our Water

I have been concerned for some time that water—its availability and quality—will become a serious economic and cultural problem in the near future for this country. In Texas it will be aggravated by the “rule of capture.” That law may make sense for commodities like oil and gas and minerals, but not for life-sustaining water.

Property rights, like the right-of-way on the road, must have commonsense limits—even in Texas.

I hope your articles and others like them will get citizens and the Legislature thinking about what is best for the future for all the people of this great state.

Bob Swanbeck, CoServ Electric

Texas Co-op Power is one of my favorite magazines. My favorite feature is Texas History. But the August issue, with its focus on water in Texas, was exceptional. These articles were also disturbing. The headline of the lead article, “Water Is Life,” says it all. We take water for granted, but if we don’t have it, we can’t exist.

Something needs to be done about the availability of water in Texas, and it needs to be done through legislation. I wish that everyone in the Legislature could have the opportunity to read the August issue of Texas Co-op Power.

Henry Kaplan, Grayson-Collin EC

You publish four large articles on water in Texas and almost never touch the root cause of the problem. Finally on page 16, with one line, you state “Texas population projected to increase 82 percent by 2060.”

Who are you kidding? The population in my county is up 400 percent in the last 50 years! [Comal County’s population in 2010 according to the U.S. Census Bureau was 108,472; it was 19,844 in 1960.]

Until we, as a society, can find an acceptable way to moderate population growth, we will always be far behind the curve.

Richard Metz, Pedernales, Karnes and Victoria ECs

First, Andrew Sansom states that Texas law on groundwater is “unsustainable” and lobbies for us agricultural users of groundwater to be willing to give it up to municipal users because the agricultural sector is “flat.” Then Joe Nick Patoski admits that the Texas rule of capture by landowners is well settled, even though he’d like to see it changed—again so the cities can get their mitts on our agricultural groundwater. Finally, there is a nice article about a Hill Country retiree building an elaborate system to capture and store for his own personal use up to 40,500 gallons of rainwater.

If “it’s all the same water,” then why is it considered OK to capture rainwater but not groundwater? After all, the aquifers holding the groundwater perform exactly the same function as the barrels holding the rainwater.

Mike Maberry, Cooke County ECA

The plan released by the Texas Water Development Board earlier this year should be a real eye-opener for all of us. We do not have the option, as the old saying goes, to wait until someone is killed at an intersection before a traffic light is installed.

I am familiar with Texas’ water needs, being a geologist who worked for the State of Texas for more than 30 years, 15 at the Texas Water Development Board. (I am no relation to Andrew Sansom, who wrote “Water Is Life.”)

Texans are going to have to change their ways over this crisis: conservation, desalination, creative water storage facilities, education on water use, intelligent irrigation procedures, changing the types of grass and plants we have in our yards to those that require less water, and state laws that make better sense than the current rule of capture. The Legislature is going to have to get serious and come up with groundwater laws.

James W. Sansom Jr., Pedernales EC

There was no mention of the enormous amounts of water being used for every gas/oil well drilling site. Do we keep putting our heads in the sand and pretend it’s going to be OK to keep letting these companies destroy the land, steal the resources and make huge profits?

If Texas is serious about conserving water, then there needs to be a moratorium on drilling for oil and gas.

Jim Weathers, Wise EC

It’s All the Same Water” was biased and way off. Your magazine needs to issue an apology and never use Joe Nick Patoski as a writer again.

Michael Smart, Heart of Texas EC

This spring, the condensation drain on our central cooling unit clogged. When the house was built, it was connected to a drainpipe. I couldn’t get it clear, and we were on our way out of town for the day, so I took it loose at the unit and ran it to a 12-gallon tub with plastic tubing.

When we got back that evening, the tub was more than half-full. Now our condenser unit drain is connected to a 20-gallon tank. On a hot and humid day, the system produces up to 10 gallons of clean water that we use on our potted plants.

Frank Griffin, Comanche EC

Where’s the Beef?

I grew up in Iowa, and I was eating Maid-Rites [“Recipe Roundup,” July] before I could see over the counter. I’m 79 years old, and that’s the first place I eat when I go back.

Maid-Rite is a franchise of diners specializing in ground beef sandwiches served on a square of wax paper. The red and white sandwich shops have been in business since 1926. If they filled their meat with all that filler, they wouldn’t still be around.

Jeanene Upton, Wood County EC

More on Belugas

I enjoyed Eileen Mattei’s well-written piece on belugas [“The Language of Whales,” August]. But I wanted to add a cautionary note. Keeping intelligent and highly social marine mammals such as belugas, orcas and dolphins in captivity is very controversial, especially at facilities that are commercial in nature rather than those whose primary function is research and conservation.

Commercial facilities argue that having these animals in captivity serves the important function of educating people about these animals and helping scientists learn more about them. But Naomi Rose, senior scientist for Humane Society, argues that commercial facilities aren’t in business to educate—that most, in fact, do very little true education, and that the quality and accuracy of the information many of them give to the public is marginal.

Research at commercial facilities tends to relate mainly to better husbandry of captive animals, yielding little or nothing in the way of useful scientific information on their biology or behavior. It’s also important to note that commercial facilities are designed to maximize the public’s enjoyment, not that of the animals. By contrast, noncommercial facilities attempt to provide animals they display with an environment as close as possible to what they can expect in the wild—giving them, for example, the opportunity to hide, Rose said. Commercial facilities can’t afford to take this approach; paying customers expect to see the animals.

Mortality rates for many captive marine mammals is high, despite easy meals and the absence of predators. Captivity is stressful for these highly cultural animals. It is also very traumatic for these animals to be caught in the wild, Rose said.

People can think about what they are supporting with their money and make a conscious choice to spend it where it can do these amazing animals the most good.

Melissa M. Gaskill, Austin

Lights on Guard

I have been a member of the Bailey County Electric Co-op since 1953 (except for six years when we had to go work for wages because of the drought). Recently I had unwelcome “visitors” between the hours of 11 p.m. and 3 a.m. They told the sheriff’s deputies that they were collecting snakes.

Because I did not want them to do it so close to my house in the middle of the night, I asked the co-op to install two security lights. The crew got right to work on the project and figured out how to accomplish this. The men were so courteous, coming to the door to inform me the electricity would be cut off and how long it would take. I want to commend them and thank them.

I hope this lighting will eliminate any future night visitors.

Betty Harlan, Bailey County EC

Making Water

While it is true that you can’t make it rain, you can make water, regardless of whether it rains. Drinkable Air makes residential and commercial atmospheric water generators. Their units range from producing eight gallons of pure drinking water to more than 1,200 gallons daily. The water comes from the humidity in the air, whether it falls to the ground or not.

Bill Cox, CoServ Electric

I was part of a study on the roof of a large grocery store in Schertz, and the flow rate of the condensate was approximately 10 gallons per minute. This was the water condensed on the roof from the coils of the HVAC units, and it’s plumbed directly into the sewer line.

With a simple diverter, a little plumbing and a system similar to rainwater catch barrels but larger, we could save that water.

At my house, I collect the condensate in buckets. I keep the house at 78 degrees and collect 8-10 gallons per day in Lakeway.

The rules have to change to save this water, but it’s pretty simple.

Robin Dahlheim, Pedernales EC


I have read and enjoyed Texas Co-op Power for many years and have intended to write and tell you that. After those many years of good intentions, I have finally gotten around to it. The August issue was especially good, and I like the recent format change. You folks obviously take pride in your work and do a very good job

Atmar Davis, Jasper-Newton EC

Try Hanging Out

Not included in “10 Tips For Big Summer Savings” [August] was the clothesline. Using a clothesline for drying clothes not only cuts down on electricity or gas used, but it also helps in other ways. First, it takes a little more effort to walk out to the line, so it gets you away from the TV and off the couch, thus contributing to better health. Second, line drying clothes preserves and extends the life wear of the clothes. The freshness of lined-dried clothes is the icing on the cake of savings shown on your electric bill.

Vonne Cornett, Coleman County EC

Wind Energy

As follow-up to the very favorable “The Windup…” article [August], it is essential that fellow co-op members understand some of the other key considerations for industrial wind energy production. Some of those considerations are:

• Wind energy is highly variable. The article highlighted a record wind energy production of 8,368 MW in the ERCOT region on June 19. On August 11, hourly wind energy production was as low as 230 MW during the early afternoon and averaged about 1,710 MW for the day. In addition, large wind energy generation penetration levels can introduce a variety of grid operational challenges.

• ERCOT plans on having only 8.7 percent of wind energy capacity available to meet peak demand requirements. Wind energy produces the least in the late summer when air conditioning-related demand peaks. That means that 91 percent of the wind capacity has to be backed up by other more reliable sources of generation such as natural gas.

• Wind energy is highly dependent on subsidies. At the federal level, wind energy production qualifies for a 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour tax credit for the first 10 years of operation. The pre-tax value of the credit to a wind development investor can exceed the 2012 year-to-date equivalent wholesale power price in the ERCOT region. The wind energy industry predicts dire consequences if the credit is not extended beyond the end of 2012. The credit has been in place for most of the past 20 years. Wind energy production also receives renewable energy credits as the result of the state-mandated renewable energy portfolio standard. At the local level, county and school district property tax abatements are common.

• Wind energy installations are massive. One of the number of wind farms in the Abilene/Sweetwater area covers nearly 100,000 acres or more than 150 square miles. Some wind turbines are taller than the 425-foot main dome at the Enchanted Rock State Natural Area.

• Ratepayers, not wind developers, pay grid transmission costs. The article referenced the state mandated competitive renewable energy zone grid transmission system additions that are being made to move wind energy from remote areas in West Texas and the Panhandle to the metropolitan areas in the state. The additions were originally expected to cost about $4.9 billion or about $4 per month per retail customer. The current cost outlook is $6.9 billion.

It is important that everyone has a fair balance of considerations in which to form educated opinions and to take related actions. Hopefully, this additional information will help achieve those objectives.

Robert Weatherford, President, Save Our Scenic Hill Country Environment, Central Texas EC

Cool Roofing

I read Suzanne Haberman’s piece about Dad’s cool roof [“Cool, Daddy,” July] and would like to offer a couple of comments based on 45 years in the roofing business running a roofing company that is in its 122nd year.

Cool roofing is not a new frontier. There were coatings available as far back as the 1950s, when most houses were not air-conditioned. One was a coating widely used, consisting of a fine slurry of portland cement with a filler of white acrylic paint. In the 1970s, a number of elastomeric coatings were marketed to reduce heat load in the attic. Ceramic granules mixed with coatings have been available since the late 1980s.

Our experience with coating composition shingles has been that when the topside of the composition roof is sealed with an impermeable coating, then the moist air in the attic, which is partly vented by gable louvers and roof vents and partly vented by escaping between the joints in the decking and then out of the laps in the underlayment felt and the laps in the composition shingles, cannot escape any longer. The moist air, trapped under the coating, will cause the composition shingles to deteriorate and, in extreme cases, can cause the decking to delaminate if it’s made of plywood or rot if it’s made of dimension lumber.

Back in the ’70s, a competitor made a business of coating composition shingle roofs, and we tore off and replaced a number of them when they were two to five years old. The better the ventilation of the attic, the less likely it is for this problem to develop.

Shingle manufacturers do not recommend coatings, and any coating will void a warranty. Cool roofing for commercial roofs is probably here to stay, but many of the “cool” specifications are not nearly as long lasting as more traditional materials.

Energy savings needs to be balanced against the roof’s lifecycle to see whether you are really saving money or just moving it from one pocket to another.

Jerry J. Siewert, Taylor EC