The Fish Story

Saving at the Pumps for Summer Vacations; Wind Farms About to Sprout Off the Coast

By JAY MANN | Feb 27, 2019

FILL-UP TIME: Gas prices have sorta tanked this winter. For most lead-footed Americans, it means we can keep driving our big-ass trucks and SUVs with impunity. “Fill it up with impunity, please.”

Although petrol prices have been decently low for months now, I’ve tabulated what the already-lowish cost-per-gallon would be if Trenton wasn’t pumping up pump prices with dedicated gasoline taxes. Many areas of the state would be below $2 a gallon! “Take that, Middle East!” Oh, that’s right, we’re now among the biggest oil-producing countries in the world. Hmmm. Maybe “Take that, Alaska!”

This year, motorists should profit from oil woes. According to USA Today, Americans are forecast to spend $386 billion on gasoline in 2019, down $2.5 billion from $388.5 billion spent in 2018.

Instead of hearing love for lower gas prices, I’m already hearing projections about expected surges in prices as summer approaches. Those hikes are based not on availability, but on salability. Make hay, etc.

On a talk show, a tourism expert said, “Those hikes in fuel cost could hurt tourism.” That’s total nonsense. Even more nonsensical was the suggestion that such hikes could also mean less spending money for those folks who get here.

Reality: Our Island is only about a single-tank drive for most visitors – often only half a tank. Even if the current $2.39 (or so) bolts seasonally upward to $2.99, a 16-gallon tank will cost a whole extra $11 to top off. That’s less than the cost of Sunday coffee and doughnuts for a small family – and I don’t see many doughnut shops hungry for business during the summer season.

What matters far more to the LBI visitorship is this winterlong drop in fuel prices. It’s a boon and a half for savvy vacation-time savers, squirreling away a vacation nest egg, something technically known as discretionary summer spending. Months and months of fuel savings can fill up the proverbial cookie jar, harboring funds for fun times soon to come. Such tucked-away money greatly outdistances any vacation-discouraging impacts from seasonal upticks in pump prices.

As to the downside of favorable fuel prices, planet-saving types rightfully fear the trickle-down impacts. Monetarily modest fill-up costs could steal the steam from efforts to change folks over to electric vehicles – with a “majority” electric vehicle target date of 2030 in N.J.

Even with gas guzzling currently being so dang affordable, I’m still totally willing to put Reddy Kilowatt (who?!) in the passenger seat of my eventual Tesla 4WD full-sized truck. I’m on a waiting list for the first of Tesla’s off-road trucks. Of course, it will have to be a complimentary model – you know, given to me as a sell-point for other buggyists on the beach to be wooed. Hell, they can spew “Tesla” all over the dang thing. I’m not proud.

By the by, Tesla and other battery-powered vehicle creators know their ultimate success lies with larger electro-rides. Tesla is in talks with UPS regarding an entire fleet of electric delivery trucks. In fact, if you’re on the beach and see a UPS truck with fishing rod racks on the front bumper and the back bumper hosting a platform to throw cast-net from, give me a wave … and try not to run over my 20-mile extension cord. OK, so maybe I’m not totally up on what electric vehicles are all about.

MANN OVERBOARD: I’ve undertaken a personal quest, something a bit different – probably highly inadvisably different. Plagued by some nagging belly-fat, which I can’t shed through mere diet restrictions and enhanced exercise, I’ve commenced with fasting – to what most would dub a dumb-ass degree.

I went nine straight days without eating a bite. I’m serious as lobster tail and hot butter. The weird thing is I was doing fine after over 200 food-free hours. Sure, I was hallucinating … but absolutely no more than usual. I must have been merrily feeding off a reserve of stashed bodily fat. I wonder if it tastes like whatever I ate to get it there.

How I could perform such a precipitous food cut-off is simple in my case. I’ve long lacked a good old-fashioned appetite. In fact, the last couple decades have found my eating urges out to lunch. Oh, I cook and eat plenty, mainly out of a societally accepted timeline of daily dining. Also, should a guest stop by, I go gung-ho with a weighty showing of chef-ly vittles. My appetite simply doesn’t have its heart in it.

By the by, my doc says my no-show appetite is no big deal, based on my decent annual checkups and blood work. Of course, I won’t dare tell him about my newfound fasting infatuation – even though he’s kinda the root cause.

At my last weigh-in at his office, I felt queasy when the nurse sang out my weight as “188.” No way, nurse lady! “Yes, way … chubby guy.” Much of my peak-life I was maybe 160 – on the fattest of days. Doc then got in a friendly poke … to my unseeable ribs. When I said, “I still have no appetite,” he looked at my just-taken weight and said, “Well, you’re eating something.” Missed your calling as a comedian, eh, Doc?

Per tradition, he topped off my visit by (re)warning me I need to watch my already worrisome cholesterol. That warning always comes with a litany of fatty things I shouldn’t eat, i.e. just about everything that I had been eating, rife with junk foods. My appetite deficiency is easily overcome by sweets. To be sure, my beloved sugar was out – as in way out.

I left the doctor’s office huffing, “I might as well just not eat.” Little did I know I’d take my huffs seriously.

In the time it takes to not boil an egg, I was dedicated to living off tea and water, complemented by a slew of vitamins and assorted supplements.

Believe me, I wasn’t going all Gandhi-like, though for future fasts I probably should adopt some random cause and allege that’s why I’m forsaking food. No, Save the Squirrels is hardly a worthy weight-loss crusade. Fighting for lower cable prices would be not eating for naught. I wonder if anyone has ever gone on a hunger strike to protest hunger strikes. Hell, for all anyone cares, I could protest the killing of ducks for the making of duck tape.

So, how long before my fat-offing fasting bites back? A dang long time, per Wiki. “Gandhi fasted for 21 days while in his 70s. People lost in the wild have also survived for long periods of time without eating. Medically speaking, most doctors agree that healthy humans can go up to eight weeks without food as long as they have water.”

And I do have water. Flavored Perrier rocks. Bubly is fine if drunk quickly after opening. Also, I’ve always thought the faucet water that flows forth in Ship Bottom is excellent, especially this time of year, when it comes out teeth-tingling cold. I’ve become a wateratarian. Eat your hearts out, PETA. Oh, wait, they’re violently against eating hearts, aren’t they?

I hear ya asking: “So, have you lost any weight, Mahatma?” I’ll know soon enough, after my first weigh-in since downing a batch of whole-wheat multigrain pancakes last week.

When will I know that I’ve lost plenty enough poundage? Uh, don’t six-pack abs just magically appear at some weight-loss point? “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the sixiest of them all?”

IT’S REALLY IN THE WIND: Any skepticism over wind turbine farms ever sprouting here has morphed into an assuredness that they’re a’comin’ – by as early as next year.

The Danish company Orsted and Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind LLC (a teaming of Shell Energies and EDF Renewables) have taken the wind power lead in N.J., eyeing the oceanscape southeast of Holgate, off Atlantic City. With such heavy-hitting companies at the helm, so-called offshore wind-power generation is a done deal. (You’ll hear me use the more accurate term “nearshore” when referencing where the farms will shoot up.)

A bit ironically, as our land-based farms are plowed under, we could easily become the Garden State of nearshore wind farms. Initial planting plans show us immediately leading the nation when it comes to big-time wind power generation. Gov. Phil Murphy promises N.J. will be powered exclusively by clean renewable fuel sources by 2050.

As to when the fruits of wind turbine plantings will be noticeable, I’ll bet the farm we’ll be seeing power flowing by 2020. After that, it’ll be Katy bar the door, as the profits begin to be realized, sweetened by subsidies at state and federal levels.

TURBINE TERRITORY: All wind farming must be done in an ocean zone known as the New Jersey Wind Energy Area (NJ WEA). It covers 344,000 acres of relatively flat and sandy ocean bottom. Of highest wind-farm import is a zone from roughly North Beach (LBI) south to off Ocean City. See https://www.boem.gov/Atlantic-Region/.

Of technical import, the bottom water temperatures throughout the NJ WEA seasonally range from 36 to 74 degrees. That wide temp range means very few fish species are permanent residents thereabouts. Year-round residents include crustaceans, worms, sand shrimp, sand dollars and dwarf warty sea slugs, along with 24 other rarer forms of marine life.

Plenty of larger part-time creatures hang heavily in the NJ WEA. Per a federal study, “There were no year-round dominants among the 113 taxa of megafauna (39 with managed fisheries) during the 14 years of Northeast Fisheries Science Center seasonal trawls examined. Atlantic croaker, longfin squid, and scup dominated the warm season fauna, while Atlantic herring, little skate, and spiny dogfish dominated the cold season. Species for which there may be concern regarding possible habitat disturbance from offshore wind construction and operation activities include black sea bass (warm season), sea scallop and surf clam (year-round).”

I’ll venture to say that structure-loving black sea bass and tautog will find the subsurface turbine bases highly enticing, mainly seasonally. Porgies, triggerfish, sheepsheads and even mahi are among visiting species drawn to any structure. There is also a proven tendency for flatfish to gather at the periphery of any bottom structure, forming what artificial reef guru Bill Figley described as an encompassing halo of biotic activity.

Scientists and supporters of wind farms declare there would be little negative effect on the ecosystem near turbines. What’s more, it’s theorized the structures could spur flora/fauna diversification, via opportunistic marine life populations proliferating around turbine superstructures.

Locally, opposition to wind farming often centers on the aesthetic angle – the look of distant turbines in the sunrise and such. Personally, I say light ’em up. During my many stays in California, I thought the nearshore army of oil derricks off Santa Barbara were a totally cool sight, as I sat nearby surfing. Of course, that’s my taste talking, not me – as a somewhat objective journalist. As some Latiny types once said, “De gustibus non est disputandum,” often Anglicized as “There’s no accounting for taste.” Someone’s eyesore might be someone else’s vision of coolness. Just call me “else’s.”

I’ve been tediously mulling over volumes of technical matter regarding wind farms. In coming columns, I’ll objectively bring up objections by fishermen and others. I’ll also pass on some conversations I’ve already had with Europeans who praise the heck out of their wind farms.

jaymann@thesandpaper.net

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