Monday, April 18, 2005

Grounding Darna... Strike (PJI editorials 17-18 April 2005)

TUGGED by the force of earth's gravity at 32 feet per square of a second, even an old lug like Fidel V. Ramos can jump three feet or over to give proof he's still in the pink of health. Sharp athletes trained in high jumping can easily clear six feet. Most obese and underweight blokes cannot do such a simple three-foot feat.

Let's suppose another planet has gravity 10,000 times the pull of earth's gravity. A man born in such a planet would be of denser flesh—likely of a physical make up tougher than steel. Earth's gravity wouldn't be much of a hurdle for him to leap over skyscrapers, broadcast towers, or right into the clouds where prices of most commodities have gone to these days.

Why, such an alien grounded on earth would literally fly and do superhuman feats he won't be able to do on his home planet. Why, bullets, knives and pay-to-cash checks would bounce off his denser-than-steel body.

That's the plausible idea behind comic-book character Superman and the brainless nemesis who grounded him to pulp bits, Doomsday.

What about Spiderman? Any fan of his would explain Peter Parker is a genetically modified organism—a fusion of the best of human and genetically altered arachnid deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) that somehow kept his human form intact while gaining awesome powers of a super arachnid. Interestingly, a spider's flimsy strand has greater pliancy and strength than steel.

Those fictional heroes, they're a culture thing, woven out of the fabric of the human imagination that longs for competence and capabilities beyond the ordinary. Within parameters charted by available know-how in science and technology, fictional heroes like these somehow represent an unrealized yet attainable human potential.

They're unreal for now, yes, but we can never tell when-- with ample help from research and development that fuel technological advances-- such dreamt-of potentials can be reached.

Darna is another culture icon consigned to the realm of out-and-out fantasy for kicks. The most recent version has generated some noise from so-called anti-pornography groups and well-meaning lawmakers for the aching sight she provides—ample mounds of flesh, too much cleavage, too much sexiness oozing.

Quantum physicist David Bohm: "It is more dangerous to adhere to illusion than to face the actual fact."

Darna is an illusion. The character isn't grounded on plausible facts that growing up kids, lawmakers, and anti-pornography groups can get a grip on to gain some two-bit insight.

Rather than set their sights on Darna, they'll learn more if they fly kites or catch dragonflies by hand.

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DEPARTMENT of Energy records show that the country's end-users and consumers guzzle an average 62 million liters (equivalent to 388,000 barrels of raw crude) of various fuel products in a day.

Bunker fuel which costs two or three cents more than crude oil takes 36 percent of the nation's daily fuel consumption. Power plants use up as much as 30 percent to churn out electricity. Skyrocketing crude costs hasn't deterred manufacturing and power plants -- the biggest fuel buyers in this neck of the woods -- to buy some more of the needful. They're not hurling insults at government for its incapacity to control global crude prices. Too, it hasn't occurred to 'em to go on strike.

Their counterparts in China don't give a hoot to the wild upswings in crude prices worldwide -- they just purchase more of the same to keep industries running and turning up cheap products for exports.

Diesel traditionally tabbed as "fuel for the masses" accounts for the second biggest share at more than 31 percent -- about 18.6 million liters daily -- of fuels used in the Philippines.

Since the fuel of the masses runs jeepneys, buses, marginal fishermen's boats, Benzes, Pajeros and the more recent makes of fuel-efficient cars, transport sector leaders and such nitwits may opt to hack out a niche market in the fuel retail business. You can't lick 'em? Kick them! Give Petron, Shell, Caltex, and 40 other new entrants in the oil industry a run for their money.

Now, such a huge number of competing firms also means a huge number of skilled people in their employ. The more participants there are in the downstream oil industry translates to more people employed. The more jobs there are -- the merrier.

The prevailing oil industry deregulation law (Republic Act 8479) allows any person or entity -- say, transport cooperatives -- to buy crude oil or fuel products from any source, here or abroad. R.A. 8479's Section 5 even provides that the buyer can sell the procured fuel products or use 'em fuels for his own requirement. See: it's legal to accrue profits from fuel sales.

So what's preventing transport cooperatives from buying fuels in bulk direct from Singapore refineries? It's probably they just want to make noise rather than make sense.

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