Month: April 2007

Liquid Coal, Hitler's Fuel!

Congress weighs coal fuels, carbon questions linger – Apr. 23, 2007

The technology, developed in coal-rich Germany in the 1920s and used heavily by the Nazis in World War II, involves partly burning coal to turn it into a gas, then using a catalyst, usually a metal, to make it a liquid.

The basic premise of liquid coal (using the wonderful Fischer-Tropsch Reaction) is that “plentiful and easily available” coal is converted into diesel that can be used for automobiles. Liquid coal is yet another wonderful distraction in the quest for clean energy sources.

The attraction of using a plentiful domestic energy source is obvious. It would help cut our reliance on oil, about a quarter of which comes from the Middle East and Venezuela.

It also keeps money stateside, flowing to coal miners instead of countries with links to terrorists, which explains why the coalition’s members include several labor unions.

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You mean, you willl do this to every coal mining town just so you don’t have to increase fuel efficiency by 25% and avoid “terrorist” oil? Jeez, and this casual assumption of “if we don’t buy their oil, terrorism will decrease”. Patriotism and blatant fear mongering can be used to sell anything, apparently. Coal mining is one of the most destructive and harmful operations you can imagine. Here’s a short summary (LINK)

It is difficult to explain the scope and impact of mountain top removal to people who have not seen it. Some sites cover three and four thousand acres. Millions of cubic feet of land are blasted away by explosive charge to get at the thin seams of coal underneath the mountain tops. Trees, rocks, soil-in short, everything but the coal-is considered “overburden.” Land is devastated, and afterwards the ground must be compacted so hard to stabilize it that nothing but scrub grasses will grow. Rains rush off the denuded mountain tops at an alarming rate.

Of course, like all other carbon rich fuel sources, carbon sequestration remains a must for any possibility that we can see a decrease in carbon emissions coupled to an increase in carbon fuel use.

Henry said that “carbon storage” – an untested technology where about half the carbon dioxide in coal is removed and injected underground – can make liquid coal so that it emits 60 percent less carbon dioxide than gasoline.

“This statement is total garbage,” said Pete Altman, coal campaign director at the National Environmental Trust, saying the study Henry was referring to compared a hybrid diesel engine to a gasoline engine

So we’re willing to go to greatly increased carbon emissions, devastated country side, increased water pollution, air pollution, mining deaths, etc. just so we don’t increase fuel efficiency by 25%? Wow, priorities!!

The bill is expected to make it to the Senate floor in the next few weeks, and both Democrat and Republican staffers say a Republican sponsored amendment allowing for liquid coal is likely.

Other bills provide loan guarantees for companies building coal-to-liquid plants, which typically cost $3 billion to $5 billion apiece, as well as guaranteed price support if oil falls below $40 a barrel.

It seems clear the industry needs government help to succeed. Lawmakers have to decide if they are willing to fund a fuel that appears to do little to cut greenhouse gases.

I am sure lawmakers will make it happen as long as their lobbyists want to make it happen, if it means subsidies, relaxation of pollution rules, and other such shenanigans, so be it.

Go Solar!.

Note: the blog Environmental Action follows the liquid coal story very closely and had a post on this very article. Reading this blog, you will find that the great savior Barack Obama is also a liquid coal acolyte (It’s that whole midwestern pandering to coal and ethanol!)

More signs of the rapture – Fish dying in the Great Lakes

Freaky and scary, first the bees, now the fishes…

Fish-Killing Virus Spreading in the Great Lakes – New York Times

A virus that has already killed tens of thousands of fish in the eastern Great Lakes is spreading, scientists said, and now threatens almost two dozen aquatic species over a wide swath of the lakes and nearby waterways.

The virus, a mutated pathogen not native to North America that causes hemorrhaging and organ failure, is not harmful to humans, even if they eat contaminated fish. But it is devastating to the ecosystem and so unfamiliar, experts said, that its full biological impact might not be clear for years. It is also having a significant impact on the lakes’ $4 billion fishing industry.

There is no known treatment for the virus. As a result, scientists are focusing on managing its spread to uncontaminated water — quite a challenge since the Great Lakes are linked and fall under the jurisdiction of several states and provinces in Canada.

Melamine – now in Pigs

The pet food recall gets scarier. The FDA does not have this issue under control. It is not a conspiracy to hide anything, it’s just the pace at which the FDA operates, and its lack of mandate to really regulate animal feed.

Pet Foods May Have Been Intentionally Poisoned

The FDA and Agriculture Department also were investigating whether some pet food made by one of the five companies supplied by Wilbur-Ellis was diverted for use as hog feed after it was found unsuitable for pet consumption.

“We understand it did make it into some hog feed and we are following up on that as well,” Sundlof said.

Later Thursday, California officials said they believe the melamine at the quarantined hog farm came from rice protein concentrate imported from China by Diamond Pet Food’s Lathrop facility, which produces products under the Natural Balance brand and sold salvage pet food to the farm for pig feed.

“Although all animals appear healthy, we are taking this action out of an abundance of caution,” State Veterinarian Richard Breitmeyer said in a statement. “It is unknown if the chemical will be detected in meat.”

Officials are investigating American Hog Farm’s sales records to determine who may be affected by the quarantine, said Steve Lyle, a spokesman for the California Department of Food and Agriculture. The 1,500-animal farm operates as a “custom slaughterhouse,” which means it generally does not supply meat to commercial outlets.

“Mostly it is not so-called mainstream pork. This is an operation that sells to folks who come in and want a whole pig,” said Lyle said.

Officials urged those who purchased pigs from American Hog Farm since April 3 to not consume the

Well, the issue is not the safety of the melamine contaminated pork, the risk to humans is possibly low. The problem is that these ingredients are out of control, and unaccounted for, and being diverted to places they should not be. The systemic flaws are many, and I hope the FDA will issue some new guidelines to tighten up animal feed standards.

Another tidbit:

FDA officials would not release the names of the other two manufacturers that Wilbur-Ellis supplied, citing its ongoing investigation

Is it just me, or does this always happen on a Friday???

Pet Poisonings – A chemistry detective story

Melamine in pet food may not be accidental – USATODAY.com

A nitrogen-rich chemical used to make plastic and sometimes as a fertilizer may have been deliberately added to an ingredient in pet food that has sickened and killed cats and dogs across the country, public and private officials say. A leading theory is that it was added to fake higher protein levels.

Melamine has been found in wheat gluten, rice protein concentrate and, in South Africa, corn gluten, all imported from China, and all meant for use in pet food, the Food and Drug Administration confirmed Thursday.

“It adds to the theory when you see other products that are labeled as protein supplements, in this case rice protein, and in South Africa corn gluten and in the previous case wheat gluten,” said Stephen Sundlof, FDA chief veterinarian. “That melamine was found in all three of those, it would certainly lend credibility to the theory that this was intentional.”

Interesting, apparently, melamine was added to increase the nitrogen content of the food so it would show up as protein in the most common protein test, which only looks for nitrogen. When I am not working, I guess I will look up the test details.

I wonder if this is only the tip of the iceberg? What other techniques do food manufacturers use to fake it? Growing up, food adulteraion was a serious problem in India, and still continues to be an issue in the third world.

More on this story to come, I am sure.

One more thing that needs to be said is that the FDA has been very reactive, as opposed to proactive. This is partly because the FDA does not issue recalls, it first “strongly suggests” that the company involved recall whatver product it is that may be having issues. Only if this issue is not addressed can the FDA start seizure proceedings, which could take months. The FDa regulates and monitors on a company level, not at a product level.

For example, when Japan had one sample of U.S beef test positive for mad cow disease, that was the end of beef imports from the U.S. This is an extreme case because you’re dealing with an infectious disease, but the point is that when you are finding huge levels of pesticide in food from a country, the first thing you need to do is stop everything, troubleshoot, then turn things back on again. Yes, this gets expensive, but so does 1000s of sick pets. The difference is, who pays. In the U.S, it’s always the consumer!

Imagine a world covered with solar cells

it could happen soon, imagine your car parked in the sun with a plastic solar coating on the roof. Imagine every building surface generating clean electrical energy. Well, it could happen very soon (if hyperbolic sciencedaily press releases are to be believed, at any rate!).

ScienceDaily: New Plastic Solar Cell Breaks Efficiency Record

In order to be considered a viable technology for commercial use, solar cells must be able to convert about 8 percent of the energy in sunlight to electricity. Wake Forest researchers hope to reach 10 percent in the next year, said Carroll, who is also associate professor of physics at Wake Forest.

Because they are flexible and easy to work with, plastic solar cells could be used as a replacement for roof tiling or home siding products or incorporated into traditional building facades. These energy harvesting devices could also be placed on automobiles. Since plastic solar cells are much lighter than the silicon solar panels structures do not have to be reinforced to support additional weight.

Screw ethanol, put all your energy into developing solar and wind energy, battery technology and electric vehicles. See how much better an idea that is compared to corn ethanol.

In death, he's laughing and inspiring others

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Thanks to our wonderful mass media, this guy will forever be the gold standard for all depressed, disturbed lone gunmen who want to get famous in death, I mean, his gory and disturbing images flashed all over the front pages, no warnings, nothing. I wake up this morning to this guy pointing two guns at me, and they keep changing the pictures every 5 minutes.

I am sure that with corporations having the same “free speech” rights as people, they feel perfectly okay with plastering images and video on continuous auto replay. Very inspirational, educational and edifying.

Yet, one misplaced nipple…

I don’t have anything else to say.

Ethanol significantly worse than gasoline for air pollution

So, Mark Jacobson from Stanford, an accomplished atmospheric chemist and modeler from Stanford, puts ethanol into his modeling mix as an automobile fuel and comes up with increased ozone, peroxyacetyl nitrate (PAN, an ozone precursor) and acetaldehyde, leading to a possible increase in mortality. Without reading his paper, I cannot comment on the assumptions used, but this is an additional issue to be concerned about as our politicians continue to binge on alcohol. It’s weird, almost as if there’s something intoxicating and addictive about this fuel :-;

Effects of Ethanol E85 versus Gasoline Vehicles on Cancer and Mortality in the United States

Ethanol use in vehicle fuel is increasing worldwide, but the potential cancer risk and ozone-related health consequences of a large-scale conversion from gasoline to ethanol have not been examined. Here, a nested global-through-urban air pollution/weather forecast model is combined with high-resolution future emission inventories, population data, and health effects data to examine the effect of converting from gasoline to E85 on cancer, mortality, and hospitalization in the United States as a whole and Los Angeles in particular. Under the base-case emission scenario derived, which accounted for projected improvements in gasoline and E85 vehicle emission controls, it was found that E85 (85% ethanol fuel, 15% gasoline) may increase ozone-related mortality, hospitalization, and asthma by about 9% in Los Angeles and 4% in the United States as a whole relative to 100% gasoline. Ozone increases in Los Angeles and the northeast were partially offset by decreases in the southeast. E85 also increased peroxyacetyl nitrate (PAN) in the U.S. but was estimated to cause little change in cancer risk. Due to its ozone effects, future E85 may be a greater overall public health risk than gasoline. However, because of the uncertainty in future emission regulations, it can be concluded with confidence only that E85 is unlikely to improve air quality over future gasoline vehicles. Unburned ethanol emissions from E85 may result in a global-scale source of acetaldehyde larger than that of direct emissions.

Tuesdays with Turtles – Travel Edition

sm_mapping.jpgIt’s travel all the time for sea turtles. Of course, the great turtle race is finally on, and windy’s in the lead, my pick billie’s in second place, a mere 30 miles behind. There’s a new turtle in the race, Colbertia, named in honor of Stephen Colbert, in third place.

Anything that gets turtles some attention is good.

But this is only a 500 mile sprint. PBS’ nature series had a one hour documentary on an 8000 mile, one plus year journey of a loggerhead turtle from her juvenile feeding grounds in Mexico to her adult breeding ground in Japan. It’s great to spend an hour at that close proximity to a turtle. But to me, the other animals, the dolphin pods, the giant fish swarms, the hammerhead sharks, the other sharks, the jelly fish, those little fish that eat parasites off the turtles and sharks kinda stole the show. There is something about thousands of animals of the same species doing something in concert. 

Anyway, nothing more to say, except that 8000 miles is a long way at a mile an hour. I don’t think any of us can appreciate the mindfulness and sense of purpose (do turtles have these qualities, or do they just keep on chuggin’?), not to mention the huge amount of luck it takes to get it done.