Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Real Green Solution?

If you have ever worked in Earth City during the summer, depending upon the winds you may have had a very fowl smell blow your way. If you do not know it, there is a landfill near Earth City, just off of St. Charles Rock Road. If you are unfortunate enough to work near there, it can be a particular odious place to work during long hot summer days. Recently I was discussing this with a relative of mine and she extolled the virtues of St. Louis County now requiring recycling and the need for the government to push more green jobs. This got me thinking.

There has been a lot of talk about green jobs. Obama and the Democrats want to create green jobs all over the United States. I hear the President constantly talking about creating green jobs to replace the ones lost and how we need to move from coal and oil based power plants to wind and solar.

This sounds great and honestly, I am all on board with green energy. If it is wind turbines, sea turbines, more hydro-electric plants, etc. let's do it. The thing is, not all of these programs will sufficiently work. Based upon the climate that you live in, you may not receive enough wind, or sunlight to effectively utilize the capacity of a wind turbine or solar panels. On top of that, in the Midwest we have to deal with a little thing called hail. Hail does not work well on a solar panel and the cost of replacing solar panels is not cheap. I know the argument is that if more people use them, it will drive the costs down, but no one can say that it will drive the costs down so that it is cheap enough to replace every time there is a decent hail storm. Add on top of it, these forms of green technology are not efficient and can raise the cost of electricity, it does not make sense. What we need is a common sense way to green technology. A way to take what is readily available and convert it into energy. Scientists are already working on ways to convert mud to fuel or harvesting energy from humans but these are a long while off.

As an avid reader of Popular Science, I was intrigued by an article that came out in March of 2007 called the The Prophet of Garbage. In this article, you find that scientists and engineers have already created a way to convert garbage into energy. Without getting too techie, the trash is fed into an auger that shreds it into small pieces. Then the mulch is delivered into the plasma chamber, where the superheated plasma converts it into two by-products.

  1. One is a syngas composed mostly of hydrogen and carbon monoxide, which is fed into an adjacent system to be converted into energy or fuel .

  2. The other is molten glass that can be sold for use in household tiles or road asphalt.

This process and industry could easily eliminate our landfills and pay for itself in approximately 10 years. In addition, the syngas could be used to create energy by using turbines. In fact, over a year later Popular Science posted online an article on Florida to Make Gas from Trash which explains how St. Lucie County is planning to build one of these , to vaporize 500 tons of trash a day into pressurized gas, which will then use turbines to generate 60MW, enough electricity for 50,000 homes. Unfortunately, the St. Lucie County plan was put on hold and is still awaiting permits. Other US cities are proposing this technology but continue to receive a lot of push-back. So the question is, why is this not already in place here in the United States and why isn't the president pushing for this kind of green technology.

  1. It is not 100% green. A program like this does produce byproducts such as Syngas, Heat and Slag. The Syngas is a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide. The plant scrubs the Syngas and uses two-thirds of it to generate the electricity that powers the plant. The remaining one-third is sold to utility companies. The Slag is a solid residue resembling obsidian that can be cleaned of contaminants and be processed into bricks, synthetic gravel or asphalt, and other materials that we currently mine out of the ground. In regards to the Heat, there is no current plans for using it that I am aware of but am sure that ways to harness and use it for steam or building heating are being looked into. Currently two of these plants are in place and operation in Japan and Japan’s air quality standards are slightly stricter than those in the United States. Groups like the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) are pushing to delay projects like this in the United States. They call for more studies to review and research this process. Reviewing their website, you find that the GAIA is an international organization, made up of several pro-environmental groups. In North America, the group is made up of such groups as Zero-Waste USA, Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice and Eco-Cycle USA. These groups' basic mission is to create a waste free and 100% recycling society. The GAIA is so far to the left that they did not support "Cap and Trade" because it did not do enough to stop the use of fossil fuels for energy. Many of these type of groups were active supporters of the Obama and contributed to his candidacy.

    • It is important to note that the the GAIA does/did have some loose ties to the White House. This organization worked with several other organizations including Van Jones' Green for All at various conferences and joint ventures, including a May 2009 conference titled "Job and Equity Impacts of Carbon Pricing Policies Conference". The GAIA has received funding from the liberal philanthropic group The Overbrook Foundation, who also funded Kevin Jennings' GLSEN. Additionally, the GAIA initiated the campaign "Recycling Works! A Jobs, Energy and Climate Solution" with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and was supported by Van Jones' Green for All.

  2. Not in my backyard or NIMBYism. Some of the opponents do not support the process simply because it is new and they do not want it in their backyard. It is fine that it is fully operational in Taiwan, Japan, England and Canada, but they do not want it here. These are generally the same people who do not want the US to build more nuclear reactors. Because the technology does pose some risk they would prefer safer tried and true methods. In addition, these opponents call for more testing and more smaller scale facilities as a proof of concept. In the meantime, they would promote methods such as increased recycling, etc.

  3. This is new, to the US, technology. To make these plants profitable and also handle current and future needs, they would have to be built on a larger scale than those in places like Japan and England. While the technology is available it is not common enough to be "cheap", thus putting a higher price tag on it. Uneasy investors and city/state governments are leery and sometimes unwilling to finance the entire thing considering the unknown in regards to a return on their investment and the publicity that comes with outspoken environmental groups as mentioned on bullets 1 and 2. That is why the St. Lucie County project was so important as it would prove viability of this project. Add on top of that, landfill facilities usually charge on average $35.00 per ton of garbage, it is cheaper to dump the garbage in a landfill. Add to that, many investors are leery to invest and make some of the mistakes seen with ethanol plants.
If the president insists on federally supporting green technology, this should be the type of technology we invest in. Every city/county in the United States could benefit from a program like this. Not to compare it on par with space exploration in the 60's but this could be a program that would not only reduce our landfill needs, but take care of much of our toxic waste, reduce methane output from landfills and create much needed additional power to the national power grid. Much like nuclear power, there are risks to the creation of these plants but they rewards could be huge. At a minimum, the government should do what it can to make it easier to allow private companies that are willing to invest in these plants to do so.

Is this technology perfect. No, it is not 100% green and it may increase some of the costs related to garbage. If we are to focus on the creation of green jobs, this program and ones of its type will see realistic benefits by just decreasing the size of landfills, the amount of methane in the air, the creation of additional energy and the creation of additional jobs that would be needed to build, run and maintain these plants.

Finally, let me state this for the record. I am in no way affiliated with any power/energy, trash or green tech company. This entire article was written based upon my interest in technology and as a response to those who are constantly calling for more green tech.

So what do you think?

Friday, January 22, 2010

Lacy Clay Refuses to Listen to the Will of the People, Again

In typical fashion, Lacy Clay publicly stated that he wanted to circumvent the will of the voters to pass health care.

According to a short article posted Tuesday 1/19/10 evening on MSNBC.com, Lacy Clay stated that the Democrats needed a "Plan B" if Scott Brown won. The context of the story was what direction the health care bill should take if Scott Brown won. Here is a clip from that story.

Powerful Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee Henry Waxman (D-CA) does not support moving healthcare reform bill quickly if Martha Coakley

"I don't think it's a good idea for us to do that," Waxman said. "He ought to be seated and we'll see where we go -- if he wins!"

But other Democrats think differently. Will a Brown victory tonight determine the fate of healthcare reform?

"Absolutely. Absolutely I am sure," Rep. Lacy Clay (D-MO) said. "If we don't win we better have a 'Plan B,' because we're going to need to be ready to move quickly."

So, reading between the lines here. Clay was smart enough to not come out and say that the Dems need to do a quick vote to pass health care but he was surely implying it. Why else would they need to move quickly on a "Plan B"? Is he afraid that other Democrats are going to get cold feet and back out after seeing the the public will vote you out of office if you do not listen to them?

This is just shameful, but what do you expect from a person who buddies up with Payday Loan and Rent to Own facilities that make a lot of their money ripping people off. To Clay, this is just another day at work.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Brown Wins!!!

Congrats to Scott Brown on a strong and smart campaign. Mark my words, this is the first domino in many to fall on the Democrat's side of the isle.

To quote the Black Eyed Peas "Tonights gonna be a good night!"

Online Doctors Survey

Just a quick note. For those interested in the health care providers perspective on the current health care programs in Congress, check out http://vanishingdoctors.com/

Hat tip to DrsHelper for pointing me there.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Abortion, Racism and Homeland Security?

Big hat tip to Jim Hoft on this one.

Today, Dr. Martin Luther King's work is celebrated all across America. We all know the work he did to bridge the gap between races. Now, Dr. Kings neice is speaking out on behalf of the unborn.

In an article posted today on LifeNews.com, Dr. Alveda King spoke out against abortion.

Dr. Alveda King, today, is celebrating Uncle’s life and she said he would agree that, when it comes to treating all people with respect, that he would include babies before birth.

“Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke of a Beloved Community where all are treated with respect and dignity,” Alveda King told LifeNews.com today.
“He fought against society’s exclusion of people who were treated as less than human because of their appearance," she added. "Today, we are compelled to continue Uncle Martin’s fight by standing up for those who are treated as less than human because of their helplessness and inconvenience."

King told LifeNews.com, “The unborn are as much a part of the Beloved Community as are newborns, infants, teenagers, adults, and the elderly."

The niece of the great civil rights leader also said those who follow his ideals of tolerance don't always show that to unborn children.

"Too many of us speak of tolerance and inclusion, yet refuse to tolerate or include the weakest and most innocent among us in the human family," she said.

King concludes, "As we celebrate the life of Uncle Martin, let us renew our hearts and commit our lives to treating each other, whatever our race, status, or stage of life, as we would want to be treated. Let us let each other live."

King had an abortion but now speaks out for protecting human life. She has called abortion and racism "evil twins."
This is a powerful sentiment considering Dr. Kings background and legacy.
Hearing this I had to wonder. Based upon Janet Napolitano's previous statements in early 2009, I wonder if she would qualify Dr. Alveda King as an extremist or even a terrorist. You will remeber that Janet Napolitano said that "groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion" may be considered right wing extremist. How would Ms. Napolitano regard Dr. Martin Luther King during the civil rights movement? It's just something to think about.
Am I being unfair? Tell me if you think so.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

UPDATED - Union Healthcare Support = Card Check?

The unions are not happy with the Democrats right now. After helping them get elected and specifically after some unions (SIUE) helped intimidate health care opposition at town hall meetings, the administration and Senate Democrats are now calling for a tax on luxury or “Cadillac” health care plans (click here for more info on what is a luxury plan).

Why would this upset the unions, well many of the unions, in the past, have negotiated these plans for their members. This would mean that in most cases a tax would be levied on union members, not the employers. While the House has no such plan in their bill, Obama and the Senate have both recommended this plan and all indications show that the House will probably relent should the two bills be reconciled. The unions are not at the point where they are publicly coming out against healthcare, but have begun making veiled threats. According to an article in the Lipman Times,

“AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka warned the Obama administration that even
though unions will not oppose the final bill, it could impact upcoming mid-term
elections. “People could stay home. It could suppress votes,” he said”

With the 2010 elections already looking grim for the Democrats they cannot afford to have the unions not participate in the upcoming elections. Reading Trumka’s comments made me wonder what the administration is going to give to the unions so that they will endorse this plan should it be reconciled. Obama really needs this to pass considering the amount of time and effort he has put into this and if he wants to continue to roll out his agenda, he needs a Democrat controlled House and Senate. To pull that off, he needs the unions. So, what can Obama offer to the unions that would make them endorse this health care plan? Card check. If you are not familiar with card check, read this.

Indications that this is on the table have already come out. Late on January 11th in an article in the Wall Street Journal, it was written,

“Trumka predicted that legislation allowing workers to organize labor unions
more easily, dubbed "card check," would be passed in the first quarter of 2010.”
Obama is an advocate of this program, but with the economy in the tank and many business leaders against it, the Democrats have been weary to push this agenda. The US Chamber of Commerce has come out against as has Obama supporter Warren Buffett.

Card check is not something that Obama can really afford to invest a lot of political capital into. That said, he really cannot afford to have the unions fighting him on health care and take a back seat in the 2010 elections. He is going to have a very difficult fight on his hands if this comes up. The best thing for Barry may be if the House and Senate cannot reconcile the bill. He can blame it on the Republicans and moderate Democrats while at the same time not having to fight the Card Check fight. I guess we will see.

UPDATE 1/17/10
It seems that the Unions have been able to wiggle themselves out of the luxury tax without requiring Card Check. Last estimates were that this would decrease the tax from 149 billion down to about 90 billion. The question is now, will Congress ask the CBO to look over this bill and will it now maintain its "tax neutral" status as the President and Congress promised.

Another thing to watch will be the results of the Brown vs. Coakley election. If Brown wins or even comes close to winning, this will undoubtly scare a lot of blue dog Democrats and Democrats in vulnerable areas. This monstrosity may still not pass. We can only hope.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Media Biting the Hand That Fed Them

Back in October, I wrote an article on the media and the slippery slope is was on. I said at that time that the media would eventually bite the hand that fed them. Well it is starting to happen.

From C-Span admitting they were played for political purposes and then asking for open conferences.

You have Jack Cafferty of CNN ripping Obama for his lack of transparency on the healthcare debate.

And the CBS Evening News posting the following headline - Obama Reneges on Health Care Transparency.

On top of that, Madam Speaker, took a swipe at President Obama with this.

With friends like this, who needs enemies. No wonder Obama is going grey with less than a year in office.