Wood for Coal?, Propaganda x 3, Video Everywhere (almost), Obama the Beautiful

I saw a documentary film a night or two ago.  The title was “Six Degrees” but although it intended to capitalize on the popularity of that name (the film starring Will Smith and Donald Sutherland)this was about speculations on the effects of global warming.  You’ll find this a “theme” in the stuff I am talking about this week, but this so-called “documentary” television program was bordering on grossly exaggerated propaganda, so of which was highly speculative, and some of it, intentionally misleading.  Rather ringingly absent from the program was anything relating the supposed effects of “global warming” to any kind of time line.  I may have missed it, but nowhere that I saw was there any attempt to correlate degrees of warming (in Fahrenheit, of course, for American audiences) with a time period over which that warming would have the proposed effect.  One year or even two with the whole 6 degrees of warming for JUST that year or two would actually have relatively little effect in the longer term.  More in the realm of reality if we have 2 degrees of warming (Fahrenheit) for 4 decades, yes, we’d probably see changes in ocean currents and the other “global effects” this program purported to be facts, but that was never part of their equation.  They just kept bumping up the temperature and piling disastrous effect on top of devastations from the previous state. 
Barack Obama

This kind of yellow journalism was bad enough, but we hit intentional deception and misleading editing when repeatedly thoughout the program we were shown images of steam escaping from cooling towers, of conventional electric generating plants and from the nuclear cooling towers of Three Mile Island.  The fact that there once was radiation contaminated steam rising from those towers at Three Mile Island is not something to be glossed over lightly, but in this instance, the editors and producers were (barring gross ignorance on their part) trying to imply that all this was heavy releases of particulates and carbon dioxide contributions to global warming.  Water vapor condensing into steam is not a major contributor to climate change, and the use of the images of these billowing white clouds to suggest that we were witnessing “smokestack” pollution is downright dishonest.  Propaganda is too polite a word for it.

“Wood is the new coal,” was the proclamation in a brief article that came to my attention this week.  That’s not all that pleasant a thought to me, but then I gave it a little deeper consideration, and frankly, to some extent that is correct.  The difference is that unlike the unfortunate ignorance of my own forefathers who denuded their native Fair Isle (off the North coast of Scotland) of all but ONE TREE in their desperate attempts to stave off death by freezing (as well as to boil their porridge, of course), we have the chance to apply modern silvaculture and seek alternative sources for the vegetative matter.  Note that I didn’t call them “trees”, because although they are substantially “wetter” to start with, the most efficient green plans we know about these days are still algae.
That is not to say, either, that the development of wood pellet making plants in Northern Florida (by Green Circle Bio Energy, a subsidiary of SCE Group of Sweden) to export 120 truckloads (20 train car loads) of wood in the pellet form to Europe each and every DAY when they enter full production later this Spring is insignificant, because we need to recognize that even with the trees coming, in this instance, (reportedly) from managed tree farming areas, that such practices may not always be strictly observed in every place that attempts to duplicate this process.   The trees are ground to a find powder, dried and compressed as pellets. They are intended specifically for the European electric generating industry.  This report cites coal fired electric generating plants as having successfully tested combined coal and wood pellets combustion for steam generation as high as 10% wood pellets.  The basic premise, of course, is that trees being renewable resource and absorbing carbon dioxide to produce their growth are part of the non-fossil carbon cycle, and therefore not adding to the carbon load in the atmosphere.
The secondary problem, however, may lie in the success of this type of use.  If it becomes widespread enough, we could end up treeless like the Fair Isle.  Okay, perhaps not entirely treeless, but demand is likely to outstrip supply if the trend is allowed to grow for a few decades.
The primary problem is, of course, that although 90% coal combustion is better than 100% it is too small a change to meet the demands we are facing in reducing carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel sources.
Okay, keeping in mind that I found this on a “social networking site” under a label saying, “Modern Propaganda?” this video was just so beautifully done that it was effectively (and affectively) inspirational.  Now that is not to say that it changed by views politically (I am already a “fan”,  just with limited to how fast want to see him rise), but this video, put together in an extremely professional and polished way was truly impressive.

It also didn’t hurt that Kate Walsh (formerly of <A HREF=http://abc.go.com/primetime/greysanatomy/index?pn=index><B><I>Grey’s Anatomy</I></B></a> and Scarlet Johansson (of <I><B>Lost in Translation </B></I> fame) were in there, supporting Senator Obama.
In Iowa, a state of which I became considerably fonder when Senator Obama was so thoroughly endorsed by members of the Democratic Party caucuses, a certain Mr. Curtis Hartog, a senior technical consultant for Foth Infrastructure & Environment, of Lake Elmo, Minn.,  reported to the Waste Commission of Scott County, that all 5 technologies that produce energy from waste were too expensive to be considered, when, as Executive Director of the Commission, Kathy Morris says that the current landfill being used still has 50 years capacity at this time.  The  was all reported in <A HREF=http://www.qctimes.com/articles/2008/02/08/news/local/doc47abe87535e0c865319010.txt> an article in the “Quad City Times” (online edition)</A>, in which we are informed that, “The cost of turning waste into energy can run as high as $150 per ton, while the price of the fuel produced fluctuates with market demand.” 
Let me see if I can dig up the Changing World Technologies estimates of mixed MSW to fuel.  Old data I have squirreled away suggests that Changing World Technologies (now a partner with ConAgra in the plant in Carthage, Missouri) expected to get about 20% usable fuel oil from mixed municipal solid wastes via what was then called “thermal depolymerization” (which Mr. Appel and friends now calls TCP for “thermal conversion process”).  Now, even allowing that figure to be pretty optimistic, especially considering that they had trouble scaling up to their current plant, so let’s cut that down to 15% or about 300 pounds of fuel output per ton of waste input.  Assuming diesel fuel at about 6.8 pounds per gallon, that should be about 44 gallons.  Now, admittedly, municipalities may not have to pay retail prices for the quantities of products they buy, but since the gas station I passed today had diesel fuel on sale for $3.29, and I’ve seen it higher lately, that certainly suggests to me that even with Mr. Hartog’s “as high as” scenario of $150 per ton it is pretty close to break-even.  And that is not taking into consideration the environmental impact of the fact that landfill garbage rots over time, producing methane, which although it is possible to collect it from a properly constructed landfill site, is actually a worse contributor to climate changing greenhouse gases than mere carbon dioxide. 
Taking that these facts in combination with the fact that most people who want to construct waste-to-energy plants will cheerfully do so with private capital, accept municipal solid wastes (MSW) into their facility for less than the typical “tipping fee” charged even to municipalities themselves as privately owned landfill sites to dump something there, and can still make a profit (because with “negative cost” feedstock [due to the tipping fee], and the fact that virtually all of the possible energy-from-waste processes are at least partially self-fueling), in most cases the worst case cost scenario does not apply.
For my last point I a return to the point of “modern propaganda”.  One of the films nominated for an Oscar this year is a strange little animated feature.  <I><B>Persepolis  </B></I> (of which I have only seen brief promotional cuts) is the story of a young girl and her family in Iran at the time of the revolution that deposed the Shah.  I reserve final judgment until I have at least seen more of it, but the rather blatant anti-Iranian viewpoint, not just anti-Islamist intolerance viewpoint, it certainly looks like more propaganda (in black and white, a hallmark of propaganda traditionally) than “art”.
Okay, I lied, this last item is one that crosses categories, so while it is “kinda” entertainment news, it is also marketing and publishing news.  There is a new service from Google that allows website owners to put a video feed on every page of their web sites (not that we’d recommend that kind of oversaturation, but in theory it is at least possible).  Not only is that video feed updates on an ongoing basis, but it is also “tunable” content, which is to say, you can request just certain video “producers” like the national (American, as far as I know) television networks, or as specific as YouTube’s “geriatric1927” or “lonelygirl15” (a fictional character from some innovative “soap opera” producers), or just a theme, like “auto racing”.  But it is also publishing and marketing news that Google is offering this because this type of video feed will also have “commercials” associated with it.  Revenue from those commercials will be split between the web site publisher and Google (if you know how to set up this kind of arrangement), so the day of “everybody becomes a broadcaster” on “commercially supported” channels has arrived.  Talk about the democratization of the media!!  You can get more information about this at <A HREF=http://googleadsfree.winfotech.com/>http://googleadsfree.winfotech.com/</A&gt; (That page doesn’t actually contain all the info about the Google ad supported video feeds, but if you sign up in the form provided, the follow up emails will explain it all, and I can also personally attest that the information being sold through the offer on that page was well worth the price, at least from my perspective as a website publisher and author.)

Stafford “Doc” Williamson

p.s. Oh, and just in case you are inclined to think of “diet” as a “dirty” word, you might want to check out our new UNdiet site at <A HREF=http://undietlifestyle.winfotech.com/>UNDIETLIFESTYLE.winfotech.com</A>.


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