Syn-gas Plant Revisited
3/26/2007 03:10:00 PM | Author: baloghblog

So I stand corrected, after reading the Sunday Post-Standard, I see that the syngas facility slated to be built in Dewitt has come out and said that no carbon sequestration will be done at the plant for at least 10 years. This is the amount of time they believe that it will take for a cost effective method of carbon sequestration to be invented.

Therefore I change my baloghblog editorial opinion to against the plant.

No plant should be built in that location without a full (or nearly full) carbon sequestration solution.


Now that I've made that opinion clear, I need to hear how we are going to heat our homes when the gas stops flowing from Canada. Believe me, at some point it will. Or at least it will become unaffordable to the point that it is no longer a viable source of home heating for a large portion of the population.

Phil contacted me by email and wanted to know why I am doing the dirty work for the syngas plant by not initially opposing it.

My question to him and others is a practical one: Please tell me how we are going to heat our homes.

It is a grave concern of mine. More so than the difficulty in powering our vehicles to get from A to B, the ability to keep our homes heated through the cold NE winters is life threatening. Yes, syngas is unknown and possibly environmentally devastating. So is deforestation (see Haiti, Easter Island), coal furnaces (see 1800's), and we're going to need more than pellet stove retrofits (unaffordable to many on fixed incomes) to solve our future heating needs.

I took a flight recently, and when I was flying over the Central New York area, you know what I saw? A lot of homes - that's what I saw. A lot of homes, occupied by a lot of people. A lot of tendrils of white smoke coming out of those homes, each representing a furnace burning most likely natural gas. A lot of natural gas. We have a huge infrastructure in natural gas piping to a majority of the urban and suburban area.

Maybe it's not time for a syn gas plant yet. There is abundant (though declining) Canadian gas available to us. It is relatively cheap. I am certainly not for a plant that does nothing to sequester its carbon, and pollutes at a level on par with a coal fired electricity plant. But the thought keeps creeping into my head, "how are we going to keep all of these people warm through the winters?"
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On 5:41 PM , Phil said...


In response to your question, how will we heat our homes in the future, I believe that a combination of solar, wind and other alternative renewable energy sources (maybe even some yet to be thought of) will need to be combined with extensive investments in demand side management (efficiency and conservation) of the non-renewable resources we currently use.

That leads to your next question, given the notion of Peak Oil, how will areas of the city that are very poor and neglected fare when the cost of natural gas skyrockets or becomes unavailable? I daresay that this is the heart of much of your thinking on these issues, an approach that I believe is overwrought. Your belief in peak oil is like that of certain messianic religions, the prism through which all knowledge must be received--and boy are we up shits creek.

As Steven D. Levitt, the economist of Freakonomics fame points out, peak oilers get the economics all wrong:

"What most of these doomsday scenarios have gotten wrong is the fundamental idea of economics: people respond to incentives. If the price of a good goes up, people demand less of it, the companies that make it figure out how to make more of it, and everyone tries to figure out how to produce substitutes for it."

All the doomsday scenarios about reliance on foreign oil and military action are presupposed on a belief that we cant find alternative sources of energy that both avoid foreign entanglements and will be not be environmentally catastrophic for our communities. I do not believe that is the case. I certainly do not believe that a threat that is speculative at best is sufficient justification for American citizens to refrain from organizing themselves to oppose crappy boondoggles like the syn-fuels plant.

As I stated before, I'm disappointed whenever progressive forces get pitted against one another and we lose sight of the real target. I think I also responded because I know the proponents on both sides of this debate, having worked with Ms. Baker in the past and reading and meeting you. I just can't believe that you guys wouldn't be working together. Despite my disagreements, I'm glad that you are out there thinking about these issues and I respect the writing that you do.