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?"
I feel pretty good today. That's pretty odd, considering it's peak doldrum season here in the northeast, in a city that just received 4.1" of snow this moarning, bringing our season total to 117" glorious inches of the white fluff. (yes, that's my front yard one week and 8 inches of snow ago).
Why I feel good is for the following reason: I sat in on a "mission committee" meeting at my company today. At least I thought that I would just be sitting in on it, but it turned out that I had top bill as a presenter on "how we can make changes at [company x] to reduce our environmental impact". I soon found out that I had the plenty to talk about. The 20 extemporaneous minutes flew by. I dived right in to the "low hanging fruit" in our company, and the committee and I decided on 4 goals to reduce our waste, conserve materials and energy and reduce our carbon emissions. I'll get back to those in a minute. First, what I want to point out, is that I told a few anecdotes today, based on information that I've gathered reading blogs, environmental magazines and articles in newspapers, and have seen in news reports. These were things that I thought that everyone had been at least exposed to, or at least have been given a chance to ignore. Boy was I wrong. The committee members faces lit up as I rambled off a few things that they could do to reduce their energy consumption at home.
- reduce phantom loads - first defined phantom load. Let them know how all of the electronic devices are sucking a steady (though small) stream of power 24/7, 365 days a year. Then I told them how they could get rid of it - power strips, unplugging equipment when not in use. The jaw dropper to them is that the microwave clock uses more power during the year than the actual operation of the microwave.
- a computer left on is like steadily burning 2 60 watt lightbulbs - one for the monitor and one for the computer. I taught them to put computers to sleep when not in use, and at least to turn it off at night.
- conversion to CFL bulbs - a few members were aware of this, but I did notice a few pens jotting it down.
- lastly - that "green power" is a choice in our area. I go with Green Mountain, which adds about $8 or so to my bill and would add only $8-12 to an average household to get 100% renewable energy (small hydro and wind). No one at the table had heard of this. This was a perfect wrap-up to my talk, and I am glad that it popped into my head at the last minute. "Now that I've gotten you feeling guilty about wasting electricity, here is a way that you can feel better while you cut back on your use..." I explained how the program worked and how they can easily sign up for it.
As you can see this meeting focused on electricity and ways to conserve energy. As "energy" goes, electricity seems the easiest for people to grasp, and most likely there is the most "fat" to trim out of that section of the household's total energy use.
Here are the 4 goals that we came up with:
- Get large "blue bin" recycling containers for our office / post reminder notes on garbage cans. I was shocked to find out that we are not as diligent at recycling as I thought. There are large containers for shredding (and recycling) confidential paperwork in our office - due to HIPPA laws anything with someone's initials has to be shredded, meaning about 60%? of our paper is recycled. That leaves all of the office memos, calendars, etc, that we could improve on.
- Make an announcement on Friday afternoons to make sure that everyone shuts down their computer for the weekend. (This may also be on a a daily basis.)
- We will be incorporating education on reducing vehicle miles driven into the orientation process, and encouraging time management into grouping travel to appointments.
- We will be joining in the "These Come From Trees" guerrilla public service announcement. Placing stickers on the paper towel dispensers in the bathroom and in the lunch room. I'd like to see one on every ream of paper too (or at least above the "copy" button on the copier.)
Yes there are many other things that we could be doing to reduce our companies impact, and we did touch on some of those. (I heard complaints about styrofoam coffee cups mentioned, as well as the lack of recycling in the lunch room.) Like I said, I could have gone on for an hour or more once those ideas started spilling out of me. This was a decent first step in the right direction, IMHO.
I realized two things today at that meaning. #1. I sure have been reading too many blog posts about the environment. #2. Yes, it is important to "be the change" in order to inspire others to do the same, but it is equally important to get out there and inspire! Yes it's impressive to get your household impact down to 1.7 planets, or whatever measure you choose to impress your on-line buddies with, but how much impact on the earth can you have by convincing others to make a change? How far into negative planets does the scale go? How many tons of CO2 can you personally stop producing? Now, compare with the amount that you could reduce by making sure everyone turns their computer off each night before leaving the office? In a big office, that's a lot of computers, and a lot of coal being shoveled into that energy plant.
Now, it's your turn. Leave me a comment [over at Groovy Green] with what you are doing in your place of employment, church, friendship circle, bowling league, or other group of people that are in "your world". Make sure to leave your email info in the box so I can get in touch with you. I'll randomly draw from the commenters and send you our groovy copy of "Green Design".
click picture to enlarge
Like a good book on reeling in your household budget will tell you, you have to know where your money is going to prior to determining where you can make changes. In this light, Eric Boyd - the Digital Crusader, kept a log for 3 months and 3 days to see where all those miles on his car were coming from.
What an interesting idea. One that maybe more of us who purport to be environmentalists and live "green" lifestyles should do. How else can we know where to cut trips from? Maybe I'll get my Palm Pilot set up to help me track the same thing for a month. Who knows, maybe a "miles travelled budget" will be easier to tackle than the home finances.
I kept records from Monday October 16th, 2007 to Tuesday December 19th, 2007, a period of three months and three days. During that time, I got in my car 258 times, traveled 1278.6 miles, filled my gas tank 4 times, and made my girl friend think I was obsessive-compulsive about record keeping :-). Each of the 258 records consists of the date, where I got out of the car, and a reading from the trip odo.
Here are a few of Eric's conclusions: Hit the jump for his full "experiment" and his results.
In terms of climate change and sustainability, the car remains my second biggest contribution, after air travel. Surprisingly, if I biked to work three days a week, I could conceivably save about 20% of my total miles. If I also used public transit for the rest of my Journeys, I'd be getting close to cutting my miles traveled in half, without sacrificing much of anything in terms of the real convenience of a car
- DestinyUSA's green bonds: hmm. I guess I wasn't keeping up with this story as closely as I thought that I was. I thought that the idea was that the green bonds would go towards stage III of the expansion, and the current mall expansion (stage II) would be built by conventional methods. The use of "green building" techniques on the mall expansion is a good thing, but I'll believe it when I see it. The definition of DestinyUSA changes about as often as I change the oil in my car. Speaking of oil, I have to mention that this mall expansion is a tremendous waste of money, resources, and effort. The only part of Destiny that I have supported from the time it was announced was the R&D Park. Even that was flawed from the start with the eminent domain fiasco.
- Synfuel factory in Jamesville: I wrote a piece wondering if Peak Oil would reverse NIMBYism a short while ago. This was based on a proposed coal to gas factory to be built off of Rock Cut Road. Some were not pleased with the fact that I didn't immediately oppose the project on a "environmental" basis. Groups are, as I predicted, lining up to block it. I am not even sure that I support the plant itself, but have to ask the question, "how are we going to heat our homes in Central New York if the gas stops flowing from Canada? (or even stops flowing predictably?)" Do you think that there are enough trees to burn? (There aren't.) Don't you think that coal furnaces will return as a primary method of heating homes? (They will.) Do you think that we could grow enough corn or switch grass to turn into pellets to burn in an efficient burning stove? (I don't know, but it seems like we'd need to get planting.) My point is that there are no easy answers to these issues. We need to stay warm, and there are far too many of us to all live comfortably while burning biomass to heat our homes. Which would you rather see in the future? A technologically advanced syngas factory. Dirty? Yes, but able to sequester carbon. Or, a resurgence of coal based individual heating systems in homes. Tons of coal delivered all throughout the city each day, producing tons of CO2 in the air, and tons of coal ash in the basement.
- Shoveling sidewalks: Enforcement is easy. And fines could help balance school budgets. Pay someone to drive around and give tickets to homeowners who do not comply with maintaining their own sidewalk. Neglect of sidewalks in front of city or state owned land is just as criminal. Tenants should not be responsible for their sidewalks, deadbeat slumlords should be. What, are we going to have to wait until a school-aged kid gets mowed down to solve this problem?
- Armory Square site for the sewage treatment plant. Uggh. What is there to say? The powers that be see fit to put a treatment plant in the most successful and developed area of downtown. Treehouse all the way baby. The cacophony of voices rallying to oppose the plant is deafening [sarcasm]. Man, I know that it's cold out, but where are the business owners and people living downtown? I only partake in a few cold beverages, and go out to dinner once a month in Armory and I am pissed. Sean Kirst and 5 people on his forum are the only ones that care about this? I'm curious to see who turns out for the council meeting on the subject on March 14th, public comments March 21st.