Thursday, December 29, 2005

Gilberton Coal-to-Clean-Fuels and Power Project

The US Department of Energy is seeking comments on a draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Gilberton Coal-to-Clean-Fuels and Power Project, which would construct a plant to produce clean hydrocarbon liquids, electricity, and steam from anthracite coal waste. Comments can be made at two public meetings:
  • Jan. 9, 2006 at 7:00 PM at Shenandoah Valley Senior High School, Shenandoah
  • Jan. 10, 2006 at 7:00 PM at DHH Lengel Middle School, Pottsville
Information sessions at both places from 4:00 PM to 6:30 PM preceding the public hearings.

You can also submit written comments by Feb. 8, 2006. Full details here.

From the Environmental Consequences section of the draft EIS: "Trace emissions of other pollutants would include mercury, beryllium, sulfuric acid mist, hydrochloric acid, hydrofluoric acid, benzene, arsenic, and various heavy metals." Now, while they will scrub the emissions to reduce the amount of these elements that gets sent into the atmosphere, further on in the paragraph it reads "a high percentage of hazardous air pollutants and trace elements in the synthesis gas would be removed, but no estimates of the proposed facilities' emissions of these pollutants are currently available." I interpret that "as we can remove 99% of x, but we don't know what x is." So therefore, they can't really say how much of each of these hazardous materials will be released. They do go on to say that the EPA allows a max of less than 10 tons for any single hazardous air pollutant (e.g., mercury) and less than 25 tons total of all hazardous air pollutants in a rolling 12-month period. So I guess we can infer that they think it will be less than the maximums allowed, but that isn't even guaranteed, based on this statement (page 4-9): "Part of the purpose of the proposed project is to generate environmental data, including hazardous air pollutant measurements, from the operation of the integrated technologies at a sufficiently large scale to allow industries and utilities to assess the project's potential for commercial application." So I guess we're guinea pigs.

Then there's that little Global Warming thing. From the EIS, page 4-11: "The proposed facilities would increase global CO2 emissions by about 832,000 tons per year, which is about 0.003% of global CO2 emissions of 26,713 million tons resulting from fossil fuel combustion in the year 2000." While 0.003% doesn't sound like much, to think that one little plant in Schuylkill County will be adding 832,000 tons of CO2 emissions is a little ... alarming.

Based on their analysis of the effects to the local water supply, it doesn't sound bad (other than reducing the flow of water to the Mahanoy Creek by about 43%, but they say since no one drinks from the Creek, that doesn't really matter).

There are probably some more interesting insights that can be made by reading the entire EIS. I encourage people to post comments here.

I'm all for looking for alternative energy production methods, but it seems we're just swapping in another non-renewable energy source here (anthracite waste). Public funding is far better spent on researching and implementing renewable resources that do not contribute the environmental hazards that burning fossil fuels do -- let's look at solar collectors and wind farms and quit relying on fossil fuels. I'd much rather have a wind farm in my back yard than five more smokestacks spewing unknown quantities of pollutants.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

College newspaper advisor canned for letting students use Macs

You see, allowing students to use Macs doesn't prepare them for the real world. Okaaay. Link. via Digg.

Friday, December 09, 2005

The Future of HTML

IBM's developerWorks has an interesting article on the future of HTML, mentioning HTML 5, a proposed progression to the HTML standard that is backwards-compatible with HTML 4.01 and XHTML 1.0 (I can sense you nodding off already). They also touch on Web Forms 2.0, which would extend current forms implementations to include built-in client-side validation (so you don't have to write custom JavaScript for required fields, or validating an e-mail address). There seems to be a lot of interest in what the web is transforming into, after Google showcased what you can do with AJAX to create a more compelling user experience. So what's the best approach to a more engaging and useful web - AJAX, Flash, the next generation of HTML or XHTML, or a combination of all these things?

Monday, December 05, 2005

Mom's Cancer

Mom's Cancer is a graphic novel about a family dealing with their mother's struggle with cancer. Highly recommended reading for anyone dealing with the anguish and struggle that cancer introduces into a family's life. Author's website is here.

How does your workplace hold up?

The Job Tracker database allows you to look up some interesting info on companies, including if they export jobs, endanger workers' health, or violate workers' rights under the National Labor Relations Act.

Schuylkill County from the air

Before Google Maps and NASA's World Wind let you peer at your house via satellite photos, we had to settle for looking at Schuylkill County from an airplane.

Papers Please

Deborah Davis refused to show her ID to a security guard who demanded to see everyone's ID on a public bus. After all, this is America, right? We can move about in public without the fear of the authorities demanding "your papers, please." But Deborah got arrested. For not showing her papers.

We're all a little antsy from the threat of terrorism, but we shouldn't let that serve as an excuse to create Big Brother.