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Author Archives: theenvironmentalguy

I have tried to stay consistent with the types of posts I have made.  I have tried to make posts that take everyday things that many take for granted; from hybrid cars, air travel, or what powers the electricity that comes into your home.

This is the first step in trying to change the consumer habits of society; change the way they perceive climate change by changing their habits.

I plan on trying to continue this, whether it be here or on my personal blog (www.redcoatasher.com) … I would like to change people’s perspective of the common myths associated with environmental issues.

Happy blogging and ALWAYS do your own research, NEVER believe something someone says without validating their sources or sourcing yourself 😉

I read a report today on Business Insider that said people are losing hope for green energy.

I feel the problem comes really just comes down to cost.  The chart below shows that solar is FAR more expensive to produce than natural gas, but that is the cost to the consumer, what about the environmental and legal costs.

https://i1.wp.com/static.businessinsider.com/image/50b9324569bedd433c00000d-590/most-studies-show-that-renewable-energys-per-unit-costs-are-well-above-fossil-fuel-costs.jpg

For example, lets take the BP oil spill.  Yes, it was a devastating disaster that continues to impacted the Gulf region, and BP has lost a boat-load (like the pun;) of money.

They were just ordered to pay $4.5 billion in criminal damages, has spend hundreds of millions in clean up efforts and civil liability claims from businesses and residents from Texas to Florida. Not to mention the money lost in oil that spewed from the well and the lost of property, such as the oil rig and other equipment, not to mention the amount of money lost when their stock’s share price fell in the wake of the disaster.

That is a large chunk-of-change that, i feel, could have been better spent in developing better, more efficient solar panels or even developing better technology to harness wave energy, which is an unlimited resource.

http://s1.reutersmedia.net/resources/r/?m=02&d=20121116&t=2&i=675254248&w=460&fh=&fw=&ll=&pl=&r=CBRE8AF1TAD00

Yes, BP wasn’t expecting to have an oil spill on their hands, but it is a risk that the company has to think of when harnessing  this form of energy. To put in perspective, BP could have funded 2.5 solar power plants like the one in the Mojave Desert.

Where would that money have been better spent ?

~by Asher Hudson

This is not a story about rising property prices, desirable places to live, or the city with the most beautiful population. This is a story about a city, literally on fire from the inside out.

In 1854, Alexander W. Rea, a civil and mining engineer for the Locust Mountain Coal and Iron Company, moved to the site and laid out streets and lots for development. The town was known as Centreville until 1865. In that same year the name was changed due to the fact that there was another town in Pennsylvania called Centreville.

All was quite and calm in Centralia until a fateful day in May 1962.  While there is some dispute as to what actually happened, what is universally clear is that is changed the course of the town’s future forever.

The ground under the town is on fire! Literally.  The coal mine located under the town caught fire in 1962, 50 years ago, and continues to burn to this day, without any sign of stopping.

The first theory is that in May 1962, the Centralia Borough Council hired five members of the volunteer fire company to clean up the town landfill, located in an abandoned strip-mine pit next to the Odd Fellows Cemetery. This had been done prior to Memorial Day in previous years, when the landfill was in a different location. On May 27, 1962, the firefighters, as they had in the past, set the dump on fire and let it burn for some time. Unlike in previous years, however, the fire was not fully extinguished. An unsealed opening in the pit allowed the fire to enter the labyrinth of abandoned coal mines beneath Centralia.

Joan Quigley argues in her 2007 book, The Day the Earth Caved In, that the fire had in fact started the previous day, when a trash hauler dumped hot ash or coal discarded from coal burners into the open trash pit. She noted that borough council minutes from June 4, 1962 referred to two fires at the dump, and that five firefighters had submitted bills for “fighting the fire at the landfill area”. The borough, by law, was responsible for installing a fire-resistant clay barrier between each layer, but fell behind schedule, leaving the barrier incomplete. This allowed the hot coals to penetrate the vein of coal underneath the pit and light the subsequent subterranean fire.

This was a world where no human could live, hotter than the planet Mercury, its atmosphere as poisonous as Saturn’s. At the heart of the fire, temperatures easily exceeded 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit [540 degrees Celsius]. Lethal clouds of carbon monoxide and other gases swirled through the rock chambers. — David DeKok, Unseen Danger: A Tragedy of People, Government, and the Centralia Mine Fire (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1986)

However it started, it is agreed that the fire remained burning underground and spread through a hole in the rock pit into the abandoned coal mines beneath Centralia. Every attempt to extinguish the fire was thwarted and the fire continued to burn through the 1960’s and 1970’s.

In 1979, locals became aware of the scale of the problem when a gas-station owner and then mayor, John Coddington, inserted a stick into one of his underground tanks to check the fuel level. When he withdrew it, it seemed hot, so he lowered a thermometer down on a string and was shocked to discover that the temperature of the gasoline in the tank was 172 °F (77.8 °C).

Statewide attention to the fire began to increase, culminating in 1981 when a 12-year-old resident named Todd Domboski fell into a sinkhole 4 feet (1.2 m) wide by 150 feet (46 m) deep that suddenly opened beneath his feet in a backyard. His cousin, 14-year-old Eric Wolfgang, in pulling Todd out of the hole saved Todd’s life, as the plume of hot steam billowing from the hole was measured as containing a lethal level of carbon monoxide).

In 1984, the U.S. Congress allocated more than US$42 million for relocation efforts. Most of the residents accepted buyout offers and moved to the nearby communities of Mount Carmel and Ashland. A few families opted to stay despite warnings from Pennsylvania officials.

In 1992, Pennsylvania governor Bob Casey invoked eminent domain on all properties in the borough, condemning all the buildings within. A subsequent legal effort by residents to have the decision reversed failed. In 2002, the U.S. Postal Service revoked Centralia’s ZIP code, 17927. [1][6] In 2009, Governor Ed Rendell began the formal eviction of Centralia residents.[7]

The Centralia mine fire extended into the town of Byrnesville, Pennsylvania and caused this town to also be abandoned.

Very few homes remain standing in Centralia; most of the abandoned buildings have been demolished by the Columbia County Redevelopment Authority or nature. At a casual glance, the area now appears to be a field with many paved streets running through it. Some areas are being filled with new-growth forest. The remaining church in the borough, St. Mary’s, holds weekly services on Sunday and has not yet been directly affected by the fire.

As of the 2000 census, there were 21 people, 10 households, and 7 families residing in the borough.  It is expected that many former residents will return in 2016 to open a time capsule that buried in 1966 next to the veterans’ memorial.

~By Asher Hudson

It is happening all across America and now in Europe and Africa as well – rural landowners wake up one day to find a lucrative offer from a multinational energy conglomerate wanting to lease their property. The Reason? In America, the company hopes to tap into a huge natural gas reservoir dubbed the Saudi Arabia of natural gas. Halliburton developed a way to get the gas out of the ground—a hydraulic drilling process called fracking—and suddenly America finds itself on the edge of becoming a world energy superpower.



But what comes out of the ground with that natural gas? How does it affect our air and drinking water? GASLAND is a powerful personal documentary that confronts these questions with spirit, strength, and a sense of humor. When filmmaker Josh Fox receives his cash offer in the mail, he travels across 32 states to meet other rural residents on the front lines of fracking. He discovers toxic streams, ruined aquifers, dying livestock, brutal illnesses, and kitchen sinks that burst into flame. He learns that all water is connected and perhaps some things are more valuable than money.

~by Asher Hudson

~By Asher Hudson

In April of 2010 a small volcano in Iceland caused the world’s first carbon-neutral volcanic eruption on record.

The Eyjafjallajökull volcano is located in southern Iceland, approximately 150 miles from  the capital, Reykjavík.  Upon erupting a large plumb of smoke, ash and water vapor rose to 30,000ft.  This is above the cruising altitude for most commercial airline flights.  The eruption caused the initial grounding of flights to and from Iceland, but as the ash plumb grew in size over the week to stretch from the east coast of Canada and the US, to as far west as Siberia and Mongolia.

By April 25th, the majority of flights to and from Europe were grounded for obvious safety reasons.  This is interesting in the fact that if planes are grounded they are not emitting carbon-dioxide from flying.  This started an interesting offset that not many had anticipated.  The start of a carbon-neutral volcanic eruption.

The above data visualization shows the breakdown of the estimated figures and how they offset each other.

Carbon-neutral does not mean that NO carbon was emitted, it means that no ADDITIONAL carbon was emitted.  If you take the total amount of carbon that would have been emitted and subtract the amount saved by grounding planes, and then add the emissions from the volcano … it equals the amount of emissions that would have been emitted had the volcano not erupted at all.

Many businesses lost money and many people were disrupted at the airports, but that fact that there were no additional emissions, shows that there is room for us to improve the way we impact our environment.

~by Asher Hudson

This is nothing new. It is a story that has been told time and time again. But rather than this being the story of an oil spill or the purposeful dumping of fracking water, this is a story of environmental destruction.

To many people the world’s key oil deposits are located in the lands of sand and princes, but few people know that the worlds second largest oil deposit is located in our our neighbor to the north–Canada.

Most of the world’s oil deposits are located deep in the ground but Canada’s deposits are located on the surface, but trapped by sand.  The industry refers to the fields as the Athabasca Oil Sands. They are located in the middle of the Alberta province.

The Oil Sands, in the so far discovered deposits, contain enough oil for Canada to fuel its own oil demand, at its current rate, for the next 266 years and that is if they stopped exporting today.

This sounds great for national security and decreased oil dependency on the middle east, but there is a catch.  In order to extract the oil from  the sand, you have to dig it up.  This means excavating and extracting huge chunks of earth and processing it.  It is process that is similar to strip mining but on a far more destructive scale.

Strip mining is localized to a single site that might be a few square miles.  The Athabasca Oil Sands covers 54,000 sq. mi. of boreal forest and muskegs (peat bogs).  In order to extract the oil, the forest is cut down, bogs and dug up and then the underlying earth is excavated, processed, and refined.

Is this cost of environmental destruction worth the oil that we use?  We talk about the deforestation of the Amazon for farm land, why does it not apply for Canada and for Oil production?

Why do environmentalists, automobile manufacturers and the government push hybrid cars on the general populous?  The main reasons that are spoon fed to the public are that, they have a low carbon footprint, high miles-per-gallon, and large subsidies.

The principle of storing energy in a battery is an excellent idea, the issue is that battery technology is in its infancy and inefficient for this application.  According to Toyota USA the average Prius Hybrid Synergy System in total weighs in over at 800lbs.

If you bought a hybrid, you most likely bought it for environmental reasons which go out of the window when it comes to battery disposal.  Batteries contain various heavy metals that are harmful, difficult, and expensive to recycle and dispose of.

Amount of energy and pollutants produced in order to build one hybrid car is astronomical, compared to the perceived savings of a few mpg.  The nickel and cadmium that is needed to create a battery for a hybrid car are mined in Canada using sulphur and other toxic chemicals, shipped to Europe in large container ships, refined and then shipped again to China where it is refined a second time and is manufactured into the finished battery.  The batteries are then sent to Japan, assembled into the cars, and then shipped to California, on another container ship. That is a circumnavigation of the globe, just for the batteries.

The car itself, from new and during its serviceable life, could never save the amount of pollution that went into manufacturing it in the first place.

Why does all this effort and cost go into trying to offset mans impact on the environment and squeeze out a few more miles per gallon, when there is a far more eco-friendly and more efficient fuel that could be used—Diesel.

A gallon of diesel fuel has a higher calorific value (stored energy) than a gallon of gasoline, and a much higher value than a gallon of ethanol.  And yes, fuels have calories!  This means that diesel has 23% more energy by volume than gasoline.  I would need 61.5 gallons of gasoline to do the job of 50 gallons of diesel.

This is something that European cars have done for years.  EU official figures reveal that 60% of all cars on European roads are diesel powered.  Everything from small sub-compacts to full-sized sedans, have a few choices of diesel engines to choose from.  The vast majority of the these diesels get in the range of 45-80mpg, without the need for large heavy weight battery systems.  Here in the states we are still just happy with 25-30 mpg.

Diesel engines last longer, have a lower carbon footprint (clean diesel), and far cheaper to manufacture.  They work by heating the fuel (with coils) and compressing it until it combusts.

The diesel engine is the truest form of a “flex-fuel” engine, whether it is Peanut, Palm, Vegetable, Canola, or the local greasy spoon oil. You can even use derived oils from Soybean, Switch grass, algae, or even the Jokoba planet.  If one of these fuels is efficiently harvested, they have a negative carbon footprint as the plant absorbs more CO2 than can be produced by the burning of the fuel it is turned into.  So the government should be paying you.

Diesels are cleaner for the environment, have a longer service life, and are more efficient than hybrid cars.  They cost less to maintain, run, and manufacture.  So, why are they still the vehicle of choice for environmentalists and the government?

Two cycle diesel engines could be the future that everyone has been looking for.  These engines are used in the shipping industry and are called Heavy Fuel Marine Diesel Engines.  The concept has been around for almost a century, but with the advent of new materials, sensors, and computerization we could be arriving in an age of compact, light, efficient, and powerful engines that run on the diesel principle, that is over a century old.