Category Archives: Environment

Spring Strikes First While Winter Waits

Two-thirds of the way through January and we haven’t had so much as a freeze yet. Maybe a couple of minor frosts, that’s about it. Then, this:

paperwhites.jpg

To make matters stranger, no one in this family planted these paperwhites in this forgotten corner of the yard and we have never seen them here before. And we have lived here a long time.

Climate change? What climate change?

Also posted in Garden, Nature

You Want Carbon With That?

Remember “Climategate?” An anonymous hacker obtained hundreds of emails sent between climate scientists at a British university, and climate change non-believers seized on them as proof climate change is a conspiracy.

More recently, Judith Curry, professor and chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology, pointed out what she termed the “inconvenient truth” in research on climate warming: a pause in significant surface warming of the Earth for the past 15 years.

So there is wide disagreement over whether the surface of the planet is warming at the rate what I shall call Al Gorists contend, and whether the warming is the result of fossil fuels being combusted into the atmosphere decade upon decade at very high rates.

I am not here this morning to, um, fan the flames of those points of contention. I have been reading a leaked Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change draft report, though, and what I find of most interest so far are some factoids uncontested by science:

The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has increased by more than 20% since 1958 when systematic atmospheric measurements began, and by about 40% since 1750. The increase is a result of human activity, virtually all due to burning of fossil fuels and deforestation, and a small contribution from cement production. Present-day concentrations of CO2, methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O) substantially exceed the range of concentrations recorded in ice cores during the past 800,000 years.

So it’s uncontested by science that we all are breathing air with 20% more carbon dioxide in it than when I was a young tad. Regardless of whether this has caused major global warming, it just makes me wonder what a 20% increase in CO2 in the air does to the human system. It would be interesting to see whether, for instance, there’s a similar correlation of cancers in human beings over the same period of time. And asthma, allergies and respiratory maladies. Just sayin’…

As for the warming part, as a non-scientist and mere observer, I would say the odds are very good that all the extra carbon probably does have to do with facts such as 2012 being the warmest year on record in the continental U.S. That and the fact that I have been growing in the ground, for the past three years, certain tropical plants that should not be able to survive the winters in USDA Zone 9a, which is where I reside.

But like I said, I’m not here this morning to debate whether global warming is real, just to marvel at the wonderment of sucking in bonus carbon dioxide every year and not yet developing parasitic lichens.

Also posted in Nature

Parish The Thought

Extra chunks of goo in my nose lately so just for fun I wade through the obfuscation over at the Texas Commission on So-Called Environmental Quality to find the database of air pollution permit violations. I select “Fort Bend County” and search for all violations over the last approximate month, Jan. 15 through Feb. 15.

Huh. What a surprise:

→ Jan. 16 – WA PARISH ELECTRIC GENERATING STATION
→ Jan. 19 – DUKE ENERGY FIELD SERVICES PIPELINE
→ Jan. 24 – WA PARISH ELECTRIC GENERATING STATION
→ Jan. 25 – WA PARISH ELECTRIC GENERATING STATION
→ Feb. 7 – WA PARISH ELECTRIC GENERATING STATION
→ Feb. 8 – WA PARISH ELECTRIC GENERATING STATION

WA PARISH ELECTRIC GENERATING STATION, which looks like this and operates some 14 miles from my back yard, happens to be the 10th-largest single source of mercury air pollution in the United States.

The fact my family experiences runny noses and symptoms of upper respiratory unease in approximate synchronization to this plant’s air pollution equipment malfunctions probably is sheerest coincidence, don’t you ‘spec?

Owned by NRG of New Jersey, the Parish plant is off to a bang-up start this year, violating its pollution permit on an average of almost one day out of every five, or so it would seem. How much “extra” mercury, I wonder, wafts through the air during what the TC So-Called EQ quaintly refers to as an “air emission event?”

Can’t find out. TC So-Called EQ officials allow plant officials to identify all stuff going up and out of its stacks as generic “opacity.” The Parish permit says it is OK to emit 10% opacity – meaning generic particles plus mercury plus whatever in sufficient quantity to block the view of the blue sky by 10%. Kind of like wearing dirty sun glasses.

During this year’s permit violations, mostly Unit 6 but sometimes Unit 5 puffed crap into the sky determined at opacities above 70% on two occasion and 90% on another. Kind of like breathing in crap while wearing seven or eight pairs of dirty sunglasses on top of each other.

But only right there at the plant. Probably the extra-strength mercury and all was greatly diluted by the time it blew past Richmond. Or more likely, Sugar Land, Missouri City and Houston, since the winds more commonly blow from out of the west.

As an aside, four of the five permit violations by Parish came as the result of “ongoing Baghouse control logic system” failures that keep opening one of the unit’s Baghouse bypass dampers. The baghouse is basically a giant bag that acts as a filter to keep particles from being released into the atmosphere. When it works.

Bottom line? Look for 2010 to be a big year for Kimberly-Clark stock (you know, the makers of Kleenex). That’s it for today’s snot report.

Also posted in Energy