January 24, 2012

What if the Deepwater oil spill had never occurred?

How could that 205 million gallons of oil been used?

This video by Chris Harman was released on the first anniversary of the BP gulf spill, but I just saw it.

His numbers are eye-opening.  Be sure your sound is turned on.

January 20, 2012

Pipelines across America

map from Pipeline 101
The proposed Keystone XL pipeline debate got me wondering just how many pipelines (both oil and gas) already exist in the US. I've come across a few in our former days of long hikes in the wilderness. And all of us have seen "Pipeline" signs somewhere or other in our neighborhoods. Some of us may have even "discovered" some in our yards when we have not heeded the utility company's warning to "Call before you dig."

We've seen photos of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline because huge portions of it are above ground--unlike most others. And the folks at BP taught us a lot about offshore drilling for oil in 2010.

Above is a graphic map (from Pipeline 101) that answers my question-- approximately 55,000 miles of major crude oil pipelines (from 8 to 24 inches wide) already exist in the US.

We also have another estimated 30,000 to 40,000 miles of small gathering lines (usually 2 to 6 inches in diameter) located primarily in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Wyoming with small systems in a number of other oil producing states.

Then there are approximately 95,000 miles nationwide of refined oil products pipelines--found in almost every state in the US, with the exception of some New England states. These refined product pipelines vary in size from relatively small 8 to 12 inch diameter lines up to 42 inches in diameter.

Click here for more info from this very informative Pipeline 101 website. I know, I know--I must have too much time on my hands to post all this info. But haven't you ever wondered how many miles of pipelines already existed?
What about natural gas pipelines?
Natural gas, unlike oil, is delivered directly to homes and businesses through pipelines. That is a LOT of miles of pipeline. First, there are about 20,000 miles of natural gas gathering lines. The gathering lines then move natural gas (both onshore and offshore) to 278,000 miles of large cross-country transmission pipelines. Large distribution lines, called mains, move the gas close to cities. These main lines, along with the much smaller lines to homes and businesses, deliver natural under streets in almost every city and town and account for the vast majority of pipeline mileage in the U.S. – 1.8 million miles. No wonder the advice is to "Call before you dig." The natural gas pipelines map is pretty impressive.
Twenty interstate natural gas pipeline systems operate within the Northeast Region (Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, and West Virginia). These deliver natural gas to several intrastate natural gas pipelines and at least 50 local distribution companies in the region. In addition, they also serve large industrial concerns and, increasingly, natural gas fired electric power plants. Natural gas is a lot cleaner than coal, so this conversion is a good thing.

The not-so-good aspect is that a lot of this gas comes to us from "fracking." More on that another day.

Domestic natural gas flows into the region from the Southeast into Virginia and West Virginia, and from the Midwest into West Virginia and Pennsylvania. Canadian imports come into the region principally through New York, Maine, and New Hampshire.

Liquefied natural gas (LNG) supplies also enter the region through import terminals located in Massachusetts, Maryland, and New Brunswick, Canada. We have seen the huge LNG terminal at Calvert Cliffs, Maryland while sailing in the Chesapeake .

Who Watches Out for Pipeline Safety? The pipeline companies are responsible for the safety and reliability of their own pipeline systems and for protecting wetlands, wildlife, ecosystems and drinking water resources.  BP taught us that the corporate bottom line can trump safety.

But federal and state regulators within a LOT of agencies oversee compliance with a host of regulatory requirements. The safety aspects of pipeline operations are audited and inspected frequently by the federal Office of Pipeline Safety (OPS) in cooperation with the states in which pipelines are located.

January 18, 2012

Overpackaging is another thorn in my side

Retail overpackaging is another “eco sin” that really bothers me. I've whined about it every Christmas. Approximately one-third of the garbage we generate is packaging that is thrown away immediately after we purchase merchandise. It’s a waste of good trees and plastic.

It’s hard to think outside the box when Danny, our friendly UPS man in brown, delivers an Amazon purchase. And Amazon is actually working on reducing manufactuers' packaging.

Why do small objects need big boxes? When did "nano" imply huge? At least Apple mailed me my new iPhone in a small box.

One of the dumbest things I ever saw was bananas in shrinkwrap plastic. I’ll accept that some items require special packaging for public health, safety, shelf-life and theft considerations. But most over-the-top packaging is purely marketing—for more shelf space appeal to catch the consumer’s eye.

Being green shouldn’t be so frustrating. Friend Gary saw the irony when he emailed me a photo of a table full of “cardboard harvested from 8 CFL bulbs and 4 floods.”

And what about these whitening strips? The manufacturer had to justify the price some way! So what if I didn't want to buy a plastic container tough enough to fall from a plane and later whiten my teeth.

I thought that we wanted to cut down our dependence on foreign oil. Petroleum based plastics will always have a valid market, but this is ridiculous.

K-cups and squeeze packs are NOT green

Calling all waste watchers!

Excuse me if I sound like Andy Rooney (may he rest in peace), but did you ever wonder when Americans fell in love with single serve food packaging?

This question popped into my head recently (too much caffeine?) as I enjoyed K-cup brewed coffee in our daughter’s kitchen. Are these little plastic gizmos even recyclable? No familiar chasing-arrows triangle logo on them!

So I checked the Keurig website and discovered that the coffee industry is also “very sensitive about the waste created by the K-Cup portion packs and are investigating alternative materials.” Sure hope they have them soon.

Manufacturers are going squeeze pack crazy. Even houseplant fertilizers now come in single-use packaging.

One out of every three servings of water is taken from one of the 45 million plastic water bottles purchased every day, 90 percent of which are not recycled.

 Today’s parents — Are raising many spoon-impaired kids who prefer single serve “easy squeezy” packaging. I have almost recovered from my Pampers disposable diapers guilt during the 1980s, and I now find myself casting blame on the manufacturers of my two year old grandson’s favorite snacks. He prefers “squeezy yogurt” in tubes (gogurt) and “squeezy applesauce” on-the-go that must contain about 5 spoons worth. These pouch packs require no spoon and they are convenient for car trips and lunchboxes. But they take up landfill space until someone comes up with compostable packaging.

I admit they are very convenient and that my children’s diapers will linger forever in Texas and New Jersey landfills.

But yogurt also comes in #5 plastic containers that are recyclable at the Colonial Williamsburg Recycling Center on Botetourt St. The challenge is to minimize or eliminate packaging in the first place—before it becomes waste.

A Stonyfield Farm study revealed that switching to 32-ounce yogurt containers from the single-use 8-ounce cups normally packed in school lunches and served at school would save 12,000 barrels of oil per year.
The average elementary school student eating homemade lunches is estimated to generate between 45 and 90 pounds of plastic bags, foil pouches, and other packaging waste each year. That’s more than a lot of them weigh!

Supposedly, Americans purchase and throw away over 300 million hot and cold take-out beverage containers each day.

What can YOU do? Weight Watchers (waist watchers) promotes this kind of packaging for “portion control.” But “waste watchers” can buy in bulk and pack their own 100-calorie servings in reusable cups.

Bigger used to be better, but many consumers are no longer willing to spend more per volume for single serve mini-boxes of cereal and pudding or other snack packs--even though they are convenient and portable for today’s on the go mothers.

Look for an alternative product without packaging or the least amount of packaging. This might send a message to manufacturers that you don't like waste.

Consider it a treat when you choose those convenient microwavable single portion soups. The alternative is soup in BPA-lined cans.

January 16, 2012

Recycling guitar strings into jewelry

Attractive items made of recycled stuff are my weakness and I'm an "easy mark" at arts festivals. I've posted about some of my findings before.

So once again last week, I just had to look closer at the Strung Up Jewelry booth during Jensen Beach Arts Festival in Florida. The "Jewelry from Recycled Guitar Strings" sign caught my eye.

Then Glen and Rose, the friendly cofounders of Concerts of Hope, had my complete attention as they told their story of fighting the stigma of mental illness and hoping to go to the 2012 NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Convention. 

They encourage the buyers of their unique jewelry to tell their story. To "wear it and share it" to raise awareness of mental illness. I am now the proud owner of one of their hand-crafted pieces and telling their story. They are inspirational artists, musicians and advocates. I wish them well on their journey.

January 2, 2012

Silver or gold teeth????

How about green teeth?

When a dentist extracts a crown, inlay or bridge, most patients never ask, "What do you do with these?" So the dentist reaps the bounty--if there is any. I never knew teeth could be "recycled."

My dentist knows I'm green (NOT with green teeth) and told me he'd give my old crown back to me with a mailing envelope to a company that pays folks for any silver, gold, platinum or palladium that's present after they separate out any precious metals.

Whoopee, I thought, as I mailed back the crown with a small bit of shiny material inside it to Garfield Refining. Three days later, I got a check for the palladium that was present. Unfortunately there couldn't have been much. The check was for $8.90.

But as the saying goes, that's better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. I think I'll treat myself to a cup of coffee with my earnings.

Uranium in Virginia?

The big announcement from Iran about their first nuclear fuel rod should make everyone wonder about the process of getting uranium in the first place. It's a natural element (see December posting) but rather frightening if it gets into the wrong hands.

The Keep the Ban Coalition folks are fighting to keep the 1982 moratorium on mining Virginia's uranium in effect. Their fear is that allowing one permit in Virginia will open the door to more mines, with the accompanying threat to land and water from their waste products. One of the other areas which MIGHT have uranium deposits is the Rapahannock watershed--where I frequently sail.

The Coalition launched a statewide petition drive, beginning with 41 groups and localties and 1,000 signatures of citizens who are urging the General Assembly to keep the ban on uranium mining in Virginia. The upcoming 2012 session of Virginia's General Assembly will look at this issue--carefully and impartially I hope.

On the other hand, Virginia Uranium Inc. is hot to trot into the Coles Hill 300-acre section of southern Virginia, south of Roanoke and Lynchburg, near the North Carolina border. On November 27, 2007, the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy (DMME) issued  a permit to Virginia Uranium to allow the commencement of exploratory drilling on Coles Hill. 

This Pittsylvania County area may have 119 million pounds of the radioactive element, perhaps the 7th largest uranium deposit in the world. That could be enough to power U.S. nuclear power plants for more than 20 years. But you might want to know that 14 Virginia legislators accepted an all-expense paid trip to France from Virginia Uranium on a “fact-finding mission” last summer (one later declined). Yet, French uranium mining operation stopped in 2001. Hmmm.

You can follow nuclear energy news at the Nuclear Energy Institute website.