Showing posts with label energy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label energy. Show all posts

February 07, 2021

'Firewood Warms You Twice' — Another Cruel Lie

You cut the tree — now how many times will you lift it?

I heat with wood, mostly. There is a propane furnace to keep the house at 55° F, and my wife and I make judicious use of electric heaters, like in the bathroom when showering, but when we want to raise the overall temperature from "not-freezing" to "cozy," we burn wood. 

And there is lots of wood around: the natural self-coppicing of Gambel oak, elderly junipers, and thanks to the mountain pine beetle and its associated fungus, occasional dead ponderosa pine trees.

Tell people you heat with wood, and they will present you with their Great Wisdom(TM): Firewood warms you twice. My normal response is this mental picture (right), not for wood-cutting but for skull-slicing

Who gets the blame? Henry Thoreau drops this particular Great Wisdom (TM) in Walden (1854): "As my driver prophesied when I was plowing, [these stumps] warmed me twice—once while I was splitting them, and again when they were on the fire, so that no fuel could give out more heat."

So he admits he was just recycling some existing New Englander Great Wisdom (TM).

Yet there are earlier printed references going back as far as 1808. I will come to one in a minute.

But that's not half of it. Sometimes wood-cutting reminds of coal-mining, back when it was done with picks and shovels, only without working bent over in the half-darknesss for a ten-hour shift.

I cut a medium-sized dead pine yesterday, limbed and bucked it, and moved the rounds down to a little dirt road that runs up behind the house.

There was no way to bring my utility trailer near the tree, and if I had come as close as possible, I would still have been carrying all the rounds uphill to the trailer.

So I opted to roll them downhill, sort of a two-handed bowling. They roll a few yards, then fetch up against a pine truck or a cluster of oak brush. I pick them up and "bowl" them again. Eventually they go where they are supposed to — except for the occasional escapee that has to be tracked down.

By that point I have lifted the weight of the entire tree at least four times. That is when I start thinking about the old-time miner shoveling tons of coal.

Add it up what is left to do:

  1. Stack the rounds (that's a lift)
  2. Split them (that's more handling, another lift or two). It would be the same even with a power splitter.
  3. Load the splits into a trailer or for smaller runs, a wheelbarrow (it's a lift either way)
  4. Dump them at the house, then carry them up to the porch to the woodbox (a lift)
  5. Carry them as needed inside to the stove (a lift)

So now I have picked up that tree nine times. Warms you twice

One source for the proverb seems to be the mountainous French department of Jura. According to an 1819 text,

The peasant who sets out for that purpose [to collect fuel] of a winter's morning from his house in the valley, begins by ascending some neighboring mountain, and having there made up the pieces he has cut into the form of a rude sledge, and secured them together properly on the brink of the declivity, he takes his station on the load, so that he can touch the ground at pleasure with his feet, and committing himself to a narrow, winding, slippery path, and frequently of beaten snow, and generally bordered from place to place by precipices, he gets back to his family with almost aerial velocity. Others again, who live on the top of some naked hill, and who cannot find a declivity suitably gentle to admit of their using a sledge on the mountain where wood is to be obtained, are obliged to throw it down the precipice, at the bottom of which they afterwards collect and carry it home on their shoulders. The proverb of the country is, that wood warms a man twice.

A firewood sled. I think I tried that once with with an Army-surplus pulk. But "throwing it down the precipice"—been there, done that. Five stars, will do again.

June 27, 2014

Blog Stew Cooked on the Campfire

This link is supposed to get you a free campfire cookery ebook. It will definitely get you onto The Wilderness Society's email list, but you can unsubscribe if not interested.

¶ The American Bird Conservancy is challenging the federal plan to let wind turbines kill eagles without penalty.
"Eagles are among our nation's most iconic and cherished birds. They do not have to be sacrificed for the next 30 years for the sake of unconstrained wind energy," said Dr. Michael Hutchins, National Coordinator of ABC's Bird Smart Wind Energy Program. "Giving wind companies a 30-year pass to kill Bald and Golden Eagles without knowing how it might affect their populations is a reckless and irresponsible gamble that millions of Americans are unwilling to take."
¶ Why do we have cougars (mountain lions) with us still but not American lions and sabertooths? Because the cougars were less-picky eaters. More evidence from La Brea Tar Pits.

June 02, 2014

Blog Stew with Distributed Ticks

¶ It's hard to improve upon this summary: "A problem with northern New Mexico written all over it: Go organic, cause a nuclear waste accident."

¶ What tick bit you? If you find a tick on your body (or someone else's), are you interested in determining the species? If you were in Missouri, it probably was not a Western black-legged tick, for instance. But brown dog ticks are everywhere in the continental U.S. Check this map of tick geography. Your tax dollars at work.

¶ In a move toward civilization, dogs are now allowed in the patios of bars and restaurants in Denver if the establishment permits.
Any food service establishment with a patio of 400 square feet or larger qualifies. Dogs must enter from the street or sidewalk, and at least half the space must be reserved for customers who may prefer not to dine so up close and personal with others' dogs.

May 04, 2014

Blog Stew on Horseback

 ¶ Western dude ranchers are having to buy bigger horses for fatter guests.
"Little horses just aren't sturdy enough to hold up in a dude operation in the Rocky Mountains," Kipp Saile said, noting that about 15 of their 60 horses were Percheron mixes, the largest weighing 1,800 pounds.
¶ Colorado's oil and gas-drilling boom is polluting farm land (spills, drilling waste), and oil companies hope that microbes will clean up the hydrocarbons.
The number of spills reported by companies reached a 10-year peak of 578 last year (43 related to the September floods), contaminating an estimated 173,400 tons of topsoil, according to the COGCC data, which come from reports companies are required to file.

While energy companies responsible for spills recover much of the liquid hydrocarbons during cleanups, an analysis of the data shows that roughly 45 percent stays in soil.
¶ Never mind the propaganda about how corn-based ethanol is "patriotic." Even the business press, like Forbes, is moving to the position that ethanol is a loss overall. (Especially when you use High Plains Aquifer water to grow the corn.)

March 06, 2014

Blog Stew for Airport Survival

¶ News from the other America. A headline on the Reuters news site reads "Winter travel survival tips," and I am thinking, yeah, blanket in the car, something to eat and drink, warm coat . . . But the subhead continues, "Here’s what to do when your flight gets canceled." Get creative.

Some people suggest that you call the service desk and tell them you want to book an international, first-class flight, in order to jump to the head of the queue. And if the plane crashes, remember the Chilean rugby team.

¶ "After more than 30 years living in metropolitan Detroit, Kristen Schmitt moved to the Green Mountains in Vermont and now she's determined to make hunting part of her new life." So she started a blog, "City Roots to Hunting Boots." Just one post so far, on the sustainable/locavore food angle.

¶ A big solar plant is planned for Pueblo. Supposedly, the power produced "will be equal to the power used by 31,000 homes." No one ever comes back and checks those optimistic projections, however. At least it is next to an existing coal-fired plant, which means that transmission lines are already in place.

December 26, 2013

Killing Eagles for Green Energy

Eagles are still federally protected — except when they get in the way of "green energy."

I have been fuming for two weeks, ever since reading that the Obama Administration signed off on letting wind farms kill them (not to mention other birds and bats) for the next thirty years:
Hundreds of thousands of birds die each year flying into the deadly turbine blades atop the soaring towers that compose wind farms. The rule will give wind farms thirty year permits for the “non purposeful take of eagles-that is where the take is associated with but not the purpose of, the activity.’’ The take of eagles is also a euphemism for the slaughter of them. (Video at the link)
Why, it's a "struggle to balance," notes the New York Times:
[The Obama Administration] has increasingly found itself caught between two staunch allies: the wind energy industry and environmental organizations. . . . “A 30-year permit is like a blank check,” said David Yarnold, president and chief executive of the National Audubon Society, which was involved in months of negotiations on the rule. “It basically says you can go operate these wind turbines and kill as many eagles as happen to die.”
And you can tell whose votes Obama's people take for granted.

Here in Colorado, the Danish wind-turbine firm Vestas threatens layoffs unless they keep getting federal tax breaks, and noted conservationist Senator Mark Udall is all for it, trumpeting how he is all about the tax credits:  "The wind production tax credit supports Made-in-America energy and jobs across Colorado."

I do think the day will come when we have something better than wind-energy— fuel cells the size of air conditioners or something else that generates fairly clean power around the clock and does not fill up thousands of square miles of land with bird-swatters.

Then people will look at wind farms the same way that we look at passenger zeppelins—an interesting technology that failed to work as advertised.

October 28, 2013

Blog Stew: Now with Quicksand!

¶ Trapped by quicksand: A hunter tells Denver Post columnist Scott Willoughby how he nearly died along the South Platte River.

¶ The Bureau of Land Management offered some big solar-power sites for auction — and there were no bidders.

I wish that we could understand that the best place for solar power is at the point of use — on top of the office buildings, etc. Not tearing up the desert (or in this case the near-desert San Luis Valley) and then building more transmission lines, etc.

¶ Evidently if you are Chinese, you set the bar for "harmony with nature" pretty low. Other funny stuff about Americans at the link as well.

¶ Ammonia from feedlots, big dairy farms, and other ag operations is affecting Rocky Mountain National Park.  At least they are not totally pretending that there is no problem:
“So if we can just get more exact data about how and when that ammonia is moving into Rocky Mountain National Park ... and then develop a warning system ... that could really go a long way in fixing the problem,” said Bill Hammerich, CEO of the Colorado Livestock Association. “We know we’re not the only contributor to the issue, but we certainly want to do our part to help fix it.”

October 22, 2013

Blog Stew with "Thump Thump Thump"

¶ "Wind-turbine syndrome" — on its way to becoming a diagnosis.

¶ Colorado, where you can't bank your legal marijuana money, but you can defend it with firearms.

¶ "Dead zone" is putting it a little strongly, but yes, if you live in the mountains (or parts of the prairie) the ambulance is thirty minutes away. So is the fire engine and the deputy sheriff. Have a plan and hope for the best?

¶ Now this is truly a "sportive dackel." (Literary reference.)

September 25, 2013

Blog Stew in a Shale Bowl

 ¶ The big Colorado environmental news of the day: Shell abandons its Western Slope shale oil project. Back in 2010 I linked to an article about why oil shale was not the magic road to energy independence.

 ¶ After the recent flooding in the Big Thompson canyon, some residents refused to leave and created their own local govenment, complete with mayor, security chief, and road-and-bridge department.

Elsewhere, the flood may speed up the process of gentrification and trophy housing.

Wind farms kill eagles. And those are just the bird deaths that someone bothers to record. I really wonder if some day we won't look back on giant wind farms as the equivalent of the dirigibles (airships) of the early 20th century—cool-looking technology, but never really worked out.

The wind farms are not working out too well in Germany.
The government has vowed to break dependence on fossil fuels and source 50 per cent of all electricity from wind, solar, and other renewables by 2030, and 80 per cent by mid-century. But cost estimates have reached 1 trillion euros ($1.4 trillion) over the next 25 years. "It is a worthwhile goal, and the whole world is looking to see whether Germany can do it, so we can't fail. But there have been so many mistakes," [Christoph] Schmidt [chairman of Germany's Council of Economic Experts] said.

September 20, 2013

Drought Conditions Improve in Colorado, New Mexico

The strong monsoon season has helped ease the drought. I see that our area has dropped from "severe drought" to "abnormally dry." 

The creek near our house faltered in mid-summer but recovered before going completely dry. A rancher neighbor says that he has been able to irrigate for a few days, although I am sure that he would rather have had that water in June.

Denver Post photo
In northern Colorado, there is no drought at all! That happens when you get a year's worth of precipitation in a few days.

In fact, in some areas, soil moisture has been recharged the old-fashioned way.

Then there is the oil-spill problem.

February 06, 2013

Blog Stew — You Pack It Yourself

• The evolution of the external-frame backpack, starting with Ötzi. Some fascinating archaeological and historical examples.

• I was pleased when I got this "trophy" photo. But this one, on the other hand, is somewhere between "very interesting" and Paleolithic nightmare territory.

• Colorado wineries and farmers stall BLM energy leases in the North Fork Valley. The New West wins again.

January 25, 2013

Walking the Keystone Pipeline Route

This guy sets out to walk the length of the Keystone pipeline, starting in Alberta and going south, and makes a blog of it, Pipe Dreams.

It starts here, in September 2012.

July 13, 2012

Southern Colorado Mine Lays Off Miners as Coal Use Drops

One of the last working coal mines in southern Colorado is laying off miners because they have a large stock of unsold coal.

A hundred years ago, there were coal mines all up and down what is now the I-25 corridor, from north of Longmont south to Trinidad (and into New Mexico as well).

Most of the coal was used locally, for heating and industry. The former use mostly went away, while the later shrank, leaving power plants as the main customers.

Now the trend is away from coal — natural gas produces as much electricity as coal and is trending up. Burning gas produces fewer carbon emissions, although it's still fossil fuel, of course.

I don't think that anyone wants to go back to the smoky days when every household furnace was burning coal. But when I lived in a quiet older neighborhood of Cañon City, I used to walk out on a winter night and get a quick acrid whiff of coal smoke. Some of the neighbors never had upgraded.

That part of the town often seemed stopped in time, perhaps around 1950. Example: the Italian restaurant that still displayed a large photo of President Harry Truman on its dining room wall.

June 05, 2012

Mysterious Radiation in 775

It's already in Wikipedia: Something happened in or about 775 CE — a burst of radiation that affected Carbon-14 levels.
The only known events that can produce a 14C spike are floods of γ-rays from supernova explosions or proton storms from giant solar flares. But neither seems likely . . . because each should have been large enough to have had other effects that would have been observed at the time.

A massive supernova, for example, should have been bright enough to produce a 'new' star visible even in the daytime, as was the case for two known supernovae in ad 1006 and ad 1054. Such an explosion would have needed to be brighter than either of these . . .  because those events were not large enough to leave traces in the 14C record.
Read the rest.

May 27, 2012

May 16, 2012

Interior Dept. Ranks Wind Turbines over Eagles

The US Department of the Interior, the Honorable Ken Salazar presiding, is expanding permits for wind farms' permissible chopping up of eagles.

But look on the bright side. American Indians who have been complaining about how sluggish the feds are in filling their requests for eagle parts for ceremonial uses will now have more birds to choose from.

More here. Vague mentions of "mitigation" and "conservation."

Yet in California, tribal governments sue to stop wind farms. Life is complicated. Who are the "bad guys"?

April 30, 2012

Wind Farms Causing Local Warming

Ever drive past an orchard and see one or more big fans above the trees, particularly in low spots?

The fans can be turned on when temperatures drop to the freezing point. They break up a layer of colder air close to the ground that can harm budding flowers.

Something similar happens at wind farms.
Researchers used satellite data from 2003 to 2011 to examine surface temperatures across as wide swath of west Texas, which has built four of the world's largest wind farms. The data showed a direct correlation between night-time temperatures increases of 0.72 degrees C (1.3 degrees F) and the placement of the farms.
As in the orchards, the cool air next to the ground is mixed by the blades with warmer air above.

Will this "put a damper on efforts to expand wind energy as a green energy solution"?

At first, I thought no, because it is just a local phenomenon. But in the overheated (sorry) debates on energy policy, expect to see this finding dragged in.

March 22, 2012

Blog Stew with Poisoned Birdseed

Time to clear out the blog fridge ...

The Scotts Miracle-Gro company has confessed to selling birdseed—contaminated with an insecticide that is harmful to birds! (Way to grow your customer base!)
Scotts pled guilty this Tuesday to charges that the company illegally put insecticides in its “Morning Song” and “Country Pride” brands of bird seed. That’s right: The company knowingly coated products intended for birds to eat with substances toxic to birds and wildlife.
Morning Song birdseed mix probably has great shelf life, though.

A skeptical look at wind power from Europe.
Wind frequently does not blow when we need it. For example, as the BBC reported, the cold weather on Dec. 21, 2010, was typical of a prolonged cold front, with high-pressure areas and little wind. Whereas wind power, on average, supplies 5 percent of the UK’s electricity, its share fell to just 0.04 percent that day. With demand understandably peaking, other sources, such as coal and gas, had to fill the gap.
The author argues that published cost-per-kilowatt hour figures for renewable energy sources leave out the cost of conventional power plants that must take up the slack when the wind does not blow or the sun does not shine.

I did not know this—you can still be a Junior Forest Ranger. There is a website with activity booklets and info for parents, teachers, etc.

On one newspaper job, I used to take the weekly photo of an animal up for adoption at the local shelter. I learned a few tricks about making them look good in B&W photos, but I could have benefited from this site. It's all about taking good animal photos to help in the adoption process, and you can download a PDF of photography tips.

December 26, 2011

Cotter Uranium Mill to Give Up Operating License

I would call it a Christmas present for Cañon City. The Cotter uranium mill is giving up its operating license. (It employs only a small crew these days.)

Read between the lines of this news story, and they seem to be saying that now that the state of Colorado has put some teeth in its regulations, in order to keep operating, General Atomics (Cotter's current owner) would actually have to, y'know, clean it up.

This after thirty-plus years of leaks, of groundwater pollution, of "notice violations," of lawsuits, of corporate foot-dragging, etc. Some people have seen it all go by.

Places like Cotter Mill are, unfortunately, the part of "clean nuclear energy" that its proponents never talk about.

October 13, 2011

Cars Eat More Corn than do Animals

Corn production for ethanol has surpassed production for livestock feed and other food and non-food uses.

All along Interstate 90 in eastern North Dakota, the billboards tell you that burning ethanol is the patriotic thing to do. Maybe Tharaldson Ethanol, just down the road, paid for them.