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Archive for May, 2012

SpiroFlo looks at elementary kids in California who want Crayola to take back and recycle their used markers. 

Although it seems like many have gotten the memo to not use kids to heavily push their agenda, the hardcore green crowd still seems set on convincing families from the youngest on up. So when I came across this story about a “Green Team” of students from Sun Valley elementary school in San Rafael, California, petitioning Crayola to take back and recycle used markers, it was impossible not to hear the grown up agenda put into the kids’ mouths.

According to the online petition, the kids are “asking Crayola to make sure these markers don’t end up in our landfills, incinerators and oceans.”

Now you tell me, when was the last time you heard an elementary kid casually throw around the term “incinerators”? What I can believe is many of the kids saying that they like markers, but they don’t like the idea of hurting Earth.

Although the kids are (as of this date) close to nailing their goal of 75,000 signatures, according to MSNBC, Crayola has already stated that it is unlikely to change:

Crayola acknowledged the good intentions but said that, for now at least, there’s no practical way to take back and recycle entire markers.

“We value and encourage children to share their ideas and appreciate the suggestion that the students of Sun Valley brought to our attention,” Crayola spokeswoman Stacy Gabrielle told msnbc.com. “At this time, we do not have the facilities or a process that will enable us to offer a take back program.”

In describing Crayola’s environmental initiatives, Gabrielle did note that the caps on each marker can be recycled at centers that take polypropylene, one of the least recyclable plastics.

Inevitably, there is actually a legitimate issue buried beneath the kid manipulation tactics: Crayola makes 500 million markers each year — enough to circle (and perhaps doodle) the earth three times over. That’s an awful lot of waste from a product that is only partially recyclable as is.

I still don’t see this elementary school Green Team boycotting Crayola any time soon. Maybe by the time they get to middle school, Xcel Energy will have stopped exaggerating their savings numbers in their LivingWise kit, too, but I’m not holding my breath.

As for the Crayola issue, here’s the students video (I’ll admit my jealousy over the one girl’s birthday hat):

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Colin McKay Miller is the Marketing Manager for the SpiroFlo Holdings group of companies:

SpiroFlo for residential hot water savings (delivered 35% faster with up to a 5% volume savings on every hot water outlet in the home) and industrial water purification (biofilm removal).

Vortex Tools for extending the life of oil and gas wells (recovering up to 10 times more NGLs, reducing flowback startup times, replacing VRUs, eliminating paraffin and freezing in winter, etc.).

Ecotech for cost-effective non-thermal drying (for biosolids, sugar beets, etc.) and safe movement of materials (including potash and soda ash).

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Vortex Tools looks at the implications of Vermont being the first state to ban the controversial hydraulic fracturing (fracking) process, even if they don’t have much fracking activity to ban in the first place.

By User:Denelson83 (Own work: from the xrmap flag collection 2.7) [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsOn May 16th, 2012, Vermont became the first state to ban fracking (the high-pressure injection of water, sand, and 0.5% chemicals to fracture/crack shale rock to release valuable oil and gas production).

While other states worked to better regulate the controversial practice (Wyoming was one of the first states to disclose fracking chemical contents and Colorado ruled to make public all fracking chemical contents, even those considered trade secrets), Vermont has banned fracking outright, citing potential injuries and the need for safety. The law also bans the importation/storage of associated wastewater.

Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin stated, “This bill will ensure that we do not inject chemicals into groundwater in a desperate pursuit for energy.” He continued, “The science on fracking is uncertain at best.”

Despite the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reporting that fracking might cause groundwater contamination (both before and after their official 2012 report came out), critics stated the report was flawed. Regardless of what vocal members of both sides of the debate say, evidence for the flaws of fracking is, thus far, inconclusive.

The debate on fracking is rarely neutral, and Governor Shumlin’s stance is pretty clear when he’s stated his hopes that other states will join Vermont in the ban. Meanwhile, the oil and gas industry continues to dispute the allegations of the scientific flaws of fracking (see here for more on the pro-fracking stance). In addition, the American Petroleum Institute (API) already wrote to Governor Shumlin, stating that Vermont’s bill may be subject to constitutional challenge.

Here’s the main problem: Vermont doesn’t have much shale rock to frack in the first place, so they’ve banned a practice that doesn’t really affect them. It’d be like a land-locked state passing a law that affects how people treat the ocean. Even if it’s right, it still winds up feeling more political than anything else.

As the face of fracking continues to change in 2012, there are actually applicable states that could be swayed by Vermont’s decision. Upstate New York  has a lot of shale rock, and while there’s already a moratorium on fracking there, environmentalists are pushing for an outright ban, In the end, while Vermont may be the first state to ban fracking, we’re still waiting to see which state will be the first meaningful one to enforce the ban.

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Colin McKay Miller is the Marketing Manager for the SpiroFlo Holdings group of companies:

SpiroFlo for residential hot water savings (delivered 35% faster with up to a 5% volume savings on every hot water outlet in the home) and industrial water purification (biofilm removal).

Vortex Tools for extending the life of oil and gas wells (recovering up to 10 times more NGLs, reducing flowback startup times, replacing VRUs, eliminating paraffin and freezing in winter, etc.).

Ecotech for cost-effective non-thermal drying (for biosolids, sugar beets, etc.) and safe movement of materials (including potash and soda ash).

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SpiroFlo reports on southeast England’s decision to send out 30,000 waterproof timers in an attempt to encourage shorter showers (to save water during their drought).

Although we’ve reported primarily on droughts in the U.S., it’s interesting to see how other parts of the world respond to water shortages.

After two dry winters, southeast England—the most populated area of Britain—was declared in drought (while the northwest and Scotland experienced more rainfall than normal). This drought, so far, has led to increased wildfires, low reservoirs, and increased fish deaths (correlating to higher food prices). With the 2012 Summer Olympics scheduled to take place in London, water companies are scrambling to find new ways to save water.

According to The Telegraph, a U.K. newspaper (with yes, U.K. spelling), the “average person in the UK uses a huge amount of water, using up 150 litres of water a day compared to just 127 litres per person in Germany.”

With this in mind, the two major water companies in the affected areas—Anglican Water and Southeast Water—sent out 30,000 free waterproof timers in the last year to make people aware of spending less time in the shower. Based on manufacturing and shipping costs, this move can’t have been cheap, but in this case, water is the rarer commodity.

This type of waste awareness tactic is not unique. Most people learned, at some point, to save water by taking showers instead of baths, completely loading the dishwasher, fixing leaky faucets, and turning off the tap while their brushing teeth. Expecting people to stick to a four-minute shower, however, might be a tougher sell. Much like regulations on watering lawns, these types of changes have a harder acceptance rate and some wind up enforced as water laws.

Another part of the problem is that many of the “standard” water-saving technologies have run their course. There are only so many low-flow shower heads and toilets to install; it’s time for new water- and energy-saving technologies.

Given that SpiroFlo is one of those water- and energy-saving technologies, I’ll close with a quick plug:

The Colorado Governor’s Energy Office awarded SpiroFlo a grant through the Innovative Funding for Energy Efficiency (IFEE) program. This grant enabled SpiroFlo to test its water-saving device in homes around the Denver Metro area. During the trial, participants recorded their wait time for hot water at the designated outlet for 5-7 days both before and after the installation of the SpiroFlo device.

The SpiroFlo device in a bypass layout

This IFEE study concluded that the patented SpiroFlo device allows for a faster shower for most homeowners (4 out of 5), all while conserving water, electricity and providing green benefits on day one. The average wait time for hot water in positive installs went down from 62.41 seconds to 40.77 seconds—a 34.82% reduction. In addition to the wait time benefits, there is also an average water volume savings of 3.5% at every hot water outlet in the house. With the combined benefits in wait time and volume savings, a four-person household can conserve an average of 3,869 gallons a year (as well as the energy savings from not having to heat/reheat water). Using these average numbers as the standard, if only 20% of Colorado housing units had a SpiroFlo device installed, this could translate into saving nearly 1.68 billion gallons annually. If every housing unit in the U.S. had a SpiroFlo device, the total amount of water conserved in a year would be over 500 billion gallons.

There are also anecdotal benefits from the SpiroFlo device. These include getting hotter water (confirmed in 40% of trial households), less energy being used to re-heat the water, higher water pressure and softer skin (this benefit was confirmed by a hydrologist). One SpiroFlo installed at the outlet of a hot water tank is a complete system for the whole house. There is no need for the costly modifications and ventilation requirements associated with tankless and recirculating devices. Savvy DIY homeowners are able to install the SpiroFlo device themselves and several plumbers expressed interest in absorbing the cost of the SpiroFlo device within their standard installation costs. The SpiroFlo device has no moving parts, meaning there’s nothing to wear out, nothing to maintain.

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For more on the southeast drought (including a drought and rain map), see The Telegraph’s article “Take an ‘egg timer’ into the shower say water companies as South East declared in drought”

Colin McKay Miller is the Marketing Manager for the SpiroFlo Holdings group of companies:

SpiroFlo for residential hot water savings (delivered 35% faster with up to a 5% volume savings on every hot water outlet in the home) and industrial water purification (biofilm removal).

Vortex Tools for extending the life of oil and gas wells (recovering up to 10 times more NGLs, reducing flowback startup times, replacing VRUs, eliminating paraffin and freezing in winter, etc.).

Ecotech for cost-effective non-thermal drying (for biosolids, sugar beets, etc.) and safe movement of materials (including potash and soda ash).

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Vortex Tools shares the general breakdown of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) fluid.

I hear this question a lot: What is fracking fluid made of?

EnergyFromShale.org answers here (PDF warning):

http://www.energyfromshale.org/sites/default/files/Typical-Shale-Fracturing-Mixture-Makeup.pdf

Although 99.5% of fracking fluid is water and sand, many fracking fluid companies did not want to divulge their trade secret formulas when the outcry over fracking got louder. While that remaining 0.5% is not broken down in percentages, there’s clearly an intent to tie these additives to everyday household items like guar gum in ice cream and isopropanol (rubbing alcohol) in deodorant. Just make sure you don’t get those the wrong way round — nobody likes arm pit ice cream.

Something tells me this info won’t sway the environmental crowd, because  regardless of the chemical makeup, the process itself has still come under a lot of fire. Environmentalists contend that fracking chemicals are responsible for groundwater contamination, and that given the way water naturally flows to the path of least resistance, the veins created by the force of fracking not only provide routes for contamination, but fundamentally damage the rock structure, causing even more problems (some argue earthquakes). Meanwhile, the oil and gas industry believes that the science behind fracking is sound, and when enacted properly, no groundwater contamination occurs, as the fracking veins don’t spread anywhere near water. They also contend that many of the pollutants blamed on fracking chemicals are actually naturally occurring.

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Related articles:

Fracking in 2012

Wherefore Art Thou, Neutral Fracking Definition?

Delving Into the Pro Fracking Stance

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Colin McKay Miller is the Marketing Manager for the SpiroFlo Holdings group of companies:

SpiroFlo for residential hot water savings (delivered 35% faster with up to a 5% volume savings on every hot water outlet in the home) and industrial water purification (biofilm removal).

Vortex Tools for extending the life of oil and gas wells (recovering up to 10 times more NGLs, reducing flowback startup times, replacing VRUs, eliminating paraffin and freezing in winter, etc.).

Ecotech for cost-effective non-thermal drying (for biosolids, sugar beets, etc.) and safe movement of materials (including potash and soda ash).

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SpiroFlo looks at Blood:Water Mission — a charity organization that provides clean water, sanitation, and clean blood (for those with HIV) to sub-Saharan Africa.

In 2005, the founders of Blood:Water Mission had a goal to get 1000 clean water wells into Africa. As they progressed in the work, they found that, in some cases, making wells wasn’t a possibility, so then the goal became to provide clean water and sanitation to 1000 communities. In 2010, they completed their goal and, of course, decided to keep going.

One of the smartest things Blood:Water Mission did was make their some of their giving options one-off (skipping the monthly giving routine):

  • $25 provides safe water for one person for life
  • $30 provides one month of comprehensive health care for someone living with HIV
  • $125 provides safe water for a family of five for life

(And for those with a skepticism of charity spending, their financial records are available here.)

More on Blood:Water Mission:

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Colin McKay Miller is the Marketing Manager for the SpiroFlo Holdings group of companies:

SpiroFlo for residential hot water savings (delivered 35% faster with up to a 5% volume savings on every hot water outlet in the home) and industrial water purification (biofilm removal).

Vortex Tools for extending the life of oil and gas wells (recovering up to 10 times more NGLs, reducing flowback startup times, replacing VRUs, eliminating paraffin and freezing in winter, etc.).

Ecotech for cost-effective non-thermal drying (for biosolids, sugar beets, etc.) and safe movement of materials (including potash and soda ash).

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SpiroFlo looks at claims that the Fisker Karma — a $102,000 electric luxury sedan — caught on fire in a Texas man’s garage.

Electric technologies aren’t doing so hot these days.

Actually, they’re really hot. Like exploding hot. Last month we reported that an e-cigarette exploded in a man’s mouth. Last week, there was a report that a Sugar Land, Texas man’s electric car caught on fire in his garage, catching the rest of the house on fire as well.

This wasn’t just any electric car. It was a $102,000 electric luxury sedan, the Fisker Karma.

Yeah, a car called Karma nearly burned down a guy’s house. I’m sure he’ll be hearing jokes from his disgruntled neighbors for years.

Although the chief fire investigator said that the Karma was the origin of the fire that then spread to the house, the exact cause is, as of yet, undetermined. Fisker Automotive states that, per their investigation, the electric car was not plugged in at the time of the fire and that the battery was still intact.

Although these types of electric technology fires are rare — even the aforementioned e(xploding)-cigarette was a one-off  — the Fisker Karma has already had its fair share of delays and troubles. When Consumer Reports test drove the Karma in March 2012, the car actually shut down during testing and could not be restarted.

There were less than 200 miles on the odometer.

“We buy about 80 cars a year and this is the first time in memory that we have had a car that is undriveable before it has finished our check-in process.” Consumer Reports went on to lament, “Our Fisker Karma cost us $107,850. It is super sleek, high-tech—and now it’s broken.” Their article was titled “Bad Karma.”

(Should’ve seen that one coming.)

Despite several celebrity buyers, Fisker struggled before this latest scandal, laying off 66-71 people when government funding ran dry — a far cry from promising to revitalize the former GM plant. Additionally, company Founder Henrik Fisker stepped down as CEO in February 2012 (before the flubbed test drive).

When the Department of Energy made an undisclosed $529 million loan to Fisker (of which they’d already drawn $169 million), activist watchdog group Judicial Watch said they plan on suing the government to get the details of the loan. President Tom Fitton said it looks like  the U.S. government  “shelled out over half-a-billion dollars to a failing and incompetent green-energy company.”

Despite Fisker raising $650 million in private capital, the Department of Energy stopped funding Fisker in May 2011. What happens to the remaining bulk of the money is still being pursued by Judicial Watch. In the mean time, this is one more blight on green technology. There is a need for electric cars, just not $100,000 electric cars.

For those of you still interested with a hundred-thousand or so dollars to spare, a high-end Fisker Karma model is also available for $116,000.

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Colin McKay Miller is the Marketing Manager for the SpiroFlo Holdings group of companies:

SpiroFlo for residential hot water savings (delivered 35% faster with up to a 5% volume savings on every hot water outlet in the home) and industrial water purification (biofilm removal).

Vortex Tools for extending the life of oil and gas wells (recovering up to 10 times more NGLs, reducing flowback startup times, replacing VRUs, eliminating paraffin and freezing in winter, etc.).

Ecotech for cost-effective non-thermal drying (for biosolids, sugar beets, etc.) and safe movement of materials (including potash and soda ash).

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SpiroFlo looks at a video on bottled water from the Story of Stuff Project (providing information “about the way we make, use and throw away Stuff”).

This video starts off obnoxiously heavy-handed, but it’s amusing and informative, especially on the notion of manufactured demand for bottled water. Try not to get distracted by Annie Leonard‘s nonstop hands:

 

Thoughts:

  1. Although I’ve mentioned how 80-90% of bottles from bottled water are thrown away (since they actually shouldn’t be reused), the point about the mountains of water bottles in India is quite damning.
  2. Can’t say I’ve ever been “seduced” by a mountain stream, but I get what she’s saying about bottled water ads pretending that bottled water has flowed down like liquid manna from God. (I once met a successful advertising executive who said the key to marketing is to make people feel dissatisfied.) The bogus statements from Nestle and PepsiCo don’t help. That said, I still don’t see people spitting out bottled water like the cartoon characters do.
  3. Investing in public infrastructure is an interesting thought, but many recognize how bloated their spending is, too.
  4. And then, of course, since environmentalists often can’t make a fair point with any form of subtlety, this gem comes out towards the end:  “Carrying bottled water is on its way to being as cool as smoking while pregnant.”

Ugh. Sometimes there’s a reason why it’s only the choir you’re preaching to.

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Colin McKay Miller is the Marketing Manager for the SpiroFlo Holdings group of companies:

SpiroFlo for residential hot water savings (delivered 35% faster with up to a 5% volume savings on every hot water outlet in the home) and industrial water purification (biofilm removal).

Vortex Tools for extending the life of oil and gas wells (recovering up to 10 times more NGLs, reducing flowback startup times, replacing VRUs, eliminating paraffin and freezing in winter, etc.).

Ecotech for cost-effective non-thermal drying (for biosolids, sugar beets, etc.) and safe movement of materials (including potash and soda ash).

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