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SpiroFlo discusses “An Inconvenient Sequel” and how resistance to Al Gore correlates to resistance to environmental efforts.

*I’ll apologize in advance for the agonizing over-use of “inconvenient” in this article (lay-up title included).

When “An Inconvenient Truth” came out in 2006, it had buzz. I heard about it in environmental circles (with the hope that it would get more people involved with green thinking) and it was well received by from critics and moviegoers alike. This time around, however, the overall impact seems, well, less:

  • While “An Inconvenient Truth” received a fresh 93% critics approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power” earned 77%. Still positive, but less so.
  • Likewise, “An Inconvenient Truth” received a fresh 78% audience approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, “An Inconvenient Sequel” earned a rotten 43%.
  • On Metacritic, the critic spread was 75 (out of 100) to 67, but the audience score spread (which, for some reason, switches to a 1 to 10 score) is 8.1 for the first movie, but a mere 5.8 for the second. More on that later.

Obviously, only being a couple of weeks into its theater-wide release means it’s too early to tell how well “An Inconvenient Sequel” will do long-term, but as of this writing, it’s nearing only $1.1 million at the box office. It is unlikely that it will surpass the $23.8 million the first one earned.

You can blame several factors. Maybe it’s that sequels are usually worse (shhh, “Aliens” and “The Empire Strikes Back,” we’re not talking about you). Maybe it’s that modern Hollywood seems insistent on releasing sequels long after people have lost interest. Or maybe it’s that “An Inconvenient Sequel” is on a limited release, but, given the success of the first, they should have led with more marketing and a wide release, and sequels (while typically being worse) usually make more money.

But more than anything, I blame the backlash on Al Gore.

Frankly, there’s no shortage of clueless celebrities to grill for the hypocrisy of calling for a greener approach to living while lavishly ignoring that advice for themselves:

This isn’t to say all green advocate celebrities are automatically fake. People consider Ed Begley Jr. a nut for all the environmental innovations (and life limitations) he’ll take on himself, but he walks the walk when it comes to green living. But Al Gore? Al Gore’s been easy to criticize for a long time. I believe his interest in environmental issues comes from a genuine place (starting in the mid-1970s) and he had a level of interest in promoting those values throughout his political career. However, many people believe that Gore’s interest in green issues only took off when he lost the 2000 Presidential election. That may be true, but I don’t fault anyone for pursuing a different existing passion once their current career doorway slams shut.

I also don’t think it’s completely fair to criticize Gore for making money off “An Inconvenient Truth.” Few knew that it’d be the popular, financial success it was. The pro-environmental landscape wasn’t nearly as set in 2006, and, if anything, “An Inconvenient Truth” helped cement it. The key thing is that the majority of Al Gore’s wealth came from, A) his membership on the Apple Board; and B) the sale of his Current TV network. While the former may seem like a prized position, it’s the latter move that hollowed out Gore’s environmentalist character.

While I commented on this at the start of 2013, here’s the basics:

(A)s of January 2nd, 2013, Current was sold to Al Jazeera for $500 million.

Yeah, the Al Jazeera that, up until 2011, was owned by the government of Qatar—a large oil player. Al Jazeera has also had its fair share of worldwide criticism and controversies, as well as having to deal with attacks and censorship.

Gore’s take of the Current sale was $100 million (before taxes), bringing his personal fortune up to $300 million.

Criticism of Gore, even from Current TV staff, was extensive, as it was seen as wrong to sell a network with a greener slant to a large oil player. However, others noted that Current TV was always subsidized, now it’d just be subsidized by the government of Qatar while paying off the guy at the top. Gore spent some of his earnings on, you guessed it, Apple stock, and was largely able to escape mainstream scathing in public interviews.

Fast-forward a decade and it seems “An Inconvenient Sequel” will flop at the box office. At least part of the problem is that “An Inconvenient Sequel” doesn’t do a great job of explaining the predictions that “An Inconvenient Truth” got wrong. (Catastrophically rising sea levels, the arctic melting, and polar bears going extinct were the most commonly cited examples.) While the rebuttal should simply be, “That was 2006; we’ve learned a lot since then and we can’t exactly go back and put in updated footnotes on a movie,” climate change proponents put themselves in a corner by asserting that the science is settled on global warming. Thus, any acknowledgement that past assertions were wrong shreds that hardline stance (but that’s a whole ‘nother blog).

This time around, people aren’t even watching “An Inconvenient Sequel” to criticize it (if the low user ratings to low box office numbers ratio is to be believed—a week ago, the Metacritic user rating was a dire 3.6 out of 10 [up to 5.8 since then]). Instead, it’s Al Gore that’s got the target on his back. The arguments aren’t even new: I’ve seen this story again—Al Gore’s home consumes 34 times more energy than the average American!—but the same story made the rounds in 2007 (it was only 21 times more energy then). While Snopes views the claim as a mixed bag, it notes, “the basic gist of the claim — that the Gores’ Nashville residence consumed a larger proportion of energy than the average American home — was true.” I first heard that story a decade back when “An Inconvenient Truth” was still popular. You know why I didn’t see it often from 2008 to 2016? Because “An Inconvenient Sequel” didn’t release until 2017. Now that Al Gore is back in the spotlight, his criticism is back there, too.

It’s simple: You devalue the spokesman and you devalue the message, and frankly, Al Gore is an easy enough target that he’s doing damage to environmentalism messaging by proxy. While it may be inconvenient to Al Gore, for green messaging to get stronger, the easy criticism targets need to be set aside.

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Colin McKay Miller is the VP of Marketing 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), industrial water purification (biofilm removal), and reduced water pumping costs.

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 coal, biosolids, sugar beets, dairy waste, etc.) and safe movement of materials (including potash and soda ash).

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SpiroFlo summarizes the (to date) two-year saga of Flint’s water crisis and the need for clean water technologies.

Flint Water

LeeAnne Walters displays tap water samples at a public meeting in January 2015. Ryan Garza/Detroit Free Press/ZUMA

If you’ve heard of one water story in 2016 it’s the drinking water crisis in Flint, Michigan. If you aren’t familiar, here are the highlights:

  • In April 2014, Flint changes its water source from Detroit Water (which is treated from Lake Huron and the Detroit River) to the Flint River in an effort to cut costs. Although residents complain about the water—its appearance, odor, and flavor—they are assured by city officials that the water is fine (a trend that will continue in the months following). These issues will later be tied to Flint River water being highly corrosive to the aging pipes, leaching unsafe levels of lead into the tap water supply.
  • By August 2014, coliform bacteria (which indicates disease-causing organisms in water) are detected in Flint tap water, prompting city officials to issue a boil advisory. A couple of months later, a General Motors plant ceases using Flint’s municipal water, saying it corrodes their car parts.
  • In January 2015, Detroit Water essentially acknowledges the problem when they offer to switch the city of Flint back without the $4 million reconnection fee. However, Flint’s state appointed emergency manager, Jerry Ambrose, declines the offer and, again, state officials downplay the problem.
  • In February 2015, a Flint resident, LeeAnne Walters, conducts a home water test prompted by her children experiencing hair loss, rashes, and stunted growth. Results show 104 parts per billion of lead in the drinking water and, despite there being no safe level for lead in water, the EPA requires action at lead levels of 15 parts per billion, as elevated of levels of lead in blood can lead to permanent brain damage.
  • In the months following, consultants and state officials insist Flint’s water meets state and federal standards. Meanwhile, the EPA keeps finding high lead levels in Flint water. In August 2015, the Department of Environmental Quality tells Flint to optimize corrosion control (while still denying conclusions drawn by water experts on the harm caused by Flint’s water).
  • In October 2015, Flint city officials begin acknowledging the depth of the problem, urging residents to stop drinking their water. They expand recommendations, distribution of filters, and testing of both the water and people’s blood. The same month, Dan Wyant, the Director of the Department of Environmental Quality, reports that his staff mistakenly used water testing steps for a city half the size of Flint, prompting independent review.
  • In December 2015, Flint declares a state of emergency. President Obama does the same in January 2016, providing the National Guard (to hand out bottled water, filters, and testing kits in the worst-hit neighborhoods) and up to $5+ million in aid. However, Flint officials will later state that the cost of fixing this could be up to $1.5 billion.

Since that time, it’s all been criticisms and finger-pointing. Outside of an apology and an urging for the state to spend $28 million on fixes, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has been quiet on what he knew, but protesters have marched outside his home and called for his resignation and arrest. Some believe Flint’s failures are exacerbated by an ongoing disinterest in this largely poor, majority-black city (and poor areas as a whole). There are class action lawsuits and potential manslaughter charges. There are celebrity concerns, with Beyoncé, Cher, the Detroit Lions, the Game, Mark Wahlberg, Pearl Jam, P. Diddy and others sending donations and water bottles to Flint.

And yes, even the ultimate gauge of social awareness, our Twitter feed (@useh2o), has been largely focused on the Flint water crisis these last chunk of months.

However, others note that this water crisis goes far deeper: Environmental activist, Erin Brockovich believes Flint’s water issue could be a national problem. Documentary filmmaker Michael Moore put up a letter on his website, noting that people cannot help undo the damage caused to these children, their parents, and life in Flint as a result. Instead of sending bottled water—which will take 20.4 million 16 oz. bottles per day for the next two years (that’s 14,892,000,000 bottles of water for those of you counting along at home)—he recommends revolt.

What I will say is that this tragedy may finally—finally—get Americans to care about water issues. Although current concerns are rightfully on the health of Flint’s residents, the environmental impact will go far beyond potentially 14.9 trillion plastic water bottles. Since 2006. SpiroFlo has worked to reduce the amount of water used and to improve the quality of what’s left in various industries. Water is one of earth’s finest resources and a cornerstone for our survival. Once tainted, we see the ramifications, and once it’s gone it’s gone. Yet even in clean tech circles, there has been little interest in saving and purifying water. While seemingly everything else—wind, solar, nanotechnology, and for some reason, even healthcare software—has had its turn as the environmental buzzword, the importance of clean, available water now has an unfortunate unavoidable example right here in the USA.

Here’s to this awareness prompting change for the good of the world’s water supply and our health.

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Colin McKay Miller is the VP of Marketing 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), industrial water purification (biofilm removal), and reduced water pumping costs.

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 coal, biosolids, sugar beets, dairy waste, etc.) and safe movement of materials (including potash and soda ash).

 

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By United States Senate [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsVortex Tools explains why the latest trends in environmentalism have little sway.

I realize my interest in environmental regulations news has waned.

I know, it’s not something most people would pick to be interested in to start with, but given I work in the water and oil & gas industries, this type of thing has at least somewhat of a foothold in my worldview.

So take President Obama’s recent environmental speech. I thought about blogging live reactions and ramifications. I thought about spoofing a mock drinking game based on overused environmental buzzwords (but then figured I might get someone killed from alcohol poisoning). I thought about doing a lot of things to respond in the moment, but I didn’t, and here’s why:

  1. Political parties often determine environmental policy: Like it or not, there’s a reason why people largely vote along party lines, not for individuals. Majority determines policy, and based on who’s controlling what, I know what I’m getting without having to hear the latest promises.
  2. If you want to know what a politician will do, check their voting/implementation/funding record: This ties back to #1, but you can monitor the individual over time. It’s hard to find a list without some form of spin on it, or with enough context to make sense as is, but you can get a good feel for what a politician favors and opposes.
  3. Passing environmental law =/= a change in reality: Again, look at the history. Heavily subsidized companies fail (sometimes without a workable product—the kind of thing you figured would be researched before handing them millions of dollars); laws get passed on green alternatives that no one can meet even if they wanted to do so; then agendas/political party power changes and so do the laws.

In short: Whether by statement or legal implementation, the latest environmental intent doesn’t mean anything.

So all these views about what this politician meant by x, what this latest movie/study on climate change/fracking/whatever-hot-button-issue-it-is-this-week, and any other environmental niche you can debate all day—take electrical power from potatoes; I’m begging you: please take on the electrical power from potatoes mantra—it’s all for naught.

It also doesn’t help that all this analysis, theory mongering, and strategizing get trumped by that thing called ongoing reality.

I suppose that’s a sad thing to say for a fella like me who likes to follow and comment on this bent, but it’s not like I wasn’t a cynic before…

Do I believe that enough little changes over a long enough timeline can change the big picture? Certainly, but I think that the change count and timeline is far higher and longer than even the most hopeful want to admit. But hey, I’m just one voice among many. This is the information age, which means everyone has the right be misinformed.

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Colin McKay Miller is the VP of Marketing 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 recent data that notes, despite a 0.75-degree temperature increase since 1880, global temperatures have plateaued or been in decline for most of the last 70+ years.  

A little while back, I mentioned how even green circles are moving away from the term ‘global warming.’ This didn’t surprise me, as the term is as flimsy and definable as ‘green’ – meaning you can seemingly make it mean whatever you want. Numbers, however, they’re a little trickier to finagle:

According to August 2012 data jointly issued by the Met Office’s Hadley Centre and Professor Phil Jones’s Climatic Research Unit, global warming stopped in 1997.

(Well, guess that partly explains why my wrestler tan never quite came in.)

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Global_warming_graphic.png

That giant thermometer would make things easier…

While there’s a detailed article from the U.K.’s Daily Mail* on the matter, here’s what the data says and doesn’t say:

  • From the start of 1997 to mid-2012, there was no discernible increase in aggregate global temperatures (a period of 15 years thus far).
  • However, global temperatures did rise from 1980 to 1996 (a period of 16 years).
  • Prior to 1980, global temperatures were stable or declining for 40 years.
  • Climate scientists are now in a debate about the value of the data. Professor Jones notes that he and his colleagues did not understand “the impact of ‘natural variability’ – factors such as long-term ocean temperature cycles and changes in the output of the sun.”
  • That said, he also stated that the 15-year pause period is too short to draw conclusions and he remains convinced that decade-long data will show an overall rise in global temperatures from 2010-2020 (there was already a fair amount of press on 2010 being a warmer year, even if the overall trend is negligible).
  • Professor Judith Curry disagrees, stating that, based on this data, using current computer models to predict future warming is “deeply flawed.”
  • “Since 1880, when worldwide industrialisation began to gather pace and reliable statistics were first collected on a global scale, the world has warmed by 0.75 degrees Celsius.”
  • The data does not deny the impact of CO2 emissions on the environment or that a period of global warming might resume. However, it does suggest that the situation is not as dire as many have claimed.
  • Regardless, costly initiatives are still in place to reduce CO2 emissions.
  • Part of the reason gas bills are still increasing is due to “ ‘green’ subsidies being provided to the renewable energy industry, chiefly wind.”

While the article notes that press on the study was quiet, it doesn’t note why. Professor Jones and colleagues are the ones tracking the data, updating computer models to predict the warming, and then angling for the implementation of law and policies to prevent the mass warming reality. So, for the data (and therefore the basis of the computer programs) to be different than expected, suddenly the impact of this green movement is on the line.

For as aggressive as the green movement has been to establish credibility, that same aggressiveness works against them when the numbers (not the opinions) aren’t so clear-cut.

Other points to consider:

  • Professor Jones dismissed the value of the continuing 15-year plateau as being too small, yet still believes that a warming prediction of the ten-year period of 2010-2020 will be significant. No time like the present or unproven future, I guess.
  • The 16-year period of warming from 1980 to 1996 is the basis for much of the dire predictions, yet Jones does not dismiss it as being too small or insignificant in the big picture. Jones also had no comment (quoted at least) on the value of stable/declining temperatures from 1940-1980.
  • If you think about the time periods mentioned above and the blame placed on people for having too many CO2 emissions from fossil fuel use, some of the increases and decreases should be swapped. Additionally, if there is global warming from 2010-2020, a period where we’re seeking to limit CO2 use more than the periods before, doesn’t that data again work against Professor Jones’ theories on the source of global warming? Then again, doom saying has to be current if nothing else.
  • While climate scientists are realizing there are more factors to consider, this acknowledged variability on analyzing data still hasn’t shifted the majority of climate scientists to acceptance of other theories, namely those who reject the notion of people having major impact on the environment (with the belief that cooling and warming go in cycles).

CO2 emissions do have some impact. I think that’s the reality of being alive: You affect and effect things, environment included, but there’s more impacting the earth than just us. While we can play a part, thus far, regardless of what strong-arm talking heads say, the repercussions of that part are still debatable.

EDIT: Rebuttals to the article have popped up. See here.

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*Thanks to super fan Julia for sending the article along.

Colin McKay Miller is the VP of Marketing 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).

Read Full Post »

Vortex Tools shares five insights on the shifting views of green business in the U.S.

Each year, the Cleantech Open holds a national conference. In order to attend this conference, your company needs to be a semi-finalist in their competition to accelerate emerging green technologies. As Vortex Tools qualified in the energy efficiency category in the Rocky Mountain region (for transforming harmful CO2 waste from oil and gas wells to recovered high-value energy), some of our team attended the event.

Although I’ll comment more on the Cleantech Open in later blogs, as this national conference brings together leading minds in green industries—both the proven standards for today and hopefully the better standards of tomorrow—there’s a lot of insight as to what’s shifting in the world of green.

While these may be obvious to many in the green energy market, for the Average Joe, here are the top five green insights from the Cleantech Open:

1. Global Warming is Dead; Long Live Climate Change

There are certain words the green industry doesn’t say anymore. Clearly, Solyndra is out—I suppose these things happen when a California solar company gets $527 million from the Obama administration to go out of business with an inferior product—but global warming was officially announced as debunked, dead and a term to ditch (yes, at a green conference).

In the mean time, climate change is still alive and well. Like the vague buzzword green, climate change is broad enough to mean different things to different people, giving it wiggle room to be easily updated.

2. Wind Power is Down; Solar Power is Up

Despite the variety of companies at the Cleantech Open, I expected to see a number of  innovators from solar and wind power. While there were nearly a dozen solar companies, only a couple of wind power companies qualified from around the country. Five years ago, the split would’ve been 50/50, maybe even slightly in the favor of wind power, but now the solar power market is heavily saturated.

According to a solar energy expert, these companies are playing a game of last man standing, because many believe solar will be huge… sometime. However, most solar companies know that the market can only handle a fraction of them, so barring acquisition from a larger company on the way through, most will falter before the boom. In many ways, it’s the behemoth companies with infrastructure—the BPs, the GEs: the very companies these smaller startups want to replace—who’ll do the best when (and if) solar does go big.

3. Trending Companies Include Nanotechnologies and Green Roofs

As for newer representation and buzzwords, nanotechnologies and green roofs are taking off in the American green world.

Nanotechnologies is a broad market, as all nano really means is that it’s small, so there are benefits for coatings, electronics, bugs, material strength, etc. You name an industry, nanotechnologies are improving it, but the added cost is often prohibitive to success.

By Nickenge (Taken by Nick.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Green roofs are popular in Europe—1 out of every 5 houses in Germany has a green roof—but with the benefits of shading and improved insulation (especially in lowered AC costs), the trend is rising in the States now, too. The problem is that many older buildings, both commercial and residential, can’t handle the weight of 4-6” of soil, especially if it’s loaded with water. With this in mind, newer, lighter green roofs (likely with lesser benefits) are increasing in demand.

Hotter, arid climates like California, Arizona and Texas are slated to benefit the most from green roofs.

4. Natural Gas is Still the Bad Guy

This isn’t a new insight so much as a maintained trend. A couple of the main speakers expressed their (disgruntled) opinion that low natural gas prices are standing in the way of emerging green technologies. While I understand this viewpoint—as natural gas is a proven and plentiful energy source that’s been depressed for far too long—it seems as though many in the green crowd miss this point: Overall, the oil and gas industry is as unhappy about the price of natural gas as they are. The oil and gas industry wants the value of their proven resource to not be so low that it’s competing with emerging green alternative energies.

Finally, the other maintained trend:

5. Europe and Japan are Still Held Up As the Standard; China is Still Catching Up to the U.S.    

This one is no surprise, as Europe has a greater need for more efficient means, thus the reality reflects the necessity. Meanwhile, China’s current waste is still nearing where the U.S. was in the 1970s.

One ongoing trend I dislike is that many European and Japanese trends are held up as the standard  for America without qualification. For example, one of the panel members cited Japan’s recent minor emphasis on solar energy as indicative that clean tech has finally arrived in the world, so I asked how less than $10 billion in projected (not actual) solar energy could offset the $1.5 trillion juggernaut of Japanese nuclear power. While this panelist stated that he never argued that solar would replace nuclear energy, if your technology isn’t replacing an incumbent solution—likely in a cheaper, greener, more effective way—it doesn’t have a place, period.

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In upcoming blogs, I’ll share my experience with Cleantech Open competition. If you have any questions or comments, please email me at blog (at) spiroflo (dot) com

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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Ecotech Systems looks at the Denver Zoo’s new waste-powered rickshaw.

While I’ve said before that you can fuel a car with just about anything (regardless of how inefficient and unsustainable it is), the Denver Zoo is now running a motorized rickshaw on zoo waste. This zoo waste includes patron trash and yes, the monstrous amounts of animal feces they’ve got lying around. Now, instead of getting slung as ammunition from monkeys you dared showed your teeth to, this 20-year-old, three-wheeled ride was reconfigured with a $50,000 complex propulsion system to go a blazing 10 mph. It may not be American made (the rickshaw was imported from Thailand), but it’s American fueled.

tuk-tuk: the version that costs $50,000 less

Not impressed? What if I told you that despite its low speed, the tuk-tuk (a slang name for the rickshaw based on the noise it makes) went on a zoo tour, even to zoos out of state? No? What if I told you the patented propulsion system converts the waste into syngas — a fuel made mostly of carbon monoxide and hydrogen — which then generates electricity to fuel a battery to power the tuk-tuk? Nah, didn’t think so.

The thing is, even the Denver Zoo is aware that this crappy novelty doesn’t shine so bright as is. This poo-powered mobile is a merely a gimmick to promote the end goal of the technology: fuel for the 10-acre Toyota Elephant Passage that opens June 1st, 2012. According to their press release:

Denver Zoo is seeking LEED® certification for Toyota Elephant Passage at the platinum level, the highest level, from the U.S. Green Building Council. The program recognizes sustainable and green building practices. This includes the use of biomass gasification technology, which will convert more than 90 percent of the zoo’s waste into usable energy to power the exhibit, eliminating 1.5 million pounds of trash currently going to landfills annually. Other methods include recycling most of the 1.1 million gallons of water running through the exhibit, utilizing natural daylight to provide natural, clean light and retaining heat at lower elevations through the use of radiant heating floor systems.

Well, they’re not the first ones to believe that elephant dung is good business. That said, I still don’t see human waste alternate energy projects catching on any time soon. For whatever reason, animal waste still has less of a yuck factor. We’ve been trained to pick up dog poop and clean out cat litter boxes, but no one wants to take care of what some drunk guy just left in a potted plant of a bank lobby.

Anyway, according to the Denver Post, this process could wind up saving as much as $150,000 per year on hauling costs. However, as usual, the italicized part of that last sentence leads me to believe that the savings will be much lower, although as landfills become less of an option (due to less space and higher costs) these numbers might not be that far off.

In the mean time, enjoy this teeny Denver Post video.

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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).

Read Full Post »

Ecotech Systems analyzes the terms that make up the environmental world—the cliché, the misunderstood, and the “don’t tell your mama” variety—and how they play in today’s society. Today’s buzzword didn’t mean much when Ecotech Systems first went in to business, yet it’s now left their name in a crowd all touting some term: ecotechnology.

“Back in 1990, no one knew what Ecotech meant. We got called Ekka-tech all the time.”

This is Alan Miller, President of Ecotechnology, Ltd. talking. He first joined Ecotech (short for ecological technologies) in 1990. “You know who the biggest, public green supporter was at the time? McDonald’s. They about changed the packaging industry overnight when they went with non-CFC cups and boxes.”

Granted, he admits, McDonald’s were forced into the change, as the grassroots McToxics campaign pressured them to move away from chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) styrofoam packaging to what they use today. Back when the ozone layer was a common buzzword, CFCs were criticized for ozone depletion, so  when a national powerhouse like McDonald’s made the switch, other fast food companies soon followed.

“We believed that green was going to be huge. For the longest time, it seemed that green small businesses had no chance, but we thought this was changing — that ecological and economical did not have to be opposed anymore. So we went with Ecotechnology.”

Little did Ecotechnology, Ltd. know that the ecotech term was about to become popular in the 5-10 years following. “Ecotech didn’t mean anything to most people back then; same as green.” These days, Ecotech is tied to institutions and a number of green technologies. The terms “ecotech” and “green” still have little meaning today, although this is more due to the fact that businesses can shape them to mean whatever they want.

An Ecotech System on site

“Systems” was later added to the name to set Ecotechnology, Ltd. apart from all the other Ecotechs. Swimming against the tide in Google searches, the Ecotech system specializes in the cost-effective, nonthermal drying of biosolids (and a myriad of granular materials) by adding a low-grade heat (150 degrees F). These Ecotech systems can also move  and sort materials — soda ash, potash, crumb rubber, copper fines, sugar beets, etc. — with minimal degradation and pipe wear. The applications for moving potash are the number one selling application for the Ecotech system.

Using the patented EcoVeyor, the Ecotech system conveys over long-distances and through significant (even vertical) changes in elevation, no moving parts for minimal maintenance, positive environmental effects through its closed-loop design, and boosted value from lower product attrition and lower line wear for longer pipe life.

Maybe in another twenty years, the ecotech term will be unpopular again. Ecotechnology, Ltd. hopes to still sell systems then.

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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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Ecotechnology, Ltd. (Ecotech Systems) analyzes the terms that make up the world—the cliché, the misunderstood, and the “don’t tell your mama” variety—and how they play in today’s society. Today’s word is the product of an image makeover, but when you find out the truth, you may wish you’d not eaten already.

What comes to mind when you think of biosolids?

If you’re like most people, the answer is nothing, and that blank slate is exactly what proponents of biosolids want you to have in mind, because the last name brought up all kinds of negative connotations. That term? Sewage sludge.

http://www.city-data.com/forum/members/bs13690-83559-albums-animated-gifs-pic43435-green-sick-face.htmlThat’s right, biosolids are human fecal matter mixed with everything else that goes from a household water line to the wastewater treatment plant. Granted, biosolids are treated to varying degrees (and therefore changed), but sometimes you can’t shake the yuck factor. Thus far, it seems biosolids can’t get away from their origin to become the great sustainable energy resource some think they should be.

As long as wastewater plants treat water, biosolids are an inevitable byproduct. After much of the water is separated, you’re still left with a semi-solid material (containing fats, oil and greases [FOG] — matter that is difficult to treat and the number one source of drain/pipe clogs). The main solutions for biosolids disposal are landfill (which is getting less prevalent and more expensive as they get full), heat treatment (which goes up to $250/dry ton for incineration), non-heat treatment (lime, aerobic and anaerobic digesters — $85/dry ton and up, though drying biosolids at a rate much slower than heat) and land application. Regardless of what you do with the biosolids, however, some level of drying (and therefore some level of energy expenditure) is required.

Amusingly enough, although green supporters love recycling, even they often oppose biosolids use. Thing is though, biosolids are readily available, and unless something radically evolves in the human gastrointestinal tract, they’re going to continue to be around (everyone poops indeed). Fear not; biosolids are not allowed for use with food growth applications (wouldn’t that be creepy?* might actually be — see the comments), but huge, multi-year papers have concluded that biosolids are sustainable and can improve soil and crops. That said, for every 20-year pro-biosolids study I find, there are just as many touting the harmful effects.

In 2006, a U.S. E. coli outbreak from spinach spread over 26 states, causing 206 illnesses and three deaths. Though the incident didn’t involve biosolids — the outbreak was attributed to irrigation water contaminated by (untreated) cattle feces — the damaging effects gave critics a close example of what could happen with improper use.

(I’m still waiting for the news story of the angry hippie defecating on a wastewater treatment plant’s lawn, pouring chemicals on the lot and screaming, “Here’s your biosolids!” before getting hauled off in cuffs. Thus far, my Google searches have come up empty… What I did hear of, however, is when my boss visited a local biosolids plant and was warned that if he fell off the narrow plank high above the large, aerobic digester and into the muck, no one would come get him out.

Death by biosolids — not the way you want to go.)

http://designyourclothesnotyourbabies.blogspot.com/2010/06/one-mans-waste-is-another-mans-treasure.html

These bare-hands-holding-biosolids pics are common, but not enough to overcome the yuck factor

Here are the main regulations involving biosolids: In 1993, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) introduced the Clean Water Act. Part 503 of this regulation authorized the continued use of biosolids on land while addressing the public’s concerns with the reuse of human waste. The greatest potential health risk is pathogens—a disease-producing agent linked to E. coli, hepatitis A, salmonella, Giardia and parasitic worms—carried in untreated sewage. That said, pathogens are also an issue with other organic fertilizers.

Part 503 defined different types of treated biosolids: Class A biosolids contain no detectable levels of pathogens and can be applied to land the same way as fertilizers. Class B biosolids are treated, but still have detectable levels of pathogens. (There are restrictions on their use and availability to the public.) The main reason for these different standards is the efficiency of the treatment process versus the amount of time available. As wastewater volumes increase, there is not enough time to treat to class A standards. Since the Clean Water Act, an even higher standard of biosolids has come about — class A EQ (exceptional quality) — requiring lower metal counts.

Despite what you think of biosolid use, with FOG still an issue that needs to be dealt with at any stage, drying biosolids is an essential part of the process, regardless of where they end up. As a result of that, Ecotechnology Ltd. (Ecotech Systems) launched its patented drying system into the biosolids market. With a low-grade heat (~150 F) and a patented air flow, Ecotech is able to non-thermally dry biosolids for less than $1/ton. Considering the above ranges of $85-$250/ton, this is the value savings the biosolids industry is looking for.

More on that another time. Enjoy your dinner.

*EDIT: Corrections, chatter and linked-up responses (oh my!) in the comments.

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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 a 3.5% 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 analyzes the terms that make up the world—the cliché, the misunderstood, and the “don’t tell your mama” variety—and how they play in today’s society. Although “Made in the U.S.A.” used to be a term you didn’t need defined, it isn’t as straightforward as it once was.

As a company, Vortex Tools strives to use American labor and American parts assembled in, you guessed it, America. I should be able to cover this statement in that little phrase known as “Made in the U.S.A.,” but it doesn’t mean what it used to. Put it this way: Even a good slab of American flags aren’t made in America anymore.

I took a trip to Mexico over the summer, crossing over the border at El Paso, Texas. (Fear not, this is not a post on illegal immigration — wherever you stand on the issue.) In chatting with people on both sides of the border, I asked what they did for work. A number of those in Juarez took a white bus — buses that are all over down there — to work in American factories just across the border. This way, the factories get cheap labor and still get to stamp “Made in the U.S.A.” on the box.

Now I don’t think this is what the average consumer assumes “Made in the U.S.A.” means, but considering Japanese automaker Toyota is more American than the classic American Ford brand these days, should these assumptions change?

American Made: One more gimmick?

I’ve seen the sign that reads, “Whenever possible, we use American products and labor” and while there are times that being patriotic isn’t feasible in every area of a business model, the skeptic in me has come to believe that the “possible” in the previous statement often means “preferable.” I’ve even heard of companies importing cheap foreign parts and putting them together stateside, so that “Made in the U.S.A.” is tweaked to mean “Assembled in the U.S.A.”

“American Made” doesn’t have to equate to a more expensive product either. I read an article discussing how generic brands are more likely American made than brand names — check the labels — but I can’t find the article to link it. (Typing the term “generic” into a search engine seems to pop up nothing but a slew of off-brand Viagra.)

Regardless of what other businesses are doing, the SpiroFlo Holdings group of companies keep “Made in the U.S.A.” as straightforward as possible. With the President, Alan Miller, believing that he’s Scottish by birth, yet American by choice — therefore having a responsibility to give back to the country that gave him opportunity — the philosophy goes from the top of the businesses on down. With the continued economic woes, we also try to give interim jobs to people who are hurting financially. For any limitations or additional costs we incur, this just seems like good business to us.

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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 a 3.5% 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.) 

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SpiroFlo analyzes the terms that make up the environmental world—the cliché, the misunderstood, and the “don’t tell your mama” variety—and how they play in today’s society. Today’s word was, up until recently, the dirty little secret of water. If you don’t know about biofilm, it’s time for a basic education about the little bacteria community that could (and unfortunately still can in places you don’t even want to think about). Fortunately, SpiroFlo has a solution.

Biofilm is a bacteria that grows wherever there is water. Like most bacteria, it has some good uses, but for the most part, biofilm is causing far more problems than it’s solving. You know that creepy film on your teeth when you wake up in the morning? That’s biofilm. The goopy, green stuff hanging from pipes — that’s biofilm. Most biofilm is too small to see without a microscope, but considering 80% of all chronic, recurring infections involve biofilm, what you can’t see can hurt you.

In the same way that we have those satellite cameras in space that can zoom down into your house to watch you eat Chef Boyardee in your underpants, there are micro cameras that can zoom down into various microbes. When these micro cameras have zoomed into biofilm, it looks like a slime city. Biofilm isn’t just easily treatable free-floating bacteria; it’s a community that sticks readily to any surface (heart valves, pipe, the inside of an opened water bottle, etc.). With a regenerative, sticky film, the biofilm is very tough to remove, and it protects the other bacteria inside. Biofilm also has polymer webs that allow it to concentrate nutrients and resist purification. A lot of this info comes from Andy Coghlan’s “Slime City” — which is some of the newest info we have about biofilm… and the article came out in 1996.

Welcome to Slime City

The biggest thing we’ve learned about biofilm over the last 15 years is that the problem is way worse than we thought. In addition to infecting hospitals and drinking water, biofilm shows up in the very (not-so-) sterile lines dentists use to rinse out your mouth. (My condolences if your six-month check-up is today.) Recently, however, it seems as though biofilms aren’t the closeted secret they were 10 years back, as the medical industry is finally starting to publicly acknowledge the severity of the problem. Even Listerine is getting in on the act, touting a commercial about how their mouthwash kills biofilm… well, at least for half a day.

Since I work with the water industry via SpiroFlo, I’ve mostly been focused on biofilm removal applications in residential drinking water and industrial water purification. The “solutions” for these applications were, up until recently, chlorine chemical treatments (which don’t work, so companies continually increase their concentration and frequency of use) and monochloramine treatments (which also don’t work, so companies continually increase their concentration and the frequency of use). At best, these treatments can slow the stretch of the sprawling problem, so it’s a little like trying to hogtie a millipede with dental floss. Thankfully the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has endorsed Sterilex as a chemical treatment that completely kills biofilm. Did I say a treatment? I meant to say it’s the only EPA-endorsed chemical treatment. So even though the government has a general rule about not endorsing any particular product, somehow there’s one lonely EPA-endorsed biofilm removal chemical. (My beef is with the faulty protocol, not the solution.*) Can you figure out what the problem with Sterilex is? You guessed it: As the one and only government-endorsed chemical solution to completely kill biofilm, Sterilex is incredibly expensive. It’s kind of hard to readily treat a widespread problem when the main solutions are ineffective or unaffordable.

So here’s where I get to toot my company’s horn: A large, multinational corporation recently completed an independent test regarding the SpiroFlo device’s ability to remove biofilm. This patented SpiroFlo device sets up a spiraling flow that travels around the boundary layer of a pipe — the area of the pipe that is often missed by even the best chemical treatments (and, of course, where biofilm loves to grow). With water alone (as in no chemical treatment), the SpiroFlo device took the biofilm from “too many to count” to less than 100 parts per million. (That’s one of those numbers that basically means: might as well be zero.) These biofilm still need to be neutralized or flushed out — otherwise those sticky suckers can reattach downstream — but since the bacteria is now free-floating, it is easily treated.  One of the other benefits of the SpiroFlo device is that it helps keep chemical treatments suspended for longer, meaning that a company can use less chemicals and get the same result, especially as SpiroFlo scrapes the biofilm loose. As a result of these findings, this large multinational corporation has purchased SpiroFlo device for use in conjunction with Sterilex. More info is available on this page.

Here’s to having hidden solutions exposed as well.

*EDIT: Turns out the government protocol isn’t faulty, rather just so exhaustive that only Sterilex has gone through it. See here.

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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 a 3.5% 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.) 

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