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Posts Tagged ‘Current Events’

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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Last week I noted that much of the oil & gas industry is waiting to see what President Trump will do. While consensus was that he would likely scale back regulations, the question was how fast and how consistent he’ll be. Today—essentially the second work day of the Trump administration—gave the initial answer, as President Trump signed executive actions to advance Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines. While this does not provide the permits required to build these pipelines, it essentially paves their way for approval.

Keystone Pipeline Route

Keystone Pipeline Route

If you aren’t familiar with the Keystone pipeline system, it allows for the transportation of oil & gas production between Alberta, Canada to several refineries and distribution centers in the U.S. (including Illinois, Oklahoma, and Texas). Despite protests over the XL phase of the Keystone system, many people don’t know is that the first three phases of this pipeline are already in place (phase one since 2010). The proposed XL phase of the system—which essentially duplicates the first three phases with shorter routes, while adding in oil & gas production from Montana/North Dakota—became a battleground over climate change and the value of fossil fuels in today’s world. Given the way politics works, it also became a dividing issue between democrats and republicans. Former President Obama rejected the Keystone XL phase in 2015 while President Trump, when campaigning in 2016, insisted he would approve it.

While many in the oil & gas industry view Keystone XL as key to growing U.S. prominence in the market while reducing dependency on foreign oil, the big complaint over the Keystone XL pipeline was in the environmental danger of routing over the Sandhills in Nebraska:

Boiling sands are areas where sandy soil is so thin that groundwater can bubble up through it to the surface. In Nebraska, they are found in the Sand Hills, an ecologically sensitive region of grass-covered dunes underlain by a giant freshwater aquifer, called the Ogallala, that sustains agricultural production down the centre of America.

In addition to the unforeseen environmental consequences, others argue that the route threatens the water supply of the nearby Standing Rock Sioux tribe.

The Dakota Access pipeline—an 1,172-mile-long, underground pipeline beginning in the rich Bakken oilfields of North Dakota and ending near Patoka, Illinois—has also seen protests and push-back. Although mostly completed, the current route does not have approval. Given today’s executive orders, both the Dakota Access pipeline and the Keystone XL pipeline are closer to approval than they’ve been in years.

President Trump insisted on that both projects are “subject to terms and conditions to be negotiated by us.” While it is uncertain what this means regarding environmental impact, President Trump has already given some insight about what this means for U.S. jobs, believing that U.S. pipeline should be constructed in the U.S., thereby “putting a lot of steel workers back to work.” He also believes Keystone XL will add 28,000 construction jobs. There is expected push-back from democrats and environmentalists, but without current political maneuverability, those roadblocks may be a thing of the past.

EDIT: Revised White House stance on U.S. steel: http://www.ogj.com/articles/2017/03/white-house-keystone-xl-will-not-use-us-produced-steel.html

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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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SpiroFlo and Vortex Tools comment on changes in Colorado—both in the recession of oil & gas and the rise of the marijuana industry.Marijuana

Despite being the VP Marketing for multiple companies, it’s rare I do a crossover blog where I represent more than one company at a time, as the marketing reality that most people only care about stories that impact their industry or scratch their interest (duh). However, since the business landscape in Colorado has shifted over the last year, we’ve seen changes that affect different industries, so here we go. Firstly:

Oil and Gas Has Scaled Back Out of Colorado

Overall, it’s been a brutal year for oil and gas. The top four global companies scaled back 10% of their work force… and that was just the beginning. The cuts have continued and spread to smaller companies. Companies have scaled back to their core assets, selling off the rest, and for most, those core assets aren’t in Colorado. Blame asset valuations, blame stricter regulations, but week after week, formerly prominent oil and gas companies are leaving Colorado,* or filing for bankruptcy, or, at the very least, not spending money on anything.

*Usually right about here I’d link up a few stories of this happening, but there are so, so many. Right now you can Google “Denver oil and gas company” every week and pop up a negative story, but hey, gasoline prices are low, so many don’t care.

Most analysts now believe oil and gas prices will not recover until 2017. Prices have dipped again in October and November this year due to refinery maintenance season (during times of cheap oil, they’re at high capacity, so any time one goes down for a period of time, it hurts an already stressed market). In addition, many wells are currently shut in, so when prices do inch up a bit, everyone’s going to rush to take advantage of that gain, flood the market with production glut, and, you got it,  tank the price again.

This means it should be a time of improving existing production—lowering operation costs, recovering more production/valuable liquids (condensates and natural gas liquids), and avoiding environmental fines (easiest way: by not polluting)—the kinds of applications Vortex Tools enable, but many of the employees who are left are just keeping their heads down and trying not to get laid off. This should also be a time of asset expansion for smart investors (the adage of “buy low, sell high” still applies), but for many oil and gas companies, they’re not doing much of anything save staving off going out of business.

At the same time:

Marijuana is Booming in Colorado

As one of the first states to legalize recreational marijuana, a whirlwind of industry has set up around this venture, but it’s still a complicated (and energy intensive) market. Energy companies call pot one of the most energy intensive ventures. In one Colorado service area, retail marijuana makes up for ~1% of retail electricity use. Increased electricity use was one of the ways (illegal) pot growers used to get caught—turns out when your electricity bills spike several times over what they used to be, people take notice, and the assumption is you aren’t just plugging in a slew of outlet air fresheners.

In addition to high electricity use, the marijuana industry uses a lot of water, and currently, what’s going down the drain untreated shouldn’t be (lots of nitrates, fertilizers, chemicals, etc.). Most everyone involved in the industry is surprised that the law hasn’t changed yet and that it’s a matter of time until it does. However, there’s a misconception that the marijuana industry has a lot of money, but most players do not. Once laws change to get more stringent, a lot of smaller operations that hopped into this growing industry will burn out. In addition, the marijuana industry has also been sold a lot of snake oil already, so there’s a lot of skepticism for even valid solutions.

That’s where SpiroFlo comes in. With no moving parts and no additional energy source required, there are two main applications we work in: 1) Reducing the amount of water used and improving the water quality/oxygen content of what’s left: Basically improved hydroponics—growing better plants faster with fewer resources. 2) Removing contaminants from water drainage: Most people expect the laws to change on this within the next 12 months, so spinning out contaminants from water used for marijuana will become important (and will be a determining factor in which companies go out of business). Given that we’ve done similar applications in other markets, we’ve got both credibility and low operating expenses covered.

As a company, SpiroFlo sat down and discussed the moral side of it, as marijuana is in a strange place: It’s legal in certain states, but not nationally, which causes issues with banking and credit. Then investors want to play games, too. They recognize there’s money to be made here, but they don’t want the negative association. Currently the general rule is: If you touch the plant, investors can’t fund you. However, if you help the people who do touch the plant, then they can fund you.

Yeah…

Anyway, we sat down as a company and had the moral conversation on marijuana and the conclusion we came to is this: When it comes to industries you can’t work with for moral reasons, where do you draw the line? What issues are more important than others? Even in Vortex Tools’ work in oil and gas, there are people who don’t like the industry enough to acknowledge the value in our tools reducing pollution, energy, and operational costs while increasing the efficiency and revenue generators from the oil and gas production. Regardless, some issues are gimmes to avoid (hint: you don’t have to discuss them as an organization, or if you do, you’ll be doing so in prison), marijuana isn’t. Not anymore. So we looked at our company goal as SpiroFlo, which is to reduce water use and improve the quality of the water left. Regardless of what different employees thought of the marijuana industry, we agreed that while it’s here, we should do what we can to improve water use.

Colorado Business is Going to Look Different

So overall, what this means is that oil and gas in Colorado will be replaced by the marijuana industry. However, that’s not the only business sector being replaced; it’s happening all over. There is little warehouse/retail space left to lease and what is left over is high above market value. Due to the population influx, residential rents are above what they should be, too. Yet all of this could bend as laws become more stringent or more states legalize marijuana. For now, this is a common sentiment from many Coloradoans:

stop-moving-to-colorado-bumper-sticker-car-1024x768

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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 reviews the recent pollution of the Animas River and why the Environmental Protection Agency is unable to respond quickly.

The big environmental story this week is the Gold King Mine wastewater spill in the Animas River. If you aren’t familiar with the story:

  • The Animas River—named by a Spanish explorer as the “River of Souls”—is part of the Colorado River System. At 126 miles long, the river begins in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado and flows into New Mexico.
  • Silverton, Colorado was a gold mine town (until the last mine closed in 1991). On August 5th, while working on the Gold King Mine near Silverton, an EPA-contracted company accidentally broke the dam holding back a tailing pond (a somewhat neutral term for a pond full of metals and waste from mining). Their intended task was to pump out and treat the contaminated mine water.
  • Over 3,000,000 gallons of this wastewater and tailings (the non-revenue materials/minerals from mining) flooded the Animas River. As of August 11th—six days after the initial breach—acidic water drainage from the metal mine continued to flow out at a rate of 500-700 gallons per minute. The pollution rates were updated (for the worse) and will likely continue to be so as the story progresses.
  • The wastewater spill affected waterways in Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and parts of the Navajo Nation (in those areas).

As a result of the spill, the Animus River, which usually looks like this…

AnimasNormal

…turned orange within 24 hours…

AnimasOrange

…and later turned green:

AnimasGreen

Although the EPA has taken responsibility for the environmental disaster, they have been criticized for waiting a day before telling anyone. Other criticisms include giving inaccurate information (it’s usually the EPA who releases the numbers on spills like this—they’re just usually not also responsible, thereby creating a conflict of interest).

At first, there was no testing of the river contents. Some say this came about due to the changing water conditions; others noted that problems such as lead poisoning can be hard to detect. What we do know is that lead poisoning is linked to slowing child development and increasing learning disabilities (there are good reasons why lead paint got banned from homes). Given what’s in a gold mine, heavy metals are a guarantee—the kind of minerals that the EPA rightfully regulates away from air, earth, and water.

The Denver Post reported that, when river water was tested 15 miles downstream from Durango, Colorado, iron levels were 326 times the domestic water limit allowed by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Iron levels were recorded at 100 times above the limit. CNN noted these iron levels as being 12,000 times higher than normal. CNN also noted the Animas River had “extremely high levels of arsenic, cadmium, beryllium and mercury. It also contained zinc, iron and copper.”

As a result of this, several people are deciding whether to sue the EPA. However, many believe this course of legal action won’t even be possible. Some have labeled the EPA the Environmental Pollution Agency and believe that if a private corporation had done that they’ve done, they’d have the CEO’s picture posted everywhere as a villain, and the EPA would be pushing for punitive justice. Now that the EPA is responsible, that pursuit of justice is a lot more leisurely.

Farmington, New Mexico has 90 days’ worth of drinking water before they have to pump in from elsewhere. However, some claim that, even within a week, water toxicity levels around the Durango area were back to pre-catastrophe levels. Brings to mind that old slogan “Dilution is the solution.” Regardless, many believe the impact of this polluted water won’t be fully seen for months, and that the EPA is moving too slow in the clean-up process.

So why does this clean up seem to be taking so long? There are two main reasons:

  • Bureaucracy: I know it’s a term that’s thrown around often, but when you’re dealing with a government agency that usually has to wait to go through public hearings and approval processes (all while some believe they wind up promoting their greased palm connections anyway), it makes it hard to respond to emergencies. You would think there would be an emergency protocol, and even if there is, that’s subject to abuse, too. Suddenly every project is an emergency…
  • Any private company that helps with the clean up becomes liable for its success. That’s right: While the EPA will likely not be held liable for the mess they made, if your company helps clean it up, you could be held responsible for the mess you didn’t make. While I understand there must be some standards for any company that’s signing up for a lot of important work, you can understand why plenty of viable technology companies would say no thanks. The EPA might as well put up a sign that reads “Now hiring scapegoats.”

The really scary thing is, thanks to several industries, there are hundreds of thousands of retaining ponds just like this (which the EPA were trying to fix), usually in pristine areas. The SpiroFlo series of companies has solutions for spinning these toxic minerals out of water, but we’re not looking to break into the scapegoat business. Sorry.

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As always, sources are in the comments.

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 discusses food waste and how media is made and received.

It’s the biggest political story of the week: No, not the Republican Presidential Debate, but that Jon Stewart left “The Daily Show.”

This means:

my-condolences-news-nowhere-jon-stewart-KlT

Maybe it’s that modern-day media consumption travels faster than the speed (and timing) of truth; maybe it’s that objectivity can’t compete ratings-wise with caricature news anchors giving their spin on today’s stories; maybe it’s that huge, complex issues are distilled down to skewed memes and soundbites, but if you can’t entertain people quickly with your coverage of a news story, you might as well not bother. The truth or important points? Eh, if they happen to be bundled right, sure, why not? They can tag along.

Want proof? This is currently the most shared clip from the GOP debate:

Now there’s a statement that’ll draw people to the voting booth to steer the U.S. political future onward…

Did that clip summarize the approach of the top Republican Presidential candidates? I mean, it reminded me that Donald Trump having diplomatic conversations is a risky endeavor, but that’s about it.

So why bring this up? I bring it up because food waste is becoming much muttered about topic. Not talked about—because talking is louder than muttering—and certainly not yelled about, but it’s an issue that’s garnering more discussion in environmentalist circles. Lately I discussed how a local farm uses expired food to reduce waste and enhance sustainability, but there’s nothing wrong with most of the food getting thrown away. Here are some basics:

  • 40% of all food grown in the U.S. never gets eaten. Part of this is due to strict aesthetic standards (because we all know our bellies feel worse digesting ugly food); part of this is due to it being cheaper for small businesses to throw it away (blame unreliable tax benefits), but that’s a lot of food, especially when you consider how many families—both globally and in the States—don’t have enough food. The term is now “food insecure families.”
  • Despite only purchasing the pertiest fruit and veggies, Americans throw away $165 billion in food every year. This has increased by 50% since 1974. You can look up the graphic showing football stadiums full of discarded food—because it’s always football stadiums (or, every four years, Olympic-sized swimming pools)—but it’s a lot of grub. Some of this has to do with arbitrary expiration dates. Outside of baby formula, there’s no government requirement to have them, and since these “best by” / “sell by” / “use by” / “just buy more by” dates are set by those who want to sell you more of their product, it’s not surprising that these dates pass by long before these food items go bad.
  • So we’ve got wasted food, wasted labor, increased methane emissions (from excess food in landfills), and the ugly reality of some throwing away mountains of excess food while others go hungry.

I’m not going to pretend I’ve never thrown away food—I’ve found things in the back of my fridge that should not be able to move like that—but these numbers are worthy of attention and improvement.

There’s just one problem: Facts are boring.

Okay, two problems: Facts are boring and if they don’t hurt enough people, things don’t change.

But then some people made a documentary called “Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story.” The facts you read above? Most of them came from it. But documentaries are boring. Sure, we’re willing to stare at screens all day, but just one documentary? One that goes longer than a standard TV segment? That’s asking a lot, but here’s the trailer:

But then “Last Week Tonight” with John Oliver covered food waste. Same facts, more humor, a lot more YouTube views. Honestly, I’m surprised that they held the attention of many for over 17 minutes, but there’s a lot of hook in being alumni from “The Daily Show.” I‘m not even opposed to comedy shows like this—if anything, it shows that comedians hold more gravitas than your average news anchor—but it’s clear that how we distribute and receive media on important topics has a limited and skewed path. Anyway, enjoy the Donald Trump zinger. The joke came out last month and is more relevant today:

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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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Kintigh_Generating_Station_-_Somerset,_New_YorkVortex Tools covers the Supreme Court’s ruling against the Environmental Protection Agency’s attempt to limit power plant emissions.

It’s been a spotlight year for the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS). One week, a political group can claim SCOTUS is finally leading on an issue that is overdue for reform; the next week, the same group can gripe that the same SCOTUS shouldn’t overstep their bounds and should respect the laws as is. Yay, politics?

So this is the SCOTUS ruling this week:

The basics:

  • In 2011, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) imposed new regulations on coal- and oil-fired power plant emissions. These rules—on curbing mercury and other hazardous air pollutants—were supposed to take place in April 2016 and included capturing 90% of mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants (before they get released into the air), reducing 88% of acid gas emissions from power plants, and reducing sulfur dioxide emissions by 41%.
  • However, 21 states and industry groups challenged the regulations in front of the Supreme Court, and on June 29th, 2015, they voted 5-4 against the EPA. The main reasoning was that the EPA did not reasonably consider the costs of these regulations, and the majority of SCOTUS believes that the economic cost—costing $9.6 billion to install/operate equipment to remove mercury pollutants—disproportionately exceeded the health and environmental benefits.
  • The dissent believed that the EPA had considered these costs at the later stages of the project. They estimated that while the costs were nearly $10 billion for energy companies to get into compliance, they argued benefits of $37 to $90 billion annually. However, the majority of SCOTUS did not agree, and the EPA now returns to lower courts to account for the costs of compliance.

The interpretation:

  • Saying that the EPA overreached and didn’t consider the plausibility of enforcing such a standard is a common complaint from the industries looking at regulation. However, there are previous examples where this has not helped, like with cellulosic ethanol standards in gasoline—where the standards were unattainable, but the EPA enforced fines anyway.
  • Energy companies rarely like regulation, and as much as they say that they’ll regulate themselves, it rarely happens unless they’re forced into it, so some regulation is needed. Once regulations are enforced, innovation happens. However, this is not always the case (again, looking at ethanol standards in gasoline: lignocellulosic ethanol was supposed to be the great equalizer, but it wound up being a fantasy fuel that remains unproven, and the regulations remain unattainable).
  • This was the first of President Obama’s energy regulations to make it up to the Supreme Court, and with the ruling, it sets a precedence for the rest. Now state courts can point to a ruling from above them and this may well stop other energy cases from reaching the Supreme Court again. Regardless, as the regulations were announced at the end of 2011, some power plant companies already made an attempt to comply with the regulations.

However it goes, political groups will still have plenty to complain about next week.

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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).

Read Full Post »

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