PLanet Fret - From my Blog....

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PLanet Fret - From my Blog....

Postby MaxN » Wed May 05, 2010 12:39 am

Recently I have been wondering about the legacy that we are creating for our children.

The recent oil spill in the Gulf reminded me that the gasoline that I put in my car each week comes from ’somewhere’, it comes from a hole in the ground that taps into a huge oil ‘pool’. This is a finite resource and that concerns me. Mostly because we tend to not consider that it is finite, precious, limited.

My car manages to travel for about 24 miles on a single (US) gallon of gas. That gallon currently costs me $3.24, I know this because I filled my car up, but generally I take little notice of the costs, it is just built into my budget. That gasoline came from a hole in the ground somewhere.

It used a tiny, tiny percentage of the total amount of oil that is available to the world, but everyone else is filling their vehicles too, at some point that insignificant fill-up is going to have a real impact on the amount left.

The energy that was stored is gone, kind of, it is transferred into heat, electrical power, forward motion and, on part of my commute at least, sound waves in the shape of the B52’s.

Did I waste that energy ?

Did I use it in an efficient way ?


In terms of current accepted norms, the answer is that I did not waste it at all. My car is more economical than average and my commute is in line with the US ’standards’ if not slightly shorter. If anything I am fairly frugal. I rarely use air conditioning in my car, prefering to open the sunroof or the windows and my commuting style is certainly geared more to economy than aggression.

So why am I worrying ?

Thinking about it I made a connection back to ‘how things where’ during my childhood. Back then we were much more frugal, much more likely to fix something rather than discard and replace, more likely to use glass bottles rather than plastic.

We have become more and more a throwaway society, we discard things rather than recycle, rather than upgrade or ‘make do’ we buy new, rather than use washable items we buy disposables.

Mainly because it is conventient.

I drink my coffee from a paper cup, using and discarding 4-5 cups per day on average, rather than using a single ceramic mug. I have no idea how much it takes to manufacture a ceramic mug vs a paper cup, but assuming I use 20 paper cups each week, that is around 1000 over a year, a ceramic mug will probably last several years and I cannot imagine that the environmental impact of creating a piece of cheap pottery will not be countered after a couple of thousand paper cups.

I use a plastic spoon for my yogurt each day, but, it is the same spoon ! Most people discard them, I do wash it though….

I presume that somewhere we have a process that takes all of the discarded plastic utensils from the rest of the trash and somehow sorts them, wash them and deliver them, pre-sorted, to third world countries that cannot afford metal ones. It is a vain hope I suppose, but just imagining the massive waste that we are producing gives me more of a headache than trying to figure out how to sort ‘trash’ and recycle.

We buy milk in paper or plastic containers nowadays, it is very conventient to do so too, but as a child, milk was delivered in glass bottles with a foil cap, daily. It was fresh and the glass bottles were washed and re-used many, many times. We did the same with pop (soda), the Alpine truck delivered fizzy drinks in glass bottles that they washed and reused. How many landfills are slowly filling with our plastic bottle waste along with all of those disposable plates, spoons and paper cups ?

Recently a water bottler has been making a big thing over their new bottles that use less plastic. This seems odd to me, we buy bottled water by the case, yet it is freely (almost) available from the tap, add a filter and it is as good if not better than bottled. Why not use a personal glass/aluminum bottle and refill it ?

The combination is making me think more about how I behave towards the environment and more about the environment that our children will live in.

Add to that an ever increasing population and increased speed at which we use the precious natural resources and if we are not careful, we will ’suddenly’ have a major problem. I say ’suddenly’ because it will be a long time before we, as a society, recognize that this is an issue and to the majority it will seem that the onset of ‘the problem’ is sudden.

In reality we already have a problem. The problem is not that we have busted a hole in the ozone layer through our use of aerosol propellents, nor that Los Angles is still smog bound despite the legislation that cleans up vehicle emmisions, nor even that we have just layed waste to a rather large peice of the Gulf coast.

The problem is that we do not care.

We do not care enough to modify our behaviour without threat of penalty, even then we do not actually care as a soceity, we modify our behaviour to protect our wealth.

We do not care that we are using oil at an unsustainable rate, sure they may be enough to power our 14mpg 5000lb SUV’s for another fifty years, but what happens after that ?

What happens when we actually do run out of oil ?

Ethanol is a possibility, but we have to grow food crops to make that.

Remember that the population is growing rapidly too, so unless we find a solution to feeding everyone with less farmland than we currenly have, we are not going to have space to grown fuel.

Our population growth, along with our excessive consumption and massive ‘waste’ is going to cause our offsprings some considerable headaches in the future.

But I guess that this is OK, because it will not be our problem ?

More and more I have come to realise that a very large percentage of soceity really does not consider that ‘rules’ apply to them.

This must be the case or how do you explain the parking lot ?

Since when has a Mercedes E500, Chrysler 300 or a Chevy Tahoe been described as ‘compact’ ?

Each of these cars are parked in spaces marked ‘compact’ on a daily basis.

I guess that the over-riding laziness (the spaces are close to the stairs and the elevator) over-rides the ‘rules’ section of their brain and they simply park there because it is conventient for them ?

The rules do not apply to me because I am lazy.

I do not have to worry about the environment because I will be long dead by the time we run out of oil.

These people that take up 1.25 compact spaces each day do not care that the spaces are put here to promote compact car useage. As long as they can get in early enough to park their ‘living room on wheels’, that is fine.

The rules do not apply to them.

So, how do we solve this ?

The EPA have a tough problem, they are trying to promote ‘greener’ initiatives by hitting people where it hurts, their wallets, but this makes ‘green initiatives’ synonomous with ‘expensive initiatives’. A little like dental care – I hate going to the dentists as I know it will hurt because I am not good at looking after my teeth. Well just the same, people hate green initiatives because they know it will be expensive.

Seriously, why would I want to spend money if I see no personal gain ?

It is, after all, ‘all about me’.

I get nothing tangible from using a cup that I have to wash each day, it is much easier for me to use a paper cup. I am lazy, therefore I take the easy route. But 1000 cups a year find their way into a landfil.

I can drive with the AC switched on in comfort, but use an extra 2-3 gallons / week. That is 100-150 per year and it hits my wallet. But I prefer fresh air. So it is my prefence.

The problem is that people are lazy and inconsiderate, they do not care about the future, because they know, deep down, that they are not going to be a part of it.

If we run out of oil in 40 years time, then it will effect me, but only slightly, I will probably be in a nursing home boring my grandchildren with stories of the internal combustion engine.

But if we still have 60 years worth I will not be there to see the final well dry up, I will be long gone, as will most.

It is therefore not my problem.

I doubt therefore that we will see a great deal of movement on ecologiocal issues for a long time, while the perception remains that we have ‘unlimited’ or even ‘a lifetime supply of’ oil, I doubt that we will see anything other than resistance to change.

While the rules do not apply and while we remain self centered we will continue to park our SUVs in the compact spots, use the HOV lane when driving alone (and can see no cops) and we will continue to burn as much gas as possible while we feel we can get away with it.

I am increasingly of the belief that we are wrong to behave this way. We put our own short-term needs ahead of those of our future generations. Effectively saying ’screw you’ to our grandchildren by riding around in a 7000lb SUV and burning a gallon of gas every 8 miles. Commiting those future generations to a a lifestyle that is many orders more frugal, many orders ‘greener’.

I am not anti-car, nor even especially opposed to trucks and SUV’s, but more I am concerned that we are being so selfish that the impact of our decisions are simply terrible for the future generations.
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Re: PLanet Fret - From my Blog....

Postby Sean » Wed May 05, 2010 4:22 pm

MG, fuck you! :lol:
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Re: PLanet Fret - From my Blog....

Postby Sean » Wed May 05, 2010 5:39 pm

:lol:

I tried to come up with an instance where I've said something nicer, but between you deleting your posts at .us and my extreme laziness with the search function.... You may be right! :shock:
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Re: PLanet Fret - From my Blog....

Postby Jay » Wed May 05, 2010 6:49 pm

Hey! This is a high class joint.
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Re: PLanet Fret - From my Blog....

Postby meteorite » Wed May 05, 2010 10:56 pm

First, Max, nice to see that you have finally come to roost in the right place. Your socialist pinko wide-eyed radical commie ideas are much more harmonious with the postings on this board than other places you frequent. Welcome home!

On the question of oil, you are right to worry. There are those who think you should worry more. Do a Google on "peak oil" some time. There are those who believe oil production now is at the highest level it will ever be, and that it will begin to tail off within the next few years - just as all those newly wealthy Chinese and Indian consumers come on line.

As for your rightness, you know how much gasoline has historically cost in Britain and Europe anyway - and how much effect that has had on peoples choice of cars. They are much more conditioned by the lack of space to drive them in.

You're fairly affluent and likely to become more so. But my personal suspicion is that within twenty years you will no longer be able to afford to drive. Oil is needed for more important things than vehicle fuel, or at least cars. It is a major plastic feedstock and has hundreds of other industrial applications. It is an essential coolant and lubricant. It energy density makes it imperative at any price for aviation and jet fuel. Demand will soar, supply will sag, and you will get shafted. Be ready.

Tonight we will put out our recyclables for city collection. That's all the newspapers, glass bottles, plastic bottles, certain metals and other stuff. If we build up enough of a collection of hazardous waste (from tvs to batteries) the city will send their "toxics taxi" to collect them. All compostable materials, from vegetable waste to dog droppings and used diapers, go in a separate bin that is taken off for composting. (We have no livestock so put ours in our garden composter, whence when Ma Nature has worked her magic, it will return to our garden again.) Our yard wastes - lawn and hedge clippings and such - are also collected and composted by the city.

Sometime soon, since the number has built up, I will take my beer and wine bottles to the Beer Store, which has a contract with the provincial government to collect and recycle them. Most beers are in bottles on which the return rate is 96%. They take in and recycle empty cans too.

I grew up in an era when the saying "waste not, want not" changed to "use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without"; there was a war on, and we learned how and why it was important for us to collect and turn in all our bacon fat. I have always had far too much of a problem controlling my weight to drink pop, and took my coffee to work in a thermos when I realized what locally fresh-brewed was costing me. I won't say I never use a paper cup for anything, but I suspect you could count my annual consumption on the fingers of your hands. We buy our milk weekly in four litre (gallon) jugs, which are plastic, last the week, and are returnable. We choose our supplier because they offer this option as well as plastic bags. The only bottled water I buy is the distilled water necessary for my CPAP machine.

I use an electric kettle which I fill no more than needed, and which has an automatic shutoff. Every light in the house with a socket that will accept it has a fluorescent bulb in it. I think you'll get the message, need I go on?

I agree with your concerns, I commend them, and hope you will extend and expand them. You're among friends.
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Re: PLanet Fret - From my Blog....

Postby Jay » Wed May 05, 2010 11:48 pm

The only bottled water I buy is also the distilled for my CPAP machine, too. I can't see paying for regular water when I have a perfectly good well that brings sparkling fresh water from 400ft. underneath my back yard...which reminds me, I need to change the water filter!

I've been doing the recycling thing for the last 20 years or so, separating everything as required. However, Frederick county started single stream recycling last fall, and this has made it much easier...just put everything in the 95 gallon cart provided for free from the county. Pick up is every two weeks, with tomorrow being the day. It is amazing how much less trash one has when recycling.

The grass...I have mulching blades on the Deere, so the clippings are recycled right into the grass. When I trim the hedges, I spread out the trimmings, and mow those too. Any big stuff that can't be mowed gets tossed over to the side of the back yard, where Mother Nature takes care of things. All of my Christmas trees from the past 18 years have gone there, and the only remains I see are from this past seasons...

I wonder, with the way society is so litigious and the sheep can't even hold hot coffee without burning themselves, if a steam powered vehicle would be considered or even feasible? Stanley Steamer, by all accounts that I have read, seemed to make a good car.
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Re: PLanet Fret - From my Blog....

Postby Jay » Thu May 06, 2010 9:14 am

You make a good point...what is the purpose of rating cars on how quickly they can get up to 60mph anymore?? When was the last time, MG, you could get on I95 and actually do 60+mph for any length of time, much less accelerate up to it? When mom lived in Ledyard, I had to take I95 from the Tappen Zee Bridge up the coast of CT. I hated it with a passion. There rarely was an opportunity to go 60 or more, and 9 out of 10 times, you'd be standing on the brakes 'cause the traffic was suddenly doing 0 mph.

Today's cars should be sold stressing fuel economy, safety, and reliability. Most of the offerings can merge with ''high speed'' traffic in a safe manner...it really depends on the, and I laugh here, 'skill' of the driver....which is usually sadly lacking...but, that's a topic for another thread.
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Re: PLanet Fret - From my Blog....

Postby Jay » Thu May 06, 2010 9:26 am

Solar, wind, geothermal....it might be a good idea to require all new homes being built to have one or more of these systems built in, and have good incentives for retro fits for existing homes. The more residences that have these passive systems, the less use of electricity, oil, coal and gas. At the very least, every home should have their hot water provided by solar...hell, my garden hose, which sits in the sun, has the water heated up hot enough to boil lobsters in. The cost of installation and materials will drop dramatically as more and more people get on board. Incentives such as tax credits and the selling of excess electricity to the public utilities will help.
The US military is worried about having enough fuel to meet it's needs after 2014. Oil is not a finite resource, and as it gets more scarce, conflicts and/or wars will erupt between those that have, and those that want ("it's in the interests of national defense"). I can see some country, denied oil, using the nuclear option....''if we can't have any, none of you can have any''.
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Re: PLanet Fret - From my Blog....

Postby meteorite » Thu May 06, 2010 8:44 pm

Isn't it always so? The lead essay observes that nuclear power is here now and working well with a promise of working better, but it takes too much time and costs too much so let's move on - and discuss as if they were feasible methodologies that by their very nature cannot meet the fundamental requirements of baseload power, wind and solar. And any discussion of capital cost per kilowatt hour of ultimate production is carefully avoided.

The discussion of natural gas is like the discussion of oil - nobody knows how much is there, and guesses are all over the map. We don't know how much sooner or later it's going to run out, but the probability is Sean will live to see the end of fossil fuel supplies and uses. But he'll likely be too busy learning Chinese and Hindi to fuss much about it anyway.

There are a number of possible energy sources that could prove less expensive and more reliable, and less dependent of huge quantities of exotic minerals, than wind or solar - geothermal, tidal turbines, wave action and biofuels are examples that come to mind.

But no one thinks of water till the well runs dry, and that human characteristic will doom the coming generations to a far less secure and comfortable existence than their selfish and thoughtless parents now enjoy.
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Re: PLanet Fret - From my Blog....

Postby Jay » Thu May 06, 2010 8:52 pm

True...it's the old ''I'll be dead before the shit hits the fan, so why worry about it'' syndrome.
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Re: PLanet Fret - From my Blog....

Postby meteorite » Thu May 06, 2010 9:15 pm

Here is what Margaret Wente, the Globe & Mail's sometimes heretical, strongly right-leaning, critic had to say today:

On March 24, 1989, a supertanker rammed into a reef in Alaska’s Prince William Sound and spilled millions of gallons of crude oil into its pristine waters. The images of oil-soaked seabirds are unforgettable. As many as 250,000 seabirds died, along with 2,800 sea otters, 300 harbour seals, more than 200 bald eagles and 22 orcas. Exxon Valdez instantly became a metaphor for the environmental devastation wrought by mankind in its incessant, unholy thirst for oil.

Will the Deepwater Horizon disaster be even worse?

It may well be. Nobody knows how much oil is gushing from the ocean bed, or how long it will continue. The leak could create a ripple effect that will spread throughout the food chain, from the plankton to fish to pelicans and dolphins. It could wreck fishery and tourism, and threaten Louisiana’s fragile wetlands. Oil could be picked up by the “loop current,” a sort of conveyor belt that will sweep it to the Florida Straits, then up the east coast of the United States. The pressurized subterranean reservoir might even keep venting unstoppably until the reservoir depletes. “They're going to have to clean up the Gulf of Mexico,” predicts Matt Simmons, a retired energy investment banker.

Or … not.

Marine biologist Quenton Dokken is director of the Gulf of Mexico Foundation, a conservation group in Corpus Christi, Tex. He’s also a veteran of the worst oil disaster in the region, the (so far) much larger blowout in Mexico’s Bay of Campeche in 1979. “I was prepared for the worst,” he says. But he hasn’t found it. The oil is still offshore. The weather has co-operated. Because the oil is light, not heavy, the dilution ratio “significantly decreases the environmental threat.” We won’t see waves of black, tarry goo wash up on rocks, as it did in Alaska. There’s no catastrophe, and possibly there won’t be. Not everyone is relieved by this report, however. Mr. Dokken and his foundation have been attacked as “a puppet of oil and gas.”

No matter what happens, the fallout will be severe. This disaster has simply reinforced the widespread conviction that no good can come from chasing after offshore oil. To many people, the cheap energy that fuelled a century of prosperity has now become a curse.

There will be lots of blame to spread around. BP, the oil giant that leased the rig, has spent a decade in efforts to greenwash itself. It rebranded itself “Beyond Petroleum,” and spent heavily on PR while cutting costs on engineering. Meantime – as reporter Kate Sheppard writes in Foreign Policy – it fought against safety measures that might have prevented catastrophe. The rig it leased lacked a $500,000 remote-control shutoff switch, which is mandatory in Brazil and Norway but voluntary in the U.S. Under pressure from the oil companies, a U.S. government agency decided back in 2003 that this expensive gewgaw wasn’t necessary.

Modern offshore drilling is made possible by engineering feats and technology that were unimaginable a few years ago. As the oil writer Tom Bower puts it, they “allow us to remotely guide a drill through a mile of water onto the seabed and then squirrel a 12-inch path through five miles of sand, salt, clay and rock towards a potential bonanza.” Thanks to human ingenuity, we’ll have oil for decades to come.

But now, there could well be a moratorium on new drilling for a long time to come – as well as tougher regulations and higher prices at the pump. The more the environmental carnage, the steeper the price will be.

“An oil spill is a very complex social and business event.” writes Mr. Dokken. “The environment can be impacted, people’s lives can be changed forever, political careers can be started and ended, and lots of money can be lost and made.” An oil spill is also a modern morality play. And we’re only in Act 1.
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Re: PLanet Fret - From my Blog....

Postby Boxer2500 » Fri May 07, 2010 5:12 pm

Given the precarious nature of our relationship with many overseas suppliers, an outright ban on offshore drilling is a bad idea. Like it or not, we're going to be using metric shyte-tonnes of oil for decades to come, and it would be reckless to pass up our own "stash" only to funnel trillions more into countries like Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, and Russia (Canada is cool, though). What we NEED to do is bring our standards in line with Norway, Brazil, et al. A few hundred grand in safety gear could have saved millions in cleanup costs here.

Moving on, the elephant in the room that no one is talking about is dihydrogen monoxide, better known to the layman as water. In particular, the practice known as groundwater mining. The continental United States is roughly bisected by the 100th meridian, which runs down the middle of the Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma. East of the 100th meridian, rainfall is plentiful enough to allow agriculture with minimal irrigation. West of the meridian, the land rapidly becomes a desert. Farming throughout the western US is reliant on irrigation, which usually comes from subsurface water. Much of the farming on the plains states is dependent on the Oglalla Aquifer, which is currently being treated as a nonrenewable resource, hence the term "groundwater mining". In a few short decades we have pumped out thousands of years worth of pent up water. Once on the surface, most of the water drains into river systems and never makes it back to its subterranean home. Even the most generous estimates put the Oglalla running dry by 2050. Some say it could happen by 2025. The Dust Bowl was nothing compared to what (at least some of us) will see in our lifetimes.

The water woes of the large desert cities in the Southwest are well known -- that's what happens when you allocate the Colorado River's water using an anomalous rainy year as your "average" -- but nobody talks about aquifer depletion. The fact of the matter is it's happening, and we stand no chance of getting anything to change before the wells run dry. No matter where in the US you live, this WILL affect you, or your offspring. What kind of a Superpower will America be when she can't grow enough food to sustain her people?

Fuck "peak oil", we're approaching "peak water" and it ain't gonna be pretty.

I've pushed this book before but it's very relevant here. Cadillac Desert by the late Mark Reisner is a masterpiece. It details the past 200 years of water policy in the American West, and it is not an uplifting tale. It was written more than 30 years ago, but it is no less true today.

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Re: PLanet Fret - From my Blog....

Postby meteorite » Fri May 07, 2010 5:45 pm

About the only comment I can make, Boxer (except of course welcome to our board) is that you need to decide whether to keep this topic in this thread or whether you think it is important enough to warrant a thread of its own.

You are right, it's an issue, it's a crisis, it's been building for decades, and it is going to come along and bite you on the butt very soon. Something that Reisner wasn't aware of in all likelihood when he wrote the book was the projections of climate change, with its changed weather patterns and faster levels of evaporation, and slower levels of replenishment. I think that could even bring the first inklings of catastrophe into my credible (if unlikely) remaining lifespan.

Should you feel the urge to grab off some space and give this issue the sort of rant it deserves, please consider yourself offered teh utmost encouragement from myself and all other members of the board, who share your sentiments.
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Re: PLanet Fret - From my Blog....

Postby Jay » Fri May 07, 2010 8:55 pm

The impending water crisis out west is one of the reasons we did not consider retiring to NM or AZ. Recall what the history books say about the water wars between the ranchers in the times before the dam systems were in place.

With the glaciers retreating from the Rockies, which supply about 80% of the water for the west, there will certainly be strife and conflict that will rival the oil wars that are going to happen.

Welcome Boxer!
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Re: PLanet Fret - From my Blog....

Postby Boxer2500 » Sat May 08, 2010 12:26 am

Jay, there's a saying in Montana...

Whiskey's for drinkin'... water's for fightin'
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Re: PLanet Fret - From my Blog....

Postby Sean » Sat May 08, 2010 1:17 am

Welcome, Boxer! And yeah....one of the big problems with ethanol is that corn needs more water than many other crops and we're making more than ever before. As a result, we're using more water than ever before. Anyone who actually gives a damn about the resources around here knows that this is simply unsustainable.
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Re: PLanet Fret - From my Blog....

Postby meteorite » Sat May 08, 2010 6:42 pm

Canada sits on top of almost 10% of the world's fresh water supply, and already there are those casting envious eyes upon it. It is a quiet but serious matter of government and popular concern. The first skirmishes are already starting, made worse by the fact that the Great Lakes are a common and shared resource. Already there are fights over the Chicago Drainage Canal, and over pollution in the Red River watershed. It will only get worse.

I also read somewhere a while ago - and wish I could remember where - the remark that the United States has ample supplies of water; what it lacks is adequate supplies of potable water. Too much water is being wasted simply carrying away industrial waste, to the extreme that the Cuyahoga River not only caught fire but almost burned down a railway bridge in Cleveland. That has been much mitigated now, but it emphasizes the degree to which waterways are polluted, often unnecessarily.

One more thing to exacerbate Sean's generation"s sleepless nights.
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Re: PLanet Fret - From my Blog....

Postby Sean » Sat May 08, 2010 7:07 pm

Well, the generation before me seems to be made up of a bunch of clueless assholes, why change course? :?
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Re: PLanet Fret - From my Blog....

Postby Jay » Sat May 08, 2010 7:37 pm

I remember the Cuyahoga River catching fire. Today, though, there are fish in the water, and one can swim in the river again, so some good has been restored. Same with the Potomac River. When I first moved to Maryland in 1977, the Potomac was a dieing river, with phosphates and other discharges. Now, it has been hugely cleaned up. One can fish in it, swim in it. The city of Frederick is one of the cities that gets it's drinking water from it (Maryland 'owns' the Potomac...which pisses Virginia off, because Maryland won't let Virginia draw any water out of it at all). The focus now is on the Anacostia River, which flows from Prince Georges county, MD, through D.C., and joins into the Potomac at a place called Buzzard's Point in Washington.
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Re: PLanet Fret - From my Blog....

Postby Jay » Sat May 08, 2010 8:09 pm

The "big thing'' for Maryland is the pollution of the Chesapeake Bay, mainly from run off from agricultural, dairy and chicken farms. There isn't anything in place with much teeth on the disposal of the tons and tons of chicken poop, which leeches into the streams and creeks, and ends up in the bay. Maryland is one of the largest producers of chickens in the east (Perdue is a big Maryland firm, head quartered in the eastern part of the state) and has a lot of influence with the idiots in Annapolis.
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