Tag Archives: technology

The confluence of birthrate and technology

Checkout as you shop -- convenience, or job killer?IA teenage girl pulls out her smartphone, and flicks her finger a few times at the screen. A message flashes in a thought bubble to let her know her crescent and chai tea have been paid.

Later, sitting drinking the tea she flicks the screen a few more times and orders a football jersey in her favorite team’s colors.

Somewhere, a robot whirs to life and follows a track to bin B7825JF. A mechanical claw reaches to the highest level and retrieves a plastic bag containing the desired jersey. The robot – actually a motorized bin, returns to the packing station. vinyl envelopes filled with air are placed in a box to take up the space not occupied by the jersey. the flaps are folded down as the box passes through another machine, and packing tape and a shipping label are applied.

Continue reading

Shorting-funding DEP is false economy

Several pipelines arrive at a compressor collector before gas is sent over a mountain in Loyalsock State ForestPennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection may not be protecting the environment and the Commonwealth’s citizens as much as they deserve.

That is the assertion of a report issued Tuesday by Earthworks, a Washington, D.C.-based environmental watchdog agency.

The report begins by noting “more than 5,700 ‘unconventional’ shale gas wells have been drilled (in Pennsylvania) since 2005.” It also acknowledges DEP’s claim that staffing has increased – including, in 2012, about 83 inspectors. If the “unconventional wells” – a euphemism referring to deep shale fracking wells – were the only wells needing oversight, that would mean about 68 wells for each inspector.

 Continue reading on Rock The Capital …

Report says GHG cuts could be significant with more taxpayer money and different measuring

Study says fossil-fueld vehicles will be here for foreseeable future.A National Petroleum Council report chartered by the U.S. Secretary of Energy says fossil fuel-powered engines will be the motive power for the nation’s transportation machine for the foreseeable future.

Ya think? Gasoline-powered vehicles sold this year will need gas at least 10-12 years from now to keep them tooling down the road.

 Continue reading …

Some encouragement required

American wind farms mean American jobs and cleaner air.I’m watching an old black and white movie on television, “Cow Country,” made in 1953. It’s about times economic change in the 19th Century West, and cattlemen having a rough time adjusting.

Their situation was like oil companies of the 21st Century saying wind and solar will not work – because it’s easier and more profitable to keep doing what they’re doing than figure out how to do something new.

 Continue reading …

Coal, nukes, fracking and 16.9-ounce plastic bottles

A reservoir outflow is dry and rocky with water in the impound more than two feet below normal.Throughout this nation’s history, we have counted on a plentiful supply of water.

With 75 percent of the Earth’s surface covered by water, goes the old adage, clearly man was meant to spend 75 percent of his time fishing.

Unfortunately, with 75 percent of the planet covered by water, the majority of the Earth’s surface, once warmed, will stay that way – or get warmer.

Continue reading …

EVs closing in, slowly, on their niche

More of these are needed to make electric vehicles attractiveElectric Vehicles are coming – as soon as the charging stations are built and the price comes down. They have the mirror image of the problem Marcellus Shale drillers having.

Nissan Leaf  has sold about 1,400 of its all-electric LEAF so far this year, down about 70 percent from 2011 sales. The company only sold 370 of the “clean” little commuter cars in April.

High entry price, commuter-centric miles-per-charge, and few charging stations hinder rapid market expansion.

 Continue reading …

Pocket change: Fracking industry invests $23M in Pa legislature, reaps $1T profit

Fracking money pours from a golden faucet into capitol dome inverted to be a funnelAccording to a release last week by MarcellusMoney.org, the Marcellus Shale natural gas industry has spent $23 million in direct contributions to favored legislator campaigns and lobbying efforts since 2000.

The big winners in the Cash for Legislation sweepstakes between 2000 and April 2012 were:

Continue reading …

“UnClean Coal” not listed on billboards

Coal heaped and waiting for customersKing Coal loudly proclaims its place in our society, from the employment it claims to offer to the electricity it sends to our homes. Billboards along the Interstate insist that coal – often referred to as “clean coal” – is the way to go for continued prosperity and energy independence.

But the billboards and television commercials leave out some established, and troubling, truths their supporters hope we will not notice lurking behind those huge signs.

Continue reading …

The Sky is Pink

White puffy clouds float through a pink sky“With the gas-bearing Marcellus Shale formation underlying 50 percent of the state (of New York), and with the gas industry proposing upwards of 100,000 gas wells (in the state), (Gov. Mario Cuomo’s decision to repeal a moratorium on fracking) could fundamentally transform New York.”

With that, producer/director Josh Fox opens an 18-minute video foray into the dangers of fracking for natural gas. Fox was nominated for an Academy Award in 2010 for “Gasland,” a documentary about the hazards of fracking, and is working on a full-length sequel, “Gasland 2.”

In his new short video, Fox says all the chemicals and gas often do not remain confined to the well casing and pipelines, and the industry knows the dangers they deny exist.

Continue reading …

Lack of GED, diploma or degree not necessarily indicator of school’s failure

Loading mulch into a semi-trailer with a front loader requires hand-eye coordination and attention, not collegeWhen I was young, Eighth Grade graduation marked the limit of many students’ academic career. I was raised in rural Maine, where young people helped their families on the farm, and the school calendar was written around planting and harvest schedules, and the fall agricultural fair.

The engineer who designs wind turbines can benefit from advanced education in physics. The primary requirements to operate a crane or read a torque wrench are ability to read and follow directions, and good hand-eye coordination.

 Continue reading …

Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!

Sign identifies Range Resources drill site and DCNR permit for five million gallons a day water useLower-than-hyped revenue, plunging natural gas prices, and growing environmental concerns could spell trouble for the Marcellus Shale industry.

It’s attempt to recover corporate value could be problematic for Pennsylvanians at both ends of the state, as natural gas producers leave the northeast for the, hopefully, more profitable western hills.

While those away from the drilling fields see little effect from the industry’s efforts, those within it notice promised riches, flammable water, and eviction notices.

Continue reading …

Some Marcellus-related companies may be boosting profits by importing illegal workers

A quarter mile from a Marcellus Shale job site, WV union workers protest imported laborers

A newspaper story Thursday reported a federal indictment against a Texas-based company accused of bringing illegal workers to Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale fracking fields.

Coincidentally, workers in West Virginia are staffing road-side positions, protesting the practice of some Marcellus-related companies bringing out-of-state workers to take jobs for which local workers are available.

“We have a lot of people trained to do the work,” Stephen “Vern” Montoney, of Randolph County, W.Va told me last week.

Continue reading …

While we continue to subsidize fossil fuels, at least one American industrial giant invests in green technology in, of all places …

Masdar, a city in the middle of a desert with zero carbon emissions
While some of our politicians and fossil fuel barons try, with varying success, to convince us we’re not digging up enough coal, oil or natural gas, the folks who we are told are selling us our oil are busy building a city that doesn’t need it.

For the first time in more than a half-century, the U.S. exports more fuel than it imports. We still are the world’s largest importer of crude oil, but a huge portion of the imported crude becomes exported product, including fuels. Continue reading

Late may not be better than never

50-foot wide pipeline path cuts through Loyalsock forestLast month, the EPA announced new regulations that will require natural gas drillers to capture the methane they ordinarily allow to escape before they cap their well. The new rules take effect in 2015.

Last week, the Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, announced proposed regulations that would require drillers to tell us what chemicals they are pumping into the ground – and sometimes spilling onto the ground and into our waters – to release natural gas by fracturing shale thousands of feet underground.

Continue reading …

Speaking of bullies – a case in point

A field of plowed furrows awaits planting the new year's cropVermont residents would like to know what the heck is in their food. So they went to their legislature to ask for a law, and it looked for a time that their request would be honored. Unfortunately, Monsanto – the poster child for Genetically Modified groceries – informed the state that should it have the effrontery to pass such a law, the agricultural mega-corp would sue.

  Continue reading …

Hydroelectric power – an alternative to burning dead carbon lifeforms

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the nation’s dams not currently being used to generate electricity could, if equipped, supply more than 12 gigawatts of power to run coffee pots, computers and cars.

One gigawatt is enough to electrify about 300,000 homes. That’s more than seven counties the size of the 100,000-person one in which I live in southcentral Pennsylvania.

And some of the dams probably would be cost effective to upgrade and equip. … Continue reading …

EPA regs not to blame for refinery shutdowns

One of the real reasons East Coast refineries are shutting downAccording to several sources, including the refinery owners, the U.S. EPA is not the source of their woes – unless we count a planned 25 percent increase in U.S. vehicle gas mileage scheduled by 2015. … Continue reading …

Big Brother wants your Facebook password

A growing number of employers would like your Facebook login filled in.I was in Florida a couple weeks ago, and purchased a SunPass – like an EZ-Pass to most of the rest of the East Coast states, except EZ-Pass doesn’t work in Florida. They have their own thing going down there, and they’re not sharing.

Of course, one can drive the Florida Turnpike without a SunPass. The state also has Photo Billing, with which it has replaced humans in toll booths. Gone is the toll-taker with whom you could have a slow-down and human contact on a long trip via interstate highway. Instead, you go speeding through (no need to slow down in Florida) beneath an array of cameras and have your picture taken.

And if your car does not have a working SunPass, the registered owner of your license plate will get a bill from the state – plus a couple bucks “administration fee.”

We have become inured to cameras following us around. Banks have them, as do most retail stores. They’re in casinos, … Continue reading …

It’s not what you do it with that counts; it’s what you do with it that means everything

Phones and computers I have ownedA fellow columnist wrote last week thanking other kids’ parents for buying their eight-year-olds cell phones. He thought a cell phone to be far down on the list of things an eight-year-old should have to keep track of.

“But dad,” his offspring moaned, “Everybody’s got one.”

My daughter used that line on me once or twice, to which I replied, “I doubt that a lot.”

Sometime after the last time, Daughter was overheard in conversation with a friend who wanted her company going  someplace.

“Everyone’s going,” the friend said. Continue reading …