Thursday, October 23, 2014

Tuesday Roundup: The End of Coal?

03/27/2012

Wildfires continue in Jefferson County, Colorado.

The Washington Post reports that the federal government will issue the first limits on greenhouse gas emissions from new electric power plants as soon as today. "The move could end the construction of conventional coal-fired facilities in the United States," writes Juliet Eilperin. 

The proposed rule will require any new power plant to limit carbon dioxide emissions to 1,000 pounds per megawatt of electricity produced. Gas-powered plants put out 800 to 850 pounds. Coal plants average 1,768 pounds of carbon dioxide.

“This standard effectively bans new coal plants,” said Joseph Stanko, who heads government relations at the law firm Hunton and Williams and represents several utility companies. “So I don’t see how that is an ‘all of the above’ energy policy.”

Coal plants are being closed, largely because utilities are switching to cheap natural gas. “Gas is contributing to the closure of these plants,” Dominion Resources chief executive Thomas F. Farrell II said in an interview last week. Farrell, who also chairs the Edison Electric Institute, the utility trade association, added: “It’s not all EPA. It’s a combination of low gas prices and EPA working at the same time.”

• The new prescription drug plaguing communities is Opana, according to the Deccan Herald, reporting from Austin, Indiana. 

Nine people have died this year alone from prescription drug overdoses in Scott County, Indiana — and most of those involved Opana, an opioid painkiller containing oxymorphone.

More pipelines are coming.

Enbridge Inc., a pipeline builder, will spend $4 billion to increase he size of a pipeline that goes from Flanagan, Illinois, to Cushing, Oklahoma. That will allow the line to carry more oil from Canadian oil sands. 

• The "pink slime" revolution continues. 

Monday, Beef Products Inc., the nation's largest producer of lean, finely textured beef (i.e., "pink slime") shut down three of four production facilities and ordered layoffs of 650 workers in Waterloo, Iowa, Amarillo, Texas, and Garden City, Kansas. 

Demand for the product has dropped by half since stories in March about the beef trimmings that are collected, ground, treated and then put into hamburger patties. This has been going on since the early 1990s, but has rarely been challenged (except by specialty beef producers and family farmers) until Food Network chief Jamie Oliver began writing about the technique earlier this month.

"Like most meat processing, the process of making “finely textured beef” is not particularly appetizing to watch," writes Dan Piller. "It involves taking the scraps from the meat cutting process, running it through a heat and centrifuge process and then giving it a bath in ammonia to kill potential E Coli and salmonella." 

Fast food restaurants have promised not to use finely textured beef and stores have said they will stop selling it. Since the beginning of March, the beef industry has lost at least $500 million, according to Cargill.

Wildfires continue in Colorado. 

• The most read story in the latest edition of Cowboys & Indians is Wes Chancey's history of the Longhorn. It begins with this great 1941 quote from J. Frank Dobie:

The Texas Longhorn made more history than any other breed of cattle the civilized world has known. As an animal in the realm of natural history, he was the peer of bison or grizzly bear. As a social factor, his influence on men was extraordinary. An economic agent in determining the character and occupation of a territory continental in its vastness, he moved elementally with drouth, grass, blizzards out of the Arctic and the wind from the south. However supplanted or however disparaged by evolving standards and generations, he will remain the bedrock on which the history of the cow country of America is founded.