Thursday, July 21, 2011

Burning Oil to Stay Cool

As the summer's first heat wave sets in on the Northeast, and millions of A/C units start cranking in synchrony, the east coast's electric utilities are firing up every power plant they have at their disposal in order to meet demand.

That includes some of our dirtiest, oldest, most inefficient power plants, smoke-belching relics that are only used on days like these when there's absolutely no better alternative available to keep the lights on.

We're beating the heat by incinerating vast amounts of fuel in thousand-degree infernos. And to make matters worse, forecasters are also expecting unhealthy levels of ozone and particulate air pollution all along the eastern seaboard today.

Wyman Station, a 1970s-era oil-burning power plant on Cousins Island in Casco Bay.
Photo by Bryan Bruchman.

The upshot of this is that any conservation efforts will make a bigger difference today than any other time of year. If a few of us shut down our workstations for the lunch hour and find some unplugged work to do during the hottest part of the day, then they'll burn fewer BTUs at the power plants and send less smoke into our hot, haze-saturated atmosphere.

Side bonus: your office will also be cooler with fewer machines generating heat indoors.

Alternatively, immersing yourself in 65 degree ocean water at the beach is another good way to not burn fossil fuels today. It's bad business for me to say so, but it just isn't a good day to read blogs.

Related: Hot Days Incinerate Oil, from July 7, 2010.

Friday, July 08, 2011

End of the Space Age

The Space Shuttle Atlantis rides off into the sunset (photo from 2006, courtesy of NASA).

Two weeks before I was born, in April, 1981, the first Space Shuttle mission went into orbit over Cape Canaveral.

Now, thirty years later, the Space Shuttle will soon make its final landing, never to rise again. Earthbound, at the beginning of my thirties, I'm left with a strange feelings of nostalgia for my old childhood expectations of the twenty-first century.

I feel like I've outlived the future.