Showing posts from June, 2012

Oil: The Next Revolution

We ended the last post with an admission by the government of Denmark that their plan for the elimination of fossil fuels in their country by 2050 may not be perfect because of the fact that there are many "unknowns". We could fill shelves of books with all the unknowns that could make their energy strategy sub-optimal by the year 2050, but let's just touch on one current event that is being ignored with all the other big political stories in the news recently.

We are on the brink of a revolution in the oil of a tremendous increase in oil production in the next decade that could last for a century, or more. The title of this post is taken from a report of the same name authored and released this month by Mr. Leonardo Maugeri, an Italian oil executive and fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. The report, as its implications are slowly grasped by the governments of the world, will hopefully result in a se…

The Perfect Plan, a Certain Illusion

Funny thing, different perspectives.

Ran across this headline in the February issue of Biomass Power and Thermal magazine...
"A Perfect PlanThe Danish Government has launched an ambitious renewable energy strategy that will convert its energy and transport system by 2050. Ambitious, in this case, means 100 percent.For the coming decade, the strategy contains a range of concrete initiatives projected to lead to 36 percent renewable energy use by 2020, according to Ture Falbe-Hansen, head of media relations for the Danish Energy Agency. Milestone dates have been set for the years 2020, 2030 and 2035. By 2050, Denmark will be mostly fossil fuel free...What does this plan mean for biomass? According to Falbe-Hansen, coal covers about 40 percent of Danish electricity production and nearly 20 percent of district heating production. Coal consumption will be reduced by 65 percent by 2020, he says. “The proposals will replace coal with biomass and initiatives to promote wind power.”The Da…

Gimme that Old-Time Forestry

My friend Harry Wiant sent me the link to this movie with the note that it changed his life at 12 and set him on his career path as a forester. Pretty influential movie, since Harry went on to become one of the most influential foresters in the United States during second half of the 20th century. In forestry school I learned to cruise timber with a prism and a Wiant Wedge, and in my senior year I placed second in pole classification and fourth in timber cruising in the Southern Forestry Conclave using these tools.

So, I was curious to watch the movie that started young "Sonny" on his way. It's about an hour and a half long, so you may want to save it for weekend viewing. I was really interested in the first five minutes of the movie, in which they show some great shots of old fire towers, an old mill, and how the Forest Service used to use visual triangulation to locate forest fires, before the GPS was invented.

Interesting to watch Fred McMurray star as a forest ranger…

Sign of the Times - Pallet Art

Walking across campus a couple of months ago, I noticed something that caused me to do a double-take. There, right behind the Palmer Museum of Art at Penn State, was a statuesque artistic work made from...pallets!

Now, when one encounters a new piece of lawn art in high-profile public places, they're usually large, metal or granite, and indistinguishable from something in the back corner of a scrap yard. And obviously expensive.

But as I gazed on this work of beauty, it kind of grew on me, in an ugly-duckling sort of way.  After all, it was made of wood, and it was weirdly included a giant checkers table with chairs that would comfortably seat (and support!) the largest sumo wrestler.

I walked around this thing several times, trying to get the sense of it and to get into the mind of the artist(s). Ok, I have pallets, and I'm an architecture student that is dating an art student, and we both have a term project due next week. And I like to sit outside, drink bee…

Wood Science 101(5) - Soft hardwood, hard softwood, and vice versa

Softwood is soft...hardwood is hard. Right?

No, not really. This is by far the most common misconception non-woodites have about wood when they browse the aisles at the Big Box. And you have to ask "Well, why do they call them that, anyway?"

The most likely reason has to do with logging back in the old days. Farmers clearing their land in the east back in the 18th and 19th centuries would have encountered a great range of deciduous trees, scientifically categorized as angiosperms, those that have broad leaves, true flowers, have their seeds enclosed in a fruit, and shed their leaves in the fall (they are deciduous). The soil of the northeastern part of North America was typically thick and rich in the valleys, because of the ancient age of the Appalachian mountains and the temperate climate that inhibited frequent and large wildfires. The result was a widely ranging deciduous forest, and the varied species that made them up consisted of a large percentage of oak, hickory, an…

What classifies as local humor in rural Pennsylvania

No wood stuff here, except it is a story about a logger written by his son, the logger. Thought most of you would enjoy a laugh, instead of the grim reaper stuff I've been posting lately. Martin says the story is about 90% true, as best he can remember, and since he and I are about the same age, I'd say that's about as true as memories that old get.

Pigs  by Martin Melville 
Dad had a fondness for spotted hogs. I’m not really sure why, he just did. I was about ten when, many years ago they moved over the mountain. The small town is only about ten miles from mom’s parents, but real estate cost about half what it did on the other side. It was their first house. The price was right and they liked the quiet setting near the edge of town, so they bought the place with cash dad had saved. Other people were scared of the mountain, especially in winter. But the DOT put more salt, cinders and plow-time on that mountain than they did on the whole rest of the county. It didn’t sca…

Company Town America - Peering into the Dark

News of an explosion and fire at the Verso Paper mill in Sartell, Minnesota, brings our consciousness back to the plight of the pulp and paper industry and its employees here in the United States. The mill, bought from International Paper back in 2006 as one of four mills to create the new company, had been struggling competitively for some time; the company had laid off 175 workers as recently as late last year in an attempt to remain profitable.
The story of Sartell is another of the long list of company town stories that are not going well these days. The mill was constructed over 100 years ago and has been the town's major employer for all that time. It pays over $1 million a year in property taxes, money which is a major revenue stream for the schools and services in the area. Employees of the mill had been fearing the future of the mill, and the fire pushes that fear to the forefront of their minds.