When Good Intentions Go Astray

Sixteen years of clutter.  The beginning of a long, tedious process. Documents, papers with personal information to the shredder. Discarded, outdated electronics to the recycler.

Seasonal clean-up day, sponsored by a nearby city, our electric utility.  I’ve never made it to one of these free recycling events.  This one was scheduled for today, until the weather turn a turn.  Tornado and storm warnings for most of the day.

The event has been rescheduled for next Saturday.  Lets hope for the best.  Unloading and reloading the car won’t be fun.  For now, the clutter will stay.


Imagine in great detail, an invention that could help reverse pollution–describe for us how your invention works and how it will help save the planet. 

The reality–we’re drowning in garbage–running out of landfill space.  Landfills leach contaminants into groundwater and watersheds.  Nobody wants to live next door to a smelly, dirty, dusty landfill.

Kudos to those that faithfully recycle glass, plastic, paper and aluminum cans.  There will never be 100% compliance–its human nature.  …Just like wearing seat belts and not texting while driving.  What would happen if there were a national emergency and we were forced to conserve resources?  It happened during WWII.

One of Dryden, Ontario's Landfill's. This one ...
One of Dryden, Ontario’s Landfill’s. This one is located in Barclay. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Instead of building more landfills, why don’t we become more efficient at recycling.  There would be less garbage going in, useful commodities going out.  I propose automated sorting/recycling machinery at all landfill sites.  All reusable materials sorted, recycled, repurposed, reused or sold.  A hot water bath for dumped refuse is the first stage.  Recovered compressed methane landfill gas, (normally flared off), is used to heat the water.

The water bath, is to separate lighter materials–like paper products, cellulose, and vegetative matter.  Large pieces of building material–wood, gypsum wall board would be screened off to separate sorting piles.  These materials are highly reusable and would be sold to make paper, new building materials.

Metals would be recovered–be they ferrous or non-ferrous.  Ferrous metals are recovered with large electro-magnets, hooked to generators, powered by compressed methane.  Aluminum, copper, brass, and zinc would go a separate direction to be sold to recyclers/smelters.

Methane gas, which is a byproduct of decomposition would be compressed, reused at the facility–surplus would be sold.  Non recyclable solids/hazardous waste would be incinerated at high temperatures.  All vehicles on the facility would use compressed methane gas.

These are not new ideas.  The newness, is to do it on a larger scale, with more dedication and urgency.  In the deep recesses of my mind, I may have seen such garbage-sorting equipment, before, in documentaries on Science or Discovery Channels.  This is a long-term investment in our future that will pay off by preventing pollution, saving finite resources, saving green spaces for future generations.  And, if I may have the attention of capitalists out there–there’s money to be made.

“Discount Dan” (Thanks For Stopping)

If a joke needs explanation, it’s a failure.  For this reason, I’m somewhat hesitant to issue a follow-up to my last post.  Maybe I could dismiss my response as OCD?  Whatever happens, here are my thoughts.

If something doesn’t capture attention in the first few seconds, we turn away.  Everybody does it.  If that’s what it takes, picture me as “Discount Dan,” gray-haired, chubby superhero, dressed in red, white, blue spandex and cape jumping off a “tall building” screaming to the camera.  “Discount Dan, fighting for the American way, slaying evil high prices.” “Just off the turnpike at exit 32.” “Lowest prices in the tri-state area!” “Nobody beats Discount Dan, I guarantee it!”

Meanwhile, think for a moment about your weird “Uncle Larry” or someone like him.  You know, the guy that drove a Mercedes 240-D, (diesel car), that clattered and smoked–sounded like a bucket of marbles.  He always bragged about how far he could go on a tank of fuel.  Most people dismissed him as just another flake.  Uncle Larry’s old 1981 240-D, (300-D, or whatever), has its fifth or sixth owner and is still faithfully transporting someone, somewhere.

My point goes beyond bashing Prius and hybrid owners–which was not my intention.  High fuel costs affect everyone–that’s a given.  Budgets are strained to the breaking point.  I’m suggesting we think about the future–long-term solutions to high fuel prices, clearer national energy policies, availability of more economical modes of personal transportation.   To cope with ever-increasing fuel expenses, all options should be on the table–including best-practice of others.

Finally, enviromental responsibility is something I take seriously.  We’re recycled into the ground when we die.  I know, that’s a negative example–one “Discount Dan” would never use.  When the grim reaper comes calling, and our personal vehicles go to the car crusher, how much is recyclable?  It’s something to think about on every drive past the local landfill.  I’m done, my cape needs to be put in the wash.  I’m about to choke from the smell of stale cigar smoke.


Moter vehicle fuel economyI’m an automotive realist–former automotive enthusiast.  Fuel prices continue to climb.    There’s little the average consumer can do about it.  The most important thing, is to be informed, and make wise car buying decisions.  Federally mandated mileage standards help–although it seems we can’t make up our minds how far we want to go.  We’ve gone from crises to crises, and yet, there are no long-term solutions.  The latest shortages, in the  northeast, due to Hurricane Sandy.

It goes back to President Nixon‘s fifty-five miles per hour national speed limit, which conserved fuel, but did nothing to make cars more efficient.  We smugly drive our hybrids, content, that somehow we are saving the planet from destruction.  Meanwhile, I wonder what will happen when these vehicles go to salvage.  Are lithium-ion battery packs recyclable?  Achieving forty and fifty miles per gallon in highway driving is now reality.  That’s a step in the right direction.  Will that be good enough in the future?  There are electric cars–like the Nissan Leaf.  Are these the best, environmentally responsible, choices?

Taken from the current issue of “Car & Driver” magazine, a four-year wish list:  Pick a fuel-economy standard and stick with it.  Allow carmakers the time to reconcile the two.  That whole “54.5 by 2025, but we’ll take another look at it in 2018” thing?  Not helping.  It’s just creating more 5,000 pound, $60,000 hybrids. 

Admit that nearly half the energy powering EV’s comes from coal.

Consider lowering the tax on diesel: With their abundant low-down torque and state-spanning range, diesel-engineered vehicles suit how we Americans drive.  Because of diesel’s more efficient combustion and a 15-percent energy-density advantage over gasoline, diesel-powered cars go 30 percent farther on a gallon and emit roughly 25 percent less CO2.  Evaluate lowering the federal excise tax on the stuff from 24.4 cents per gallon to 18.4 per gallon, which is the same amount levied on gasoline.     

Why is diesel fuel taxed at a higher rate, in this country, than gasoline?  In Europe, diesel is priced about the same as gasoline.  Diesel automobiles offer superior mileage and aren’t considered a viable option in this country.  The US market share is a mere three percent.  In Europe, where fuel prices are traditionally higher, diesel automobiles account for about sixty percent of the market.

Diesels, the redheaded stepchildren of the automotive world.  …Dirty, smelly, noisy, slow-moving.  Not worth the additional investment?  Modern clean diesels are a far cry from your father’s Oldsmobile.  Maybe some have bad memories of unreliable GM diesel V6’s and V8’s in the eighties.  American tourists are pleasantly surprised by their rented European diesel versions of Ford Fiestas and Ford Transit Connects.  Ford and General Motors offer diesel cars in Europe that aren’t available here.  It’s a marketing decision.  Auto manufacturers still aren’t convinced the American public is ready to embrace diesel technology.

But, this isn’t Europe, this is America, land of the “Red, White, and Blue.”  We should be thankful for “lower” fuel prices.  What about freedom of choice?  Our choices are limited to offerings from Volkswagen, Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz.  Comparing, gas vs. diesel, there’s more cost difference at the luxury end of the market.  Volkswagen offerings are more comparably priced–for example, the Jetta.  In my opinion, modern diesel automobiles yield mileage figures comparable to and beyond hybrids.  High fuel prices drag down our economic recovery.  Why not follow the lead of European counterparts in fuel conservation?  Allow motorists more choices.  It couldn’t hurt, and could only help.