I love the smell of burning garbage in the morning

Iowa City’s Great Garbage Fire of 2012 continues for the fifth day, with estimates for an end to the noxious nuisance in the one week range.  My pastoral idyllic drive into Iowa City has taken on a charming post-apocalyptic feel, and the odor of the burning tires shreds from the landfill lining is as pleasant as the smoke plume is beautiful!

Expert: Iowa City landfill fire large, challenging by Gregg Hennigan for the Cedar Rapids Gazette, May 29, 2012

At 7.5 acres, the fire would be considered large, said Tony Sperling of Landfill Fire Control Inc. His Vancouver, Canada-based company specializes in helping landfill owners put out and prevent fires.

Another complication, he said, is that what is burning is the landfill lining, which is made up of shredded tires. That means it’s essentially a tire fire, he said, which are notoriously difficult to extinguish.

“You have a real problem with that,” Sperling said.

The fire started at the city-owned landfill, located just west of town, on Saturday night. The city at this time is planning to let the fire burn itself out, saying that’s the safest and most cost-efficient thing to do.

A question: if the floods of 2008 were Iowa’s Katrina (not a term I’d use personally) is this Iowa’s BP Deepwater Horizon Gulf Oil Spill?


On the question of “Taking America Back”

Those who use the phrase “take America back” are generally talking about going back to some apocryphal simpler days of yore.  Lewis Lapham had a great response to that notion in the May issue of Harper’s:

The thought comes to mind when I hear one of the season’s political candidates offer to “take America back.” Back where? From whom? What means of conveyance? Aboard the Mayflower, or at the point of a gun? If back home on the range, do the deer and the antelope still play with the Teton Sioux? If from the grasp of venal politicians and vampire capitalists, does Ralph Waldo Emerson go to Washington and Commodore Vanderbilt to prison?

Green grilling on Memorial Day

This seems like a good opportunity to mention how excited I am about my Char-Broil Patio Bistro Infrared Gas Grill.

Iowa Environmental Focus

A quick note for Iowans grilling on Memorial Day:

Charcoal grills release 11 pounds of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide into the air every hour. This is almost exactly twice the amount of carbon dioxide released during gas grilling.

If you have the choice, consider using a gas grill both today and the rest of the summer.

Check out a short video on this topic here.

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Mr. Fish: Happy Memorial Day

Interesting how we celebrate a day honoring war dead by buying lots of shit we likely don’t need.

eats shoots 'n leaves

From his precociously prescient blog, Clowncrack.

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The Pentagon’s foray into bio-fuels falls victim to budget cuts

I was heartened last fall to hear about the US Air Force and Navy working to use biofuels (thankfully not ethanol) to slow their large demand for oil.  After all, the military has driven great technical and technological advances over the years, it would be great to have them turn their focus to cleaner and safer forms of energy.

Air Force And Navy Turn To Biofuels by Elizabeth Shogren for NPR, Sep. 26, 2011

The Pentagon’s hunt for an alternative to petroleum has turned a lowly weed and animal fat into something indistinguishable from jet fuel, and now the military is trying to kick-start a new biofuel industry.

“To flip the line from Field of Dreams, if the Navy comes, they will build it,” Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said in a recent speech.


High-tech chemical processing makes the jet biofuel nearly indistinguishable from petroleum jet fuel. It doesn’t matter whether refiners start with beef fat, leftover cooking oil or a plant like camelina. Camelina is promising because it can be grown on fallow wheat fields so it doesn’t displace food crops, and tests show it can reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent compared with petroleum.

I was equally disheartened to read that the Senate Armed Forces committee voted this week to prohibit the Pentagon from spending more on biofuels than they do on traditional carbon based sources like coal and petroleum.  I’m not advocating blowing the Pentagon’s budget on greener fuels, but I think that the investment in these sources of energy now will lead to significant savings both for our government and earth down the road.

Senate panel reins in Pentagon on clean energy by Donna Cassata for Bloomerberg BusinessWeek, May 25, 2012

A sharply divided Senate Armed Services Committee voted this week to prohibit the military from spending money on alternative fuels if the cost exceeds traditional fossil fuels such as coal, natural gas and oil. The move underscores congressional concern about the greater expense of clean energy sources such as biofuels as the Pentagon wrestles with smaller budgets. The committee, in crafting a sweeping defense budget for next year, also voted to block Pentagon construction of a biofuels refinery or any other facility to refine biofuels.

Both efforts passed on 13-12 votes that were disclosed Friday.

“In a tough budget climate for the Defense Department, we need every dollar to protect our troops on the battlefield with energy technologies that reduce fuel demand and save lives,” said Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee. “Spending $26 per gallon of biofuel is not consistent with that goal. The committee’s action corrects this misplacement of priorities.”


Just let the Zebra drive

I saw an abbreviated version of this headline on the Gazette the other day, and thought, “please let this be something that happened in Iowa.”  Good news: it was.  Bad news: it was.

Pet zebra, macaw found in truck outside Dubuque bar by Katie Wiedemann for the Cedar Rapids Gazette, May 22, 2012

It sounds like the beginning of a joke: A man, a zebra and a parrot walk into a bar.

This time it was no joke. That’s exactly what Jerald Reiter, 55, of Cascade, said he did Sunday night in Dubuque.

Dubuque police found the trio in the cab of Reiter’s pickup truck outside the Dog House Lounge at 1646 Asbury Road. Police charged Reiter with operating while intoxicated.

Everybody knows you can’t trust a parrot behind the wheel.

Wednesday Night Charts & Graphs – The Inherent Excitement to be Found in the Annualized Growth of Federal Spending

Amen. Agreed. Thank you.