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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 11/4/09

Sellout On The Great Lakes

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Last week, some very disturbing events took place regarding 52 very large freighters (1000 foot-long class with 40,000 to 70,000 ton cargo holds) based in and on the Great Lakes. These ships, which carry millions of tons of heavy cargoes across the Lakes through the locks of St. Lawrence Seaway to the world, burn the dirtiest dregs of refinery scum in the world -- bunker C oil. This stuff is so sludgy it has to be heated to flow into the old diesels that burn it. 13 of the 52 "Lakers" as they are called have no pollution controls whatsoever. Each puts out enough pollution to equate to over 100,000 cars and trucks. All 52 produce as much CO2 as all the cars in Michigan, and they run these engines 24/7/365.

The story can be gleaned from the Washington Post this week in these three articles:
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and the latest herein:
Nation Digest
Thursday, October 29, 2009

A pact on cleaner fuel for Great Lakes ships

Lawmakers reached a compromise Tuesday on a proposed Environmental Protection Agency rule that would force ships to burn much cleaner fuel.

Language added to an Interior Department appropriations bill would exempt 13 Great Lakes steamships from the rule and allow the remaining 52 U.S.-flagged Great Lakes ships to ask for a waiver if more expensive, cleaner fuel is unavailable or would cause them undue economic hardship. The language also calls for the EPA to report within six months on the rule's economic impact.

The compromise was spearheaded by Reps. David R. Obey (D-Wis.) and James L. Oberstar (D-Minn.) and other Great Lakes legislators because of fears that the rule would increase shipping costs enough to harm the global competitiveness of regional commodities such as steel and grain.

-- Kari Lydersen

Obey and Oberstar have great influence over the EPA. They control the purse strings. There are as you may know great forces at work here to save jobs today at the expense of the environment and deal a crushing blow to the green jobs industries nascent in the Midwest (Wind power systems and ammonia production from renewable power). The advocates for change are subjugated by the old economy stalwarts who are conning the Congressmen to allow the old technologies to continue unabated and destroy the newer alternatives. The EPA is bending to their will.

What should be done is to retrofit all these ships with ammonia-burning systems with ammonia fuel tanks. The ammonia will burn in the old diesels with virtually the same energy efficiency yet produce zero emissions of CO2 and unburned hydrocarbons and toxic gasses (bunker C is loaded with sulfur, lead, mercury, arsenic, radioactive elements, and other crud). The effluent from ammonia combustion is only nitrogen and water vapor. We can feed ammonia to the ships' ports via 3000 miles of pipelines that currently branch into the heartland of the Midwest. Renewable energy producers should be producing ammonia from the new wind farms if the markets within the impacted states allow that to happen, but current ammonia sources can do it today. This is a great opportunity for the EPA to take point in a campaign to stop 5 million cars' worth of CO2 pollution right now.


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Designed first all-solar home for Ryland Homes in 1974. At MITRE, led a group of 35 of the best minds in the world (including Dr. Edward Teller, among others) who performed detailed engineering, scientific, socio-economic, and political analyses (more...)

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