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Thursday, July 23, 2015

Green is Good

Infrared image of Ethylene Cracker #7, Dow Chemical Plant, Freeport, Texas, from Genscape.
Genscape now monitors 41.95 billion lbs/yr, or 69 percent, of U.S. Gulf Coast ethylene cracking capacity via infrared camera technology.
Just finished reading Green is Good by D. T. Max in a May, 2014 issue of The New Yorker. It's about how Mark Tercek, an investment banker from Goldman-Sachs (!?!), has taken over The Nature Conservancy and is leading it in a new direction. Naturally enough, controversy ensues.

There were a few lines in the article that stood out. This one confused me, as it didn't seem to follow.
Chemical plants are volatile places, and individual components are separated from one another and buffered from residential areas, allowing nature to thrive in the gaps. 
Now that I think about it, I realize that they leave large-ish areas around chemical plants vacant because these places can be explosively dangerous, so you don't really want them around anything valuable, like people. These buffer areas make great hiding places for tweety birds and bunny rabbits, as long as the chemical plant doesn't blow up.

This line points up the big problem with conventional environmentalism.
If you saw nature as having unlimited and unquantifiable rights and humans as having none, you turned environmentalism into a form of class warfare. 
War is not bad for everything:
The war [in Columbia, South America] had been good news for the region’s many frog and butterfly species.
This line is an example of a form of statistics that I detest.
According to the most recent E.P.A. data, Dow’s Freeport plant remains the ninth-highest emitter of bromine, the eighth-highest emitter of chlorine, the fifth-highest of cumene, and the sixth-highest of hexachloroethane, which causes cancer in mice.
That sounds just awful, but wait a minute, just how much bromine are they emitting, and how does that compare to the other guys? Are we talking molecules per year, or railroad tank cars? If the #1 emiitter is dumping a supertanker load a day into the atmosphere, and our plant is dumped a cupful, do we really care about this plant? If the guys who are using bromine are dumping more into the environment than the guys who are making it, do we care about the manufacturers losses? Without some kind scale to compare these things these positional rankings are meaningless.
     And everything causes cancer in mice.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

FWIW: Bromides give you a limp dick :-(