Hoping for good options in 2020

Watching South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s ascent is refreshing and frustrating. Refreshing because he presents himself with poise oddly lacking in many of the other 2020 Presidential candidates. 

It’s frustrating because of my irrational, deep-seated aversion to anyone under 40 running for President.

President Trump, in a classic pot and kettle moment, questioned Mayor Buttigieg’s ability to handle Oval Office duties. Buttigieg, showing grown up restraint, responded with a Chinese proverb: “When the wind changes, some people build walls and some people build windmills”.

It’s a political eternity until November 2020 and Buttigieg could stumble. I’m holding judgement until I hear more from his competition including Republicans (Mitt Romney, anyone?) who may yet challenge President Trump.

Win or lose, Mayor Buttigieg might elevate the conversation and force the other candidates to raise their game. We can only hope.

Speaking of hopeful, if, like me, you pine for a steady hand in the White House regardless of political party, Romney might also be worth a look.

Physicians are taught “first do no harm”, but that could apply equally to governing. Politics has seasoned first-do-no-harm leaders and young shoot from the hip irritants.

Romney is a first-do-no-harm guy which sounds comforting these days.

I’ll end this fickle message with my dream matchup for 2020: Romney vs. Buttigieg. We could do worse.

In fact, we already have.

— Jim Newton, Itasca, Ill.

Calculating risk of CO2 storage

It is fantastic news that Walbash Valley Resources plans to convert the old SG Solutions coal gasification plant near West Terre Haute into an Ammonia production facility for all the good reasons that their press releases state.

They tell us that they expect to store underground 1.65 million tons/year of CO2 to help prevent global warming. The following calculations support the idea of just using a smoke stack rather than risking a catastrophic failure of underground containment.

First of all, it cannot really be pure CO2, it has to contain some percentage of the more deadly carbon monoxide. According to the Handbook of Poisoning, 8th edition, page 228, by Robert H. Dreisback, “The exhaust from incomplete combustion of natural gas or petroleum fuels may contain as much as 5% of Carbon Monoxide.” But, let us ignore that for the moment and apply some rough high-school level physical science calculations using the PV = nRT formula to convert tons into volume and area.

It would be more ideal if the EPA would do the worst-case scenario predictions of a catastrophic failure but they restrict themselves to only evaluating the environmental effects given the gases stay where they are put. It is up to the local population to do the number crunching. (We have too much team work by team players going on in this country.)

So, say just 1 year worth of storage escaped before it could be plugged up, that 1.65 million metric tons of pure CO2 would make a circle 12.17 miles wide and about 9.8 feet high (given conditions of 70 degrees Fahrenheit, 1 atmosphere pressure). It is 1.6 times heavier than air, so it is going to skirt the ground quite a while before it dilutes to non-fatal levels. That is a total death zone.

If you want to believe like me that only 10% CO2 if breathed for more than an hour is also fatal then multiply by 10 and get a total death zone of about 122 miles.

Going back to the aborted Meredosia, Illinois, Future-Gen project, where they claimed the CO2 was 97% pure with 3% “inert” gases, we can push our imaginations further to translate “inert” into carbon monoxide. (Context is everything, inert does not necessarily mean Nobel Gases.) Since CO is fatal at 0.1% we must multiply by 30 the 12.17 diameter death zone to get a circle 365 miles wide of certain death. Maybe that is not a fair calculation, but it agrees with the Dreisback text comment above.

I have a copy of the Untied States 2012 Carbon Utilization and Storage Atlas published by the Department of Energy. Ominous by its lack of mention, they only refer to the CO2 stored at the Otsego County Michigan site as “high purity.” Carbon monoxide is not once mentioned in this 130-page document. The DOE is not transparent regarding the content of their CO2 storage sites.

One Wabash Valley Resources spokesman said, “we would cease sequestration activities if there was an issue with the wellhead.” Well, it is not problems early in the operation that you have to worry about. The more years it stores up the exhaust CO2 the worse the worst-case scenario becomes. I am not sure if the wellhead is the only point of escape to consider.

Lost in all this confidence in technology and a lack of belief in the spirit of error, are the X factors. What are those? ISIS, the occasional disgruntled engineer, and the like are the X factors. The longer this thing would store up asphyxiating gases the more determined the X factors are going to want to hit it.

— Richard Blythe, Terre Haute

Mexico helping more than Dems

It just warms my heart to know that the Mexican government is doing more to secure our southern border than the Democrats are.

To be sure, the sun doesn’t rise or set on the Republicans, but at least they are not insane.

— Mark Burns, Terre Haute

Modern rhymes

Robert Mueller will stand the test of time.

Donald Trump will suffer the curse of crime.

— Saul Rosenthal, Terre Haute 


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