Showing posts from November, 2015

Crash and Burn

Going into the COP-21 Paris climate talks, the U.S. position is reportedly to emulate Maryland's Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act, bringing carbon emissions for the whole country down 27% by 2025.  I imagine this won't be very hard, since peak oil and financial disaster will force us down that path eventually, anyway.

Meanwhile, Maryland can't seem to see the forest for the trees of gas lines crisscrossing the state. Though informed in 2010 that Maryland's abundant biomass could provide a portion of the state's energy, clean power investment has favored natural gas, solar, and wind power.

It would be comforting if Maryland would ban fracking like New York did this year. Otherwise, investments in cleaner power plants, such as the PSEG Keys Energy Center being built up in Brandywine, may end up as incentives to further damage the environment.  While it may beat coal and gas export in terms of carbon emissions, natural gas is non-renewable and only sets us up for a big …

Playing with Fire

I am proud to be a Marylander just for the simple fact that our state is a leader in the fight against climate change.  Maryland's Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act (GGRA) rivals the plans of such progressive states as Switzerland in the rapidity envisioned for reducing emissions to fight global warming.  Since GGRA was enacted in 2009, Maryland has actually reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions faster than required by the plan, which calls for a 25% reduction of the 2006 level of emissions by 2020.  We are now at the point where an update to the plan is needed, as the Act must be reapproved in 2016.

Insofar as the real importance of Maryland's plan is not in drawing down emissions, but in showing other states how it is possible to do so while growing the economy, the GGRA is laudable. I do, however, have my reservations as to motives and the ultimate outcome.  It's not that Maryland is just so small as to have little bearing on global warming, it's that, at this point in …

Terror Starts at Home

The heightened level of "security" brought on by the most recent global terrorist attacks and threats will likely be evident in several ways to all Americans right where they live.  One local organization that is primed to play in this game is the Calvert County Sheriff's Department.  They have been itching to take on any would-be disruptors of our sedate rural existence, so much so that they zero in on whatever appears alien.  Out of state license plates are one clue.  Visiting for the purpose of protest is another.

A situation like the one recently at Bank of America stadium involving repellers with a banner protesting the Cove Point Plant expansion was resurrected recently when charges and counter-charges were filed over the treatment of protesters who had been arrested following the crane climbing incident early this year at Dominion's staging site on the Patuxent River.  It is not at all surprising that the Sheriff's Department would put a stop to such a st…

Chicken Shit

Turning our gaze across the Chesapeake Bay where chicken factories are one of the salient features of the landscape, a group of activists called Food & Water Watch has raised protests against the incineration of chicken manure.  You might think, with my advocacy of using chicken litter to make biochar, I would take exception to that position.  The truth is, incineration is not how you make biochar.

F&WW seems to mainly want to make CAFO's go away, but their agitation against the Renewable Fuel Standard inclusion of manure as a Tier 1 renewable fuel is ostensibly based on increased air pollution from incineration.  A long and twisted tale leads to the current state of dissatisfaction over the way we deal with this resource.

We can begin with Martin O'Malley who, back in his days as Maryland Governor, made a deal with Exelon Corporation to fund $50 million of a project to convert chicken litter to energy in exchange for allowing them to merge with Constellation Energy. …


An encouraging trend in Maryland and much of the country toward more local self-sufficiency is the explosive growth of local beer brewing.  Even more encouraging is the 2012 passage of a law here that allows farmers special dispensation in order to brew and sell beer and other accompaniments. This reduces the logistics of delivering agricultural inputs to the brewers.  I noticed one such farm brewery close by that I would like to visit someday.  Calvert Brewing Company makes several types of beer, with their webpage telling you which types of hops go into each one.

Therein lies my interest; not so much in the drinking, but in the ingredients.  A few weeks ago, I introduced myself to the brewmaster at The Ruddy Duck Brewing Company in order to inquire as to the chances of relieving him of some of the spent grains used in making his beer.  He was happy to oblige.  I now bring him a 30 gallon container every week, which he fills with wet hops and grains out of one of his tanks.  He also…

(Sh)it's All Good

Avian flu is not the only disease that might come from raising chickens.  The common concern is e.coli. Some 60,000 cases of e.coli infections get treated every year in the U.S. and a few deaths do occur, but, though those rates are low, who wants to be sickened by some nasty bug?  Nasty, because the main source is animal excrement.

I could say "shit," but that's not what it is to me.  I treasure it and all other excrement because, in a display of nature's alchemical capabilities, crap can be transformed into black gold through the phenomenon of composting. There are several types of dung I currently collect. We have a backyard chicken owner in our church who lets us take their droppings to our community garden for fertilizer. I regularly visit a riding stables about 3 miles away to fill bags with horse dung and cart them home for composting.

Anyone who has pets can also compost their caca with a little forethought.  I bought a cheap, versatile Geobin composter for…

Chickening Out

If there is one food species other than crab that Maryland is known for, it is chickens.  Purdue, Tyson, and others run vast chicken farms on the Eastern Shore.  If one wants to raise chickens in their backyard, however, that can be problematic.  The state only requires that poultry keepers register in case of an avian flu outbreak.  Counties have their own rules.  Calvert county only limits the number of birds you can have if you are raising them as pets, rather than for production.  The hangup occurs with homeowners associations.  A good number of homes are part of HOA's, including our own.  I have searched the rules for several of Calvert county's HOA's and found that one thing they have in common is prohibition of poultry and livestock.

In a state that prides itself on supplying a good deal of the country's chicken meat, this is singular. The reasons may be that odor could reach neighbors, or noise, or disease.  These rules are not in step with the times, however, …


Our house is in a homeowners association area known as the Chesapeake Ranch Estates (CRE).  The census designated place of Lusby, MD is inland and adjacent to our neighborhood.  We, and all but two other places in Calvert County, are beholden to the whims of the Board of County Commissioners for managing our tax dollars.

A petition has been submitted to the county government to allow our neighborhood and the adjoining commercial district to incorporate into a municipality, which would allow us to decide where some of our tax dollars are spent and to apply for grants and loans from state and federal agencies. If approved, our rural village will be known as Calvert Shores and, though late in coming, the change is a step in the right direction.  It would allow stronger enforcement of local rules, which have proven difficult for the HOA to maintain due to the enormous size of CRE.  It might also allow our village to begin the transition to a more resilient community, able to adapt to fin…

Calvert's Dirty Little Secrets

A worst-case scenario of a fire at the aforementioned Cove Point LNG plant is that a major leak could ignite and carry a fireball along the surface of the Chesapeake Bay up to 5 miles.  That is not the scenario that prompted the expenditure of $31 million at the Calvert Cliffs nuclear power plant for a fifth layer of emergency back-up gear to avert a repeat of the disaster at Fukashima, Japan. A reciprocal scenario is the possibility of a large aircraft crashing into the nuclear plant resulting in an explosion that gets compounded by more explosions from the LNG plant.  Let's hope Murphy's Law doesn't evince itself by demonstrating the unintended linkage between these two contiguous facilities.

More likely, Calvert Cliffs will, like hundreds of other nuclear power plants, prove to be a financial mistake because of the cost of decommissioning and disposal.  Nuclear power is costly in so many ways that the U.S. has been practically in a nuclear plant construction moratorium…

We're Not Your Dumb Minions

It's disconcerting how energy issues have a way of intruding on stuff that's important to us.  In my own life, energy has come to the fore so often that I could count myself as a professional in some ways.  My naval career pulled me reluctantly through the nuclear power pipeline in both military, and later, civilian capacities.  Soon thereafter, I worked for Puget Sound Energy.  My next job involved power to the Internet, but that ended quickly after Enron's shenanigans were exposed.  My year in Iraq once again thrust me into the energy arena as part of the Energy Fusion Cell in Baghdad.

Even when energy isn't our unintended profession, it can get in our face.  So it was last night for viewers of the NFL Monday Night Football match in Charlotte, NC.  Right in the middle of their most important pastime, hundreds of thousands of fans had to stop and take notice of a couple of anti-fracking activists with a giant banner repelling down from the roof of the stadium.  Like …