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Thursday, December 9, 2010



Thursday, 8:30 AM. 18 degrees, wind SSW, strong, and very blustery at times. The sky is overcast and it is snowing fairly hard; fine, icy pellets. The barometer predicts stormy weather, and it looks like we might get a blizzard. Lucky and I walked most of our usual route this morning, so we are both on the mend.
The news is that the power plant in Ashland (Excel Energy, AKA Northern States Power) has reconsidered going completely to biomass after re-running the numbers. Several of its power boilers have been run by wood sawdust and other waste for over thirty years, but they were going to shut down coal use entirely in the near future and convert completely to biomass. Evidently the marketplace for biomass has become too expensive to do that. I am not disappointed, as some expectations for forest biomass saw every stick of wood being fed into the energy system, either directly as fuel or for conversion to ethanol. That is very problematic from an ecological standpoint unless very tightly controlled, and our society has a penchant for wild swings of environmental and economic theory and practice, often with very dubious results. As my grandmother used to say, “You’re better off with a devil you know than a devil you don’t know,” probably relating to my grandfather, but certainly applicable to many situations. Anyway, I lean towards coal and oil as the lesser of most energy devils, and certainly more economic and practical than most of the others out there. A plus in the power plant’s continued use of coal is that we will still see the occasional big lake boat plying the channel, and the magnificent Ashland harbor will have to be kept dredged and up to date, ready for the distant day when the lake traffic returns.

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