Monday, September 19, 2011

Turnpike-Eye View of Environmental Impacts

Drove from my family's place in Michigan back to Virginia today - about 550 miles. A trip like this gives me a quick snapshot of a variety of human impacts on the environment (and the irony of making the trip in my own little carbon polluter isn't lost on me):

Coal Plant in Monroe, MI on the shores of Lake Erie run by DTE Energy. DTE recently got in trouble with the EPA for not doing a better job to curb emissions at this plant. "Monroe Unit 2 released 27,230 tons of sulfur dioxide and 8,205 tons of nitrogen oxide in 2009 — tops in Michigan, according to the EPA." DTE claims it's too costly to make the upgrades EPA has asked them to make and calls the concerns of public health officials "alarmist".

Somewhere along the Ohio Turnpike near Toledo?

Continental divide point along the Ohio Turnpike near Mantua, OH (I believe).

Roof of the Lordstown GM Assembly Plant in Ohio which is currently producing the Chevy Cruze.

There are lots of creepy, skeletal "ghost trees" along the Pennsylvania Turnpike east of Pittsburgh, for miles and miles. It's a chilling sight. Foresters quoted in various articles attribute the damage to the de-icing salt that's applied to the road in winter and the resulting runoff. Even trees far from the road, on mountaintops, seem to be affected.

The nine-megawatt (MW) Somerset Wind Farm in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. Here's a factsheet from the operator. By June 2011, the U.S. wind industry had 42,432 MW of cumulative wind capacity.

2 comments:

  1. Nice article, imagery is excellent.
    The linked article about the EPA vs DTE says DTE was upgrading parts, presumably to stay in business, but did not opt for the "latest technology to capture smog-causing emissions."
    Is there any supplier map showing which factories are causing the most such emissions, and whether customers have any power to complain to the factory owners, or simply buy products from a different factory?
    My MD friend has me excited about a energy industry effort to make the power grid rentable, like the internet connection lines, so that alternative power sources could be supplied from different factories and customers could choose which factory to buy power from. I think that ability in the hands of a concerned customer could have a big impact on power suppliers.

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  2. Hi Francis, Thanks for reading, and for you comments. In terms of maps, you might want to check out Sierra Club's Beyond Coal "Near You" page:

    http://www.sierraclub.org/coal/coalnearyou/default.aspx

    Sierra Club has really done a lot to shut down and scrap plans for coal plants around the country.

    Lots of interesting ideas about democratizing the grid too. Here's one from Germany:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oz4XpBkR7tM&feature=channel_video_title

    - Erica

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