Blogs

Clean Up the Coal Plants, Then Clean Out the Fridge

| Wed Nov. 28, 2007 8:38 PM EST

pacoalpowerplant.jpg

While the filthy coal industry touts its far-off "clean coal" technology to help keep federal subsidies flowing, perhaps there's a simpler solution to the emissions and toxins these plants belch. A Texas company called Skyonic has developed a process it claims can reduce smokestack carbon by up to 90 percent by transforming the C02 into solid NaHCO3, better known by the brand name Arm & Hammer. Hey, baking soda from coal waste! Great idea, especially if—as the company claims—the stuff comes out food-grade clean. (Even so, I think I'll just use mine to eliminate fridge odors.)

The process, which is now being tested on a pilot scale in Texas, is driven by heat from the waste gases. It involves an input of sodium hydroxide (lye), which is produced on-site, and produces as byproducts hydrogen and chlorine gases, which could be sold at a profit along with the baking soda, the company says.

Skyonic CEO Joe David Jones told ZDNET, where you can read more on this, that his company's "SkyMine" technology also eliminates 97 percent of the heavy metals and most of the acids and nitrogen compounds, which would eliminate the need for pricey smokestack scrubbers. The company is working on a full-scale system it hopes to install in 2009 that would, it says, absorb the waste output of a large (500MW) plant—which includes about 338,000 tons of carbon annually.

Sounds almost too good to be true; pie-in-the-SkyMine, you might say. Still, if it pans out, there'll be plenty of baking soda for that pie, and one less reason to hate the coal industry. 'Course, there is a little matter of blowing the tops off mountains. ...

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Clean Up the Coal Plants, Then Clean Out the Fridge

| Wed Nov. 28, 2007 7:46 PM EST

pacoalpowerplant.jpg

While the filthy coal industry touts its far-off "clean coal" technology to help keep federal subsidies flowing, perhaps there's a simpler solution to the emissions and toxins these plants belch. A Texas company called Skyonic has developed a process it claims can reduce smokestack carbon by up to 90 percent by transforming the C02 into solid NaHCO3, better known by the brand name Arm & Hammer. Hey, baking soda from coal waste! Great idea, especially if—as the company claims—the stuff comes out food-grade clean. (Even so, I think I'll just use mine to eliminate fridge odors.)

The process, which is now being tested on a pilot scale in Texas, is driven by heat from the waste gases. It involves an input of sodium hydroxide (lye), which is produced on-site, and produces as byproducts hydrogen and chlorine gases, which could be sold at a profit along with the baking soda, the company says.

Skyonic CEO Joe David Jones told ZDNET, where you can read more on this, that his company's "SkyMine" technology also eliminates 97 percent of the heavy metals and most of the acids and nitrogen compounds, which would eliminate the need for pricey smokestack scrubbers. The company is working on a full-scale system it hopes to install in 2009 that would, it says, absorb the waste output of a large (500MW) plant—which includes about 338,000 tons of carbon annually.

Sounds almost too good to be true; pie-in-the-SkyMine, you might say. Still, if it pans out, there'll be plenty of baking soda for that pie, and one less reason to hate the coal industry. 'Course, there is a little matter of blowing the tops off mountains. ...

Habeas Corpus: Don't Leave Home Without It?

| Wed Nov. 28, 2007 7:29 PM EST
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Is it me, or is this American Express ad trying to turn extraordinary rendition, black sites, and military tribunals into a tagline? Or is it just a sad reminder that even a credit-card company is more committed to due process than the U.S. government? (Spotted on the Vanity Fair website, where I was considering equally unsettling images of Christopher Hitchens getting his inner thighs waxed. Seriously.)

Huckabee Explains Himself on Abortion Inconsistency

| Wed Nov. 28, 2007 7:02 PM EST

I exchanged emails with Mike Huckabee's director of research this afternoon. The topic was Fred Thompson's assertions that Huckabee once supported the federalist position on abortion, which Thompson currently supports. If true, this would undercut Huckabee's standing as the strongest pro-lifer in the race, and make him look inconsistent. The research director denied Thompson's claims and said "Gov. Huckabee has always supported passage of a constitutional amendment to protect the right to life."

Thompson's claim rests on two quotes his campaign was able to drudge up. They are both on display at the link I provide above. In regards to the first, from the Washington Times, the Huckabee campaign says that GOP was having an internal debate over abortion's place in the party platform in 1995. The debate was between federalist language (overturn Roe and leave it to the states) and no language whatsoever. Choosing between those two bad options, Huckabee supported the federalist language.

In regards to the second passage, from Right Wing News, in which Huckabee says explicitly "first of all, it should be left to the states," the campaign provided no explanation. I asked mulitple times.

I also asked for a quote from 2006 or earlier in which Huckabee demonstrated support for the Human Life Amendment and they did not supply one. It is possible, of course, that Huckabee did support a HLA before 2007 but simply did not have his position recorded by the press.

If I hear more, I will write more.

In Iowa, a Complicated Threesome, as Edwards Aims at Obama

| Wed Nov. 28, 2007 6:30 PM EST

John Edwards has generally gone easy on Barack Obama. His wife Elizabeth in August did call Obama "holier than thou." Edwards has gently questioned Obama's commitment to establishing a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq, and he has wondered aloud about Obama's willingness to fight special interests and lobbyists, citing Obama's talk about bringing people together and rising above the political fray. But following a key rule of politics, Edwards has shot most of his arrows at front-running Hillary Clinton. That may be changing.

Obama has taken the lead in the most recent poll in Iowa, a do-or-die state for Edwards, who lags in third place behind Clinton. So today Edwards, who just last week was defending Obama from an Clinton's mockery, took direct aim at Obama. In a statement, Edwards denounced Obama's health care plan:

We need true universal health care reform that covers every single man, woman, and child in America. It is wrong to leave anyone without the care they need. A universal system will work better for all of us – delivering better care at lower cost. Barack Obama's plan leaves out 15 million people. The truth is that some people will choose not to buy insurance even though it's affordable, knowing that the rest of us will pay for their emergency room visits.

Edwards is jumping into the fight that has been going on between Clinton and Obama regarding their respective health care proposals. It's not a tremendous blast. But is this a sign that Edwards will be gunning for Obama and that the Democratic race, as the Iowa caucuses approach, will turn into a circular firing squad--which is what's been happening on the Republican side? In politics, as in much of life, a threesome can get quite complicated.

Should Spanking Your Kid Be Illegal?

| Wed Nov. 28, 2007 3:25 PM EST

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It's a question a political reporter might want to put to Mitt Romney and the Five Brothers, as the Massachusetts state legislature is currently considering legislation that would make it a crime for parents to spank their children in their own homes. Does Mitt support the bill? Inquiring minds want to know!

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U.S. Chamber of Commerce Won't Disclose Donors Without a Fight

| Wed Nov. 28, 2007 3:18 PM EST

For years, big (and often unpopular) corporations like drug and tobacco companies, have used innocuous-sounding trade associations to lobby on their behalf, without having to disclose who picks up the tab. But a new law Congress passed earlier this year is designed to put an end to the practice. Under the threat of criminal penalties, the lobbying reform act requires trade groups to disclose members who contribute more than $5,000 in a quarter and who are involved in planning or directing lobbying activities. Not surprisingly, big businesses are not happy about this, particularly the criminal penalty part.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers fired the first shot across the bow yesterday, sending a letter to the Secretary of the Senate and the clerk of the House asking for "guidance" on how to interpret the new reporting requirements. They're essentially asking to exempt a lot of people who might otherwise be outed by the new law on the grounds that the law is an unconstitutional intrusion into their inner workings.

The chamber isn't fond of disclosure. For instance, the Institute for Legal Reform, the chamber's $40 million-a-year tort reform lobbying arm, failed to disclose to the IRS four years and millions of dollars worth of taxable spending on political races. A few years ago, it secretly bought its own newspaper in Madison County, Illinois, where it was spending millions to defeat liberal state court judges. The paper generated a regular stream of chamber propaganda that got treated like bona fide news until its owners got outed by the Washington Post. Despite the chamber's complaints about the evils of the American legal system, yesterday's letter is a pretty good indication that it will spend some time there before it ever gives up exactly how much radioactive industries contribute to its lobbying efforts.

Huckabee Gets the Falwell Endorsement

| Wed Nov. 28, 2007 3:07 PM EST

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According to an email that landed in my email box moments ago, Mike Huckabee just secured the endorsement of Jerry Lamon Falwell, Jr., better known as Jerry Falwell's son. Falwell Jr. is the chancellor of Liberty University, a post he took over after his father, who founded Liberty U, died earlier this year.

Having Falwell Sr.'s endorsement would have undoubtedly packed a greater punch, even though Falwell's influence waned before his death due to a number of crazy comments he never lived down. But an endorsement from Lynchburg is signficant nonetheless because it marks Huckabee's official entry into the top tier. This is the sort of endorsement Huckabee likely couldn't have gotten a few months ago, or even a few weeks ago.

To wit. Almost exactly two weeks ago, National Right to Life endorsed Fred Thompson, even though Thompson would let the states decide how to handle abortion and Huckabee wants them banned by the Constitution. What was NRL's explanation for choosing Thompson over Huckabee? "Our endorsement is a testament to Senator Thompson's long-standing pro-life record, his commitment to unborn children, and our belief in his ability to win." (Emphasis mine.)

Thus far, Huckabee has only scored endorsements from the likes of Chuck Norris and wrestler Ric Flair. Now he's playing in the big leagues.

New Scandal: Obama Can't Decide on a Favorite TV Show

| Wed Nov. 28, 2007 2:25 PM EST

obama-maaah.jpg According to TV Guide, which did a survey of the presidential candidates to identify their favorite TV shows, Barack Obama prefers M*A*S*H* and The Wire.

Except on Facebook (login required), Obama lists his favorite show as Sportscenter.

This is a HUGE issue. Stop the presses.

Actually, don't. Some junior staffers screwed up, no biggie. But let's try to get it straight, guys.

More seriously, though, Obama messed up in a recent speech when he claimed (1) Bush never traveled abroad prior to being elected, and (2) the deficit will be twice as high upon Bush's exit as it was upon his entrance. Both are false, according to the WaPo's very good FactChecker feature.

This post was basically an excuse to use this sentence from TV Guide, which obviously doesn't try to hide its priorities: "The complete "Presidential Candidate Edition" column is in the Dec. 3 issue of TV Guide (Desperate Housewives' Dana Delany is on the cover)."

Mike Gravel's Campaign Spins Off into Psychedelic Wonderworld

| Wed Nov. 28, 2007 1:55 PM EST

Mike Gravel's campaign has a history of awesome videos, so it's tough for him to raise the bar. But I think he has with what you'll find below.

I sincerely hope that Gravel keeps producing stuff like this through the general election and into the next presidency. You'd have CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, and crazy uncle Mike and his badass videos.