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Recent Comments

Re: “The Time to Fight Coal in Oakland Is Now

Although the writer did not bring up the fraudulent carbon dioxide sequestration argument, it is important for readers to understand the sources and meaning of that propaganda by the coal industry. There are three main routes proposed to tie up carbon dioxide that is being produced in prodigious quantities by burning coal and other fossil fuels.
1. React it with lime (calcium oxide)
2. React it with amines.
3. Store it in underground caverns.
Here are the realities:
1. There is no calcium oxide minerals that have not already reacted with carbon dioxide to form calcium carbonate. These take the form of chalk, limestone minerals and marble for example. In order to turn these into calcium oxide, they must be heated white hot by burning even more fuel which releases their carbon dioxide into the air. Then the cooled calcium oxide can react with new carbon dioxide. I assume the stupidity of this plan is obvious to all.
2. Amines cost lots of money. Ethylamine is over $1 per kilogram. How much money would it take to buy enough of this chemical to tie up a billion tons a month of carbon dioxide, which is probably many thousands times current production. More than you want to spend I'm sure.
3. Caverns. There are no such giant caverns all around the world that can be guaranteed not to leak. In order to get enough carbon dioxide in one of them, the pressure needs to be raised to several atmospheres. How do you prevent any cover from not just blowing up? You don't know? Neither does anyone else.
For every year that a gullible public (including politicians who should know better) allows coal to be burned based on these phony arguments, the industry makes billions of dollars in profit. For a few million dollars in research support to make their phony stories sound reasonable, the industry banks billions every year. What a great investment for them. Don't fall for it!

Posted by Zerowaster on 12/05/2019 at 4:52 PM

Re: “Berkeley Bans New Natural Gas Hookups

Much of the disputation on energy is just silly. Methods are elevated over sources. Hydrogen fuels are of course the worst, since the proponents pretend that clean burning hydrogen is actually clean, while it all depends on the source of the hydrogen, most of which is still made from fossil fuels. Natural gas as a heating source has one huge benefit - thermodynamically speaking, 100% of its heat value is made use of, whether for cooking or space heating, since it does not require boiling water or turning a motor. This is in contradiction to its use in power plants where water and motors are needed and the efficiency is closer to 50% (half of all heat is required by physics to be wasted). Electricity coming from fuel burning power plants is a terrible waste since half of the fuel value never becomes electricity. However, if the electric house is married to a sustainable electricity source, such as a house that provides all of its electricity from its own roof, that makes the electric usage more reasonable (remember, solar cells are a manufactured object with their own problems). Directly absorbing heat from the sun, on a roof, without passing through electricity is even more efficient. Cost is an irrelevant parameter for making decisions. We only have one planet and the cost of its destruction overwhelms all other costs by far. Thermodynamics and climate disruption make much more sense as indicators of what to construct. I hope the Berkeley council is informed by the many physicists who reside there and not by contractors. We need to get away from the ridiculous comparison of price. I recommend Green Illusions by Ozzie Zehner of Cal Berkeley for a common sense view of how to use energy.

Posted by Zerowaster on 07/25/2019 at 12:10 PM

Re: “Letters for the Week of May 22-28

It would be great if this comment list could become a much needed logical and scientific investigation of the basics of recycling. No such thing has ever publicly existed because recycling is simply accepted and urged on a tired and uncaring public by zealots and taken for granted by the public because some minimal reuse can be seen.
It's simple: if you design products for discard, and provide the social institutions for discard, they will be discarded. If you design for reuse, and provide the social institutions for reuse, they will be reused. HOWEVER, if you design for discard and then attempt reuse, you will fail. As we have failed.
Aluminum cans (the favorite model of the recyclers): These have a reported three month cycle from creation to disposal. One-half of all cans end up in dumps every three months. Run the math for four three-month cycles per year and 15/16ths of all the cans created in January are in the dump by December. Some model!
Glass bottles: the highest reuse modality for all products is the function that they were laboriously created for, not their simple, cheap materials. Glass materials are just silica, or sand, the cheapest of all earth's bounty. The way to use containers is to REFILL them, not smash them. Smashing into cullet means carrying heavy silica around in large trucks to a distant factory, then expending all the same fuel to melt it as would have been needed for raw material silica. It's an insane idea, with no environmental benefit. But refilling containers that never need to be trucked around and melted, saves all of the fuel that made them initially. It's a HUGE benefit. Deposits are a bad idea because it breaks the train of history. If a consumer empties a wine bottle and rinses it, he KNOWS it is clean and can refill it. If a distributor gets in a deposit bottle HE DOES NOT KNOW its history so must treat it like it's severely contaminated and clean it with harsh chemicals (sodium hydroxide is the cleaner of choice) which then end up as unnecessary chemical pollution. Refilling by the original user requires no such harsh treatment. Let's have a discussion about how to effect such easy refilling.
Join me in weighing the pluses and minuses of various ways to reuse all of society's goods, but let's not stick to personal consumption. We also need to discuss buildings, cars, airplanes, streets and industrial equipment some day.

Posted by Zerowaster on 06/20/2019 at 4:39 PM

Re: “Recycling's Sword of Damocles

Add to my earlier comment - two points I should have made:
1. What is the most important and needed response to achieve the efficient and scientifically informed redesign of goods for reuse, rather than discard? It is the creation of a Zero Waste Research Institute. How about at UC Berkeley? That would be appropriate if it were done honestly, rather than as a garbage oriented grant machine.

2. Join me to set up a Real Zero Waste organization headquartered in Berkeley, set up to solve problems with reality and science, not by easy but meaningless fixes. Let's get an organization going. My email is

Paul Palmer PhD (Chemistry)

Posted by Zerowaster on 05/23/2019 at 12:00 AM

Re: “Recycling's Sword of Damocles

For forty years I have been pointing out that recycling is a nonsensical non-solution to a serious problem. The garbage industry has been pumping up recycling in all the ways it can because it is a fact that the more recycling is imposed, the more garbage is created, and that is what makes their profits. When people think garbage is being recycled (even when it isn't) they are much more accepting of garbage creation. Look at SF's situation if you need evidence.
The answer to resource over-consumption never was recycling. It is called Zero Waste and it depends on redesigning all goods for perpetual reuse. I started and ran a company that made lots of profits demonstrating this for those "tough to reuse" goods - chemicals. Current design practices are for a short life followed by easy discard. Once the design is in, it's almost impossible to change it. Recycling falls flat on its face dealing with goods that are DESIGNED for discard with social choices mandating discard.
Learn much more by going to This is a fully formed theory and design analysis.
In 2007 I wrote the widely distributed The Death Of Recycling. I wrote a website for Project Censored at targeted at Berkeley but this city seems to be religiously devoted to recycling, whether it makes any sense or not. Now that anyone can see the bankruptcy of recycling theory (if such a thing can be said to exist) it is time to try a scientific approach and actually analyse the reasons why garbage has become the universal endgame for valuable resources.
Or just keep beating on the dead horse of recycling. Your choice.
Paul Palmer PhD

Posted by Zerowaster on 05/22/2019 at 4:19 PM

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