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News & Views of Phillips Since 1976
Friday July 19th 2024

The Great Transition

By Peter Molenaar

403 – 221 BC”¦

The newly developed cupola type furnace emerged like so many mushrooms upon the land. Masses were rallied to the stacks”¦all available iron was to be sacrificed between layers of glowing coke (i.e., coal). Such was the Warring States Period in Chinese history.

June 1979”¦

I would survive Smith Foundry”'s last “cupola campaign.” After which, under an environmental mandate, the beast was put to sleep. A new electric furnace was to draw its power from a coal-fired plant some distance away. Actually, Mother Earth was seen rolling her eyes and shaking her head.


“When the Clean Power Plan is fully in place in 2030, carbon pollution from the power sector will be 32% below 2005 levels,” so says the EPA. (32%?!) Meanwhile, Xcel Energy has announced plans to cut carbon emissions, by 60%, mainly by switching from coal to natural gas.

Earth responds:

Hydraulic fracturing is the process of drilling, and high pressure fluid injection, to fracture shale rock and release the natural gas inside. Each fracturing takes 1-8 million gallons of water mixed with sand and approximately 40,000 gallons of chemicals (a “proprietary” mix of carcinogens and toxins). Moreover, the production and distribution of fracted gas releases “vast” amounts of CH4””an even more potent greenhouse gas than CO2. SOUND THE ALARM: Natural gas is not the solution.

Clearly, we must think beyond fossil fuels. A vast infrastructure for wind, solar, hydrogen, and yes, second generation nuclear must be created. This will, of course, require a huge energy investment. It follows that Earth must grant us more of her coal,

and we must quickly learn to sequester the resulting CO2.

As for us industrial workers, we stand ready for THE GREAT TRANSITION.

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