New High-Tech Imaging Protecting the Planet and Saving Lives

A revolutionary new technology is not only helping to protect the environment, but is now being used to save lives.  Increasingly, thermal or optical gas imaging cameras are being used to detect dangerous fugitive emissions from refineries and other industrial facilities.   An article in today’s WSJ, Making Drilling Rigs Safer, tells the story of a new startup, Rebellion Photonics, started by Allison Lami Sawyer and Robert Kester, who are using thermal imaging to save the lives of those who work in jobs, such as the oil and gas industry, where explosive emissions can kill.  Given the revolutionary potential of this technology, Rebellion Photonics was one of three finalists for “WSJ Startup of the Year.” 

The science behind these new camers is fairly straightforward, enabling us to see infrared wavelengths absorbed by gases not visible to the naked eye.  Here’s the technology being used to find a potentially deadly natural gas leak. 

This technology is transformational on so many levels and, I predict, will revolutionize industry.  Not only because of its huge benefits, but its small price, relative to the adverse impacts from undetected fugitive gases.   These new tools are also now being deployed by EPA enforcement to catch the unwary who, in many cases, are violating environmental laws by not finding and fixing gas leaks in the course production.   It’s not at all uncommon these days to spot EPA enforcement officials, in unmarked cars, siting outside the fence-line with a thermal imaging camera in hand, collecting all the evidence they need.  Feeling somewhat exposed, companies are feeling compelled to install these technologies at their own fence-lines to proactively detect leaks before the regulators do.  Given that the ready availability of this technology is driving enforcement and exposing companies to greater enforcement risks, it will continue to blossom into big business, as reflected in the upcoming annual LDAR-Fugitive Emission Symposium, slated for New Orleans in May 2014.

Oceans At Risk

Below is a sobering story of a yachtsman who, in a recent voyage from Australia to Japan, observed some disturbing telltale067467-200-ocean-pollution signs in the oceans.  While fish were scarce, human debris littering the ocean was apparently plentiful.

An Australian sailor has described parts of the Pacific Ocean as “dead” because of severe overfishing, with his vessel having to repeatedly swerve debris for thousands of kilometres on a journey from Australia to Japan.

Ivan MacFadyen told of his horror at the severe lack of marine life and copious amounts of rubbish witnessed on a yacht race between Melbourne and Osaka. He recently returned from the trip, which he previously completed 10 years ago.

“In 2003, I caught a fish every day,” he told Guardian Australia. “Ten years later to the day, sailing almost exactly the same course, I caught nothing. It started to strike me the closer we got to Japan that the ocean was dead. Continue reading

Tea Partiers Aren’t as Scientifically Stupid as Believed – Concludes One Smart Liberal

Those that read this blog know that I’m a fan of Dan Kahan, although I don’t know him personally and he and I don’t hang together in the same political spheres.  Kahan has conducted some interesting research on cultural cognition as it relates to climate change and other controversial topics, like vaccines, that require an intellectual capacity (and willingness) to understand scientifically complex issues.  But before delving into Kahan’s interesting results, a brief refresher on linear regression analysis.  The higher the r-value, ranging from 1.0 to -1.0, the stronger the correlation between two variables.  When doing linear regression, you can have both negative and positive correlations.  It should come, therefore, as no surprise to learn that those who are more highly educated tend to have higher scientific literacy and comprehension than those less educated, r-value of 0.36, as shown by the histogram below.  Full post over on Kahan’s blog here

   Continue reading

Rupert Murdoch, Fox News, and Climate Change

Linking to an interesting NPR interview this morning with David Folkenflik, author of the book, Murdoch’s World, and not surprisingly the storyline that tends to portray the strong influence exerted by Murdoch over his news outlets, such as News Corp, i.e., the Wall Street Journal and Fox News, on stories such as climate change.  I heard the interview this morning on my commute into DC.  Interesting, it just so happens that, although Murdoch’s outlets convey strong skepticism of anthropogenic global warming, he himself believes the matter serious enough that, in 2007, he declared News Corp would become “carbon neutral” in five years.   Continue reading

The Ick Factor to Recycled Water – Just a Drop in the Ocean

just-a-drop-in-the-ocean-543410-mPut this in the column of wacky Friday stories.  In a story this week involving Portland, Oregon’s, drinking water reservoir:

One man caught urinating into Portland’s Mt. Tabor reservoir on Wednesday morning caused panic – forcing the city to dump almost 8 million gallons of drinking water at the cost of tens of thousands of dollars.

Police were called to the open air reservoir, which supplies some of the city’s 500,000 residents with their water, after surveillance cameras captured the unidentified 21-year-old relieving himself by the water’s edge.

While the police did not arrest or charge the man, this is the fourth contamination incident in five-years for the controversial reservoir, causing them to spend hundreds of thousands of taxpayers dollars dumping millions of gallons of drinking water each time.

Full story here.  The resulting consequence of this stranger relieving himself in Portland’s water supply cost $36,000.  I’m quite confident the City would not have made this costly decision but for the public’s squeamishness and the “ick” factor associated with “recycled” water.  But truth be told, we humans drink recycled water every day.  There isn’t a glass of water or soda consumed that hasn’t previously been cleansed by the kidneys of another human, or dinosaur for that matter.  The risk to the public from this event was non-existent.  So, we the public need to get over the ick factor, and stop making our resource managers make these kind of silly decisions.  And increasingly, the need for using reclaimed water grows, where strains on the environment, aquatic life, and water resources are reaching a breaking point. 

A New Movement of Sorts – Reusable Toilet Paper

I thought I was among the vanguard of sustainability when I installed a couple of those water saving two-button toilets in our household – you know, the ones with the small and big button for small and big jobs.  But I can’t, and probably won’t, top this new trend, reusable toilet paper.  Can you imagine attending a nice dinner party at your friend’s house and, when that biological urge arises, discretely making your way to the powder room, and then all of a sudden the shear horror and dilemma of what to do.  Well apparently this is not all that far-fetched, and happened to Whitney (we’ve withheld her last name to protect the immortaly embarrased).  Continue reading