TXU goes from coal to nuclear!

First TXU announced that it was going to build 11 new coal burning power plants around Texas. As you can expect, no one wants to live near a coal power plant, and one judge has already rejected one of the plants planned for Oak Grove.

The judges rejected Dallas-based TXU’s contention that it could build its proposed, two-unit Oak Grove plant in Robertson County without making the region’s air pollution worse. TXU has made similar arguments for each of the 11 new coal-burning units that it wants to build, mostly in East Texas.

The 11 TXU plants are among 16 coal-burning units that power companies want to build in Texas. Environmental and health groups say the coal boom would harm air quality across the state’s eastern half. Power companies say they would have minimal effect on air quality and are needed to provide electricity for a growing state.

Oak Grove is the first new TXU coal plant to go before the State Office of Administrative Hearings in Austin for a formal review. While other proposed plants will get individual hearings, the Oak Grove recommendation could signal problems for other plants.

Cynics claim that the rush to build a bunch of coal plants is a way for TXU to have them in existence BEFORE any potential government regulation of carbon dioxide emissions. CO2 is said to contribute to global warming. If the US created some kind of cap and trade system like they have in Europe and TXU already had the plants built first, then they could start out with a very high basis for carbon dioxide credits. They could then add CO2 capturing technology to their plants and sell their credits to someone else, or use those credits to build other future plants, etc.

TXU says the plants are needed because of growing power needs in Texas. And it is certainly true that Texas needs more power. The grid has been at capacity during a recent run of 100 degree plus temperatures.

So would you be doubly cynical if you thought that maybe TXU is announcing plans to build more nuclear plants after everyone criticized the coal plants for creating too much air pollution and too much carbon dioxide? Because after all, those coal plants that use “old, dirty technology.”

Nuclear doesn’t increase carbon dioxide, and it doesn’t cause air pollution. If you don’t like coal, then you must love nuclear, right? Probably not.

I think the truth is that no one wants ANY kind of power plant in their backyard. People even complain about windmills, and I’m sure there’s probably something wrong with solar too, if it’s too close to someone’s house.

And although people claim to want TXU to build alternative energy plants like solar and wind, almost no one wants to actually pay a higher electric bill for it. (I must be the “idiot” exception. I use Green Mountain Energy and I do pay a slightly higher rate. But it’s not like Green Mountain is grabbing any significant market share in Texas.)

I guess things just aren’t as simple as “coal is bad” anymore.

Modular Grass Tiles for Easy Grass Roofs

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LiveScience.com reports on these new modular grass tiles that hopefully will make green roofs easier for the “average” homeowner or eoc-friendly business owner. I put “average” in quotes because I don’t think most homeowners are ready to slap turf on their roofs quite yet. You’d have to be pretty progressive to be the first in your neighborhood to put up a turf roof. However, it’s got to start somewhere, right? If you live in one of those very strict gated communities, you’ll probably need to chat with Billy or Susie, whoever makes the rules, to allow them to put up turf on your roof. Just think of it this way. You neighbor’s dog will never be able to leave a present on your grass roof! Toyota Roof Garden, a subsidiary of the car company, is now offering TM9 turf mats at $43 per square yard.

The idea is that companies can reduce the urban heat island effect, thus cooling our great cities. TM9 roofing tiles also provide excellent thermal insulation. Individual mats are twenty inches square, and about two inches thick. The mats are planted with a special brand of Korean velvet grass—it only needs to be cut once per year. The mats are irrigation system-ready; water can flow through tubes to channels in the mats, providing moisture to roots.


Hip Recycling Bins by EcoPop Designs

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“Recycling with Style” appears to be the theme for these unique recycling bins by EcoPop Designs. This award-winning company creates stylish recycling containers that are durable and fire-safe.

Eco-Pop Designs combines, ecology, pop art, and invention to make public recycling collection containers, and other environmental friendly products made from the highest amount of reused and recycled materials. For more than 15 years Eco-Pop Designs has been recognized for its long term commitment to the environment by incorporating the practice of reducing, reusing, and recycling throughout the design and manufacturing of its products.

Their website has a list of products that are available for sale, and they also work custom designs for those who want something new and unique. I have to admit that some of their recycling bins look a little like they came from another planet, but I guess “cool” is in the eye of the beholder.


Mountain Equipment Co-Op has BioBags

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It’s about time that someone came up with a biodegradable “plastic” shopping bag! I found this biodegradable bag on Canadian company Mountain Equipment Co-Op’s website. The bag is made by BioBag Canada Inc., which creates a number of eco-friendly products. The bag is made mostly of maize starch, and it can break down in 10-45 days, depending on how you compost it. If you don’t want to compost your bag, you can also recycle it! Read more about the BioBag here.

The MEC website also has a nice write up on why paper bags are not necessarily an eco-friendly replacement for plastic bags:

At first glance, paper bags seem to be the solution: they’re made from a renewable resource, and they’re biodegradable and recyclable. But paper bags consume many times more energy to create and transport than plastic bags. Manufacturing paper also puts out a considerable amount of air pollution and consumes a lot of water. In addition, paper bags are not as durable as plastic in wet weather.


Gardena Water Off-Timer

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There are many handy devices out there that you can use in the garden to help you water efficiently. Drip irrigation and soaker hoses are great for certain areas of the garden. Irrigation timers are another excellent option. The Gardena Water Off-Timer is a quality and durable timer. You simply attach it on a hose where the hose fits on to a spigot. After setting the timer, you can then go on to do other things without worrying about over watering. This garden timer is easy to use and perfect for the busy gardener. Do your part to save water!

This timer is available from the Energy Federation, which carries a number of eco-friendly products for the home.