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Plasma gasification, climate change and best places to work in government?

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We’ll end the week on a high note with items from here on the left coast and one from the “other” Washington.

PlasmaArcTechnologyA new joint venture announced yesterday, called S4 Energy Solutions LLC, will develop, operate and market plasma gasification facilities for renewable energy generation from waste byproducts.

S4 Energy was formed by Waste Management Inc., based in Houston, and by InEnTec, which is based in Bend, OR. InEnTec has developed and trademarked its Plasma Enhanced Melter (PEM) technology.

The joint venture “is expected to process waste from the country’s increasingly segmented commercial and industrial waste streams to produce a range of renewable energy and environmentally beneficial fuels and industrial products as well as to generate electricity,” the companies said in a joint press release.

The initial focus for S4 will be to process medical and other segregated commercial and industrial waste streams. Future commercialization plans could include the processing of municipal solid waste once the technology has been demonstrated to be economical and scalable for such use.

“We see waste as a resource to be recovered, and this joint venture with the PEM system will help Waste Management’s commercial and industrial customers maximize high energy value waste streams to generate valuable renewable energy products based on their unique environmental and logistical considerations,” said Joe Vaillancourt, managing director at Waste Management.

Under the plasma gasification process, waste materials are fed into a closed chamber where they are superheated to temperatures of between 10,000 and 20,000 degrees Fahrenheit using an electricity-conducting gas called plasma. The intense heat of the PEM™ rearranges the molecular structure of the waste, transforming organic (carbon-based) materials into an ultra-clean, synthesis gas (syngas).

The syngas could be converted to transportation fuels such as ethanol and diesel, industrial products like hydrogen and methanol or used as a substitute for natural gas for heating or electricity generation.

Climate change marching orders from Washington … state

Washington state Governor Chris Gregoire yesterday ordered state actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, to increase transportation and fuel conservation options for state residents and to protect the state’s water supplies and coastal areas.

“We can’t further delay action on climate change,” Gregoire said. “This executive order benefits our economy as much as our environment. It will protect our natural resources, while creating thousands of green-collar jobs and strengthening our state’s competitiveness in the global race for a clean energy economy.”

Gregoire issued the executive order after testifying in front of a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency panel in Seattle. The panel hearing was held to gather comments on an EPA proposal to issue a finding that greenhouse gases pose a threat to public health and welfare.

Her Executive Order directs state agencies to:

  • Continue to work with six other Western states and four Canadian provinces in the Western Climate Initiative to develop a regional emissions reduction program design.
  • Work with the Obama Administration to help design a national program that is strong, and reflects state priorities.
  • Develop emission reduction strategies and industry emissions benchmarks to make sure 2020 reduction targets are met.
  • Work with TransAlta to reduce emissions from the company’s coal-fired power plant near Centralia by more than half.
  • Ensure Washington has trees to capture harmful carbon, while creating financial incentives for the forestry industry.
  • Work on low-carbon fuel standards or alternative requirements to reduce carbon emissions from the transportation sector.
  • Join with other West Coast states and the private sector to develop and implement a West Coast highway accessible to electric and alternative-fuel vehicles.
  • Address rising sea levels and the risks to water supplies.
  • Increase transit options, such as buses, light rail, and ride-share programs, and give Washington residents more choices for reducing the effect of transportation emissions

Click here to view the Executive Order and here for Gregoire’s May 21 testimony at an EPA hearing.

Best places to work, if you’re working that is

Finally before we all break for Memorial Day festivities, it’s not an oxymoron or a joke (perhaps): There actually are “best places” to work in federal government, and actual people who work at finding out where those places exist.

The EPA is No. 6 on the Best Places to Work roster, but it lags behind the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (!?) and even the Intelligence Community (again !?). In a neat juxtaposition, or something, the NRC is No. 1 out of a total of 31 agencies on the list, followed by the Government Accountability Office, NASA, the Intelligence Community, the State Department and then the EPA.

The rankings are compiled annually by the Partnership for Public Service and American University’s Institute for the Study of Public Policy Implementation. They are based on a survey conducted by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management and represent the views of 212,000 federal employees. Agencies are ranked in three categories: large (2,000 or more employees), small or subcomponent, and they are also ranked in 10 workplace categories, including leadership, work/life balance, and pay and benefits.

For more, click here.

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Written by William DiBenedetto

22 May, 2009 at 11:37 am

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