I want to thank Don Smith, our publisher, for filling in for me last week. I hope his comments will inspire everyone to get "MAD about Elkins."
His comments took me back to my days in the U.S. Air Force when we were more or less forced to do the little things that he mentioned in his comments that made such a great difference in the aesthetics of our "community" within the larger confines of the bases on which I was stationed. Most of the times when we were "encouraged" to police the squadron area we fussed about it, but before long it became a competition to see who could have the cleanest and "best dressed" squadron area on the base. It worked - not only was the area clean and litter free, it became a great source of pride as well.
While policing the area took time from other things that we would have rather been doing, before long we found ourselves doing unconsciously and voluntarily what we had been told to do - picking up a recklessly tossed cigarette butt or piece of scrap paper that had escaped from someone's notebook. The appearance of our squadron area became a great source of pride.
As citizens of our community, we don't have a "Bird Colonel" compelling us to do the things necessary to create an aesthetically pleasing community and a place of great pride in which to live - it is up to us to do it on our own. We can do it. So, come on everyone, let's do what Mr. Smith suggested and get "MAD about Elkins."
The controversy surrounding the burning of coal for the production of energy and its emissions of carbon dioxide is a local and global subject of intense interest, debate and controversy. Politicians in America want to institute a cap-and-trade system that they say will reduce those emissions - to what extent is also cloaked in controversy. Another program to reduce coal-burning emission is that of extracting carbon dioxide and sequestering it deep underground. Both, everyone agrees, will drive up the cost of producing electricity and, in fact, may reduce coal production in West Virginia and other major coal producing states. There may be an alternative.
According to an article in the June issue of Discovery magazine, Frank Smith and Jim Croyle, co-founders of SCS Energy in Concord, Massachusetts, may have found the Rosetta Stone for producing emission-free energy from coal.
The story is much too long and detailed to go into here but they say they have discovered a way of turning coal into clean-burning hydrogen to fire generators while at the same time producing valuable by-products such as ammonia and urea, which are used to make fertilizer. The process would produce electricity during high-demand times and become essentially a chemical plant making hydrogen-based ammonia and urea when electricity demand is low. The sulfur dioxide extracted from the coal would be converted into sulfuric acid and sold as well. They are willing to make a $5 billion investment to prove that their idea will work.
The article is titled "New Coal" by Michael Lemonick and warrants reading by those who have commanding voices in the coal industry of West Virginia. It's also a great read for every resident whose life is affected by the mining and burning of coal for the production of energy - and whose life isn't affected in this way?
There are many things in our lives that we have come to take for granted. Many of those things are undergoing unprecedented change. Whether they are good or bad depends on one's perspective and how we've adapted to them. Ready or not, though, they are undergoing a transformation that will change the way we do and enjoy many things in our lives. Here are some of them.
The Post Office: Get ready to imagine a world without the post office. They are so deeply in financial trouble that there is probably no way to sustain it long-term. Email, Fed-EX and UPS have just about wiped out the minimum revenue needed to keep the post office alive. Most of the mail we received through it today is junk mail and bills.
The check: Britain is laying the groundwork to do away with checks by 2018. It costs the financial system billions of dollars a year to process checks. Plastic cards and online transactions will lead to its eventual demise. This also plays a role in the death of the post office. If you never paid your bills by mail and never received them by mail, the post office would absolutely go out of business.
The book: You say that you will never give up the physical book that you hold in your hand and turn the literal pages. The same thing is happening to it that's happening with iTunes and the hard copy music CD. You can browse a bookstore online and even read a preview chapter before buying. The price of e-books is less than half that of a real book. Once you start flicking your fingers on the screen instead of the book you will find that you are lost in the story and you forget you're holding a gadget instead of a book.
Other things that have been a part of our lives and are on the way to unbelievable change is the land-line telephone, music, television (this could be a good thing - there's not much to watch on it anyway) and our privacy.
Our privacy is something that we can look back on nostalgically because it's already gone and has been for a long time. There are cameras on the street, in most if not all of the buildings we frequent and built into our computers and cell phones. You can be sure that 24/7 "they" know who and where we are. Not to be left out is that when we buy something our habits are put into a zillion profiles which will change to reflect those habits.
All that we will have that can't be changed are our memories.