Clean-Energy Frenzy

Prettier Than Coal Mines

Re "Windmills are clean, quiet, ugly, and take up a lot of space" ["Clean-Energy Frenzy," Dec. 14]: Windmills are not ugly. They are beautiful. Most people who say they are ugly have an ulterior motive in that they think they will affect their property values. The superrich of Martha's Vineyard are fighting against wind farms off the coast of New England, and a bunch of newly wealthy dot-com types are afraid their vacation properties in Kittitas County will be worth less with windmills nearby. The Hopkins Ridge Wind Project photo in George Howland Jr.'s article is beautiful, and the sleek, white windmills don't detract from the scenery like a coal-fired power plant would.

Windmills don't really take up that much space. Their footprints are small. To say that "Wild Horse is being built on 9,200 acres of open rangeland" leads one to believe that the rangeland will be gone. It won't. It will still be available for livestock grazing, farmland, or just open rangeland. An open-pit coal mine, on the other hand, is just a big ugly scar on the land.

Wayne Rennick

Seattle

Process of Conversion

Good article ["Clean-Energy Frenzy," Dec. 14]. I've told Jay Inslee and our senators about Changing World Technologies (www.changingworldtech.com), but I didn't get responses. I don't know why these people aren't getting huge press. They have a process that turns anything into oil. It's called the thermal conversion process. It would be great if we could get them to build their next plant in Washington.

Sean Osborn

Shoreline

What About Biowaste?

I was disappointed that George Howland Jr.'s article did not include any mention of energy derived from biowaste ["Clean-Energy Frenzy," Dec. 14]. The process is simple. First, one must have a renewable resource on which to base the generation of energy. The material is then allowed to "brew" in a tank. This produces three products: methane gas, which can be used to generate electricity; nonpotable water, which can be reused in a variety of ways; and solid residue, which can be used as fertilizer. It is a wonderful technology that potentially is ecologically very sound.

Hawaii has a biowaste plant whose renewable resource is leftovers from the sugarcane crop; Oregon has one using animal waste from a dairy farm; and King County has installed a fuel cell at its Renton sewage treatment plant to harness the methane gas that is the by-product of its sewage treatment process there.

I believe that the future for urban energy lies in sewage. Unfortunately, sewage is neither sexy nor pretty. Sewage-based energy production lacks the raw dynamism of hydroelectric power, the high-tech buzz of nuclear energy, or the ethereal cleanliness of solar and wind power. But, let's face it—our sewage is an infinitely renewable resource, something even the poorest among us produce as prolifically as the rich. Like the sun and the wind, sewage belongs to us all.

But current biowaste projects are industrial-sized projects, highly centralized and requiring major investments of capital. I dream of the day when every home and every car will be powered by our own personal waste. (Invest now in diuretics and laxatives!) To accomplish this would require a different sort of R&D than the large-scale, capital-intensive projects now being developed. What is needed are venture capitalists who are willing to hold their noses and take the plunge to invest in developing a sewage-based biowaste energy production that will be decentralized, affordable, and, because of its source, accessible to everyone.

Power to the people! Power from the people! Could anything be more democratic and American than this?

Rabbi Anson Laytner

Seattle

Clean Living

The proposed energy initiative is exactly the right response to politicians who have struck down clean-energy legislation for the last three years despite the fact that the policy has widespread support among the public ["Clean-Energy Frenzy," Dec. 14]. The 2001 energy crisis showed us that we cannot rely solely on hydropower or the free market to sustain our region's growing energy needs. We must have clean, renewable sources of energy to give us a more balanced "energy portfolio" that will be less susceptible to major price spikes. Utilities are already pushing for a major coal-fired power plant for Washington, which would mean more pollution and health problems for our state. The leaders have refused to lead, so now it is up to the people to get an initiative on the ballot that will ensure a clean-energy future for Washington.

Robert Pregulman

Seattle

Yuppie Trash

I would like to thank Philip Dawdy for his story on Tent City and the good it has done for the less fortunate in our area ["O Little Town of Bellevue," Dec. 14]. Thank you, as well, for pointing out just how vile our Eastside cousins are: typical yuppie trash . . . use the law to oppress the poor! Real sweet how they send city workers to do the silent bidding of the nameless wealthy faces of Bellevue. I would encourage all of Bellevue to repent for their sins against mankind—as they sit in their oversized homes, with oversized cars in the garage, while the poor starve. Repent, Bellevue, for we live in an area where natural disasters, such as what happened in New Orleans, may occur at any time. Expect your karma for your deeds to your fellow man; and while you stuff yourself this holiday season, know that I'm praying to see you choke to death on your food, you heartless infidels. Pray I don't judge you all.

Richard O'Neill

KEXP Déjà vu

As a former DJ and volunteer staffer at KCMU, I'm having a sense of déjà vu about the events transpiring at KEXP ["The Expensive Expansion of KEXP," Dec. 7]. In the early '90s, KCMU was a largely volunteer-run radio station with few paid staff. The diversity of music reflected the diversity of the DJs, a diversity that is sorely lacking in radio today and arguably somewhat lacking with the current format at KEXP. Ironically, two of the paid staffers during that time, Tom Mara and Don Yates, are still employed by KEXP. Funny how former station manager Chris Knab was made out as the scapegoat during the events following the firing of a dozen or so volunteer DJs (including myself), and somehow Mara and Yates avoided the flack. Although given the opportunity to be reinstated as DJs after winning a free-speech civil suit against the station, most of us did not return. I was reluctant to put myself in a position where my knowledge of music and point of view were not valued. The bad feelings ran very deep. It was especially frustrating because I had helped raise money as a volunteer to fund the paid staff's salaries during fund drives.

After many years, I can finally listen to the station again with no bad feelings. I think it's weird that I hear more of the type of music now that I was criticized for playing back in 1992, but I'm glad there's a place to find music you can't hear elsewhere on the dial. I do hope for more public accountability in the future with KEXP—it's hard to be a donor when the same people who destroyed a good thing are still being paid by listeners' dollars.

Julie Wroble (aka Barbie Ferrari)

Seattle

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