[Date Prev][Date Next][Date Index]

E-M:/ Confessions of a Greenhouse Gas Polluter, #3 - The Furnace Aftermath

Finally it it Friday evening... it seems to have taken an especially
long time to come down from the last work binge....producing written
comment and exhibits 158 pages long on the proposed air discharge
permit for Marysville Ethanol.   There was a public hearing on that two
nights ago and I'm still recovering from the nighters to get that final workproduct produced
before I needed to file with the MDEQ on Wednesday.


exactly one week previously, it was the same crazy scene getting this one
done for a proposed ethanol plant in Corunna.....


Am I getting too old for this???  Maybe...   But there is still much joy arriving at
a conclusion that the investigational target ethanol facility failed to characterize
48 tons of volatile organic compounds in specific chemical identities and thus
violating Michigan Part 2 air rules while listening to Grace Slick sing "High Flyin Bird" at
the Monterray Pop Festival in 1967 at 4 AM in the morning before
comment filing deadline.

That was certainly an interesting hearing in Marysville.   MDEQ kept insisting there was no
health problems from installing any such ethanol plant.   But MDEQ-Air Quality Division's
entire communication with the public lacked candor.   The entire fact sheet on
Marysville Ethanol and the public presentation at the public hearing never once mentioned
that St. Clair County was a non-attainment area for PM 2.5 and ozone air pollution.....and
that the proposed Marysville Ethanol plant would only make these problems worse.

During the question and answer period, MDEQ-AQD got nothing but hostile questions from
those in attendance at the hearing.   The only ones to speak in support of issuance of the
draft plant permit was the company providing the technology to the applicants.

This was a case of the Sierra Club in Michigan standing with supporters in organized labor and
the local citizen group to oppose a permit for a poorly regulated ethanol plant that is masquerading
as a minor air pollution source when it is actually a major source.

But I was happy to be geeked driving home late at night from the Marysville hearing on I-69 watching
so I wouldn't hit any deer or construction barrels.  My thoughts were on the Granholm
Administration and butyric acid.   You see...the Marysville Ethanol plant admitted to the
emission of butyric acid from its fermentation scrubber and when it submitted it application
for an air permit....the facility could not meet the pre-existing default health screening level of
0.1 micrograms per cubic meter (called an "Initial Threshold Screening Level") at the facility

For those uninitiated as to the wonders of butyric acid.....  it smells like "puke"   ....apart
from the odor of hydrogen sulfide and dimethyl-sulfide, butyric acid is probably the
most offensive odor from uncontrolled municipal waste landfill gas.
A strong odor of butyric acid will probably cause most people to feel nauseated.

Those Marysville Ethanol LLC boys going into their permit application couldn't meet the pre-existing ITSL of
0.1 micrograms per cubic meter, annual average, at the fence line.   That was the default
Initial Risk Screening Level.   But, MDEQ-AQD saved the day!!!   Before they
announced the proposed issuance of the Marysville Ethanol draft air permit, they relaxed
the butyric acid initial risk screening level (ITSL) to 10.....100 times more public exposure to
butyric acid.   This decision was never announced to the public and I just realized they did
this on the morning of the hearing day so I would not have an opportunity to research the
decision to make this change.....   but....because of the need to grant the Marysville Ethanol
air permit, all future air permits for facilities releasing butyric acid will expose the public to
100 times more butyric acid odor than was previously permitted in the Great Lakes State.

But Wednesday evening I was glad that thoughts of butyric acid stink and the Granholm
Administration were keeping me awake as I drove home down I-69, the NAFTA highway
from Port Huron to East Lansing.

But I digress from the main point of this message....a followup on my message from about a
year ago on why I was such a greenhouse gas polluter for operating an inefficient furnace installed in
my house by a prior owner in 1953, when Senator Joseph McCarthy was in power [have you
seen the movie, Goodbye and Good Luck!?????   not to be missed...]   Yes, I admit
I operated this pre-history furnace in my house from 1986 when I moved in until last year.

During the 2005-2006 heating season, the price of natural gas really went up, so I
would run the furnace from when I got up until about 4 PM ....and then I'd shut it down
and just let the rest of my house cool off in the winter time and heat just my office with
a 600 watt electric heater...another mortal sin I'll tell you about in another future message on
the evils of electric resistance heating....

Back in the summer of 2006 I had disconnected the old furnace and sealed up the
big 6 inch flue gas hole in the chimney in the middle of the summer.   When the
August gas bill came I was just astonished to find that my usual gas bill during the
non-heating season of about 18 CCF (one hundred cubic feet) of natural gas
had plummet to 8 CCF.

This means that the pilot light in the furnace was consuming, just alone, about
10 CCF per month of natural gas.   As a result, just terminating the use of a furnace
pilot light was going to reduce my natural gas consumption about 120 CCF per year.
You produce 12 lbs of carbon dioxide for every 100 cubic feet (CCF) you burn on
your heating bill.... so just be eliminating the pilot light in my Senator McCarthy-era
natural gas furnace, I would be eliminating 1440 lbs of carbon dioxide emissions.

I'd bed the water heater would be game for something similar in the CO2 emission
reduction department.

I'm a paranoid about tree roots backing up sewage in the basement, so I constructed
a 5 inch concrete slab for my new furnace-baby to sit on...to keep it out of harms way
just in case I fell down on due diligence to have my drains roto-rooted once a year to
get rid of tree roots invading the drain.

Last September, Applegate heating finally came to install my new 96% efficient furnace.
I have zero percent interest until March of 2008 to pay for that puppy.
It cost $3988 to install, with me doing the work to re-vent my hot water heater.  The
furnace I bought was not the cheapest...it is a 2 stage model designed to run at a
lower BTU rate unless there was a big difference between the thermostat calling temperature
and the actual temperature...which pushes it to the higher rate.

My old Senator McCarthy furnace as 125,000 btu/hour heat input rate.  The new furnace is
a 69,000 BTU/hour heat input rate for high rate operation and 45,000 btu/hour for low
rate operation.

Instead of operating my house on an austerity basis with space heating with the new furnace, I discontinued the
electric heating in my office after and not heating the whole
house after 4 PM routine for the 2006-7 heating season.....  .....and here is what happened on the
heating bill.....you can see both the 2005-6 and the 2006-7 heating season and
the difference putting in a 96% furnace makes:

Consumers Energy has a nifty web interface you can sign up for if you
want to get to the bottom of this kind of stuff... 

Here is my natural gas use in CCFs for winter 2005-6 and 2006-7


and here is my natural gas cost in dollars for Winter 2005-6 and 2006-7:


So....instead of having 4 month of 85+ to 90 CCFs per month in natural gas usage in winter 2005-6
I only had one month exceeding 80 CCF....and instead of running under austerity home heating conditions,
my house was a lot more comfortable...heating the whole house instead of a single room.

Both graphs overlay the monthly heating degree days over both CCF natural gas usage and

With my old furnace I was doing about 0.12 CCF per heating degree data at worst case with
austerity home heating approach while the new furnace was enabling me to get down to
about 0.07 CCF per heating degree day.

All in all for 6 months of heating season, Nov-Apr 2005-6 I was at about 463 CCF under the old
furnace and austerity-approach to space heating (shut off after 4 PM) and
about 374 CCF for Nov-Apr 2006-7.  However, Nov-Apr 2005-6 had fewer
heating degree days than Winter 2006-7

In any event, I'm on my way to significantly cutting my greenhouse gas usage with
my new 96 % thermal efficiency furnace.....

Alex J. Sagady & Associates        http://www.sagady.com

Environmental Enforcement, Permit/Technical Review, Public Policy,
Expert Witness Review and Litigation Investigation on Air, Water and
Waste/Community Environmental and Resource Protection
Prospectus at:  http://www.sagady.com/sagady.pdf

657 Spartan Ave,  East Lansing, MI  48823 
(517) 332-6971; (517) 332-8987 (fax); ajs@sagady.com