Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Monday, June 29, 2009
More important, the technology already exists to make huge reductions in greenhouse emissions from coal, allowing power companies to begin cutting the carbon footprint of coal today. Instead, advanced-technology coal power sits on the shelf while regulators wait to see what happens with a project that may be just an expensive boondoggle.
The other news item came last week, when AEP and Suthern Co. said they were pulling out of FutureGen. It should be noted that AEP wants to build two or three low-emission coal plants that would do much the same as FutureGen, but it can build and bring them on line must faster than FutureGen can do.
This is from the Reuters story:
"AEP and Southern were both told that to continue participation in FutureGen, each company would have to fund the project by $5 million for the next four to six years," AEP spokesman Pat Hemlepp told Reuters.
"That's up to $30 million we think we can spend better elsewhere," said Hemlepp. "We have so many other climate change programs we can spend the money on that would have gone to FutureGen, like the Mountaineer plant in West Virginia."
But there were already questions about FutureGen's goals. Two weeks ago, environmental groups were questioning whether FutureGen's revised goal of 60 percent carbon capture versus the original goal of 90 percent had damaged the value of the project, according to the NYT.
FutureGen has promise, but it has all the possibility of being an expensive, forgotten experiment such as the H-Coal plant at Catlettsburg KY during the Carter administration. The question is whether private utilities will move faster on building cleaner coal-fired power plants than those that are in use now.
Yesterday evening I went down to Ironton, Ohio, to pay my respects to the first editor who took me under his wing to make me a better newspaperman. David Stephen Francis Joseph McGuire -- Dave -- passed away last week afer several years of kidney and heart problems.
Dave was the most focused newspaperman I encountered in my thirty-year career at The Herald-Dispatch in Huntington, W.Va. And he was the best teacher of newspapering that I ever had.
The one thing I really appreciated about Dave was that he trusted us to do our jobs. He was as far removed from being a micromanager as you can expect while still making sure you did what you were supposed to. Dave figured that we reporters were hired to do a job because we were able and willing, so he trusted us to do it. He didn’t like seeing to many reporters in the newsroom. As he told me once, there’s no news happening in here. On a particularly slow summer day, he told me to spend a few hours driving around Lawrence County, Ohio, to look for something interesting. Even if I didn’t find anything, I would know more about the county I was assigned to cover.
Dave had a lot of faith in me early on. He allowed me to explore my interest in the Ohio River and the people, places and things on it, in it, along it, under it and over it. With his help, I wrote some pretty good stuff. When I got off track, he wasn’t afraid to use some four-letter words to straighten me out. But when he got on you, you knew he was right and that you needed it.
Dave rose up the hierarchy at The Herald-Dispatch, but eventually he ran into editors sent here by corporate who didn’t appreciate his plain-spoken dedication to old-style newspapering. They moved him over to the copydesk, where he spent five nights a week writing headlines and placing stories on pages. From what I hear, he helped a few young copyeditors get their heads on straight, too.
One thing I liked about Dave was how he could let you know you had made a mistake, but he used it as a moment for teaching, not berating or humiliation. Once he was reading one of my stories and decided he needed to remove a word. “We can let everyone know he’s a liar without using ‘however,’ ” Dave told me.
And he protected the people he supervised. Back in the early 1980s, I noticed a lot of the Ford dealerships in smaller towns in our area had closed, and I did a story that led the Sunday Business page. The dealer in Huntington complained about how he was left out. Dave refused to have me do another story, saying the piece was about small-town dealers, not urban ones. Another reporter was assigned to do a puff piece on that particular advertiser to keep him happy.
When The Herald-Dispatch eliminated my job on May 22, a lot of my younger colleagues told me how much they appreciated the help I had given them over the years. I had guided them in finding sources, in writing articles on complex topics in simple language, and in the peculiar history of our region. I realized last night that I had been doing for these younguns what Dave had done for me.
Many of us who respected Dave and were found of him have swapped stories these past few days. He was a blue-collar Irish Catholic boy who studied for the priesthood for a year, then decided “the Lord’s boot camp” wasn’t for him. He loved the University of Kentucky Wildcats, although I can’t recall him ever telling of ever setting foot on the campus or in Rupp Arena. But he grew up in Ashland, Ky., where rooting for UK is genetic.
And Dave was never fond of computers. The HD got its first computer system in or around 1974. It wasn’t long after that that Dave decided “technology sucks.” He said those words so often that many of us can’t talk of Dave without using those words.
So thanks, Dave, for teaching so many of us and allowing us to develop our talents and interests under your firm and fair hand. Thanks for being a newspaperman whose dedication was to the product, not your personal ambition.
If the newspaper industry today is in trouble, it’s because it has forced out people like Dave McGuire.
RIP, Dave. You’ll never know how much you’re missed.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Monday, June 22, 2009
And it got me thinking about an old family ritual that has disappeared in the past generation.
Where I grew up along the Ohio River in Gallia County, Ohio, nearly ever family grew burley tobacco. It was our chief cash crop, and it bought a lot of groceries, Christmas gifts and school clothes. My father owned a country store, and he carried more than one family through the summer until they could sell their tobacco in the fall.
Growing tobacco back then was a labor-intensive process. Profitable, but laborious. Every spring families would burn their tobacco beds. Each bed was bordered by small logs with nails sticking out. Inside the bed was piled lumber, wood and similar combustible material. The entire family would gather around as the bed was burned at sundown. The glowing embers provided the light for people to talk, eat and do whatever their individual family bonding ritual required.
The ashes from the wood provided nutrients for tobacco seeds. After the ashes cooled, the farmer would sprinkle tobacco seeds in the bed and cover the bed with white canvas held in place by those nails in the sides of the bed. When the tobacco plants got to a good size, they were pulled from the bed and transplanted into fields.
Sometime in the 1980s, the practice of burning tobacco beds declined. Farmers were encouraged to use other methods of fertilizing seed beds, and fewer people were raising tobacco. Today when I drive along the Ohio River in Gallia County, I see far less tobacco than I did 20 or 30 years ago.
Even the tobacco market in Huntington WV closed several years ago. The relatively few tobacco growers in the area now must take their crop 40 miles or more into Kentucky to sell it.
Burning the brush in our driveway the past two nights was one of those bonding rituals with my sons as I taught them how to build, sustain and extinguish a large fire safely. The down side was that the family’s financial future was not at stake.
Still, I constantly thought of those tobacco beds and other rituals of country life that have disappeared.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Saturday, June 20, 2009
Friday, June 19, 2009
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Saturday, June 13, 2009
Friday, June 12, 2009
Thursday, June 11, 2009
My favorite bridge over the Ohio River is Huntington's East End bridge. Until a year or two ago, its proper name was the East Huntington Bridge, although some locals refer to it as the East End bridge or the 31st Street bridge. But someone had to rename it the Frank 'Gunner' Gatski Memorial Bridge for a Hall of Fame football player who played his college ball here but who has been forgotten by most of the community because that was so long ago.