Your Friendly Neighborhood Amoeba and Quilly (Dame Amoeba) continue to be safe and well, despite the twin calamities of the Kilauea volcanic eruption and the Hawai‘i Democratic Party Convention. We remain safely far away from the one. The other is closer, but we have our ears (mostly) firmly plugged against it.
As this blog post is written (2200 HST, 26 May 2018), a lava flow from the fissure eruption is enveloping, from the west, a power-generating concern known as the Puna Geothermal Venture (PGV). A previous flow, from the south, stalled before it could go Wreck-it Ralph on the business. By the time you read this post, the flow from the west may have done the deed.
And the “news” media will be announcing the end of life, as we know it or any other kind, on Hawai‘i Island. Ka-CHING, ka-CHING, ka-CHING!!!
We will still be here, soh.
The issue that will be screamed at you is HYDROGEN SULFIDE!1!! Hydrogen sulfide gas is indeed a product of volcanic activity, especially when it’s produced deep in the ground where oxygen is not available to combine with the sulfur and produce sulfur dioxide instead. It is indeed not something to mess around with. It is toxic, it is flammable. It stinks of rotten eggs. And you’re not safe when you can no longer smell it, because after a while – a short while – your nose stops working and you don’t smell it any more.
The PGV creates – er, created – power by injecting water into deep wells, tapping the hot rocks of Kilauea’s East Rift Zone. The resulting steam is used, either directly or indirectly by heating another substance (in this case, pentane), to drive turbines and generate electricity. The steam is then condensed and returned to the ground. A closed loop.
Of water that is saturated with the hydrogen sulfide that it picked up from those hot rocks.
The fear, that will be shouted at you by the “news” media for your emotional titillation and their profit, with your friends and acquaintances as (un)witting accomplices, is that the lava will breach the closed water loop at PGV and set off the hydrogen sulfide, or the pentane, or both, with devastation of as much of Hawai‘i Island as they can get you to buy into as the result.
Last YFNA and Quilly knew, the ‘safe zone’ around PGV, worst case scenario, had a 3-mile radius.
Not fun for the remaining residents of Hawai‘i Island’s Lower Puna district, but hardly the island-wide calamity (or, better still, state-wide) that the “news” media is counting on to sell targeted ads.
And the worst case isn’t likely. As has been consistently reported by County of Hawai‘i Civil Defense and other agencies that aren’t trying to sell you stuff you don’t need, PGV has been taking steps to minimize the risk. The pentane was removed weeks ago. The wells have been capped and disconnected from the turbines. The lava will pave them over, quietly and unemotionally. Any gases captured will be shunted to the lava fountains, where they will be converted to sulfur dioxide and added to the however-many tons of the stuff that are already gushing into the atmosphere around the Big Island. And, for the most part, not reaching us in Kailua Kona. The business assets of PGV will be destroyed, but with a whimper, not a bang – and, when the eruption is over, the business may or may not choose (or be allowed) to rebuild. But, for most Big Island folk, the volcano will leave us, mostly, in peace.
We should be so lucky to only have to deal with the volcano.
There are those who believe that the imminent demise of the PGV site is nothing less than divine retribution. Pele (no, not the god of futbol) is usually considered to be the offended deity in question, but it might as well be Jesus or Muhammad or Karma or the Thetans or the Flying Spaghetti Monster. It doesn’t matter. Humans insist on stuffing the planet full of their own kind (three times as many now as just seventy years ago, with no end in sight), to the detriment of all other life, and they insist on power to fuel that stuffing. According to their own superstitions, or else. Anything that violates those superstitions and falls afoul of the still-very-imperfectly-understood workings of matter and energy gives the superstitious the power of “I told you so.”
Geothermal power stations require hot rocks to operate. Hot rocks that are close enough to the surface to make drilling to reach them economically viable. Nearly all such stations, of which YFNA is aware, are sitting on top of volcanoes. There is a calculated risk, siting a business (or a home) on top of a volcano. In the case of geothermal power stations, you take the risk or you don’t have a business. If you’re trying to live on the island of Hawai‘i without a billionaire’s pension, you take the risk. Or rent. If you can afford the rent. Or you don’t have a home. And no, they won’t let you live on the beach any more, not if the authorities can catch you.
Sometimes, you take the risk and lose. It would be nice if people did not have to take such risks. But see “stuffing the planet”, supra. The way, Aragorn, is shut.
Your Friendly Neighborhood Amoeba reads that PGV
produces produced about 13.5% of total “firm” electric power on Hawaii Island, and represents represented just under half of total “renewable” electric generation on this island. The superstitious, for the sake of being able to say “I told you so” without investing in the work needed to better understand matter and energy, and the risks involved in living with, never mind harnessing, them, would prefer that such energy be supplied “the old-fashioned, safe way”. With fossil fuels, especially oil. Procured, these days, by fracking. Which produces about as many earthquakes in Oklahoma as does the Kilauea volcano on this Big Island. But Oklahoma is way far away. Or, by nations that (for example) behead people for professing the wrong superstition. But Saudi Arabia is way far away. And who cares what they do so long as they keep shipping us oil, like the good dogs they are.
And meanwhile, at that Democratic convention, a governor who has a reputation for actually trying to understand things before he requests action on them, is losing his battle for re-election to a known-corrupt congressional representative that is far better at “taking a stand” (spelled “I T-O-L-D Y-O-U S-O”). But then, corruption no longer matters to us, whatever our color of party. Just authority, the more ignorant, the more superstitious, the better. Isn’t that so, Donald?
The folk at the United States Geological Survey (USGS) are working their butts off, together with the county Civil Defense and other agencies, to provide critical information and other assistance to those who are trying to help people on the ground, people directly affected by the volcanic eruption. They are not paid, or, for the most part, trained to be dancing monkeys for the media. When it is possible, or informative, the USGS posts data and images of the eruption, on their website and on their Facebook (alas) and Twitter feeds. On one of those recent posts, the first commenter was a person who asked for more videos of the eruption “because it is so soothing to watch the lava bubble.”
Who asked for scientists and first responders to make pandering to his [sic] emotions their first order of business.
Pornography. It’s not just about naked women any more. And please, dear readers, don’t try to talk to YFNA about “lunatic fringe”. There are too many of us to make that claim. Who the hell else do you think is buying what the “news” media are making their massive, and massively immoral, fortunes selling?
Ecce populus vosmet.