August 17, 2005

Quote of the Day (Oops–from Two Weeks Ago)

Filed under: Consumer Outrage,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 4:16 pm

Missed in the runup to the August 2 Congressional Election–From The Wall Street Journal’s Brendan Miniter, August 1 (last paragraph, link requires subscription):

This year the federal government will celebrate its 40th anniversary of being in the financial-aid business. During all that time federal aid has done about as much to fuel tuition increases as it has to help make college “affordable.” Along the way parents and students pile up more debt each year. Until our institutions of higher learning start to feel pressure on their pocketbooks — something federal financial aid is designed to prevent — expect that chase to continue.

Crisis? What Crisis? Landfill Space “Shortgage” Solved

Filed under: Business Moves,Economy,Marvels — Tom @ 11:05 am

Excess garbage and shortages of landfill space aren’t the looming disasters they were thought to be in the 1980s. The fact that the normally envirowacky NY Times says so (link may require registration) is only further confirmation (HT Instapundit; bolds are mine):

Simply put, operators of garbage dumps are stuffing more waste than anyone expected into the giant plastic-lined holes, keeping disposal prices down and making the construction of new landfills largely unnecessary.

The clearest winner in this development is the City of New York, which exports 25,000 tons of trash a day to other cities and states, making it the waste industry’s biggest customer. But the benefits stretch coast to coast and will continue for years to come.

The productivity leap is the second major economic surprise from the trash business in the last 20 years. First, it became clear in the early 1990′s that there was a glut of disposal space, not the widely believed shortage that had drawn headlines in the 1980′s. Although many town dumps had closed, they were replaced by fewer, but huge, regional ones. That sent dumping prices plunging in many areas in the early 1990′s and led to a long slump in the waste industry.

Since then, the industry and its followers have been relying on time – about 330 million tons of trash went into landfills in the United States last year alone, according to Solid Waste Digest, a trade publication – to fill up some of those holes, erase the glut and send disposal prices skyward again. Instead, dump capacity has kept growing, and rapidly, even as only a few new dumps were built.

How could that be? Waste companies and municipalities have fit much bigger dumps than originally permitted onto existing acreage, piling trash deeper and steeper, and vastly expanding permitted capacity. They are burying trash more tightly, so that each ton takes up less space, increasingly using giant 59-ton compacting machines guided by global positioning systems that show the operator when he has rolled over a section of the dump enough times. They cover trash at the end of the day, to keep it from blowing away, with tarps or foam or lawn clippings instead of the thick layers of soil that formerly ate up dump capacity.

Some operators are blowing water and air into landfills to hasten rotting and thus the shrinkage of buried garbage piles, creating more capacity.

Each practice is fairly prosaic, and many operators have yet to adopt the improved methods, but taken together the waste industry is in the early stages of the kind of increase in efficiency more typically seen in technologies like computer chips and turbines that generate electricity.

A well-run dump, tightly packed and using minimal dirt as cover, can hold 30 percent or so more trash than a poorly run site, said Thomas M. Yanoschak, a senior project manager at Camp Dresser & McKee, an engineering firm that advises waste sites. “Operators are much better now,” he said.

The change is shown in the published disposal records of the three largest waste haulers – Waste Management, Allied Waste Industries and Republic Services – which combined handle more than half the nation’s trash. In the last four years, they buried 882 million tons of waste. But the remaining permitted capacity of their combined 410 dumps did not shrink. It expanded over those four years by more than one billion tons. The three companies now expect expansions of another 1.8 billion tons. At that level, their combined capacity could handle the nation’s trash sent to dumps for about 26 years.

This quiet development is indeed a marvel on one level. Then again, it’s really just another example in a long line of them throughout history of how human ingenuity has trumped the sky-is-falling crowd, time and time again.

So stop bugging me if every recyclable item I handle doesn’t make it into the recycle container, or if I occasionally drink coffee out of a styrofoam cup.

Two Questions for IT Departments Hit by Computer Worm

Filed under: Business Moves,Economy — Tom @ 6:26 am

I mean this one, which affected, among others CNN, ABC and The New York Times (resisting snarky comment); some offices on Capitol Hill; Caterpillar Company; and several other multibillion-dollar S&P 500 companies BizzyBlog knows of who have somehow kept the their problem away from public knowledge.

Question 1:

Why are you still

running Windows 2000?

Question 2:
Were some of you even more vulnerable because you weren’t current with your critical Windows 2000 patches?