As most people know who have done the 2 day charcoal ‘short term’ radon tests, it is advised that the house be closed up as much as possible and the natural time to do that is in the winter. So now that summer is here (80 degrees in Fairbanks this past week!) does that mean that the testing ‘season’ is over? No. In fact, this may the time to put a test in to get a broader idea of what an annual average of radon gas concentration is in your home, shop, or anywhere else where you spend a good amount of time daily. The avenue for this type of testing is a alpha track long term kit. These will go into the home for anywhere between 3 months or a year, and since you will not be absorbing radon gas into charcoal and then counting how many half lives (3.5 days for one) the concentration has diminished, you are able to have doors and windows closed or opened when you want as well as operate your fans to comfort level. With these kits, the lab will put a clear slide of plastic under a microscope from the kit and count the ‘skid marks’ alpha particle discharges leave behind when exposed to radon gas. If you are interested in putting such a kit in this month (or any other yet this summer), give a call to your local Cooperative Extension Office to pick one up ($25) with mailing label and postage. Or call Art on the radon hotline at 1-800-478-8324 for more information.
Annual Dalton Highway truck traffic, up the “haul road”, averages thousands of vehicles per month. It is a main thoroughfare for getting goods up to Prudhoe Bay oil fields. The highway itself provides access from Deadhorse between Kuparuk Base Camp and Endicott oil field. Milne Point and the Oliktok field in the Kuparuk area are also connected. Exploratory drilling has been assisted by ice-without gravel roads in some areas. (Where there are gravel roads- about 200 miles interconnected- they are lifted 5 foot off the ground and about 3 dozen feet wide). There are about 8 miles of gravel roads to get to drilling sites, warehouses and satellite facilities. In winter, roads are covered with ice per transportation. There is regular maintenance yet nothing like this week’s makeover of the haul road.
According to the 4/12 article in Dan Jowling’s Alaska Dispatch News article, “the Dalton Highway reopened Sunday to limited traffic with 30 northbound trucks making the first crossing in a week to resupply Alaska North Slope oil fields.” Then 30 southbound trucks were allowed to make the trip while hundreds more loads were waiting in Fairbanks (almost 500 miles south) to head up to the oil fields with food, fuel and general supplies.
Six miles just below Deadhorse the road had been impassible for a week because of overflow from the Sagavanirktok (Sag) River that never has occurred. The 414 mile haul gravel road runs along the highway and trans-Alaska pipeline. This is one example of why the largest percentage user of energy in Alaska is transportation (then space heat, and finally power production!
I recently attended a meeting with the national Extension Healthy Homes Partnership which has existed for a couple of decades yet is now headquartered out of the University of Missouri. It was mentioned that in the past we’ve looked at symptoms of the house that cause a particular health problem. Mold causing allergic or respiratory reactions, lead causing problems with blood poisoning, carbon monoxide leading to asphyxiation, etc… Yet the new movement is to look at the home comprehensively so that indoor air quality, surface coverings and safety to limit falls and injuries are all taken care of for both the occupant’s long term health and the dwelling’s integrity.
In that vein, Alaska CES will be teaching Healthy Homes with certain audiences and conditions in mind- vast aging population, rural living, northern clime. Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and Rhode Island will join CES on some of these as we teach by teleconference about modifying existing homes to help folks get around and operate their homes with limited ambulation, grasping ability and visual acuity. There will be a focus on the entry and bathroom areas for these other states due to the importance of mobility. Keep an eye out for an Aging in Place class at your district CES office!
You wouldn’t think that people would complain about falling prices, but economists worry when it goes beyond a short run trend into the long term. An article in the Economist outlines the concern on a global level, and sites oil prices falling as a motivator in the current quarter’s fall of prices of 0.3%. Typically 2% increase is seen as a good equilibrium. Mentioning the drop of crude it notes that the decrease directly involves fuel and transportation costs of goods (while the service industry isn’t effected so much). And of course, while crude has dropped over 50% as a commodity, refined gas on average has only by a third or so due to a sort of ‘sticky prices’…easily will climb, yet not come down so easily!
I spoke yesterday with a reporter from KCHU, the public radio station out of Valdez, and she inquired of a daylong of workshops at the Kenny Lake Community Center (on 2/28). When mentioning the sessions that will include Extension faculty, the local economic development authority, and local experts she asked if wood was a big thing up there. It is. In fact, if you look at the Valley’s 2013 energy plan you’ll see that Biomass takes up more pages than any other of the eight types of energy listed. The 2010 American Communities Survey found that around a third of the residents heat wood- which is no light load considering the Interior like temperatures that can occur in winter. It is also estimated in the report that the are 3 million acres of wood available for development. That may be cord firewood, bio-brick products or possibly chips. If you have a chance on the 28th to come down to Kenny Lake (or up the 90 miles from Valdez) you can hear first hand how biomass is being used and is the planning stages for locally made products!