Making wood function like home heating oil

Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit.

An evening pause: Hat tip Cotour.


Every July, to celebrate the anniversary of the start of Behind the Black in 2010, I hold a month-long fund-raising campaign to make it possible for me to continue my work here for another year.

This year's fund-raising drive however is more significant in that it is also the 10th anniversary of this website's founding. It is hard to believe, but I have been doing this for a full decade, during which I have written more than 22,000 posts, of which more than 1,000 were essays and almost 2,600 were evening pauses.

This year's fund drive is also more important because of the growing intolerance of free speech and dissent in American culture. Increasingly people who don't like what they read are blatantly acting to blackball sites like mine. I have tried to insulate myself from this tyrannical effort by not depending on Google advertising or cross-posts Facebook or Twitter. Though this prevents them from having a hold on me, it also acts to limit my exposure.

Therefore, I hope you will please consider donating to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar below. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.


Regular readers can support Behind The Black with a contribution via paypal:

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If Paypal doesn't work for you, you can support Behind The Black directly by sending your donation by check, payable to Robert Zimmerman, to
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  • Jeff

    In the late 70’s I worked in a cedar processing plant. Not much was wasted. Sawdust and chips were used to fire the steam boilers for facility heat ,kilns and steam extraction of cedar oils. Dried shavings bagged for kennel bedding. Prime heart wood milled for closet lining. Any unusable scraps, slabs, bark was ground up and sold as mulch. If they had electrical generators, entire facility would have been mostly self-sufficient. When I asked about that aspect was told buying electricity was cheaper. The pelletizing of wood waste was in its infancy. I’m sure the company would have managed to work that into their recycling system.

    Sadly, market changes, city growth, taxes and environmental pressures forced the closing

  • wayne

    Great Story!

  • MDN

    Seems like contrived efficiency to me. That was a pretty substantial plant to generate the equivalent of 1 small tanker truck of heating oil per day (the stated 2,500 gallons). Last winter the commodity price for heating oil was about $2 per gallon (currently it’s only $0.92 presumably due to the shutdown/Saudi-Russia glut), so that means $5,000/day in revenue normally for these chips.

    And even assuming the same density as oil (which they aren’t because they float), 20 tons of these chips must require at least 4X the volume of oil to transport, so will need 4X the number of trucks and drivers to distribute. I’m sure they pay for themselves, but not much beyond that.

    They are a true bio fuel though, except for all those trucks anyway : )

  • Cotour

    This appears to be a very nice and neat and fairly complete cycle type of business model.

  • Max

    Until the 1900, biofuels what is the primary source of energy. Oil, coal and natural gas has far outpaced natural bio fuel wood products…
    Even so, biofuels still today produce more than twice as much energy as all the others (Solar, wind, nuclear, Hydro power) combined.
    Natures solar powered renewable energy.

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