Friday, November 04, 2005

Ooooh, that smell

One of the things I most enjoyed about living in Chicago was the smell. Really. Not every smell — not the sharp tang of ozone and burnt oil from an El train running through a tight curve, not the scent of corruption wafting from the fifth floor of City Hall. But there's one particular smell ...

If you're in the right place (it's not far from the fork of the Chicago River), especially in the wee small hours of a still night, you'll get a good whiff of the Blommer Chocolate Co., one of the country's biggest chocolate manufacturers. If you're expecting the odor, it's one of the minor pleasures of life in the big city. But if you're not expecting it, the cocoa smell just slams you. Imagine a brick, made of joy and life —— hitting you upside the head. It's a sweet surprise that can brighten a whole day.

Naturally, some sorehead hated it and complained. The EPA cited Blommer for particulate emissions. Sounds like an amusing anecdote of bureaucracy run wild, right? But there's a context: the EPA has not cited Midwest Generation, which has six coal-burning power plants (of which five are in the Chicago area) that have over 7,000 violations (documented by the Illinois Attorney General's office).

Midwest Generation produces electricity and sells it to power companies. It was spun off from one utility and sold to another, a product of the Enron-ization of electric power markets. A little search through shows that when Midwest Generation executives donate to candidates or parties, over 90% goes to Republicans. Suddenly, something smells, and not sweetly.

I think I need to wash off. Either


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