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By KRIS KOHLER
Sun Advocate guest writer

East Carbon maintenance official Cody Valdez plows the winter streets on Sunday. The city's new snow plow was obtained as part of the United States Department of Agriculture grant received last year.


A magnesium fire burns out of control in this courtesy photo from burningart.com. A CEU professor and his team developed a chemical that is highly effective in fighting magnesium fires.

Ten years of research and experimentation paid off for a CEU chemistry professor when the Federal Aviation Authority approved a fire retardant agent for world wide production.

Dr. George U. Uhlig and his team of student researchers from the College of Eastern Utah developed the revolutionary agent FEM-12SC that was picked up by the FAA in September.

With the rising use of magnesium in the production of automobiles and air craft, the recognition of the chemical by the FAA couldn't have come at a better time according to Uhlig.

"When magnesium catches on fire, the use of water will cause the fire to ignite even further, literally creating an explosion," Uhlig said. "When using our substance on the same fire there is no explosion, no sparks and no hassle, just a better, safer method of extinguishing."

According to Uhlig the substance will put out a magnesium fire in minutes and will also work on diesel and gasoline fires as well.

"When tested on five tractor trailer tires that were burning out of control, our substance extinguished the blaze in under 30 seconds to the point that you could walk up and touch the tires with your bare hands," said Uhlig. "A dry chemical extinguisher will put out the blaze but it wont keep it out, our stuff will not only put out the fire but it will prevent it from reigniting."

FEM-12SC is environmentally safe and nontoxic to humans or animals according to Uhlig and is made almost entirely of different types of fertilizers.

The substance can also be used to prevent certain types of coal mine disasters by coating the coal in the gob, completely preventing it from burning, thus reducing the risk of mine fires in locations that are inaccessible to miners due to the lack of roof support.

"One of our best tests concerning coal fires was done at the McLean Mine. The only problem with stopping a mine fire is finding the fire front," said Uhlig. "We found one of the several fronts and after pumping in our agent we were able to stop the fire from advancing but due to one of the many other fronts the fire was able to spread around the treated area and continue burning."

According to Uhlig there is research currently underway that will possibly reduce the cost of the formula making it easier for coal mines to make the change from dry chemical extinguishers to FEM-12SC.

The extinguishers will be the same, only the content will change.

"There have been numerous disasters throughout history that may never have happened if this formulation had been known," said Uhlig. "I believe that the Willow Creek disaster is just one of the many."

The 24 Hours of Le Mans Disaster on June 11, 1955 is another example, with Pierre Levegh behind the wheel of the #20 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR run by Daimler-Benz. There was a devastating wreck and as the remains of the 300 SLR slowed its somersault, the fuel tank, situated behind Levegh's seat, ruptured.

The ensuing fuel fire raised the temperature of the remaining electron bodywork past its flash-point, which due to its high magnesium content was already very low.

Magnesium's properties mean that a combustion in oxygen is possible at relatively low temperatures, allowing the alloy to burst into white hot flames, sending searing embers onto the track and into the crowd.

Rescue workers attempting to put out the burning wreckage were unsuccessful as they unknowingly used water on the magnesium fire, which only intensified the inferno. As a result, the car burned for several hours.

In total, 82 spectators were killed either by flying parts or from the fire, according to wikipedia.org.

"We have indications that several large airports will be ordering our product to replace all of their dry chemical extinguishers for plane crashes," said Uhlig. "We are also working toward marketing the agent to the automobile industry now that most manufacturers are using more and more magnesium and titanium in the construction of their vehicles."

The 10 years of research and work performed to perfect FEM-12SC, has been done completely by CEU students under the guidance of Dr. Uhlig. FEM-12SC is patented and there are several other pending patents in the names of some of the students that have contributed to the project.

According to Uhlig, every student that contributed to the project will be compensated for their hard work when Thermic Labs Inc. goes public.


Author, paralympic champion and motivational speaker Mike Schlappi captured his audience with witty, irreverant and touching moments from his life. He encouraged the crowd to adjust their attitudes and to most of all take personal responsibility for their lives.

More than 250 Carbon County residents turned out last week to check out a myriad of resources that were on display in the main hallway at Carbon High School at the 3rd Annual CCHFC Family Night.

Carbon County Healthy Family Coalition sponsored "Stand Up In Your Community" which brought together representatives from mental health, law enforcement and children's services to provide parents with materials and contacts.

The material laden tables offered information on everything from child and adolescent bipolar disorder to tips for quitting smoking to anger management support groups.

The Utah Highway Patrol came equipped with free gun locks that the officer gladly handed out to passersby who stopped to chat with him.

Besides being treated to a filling meal in the cafeteria, residents were treated to a pep talk from motivational speaker and paralympic champion Mike Schlappi. The energetic Schlappi spun and zipped across the stage in his wheelchair recounting the accident as a young teen that put him on wheels.

With much humor and big smile, the now 39-year-old spun a tale of determination that lead him from a short bout of self pity to a life full of accomplishment.

"When I was kid they called me 'happy Schlappi,' now my five kids call me 'pappy Schlappi' and to my wife I am 'crappy Schlappi,'" he said laughing.


When Gov. Jon Huntsman took office, he said Utah should loosen its notoriously strict liquor laws by considering selling wine in grocery stores and ending a requirement that people have a membership to enter a bar.

Four years later, those laws haven't changed; the state liquor board is controlled by teetotalers, and Utah is on the verge of becoming the only state in the country to ban the sale of flavored, sweet malt beverages from its grocery stores.

Proponents of loosening liquor laws keep running into opposition from the most influential political force in the state the Mormon church.

"I'm not naive. I've been up there a long time and when the LDS church weighs in, it carries a lot of weight both with LDS legislators and non-LDS legislators.

"They tend to listen," said Jim Olsen, president of the Utah Retail Merchants Association, which is fighting the proposal.

The church issued a statement this month, saying that "to allow the sale of distilled spirits in grocery and convenience stores promotes underage drinking and undermines the state system of alcohol control.''

While about 60 percent of Utahns are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, about 90 percent of legislators are Mormon, as is the attorney general, lieutenant governor and Huntsman.

Huntsman is a popular, moderate Republican _ up for re-election - who tends to shy away from ruffling feathers on controversial issues. He has said he will wait until a second term before pursuing any changes in state liquor laws and won't consider whether the drinks, dubbed "alco-pops," should only be sold in liquor stores until the Legislature passes a bill.

The church rarely involves itself with political issues, but makes its position known on what it considers moral issues. Typically, Mormon lawmakers vote with the church.

The church successfully fought proposals to ease liquor restrictions in Utah before the 2002 Winter Olympics, helped kill a flat tax proposal on the grounds it would discourage people from tithing, joined other faiths in seeking a constitutional ban on gay marriage and excommunicated a member who testified in Congress in support of the 1972 version of the Equal Rights Amendment.

While Mormons dominate nearly every aspect of Utah culture, few issues highlight the state's cultural divide like the Legislature's treatment of liquor laws.

When Bobbie Coray, a Mormon member of the state liquor board, suggested that liquor bottles be hidden from view in restaurants so customers wouldn't be offended and said that she was unaware of any 'quirky' liquor laws, she was flooded with angry e-mails.

Newspapers printed dozens of letters to the editor by readers critical of what they saw as evidence of Utah theocracy.Coray has since said she was merely joking about hiding liquor bottles from view in restaurants.

It was the state liquor board that asked the Legislature to banish alco-pops from grocery stores and limiting their sales to state liquor stores.

`These are targeted at underage drinkers, youth drinkers, primarily young women,'' said Senate Majority Leader Curt Bramble, R-Provo, who is sponsoring the liquor board's bill. ``The data suggests where these beverages are more readily available, there is a higher probability of later alcohol abuse and other substance abuse.''

The drinks are sold at more than 1,500 stores statewide, many of which are open 24 hours a day.

If the proposal is approved, they could only be sold in the state's 36 liquor stores and 100 package agencies in small towns and resorts.

They would also be subject to a 46 percent price markup by the state.


At the state level, Utah's number of non-farm wage and salaried jobs dropped three-tenths of a point in December 2007 compared with last November. The drop places statewide employment growth at 3.6 percent between December 2006 and December 2007. But despite the downward trend, Utah remained the best economically performing state in the nation last month. Growth continued to exceed the state's long-term average of 3.3 percent per year since 1950.

Approximately 44,800 jobs were created in the Utah economy during the last year, raising total wage and salary employment to 1,288,000 statewide. The increase translates to the monthly creation of approximately 3,700 employment opportunities in the last year.

Utah's second primary indicator of labor market conditions - the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate, measured at 3.2 percent last month compared to the 2.6 percent jobless rate reported statewide in December 2006. Approximately 43,700 Utahns were unemployed in December 2007 compared to 34,000 in 2006.

"It's becoming more noticeable that the Utah economy is coming off its high horse. Employment growth is starting to slow in bigger chunks," commented Mark Knold, department of workforce services economist. "The three-tenths of a percentage drop from last month is the largest movement we've seen since the beginning of 2007. I believe we are going to see a few more of these moderate drops as we move through 2008, particularly in the first half of the year."

"There is a real negative psychology surrounding the U.S. economic environment and it is getting heavy media play," pointed out Knold. "Whether it's real or not is still up in the air - because the third quarter GDP number was well above expectation - but this negative conjecture has a way of creating its own life. The business community and consumers become cautious, Utah being no exception. Some industries like construction and finance are no doubt moving downward. Other industries give the feel they aren't contracting, but nonetheless pausing and seeing what's to come. The news says they are to expect a downturn so they're waiting for it to materialize. I'm speculating that this caution is slowing the hiring activity around the state."

"But considering the heady pace of Utah's economy over the past three years and the tight labor market it creates, not to mention the possibility of overbuilding and the stresses on the state's infrastructure, a Utah economic pause might not be a bad thing. Let's catch our breath and see where things stand," continued the department of workforce services economist.

All Utah industries except information showed job growth during the 12 months. Trade, transportation and utilities - fueled by retail activity - led in job growth. But industries reporting a slowing rate of growth included construction and the financial sector along with professional and business services.

On the positive side of the spectrum, education and health services have shown a recent upward tic in employment.

The strong and persistent growth across all industries that characterized the preceding three years was actually an abnormal pattern.

Usually the industrial activity in the state resembles a juggling act.

Delayed employment data reported by Utah's employers for third quarter 2007 revealed three things.

First, the construction slowdown took hold in September. Second, the financial slowdown as yet is not a mortgage or real estate thing, but instead traced to credit card servicing businesses. Third, the employment services industry ground to a halt in that quarter, supplying fewer workers than one year ago.

"We have used the employment services industry in the past as a canary in the coal mine type of trigger as employment increases here precede and signal employment surges that come throughout the rest of the industrial landscape later," indicated Knold.

Centered upon the mortgage and credit problems, 2008 is not going to be a good year for housing and elated feeders. The information sector is also not very robust in the state and nothing in 2008 would suggest a reversal for the industry.

Utah's economy will rally around several industries.

The education and health care sector has been a steady, proficient performer. During the downturn in the early part of the decade, the industry did not budge and kept adding employees.

Education and health care increased employment levels at a steady pace of around 4 percent per year.

Government is historically a stable industry, not reacting significantly to the booms and busts of business cycles. Government expands when population, demographics and social pressures demand.

At the national level, the United States' unemployment rate climbed three-tenths of a percent to 5 percent in December. The U.S. economy has added 1.3 million employment opportunities since December 2006 for a growth rate of 0.9 percent.

The approximately 44,800 jobs created in Utah represent about 3.4 percent of all employment positions added nationwide during the last year. Utah's labor market comprises less than 1 percent of all U.S. jobs.





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