01/08/08 12:35pm

Baytown Sunrise

That beautiful flare glowing from atop ExxonMobil Chemical’s Olefins plant in Baytown last Thursday night wasn’t just a pretty New Year’s display for the city. It came with a couple of bonuses: two “not specifically authorized” releases, including 6,857 pounds of benzene, plus a bunch of other fun toxins.

Not to be outdone, the nearby ExxonMobil oil refinery decided to celebrate the new year in its own special way, releasing a bouquet of smelly agents including 3,010 lbs. of neurotoxicant carbonyl sulfide into our lovely Gulf air.

Now when Houston visitors ask you why the east side of the city has an odor reminiscent of cooked cabbage, you’ll be able to explain why.

Meanwhile, two environmental organizations are interrupting the normal course of business over in Deer Park with a pesky lawsuit:

“On average of more than once a week for at least the past five years, Shell has reported that it violated its own permit limits by spewing a wide range of harmful pollutants into the air around the Deer Park plant,” said Luke Metzger, executive director of Environment Texas.

Photo of Baytown sunrise: Bill Jacobus

12/18/07 12:16pm

Firevase by Plodes Studio

Here’s another fine item sure to light up the interior of any sophisticated home, but also certain to warm the hearts of patriotic Houstonians as well. It’s the Firevase, a beautiful ceramic container for flowers or flames from Plodes Studio.

The Firevase is another original decorative piece from the mind of John Paul Plauché, a local designer with a remarkable ability to work images of the Houston landscape into his creations.

Plauché calls the Firevase an “indoor or dense-city version of a firepit.” So much nicer than that mock or simply unused fireplace, no? According to Plauché, the firevase runs on a nontoxic clean-burning alcohol gel-fuel can called Sunjel:

The Firevase attempts to bring everything you enjoy about an outdoor firepit to your tabletop or somewhere where you can’t have a firepit. It’s another thing I enjoyed growing up in a small town just east of Houston. It’s about scale [and] my past experiences of living in dense apartment buildings [where you] simply cannot have such amenities . . .

The vase’s tripod shape is inspired by two kinds of plants: the kind that grow in the ground, and the kind that sprout near Pasadena and on Houston’s scenic eastern reaches:

It can be a seasonal affair if you’d like. Fire in the winter and flowers in the summer. Its shape is inspired by root branching systems, and the stark nature of chemical plant structures that can found off hwy 225.

Refineries, chemical plants, flares, and flowers: at last, interior designers discover Houston’s true local style! Below the fold: more photos of this hot item, plus how you can light up your own home with one for the holidays.