Archive for the ‘biomass’ Category

I’ve been trying to think of a word to describe the recent republican de-bate more precisely.  I have heard some people refer to the flashy spectacle as an eleven-ring circus.  That imagery does not allow that a few hopefuls did in fact speak about real societal concerns and reforms.  Until I think of a better term I’ll simply refer to it as a “trump-bait,” providing space for the variety of crafty, yet factually-suspicious remarks.

I was not surprised that clean, renewable energy industries did not get spoken about by the candidates even though a majority of republican voters favor them.  I’m still mystified by this!  Renewable technologies are some of the fastest growing industries in this country and especially so elsewhere on the planet.  Solar PV and wind turbines are mainstream energy conversion sources!  Wake up, candidates!

Germany now celebrates on the days when virtually all their electricity is produced from renewable sources.  Iowa is getting 27% of their electricity from wind power right now.  California gets 25% of their electricity from renewables and last week they passed a measure seeking 50% by 2030.  Texas, Connecticut, New Jersey, Maryland, Arizona: the list of states with fast growing RE markets keeps getting bigger.

Here in Florida Algenol Biofuels has announced plans to begin distribution of their algae-derived ethanol and build a larger production facility in Central Florida.  Protec Fuel has opened its fourth E15 station in the state bringing their total to 28 in the Southeast.  The Florida Supreme Court is weighing who will control the profits brought by anticipated PV sales and installations.  Will the Court give outsiders a shot at the money investor owned utilities are claiming?

Alternative energy systems were not invented as a response to the atmospheric effects of heat-trapping greenhouse gases.  Candidates have no need to apologize to their global warming denying peers that renewable energy is a good thing.  Alternative energy was researched and commercialized largely because scientists know that carbon deposits will someday be exhausted.  Peak dates for oil and coal are constantly being pushed back because new drilling technologies are allowing us to find and sip from the very bottom of these submerged, frozen barrels.  Nevertheless, they are finite!

How can the presidential candidates not be excited by the financial and job opportunities that are underway in these RE markets?  They don’t even have to reveal a position on what many scientists describe as the most critical issue facing the earth.  Isn’t “economic growth” the republican byword?  I suspect that The Donald may be keeping quiet about it, but that he knows where to put HIS money.

Sam Kendall



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Duke Energy has been tipped into supplying the North Carolina Google Data Center with renewable energy.  Google is going to pay the power company a “Green Source Rider” for the clean electricity; in other words a tariff.  The Search Company said it made more sense for Duke to provide the renewable energy than to build it themselves.  Evidently, the plan is going to be used by other big Duke customers that want to go green.  Duke said it might match some of the applicants with third-party solar and wind suppliers through Power Purchase Agreements.  In all, 700 megawatts of solar could be added in Duke’s North Carolina territory alone.

Google may already be more invested in solar and wind than any other company.  But fortunately, there is competition for that honor.  Apple, Facebook, Walmart, IKEA and others are putting out $billions to power their shops with clean energy.  Facebook wanted clean energy for their data center in Iowa.  Their utility has now invested $1.9 billion in wind farms.  Of course we want to thank Duke but let’s not forget their environmental record; coal ash spills and eagle deaths on poorly located wind turbines.  North Carolina should boost Duke’s RPS requirement as part of the settlement for those offenses.

The term corporate power has not always been associated with good things.  The influence of corporate money and their lobbyists have usually worked against the interests of citizens, especially in delaying beneficial health regulations.  We are witnessing now the decline in influence of coal companies but the Goliaths of oil and gas are still standing.

Now the 21st century twist.  We have large corporations influencing a better choice of energy supplied by the entrenched electric utilities.  For years, concerned citizens and environmental groups have asked utilities to close down their coal and nuclear plants and “go solar.”  Corporate money still speaks the loudest but this time the voice is sweet.  Investor owned utilities are finally finding ways to get into the solar business and this is going to bring the cost of PV down even more.

What corporation is going to squeeze more solar out of Florida Power and Light?  Last week FPL introduced their own version of a Green Source Rider and we can only wish it had been the result of corporate pressure.  They’re going to see how many of their customers will be willing to pay an extra $9 on their monthly bills to finance solar energy projects.  A company spokesman said polling indicated that enough customers will volunteer to fund 2.4 megawatts of solar perhaps in three years.  FPL announced this program a short while after a bill designed to promote solar on commercial buildings such as warehouses and data centers was killed in the Florida legislature.

Only .06% of the FPL fuel mix currently comes from solar.  This modest pilot program on the backs of solar volunteers will hardly improve that percentage.  Combine this half-hearted initiative with the Florida legislators who oppose common-sense solar policies for businesses.  Add in the legislators who want to exempt Florida from the proposed EPA carbon pollution standards for new power plants.  This is corporate power in the sunshine state.

Sam Kendall

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On the website Think Progress I found an interview with representative Ron Desantis (R-FL).  He used the word “crass” to describe the all-night session in the senate last week where members of the Climate Action Task Force brought much needed attention to the present and future dangers of climate change.  Desantis claimed the event was just a gimmick devised by senators to show their big Silicon Valley donors that they were doing something about the issue.  Their real intent was to raise taxes, he said, but they knew the House would block any such effort.  His contradictory performance left me wondering if he understands the science which describes how greenhouse gases contribute to overheating and disruption of the atmosphere.

One piece of evidence presented during the session was a map showing recent average rainfall amounts compared to the past.  Virtually one quarter of the country is presently experiencing 25% less than average rainfall.  The drought extends from what has been one of the country’s most productive agricultural areas in California across the southwest into most of Texas.  Florida looks green on the map with some areas showing above average amounts.

Florida Senator Bill Nelson pointed out that low-lying Florida is vulnerable to too much water.  Hurricanes can move higher sea levels further inland than previously.  The result will be catastrophic, as we saw with hurricane Sandy up north.  Nelson mentioned also that our state is one of the most susceptible to heat-related deaths.  We can also expect a reduction in tourism dollars as businesses are forced to close by extreme weather events.  You can find brief summaries of all the senators remarks here.

For an up-to-date understanding of the present costs related to rising sea levels Mr. Desantis should visit his local government colleagues in south Florida.  Thoughtful and pragmatic municipal and county officials have been working on the problem there for four years.  In a bi-partisan consensus the county commissions of Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe have come together to form a Regional Climate Change Compact.  Salt water flowing over their lawns and streets and intruding into their fresh water supplies convinced them to begin collaborative action.  Together the commissioners and staff members are moving forward to implement greenhouse gas mitigation and climate adaptation strategies for their region.

Sam Kendall


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It’s clear that renewable energy mandates are working.  The states that have passed measures mandating percentages of renewable energy are building clean energy businesses and jobs faster than the states without mandates.  It’s also clear that the states of the old south are lagging behind.  When you look at a map of the 37 states that have legislated standards or voluntary goals for renewable energy the old south looks like it’s still in rebellion.  Except for Texas, North Carolina and Virginia, the states still holding out against mandates are the same ones that gave Abe Lincoln heartburn.

Repealing the Florida ethanol mandate must have made the legislators and governor stiffen with state pride.  They fired some buckshot at the federal government.  Big Deal!  What they’ve done won’t change the federal mandate.  Much worse is they shot a hole in the foot of the nascent Florida advanced biofuel industry.  Senators of both parties joined the governor with their non-alcoholic toast.

But why would they want to repeal when the evidence shows that mandates create new businesses and jobs; when polls show people want cleaner energy choices?  Adam Putnam’s explanation why he chose not to oppose the ethanol repeal bill this year helped me understand.

“A year ago, my concern was we would be sending a message to potential investors in the state that Florida was no longer concerned about working on biofuel-related projects.”  Very good.  This was a legitimate concern.  Then this: “Since then, there have been several high-profile private sector decisions to walk away from biofuel investments in the state of Florida, not because of anything related to Florida, because the sector itself, the private capital has gravitated to fracking and natural gas development.”

Huh?…Fracking?…Natural gas development?  The purpose of the ethanol mandate was to draw entrepreneurs to Florida to make a renewable biofuel.  That is happening.  Innovators have designed more efficient methods of production and without using corn as a raw material.  Ethanol is now being produced in the state!  The company that “walked away” from a Florida commitment was none other than BP, the giant fossil fuel company now plagued by enormous financial obligations with which we are all familiar.

One of the largest energy companies in the world has decided that their relatively small investment in Florida biofuels no longer suits their prospects for profits.  And this makes the Secretary of Agriculture feel better about dropping his opposition to the ethanol repeal bill.  Meanwhile, smaller start-up companies that are making good on their commitments have lost their trust in state government.

This sounds to me like the old south where public servants took their orders from high-profile plantation owners.

Sam Kendall

Putnam Expects Little Backlash From End Of Ethanol Law

NRDC Report: State RE Standards Create Jobs

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Legislators have several ways to influence the direction of civilization.  They can tax activities or products that are believed to be unhealthy; so-called sin taxes.  They can provide tax money for incentives for the producers of desired products and activities.  Or they can simply legislate that the preferred activities or products become part of the civilization; part of the marketplace for consumers.  The latter method, referred to as a mandate or standard, has the advantage that raising taxes is not necessary.  It also has the advantage of providing a guaranteed market for the new product.  It attracts innovators and investors, new businesses and employment opportunities.

Mandates and standards become necessary when a consensus develops that a society is moving inevitably toward an undesirable outcome.  They become necessary when the economic system, the market for goods and services, is not working to change the direction.  I’m talking about the self-destructing path we’ve taken by continuing to use oil in transportation fuels.  Containing the particulate and gaseous pollutants from gasoline combustion has been an ongoing problem for Americans.  Through the years auto makers have been required to find ways of controlling the noxious exhaust. The one pollutant that still eludes a fix is carbon dioxide.

In 2008 the legislature mandated that ethanol be added to gasoline.  Adding a renewable fuel would influence atmospheric amounts of CO2 because plants take it out of the air.  Several decades ago a researcher at the University of Florida discovered how to make ethanol without using corn.  His discovery led to the use of non-edible plants to make ethanol; weeds and grasses, leaves and wood, even municipal garbage.  After 2008 a number of far-sighted innovators came to Florida to build production facilities and market their non-corn ethanol products.

Now a company in South Florida is producing ethanol from municipal waste and a company on the west coast is making ethanol from algae.  The U of F has opened a department to research new sources for ethanol.  Corn ethanol has several disadvantages although it still trumps oil because it’s renewable.  Most of the emerging non-corn, cellulosic ethanol products can be produced with less water and energy and reduce life-cycle greenhouse gases even further.

The Florida climate can support a variety of plant stocks that could become important to a new ethanol industry.  Iowa relies on only one source for their ethanol; corn.  That state leads the nation in ethanol production producing almost 30 percent of our total supply.  That production supports 55,000 in state jobs and adds $5.4 billion to their economy.  Could Florida become the next Iowa with a thriving, innovative, ethanol industry that doesn’t disrupt food production while simultaneously reducing greenhouse gases?  Thanks to the 2008 legislature we have already started in that direction.

Now the 2013 legislators have voted to reverse the decision of 2008.  The new membership apparently has some ideological conflict with using government to advance the welfare of society.  They want to let the marketplace make us better.

What choices have consumers had with regard to their transportation fuels?  Federal and state governments have been shaking hands with oil drillers for over a century.  Oil dominates our society.  We’ve burned so much of it the earth is starting to suffocate even as oil barons shrug off the risks of harder to access deposits.  Look at the results of the BP spill in the Gulf.  Look at the black pipeline muck that ran in the streets of an Arkansas town last month.  Tar sands extraction is ruining a great Canadian forest that breathes oxygen into the atmosphere and provides a home for the earth’s creatures.  Petroleum gasoline combustion is the second largest source of carbon dioxide pollution in the world.  Last year the CEO of Exxon-Mobile made a comment regarding the effects of climate change: “(In a free market) farmers (affected by droughts and floods) can always move to another location.”

It’s his market!

Governor Scott can veto the ethanol repeal bill.  He has good reasons to do so.


Sam Kendall

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President Obama renewed his commitment to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels.  His welcome words in the inaugural address committing to action on climate change and his nomination of Senator John Kerry as Secretary of State certainly indicate he still feels strongly about this issue.  Senator Kerry has a long record of environmental protection.  In 1992 he attended the first world summit on climate change in Rio.

In June of 2012, the 20th anniversary of the Rio Summit, Kerry delivered a powerful speech on the Senate floor.  He denounced the current “conspiracy of silence and denial on climate change” which “empowers misinformation and mythology to grow where science and truth should prevail.”

The Rio Summit organizer, Republican President George H. W. Bush said at the time, “The United States intends to be the world’s leader in protecting the global environment.”  Kerry’s concern was that we now find ourselves in a place the former president wouldn’t recognize; the conspiracy has “demonized any constructive effort to put America in a position to lead the world on this issue.”

Three of Kerry’s demons were on the Senate committee that recently approved his nomination.  These three are supporters of the proposed Keystone pipeline down from Canada.  They evidently fear that Mr. Kerry is serious about reducing dependency on carbon fuels.  The State Department must approve the pipeline application before it goes to the president.  Mr. Kerry promised he will look at the science of the request and not the ideology.

Why should the US encourage continued fossil fuel combustion while risking pipeline spills?  Would it be to support the Canadians’ economic interest by having an ocean port in Texas to market their resources to the world?  The issues continue in Canada: tar sand mining ravaging the Boreal Forest, emitting tons of carbon dioxide with energy intensive extraction and contaminating water with chemical residues.  Tar sand partisans tell us building an oil refinery in Canada’s  back yard would be more expensive than plowing an 1,179 mile pipeline through the United States’ back yard.  Is something rotten in the state of Denmark?

These environmental and economic concerns go beyond our friendship with the Canadian people.  They too have a large environmental constituency which opposes tar sand mining.

On February 17, environmental and clean energy advocates will rally in Washington to “give their back” to the President and new Secretary of State.  The green grassroots need to get out and demonstrate support when national leaders challenge long-standing, powerful interests.  You can sign up for the rally HERE.

Both these men have stood up to big oil and the legacy of dirty, liquid fuels that have been a barrier to progressive change.  Rally organizers believe an historic showing of massive public support will break the old energy regime’s back.  Hope to see you in Washington.

Sam Kendall

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A mutual friend told me about Bob Stonerock back in the 1990s.  Solar energy had fascinated me for years.  My friend said Bob was the master.  I knew solar would mean a cleaner atmosphere and slow the rate of turning the planet inside out mining, spilling, burning, polluting, investing and warring over the energy stored in fossilized biomass.  Only recently had I come to understand how the carbon dioxide molecules carelessly farted out the back-ends of our cars were storing up heat and creating frightening predictions about the future weather.  At the time, I was running experiments to find out whether horse or chicken manure would produce the most natural gas.

I called Bob and he invited me over to his house for a talk.  I think he must have been one of the first, or maybe THE first, to have a residential photovoltaic system in Orlando.  He told me about some of the issues he encountered to get his solar system accepted by Orlando Utilities. (OUC is now recognized for progressive renewable energy programs) We discussed all the renewable energy options waiting in abundance on the surface of the earth: solar and wind, of course, and we also talked about the energy available in living biomass.  He gave me the idea to use a small light bulb inside my experiment box to move the temperature up just enough to make those microbes pass gas.

Bob had dedicated much of his life and resources to demonstrating that energy use doesn’t have to sicken us or the planet.  His was the first solar house I had been inside.  Afterwards he generously gave me his old leaf shredder.  I used it to break down various leaves and plants I was using in my experiments.  Eventually I moved on from natural gas to make practical, uncomplicated biodiesel fuel.  Bob even knew which restaurants would leave their used cooking oil outside their back doors (at night).

Bob with Volt Back of Stonerock house FREA---Tower of Power

1. Bob with his new Volt last year. 2. Rear of house

with PV panels at top, pool panels under and inside

  hot water panels on left. 3. Stonerock “Tower of Power.”

Presently bob is president of FREA.  Last week on one of the days when Orlando’s January temperature was ten degrees above normal, the Orlando Sentinel published his guest column about climate change.  You can read it here.

I’ve always thought global warming was all about the numbers of CO2 molecules in the atmosphere.  In the article, Bob does the addition for us.  I’m sure you know the result:  droughts across our food producing mid-west, the north and south poles melting rapidly, a Franken storm in the northeast causing billions in economic loss, acidification of the oceans reducing the fish catch, Greenland’s glacier slipping into the sea.  Guess what? Climate change has only just begun.

So what can Florida citizens and government do?  Here’s what some others are doing:

In 2009, New York, Delaware, Maryland, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont and New Jersey organized a system of capping and trading CO2 emissions with regularly required reductions.  It’s called the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).  The governor of New Jersey has withdrawn the state as he was disappointed that the original criteria have not been met.  The other state representatives are continuing to engage on the issues and appear determined to find the adjustments that lead to the desired reductions.  In the meantime, new, renewable energy industries in those states have been leading the economic recovery.

California is taking action, too.  2013 marks the beginning of their CO2 emissions capping system.  Companies that can’t reduce their emissions below the cap must purchase allowances.  The first auction is already sold out.  Each year the caps will be lowered.  The allowance money is being distributed back to electricity rate-payers whose bills are expected to rise to pay for the newer, clean energy systems.  In 2011, California already had an installed capacity of 19,745 magawatts of renewable energy and was producing 333 million gallons of biofuels.  In that same year, Florida had installed capacity of only 1,421 megawatts of renewable power and produced 39 million gallons of biofuels.  The only area where Florida came close to matching Governor Brown’s state was with installed biomass power.  We had 1,195 megawatts to their 1200.

But cap and trade is just one way to reduce emissions.  A tax on carbon is another.  The Canadian provinces of Quebec, British Columbia and Alberta have all instituted their versions of carbon taxes.  In the US, Boulder, Colorado was the first municipality to enact a carbon tax.  The Bay Area Air Quality Management District in California levied a carbon tax in 2008 and Montgomery County, Maryland added a carbon tax in 2010.

Which method will Florida legislators agree to?  Or will they?  As Bob says, we all must stop making excuses for continuing to use fossil fuels.  We must work individually and through government (together) to end the dependency.

Sam Kendall

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