LETTER: We must act now to get energy costs under control

Wednesday, February 3, 2010 | 12:32 p.m. CST; updated 3:59 p.m. CST, Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Energy costs are escalating and destined to spiral higher. Effects of a cap-and-trade regime, passed by the U.S. House of Representatives and now before the Senate, would be damaging for the entire Midwest and Missouri in particular. Regardless of what Congress may or may not do, rising energy costs will be hard to handle. Fortunately, there may be a way to lessen the impact of the inevitable.

Old, even ancient technologies have come out of laboratories, modernized and upgraded. They're waiting in the wings, ready to be adapted to mid-Missouri needs and conditions. But we, here in mid-Missouri, must act now if we are to benefit rather than pay others who act first.

A consortium of businesses, colleges and universities, organizations and interested individuals has been proposed to accelerate application of those technologies in mid-Missouri. All of us individually will benefit, with farmers, ranchers, poultry and livestock producers, forest land owners, businesses and small municipalities first in line. In short, if you live or work in mid-Missouri and use electricity or use energy in any form, it behooves you to be informed of the proposed Thermochemical Energy Association consortium and to support its development.

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Mark Foecking February 3, 2010 | 8:09 p.m.

"it behooves you to be informed of the proposed Thermochemical Energy Association consortium and to support its development."

Pray, how might we do this? A Web search yields no hits.

I'm also pretty skeptical of these "ancient technologies". But let us know how we can find out about them and we'll check them out.


(Report Comment)
Jack Ryan February 8, 2010 | 9:45 p.m.

Mark - you're right. A web search will yoeld no results. TEA is merely a concept looking for those interested in additional ways of extracxting usable energy from biomass.

May I suggest you search the web for biochar, bio-oil. fast pyrolysis, gasification. IBI, Johannes Lehmann (Cornell), David Laird (USDA, AMES, IA) and terra preta. A search of these will lead to a lot of information relevant to the TEA concept.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking February 9, 2010 | 8:42 a.m.

Jack Ryan wrote:

"May I suggest you search the web for biochar, bio-oil. fast pyrolysis, gasification. IBI, Johannes Lehmann (Cornell), David Laird (USDA, AMES, IA) and terra preta"

Thank you. Actually I do know a fair amount about these technologies/practices. They do offer some energy potential and/or carbon sequestration. They cannot replace our current use of fossil fuels to any significant extent, however.

It's not that biomass can't deliver useful fuel. It's that oil, gas and coal represent thousands of years of accumulated solar energy, in concentrated form, easily obtained and used. Biomass has to capture that solar power in real time, therefore requiring a lot of land and processing/gathering that is not necessary with fossil energy.

The amount of energy we use is too great to practically replace with biofuels. Advocating a move to biofuels means we must also advocate radical conservation and efficiency improvements. Nothing wrong with that, in my book. But let's be clear about what biofuels can do relative to what fossil energy does.


(Report Comment)
Jack Ryan February 9, 2010 | 10:37 p.m.

It's quite true that energy from biomass is not THE answer but it can play a significant role in the nation's quest for energy independence. I also know a bit about fossil fuels (BS Geology, 1953). As for fossil petroleum - the low hanging fruit has been picked and demand is rising. We must have alternative portable fuels. I also know a bit about energy crops (MS Agriculture, 1976) Not all energy crops are created equel. Some, fast growing perennials can be grown on land not suitable for row crops and require less energy inputs to produce. Further, about 75% of what goes into landfills is organic and amenable to thermochemical processing. Biochar derived from pyrolysis is a very potemnt soil amencdment that greatly increases crop yields on some soils. Don't sell it short. Any system that provides a positive energy yield should be pursued! The very foundation of the US economy is plentiful and cheap energy. We'd best be searching for alternatives to fossil fuels or preparing for a radically changed life style!

(Report Comment)

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