advertisement

White House adviser tours city energy plant at landfill

Wednesday, March 14, 2012 | 1:55 p.m. CDT
Columbia Water and Light Technician Supervisor Ronnie Tennill, right, talks to Nancy Sutley during a tour Wednesday of the city's Biogas Energy Plant. Sutley, President Barack Obama's principal environmental adviser and chair of The White House Council on Environmental Quality, is traveling around the nation looking at different energy sources.

COLUMBIA — The chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality visited Columbia on Wednesday morning, visiting with city officials downtown before touring the Biogas Energy Plant located at the city landfill.

Nancy Sutley, who also serves as the principal environmental policy adviser to President Barack Obama, said she travels the country to talk with municipal leaders about their efforts in generating renewable energy.

"As we thought about coming to Missouri," Sutley said, "Columbia stood out as a community that was doing a lot in clean energy and in the environment and someplace we wanted to hear and see what was going on." 

Mayor Bob McDavid, City Manager Mike Matthes and other city officials spent an hour with Sutley inside the offices of the Regional Economic Development Inc. explaining Columbia's efforts to increase renewable energy, which currently accounts for 2 percent of Columbia's total energy.

McDavid said Columbia's sustained growth will necessitate the need for alternative energy sources, including wind, solar and biomass, as well as increasing efficiency at the Biogas Energy Plant.

"Challenges remain ahead," he said.

Following the roundtable discussion, Sutley visited the plant at the city landfill with Christian Johanningmeier, Columbia's power production superintendent, and Ronnie Tennill, a technician supervisor.

Johanningmeier explained how trash at the landfill decomposes and produces methane. The gas is run through engines hooked up to 1-megawatt generators, which create electricity for the city. Any excess gas is burned.

"Methane gas is a greenhouse gas, so it is more damaging to the atmosphere than carbon dioxide is," Johanningmeier said. "So you're better off taking the methane, doing something with it, converting it to carbon dioxide, because it's actually less damaging to the planet than in methane form."

The plant has an output of 2.1 megawatts, supplying about 1.5 percent of Columbia's energy use per year and enough power to supply approximately 1,500 homes. The city hopes the plant will increase output enough to meet 2.5 percent of Columbia's power within five to 10 years.

"Well I think it's very impressive to see a community taking advantage of what they have," Sutley said. "And the fact that the city owns the utility and the landfill creates an opportunity that in some communities would be harder to do. So that's great to see them taking advantage of the assets they have."

Sutley was scheduled to conclude her visit with a roundtable discussion with MU students this afternoon before returning to Washington on Wednesday night.


Like what you see here? Become a member.


Show Me the Errors (What's this?)

Report corrections or additions here. Leave comments below here.

You must be logged in to participate in the Show Me the Errors contest.


Comments

Kelsey Wingo March 15, 2012 | 6:14 p.m.

It was great to have Nancy Sutley (Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality) on Mizzou's campus yesterday. However, the article made no mention of Sutley's strong words about coal. After being asked by a Coal Free Mizzou member how she felt about on campus coal plants, she said she was concerned about "old dirty coal plants [that] are located in the middle of communities." She went on to say that some of the latest EPA rules (and those in the future) are going to force those coal plants to "have to finally clean up."

Mizzou's coal plant is certainly in the middle of a community! It's practically right next to two residence halls and a short walk from Jesse Hall and the Quad, not to mention other Columbia residents. As Sutley and others have pushed for removing dirty pollutants from our air and continuing to cut down on carbon emissions, I hope the University of Missouri administration was listening loud and clear. Mizzou needs to continue to work to move completely off of coal power!

(Report Comment)
frank christian March 15, 2012 | 7:06 p.m.

"Mizzou's coal plant is certainly in the middle of a community!"

And they remove the bodies each morning before the sun comes up.

Why would one, Lindsey, so sincere and adamant on this subject, not render one clue as to what should be used as alternative? Possibly, she might relate the answer Ms. Sutley must have provided us on this important question. Wind and sun? OMG

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams March 15, 2012 | 7:38 p.m.

Wind energy?

Take a look at this:

http://articles.latimes.com/2011/jun/06/...

I'm wondering if the penalties for killing raptors is the same as if I did it with my shotgun?

Probably not.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz March 15, 2012 | 7:54 p.m.

I'm skeptical that only 2% of Columbia's energy comes from renewable sources as I think the voter-passed ordinance requiring different levels of "green-ness" mandated a higher percentage by this date.

I'm also not sure about the technical accuracy of "The gas is run through engines hooked up to 1-megawatt generators, which create electricity for the city. Any excess gas is burned." My understanding is that all methane was burned on-site. Mark or Ellis, do you have any further insight into that?

(Report Comment)
frank christian March 15, 2012 | 8:55 p.m.

Check out Lindsey Berger with Taylor Dankmyer. They both seem to be trying to inform us of our impending doom from the same form letter. Couldn't have gotten it from Ms. Sutley, could they?

(Report Comment)
Taylor Dankmyer March 16, 2012 | 1:25 p.m.

Michael,
While there are issues with any energy, you can't seriously be arguing that wind energy is more dangerous to humans and animals than our current dirty energies, such as coal and oil?

Wind turbines can avoid killing many birds by simply keeping the turbines out of migratory flight paths. They could also paint the turbines a different color. Unfortunately, not every company in the United States worries about killing birds. They should.

Even given that, the number of birds killed by wind turbines compared to other "killers" is extremely low. Wind power causes far fewer losses of birds (approximately 108,000 a year) than buildings (550 million), power lines (130 million), cars (80 million), poisoning by pesticides (67 million), domestic cats (at least 10 million), and radio and cell towers (4.5 million). [Source: USDA Forest Service: http://www.fs.fed.us/psw/publications/do...

Call me crazy, but I'm a bit more worried about the human health impacts of coal. According to the Physicians for Social Responsibility, pollution from coal plants has been linked to 4 of the 5 leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, stroke, and respiratory disease.

Taylor Dankmyer
Vice President, Coal Free Mizzou

(Report Comment)
John Schultz March 16, 2012 | 3:10 p.m.

Taylor, just how many deaths have been attributed directly to coal power? I'm sure there are some, but that's a pretty broad brush you're wielding.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking March 17, 2012 | 6:00 a.m.

Taylor Dankmyer wrote:

"Even given that, the number of birds killed by wind turbines compared to other "killers" is extremely low. Wind power causes far fewer losses of birds (approximately 108,000 a year) than buildings (550 million), power lines (130 million), cars (80 million), poisoning by pesticides (67 million), domestic cats (at least 10 million), and radio and cell towers (4.5 million)."

That's because they are many, many fewer wind turbines than building, power lines, cars, etc. If you express it as deaths/cause of death, wind turbines are at or near the top of the list.

"Call me crazy, but I'm a bit more worried about the human health impacts of coal."

That's part of why I would like to see most baseload energy provided by nuclear.

John Schultz quoted:

"The gas is run through engines hooked up to 1-megawatt generators, which create electricity for the city. Any excess gas is burned."

I understand that the gas they make is not of high enough quality to be put into the NG distribution network, so if they can't store it somehow, it would likely be flared. I've never visited this landfill, but other landfills I've seen have flares.

DK

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams March 17, 2012 | 10:25 a.m.

Taylor: My point was this....if I take my shotgun, go outside, and shoot a raptor, I'm gonna pay a hefty fine. If I do it again and again, I go to jail.

Not so for wind farms. They get a pass from folks like you because your overall agenda lessens raptor values at the expense of PC-clean and green energy.

Wind farms will become just a passing fancy or novelty. The rare earth demand will kill it. Nuclear is the bridge to the catalyst we need for conversion of sea water to hydrogen/oxygen using energy from the sun.

I have no problem moving away from coal/nat gas, but I refuse to return to the dark ages to do it.

(Report Comment)
frank christian March 17, 2012 | 11:10 a.m.

Taylor - "Wind turbines can avoid killing many birds by simply keeping the turbines out of migratory flight paths. They could also paint the turbines a different color."

If actions to save the birds were that simple, couldn't one or two of the 4200 new regulations instituted by this administration ,last year alone, address the problem in some way?

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking March 17, 2012 | 3:38 p.m.

MichaelW, if you have a few minutes/hours, read some of this guy's work. He's a physics professor and does a very good job, IMO, in putting energy issues in their proper perspectives.

http://www.energybulletin.net/authors/To...

I suspect we could build enough wind turbines to break the grid if we wanted. The issue is dealing with the random nature of wind generation on a grid designed for controllable sources of energy. I think communities would be better going the "microgrid" route rather than working toward a national grid of renewables.

DK

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking March 17, 2012 | 4:19 p.m.
(Report Comment)
Michael Williams March 17, 2012 | 5:28 p.m.

Mark: Thanx, I will take a look.

Wind turbines contain substantial rare earths. Right now, China possesses 97% of the world's supply of rare earths. I simply cannot understand why folks would roll over from one dependency to another....makes no sense to me at all.

I did read something recently about our own lead mining area around Potosi. Seems we do have significant reserves of many rare earths in the area. Given our current frowns on lead mining....or ANY mining....somehow I doubt we'll be able to exploit the reserves.

Folks think that elements grow on trees and, in the case of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, and trace sulfur and phosphorous, I guess they do. But not the industrial metals. They exist in the ground and HAVE to be mined. That means opening the earth up and taking them out. There are lots of environmental problems with doing this, but if you want to build stuff, you need to open those mines. Wind turbines do not blow in on the wind.

Folks also forget, or do not understand, that we have only 92 building blocks in the chemistry alphabet. That's it....only 92 starting with hydrogen and ending with uranium. Everything we do or make depends upon finding just the right element or elements to do a job.

And most have to be mined.

I want the environmentalists to address this issue. I want them to tell us where they intend to get these elements of the chemical alphabet in their efforts to go green...in ways that are greener than we currently do.

And saying you're going to let OTHER nations do it is the height of arrogance and does NO good for the world's environment at all. It simply allows us to say we're more green, all the while ignoring that someplace else is LESS green and may be making things worse.

(Report Comment)
frank christian March 17, 2012 | 5:37 p.m.

Mark - Am I somehow supposed to read that factcheck contradicted my post? It did not, many of BO's first actions were to rescind all the Bush regs that would have assisted in better energy production across the country.

http://finance.townhall.com/columnists/b...

It was also reported on TV before xmas, that 4200 new Obama regulations had been instituted in Oct.

(Report Comment)
Jonathan Hopfenblatt March 17, 2012 | 7:18 p.m.

Michael said: "...if I take my shotgun, go outside, and shoot a raptor, I'm gonna pay a hefty fine. If I do it again and again, I go to jail.

Not so for wind farms. They get a pass from folks like you because your overall agenda lessens raptor values at the expense of PC-clean and green energy."

The difference is that you would be using your shotgun TO kill the raptor, whereas wind turbines aren't there to kill birds. Call it collateral damage, if you will (and even then, it's not like they're not aware of this and wouldn't try to prevent if possible).

By your logic, power companies, car companies, pet breeders, etc. are all "getting a pass" too.

(Report Comment)
Taylor Dankmyer March 20, 2012 | 11:43 a.m.

John Schultz,

The amount of deaths directly attributed to coal is hard to get just one number on. One study from two years ago attributed 13,200 deaths per year to coal pollution (http://bit.ly/cHaJHn).

Also, take a look at the life expectancy changes in areas where mountaintop removal coal mining (the most destructive mining we do in the US) is occuring: http://bit.ly/GBhwTK. Some summaries from that data: 1. people living near mountaintop mining have cancer rates of 14.4% compared to 9.4% for people elsewhere in Appalachia. 2. the rate of children born with birth defects is 42% higher in mountaintop removal mining areas. 3. the public health costs of pollution from coal operations in Appalachia amount to a staggering $75 billion a year.

The point here is that coal power is is no way clean and we must think about the entire process of mining and burning coal, from its origin in Illinois, Wyoming, West Virginia, wherever it may be, all the way to its arrival in our house to power our homes.

It baffles me how anyone can even compare the environmental damage of a wind turbine to that of coal. The number of coal slurry spills we have had, that kill acres and acres of plant and animal life in a matter of minutes, is shocking. Just a few of the coal slurry spills over the years: http://bit.ly/cPmRhl, http://bit.ly/GDdxTS, http://bit.ly/daDZ8Z

And that doesn't even mention the amout of water and air pollution that occurs from coal mining, especially mountaintop removal coal mining.

If you want to talk about killing birds, why don't we talk about how historically coal mining companies used canaries in the mines to judge when the levels of toxic gases were too high for humans to mine? Once you could no longer hear your canary singing, you knew it was 1. dead and 2. you needed to get yourself out of there. The canaries death was literally used as a measure of toxic levels in the mine.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking March 20, 2012 | 1:00 p.m.

Taylor Dankmyer wrote:

"The amount of deaths directly attributed to coal is hard to get just one number on."

That's because it's political, and advocacy groups get more donations the higher the numbers are. It's very hard to put a number on anything but direct deaths from mining and production (which are typically less than 100/year).

"Also, take a look at the life expectancy changes in areas where mountaintop removal coal mining"

Every large energy source has a cost. Whether this cost is acceptable to society (and to the communities that it supports economically) is always open to debate. However, without having viable, and especially scalable, replacements, we have to make do with regulating the dangers the best we can, consistent with cost-benefit.

"It baffles me how anyone can even compare the environmental damage of a wind turbine to that of coal"

Well, coal mines, and plants, are very large operations, and are responsible for roughly 50% of our electrical energy nationwide. One wind turbine is environmentally inconsequential, however, millions of them become so. And they have a significant carbon footprint to build. A large wind farm uses a LOT of concrete and steel, and only produces 20-30% of its rated capacity in terms of energy.

Why don't you support nuclear as a replacement for coal in the moderate future (40-60 years)? It'll take that long to build out any truly significant renewable infrastructure, as well as the necessary transmission lines. The nice part about nuclear is it is also a baseload source, where wind and solar are intermittent, random, and require backup or storage to produce useful electricity.

(and yes, Fukushima was a freak accident, and is now contained with few if any casualties, Chernobyl should not even be mentioned as a failure scenario for Western reactors, and TMI killed absolutely no one)

DK

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams March 20, 2012 | 1:31 p.m.

MarkF says, "Every large energy source has a cost."
____________________

Yes, and it baffles me folks think they can get "big" for "little".

'Tis true, you can get millions of wind or solar panels, but how many copper and rare earth mines are you willing to open with their concomitant environmental problems; if there are higher cancer deaths associated with coal mining, what about copper and rare earth mines? Are they healthy? Show me. As I posted the other day, apparently we have good sources of a few rare earths near Potosi (in our lead belt). May be re-start this mining area, or are you more protective of us and willing to let China contaminate their own lands so we in the US can puff up and say "Nyah, nyah....we're more green than you!"

For the earth, what does THAT accomplish? That's like your employer telling you to download and print your own W-2 so the employer can say, "We're more green!" Well, that's true enuf...but are you?

No. You are now less green.

I'm in favor of reducing coal, natural gas, and any other carbon source sequestered away from the carbon cycle for millions of years. But, I don't like evangelicals who propose stopping one thing without thinking through the alternatives and coming up with a plan. A long-term one.

So, go ahead and shut down UMC's and Columbia's coal plant. Do it tomorrow. Let's see what happens.

PS: The use of the term "you" does NOT pertain to MarkF in this missive. It's general.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking March 20, 2012 | 1:38 p.m.

One of the other neat things about MU's power plant is it's a cogeneration facility, meaning it produces both electricity and steam to heat buildings. So it wrings more energy from the coal than it would if it were just making electricity.

DK

(Report Comment)

Leave a comment

Speak up and join the conversation! Make sure to follow the guidelines outlined below and register with our site. You must be logged in to comment. (Our full comment policy is here.)

  • Don't use obscene, profane or vulgar language.
  • Don't use language that makes personal attacks on fellow commenters or discriminates based on race, religion, gender or ethnicity.
  • Use your real first and last name when registering on the website. It will be published with every comment. (Read why we ask for that here.)
  • Don’t solicit or promote businesses.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through. If you see something objectionable, please click the "Report comment" link.

You must be logged in to comment.

Forget your password?

Don't have an account? Register here.

advertisements