September 20, 2006 | General

Editorial: BioCycle's Bridge To A Renewable Future

BioCycle September 2006, Vol. 47, No. 9, p. 4
Nora Goldstein

The September 9, 2006 issue of The Economist featured a special report on climate change. A conclusion in the opening commentary is that “while the science remains uncertain, the chances of serious consequences are high enough to make it worth spending the (not exorbitant) sums needed to try to mitigate climate change.” Further into the report, an article on “Where To Start” has the subtitle, “Technological and economic solutions to climate change are available. The problem is politics.”
We couldn’t agree more with the subtitle of the article just referenced. Technological and economic solutions to climate change are available. So often, the mainstream media writes about potential environmental disasters such as climate change without acknowledging the amazing and pioneering work of entrepreneurs, researchers, nonprofit organizations, public policy makers (primarily state and local) and others to develop alternatives to the current practices that are causing or aggravating the problems. So it is refreshing to see the statement that viable and tested technologies and services are available. And nowhere is that more evident than in this issue’s BioCycle Energy section. The articles are based on topics to be presented at BioCycle’s Sixth Annual Renewable Energy From Organics Recycling Conference next month in Minneapolis (see pages 15-17 for complete agenda).
Two articles, “Fueling The Future On Biomass Industries” and Part 2 of the BioTown USA report, “Turning Local Biomass Into New Energy Options,” highlight the economic opportunities around renewable energy from organics recycling. In both instances, northern New York State and Reynolds, Indiana (aka BioTown, USA), bioenergy production not only creates renewable sources of power and fuels, but industrial development and jobs in rural America. Another article, “Trading Carbon Credits For Methane Recovery,” describes how anaerobic digester and landfill gas recovery projects can receive carbon credits that are marketed via the Chicago Climate Exchange – yet another economic opportunity, as well as a more rapid payback on investments in proven renewable energy technologies.
Most of the articles in BioCycle Energy (including the ones just mentioned) describe projects that are either on line or in construction that have the capacity to generate many megawatts of electricity and many gallons of biofuels. Reports cover a new anaerobic digester in the Chicago area processing high strength liquids from industrial generators, a gasification plant in Minnesota producing syngas from MSW and recycled wood, and several ethanol production facilities. The BioTown, USA report reviews the range of conversion technologies and provides a directory of vendors.
The opening article in BioCycle Energy, “Compatibility Of Digestion And Composting,” explains the “microbiological marriage” between anaerobic digestion followed by aerobic composting. Researcher Will Brinton notes that volatile fatty acids – the composting world’s odor nemeses – are actually energy storage compounds that release methane when subject to anaerobic conditions. The resulting solids are more readily – and less odorously – compostable. What is exciting about Brinton’s article – and the conversations we had while it was being written – is that it so explicitly connects the aerobic and anaerobic worlds that BioCycle and our readers live in, and demonstrates the potential of current and future projects. What hit home is how much we – the “collective we” – have learned over these many decades of pioneering and risk taking, and how we have a tremendous opportunity before us to bring our composting, organics recycling and renewable energy know-how to the table to help combat climate change and rebuild local economies. All working together, we are BioCycle’s bridge to a renewable, sustainable future.

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