BioCycle August 2015
“Since September 11, 2001, renewable energy initiatives have taken on even more significance and relevance as part of a vital need to become less dependent on oil imports. We have, in the United States of America, the capability to produce alternative fuels like ethanol, biodiesel and methane from organic feedstocks … We also are capable of utilizing great quantities of compost in our food and fiber production methods to reduce petroleum-based inputs.
“But our nation’s focus — including the recently proposed federal energy policy — minimizes the potential of renewable energy. Now, more than ever, we need to showcase the technologies, research, policies and projects that demonstrate renewable fuels are not only feasible, but economically viable.”
That is how our founder, Jerome Goldstein, began his editorial in the October 2001 issue of BioCycle, shortly before the inaugural BioCycle Conference on Renewable Energy From Organics Recycling (BioCycle REFOR), held October 29-31, 2001. Jerry was emphasizing renewable fuels (versus power) because of U.S. dependence on foreign oil at the time of the September 11th attacks. Fast forward to 2015, as we are putting the finishing touches on the agenda for BioCycle REFOR15, October 19-22, 2015 at the DoubleTree by Hilton Boston North Shore (see pages 13-16 of this issue). The U.S. is far less dependent on oil imports, but as a nation, we remain very fossil fuel reliant for vehicle and heating fuels, and electricity. That fossil fuel reliance comes with a huge environmental cost in terms of water, air and soil quality, as well as climate change.
We never tire of being in awe of Jerry’s prescience, evident in the third paragraph of his 2001 editorial: “… the BioCycle Conference will help implement an overall strategy for a more sustainable U.S. energy policy. In addition to gaining energy security, the infrastructure needed to make fuels from renewable resources creates vital economic opportunities. Simply put, renewable energy can help fuel economic renewal.”
As Ted Niblock points out in this month’s BioEnergy Outlook, West Virginia (one of the poster child states highlighted by opponents of President Obama’s recently announced Clean Power Plan) “has approximately 20,000 jobs from coal mining, which, out of 750,000 jobs is 3 percent of the state’s workforce.” Jobs generated by anaerobic digestion, when including those related to the process of adding value to the outputs, start adding up quickly. And those outputs fuel both economic and environment renewal — a win for the pocketbook and the planet.
A news item in Anaerobic Digest highlights that on July 25, Germany’s transition from coal and oil-fired power to carbon-free electricity hit a new milestone when solar, wind and other sources of renewable energy met 78 percent of the day’s energy demand. Electricity from the country’s 7,944 anaerobic digesters accounts for 4 percent of that mix. If Germany can do, so can do the U.S. and other countries with huge carbon footprints.
Green Mountain Power, which services the state of Vermont, is a leading example of a “Yes! Can Do” utility of the future. Mary Powell, CEO, launched an ambitious energy vision to provide low carbon, low cost and reliable power to Vermonters. Anaerobic digestion is part of Green Mountain Power’s mix.
Fifteen years after Jerry’s editorial, we have reached the point where “No can do” regarding adoption of low-carbon, climate-friendly fuels and power doesn’t cut it. We are in the age of Yes! Can Do — so let’s do it!