Betting on a hot market for syngas

Turning scrap metal and debris into energy may help U.S. ease its reliance on oil

By Robert Gavin Globe Staff / August 25, 2008

NEW BEDFORD – Take a rusting, hulking pile of scrap metal, add a few tons of construction debris, and what do you get?

In the case of Ze-gen Inc., a new source of energy.

Ze-gen, founded four years ago, is using the unappetizing conglomeration to make fuel for power plants.

Borrowing technology from the steel industry, the company turns scrap metal into a 2,800-degree metal bath and injects construction debris deep into the bubbling cauldron. The process produces a clean-burning , or syngas, that can replace natural gas or fuel oil.

Ze-gen has been proving its technology and the quality of syngas over the past year, operating a demonstration plant here that digests about a ton of debris an hour. The company is now considering several sites, primarily in the Northeast, to develop a commercial facility that could eventually process as much as 30 tons an hour and produce enough gas to fuel a plant that could power 20,000 homes.

It expects to begin commercial production at the end of next year.

“We’re solving two problems,” said Bill Davis, Ze-gen’s chief executive. “We’re eliminating wastes that would end up in a landfill and reducing fossil fuels.”

Ze-gen is one of many companies across the nation using gasification technologies to convert plant, wood, and other organic wastes – known as biomass – into syngas. Some like, Ze-gen, are simply making syngas, which has the same chemical components, carbon and hydrogen, as fossil fuels. Others, like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology spinoff InEnTec LLC, of Bend, Ore., are condensing it into liquid to make ethanol.

InEnTec uses municipal solid waste as feed stock and a technology known as plasma gasification, initially developed at MIT several years ago to destroy hazardous materials. The technology essentially creates an artificial bolt of lightning that vaporizes materials. InEnTec applied the method to solid waste, producing a syngas, then introducing a catalyst to change the gas into liquid, which can be blended with gasoline.

InEnTec and a partner, Fulcrum BioEnergy Inc. of California, recently said they plan to break ground on a $120 million plant near Reno, Nev., by the end of the year, and begin commercial production of ethanol in 2010. The plant will process 90,000 tons of waste annually to produce 10.5 million gallons of ethanol. Including tipping fees (the charge for taking the waste), the company projects making ethanol for about $1 a gallon, said Dan Cohn, a cofounder of InEnTec and senior research scientist at MIT.

“Gasification has a lot of potential because the technology is well established and can process a very wide range of feed stocks,” Cohn said. “It has the greatest potential when you can process waste.”

Gasification, which uses heat to turn solids into gas, is indeed a well-established technology. Before the invention of the electric light, many cities and towns had plants that converted coal to gas for street lamps. With oil and natural gas prices soaring, coal gasification has gained new interest, but is controversial because coal gas produces high amounts of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse emission that contributes to global warming.

Using biomass as a feed stock is considered more environmentally friendly because plants and trees can be regrown to absorb carbon dioxide created by burning syngas. In addition, keeping waste out of landfills reduces an even more potent greenhouse gas, methane, which is released during decomposition.

Reducing solid waste was a key consideration in the founding of Ze-gen. Davis said more than 300 million tons of waste end up in US landfills every year, about 15 percent of it wood waste from construction. Ze-gen’s idea: Tap the waste’s energy potential.

The company’s engineers determined that channel induction furnaces used in the steel industry provided an energy-efficient way to turn construction debris into a high-quality, clean syngas. The electricity used for the furnace offsets about 15 percent of the energy produced by the syngas, Davis said.

The construction debris is first ground up, then injected deep into the molten metal with ceramic cylinders, much like dipping forks into a fondue pot. The intense heat converts the debris to gas. Heavy metals, such as lead from paint, settle to the bottom of the bath while other contaminants are trapped in crust of silica, known as slag, that forms on top.

Ze-gen raised about $8 million from investors to build the demonstration plant at a New Bedford waste-transfer station. The next step is to find industrial partners to put the gas to work. Syngas is difficult and expensive to transport, so Ze-gen’s plan is to build production facilities near users such as power and cogeneration plants at large factories. Cogeneration produces steam as well as electricity.

Several large companies have expressed interest, Davis said. He estimates the company could make syngas for about 75 percent of the current price of natural gas on commodities markets, and less than half that of fuel oil. Tipping fees for taking the waste could further lower the cost, he said.

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Marriott Meetings Go Green

Marriott Replaces Meeting Products and Services with Eco-Friendly Alternatives – 4,000 Trees To Be Saved by Just Using Pads Made of Recycled Paper

The average three-day meeting at a Marriott hotel attended by 1,000 people produces more than 12 tons of trash, uses 200,000 kilowatts of power and consumes 100,000 gallons of water. Beginning this summer, Marriott, JW Marriott and Renaissance Hotels & Resorts will introduce a series of meeting products that are eco-friendly and will help guests and meeting planners reduce their environmental impact. Marriott is building on an aggressive environmental strategy by adding new elements to green its meetings. To see more about Marriott’s efforts to green its meetings, click on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=61_-VNLwDcg

Products and Services include:

– 100% post-consumer fiber writing pads
– Bic Ecolutions® pens made from recycled content and biodegradable (Marriott purchases 47 million pens per year)
– Access to recycling containers in or near meeting rooms in many of the hotels
– Meeting rooms set with water service in pitchers or coolers rather than plastic bottles
– Boxed lunch containers made of recycled content, including biodegradable cutlery kits and napkins
– Organic, sustainable and natural food and beverage options in many hotels to include Fair-Trade teas and meeting room chocolate options
– Organic flower options
– Linen-less banquet buffet tables made of 49%-recycled aluminum and are 99% recyclable at many hotels
– Safe-to-donate food given to America’s Second Harvest’s network of food banks

“Our customers have been demanding greener meetings and we feel we can make a difference in the world by taking steps to reduce our footprint on the environment. This is just the beginning of an evolving program that continue to add ‘green’ products and services as they become available,” said Bruno Lunghi, CMP, Marriott’s vice president for event management. “An important element to any successful program is the engagement of our associates. As part of the program, event and sales managers will be trained on what makes a meeting environmentally friendly.”

Read more about Marriott’s Environmental Stewardship efforts

Green Ambassadors New World Leaders in Training

Green Ambassadors New World Leaders in Training

Author: Bobbi Miller-Moro

Visiting the Green Ambassadors new facilities in Lawndale, California I noticed right away this program is driving Environmental Charter High School to be like no other. Maybe it was the compost corner and vegetable garden, or where they convert vegetables into biodiesel. Or the First Place award-winning ‘Floatation Machine’ made out 100% recycled products. Either way, this school is unique. I am at the home of The Green Ambassadors (Green Ambassadors website), which is an educational program from the Environmental Charter High School.

Sara Laimon, the magnetic Founder of Green Ambassadors gave me a tour of their new facilities of ECHS and Green Ambassadors, while still in the remodeling and upgrading phase. As the school is moving out of boxes, and organizing their new classrooms she explained the sustainable plans in store for this unique Environmental Charter High School. There is an air of excitement. As I peaked into the classrooms, students were busy with various projects. These students know they are making a difference in our world for generations to come. The Green Ambassador Program is comprised of an elective class taught throughout schools in Los Angeles area, Youth Summits, Green Mobile Embassy, Green Adventures and supported by Green Mentors.

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This groundbreaking organization is beginning to explode. The green element of the program is so strong that even during our interview she was selling organic soda to students from her office. In fact we were surrounded by green solutions, hangers made from wheat, recycled binders made from paper, Forest Certified pencils, even donated environmentally friendly, bio-degradable diapers are stacked on her desk in the office she shares with her green partners. “This program is created to breakdown our cultural social paradigms and educate all. Especially the communities that suffer the most from environmental injustices, the inner city, who normally miss the green education on how to advocate for a clean, healthy environment.” Laimon.

Green Ambassadors, a project of Environmental Charter High School, is an environmental education program that empowers youth to become agents of change in their communities and the world. The goals of the program include: Educating and motivating youth, inspiring them to set a “Green” example through open idea exchange and social action; To create a learning environment that will inspire new thought, helping young people to develop confidence in themselves and their future; To network communities, share ideas and empower local and global environmental solutions; To create “Green Ambassadors” for local communities and the world, inspiring hope within us all for a just, sustainable and peaceful planet.

I asked Sara what’s the future you see for the Green Ambassadors?

With certainty she said, “For all schools to have Green Ambassadors around the world. Who are agents of change and the voice of the environment.”

The Green Ambassador elective class at Environmental Charter High School is a required course for every student to take in their 10th grade year where students receive college credit from Los Angeles Trade Technical College. The Green Ambassadors have already been accomplishing their mission through their trainings in initiatives. These initiatives are implemented by youth who are committed to fulfilling Green Ambassadors mission, vision, values, and goals. The Green Ambassador program provides a different way of learning for youth who want to contribute to this planet.

They have been trained in the One Billion Bulbs Youth empowering youth to imagine the possibilities. With a goal of mobilizing the world to replace one billion standard incandescent light bulbs with energy-efficient compact fluorescent (CFL) light bulbs. Plastics are Forever is another initiative where youth empowering youth to create cleaner oceans by banning plastic bags and Styrofoam (polystyrene) in Los Angeles with Algalita Marine Research Foundation, Bring Your Own, Heal the Bay and other non-profits. Green Ambassadors are trained in Biofuels, Organics, Biodiversity, Remediation of our soil, and constructing buildings and structures out of earth friendly materials.

floatation machine

‘Floatation Machine’ made of all recycled products

“Sara Laimon has been a positive light within the sustainability movement for the past ten years. During her career as a classroom teacher, she has guided classes and school groups to create cob benches, convert a diesel car to run on veggie oil, create bio-diesel, and eat organic. Sara has traveled to Brazil, Colombia, Argentina, Haiti, Greece, and Galapagos finding, sharing, and learning solutions. She is devoting her life to creating and nurturing eco-activists to be empowered to share the solutions of hope.”

Green Ambassadors currently has two teachers. They are unique in that they are well versed in Environmental Studies. “They approached me with a huge desire for a huge change.” Sara shared with me. The names of these incredible teachers are Sandra Valencia who is originally from Colombia, she has taught High School Spanish for the past five years at ECHS and Dorsey High School (LAUSD). She has been an environmental activist for the past five years working with the Los Angeles Biodiesel Coalition, Dorsey High School’s club Global Warriors. Gabriel Azenna, who’s statement is “Green’ isn’t merely a color… but it’s a state of mind”. He adheres to a pragmatic acceptance that human beings may continue to prosper, but only by recognizing and embracing our integral duty as planetary stewards. Beyond the classroom, Gabriel is the Environmental Education Director for Next Aid, a non-profit organization his wife Lauren, co-founded in 2002. Gabriel also sits on the steering committee for the Coalition for a Sustainable Africa; a consensus-based network of NGO’s all dedicated to sustainable development projects on the ground in Africa.
Sara believes that the passion behind the people that contribute to our program stems from a satisfaction that they are investing into youth, that they see what they are doing is bigger than themselves and they contributing to the environment at the same time.

I was also interested in the ethnic backgrounds of The Green Ambassadors.

She explained they started with inner city children, but understand and promote that there is one world and we are the human race working together to create a planet where everyone can live. Therefore we have ‘Youth Summit’ where youth crossing gender, race, and social barriers and are collaborating as youth across the city and nation to inspire, create, and share solutions for a healthy planet.”

“We are tired of the myths about inner-city kids and their apathy towards the environment!” What is unique about our Los Angeles Youth Leadership Clinic is that it is youth-planned, youth- driven and youth-motivated. Youth are driven to improve their local environment.”

Spelled out clearly on their website; “Young adults are creating their own stewardship model by teaching each other, pooling their resources, strengthening their community vision and inspiring people to change. Youth need to see that they are an influential and vital part of the community. The youth of Los Angeles are the next generation of leaders. If they are not included in the community when they are young, they may not stay in the community to be the leaders of the future. These thoughts were recently expressed by Sabina Ibarra, a youth participant in the leadership clinic, Green Ambassadors, and a student at Environmental Charter High School in Lawndale, CA.”

In asking how Green Ambassadors improved their your local community? Sara reflects how they have demonstrated training for bio-diesel technology, community battery recycling, training local elementary schools on how to recycle plastics, to be a first in promoting city council ‘ban plastic in our community’, Awareness Day, and Earth Day to name just a few. They also are responsible for Southern California Disposal to switch their fleets of dirty diesel to run on clean burning biodiesel.

“Our strategy through all of our programs is to provide experiences for the Green Ambassadors to acquire knowledge and develop the skills that will not only help them in this program, but also provide them with real-world skills for personal, academic, and professional success. The students take the issue, research and develop solutions, and socially market the solution to their peers and the community at-large.”

The Future

They have not stopped there. Green Adventures are cross cultural global exchanges. After a successful field experience to Brazil in April 2007 with Earthwatch Education, and educating the schools there, they have taken on a new horizon: Columbia. They are currently holding a fundraiser, ‘Support 10 students with the Green Adventure Program’ as they create Green Ambassador Leaders in Medellin, Columbia. Medellin has created several programs that aim to bring peace and environmental action through education. To find out more contact Sandra Valencia sandra_valencia@echonline.org or Sara Laimon at 310.214.3400 ext 118. Visit

(http://www.greenambassadors.org/initiatives.php#Green_Mentors)

They believe that ‘ youth identify an issue, develop a solution, act to bring about the solution, and educate others. The most important part is that young people are becoming empowered to make a difference and are, in turn, empowering other young people. This leads to a community that has youth that are knowledge, active, and know how to make a difference.’
Sara Laimon explained what their Mobile Embassy will incorporate. It will feature a multi-media station and hands-on learning stations on the following topics; plastics, bio-diesel, bio-plastic, solar power, and organic foods. It will be used as the showcase for Green Ambassador to meet, share, and exemplify solutions for our Global Climate Crisis.

With expert assistance from Algalita Marine Research Foundation, Bring Your Own, and a grant from Patagonia, the Ambassadors will transform a trailer into a Green Mobile Embassy (GME), a vessel housing models of green solutions. The Mobile Embassy will serve to teach students from throughout the region about the issues and how they can help to alleviate the environmental problems.” As their site reflects. Jack Assadourian, owner of the Ha-Ha Cafe Comedy Club in North Hollywood (www.hahacafe.com) also donated two school buses that will be converted into biodiesel transportation for the Green Ambassadors.

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Green Mentors

“The Green Ambassadors program also identifies and enlists ‘Green Mentors’ who are of college age or above. These Mentors work with the Green Ambassadors to support them in their learning of environmental issues as well as solutions to these issues. Green mentors are benefited by developing their interpersonal skills (empowerment, networking, and enrollment), knowledge (environmental and scientific), and ecological values (biodiversity and interconnectedness). Green Mentors assist the Green Ambassadors to focus on specific issues where students can create social awareness and measurable change.”
If you are a teacher, administrator, parent or student, and want to be apart of Green Ambassadors go to: http://www.greenambassadors.org. You can contact Sandra Valencia (sandra_valencia@echonline.org) or Sarah Laimon at 310.214.3400 ext 118. Green Ambassadors 16314 Grevillea Ave, Lawndale, CA 902160 PHONE: 310.940.1626

There are several ways you can participate and make a difference in your school, community and planet. You can also go to the ‘Green Coalition’, a

“Green Youth Coalition connects environmental clubs across Southern California via http://www.becoolbegree.com to create a youth movement.”

Green Ambassadors uses the EARTH CHARTER PRINCIPLES

(www.earthcharterinaction.org)

You can learn more about Green Ambassadors and their Mission Statement: http://www.greenambassadors.org

They have communities and businesses reaching out to be apart of this unique program. ExitSigns.com environmentally friendly exit signs are a zero energy emissions, zero maintenance, and is zero damage to the environment. Fundraising Green, The Coffee Bean, California Credit Union, 41Pounds.org, Fred Leeds Properties, Smokey’s Muskie Shop, Marc Laimon Jiu Jitsu, Steaz, Peak Organic brewing company, the Sustainable Group, Southern California Disposal, Seven-Star green event experts, Get Hip Get Green, Cuningham Group, Cater Green zero waste solutions, Biodiesel America, Luis Moro Productions and Algalita Marine Research Foundation are a few of the sponsors that have jumped on board. The Official Fundraising Partner of Green Ambassadors are; My Green Spark, Fundraising Green.

The Green Ambassadors left me with an experience of what is right with the world. No matter what your opinions are on the environment, the fact remains they are cutting back on waste. These students, instead of worrying about the plights of inner city school problems, such as gang violence; they are creating an environment for themselves today, for their future that will effect generations to come. Not only are they making a difference for their school, families, and communities, but they are spreading the technology on HOW to be green to schools across the city, states, and now countries.

I left the school inspired, and honored that these incredible teenagers are working on change for my future, and my children’s future.

Let’s start off 2008 powerfully, and create “Green Ambassadors” for all communities inspiring hope for a just, sustainable and peaceful planet.

Article Source: http://www.articlesbase.com/causes-and-organizations-articles/green-ambassadors-new-world-leaders-in-training-351482.html

About the Author:

Bobbi Miller-Moro writes on family issues and the environment. She is a filmmaker, artist, and mother of five. Raising her children with her husband in Los Angeles. You can learn more about her at her personal blog store at ThankGodForMommy.com and www.powerfulmothers.wordpress.com

A Green Travel Plan for Everyone and Every Trip

A Green Travel Plan for Everyone and Every Trip

Author: Melissa Evans

Simply put, green travel is travel in which a positive environmental impact is kept to a maximum and a negative environmental impact is kept to a minimum. Keeping your carbon footprint as tiny as possible while traveling will help preserve the entire planet, including that favorite vacation spot you always visit. That being said, traveling green sounds like something any traveler would be interested in, right? Right, but although many travelers may be interested in Green Travel it can seem a little intimidating or complicated and not everyone knows where to start. SO, I put together this Green Travel Plan that makes traveling green easy for anyone, no matter what their shade of green. What’s even better is you don’t have to camp out in the jungle or hike from place to place to make an impact (unless of course, that’s what you’re into). Remember, every little bit counts and following any or all of these steps will add up to a world of change.

A Green Travel Plan for Everyone and Every Trip

Before You Go:
Help be a part of the solution by booking with a green organization like the Green Travel Hub by RezHub.com; they actually donate 20% of the proceeds from every trip to an environmental group so that every trip can make a difference. They donate whether the travel you choose is labeled green or not.

Consider booking with Green Travel Options like green hotels, hybrid rental cars, and carbon offsetting programs. RezHub also offers all these programs.

When renting a car, choose Enterprise. They not only have the largest selection of hybrid and fuel efficient cars available for rent, they also take huge steps for the environment. They’ve pledged to plant 50 million trees over the next 50 years, they donate millions to alternative fuel research, and the list goes on.

Look for hotels with a green certifications or a “Green Score.” In the Green Score program, hotels can earn points and Green Branches for each environmental program they have in place. While some hotels may only have one leaf, keep in mind that even one leaf is a step in the right direction. It’s important to support the green efforts that each hotel takes because it shows management that they are doing the right thing, and it encourages further expansion of green programs. Remember, where one leaf sprouts, another is sure to follow!

Offset your Carbon Footprint. Choosing to go carbon neutral is one of the gateways to responsible travel. It’s easy to do, and it’s inexpensive! We suggest offsetting your carbon footprint with Sustainable Travel International and MyClimate. Their program is the best we’ve seen in that it’s comprehensive and supports both kinds of offsetts. They’ll let you calculate your exact offset, or you can choose a standard donation from $1 all the way up to $500.

While You’re There:
Plan to green-up your stay, and feel good about where you’re going. These are some really simple steps you can take to help green up your stay, even if you didn’t book with a Green Scored Hotel
• Encourage the hotel you chose to go green or thank them for the green programs that they participate in! Speak with the management and let them know that green options are important to you.
• If your hotel has a sheets and towels reuse program, use it. If they don’t, start your own! Let housekeeping know that you don’t need them to replace your sheets and towels every day; this will reduce energy and water usage.
• Turn off the lights, air conditioner or heater, and the electronics in your room while you’re out. • Turn off the water when you brush your teeth, and take shorter showers.
• Bring your own toiletries, or if you use what the hotel provides make sure to take what’s leftover home with you.

Take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints…
• When you’re visiting a park or any natural setting, don’t disturb the plants or wildlife. • Never buy anything made from an endangered animal or plant.
• Make sure you save any trash until you find a garbage can, and wherever possible save your recyclables for a recycling drop-off. Check out http://www.earth911.org to find a recycling drop off center in the US.

Go local…
• Whenever you can, shop and buy from the local vendors. This helps support the local economy, and submerges you in the areas culture.
• Try to avoid the large chains that carry goods shipped in from overseas. All that shipping creates tons of CO2 and the large chains can push the locals out of business (if you wanted to shop at Wal-Mart you could’ve stayed home, right?) .

Give back…
• Consider volunteering some time on your trip. Spending even just one day volunteering makes a difference. Contact not-profit organizations in the area and set something up before you go.
• Check out the Volunteer Travel Hub where you can find the perfect place to lend a hand. These bite-sized volunteer vacations (short term) are free and can be included on any trip!

When You Get Home:
Write a letter or send an email to the hotel you stayed in, the airline you flew and the rental car company you chose. Thank them for going green or encourage them to do so.

Send an email to greentravel@rezhub.com or post to RezHub.com’s Green Travel Forums, if you tell them about how you turned your trip green, you might even win a FREE trip!

Keep these tips in mind while you’re at home too, conserving resources almost always saves you green in the long run. And remember, it really is true that every little bit counts. If each of us took just one of these steps, imagine the difference it would make. I’ll end with a quote from Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Article Source:

About the Author:

Melissa Evans is an avid environmentalist and the Marketing Director for RezHub.com. Having experience in both the environmental and travel industries, she is a green travel expert.

Farmer turns to fruit tree to power tractors

By Rich PhillipsThe jatropha tree contains golf-ball-sized fruit that can be made into biodiesel.
CNN

LABELLE, Florida (CNN) — Bryan Beer, a citrus grower in southwestern Florida, sees himself as a bit of a pioneer. He’s not digging for gold. It’s more like he’s planting for oil.

The jatropha tree contains golf-ball-sized fruit that can be made into biodiesel.

He is planting a jatropha tree, a plant that can produce diesel fuel and could one day power a 747. His plans are a little less ambitious; he just wants to plant enough to run his tractors.

“Any kind of relief or help we can get from a cheaper source of oil could impact the agricultural industry tremendously throughout the country, throughout the world,” said Beer, whose family has been growing citrus for decades.

Jatropha means “doctor food.” It originated in South America, where it was once used for medicinal purposes. There are three seeds within the golf-ball-sized fruit. When pressed, its oil can be used as fuel in any standard diesel engine with zero processing, experts say.

Sound like a pipe dream? It’s not.

It’s being taken very seriously by companies all over the world, including the Chrysler motor company and Air New Zealand. The airline is planning a test flight in November in Auckland in which jatropha biodiesel will be mixed with diesel fuel.

This is what has farmers, scientists and engineers excited.

“It is a superior oil,” said Roy Beckford, an agricultural scientist with the University of Florida.

Air New Zealand says the quality and quantity of the product may be so good that the airline could run the test flight without having to mix the jatropha biofuel with any normal aviation fuel.

Beckford said countries like China, India and Brazil have planted millions of acres of jatropha, but the United States has yet to make that sort of investment.

“We are way, way behind these people,” he said. “But certainly we have the ability, and we have shown that over and over again that we can beat people on technology and applying that technology.”

Beckford has been experimenting to see how the tree grows best. He says jatropha can be grown in soil that is not suitable for most food crops.

“Even under harsh drought conditions with minimal amount of water or moisture, it will survive,” he said.

Jatropha is being tested in nurseries and farms, primarily in Florida and Hawaii, to see if it can be used as a viable alternative biofuel nationwide. Caribbean nations have used jatropha for years as biofuel and a home-made medicine to treat constipation and inflammation, Beckford said.

He says jatropha would probably never be the main biodiesel crop but should be added into the mix of biodiesel crops. “It think it’s going to be part of the equation.”

Beckford’s research is done on a small patch of land in Fort Myers, Florida, where 176 seedlings were planted last year. Some are fertilized; some are not. Some are exposed to insects, and some plants are scattered around the foundation of an old home.

Beckford showed how the jatropha plant thrived right in the middle of the foundation, within the dirt and rocks.

He and his researchers believe that U.S. technology will aid in the growth of the trees. Currently, each tree yields only about two gallons of oil a year.

“In the next four or five years, I think we’ll increase not only the fruits per jatropha tree, but we’ll also increase the amount of oil in each of those seeds,” Beckford said.

Right now, biodiesel is a growing industry but hasn’t made an appreciable dent on the global dependence on heavy crude oil, from which diesel fuel is processed.

The National Biodiesel Board says that less than 1 percent of the 60 billion gallons of diesel fuel used each year comes from biodiesel, most of it produced from soybeans, animal fats and recycled oil. But, the board says, the 20 million gallons of diesel fuel saved from these alternative fuels was the equivalent of eliminating the emissions from 700,000 cars.

Some consumer groups say it’s unrealistic to think that biofuel will replace oil totally. Experts also say the potential savings here may be offset by higher prices somewhere else as farmers use their more crop land to experiment with alternative fuel crops.

“There are implications to dedicating more and more crop land to fuel production rather than food production,” said Tyson Clocum of the consumer watchdog group Public Citizen. “That comes in the form of tighter supplies for food production, and that leads to higher prices.”

Beer says he’s not looking to abandon his family’s citrus business. LaBelle Grove Management has been around for more than 40 years. He’s currently farming 30 acres of jatropha, compared to 2,500 acres of citrus.

Beer is trying to figure out how he’s going to afford to put diesel in his heavy equipment. He has four tractors that each run on 120 gallons a day.

“We have to have these machines running. If we don’t have these machines running and we don’t have diesel fuel, we don’t produce our crops,” he said.

So, for now, Beer is taking a stab at growing his own fuel. Jatropha won’t be a replacement crop for him, but it may help him fill up his tractor.

“To be a better America, we are going to have to have a secondary source besides oil,” he said.

Tapped Out: The True Cost of Bottled Water

Tapped Out: The True Cost of Bottled Water
by Solvie Karlstrom

From childhood, we’re told to drink at least eight glasses of water each day. Unfortunately more and more Americans drink those eight glasses out of plastic bottles—a convenience that stuffs landfills, clogs waterways and guzzles valuable fossil fuels.

Last year Americans spent nearly $11 billion on over 8 billion gallons of bottled water, and then tossed over 22 billion empty plastic bottles in the trash. In bottle production alone, the more than 70 million bottles of water consumed each day in the U.S. drain 1.5 million barrels of oil over the course of one year.

Banning the Bottle

Though the sale and consumption of bottled water is still on the rise, certain policy makers and activists have taken steps to reduce it. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order in June that bars city government from using city money to supply municipal workers with bottled water, and New York City launched an ad campaign this summer encouraging residents and tourists to forego the bottled beverage for the city’s tap, long considered some of the best water in the country. “New York waste and pollution is on a massive scale,” says Michael Saucier of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection. “Considering that the average New Yorker consumes nearly 28 gallons of bottled water each year, New York clearly hasn’t been doing enough to encourage residents to drink tap.”

Even restaurateurs are doing their part to keep water bottles out of landfills. Upscale eateries in Boston, New York and San Francisco have taken bottled water off the menu, offering filtered tap instead. At the Italian restaurant Incanto in San Francisco, carafes used to serve filtered tap water are refilled 2,000 times on average before they’re cracked and retired. Owner Mark Pastore explains that leaving bottled water off the menu is “a tiny thing that we can do to be a little more sustainable.”

Avoiding Chemical Intruders

Not only does bottled water contribute to excessive waste, but it costs us a thousand times more than water from our faucet at home, and it is, in fact, no safer or cleaner. “The bottled water industry spends millions of dollars a year to convince us that their product is somehow safer or healthier than tap water, when in fact that’s just not true,” says Victoria Kaplan, senior organizer with Food and Water Watch, a nonprofit that recently launched a Take Back the Tap campaign to get consumers to ditch bottled water. “As much as 40 percent of bottled water started out as the same tap water that we get at home,” she adds. A 1999 Natural Resources Defense Council study found that, with required quarterly testing, tap water may even be of a higher quality than bottled, which is only tested annually.

Water aside, the plastic used in both single-use and reusable bottles can pose more of a contamination threat than the water. A safe plastic if used only once, #1 polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE) is the most common resin used in disposable bottles. However, as #1 bottles are reused, which they commonly are, they can leach chemicals such as DEHA, a known carcinogen, and benzyl butyl phthalate (BBP), a potential hormone disrupter. According to the January 2006 Journal of Environmental Monitoring, some PET bottled-water containers were found to leach antimony, an elemental metal that is an eye, skin, and lung irritant at high doses. Also, because the plastic is porous you’ll likely get a swill of harmful bacteria with each gulp if you reuse #1 plastic bottles.

While single-use water bottles should never be used more than once, some reusable water bottles simply shouldn’t be used. The debate continues over the safety of bisphenol A (BPA), a hormone-disrupting chemical known to leach out of the #7 polycarbonate plastic used to make a variety of products, including popular Nalgene Lexan water bottles. New studies keep cropping up that don’t bode well for BPA, demonstrating that even extremely low doses of the chemical can be damaging. Recent research has linked the chemical to a variety of disorders, including obesity and breast cancer, and one chilling 2007 study, published in the journal PLoS Genetics, found that BPA exposure can cross generations. Pregnant mice exposed to low levels of BPA led to chromosomal abnormalities, which possibly cause birth defects and miscarriages, in grandchildren.

Yet, in spite of mounting evidence, polycarbonate water bottles don’t seem to be losing popularity. A 2006 Green Guide reader poll found that roughly a third of respondents still preferred the Nalgene Lexan over other reusable bottles. If you’re partial to the brightly colored containers, Nalgene does manufacture safer alternatives made from #2 high density polyethylene (HDPE).

Avoid the perils of plastic altogether with a metal water bottle that can handle a variety of liquids, including acidic fruit juices, and won’t leach chemicals into your beverage. Klean Kanteen’s stainless steel bottle is lightweight, durable, and entirely chemical free. Avoid detergents that contain chlorine when cleaning Klean Kanteens; chlorine can corrode stainless steel. Another attractive alternative to plastic is the aluminum Sigg bottle with a taste-inert, water-based epoxy lining. Independent lab tests commissioned by the company found that the resin leached no detectable quantities of BPA, while other unlined aluminum and polycarbonate bottles subjected to the same conditions did.

Noting that the federal share of funding for water systems has declined from 78 percent in 1973 to 3 percent today, Kaplan urges consumers to “support public policies that promote safe, affordable, public tap water for future generations.” Visit http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/ and take the pledge to take back the tap, promising to choose tap water over bottled whenever possible and to support policies that promote clean public tap water for everybody. And meanwhile, invest in a safe, reusable bottle.

Better Bottles

Kleen Kanteen stainless steel water bottle w/ cap, 27 fluid ounces ($17.95; http://www.kleankanteen.com/)

MLS Stainless Steel Thermos Bottle, 1 liter ($22.16; http://www.mls-group.com/)

Nissan Thermos FBB500 Briefcase Bottle, 1pt ($35; http://www.coffee-makers-espresso-machines.com/)

Sigg resin coated aluminum sport bottle, 25 ounces ($19.99; http://www.mysigg.com/)

Platypus #5 polypropylene 2+collapsible water bottle, 2.4 liters ($9.95; http://www.rei.com/)

Nalgene HDPE Loop-Top Bottle, 16 ounces ($4.53; http://www.nalgene-outdoor.com/)

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WORLD GEOTHERMAL POWER GENERATION NEARING ERUPTION

Earth Policy Institute
Plan B Update
For Immediate Release
August 19, 2008

Jonathan G. Dorn

With fossil fuel prices escalating and countries searching for ways to reduce oil dependence and greenhouse gas emissions, capturing the earth’s heat for power generation is garnering new attention. First begun in Larderello, Italy, in 1904, electricity generation using geothermal energy is now taking place in 24 countries, 5 of which use it to produce 15 percent or more of their total electricity. In the first half of 2008, total world installed geothermal power capacity passed 10,000 megawatts and now produces enough electricity to meet the needs of 60 million people, roughly the population of the United Kingdom. In 2010, capacity could increase to 13,500 megawatts across 46 countries–equivalent to 27 coal-fired power plants.

Originating from the earth’s core and from the decay of naturally occurring isotopes such as those of uranium, thorium, and potassium, the heat energy in the uppermost six miles of the planet’s crust is vast–50,000 times greater than the energy content of all oil and natural gas resources. Chile, Peru, Mexico, the United States, Canada, Russia, China, Japan, the Philippines, Indonesia, and other countries along the Ring of Fire (an area of high volcanic activity encircling the basin of the Pacific Ocean) are rich in geothermal energy. Another geothermal hot spot is the Great Rift Valley of Africa, which includes such countries as Kenya and Ethiopia. Worldwide, 39 countries with a cumulative population of over 750 million people have geothermal resources sufficient to meet all their electricity needs. (See data at http://www.earthpolicy.org/Updates/2008/Update74_data.htm.)

Typically, power generation using the earth’s heat required underground pockets of high-temperature water or steam to drive a steam turbine. Now, new technologies that use liquids with low boiling points in closed-loop heat exchange systems allow electricity to be generated at much lower temperatures. This breakthrough is making geothermal power generation viable in countries such as Germany that are not known for their geothermal resources and is one reason why the number of countries using the earth’s heat to generate electricity could almost double by 2010.

One advantage of geothermal power plants, beyond the benefit of producing electricity from a low-carbon, indigenous energy source with no fuel costs, is that they provide baseload power 24 hours a day. Storage or backup-power is not required.

The United States leads the world in generating electricity from the earth’s heat. As of August 2008, geothermal capacity in the United States totaled nearly 2,960 megawatts across seven states–Alaska, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah. California, with 2,555 megawatts of installed capacity–more than any country in the world–produces almost 5 percent of its electricity from geothermal energy. Most of this capacity is installed in an area called the Geysers, a geologically active region north of San Francisco.

Thanks to the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which made geothermal power generation eligible to receive the federal renewable energy production tax credit, electricity generated from geothermal resources now costs the same as fossil-fuel-based electricity in many markets in the western United States. With favorable economics, the geothermal industry is experiencing a surge in activity. As of August 2008, some 97 confirmed new geothermal power projects with up to 4,000 megawatts of capacity were under development in 13 states, with some 550 megawatts of this already in the construction phase. Expected to create 7,000 permanent full-time jobs, the new capacity will include numerous large-scale projects such as the 350-megawatt and 245-megawatt projects by Vulcan Power near Salt Wells and Aurora, Nevada; the 155-megawatt project by CalEnergy near the Salton Sea in southern California; and the 120-megawatt project by Davenport Power near the Newberry Volcano in Oregon.

Current development is only scratching the surface of what is possible. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that with emerging low-temperature technologies, at least 260,000 megawatts of U.S. geothermal resources could be developed. A study led by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology indicates that an investment of roughly $1 billion in geothermal research and development over 15 years (roughly the cost of a single new coal-fired power plant) could lead to commercial deployment of 100,000 megawatts by 2050.

In Europe, the top countries in geothermal energy development are Italy with 810 megawatts and Iceland with 420 megawatts. Italy is expected to nearly double its installed capacity by 2020. Iceland, with 27 percent of its electricity needs met by harnessing the earth’s heat, is number one in the world in the share of its electricity generated from geothermal energy. Germany, with only 8 megawatts of installed capacity, lags behind but is beginning to see the effects of a feed-in tariff of €0.15 (US $0.23) per kilowatt-hour that was implemented in 2004. Almost 150 plants are now in the pipeline in Germany, with most of the activity centered in Bavaria.

Ten of the top 15 countries producing geothermal electricity are in the developing world. The Philippines, which generates 23 percent of its electricity from geothermal energy, is the world’s second biggest producer behind the United States. The Philippines aims to increase its installed geothermal capacity by 2013 by more than 60 percent, to 3,130 megawatts. Indonesia, the world’s third largest producer, has even bigger plans, calling for 6,870 megawatts of new geothermal capacity to be developed over the next 10 years–equal to nearly 30 percent of its current electricity generating capacity from all sources. Pertamina, the Indonesian state petroleum company, anticipates building most of this new capacity–adding its name to the list of conventional energy companies that are beginning to diversify into the renewable energy market.

The geothermal development potential of the Great Rift Valley in Africa is enormous. Kenya is the frontrunner in the effort to tap this potential. In late June 2008, President Mwai Kibaki announced a plan to install some 1,700 megawatts of new geothermal capacity within 10 years–13 times greater than the current capacity and one-and-a-half times greater than the country’s total electricity generating capacity from all sources. Djibouti, aided by Reykjavik Energy Invest’s commitment to provide $150 million for geothermal energy projects in Africa, aims to tap the earth’s heat to produce nearly all of its electricity within the next few years. Further stimulating development is the African Rift Geothermal Development Facility (ARGeo), an international organization partly funded by the World Bank that seeks to increase the use of geothermal energy in the Great Rift Valley by protecting investors from losses during early stages of development.

Industry, which accounts for more than 30 percent of world energy consumption, is also starting to turn to reliable, low-cost geothermal energy. In Papua New Guinea, a 56-megawatt geothermal power station owned by Lihir Gold Limited, a leading global gold company, meets 75 percent of corporate power demand at a notably lower cost than oil-fired power generation. In Iceland, five geothermal power plants planned near Reykjavik, which are slated to have a total capacity of 225 megawatts when completed in 2012, will provide electricity to new aluminum refineries.

Despite development potential measured in the hundreds of thousands of megawatts, tapping this renewable source of power is still in its infancy. But as more and more national leaders begin to see renewable energy as a cost-effective, low-carbon alternative to price-volatile, carbon-intensive fossil fuels, geothermal power generation is expected to move rapidly from marginal to mainstream.

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For more information on Earth Policy Institute’s goal of 200,000 MW of CSP worldwide, part of a plan to cut carbon emissions 80 percent by 2020, see Chapters 11-13 in Plan B 3.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization, available at http://www.earthpolicy.org for free downloading.