Keep it Small, Keep it All: Cultivating the Bioeconomy at the Local Scale
Keep it small and keep it all in Iowa: Where all raw products are locally processed and all wastes cycled
- Louis Licht, President, Ecolotree Inc.
Small scale biodiesel development and use
- Kent Madison, Madison Farms Inc., Echo, Oregon
Plight of single or small clusters of wind turbines
- Roger Brown, Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs, Western Illinois University
Boosting health through local food production
- Linda Snetselaar, Professor, Department of Epidemiology, The University of Iowa
Economic and environmental impact of local food production
- Rich Pirog, Associate Director, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Iowa State University
Obey thermodynamics – It’s the law
- Kamyar Enshayan, Director, Center for Energy and Environmental Education, University of Northern Iowa
- Gene Parkin, Director, UI Center for Health Effects of Environmental Contamination
Welcome to the Keep it Small Keep it All: Cultivating the Bioeconomy at the Local Scale conference. This conference coincides with the 20th anniversary of the Center for Health Effects of Environmental Contamination. We thought quite a bit about different topics for a conference. The one we came up with is new for our Center. In an early planning meeting, Lou Licht (president of EcoloTree, Inc.) suggested the topic “keep it small and keep it all”, which is his business and life philosophy. We thought this was an intriguing topic for a conference and to explore from an environmental and public health view. It can touch upon energy security, carbon footprints, and soil, water and air pollution, all of which relate to environmental health.
I grew up in Earlville, Iowa, in the 1950s. I became an environmental engineer in 1970 at the time when the first environmental legislation passed at the federal level. One of the big initiatives at that time was to hook-up all houses to a central drinking water and sewer systems. This would provide better efficiencies and, of course, help promote public health. More than thirty years later, we are asking the opposite question – are these central systems sustainable?
Many of the systems are 30-40 years old and nearing the end of their design life. The cost of replacing them is tremendous. The Clean Water Act (which passed in 1972) said that all waters were to be ‘fishable and swimmable.” You can evaluate yourself whether that has happened. The Act also said that by 1985 there would be zero discharge of pollutants into the environment; we all know how that turned out. My hometown of Earlville was self-contained and, like many towns, was a ‘keep it small keep it all” type of place. Food was grown locally, people gardened and canned their own food, and many of the public utilities were de-centralized with private septic system and private wells. The mantra in the 1970’s and 1980’s was to become centralized; now it seems like we’re going back the other direction.
There is a new word for describing people who eat food that has been grown locally – locavores – it was 2007’s “new word of the year.” When I was growing up, there was no sea food in Iowa. No fresh salmon was sold, only salmon out a can and used to make salmon patties as a substitute for meat. But now we can get fresh salmon here Iowa, and I eat it once per week. Is that sustainable in the long term?
There are tough questions that need to be asked, and I am looking forward to some of those being asked today, especially when we talk about food, fuel and feed and the competition between them. There is supply vs. demand: if everyone wants to eat locally supplied food could we meet that demand? There is the question of cost: for the affluent, it is pretty easy to make those decisions if we feel they are in our best interest. If you are not affluent, spending the extra money to do that is a hardship. One of my former graduate students was working in Africa and had the opportunity to talk to an African head of state concerning renewable energy –wind and solar. His comment was “That would be fine. We really want to do that. But we need to develop economically now. And right now we have access to cheap coal.” In the long term, sustainability seems to be in everyone’s best interest, but as you see, it can be awfully problematic to achieve.
To start things off I’d like to read a controversial comment that appeared in the New Yorker. This is a quote from Adrian Williams from Cranfield University in England: “The idea that a product travels a certain distance and is therefore worse than one you raised nearby—well, it’s just idiotic.” Those are the kinds of things we are going to talk about today; hopefully, it will be an interesting discussion.
Keep it small and keep it all in Iowa: Where all raw products are locally processed and all wastes cycled
- Louis Licht, President, Ecolotree Inc.
It is a pleasure to be here. I grew up in the Missouri Lutheran tradition where we were taught not to brag, but it is true one of my philosophies is “keep it small, keep it all”. I grew up on a 155 acre farm in Loudon, Iowa, with 17 in my graduating class. When I discuss the idea of ‘keep it small, keep it all”, I not talking about a depression era attitude held by my mother-in-law which was “use it up, where it out, make it do, do without.” For me, that’s not what “keep it small” is about.
Since 2000, Iowa has been experiencing a number of global problems. One: fossil fuels are not getting any cheaper; Iowa is one of the most fossil fuel-dependent states in the nation. Second, water pollution is our problem – there is a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico which is fed by the Mississippi River, and Iowa contributes a significant portion of that pollution in the form of nutrients. It is due to row crops and animal production agriculture. In addition, there are 300 small towns in Iowa that have no sewers, and there are a lot of old sewer systems that are falling apart. There is no budget nor grant program to replace these old systems. Annual tillage run-off is increasing right now. Last night at my farm, I looked out in every direction and could not see a single hay field. What used to be about one-third hay is now all corn and beans. In addition, detections of human and livestock bacteria and antibiotics in water are now common. It comes from agricultural land in non-point source run-off that in includes manure, either from where it is raised or where it is spread, urban non-point runoff, and wastewater treatment plant discharges.
The third thing is air pollution. In 2000, we didn’t know much about greenhouse gases, we are now taking them more seriously. Odor in livestock production is contributing to air pollution alerts in Iowa. Years ago these things couldn’t be measured; we can do that now. A positive thing that has emerged recently in Iowa is that we can make world class energy. Windmills, photosynthesis fuels from biodiesel and ethanol. About 40% of Iowa corn goes through an ethanol plant; this has created some concerns.
I’d like to tell you a little bit about my company Ecolotree. We have small tree nursery on my farm – these trees are sent all over the country. Today, for example, twenty-five trees are going to Montana to cleanup a nitrate problem in a drinking water supply. Ecolotree is also remediating the old Loudon lumber yard, which sits adjacent to a train track that carries 550,0000 tons of coal on 50 coals trains per day. For Ecolotree, “green” means a number of things: “green” is growing plants fueled by sunlight; “green” means these plants consume raw pollutants. For example, in 1995 Ecolotree started a project in Oregon using wastewater that was high in nitrate and phosphorus – that wastewater was used to irrigate growing trees.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) is now the pollutant of most interest; plants consume lots of CO2. In the northern hemisphere the atmospheric concentration of CO2 goes up in the winter and down in the summer, in conjunction with the seasons. CO2 concentrations go down when there is photosynthesis. So growing “green” plants removes CO2, so that is “green” technology.
There are all kinds of pluses to plants. One of our projects involves trees pumping pollutants out of the ground for Alliant Energy from an old gas plant. Planting trees also create wildlife habitat. The trees yield harvestable material, which has become very valuable – thirteen pounds of wood equals a gallon of LP gas. Plants add humus to the soil, which is a long-term storage mechanism on land for carbon; tillage systems burn a lot of this carbon out. Finally, planting trees creates ambiance, it looks good.
Next, I’d like to talk about criteria for successful design. First, the design has to be feasible; parts have to be available and you must be able to put them together. Second, it has to be practical; it has to be useable by the people in the field. Cell phones are an example; users don’t need to know the electronics involved, just that it works. Third, the design has to be economical; that includes time, human talent, mass and the efficiency of delivery. Time is how long it takes to accomplish something, human talent measures the range of talent, mass addresses how much material is needed to build something and how fast it can be put together. It also has to be safe and legal: it has to be an acceptable risk for both human and business health, and it must conform to the laws of the land. Kent Madison will talk about how he has changed laws in Oregon. The design must also be moral – to me that means leaving options for future generations, leaving the place in better shape than you found it. That is not happening right now. It must also be politically acceptable; sometimes one person can scuttle a whole project for political reasons. It is one of the criteria we pay attention to at Ecolotree as we put together projects. Finally, the design must be ecological, which supports ecosystem functions in natural cycles. If anything exceeds the cycle it builds up and becomes a pollutant, like CO2.
Twenty years ago, the first poplar tree water treatment buffer was planted in Amana, Iowa, funded by the Leopold Center at Iowa State University. We made the cover of Agriculture Engineering magazine – not quite the Rolling Stone. That launched the concept of phytoremediation: the use of plants in engineered systems on regulated sites to speed up contamination capture or contamination cleanup. When the Clean Water Act, solid waste and air regulation legislation were written, the potential role of plants was not given any consideration. Phytoremediation is “agronomy with a twist”. Agronomy on a typical farm involves a harvestable yield; there is very little value unless plants are harvested. In Iowa, our natural resource is the photosynthetic space where it all comes together – rain, heat, soil, plants, and farming management. That is Iowa’s natural resource. Phytoremediation is the science and management of plant function. What does phytoremediation do that isn’t captured in agronomy and raising corn? Generally, it is to prevent movement of a pollutant. One function is water removal; that is normally what carries a pollutant away. Another function involves bacteria being stimulated in the plant roots to break down organic pollutants, for example, fuels and ammunition waste. Trees stimulate the decomposers that take it back to carbon dioxide, water and other nutrients. The site also gets stabilized; trees have a very prescribed root system. Trees provide a cap that reduces percolation, and planting provides buffers that filter water and air. This is a very simple basic design unit; it is supposed to be simple so it can be done.
We use poplar trees because they grow extremely fast. For every pound of growth the trees use 600 pounds of water. When the trees are producing 10-12 thousand pounds of biomass, that’s a lot of water. So we plant them in places that filter the water and they do a really good job of capturing sediment. At the Amana site, poplars reduced sediment in a nearby stream by more than 80%. Also, poplar roots grow very deep – more than six feet within five years. The roots and trees can survive below the water table, which changes how pollutants can be degraded. The thick dense root systems create a large underground surface area that promotes microbial population growth. Within 10 feet of a root system, bacteria populations are multiplied 100 fold. That increases the pollutant reactant rate, which we can predict in the root systems because we know how much bacteria will be within that system. Poplars are also a pioneering species – they can survive in bare soil, a stream bank, a sand bar, or Iowa soil – and they produce a crop: woody fiber, harvestable lumber, or renewable energy. If we were to plant a strategic 2% of the Clear Creek watershed it would make a huge difference in the water quality at the discharge into the Iowa River. However, using poplars in agriculture just hasn’t happened yet. The incentive and disincentives still don’t encourage it.
Ecolotree created a landfill cap in Oregon in 1990. Previously, capping a landfill meant putting a plastic cap over them to keep the water out, resulting in a runoff issue. Instead, we plant dense poplar trees; we have done this all over the Unites States. The trees hold the pollutants on site, those pollutants are plant food, and the pollutants get broken down. We now have taken this concept to oil and gas spill sites, one site had 2% diesel fuel in the area. We trenched down and put mature trees deep into that site; in a short time the trees were healthy and growing. In 50 months, there was a 90% reduction of BTEX compounds and a 75% reduction of diesel compounds. We are doing the same thing at wastewater treatment plants. Treated wastewater is irrigated onto poplar trees at a rate of 900,000 gallons per day. The site cycles the carbon, increases the humus, converts the nitrogen, and catches antibiotics, other pharmaceuticals and viruses. The trees can then be used as harvestable lumber. Using waste effluent this way allows you to turn off pumps and chemical additions which are fueled by coal power plants. You can use the same idea on small septic tanks systems; it can be done on all scales. We just did a 50 acre landfill that was closed near St. Louis. There were 2.4 million gallons of landfill leachate produced each year. The leachate was pumped to a buffer and irrigated the trees – the alternative was to truck the leachate out of there at 400 truckloads per year. This will result in a couple thousand tons of carbon dioxide difference over a 15 year period.
Ecolotree is employing a “synectics” design processes. We start by addressing the problem statement and problem solution, and begin by asking the right question, which involves creative thinking. That means bringing what is around you together in a brand new way, by involving free use of metaphor and analogy. You can’t just look at the problem and possible solutions. In the early developmental phases, you use language like “well it is not exactly like this but…” - you do this in your own world and in daily life in different areas. It involves informal interchange. The next step is that the design process happens in carefully selected small groups, which is critical. The group should be of individuals of diverse personality. The final thing is the area of specialization, which is critical. You need that environment.
The whole process is getting political at the state level. It involves UI faculty working at the state level on how to mitigate greenhouse gases. New planks will be proposed on county level platforms that support efficiency as a primary strategy to reduce energy required by the U.S. lifestyle. That’s good for Iowa; we don’t have oil and gas efficiency. There is also a move towards realignment of energy tax incentives and disincentives, and investment in renewable energy and distributed energy – being able to hook up all different sized energy suppliers to a grid; often there are barriers to that. What are the planks for agriculture? Iowa has always had a bioeconomy. New planks include the following: it is the fundamental right for all people to safe and healthy food; it is environmentally responsible to protect air and water from pollution; we need to stop the loss of Iowa’s true natural native resource – photosynthetic space available to grow plants. That is the fundamental natural resource in Iowa. Here are some specifics: Plank #1: We oppose the grandfathered right to pollute by tilled and animal production agriculture. At least in the 2% of land that are cities in Iowa, 3.5 trillion dollars have been spent on wastewater clean up by cities and industries, but many of the problems are from agriculture. Plank #2: Adopt a Photosynthetic Space Severance Tax. When land is converted from Iowa’s basic natural resource to a hardened, no-plant surface based on loss of carbon dioxide removal capacity, you’re taking from the commons. This is the one thing that isn’t taxed and it is truly an identifiable loss. It recognizes that when you pave, you are reducing CO2 uptake.
So keep it small keep it all – we are creating an oasis in the Plains.
Small scale biodiesel development and use
- Kent Madison, Madison Farms Inc., Echo, Oregon
Madison Farms was established in 1914 – my Grandfather actually moved from Iowa to the Northwest because of the Bureau of Reclamation projects. You probably think of Oregon as a green oasis, but our farm is on the dry side of the state which has very little rainfall – we get about 9 inches of rain per year. Our farm is 17,500 acres, which is about 27 square miles. I am going to talk about keeping it small and local on our farm. We have multiple projects going on, which have two drivers. There are regulatory driven projects, and there are economy driven projects. We have a for-profit farm organization, so I don’t get out of bed in the morning and do things because they are warm and fuzzy. I do things because it makes economic sense. My evolutionary mindset, or change in thinking, occurred in the mid-1990’s when I realized I wasn’t a farmer but a natural resource manager. As a natural resource manager, I ask how can I manage air, water, fuel and waste and pollution in a different way, through a natural system, and get economic benefit from it.
Our farm has a canola production process. With that canola we make biodiesel, we convert some of the canola meal into a high value range cube, and we do biosolid land application. We also re-use potato processing water and cooling tower water from a 480 megawatt co-generation power plant. Those are the regulatory–driven things. So we are using our waste efficiently, and we saw somebody else’s waste as a resource – how could we benefit from disposal of their waste? It actually involves the re-use of the waste, which changes the mentality – thinking of disposal of waste as re-use. Then there are the economic–driven projects. We add value to our wheat by having a seed cleaning plant, we are starting both a wind and solar power project, an aquifer storage and recovery (ASR) injection and generation, and organic crop production and dairy waste reuse.
We are located in northeast Oregon near the Columbia River. There is an Army depot nearby where 12% of nation’s nerve gas stockpile is being incinerated. Also nearby is a Navy bombing range. As I mentioned, we get about 9 inches of rain per year, so we irrigate our farm, which has a lot of crop diversity and crop rotation. We don’t do the crop rotation and have diversity because it’s fun – we do it because by the time we pump water to some areas of the farm, we have pushed water 32 miles and 850 feet in elevation. That water cost $115 an acre foot. Developing a delivery system to provide 65,000 gallons per minute would have been cost prohibitive. So we built the project on the theory of deficit irrigation –intentionally under irrigating commodities for optimum value, not maximum production. That involves the theory of diversity – we raise different crops that use water at different times of the year; you can maximize your capital investment in the irrigation system. We take the biosolids from the cities of Portland and Salem and Clean Water Services (west of Portland), which is about 65% of the state’s anaerobic digested sewage sludge. Those are called “biosolids” because it sounds better than anaerobically digested sewage sludge. We land apply those biosolids as a fertilizer source.
The first thing I’ll talk about is canola production to biodiesel. Canola is a broadleaf brassica plant – part of the mustard family. It is actually rapeseed – in the 1970s the Canadian government bred the erucic acid out of rapeseed and came up with canola – Canadian Oil is what it stands for. We grow it to produce biodiesel. It takes the same operational equipment we use in the production of wheat and other commodities, so it didn’t take any new equipment, with the exception of “pushing” the canola. We push the plant over before it matures, which lodges it together, keeps it from shattering in the wind, and forces all the deer out. We harvest it with a direct cut combine. The problem with the production of canola is we spend about $341 per acre. Remember, we didn’t have enough water and canola uses water at different times than the other commodities. Our choice was to either set some land aside which would cost $125 per acre to do nothing, or raise something on it that could return something. This was basically what was happening in the past. Canola was about 8.5 cents per pound on the world market, it was costing us about 11 cents per pound to produce, so we were losing about $85 per acre. That is good old Ag Economics 101. Do nothing, lose $125 an acre, do something and lose $85 per acre. So, we were doing something and losing $85, but you can only do that so long. In reality, the rest of the farm has to create more wealth to compensate for the loss on this part of the farm. The question became “what can we do to change this?” So we went and built ourselves a biodiesel plant. The economics helped – the canola was valued at 8 ½ cents on the market, but the biodiesel market valued raised it to 24 cents. So we went from a loss of $85 per acre to a net gain of $379 per acre. That is a $464 dollar change that occurred by adding value to the canola through the biodiesel market place. What we will see is that average production is going to increase. Before, there was very little university research on canola; for a couple of years, I was the only one raising canola in Oregon. Now there are tens of thousands of acres in production in the state because of the increased values, so researchers are throwing some dollars at it and we are seeing yields increase per acre. It is similar in the corn and bean industries over the last 20 years, when you threw money at it, you get greater yield increase. So now we see larger numbers per acre because yields have increased with the same inputs…more value per acre with the same inputs.
We have also gone to branded marketing – we created our own Oregon Grown Biodiesel logo. We return a reasonable margin to all the parties involved, and all those economics and money stay in Oregon. The interesting thing is we went to the city of Portland and said we want to raise biodiesel for the city’s fleet. The city said they’d love for us to do that. We wanted a reasonable return on our investment, so we are making consistent money every year. We will sell to Portland based on the cost of production plus a reasonable margin. Portland accepted that concept. So now we provide the logo and fuel to the city’s water bureau fleet. They have been a great customer because of the Oregon-identified brand. Their argument is, why shouldn’t Oregon’s agriculture make money? Why shouldn’t Oregon have cleaner air? Why are we funding both sides of the war when we buy petroleum? Oregon has no oil wealth or refineries. 85-90% of petroleum revenue leaves the state; so we are recycling that back into the economy. We even took it a step further. We apply biosolids fertilizer on grounds we plant the canola, we harvest the canola and we take biosolids back to biodiesel. We are providing the stable price carbon neutral fuel – we are crushing it into canola oil and producing biodiesel that fuel those trucks that are delivering biosolids to our farm and we are providing excess oil to SeQuential, a company that manufactures biodiesel and sells it to Portland, and the city runs part of their city fleet on that.
The EPA lists the benefits of biofuels – and the public is willing to pay a premium for something that is good – here is how biodiesel compares to regular diesel: reductions in carbon monoxide emissions of 10%(B20) and 50% (B100), reductions in particulate emissions of 15% (B20) and 70% (B100), reductions in total hydrocarbon emissions of 10%(B20) and 40% (B100), reductions in sulfate emissions of 20% (B20) and 100% (B100), no change in methane emissions. Biodiesel is nontoxic; it’s about ten times less toxic than table salt. The downside is the increase in nitrogen oxide emissions of 2% (B20) and 9% (B100). Canola biodiesel is almost zero; palm biodiesel is little higher.
We did lots of calculations to figure out the economics before we started. We wanted to bring our canola price up to twelve cents, and we wanted to get $175 per ton for the meal (the crushed hull after the oil is squeezed out). Our economics showed we could produce biodiesel at $2.52 per gallon, but with a federal tax credit of $1.00, our production cost for diesel fuel was $1.52 per gallon. We were getting 12 cents for our canola for what we previously could only get 8 cents for. It was an economic boon on both sides of the ledger; we increased the value of our canola and decreased our expense for fuel.
The plant is really quite simple, and mostly computer operated. We have a 140 gallon batch reactor, and there are crushers that can crush about 5.5 tons per day, and lots of storage facilities. Our plant produces about 3,000 gallons of biodiesel per year – the 60 x 60 building stores a lot of this – the methanol is stored outside. We believe you should store biodiesel in seed inside a bin. Biodiesel has a shelf life of about 6 months; after that it degrades from microbial activity. We keep it as seed, then crush it, then it’s made into biodiesel within a month after crushing. This gives us a longer shelf life. If you go around Iowa or Oregon, or any place in the country, there is a lot of grain storage. You can use any of these to store canola. The meal is a high protein, high valued food as livestock feed.
In 1914, 60% of my grandfather’s farm production went to feed his horsepower, or animals. Almost 100 years later, 5% of our farm production went to provide fuel for our trucks, combines, and wagons. In 100 years of evolution, we are feeding our own horsepower through biodiesel, but we are much more efficient than the old horsepower. Another interesting thing – it took 60% of my grandfather’s production to feed his horsepower, which only left him 40% to sell on the market for economic gain. Most of you in this room 100 years ago had relatives that were farmers; very few lived in cities, because everyone was out trying to feed themselves. They used much of their own land to produce the fuel with. Now, 95% of my production leaves the farm – this provides the food source so the rest of you don’t have to live on the farm. That’s your problem and not mine…I like living on the farm.
Our other canola project is making Canola meal into range cubes. We take a high fat high protein meal and press it into a ½ inch diameter range cubes that double the resale value and provides a complete feed package for cattlemen in dry forage areas. They’ll end up supplementing their dry forage with this range cube, which supplies energy and protein for their complete ration – the dry forage is filler, basically. In our contract with Portland, they cover all our cost of production; if we can raise the value of the meal, which decreases the cost of oil to Portland, because the meal and the oil have to create enough wealth to pay for all of the costs associated with production. If we have a low valued meal, we have to get more for the oil. If the meal is high valued, we can sell the oil for less. We are cooperating with Portland to keep the costs down so their biodiesel is more competitive on the market.
In our biosolids land application project we take glorified manure spreaders and spread anaerobically digested sewage sludge, better know as biosolids, across the desert. We take a desert environment, fertilize it, and when we do get rain, the plants really take off. Then we fertilizer the canola with the biosolids. We burn about 290,000 gallons of diesel a year in our biosolids program, in which we use about 65% of the state’s municipal waste. The municipalities burn a lot of fuel delivering the product to our farm – we’re about 200 miles from Portland and 250 miles from Salem. That translates to about 936 tons of fossil carbon emitted to CO2 – which is not a good thing, but that’s the reality of the project. If we are putting out his much carbon, what’s the real benefit of the project?
Looking at the organic matter, we get about 1,160 pounds of additional mass that is growing as root-mass in the soil. So we are sequestering 5400 tons of carbon in the soil from this biosolids program. That makes it a 5.84:1 benefit factor of carbon sequestering. When you add the carbon above ground in plant growth that is being eaten by cattle and shipped off the farm that adds another 2.2:1 ratio; add all that together and you have about an 8:1 combined ratio of carbon sequestered in soil and cattle to carbon. Of that we sequester about 2.3 million gallons of Diesel equivalent carbon and we burn about 290,000 gallons, thus we have a net gain of 2 million gallons diesel equivalent carbon being sequestered in the ground . It is interesting how the biosolids industry has woken up to this and has figured out they are sequestering more than is being emitted through good land application biosolids programs. We are also releasing oxygen into the air through additional plant growth. So biosolids land application is a great program.
I am going to talk about reusing potato plant processor water. Our farm has irrigation lines hooked into a Con-Agra french fry plant – we take their effluent water, which is high in nutrients, and land apply it year-round, even in subzero temperatures. The irrigators were designed and built to operate this way. We get about 800,000 pounds of nitrogen fertilizer per year from that plant. If we didn’t use it, they would have to use a traditional disposal program to get rid of – we are recycling it through a natural environment system and get beneficial reuse. We don’t buy phosphorous or potassium fertilizer, we can get that from the potato plant. If you look at the cost of nitrogen in the last year, we have achieved significant savings.
We also reuse cooling tower water. We pump 200 gallons per minute of blow-down water about 400 feet in elevation to irrigate portions of our farm. Blow down water that is recycled around the cooling tower, cools the steam back to recondense, then heats it back up to make more steam. By doing that, they get mineral concentrations in the water, which they used to dispose of in a zero discharge facility in a landfill. We are now taking that water and land applying it by blending it into the 2000 gallons per minute that feeds that part of the farm. After blending it is better quality than background ambient water. We’re recycling those minerals back into the farm. We got the economic benefit as they developed it for us. It was cheaper for them to help us build the project and was a benefit to us because we could use their money to do that.
We also have a seed cleaning plant. We raise wheat seed as part of the rotation and run it through a gravity flow cleaner. We offer treatment on demand; when someone drives their truck through our location, we can load their truck with whatever seed they want with whatever treatment they want. We have no treated wheat stockpiled. If there is leftover untreated seed in a bin, we haul it down to the local elevator and sell it as wheat on the commodity markets.
We are starting to develop 24 megawatt 15 turbine (1.6 megawatts per turbine) wind energy farm, which is being build in conjunction with John Deere Wind Credit. They pay for it, build it and own it for a certain number years, then we flip ownership and we own it after that. Our s wind direction is consistent and provides a good wind energy source. The developers said the wind not only blows in are area, but it also sucks –meaning is the valley floor has a thermal uplift that occurs at night as the area cools. As that uplifts it sucks more air in to keep the turbines going. One of our natural resources is wind blowing all the time; we are harvesting that.
With respect to solar power, Oregon has an extremely aggressive policy towards this renewable energy. We are a 25% by 2025 state; we have a business energy tax credit. There is a 50% business energy tax credit incentive up to $20 million dollar. If you build a project that is renewable and you spend up to $40 million, we’ll give you $20 million worth of business energy tax credits – a direct tax credit off your Oregon income taxes. However, some of us don’t pay taxes because we have so many expenses. The state responded to that by saying we’ll let you sell that tax credit to someone who does have tax problems. In our case it was usually banks, so those banks will pay you a percentage of that. We can get 33% of that the tax credit – or the cost of our project – in cash to help capitalize our project. So in Oregon, on a $100,000 project you’ll get $33,000 back in cash on day one. Then there is the federal tax credit, and depreciation, so within six years the solar array we are putting on top of our biodiesel plant will have $21,000 cash flow to it within six years because of depreciation and tax credits. Within 25 years, it has a 26% return on our investment, which is a pretty good return.
We have an Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) system, where we inject water into the aquifer for long term storage. We live in the heart of a critical groundwater area – in the west we have the first in time, first in right doctrine of prior appropriation on water rights. In the early 1990s, the state told me “we are sorry, you are a junior water rights holder”, and they shut off our water. I told the state I understood why they did it; we took our water level from 100 feet below the surface. In the 1950s those wells were drilled to 500 feet below the surface, so there was really no question that we were over depleting the aquifer. So we told the state we wanted to do an ASR, and they replied that’s a great technology but it’s not legal in Oregon. So we decided to see if we could get some legislation passed to change that.
I have a good friend who is a state legislator and I talked to him about it. We showed up in his committee to present our idea – and we found there were a lot of people opposed to it. My legislator friend told the crowd that he was going to pass that legislation today, so go out in the hall and figure out what needs to be done so we can all live with the idea, bring it back in and we’ll pass it. Sure enough, we all went in the hall, battled it out, came back with legislation the state of Oregon could accept, and it was passed in 1996. So now we can inject potable water into an aquifer for future storage and use. We started pioneering this green power generation with that technology. That water falls 500 feet in this deep basalt well – it has about 60 psi at the surface – an there is about 650 that is being blown off into the aquifer. That is a 650 foot high dam that has water squirting out the bottom of it. So we decide to generate power with it and we are in the process of doing that. We designed and patented a down-hole control valve as part of the process, which we now manufacture and sell on the world market for use in ASR technology. So we can recover some the capital and energy costs by generating green power with this falling water. We do that by taking excess winter flood flow, high turbidity flood water and spreading it on laser leveled basins; drain tile is buried about 25 feet deep, and the basins become 15 acre sand filters. The high turbidity water is put on this sand filtered site, pumping potable water off the bottom and we inject it into the deep basalt hole for long term storage. We divert the creek in the winter, it saturates the shallow alluvial aquifer, we pump it back out of the shallow alluvial aquifer, and drop it back down the hole, gain 500 feet of head, and generate power while we are storing it in the aquifer. In the summer when the shallow alluvial basin dries up, we’ll turn the deep well pump back on and pull the water out for agricultural use. In Oregon, the ASR technology in an inherent storage right based on your water rights. We had a water right to take this shallow alluvial water and pump it to a specific acreage. The law says you can take that water, put it down the hole, store it, pull it back out and in still has to go back to the same acreage. So becomes this inherent component of a water right.
The other thing I want to talk about is organic crop and dairy waste reuse. We have a neighbor who adjoins us – he has a 320 acre site he is going to put 3,000 head of dairy on. We told him that in order to do that, he needed a lot more space than 320 acres. We told him we’d develop 1200 acres of irrigated production into organic production, and we’ll use effluent and solid waste from your dairy as our fertilizer source, so we can keep our organic certification. We’ll develop that this fall…..Basically, that’s what we do.
Plight of single or small clusters of wind turbines
- Roger Brown, Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs, Western Illinois University
I’m going to start off my talk by telling you that I have a checkered past. I went to the University of Idaho….our nickname is the “Vandals”. I also used to work for Conoco, a great company to work for. People that leave Conoco are known as “ex-Cons; I am both a vandal and an ex-Con. I currently work for the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs at Western Illinois University. We cover a lot of rural aspects; I have been involved in renewables. With my background, I am keenly aware of the cost of energy, even in oil and gas in the western US where the fields are very mature. Of every barrel of fuel we pump from as deep as 1800 feet, only about 7% of that is oil, the rest is water. So we use a lot of energy to pump it out of the ground, clean or separate the oil from the water, and then pump it back in. We started looking at wind turbines at that time. Because of some issues we ran into at that time, we were not able to put that program into place.
My work now is related to community projects; I get information to the public so they can make informed decisions and can participate in a project. I’m going to talk about what we do and the experiences we’ve had, and also tell you about what is going on with single turbines or several turbines clustered together in Illinois. Seven years ago, we put together a handbook with the assistance of a group called Windustry, in Minnesota, which was the cornerstone to start our work on wind energy. We held a series of seminars and workshops and we were overwhelmed by the number of people who attended. We started a wind monitoring program where we collect data from around the state and post it on our website; that data is then used by various groups and land owners for their projects. Recently, we have been taking that data and creating maps in an effort to leverage what we do for the public.
Here is how we break down what projects are about. We start with an idea and think about it in terms of time, feasibility, and profit….in the case of wind turbines, you have to consider permitting and contracting, and building, which is a very small part. Production would go for a long period of time. From a cumulative investment, the “thinking” doesn’t cost anything, and you start spending money, for example, collecting data, and the feasibility time is spending money. As the project progresses, the flexibility to change and modify decreases or will cost money, because through time you become more and more committed. Understanding this at the front end is important – and that’s the work we do, helping the client understand the wind resource, we may get involved with site visits and work on some of the economic aspects. At some point we hand the process over to contractors, for example, the environmental issues. If transmission is required, a lot of these projects are behind the meter where a facility will use all the power that it generates.
A question that gets asked frequently concerns Energy Equivalent. A 1 megawatt (MW) turbine is 1,000 kilowatts (kW) at capacity. There are 8760 hours in a year; we think in terms of turbine efficiency. If over the coarse of a year, 32% of its capacity is utilized, that turbine provides 2,803,200 kW hours of production. But a 1 MW turbine doesn’t operate 24 hours per day, 365 days per year. The wind doesn’t work that way. So, a 1 MW turbine will satisfy the needs of 250-300 homes. Or 3,200 100 watt light bulbs continuously for a year. This is equivalent to 383 tons of coal or 1708 barrels of oil. Illinois is a coal producing state, and some have argued the coal lobby has created some issues for wind energy development. I can’t speak to that whether that is true, but if it has been the case, things are changing very quickly.
Let’s take a look at Illinois’ wind resources, development, and community scale versus utility scale development, or the single turbines verses utility. There are maps that have been created for the entire U.S. showing wind power or wind resource. The maps are from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL); they are very generalized. Northern Iowa is blessed with good wind resources. The Dakota’s have very good wind resources. Illinois is marginal, based on this map. When I talked about the 32% efficiency or capacity utilization or a turbine, I’m talking about Illinois. In northern Iowa., it is probably closer to 40%. A snap shot of capacity built in wind energy shows that Texas has overtaken California, largely due to state mandates or portfolio standards set in 1999. Texas had built up their capacity to almost 4500 MW in 2007. Iowa has over 1000 MW. In 2007, Illinois almost doubled its capacity at 733 MW. There are over 9000 MW under consideration – in the planning stage – within the next three years. The large developments have to undergo a transmission study, so they understand where their electricity will go via the transmission lines. Indiana will start a wind farm that should be commissioned very quickly.
Illinois has a mix of single turbine sites and large wind farms; it’s a mix of completed projects, some under development and some proposed projects. While our group doesn’t know everything that is going on, we try to get as much information to the public as possible. By nature, developers are explorers – they don’t want a whole lot of information released before they want it released. There is a constant issue of do we talk to the public or do we wait? If we talk to landowners, then the information is going to get out. One of the issues is land owner opposition – the second wind farm commissioned in Illinois had one land owner who really held up the actual building operations for some time. Another example: there was a billboard in Kansas that read “Relocate the Wind Turbines: Don’t Industrialize our Rural Community”. In general, though, we find that community project or single turbine projects do not have much opposition. I think for good reason – the communities typically understand and feel ownership and they are stakeholders. In particular, school districts. In that sense, single turbine projects have a real leg up. Other issues: from my perspective, noise is not much of an issue. While the jury may be out regarding bird kills, some studies have shown that windows are more of a problem. Bats are an issue at some wind farms. People have problems with wind farms that span the horizon. As time goes on it will be interesting to see how that develops. Single turbines do not seem to have the same issues.
We recognized there were delays and frustration due to many counties not understanding how to deal with wind turbines. So, we did a study last year where we contacted most of the counties in Illinois to see how many had a wind ordinance, in which they specifically define what they consider is appropriate placement of wind turbines. Some ordinances also define how big a wind farm can be. One county said no more than 100 turbines. I don’t know how that would work if there are multiple wind farms next to each other. We found out that 30 counties have established some ordinance, and 15 counties were in the latter stages of putting together an ordinance. We had posted a model ordinance on our website, so we wanted to know how many were using it. The first generation did use it, the second generation talked to the first generation, but in all cases modifications were made. Setback requirements, for instance, from a structure will vary from 110% of the height of the blade – in theory if it fell over you wouldn’t want it hitting the structure. For example, if you have a 300 foot turbine with the blade at vertical position, you would need to be 330 feet from any building. In reality, the setbacks ranged up to 1400 feet. Roads setbacks varied vary from having the same height of the turbine to three times the height or 1000 feet. In incorporated areas, some wind ordinances had a 1.5 mile setback from an incorporated area. Why was this important? The rural electric was involved and was the first to put in a wind turbine. They approached the county about putting in a single turbine. Since there were no issues, it was left up to them as to what they wanted to do. They approached a landowner, purchased 5 acres, and broke ground. Then the county decided they needed more time to discuss this issue. When they finally decided on setbacks, the rural electric needed to purchase more land; they were concerned about whether they could do that. We advise people to be certain the county has an ordinance in place. It is dangerous to think that since is no zoning, I can do whatever I want to do.
A stakeholder list that we get calls from includes landowners, municipalities, school districts, hospitals, manufacturing plants, grain elevators, plant nurseries and greenhouses, and rural electric cooperatives. It runs in cycles. A lot of landowners call in part because of the website and the data we collect. We are also working with a county hospital, jail, and school and living care facility who want to put up a single turbine as a joint project. Primarily small manufacturing plants and grain elevators have shown a huge increase in assistance over the last six months. Also greenhouses are interested as they struggle with costs. We’re also involved with two rural electrics that are working on projects.
The huge barrier to single turbines projects is obviously the cost; cost per Kw is more expensive than cost per Kw from a wind farm due to economies of scale. Location is also a barrier, and micro-siting can be an issue. Single turbines by nature are intended to be close to structures, while wind farms are intended to be close to transmission lines. A final barrier is that there is a lack of expertise to help these entities – it is a fairly new field. Fortunately, Illinois has the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation. It was established in 1999 with a $225 million endowment from a settlement with the public owned utilities. They have a grant cycle twice per year. They have also conducted efficiency projects in Illinois replacing light bulbs. Many Illinois schools have gone through this Foundation to reduce their usage of electricity by replacing higher energy usage bulbs. It’s a non-profit; our wind energy data information program was funded by the Clean Energy Foundation. So far, they have funded projects totally $110 million.
The Bureau Valley High School Project was the first and only turbine in Illinois at a school. The school intended to put in a 1 Mw turbine, but they had no power to negotiate with the utility for their price. The utility was only willing to pay them 3 cents a kilowatt hour. SO the school went back to the engineers and downsized the turbine to stay within what they could use on their school grounds, partly because the rate was 8-11 cents. That was a better deal for them than selling it back at 3 cents a kilowatt hour. The money for their feasibility study came from the Clean Energy Foundation plus an additional $480,000 for building it. An additional $450,000 was raised from tax free bonds for a total project cost of $1.03 million. These kinds of projects require a champion; in this case it was the vice-chair of the school board, who is also a hog farmer. I went to a couple meetings when they were talking to community residents. He said “I’m a hog farmer. This project is one of the greatest projects I’ve been involved with, because wind turbines don’t stink.” Everyone laughed. There was no opposition at all to this. Yet ten miles down the road a wind farm was going through tremendous difficulty getting permitted.
Erie Community School is north of the Quad Cities, and they are in the midst of a project that is not yet complete. It is for a 1.2 MW system that will power multiple buildings. The total project cost is $3.45 million. It is one of the larger projects the Clean Energy Foundation has funded – they put in $720,000.I don’t think they are going to do this again at this level, because they are now overwhelmed with applications. I referred to a landowner issue. In this particular case there was a homework issue – they ended up breaking ground and putting the base structure too close to the neighbor’s property line. So they approached they neighbor to see about getting a waiver, but the neighbor refused. So they had to move the sub-structure over which delayed the project a sign cant amount of time- both by they negotiation and the work being done. Again, this goes back to feasibility and homework done properly. Future projects the Clean Energy Foundation has committed to include two University projects, two K-12 Schools, one Rural Electric, and one Municipal Electric Utility. I expect the K-12 numbers to increase significantly during the next round of funding. In terms of single turbines, about 16.5 MW of additional capacity will be built with Foundation funds. Southern Illinois University is doing feasibility work right now; the southern part of the state is significantly challenged in having enough wind. This project cost will be $6.2 million. The University of Illinois will be putting three turbines on their Ag farm south of campus. The South Farms Area Campus will utilize all electricity generated by the1.5 MW turbines built at that site. The turbines also will be used as teaching tools and in research in several academic disciplines. The City of Geneseo will build two wind turbines that will provide 12% of the town’s electricity – we collected data that was used for that project. The Sherrard school project will provide electricity to a 170,000 square foot junior and senior high school.
Illinois passed a number of laws; one of the first set up a fund to provide up to $1 million or 50% of the costs for turbine projects for school districts. It will be interesting to see how that impacts change going forward. We are beginning to advocate what I call “turbines in the middle”. You have landowners who use very small turbines – 1-10 kilowatts. Developers are pushing the envelope…now the big ones are 3 MW, which are taller and more powerful. There is a middle ground – we are researching turbines in the mid-range and smaller scale. We think the demand is there, and can satisfy the needs of school buildings and be behind the meter. I want to talk about “location” at the Bureau Valley School site. The turbine is located at the school; the town is nearby, about 1.5 miles away. The turbine is 700 feet from the school building and down a hill – which presented some challenges – and there is some blockage from the road. The next project looked at vegetation, things like trees. Mostly trees are found in river valleys and southern forests. Other maps show elevation in the state. On a large scale, the areas with higher elevation and out of the river valleys are the better areas place turbines; this is mostly in the central and northern parts of the state.
Buildings and trees will create wind shadow effects and turbulence. Two times the height of the structure and up to twenty times the height in the distance downwind can create turbulence. Our data shows it is actually a little bigger impact than those figures. Our center will soon be publishing wind maps. We have gone through a whole series of data culls and have combined three datasets. We used our own data on three different heights so we can make corrections based on the height off the surface. We have taken national weather service information where they collect at 10 meters off the ground. The Illinois Water Survey has a number of stations around the state, also at 10 meters. We have mapped average wind speeds for 2005, 2006 and 2007. The maps demonstrate consistency across years. We are mapping at a height of 50 meters, which fits into the idea about turbines in the middle. It’s not the height developers are looking for – the big turbines are up 65-85 meters. The maps agree on wind velocity that we see in elevation and vegetation maps. We worked with one of the school districts – we had a tower near their campus. They were very excited about a turbine, but there wasn’t enough wind nearby. We suggested they get a group of schools together that are looking at the same thing, work together to create a cluster of turbines, and get the benefit of the energy they produce. Unfortunately, it wasn’t legally possible. This past fall a law was passed that allows schools to work together and put turbines wherever it makes the best sense to put them – they are not bound to keeping them on school grounds. For many schools, that had presented a barrier. This allows some school districts to move forward through the feasibility stage and announce where they want to put the turbine. So the intent is to work with three other schools districts and a community college on a single project. So they will build a turbine, put the electricity on the grid, and through a credit system get the benefit of the power.
The data we collect is at www.illinoiswind.org . The state maps represent the areas where we have collected data for one year, but have retired – moved the towers or had a lease agreement that expired. Other maps show where there are active towers collecting data. The towers are collecting data at 30, 40, and 50 meters, because wind speeds go up as you go higher. The websites allows users to click specific locations, query data, etc. Sensors are on either side of the towers – we built in redundancy so if we lose one we won’t lose the data. Data are collected every 10 minutes at the sites. If you look at the rotation rpms on the towers, you can always tell the difference between the 30 meter sensor and the 50 meter sensor. If you look at actual site data, averaged on a monthly basis, you’ll see that the summer months are not so good. That might not be a big deal for school districts, but it’s a significant issue for hospitals. Being on the grid gives you some additional benefit. For example, in the wintertime (the windier months) you can blend the electricity generated with summer usage. The patterns are reasonably the same. The website also has wind direction information. Location again is important. One site in East Dubuque right along the river on the bluff – you’d think it would be a pretty good wind source. Unfortunately we had to downsize the tower we put in there because of space restrictions, and there were a significant number of trees located to the west, so that really influenced the readings. There are directional differences across the state from where the prevailing wind blows. We also monitor the websites in terms of visitor traffic. We had a peak in May and June of last year that coincided with the application deadline for the grants.
We have site selection tool online that is a GIS mapping tool. There are over 60 layers of information that include topographic maps, contours, land use, aerial photography, transmission data, and substations; we have licensed that information. We allow access to the site to land owners who want to do their own project. You can click any place where the towers are and access data the wind towers collected (speed, direction, etc). We are planning to run the wind speed data through turbines, and model what range of power might be produced at that site with a turbine. The power curves chart will show the amount of power generated for wind speeds. We can model all these data to determine how much electricity can be produced. The highest turbine we model is at a capacity of 850 KWs, others are down in the 300 KW range. Normally what you see is that as the wind speed goes up, the power generated goes up. When the wind speed reaches a certain point, some turbines will max out and plateau at the amount of electricity produced. At certain high speeds some turbines will shut down because the blades will bend. If the blades bend, they can hit the tower and then you have some bigger issues.
From a cost standpoint, we think midsize turbines are the path forward. We are working with a number of community colleges on training programs related to wind energy and “wind-smithing”. We are trying to include as much information as possible on our website, and we’re trying to get as many developers as possible to get their data on the web too. Obviously, location is important – go where the wind is.
Boosting health through local food production
- Linda Snetselaar, Professor, Department of Epidemiology, University of Iowa
The focus of my talk will be on the public health impacts of obesity; I’ll try to impress upon you the importance of focusing on the obesity issue. As part of this, I will talk a bit about the work we are doing in the Muscatine School District with a study that was initially funded as a planning project by the Kellogg Foundation. Now, the Carver Trust is funding some additional work we can do in implementing some things we have spent 2-3 years planning. I’ll also talk about the kinds of things that would be helpful in improving the health of our children…what strategies we might use. I am going to begin with this statement, which is a bit troubling:
“For the first time in history children growing up today may have a shorter life
expectancy than their parents because of the increase in obesity.”
Sir John Krebs, the Chairman of the Food Standards Agency in the United Kingdom, 2003
A graphical picture of the trends in child and adolescent obesity and being overweight provides a clear picture of what is happening. The fact is, there are a variety of problems on the horizon if the trend continues. We know that the level of adolescence overweight today will increase the prevalence of obesity in older persons. By 2020, 30-37 percent of men and 34-44 percent of women are projected to be obese. In the Muscatine study we enrolled children in kindergarten and followed them into their 40s and 50s, and what we saw was overweight and obesity tends to track over time.
With the increase in overweight today, there will also be an increase in cardiovascular disease. The prediction is that prevalence will increase by 15-16 percent in the year 2035, with more than 100,000 excess cases of cardiovascular disease attributable to obesity. This is a reason to focus on obesity in children. Less exercise, more video games and TV watching and less healthy eating over time can lead to these problems even in normal weight children. As the weight increases, it becomes more difficult to exercise. Obese adults have many problems – asthma, diabetes, musculoskeletal to name some – so many problems that occur in adulthood can be attributed to what occurred in childhood. A list of complications in childhood due to obesity include poor self-esteem and depression (10% of obese children), and sleep apnea which is secondary to upper airway obstruction related to obesity. Even liver diseases are being attributed to obesity, as are hypertension, atherosclerosis, and Type 2 diabetes. At another conference I attended we were talking about Type 2 diabetes going up exponentially in children. I am old enough to remember when Type 2 diabetes was considered adult onset diabetes. That is no longer true, because of what is happening in terms of obesity.
What might we do to make changes and who might be involved? Remember it is important to involve our communities, and involve schools – there is a wonderful wellness program in Iowa City with many people involved. Involving families is very important; consider the importance of families and what families do in relationship to the obesity epidemic. We have done work in Sigourney where one of the things we are doing is getting away from pies and cakes and cookies at farmer markets and emphasizing fresh fruits and vegetables. We have a stand were fresh fruits and vegetables are being prepared, so families will go home with a recipe but can also see a demonstration. We hope that makes it much more likely that they are going to use the recipe. There is a wonderful farmers market in Iowa City, where the produce is used to prepare wonderful dishes. Many of the chefs from local restaurants use the products available at the market. That is a very fun thing for me and my husband to do on Saturday morning. So farmers markets can be wonderful in terms of locally grown foods and really be good helping people see ways to improve health.
The Muscatine Project was started pretty much because another project was looking at trends in a variety of health related diseases by following children into adulthood. That was study where we went as a university and collected data, and the original researchers felt that we needed to give back to the community. One way to give back was to be involved in their school district wellness program. We spent about 3 years getting to know a variety of people in the school district including district leaders, superintendents, teachers and parents involved in programs that focus on wellness in the schools. We were also very impressed that the superintendent works with industry within the community. We often go into a community as the University of Iowa and when there is no infrastructure to keep that program going. You need an infrastructure to be sure that when you leave, the community feels empowered and has money to keep programs going. In Muscatine, we are hoping to change some policies and increase the funding to the schools to keep the programs going. These are pilot level programs in Muscatine – we focused on middle schools that were lower socioeconomic status, mostly Hispanic populations. In one school, there were two teachers who had graduated from the Muscatine School District – they were cheer leaders in school – and they decided to have an early morning program that included music, breakfast and an exercise program. It made a huge difference in terms of how attentive the students were and changed the atmosphere in the classroom. That was one pilot project we did. Another involved the District having salad bars with locally grown foods for their cafeteria. They involved the students, who went to Chicago to pick out equipment for the salad bar. We also talked about the idea of not offering a healthy and a non-healthy food, but offering two choices, both of them healthy.
It is very important to have family involvement in activities. We had a focus group to find out what families might want to increase wellness in the schools. We knew that mostly Hispanic populations often don’t go to parent teacher conferences; they are not plugged into the usual kinds of activities that go on at schools. We visited with teachers and the superintendent to see what we could do to involve this population. We decided to have a family focus group night, where the entire family was welcome, dinner was provided and childcare was provided. That was very helpful in planning for what were doing in terms of implementation and intervention activities. At the end of the focus group night, one of the parents came up to me and said “we are very poor, people see us as being disadvantaged. And often because of that, they do not ask us to be involved in making decisions about wellness. We want to be able to be involved in wellness and we’re happy to have a voice in making decisions about wellness.” He was very positive about the whole activity. I think that opened the eyes of some teachers in the school to the idea that just because someone is having difficulty income-wise, it doesn’t mean they don’t care about wellness. We looked at programs that might be of benefit and we are trying to do more of this type of implementation in the future. The hope is we can talk with parents about preparing healthy meals and snacks. Apparently, in the school system there is competition around which mother can bring the very best snack when their child has a birthday. We want to offer some sessions that help with that kind of activity. We know from research that starting early in life is very important when it comes to healthful eating and feeding practices. We want to talk to parents about other kids in the family who aren’t in school yet, and give them tips on healthy eating practices for their toddlers. We know that families are very important, and eating at the table is beneficial from a health point of view. One study showed that families that eat together at night sitting at the family table tend to eat more fruits and vegetables, less fried food and soft drinks, less fat, lower sugar load and more fiber in their diet. So we emphasize the idea of families eating together.
What can we talk about in terms of strategies of obesity intervention and prevention? I want to talk about where things begin in terms of eating habits. We know eating habits start very early in the game. We know from studies that the flavor of mother’s diet during pregnancy can be transmitted by amniotic fluid. The research showed that infants who had exposure to the flavor of carrots in amniotic fluid showed fewer negative facial expressions while eating the carrot flavored-cereal compared to a group of infants without the flavor exposure in infancy. This shows very early on eating habits can be affected. We know that in mothers who breast feed, certain kinds of food they eat can make a huge difference in terms of what the child likes when served first foods. Breast fed infants tend to be able control the volume food they eat better, resulting in fewer calories consumed in infancy.
When it comes to first foods, many mothers come to me in tears because the dinner table at night is a battle ground. We know that eating habits in childhood are probably formed by the age of two – which is a bit scary. We also know there are huge differences in the way parents model what to eat, or demand what a child should eat. In middle and upper class homes, there is a lot of structure around what a child should eat. There are negatives to that – children that have too much structure and are forced to eat too many fruits and vegetables to the exclusion of other foods, may rebel and not eat a lot of those foods out of their parent’s sight. In other more diverse ethnic social economic groups, there may not be enough structure. I have a colleague who is working with Hispanic populations and she is using a video camera to watch what is going on with feeding habits with infants. She found that in some instances, the mother would come home very tired, put food on the infant high chair tray, and go take a nap. There is no structure there.
We know that parents do different things related to “feeding style”. A mother told me that in order to get her child into their van to go to pre-school, she had Oreo cookies in the car to bribe him with. Using food as a reward or pacifier is not a good thing. Teachers sometimes give inappropriate foods as rewards. An area receiving more research is the idea of being able to listen, feel and understand when you are hungry; helping children with that particular kind of sensation, knowing you eat when you are hungry and not when you are full. Forcing children to eat is not a good idea. Involving children in purchasing, preparing, and eating foods can change how they see certain foods, and certainly change the way they see locally grown foods. Parents who model poor eating habits will often have children who are using those poor eating habits. We know many children eat in fast food restaurants. 7% of the U.S. population visits McDonalds every single day; 20% eat in some kind of fast food restaurant. That doesn’t mean that fast food restaurants don’t have healthy items, but there are a lot of items in fast food restaurants that are not healthy and we need to educate and help parents with knowing what to choose.
Locally grown foods are incredibly important – they provide a fresh alternative and are often higher in nutrients compared to foods carted across the country over several days. One lovely thing about locally grown food is learning about the path from farm to table. However, there are a number of disincentives to using local foods. We need to work on reducing the cost, showing families preparation techniques that can be done at farmers markets, and try to make local foods more visible. I have spent time in Italy and in their farmers markets…anything that did not come from that region was labeled. There was somewhat of a negative feeling that the product was not locally grown. There was awareness of the concept of locally grown foods, and in season foods as well. There are ways we can make fruits and vegetables comfort foods. That would be wonderful in terms of children where they can remember good times growing up and remember the fruits and vegetables that they loved. And that becomes the food they go to. And the last is involving social service agencies to assure that the disadvantaged participate in terms of locally grown foods. We’ve talked about the negative parental feeding styles, now let’s talk about the positive. Parents can help foster internal hunger and satiety cues – making sure a child is eating when hungry and not forcing a child to eat just because it is the right time or the food is there. We need to use the concept of hunger as a parent, and really make family meals a priority. I was talking with someone about this and they said they were always so rushed and always so busy. Maybe we need to make it a priority to slow down a bit and not be tied to the clock in terms of the ways in which we eat. That also is something that can include locally grown foods.
So the new approach to parental feeding is the concept of structure versus non-structure. That can be very different in one population compared to another. We may need to tailor our strategies to individual populations and ethnic groups. Using food as a pacifier: a study was done recently looking at temper tantrums and food being used as a pacifier for that behavior. We need to look at new ways of dealing with temper tantrums. Some very promising dietary strategies include promoting lower energy and more nutrient dense foods like fruits and vegetables, making plates look like a crayola box. There is also research to suggest skipping meals is not positive. Using appropriate portion sizes: many parents tell me about how little their child eats. Indeed, children do not need to need eat huge amounts of food. So providing parents with more information about what an appropriate portion size is for a child is important. Encouraging breast feeding and healthy maternal eating habits. Focusing on drinking water and reducing fat dairy products. Someone who works in a dental school told me about how many children she talks to are drinking carbonated beverages throughout the day – that results in more dental caries and more overweight kids, due to the number of calories coming from those beverages. Encouraging families to promote healthy eating patterns and model a healthy lifestyle including healthy eating and physical activity. Limiting TV and video and computer games to not more than 2 hours/day for children over 2. There is a recommendation for no TV viewing for under the age of two. There are so many marketing strategies that are designed to appeal to a child – television, food related advertisements that are marketing specifically to children. We need to promote strategies that encourage more physical activity and support locally grown foods. We need to make sure direct marketing doesn’t focus on high fat high sugar foods, particularly in marketing to children. PE should be mandatory in schools; there should be no candy or soda in vending machines. Have healthier food choices and increase fresh foods that are locally grown and in season.
Finally, here is 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!” Trying to make a difference is very important. This morning we discussed what direction research should go in; we talked about the idea of focusing on younger children and parents eating habits and focusing on making those habits early in life. Consider the mom’s prenatal diet, and then a child’s first foods, and then learning to eat different foods. Looking at what can we do to foster healthy eating habits in young children needs to be a focus of much of the research we need to do today.
Economic and environmental impact of local food production
- Rich Pirog, Associate Director, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Iowa State University
I want to start by addressing the question Linda was asked about processing. Recently, the Legislature passed a Farm to School bill providing $85,000 towards improving the connection between Iowa farms and local foods and schools. There are many hurdles and challenges in providing local foods for schools, given the actual cost per meal. A good example of innovation involves the fruit and vegetable items we grow in the state. There are about 11,000 acres of sweet peas, mostly in the border counties near Minnesota. It turns out only there are only a few growers who are under contract to produce those peas for Snow-Pak. The Food Council approached those growers to see if they could increase their acreage and start selling it to school districts. Having frozen sweet peas could be a nice addition and a more local product, so that kind of innovation is happening. The Leopold Center funded a project looking into what type of facility could be built for the light freezing of fruits and vegetables. We originally thought it could be a mobile facility in a semi-trailer; after it was developed it was the size three trailers and no longer mobile. There are efforts underway to try to design smaller versions of that type of facility, to serve school markets, colleges, universities, nursing homes and hospitals with more local food.
I was asked to talk about the environmental and economic impacts of local food production. From Linda’s comments, there are lots of good reasons to having and purchasing a food system that involves more local and regionally grown foods. It’s a matter of making the case for the investment in our infrastructure in order for that to happen. I’ll talk about a few studies that the Leopold Center funded or conducted on the economic impacts. I’ll also share some food for thought on environmental issues and what’s on the horizon that I think you’ll find pretty intriguing.
I want to talk in particular about environmental and economic impacts. The issue is that in order to make things happen, you have to make the case for investment. You have to show that an industry will actually create jobs and will have clear benefits before the state and counties will invest in it. When we started our work in local foods in 1996 with Kamyar Enshayan, little did we know that 10 years later local foods would be on the cover of Timemagazine, and that it would be cool chefs around the country to buy local foods. The word locavore would become the 2007 “word of year” in American Heritage Dictionary. Who would have thought those things would happen? As interest and demand increased, the consumer has shown more interest in finding out about what really is going on with local foods? What really are the benefits? This is something I try to understand from a research standpoint in order to be able to communicate that to people in Iowa and beyond.
Since 1996, the Center since has funded a lot of work, and we conduct research, on local foods. We get a lot of media calls and questions, probably least one per day from somewhere in North America. Those calls boil down to five types of questions: is local food better for the environment (lower impact) than conventional foods?; is it safer (fewer food safety/security problems) than conventional foods?; is it healthier than conventional foods?; is it better for the state’s economy and farmer profitability than conventional foods? And is it better for communities.? I am going to talk about economy and environment and share some plausible arguments where there clearly are some differences.
In 2001 we had a paper titled “Food, Fuel and Freeways” in which we looked at and compared different food systems. “Food miles” is a term that has become more in vogue. In 2006 it was one of the top ten buzz words by a food writer at the New York Times. Basically, it means the distance traveled from where the food is grown to where it is purchased and consumed. We found that in upper Midwest (including Iowa) that fresh produce from around the country travels about 1500 miles on average. That is not counting fresh produce from other countries – that mileage number would be a lot higher. The controversy around food miles is that it is not a great indicator of impact on the environment. Something traveling by rail, for example, is going to be far more efficient that a truck; for something traveling by rail, the total energy and fuel use per weight would be lower than by truck. There are examples where lower miles don’t necessarily mean less fuel used or less energy use. There are other ways of expressing this, for example, food carbon calculators are going to be available. You’ll be able to go to website, click on certain food items, and it will tell you the total carbon emissions for that food item in the supply chain. Total carbon emissions are already on many labels in supermarkets in the UK and Western Europe. Tesco, the 4th largest food retailer in the world, is doing more voluntary carbon labeling. If you think you are confused now when you go to the grocery store, just wait until carbon labeling comes. We will start seeing them; it is the research community’s job, working with NGOs and government partners, to make sense of this and interpret it for consumers.
Here is a study that is a counter-intuitive argument about local food and economic impact. I was involved in setting up the study with the Texas Department of Transportation; it’s called “Follow that French Fry.” It looked at the food miles and relative impact a local versus a conventional system would have on the road infrastructure. The current system is using a lot of semi-trailers moving goods over the country, and those semi-trailer trucks don’t pay for their full cost of the upkeep of those roads (studies show they pay 60-90% of highway costs). Consumers subsidize those cost. If you look at the true cost of the current system, it just gets tacked on. With higher fuel prices, it make it more difficult for truckers to make a living. There are a lot of issues to consider when you look at deconstructing the food system. This study was the first looking from the DOT’s perspective on crumbling infrastructure…can you continue to afford to have the same tax structure supporting that system given how many semi-trailers are on the roads? This brings up the idea of having a truck–only toll lane, where only semi trailers pay for those lanes, and consumers pay for the other lanes. There is an interesting discussion on how that would change our driving patterns on interstates around the country.
The Leopold Center looked at transportation for three different food systems: local, regional and national. The local was farmers markets and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs, the regional was an Iowa–based produce distributor, and the national was a company that provided goods to all 48 states. Those of you who shop at farmers markets know you don’t see those farmers pulling up in semi-trailers. We applied types of vehicles for each system, we looked at produce, and each system had to feed the same number of people…that’s how we leveled the playing field The local system used mid-size trucks, the regional used light trucks and semi-trailers, and the national used semi-trailers. The study was done in 2001. The national system used anywhere from 4-17 times more fuel than the local or regional. The regional system was the best system, with respect to food transport. You can see how this would add up to savings from a fuel standpoint. In 2001, diesel was $1.40 per gallon; today’s environment is a little different. In other countries they are changing modes of transport and moving to more regional-wide food systems; they actually have significant strategies for complying with the Kyoto protocol for lower carbon dioxide emissions.
How does this translate into carbon dioxide…the carbon labeling idea. A study looked at a meal in the state of Washington; the meal would have salmon (farm raised from Norway, or fresh caught wild salmon from Washington or Alaska), a potato (from either Washington or Idaho), asparagus (from Peru or locally grown), and apples (from New Zealand or locally grown). The study showed the local grown had lower total carbon emissions than the imported. A study in Belgian showed just the opposite – local foods had more carbon emissions than “conventional” foods. The jury is still out in the U.S. because many of our local systems are not efficient yet. At farmers markets, the farmer brings the goods, he is not worried about what backload he is taking back to the farm. Our current food system is set up so that loads are measured very efficiently, so there is still more research to be done.
It’s important to keep in mind the consumer’s roles and responsibility in this. Home refrigeration and preparation are responsible for 31% of total energy use in the food system; basically that means consumers. Our decisions as consumers play a significant role. We can’t just say that we want the food industry to get its act together; consumers need act and be creative. For example, why not lobby your grocery store to hold the farmers market in the grocery store parking lot? This could be a win-win situation by generating more traffic to both. The consumer might use 2-3 times less fuel because they are not going from one side of town to do their grocery shopping, then traveling miles in the other direction to go to the farmers market.
Consumers have an interesting role to play. We did a study where we looked at a CSA and what would happen if the CSA farmer delivered food. The existing structure is the farmer brings the produce to a central location and the customers come and pick it up. Which is better? The farmer drives a Prius, so we used that as the vehicle and compared the average fuel economy of U.S. vehicles in general, because we didn’t know what the 40 CSA members were driving. There was a significant difference, but if everyone drove a Prius, there wouldn’t be a difference between delivery and everyone picking up. Again, consumer responsibility is key.
Here is picture of a carbon label on a bag of potato chips in the UK; this bag produced 75 grams of CO2. You will probably start seeing these labels this fall or winter on a few selected items in the U.S. Companies think this can be a marketing strategy. Trying to design a food system that is better for the environment is a trickier question; carbon emissions are only one part of the total environmental burden. If you do a life-cycle assessment of the entire food supply chain, you need to think about carbon, water quality, eutrophication, acid rain and other environmental burdens. Right now, carbon is very hot – we are going to see those labels. Last summer, we asked U.S. consumers about their willingness to pay for produce that contributes 50% less to greenhouse gas emissions: 48% said they would be willing to pay more, almost 47% said they would pay the same amount , and 5% said they would pay less. We see that in local food studies – people say “it’s local, it doesn’t have travel as far, we should pay less.”
Let’s talk about the economy. In 1996, we funded Kamyar Enshayan to document and collect local food purchase data. In 1998, there were three locations in Blackhawk County for local food purchases, totaling about $150,000. In 2007, there were over $2,000,000 in sales from over 25 institutions and groups. There is a new food service director at Iowa State University; she wants to buy more local and organic foods; ISU has put about $333,000 into more local food sales between August and January. Today, there are about 170 Iowa farmers markets; there were only 65 in 1985. These markets generated about $21 million in total sales in 2004. That represents about 475 jobs the state created via the primary and secondary impact of those markets. This is a very small part of the local food picture, but it quantifies that number.
Lets build on Linda’s talk on health and rural development. What percent of Iowans eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day? 5%? 10%? Actually, a little less than 20% of Iowans eat 5 or more servings per day. We did a study where we asked what would happen if Iowans ate 5 servings per day and for three months of the year, and those fruits and vegetables came from Iowa farms and farmers? We made some assumptions – for example, you have to take some acres out of corn and soybean production to do this. Half of the crop would be direct market at farmers markets, the other half would be sold to regular retail and wholesale outlets. We had to account for the loss of retail sale margins because half would be direct marketed product. That scenario created 4100 net jobs in Iowa with an infrastructure cost of $96 million, or less than $1 million per county. The modeler on that project was also involved in modeling job creation from ethanol plants – there is some debate on those numbers. The 4100 jobs created is similar to the jobs created from the construction of ethanol plants as of 2006. Some things we didn’t calculate…what is the economic impact of improved health – reduced sick days, reduced insurance claims.
We just finished a study in five NE Iowa counties where we went beyond fruits and vegetables. We took a look at a healthy adult diet to see how much could be supplied by local production, and what is the market value for that? We included Allamakee, Clayton, Fayette, Howard, and Winneshiek Counties, what they currently produce and what they might be overproducing or exporting out of that region. There is plenty of dairy, pork and beef, but they are lacking in fruits, vegetables and poultry. Additionally, there is not much whole grain production – wheat and oats. We balanced it out so all the items, except for produce, could be supplied over the entire year; produce would be seasonal. We looked at the impacts of production and processing; what would be added to the region from a processing standpoint. We created a diet plan that had the requisite fruits and vegetables, dairy…all the things for a healthy diet. We translated that diet into production and consumption statistics using a tool developed at the Leopold center looking at per capita consumption and productions. We included a number of assumptions that I discussed previously. We found that approximately $10 million in new net labor income, and more than 400 new jobs would be created in the 5 counties; the job multiplier was about 2.74. We will be conducting similar studies in other parts of Iowa later this summer.
Lastly, I want to talk about organic production. We funded an analysis in Woodbury County. In 2005, Woodbury County lost $24 million per year raising food, bought $55 million of outside inputs, and bought $170 million of outside food. So there is some potential wealth lost each year. Woodbury County passed an unusual ordinance providing a tax rebate to farmers willing to shift to organic production - what is the economic impact if farmers made this shift? This analysis was done before the current corn and ethanol boom – so these numbers might not be accurate – but the relationship between conventional and organic as both prices rise is accurate. It still makes the difference valid. We looked at conventional systems of corn and bean rotations versus an organic rotation of corn, soybeans, oats and alfalfa. We found a difference of about 5.5 jobs created in conventional rotation compared to the 8.8 jobs organic rotation per thousand acres created.
We have a regional food group called the Regional Food Systems Working Group. The Leopold Center is trying to help initiate more working groups in different areas by bringing in the key leaders, researchers and educators. This group is trying to make a case for additional investment; if you want a county to starting looking at this as economic development, you have to show tangible numbers and make a case, whether that be environmental or other benefits. We are currently working in NE, SE,SW and NW Iowa. Central Iowa is creating a local food buyers club where you can go to a website, put your order in and once month pick up local food items from growers.
Obey thermodynamics – It’s the law
- Kamyar Enshayan, Director, Center for Energy and Environmental Education, University of Northern Iowa
Bioeconomy has significant meaning at a particular scale. Most of my work has been in food but I am an engineer at heart. The part of engineering that inspired me most is energy and thermodynamics – the study of energy. I want to share with you a few thoughts about alternative energy, in this case deriving energy from the land, we need to keep in mind a few basic ideas. I grew up in northern Iran – in the desert regions of Iran people made quite a bit of ice When I came to Cedar Falls, I was blown away when I saw the Ice House Museum on the Cedar River. I thought that was really cool, how did they do this? In January and February, people cut ice out of the river, open up channels and float the ice to the ice house. It was a lot of work. The ice house was a seasonal storage of coolness – they basically insulated it with saw dust and delivered it with horses all over town. I want to start off by saying we also had a bioeconomy in Iowa – when we think of a renewable future, let’s look at the images of a community and society that ran on renewable energy. That would be muscle power, crops, horses, animal power to get things done instead of burning fossil fuel. That was the ice economy of Cedar Falls.
There were other ways Iowans derived energy from the land, like hydropower. Sites all over the state used the river to derive mechanical energy. The water mill in Independence was the most important building in that town. It was the place that derived mechanical power from the Cedar River; now it is just sitting there completely useless. We can afford to disregard the river, the same way we have disregarded a lot of the biological cleverness that comes with ecosystem function. We disregard it because we can; basically we’ve taken it easy. A renewable economy that we envision for the future is push button and everything becomes solar. I have a hard time accepting that as an engineer. I look at solar energy magazines and there are these big homes with solar heated swimming pools. I think there is something fundamentally missing; a renewable future is going to require more work and attention to the local landscape. When I think of a renewable future I think of the insight and attentiveness we will need to derive something from the landscape. For the last 150 years we have taken a loan on energy, now all kinds of claims of renewability are surfacing – this is renewable, that’s renewable, bioeconomy this and that – it’s important to think and interpolate at this juncture. This discussion is very important – scale is a very critical thing. Many articles I have read on the feasibility of large scale biofuel production are not very positive. There is trouble with very large scale; there are constraints that I would like to bring up.
One of the confusing ideas floating around is that when we run out of oil, we’ll come up with another technology. That doesn’t take into account that energy is not technology; they are related but you can’t put technology into your gas tank. Energy takes you from point A to point B – energy is what drives things – not technology. Energy is the currency of our economy and of nature. It is not something you can come up with; we figure out ways to harness it. Right now there is a lot of thinking about using specific technologies, but I am not sure energy-wise it will be sustained. A lot of people talk about the Midwest being the Mecca of biofuels. There are some limits to that idea. The bioeconomy that has gone over very well in Iowa has been ethanol. But if you look at images of farm fields after a heavy rain, they can look heavily eroded. There will be massive soil erosion at a large scale when you have everything in one crop. It creates a very vulnerable situation. The bioeconomy we have right now results in heavily eroded fields, rivers choking with silt, and a dead zones in world oceans. These all represent different scales. This is what we have right now without intensely trying to derive energy from the land. Since we have had continuous corn or even corn and soy bean rotation, Iowa has a soil erosion problem. Add to that trying to derive energy from the land, it will only intensify this. That is the consequence.
Some principals of thermodynamics can help you understand basic ideas. When people say “we’ll come with energy” – well you can’t come up with energy, most of energy is about energy conversion. We convert one form to another form that is more useful to us. The first law of thermodynamics is that energy is neither created nor destroyed – energy in must equal energy out. First law violations will not be noticed; there are quite a few papers on the unfeasibility of ethanol. Period. Ethanol being a net energy loser. There are different opinions about that…it is hard to track down all of the energy inputs and how wide to you draw the circle of analysis. But what happens if you have some energy input into the first system and you don’t count them. If a bridge or a wall collapses everyone notices. But violations of the first law won’t be noticed. Here is an example of this violation that was stated at a meeting during the siting of a coal power plant. Someone said “The proposed coal plant is needed in Iowa to fuel the bio-economy”. I heard that on NPR – that is exactly true. An ethanol plant burns coal or uses a lot of electricity.
The second law is the most intriguing; there are implications for the whole biofuel business. The idea is that when you have something dispersed over the landscape and you want to gather it, it won’t happen by itself; the same way air molecules won’t get together and fill a flat tire. If you want to bring order to the dispersion, you have to spend energy and there is a cost to involved; that cost is often a heavy tax. The procession of combustion is an inherently irreversible process; a lot of energy is lost. Take biofuels, which are liquid fuels. Liquid fuel is concentrated while the plant material it is derived from is scattered all over the landscape, so that is an inherent difficulty. It’s all about concentration – high concentrated versus low concentrated fuel. The popular media presents what ethanol plants or utilities say, like “we are going to plant a lot of prairie and experiment with burning native plants to co-burn it with coal to generate electricity.” They follow that up by saying “there are storage and transpiration issues” related to turning large amounts of biomass into liquid fuel. That is the second law of thermodynamics. Concentrating something takes energy, the exact thing you are trying to produce. This is an important issue; there are inherent and real constraints of what can actually be done physically. Often these can be covered up because nothing is falling apart, like the bridge failures we talked about. People can claim they have a machine that runs forever a perpetual motion machine. But you need to examine those claims to find out where they are putting the energy in. If you are not paying close attention it is easy to miss. In Iowa, corn is dispersed and we want to concentrate it. An ethanol plant near Cedar Falls produces 66,000 gallons of ethanol per day. That requires 72,000 kilowatt hours (KWh) of electricity per day; that electricity comes from a coal fired power plant. To heat my house with my heat pump for the entire year winter requires 8400 KWh. That gives you an idea of how much fossil fuel is coming to an ethanol plant. The same plant also uses 2500 MCF of natural gas per day (1 MCF= 1,000 cubic feet). My house uses 80 MCF for the entire winter. The issues Kent brought up on his farm are important, because it shows what is feasible with biomass on an appropriate scale. As the scale grows more fuel will be spent to gather and concentrate materials.
Scale is really important when considering on-farm energy/biomass potential. Most of the discussion of biofuels relates to farms producing the raw material for the outside world, and not meeting on-farm needs. How can this farm meet a significant amount of its energy needs from internal resources of the farm – solar, wind and land? Strategies include diversifying, low temperature sources for low temperature tasks, conservation, solar heating, wind, solar electricity, biomass, human and animal labor, and cropping/pasture systems. How can we show that the farm is source of energy that can meet its own needs? We should consider doing this on Iowa farms; we have quite a few of those elements from that list. Lou talked about depression era attitudes…it’s just not about efficiency. When we are thinking about renewable energy and reducing our impact on the climate, we need to distinguish the meanings of conservation, efficiency and frugality, and the difference between systems that reduce our total energy use versus systems that are simply efficient in using energy. Efficiency is one strategy for energy conservation. Some examples: hang up your clothes on an outside clothes line and skip the dryer…people will say ‘I can’t dry my clothes like that, my jeans will be stiff’. I did a comparison of the megawatt hours clothes dryers use in Cedar Falls, plus air conditioning, in one year. Just clothes dryers and AC use 63,000 MWH per year. The entire residential sector of Cedar Falls used 154,218 MWH – these two combined are about 40% of electricity consumption of our city. How efficient can it become? It is a heating coil or natural gas for dryers; AC is pretty much the same. Can that become more efficient than it already is? Is a clothes dryer really necessary all the time? Is efficiency itself enough or do we need to explore other things? Linda said the first thing that could be done about obesity was city planning. It is all about how we arrange a community. Are we going to create biological fuels so that we can drive around in our own individual cars, or should the city plan? In the past, we had a lot of public transportation systems in place in Iowa and elsewhere. Trolleys and trains. Passenger rail from Chicago to St. Paul, from Omaha to Kansas City, with stops and connections in Cedar Falls and Waterloo. Why should we all have single occupancy vehicles instead of public transport? Conservation needs to be a high priority – not just efficiency; frugality and good planning.
In my neighborhood in Cedar Falls – the old part of town – I can walk from my house all the way downtown, one mile away, and almost be entirely in the shade. In the middle of summer. Here is a different neighborhood – no sidewalks and no shade trees – this is the kind of neighborhood we are building. Does this encourage walking and not driving? As I heard mentioned in city/community planning, we have a lot of to do to give people options. Are kids going to play in this neighborhood in the middle of the day on a hot summer day? The answer is “no”. The bioeconomy includes hydropower; we need to think of ways to harvest it. Waverly Power and Light has a small hydropower unit on the Cedar River that has been in operation since 1920. It requires very little maintenance; it’s almost like a base-load because the river runs all the time. It generates power all the time, more than their wind turbine, and it is a very small hydro unit. There is another thing on my list that needs to be done on farm. A key component of the second law is to match the source of energy to the energy task you have. Often they are mismatched – we are using a high quality source like electricity to heat water, which is a waste. You can gain efficiency by using solar hot water, for instance.
These are a few things to think about regarding the energy future; we need to be cautious so we don’t oversell the idea that renewability will be easy – it will really require a lot more attention and more frugality and conservation. We will have to reevaluate things as energy becomes more expensive. Rich talked about having all these confusing labels. I think we are going to see a lot of energy intensive processed food simply not be there. Cereals for example – they take a lot of fuel to manufacture – instead of having labels, these types of processed foods just won’t be economical anymore. The reality will compel us to rethink a bunch of things.