Corn Ethanol Research Facility Up and Running

A new research facility will be testing scientific innovations in the field of ethanol production. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Kevin Lavery reports:

Transcript

A new research facility will be testing scientific innovations in the field of ethanol production.
The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Kevin Lavery reports:


The National Corn-to-Ethanol Research Center will focus on developing new ways of producing
ethanol, a corn-based product that shows promise as a long-term alternative to fossil fuels. Each
year in the U.S., more than 2-billion gallons are produced. It’s hoped that figure will increase to 5
billion within 10 years.


Center director Rodney Bothast says projects performed at the new facility will help make that
happen.


“And it’s broader than just fuel ethanol. It means the co-products. They might be food products,
they might be industrial products, all interfaces into this scenario.”


While politicians hail ethanol as an environmentally-friendly fuel that reduces U.S. dependence
on foreign oil, critics argue that a single gallon of ethanol produces less energy than it takes to
manufacture it.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Kevin Lavery.

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Stricter Rules for Heavy Equipment Emissions?

The Environmental Protection Agency is proposing new clean-air standards for some diesel-powered equipment. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:

Transcript

The Environmental Protection Agency is proposing new clean-air standards for some diesel
powered equipment. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:


The EPA’s new rules would cut the soot and pollution that’s belched by off-road diesel vehicles
such as bulldozers and farm tractors. Frank O’Donnell is with the environmental group Clean Air
Trust.


“Currently there are very minimal controls on big diesel heavy equipment and the fuel itself is
extremely dirty. It’s virtually unregulated. And this EPA proposal will go a long way, over time,
making a significant reduction in the diesel pollution coming from heavy equipment.”


The EPA projects the new rules will prevent almost ten-thousand premature deaths each year
once the standards are fully phased in. But, that’ll take a while with the last of the dirty vehicles
probably taken out of service around the year 2030.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.

Study Highlights Cost-Benefits of Cleaner Buses

A new Harvard study indicates that of two new types of alternative fuels for urban buses, it might be better in the long run to go with the cheaper fuel. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:

Transcript

A new Harvard study indicates that of two new types of alternative fuels for urban buses, it might
be better in the long run to go with the cheaper fuel. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester
Graham reports:


Soot spewing diesel buses will soon be a thing of the past. But two different alternative fuels are
being considered for mass transit buses. One is compressed natural gas. The other is a low
sulfur-filtered diesel called emission controlled diesel.


A Harvard School of Public Health study of the fuel systems appears in the current issue of the
journal Environmental Science and Technology. Senior Researcher, Joshua Cohen says
compressed natural gas buses might be cleaner, but the health benefits cost six to nine times more
than the same health benefits of the clean diesel.


“If you spend your money on compressed natural gas buses, you’re not going to be able to buy as
many new clean buses as you could if you bought the clean diesel buses. So, that’s an important
consideration to keep in mind.”


So, while a single bus burning compressed natural gas might be cleaner, it’s so much more
expensive that, system-wide, it might be more beneficial to the environment to use the cheaper
clean diesel system in more buses.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.

Nation’s First Hydrogen Fueling Station

In the 1970’s, Cleveland was the poster child for industrial pollution. Today, this rust-belt city will soon become home to the nation’s first gas station that will sell clean-burning hydrogen fuel. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Karen Schaefer reports:

Transcript

In the 1970’s, Cleveland was the poster child for industrial pollution. Today, this
rust-belt city will soon become home to the nation’s first gas station that will sell
clean-burning hydrogen fuel. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Karen Schaefer
reports.


The public hydrogen fueling station will open in two years off of the Ohio Turnpike. It
will cater to cars that are powered by fuels cells. These cars are still in development, and
have yet to make it to dealer showrooms. But Clean Cities Coordinator Stephanie Strong
says building the new station will demonstrate that a hydrogen infrastructure is possible.


“There’s been a problem up ’til now with alternative fuels, either the availability of the
fueling infrastructure or the availability of the vehicles. It’s been a chicken and egg
syndrome.”


The project is being funded as part of Ohio Governor Bob Taft’s 100-million dollar
initiative to boost high-tech industry in the state. The new station won’t sell soda and
cigarettes, but it will have a learning center promoting new vehicle technologies. The
complex itself will be powered by a fuel cell, the kind that may eventually power people’s
homes.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Karen Schaefer.

Usda Running on Alternative Fuels

The Department of Agriculture is expanding its use of alternative fuels generated by farms. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:

Transcript

The Department of Agriculture is expanding its use of alternative fuels generated by farms. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports.


The USDA is increasing the use of bio-diesel and ethanol. Bio-diesel is a fuel that can be made by refining natural oils such as animal fat, spent cooking oil or soy bean oil. Ethanol is a blend of gasoline and alcohol, usually derived from corn. USDA agencies such as the Forest Service will increase the use of the fuels in fleet vehicles, including cars, tractors, and even boats at agency offices across the nation. Donald Comis is a spokesperson for the Department of Ag.


“It’s a deliberate strategy of the whole federal government to have demonstration areas all over the country so that you won’t have to travel far to see a vehicle or operation like your own.”


While the USDA is promoting bio-diesel and ethanol, some environmental groups say the taxpayer subsidized fuels use too much energy to produce and only survive because of politics. For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.

Dump Generates Creative Power Solution

Methane is one of the main by-products of landfills. It’s also a
fuel, which can be used to create electricity. In 1978, the federal
government began requiring utilities to buy this methane-generated
power. But as energy prices dropped, methane producers found their
profits disappeared as well. As the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s
Karen Kelly reports, they’re looking for new alternatives:

Transcript

Methane is one of the main by-products of landfills. It’s also a fuel, which can be used to create

electricity. In 1978, the federal government began requiring utilities to buy this

methane-generated power. But as energy prices dropped, methane producers found their profits

disappeared as well. As the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Karen Kelly reports, they’re looking

for new alternatives:


(sound of blower)


Frank Lavadera stands proudly next to a small, green pipe sticking out of the ground. It’s

attached to a fan, which is sucking methane gas out of this landfill in Saratoga Springs, New

York.


“It pulls the gas from the landfill to this particular point and pushes it across the street to

where the engine system is, to where it’s used.”


(sound of skating)


Where it’s used in the town’s skating rink. The landfill produces enough methane to provide

eighty-five percent of the rink’s electricity. The methane is pumped into a generator. That

produces the power that freezes the ice, keeps the rink lit, and heats the water for the showers.

Lavadera designed the project. He’s an engineer at Cluf, Harbor and Associates in nearby Albany.

He was originally hired to close the city’s landfill, which is filled with horse manure from the

nearby racetrack.


“One of the things we found was that this particular landfill had a tremendous amount of methane

gas, above and beyond what would normally be expected. And as a result, we needed to collect this

methane as opposed to just passively venting gas into the atmosphere. But simultaneously, the city

constructed this ice skating rink, and it was very natural connection that we’d match the two up

together to utilize the gas.”


The city is now saving fifty-thousand dollars a year in utility costs. At one time, they probably

would have sold the electricity to a power company and made a profit. Utilities are required to

buy methane-generated electricity from landfills at the same price it costs the utility to make

it. The problem is, the overall price of producing electricity has dropped drastically. In New

York State, it’s gone from six cents per kilowatt-hour in the 1980’s to about two cents today.


Shelley Cohen is head of the EPA’s methane outreach program.


“Utility prices in many states are still very cheap and they’re not able to offer prices for the

landfill gas that make it economical to develop a project. That being said, the landfill and the

landfill developer generally look for other options for developing gas projects.”


Cohen knows about eighty landfills in the U.S. that have found other ways to recycle their

methane. Many simply use it themselves to heat their buildings and run generators. Others sell it

to neighbors. There are asphalt and paper companies that use methane to run their boilers. And in

Canada, the methane from one landfill heats four greenhouses. Cohen says these projects are making

good use of one of the most potent greenhouse gases.


“The environmental benefits are tremendous. Because you’re capturing the methane from the

landfill. You’re reducing those emissions from the landfill and then you’re somehow utilizing it,

which means you’re also offsetting the need to use other forms of polluting energy, such as coal.

So it has this double environmental benefit.”


But Frank Lavadera says landfills still shy away from these projects. For one, they have to build

a system to convert the methane to electricity. In Saratoga Springs, that cost more than a million

dollars. And two, the farther the methane has to travel, the more expensive it’ll be. So, they

need to have a willing neighbor.


“That’s what made this project work very well, is we had the ice skating rink directly across the

street from the landfill. That probably is what will drive methane gas projects in the future as

time goes on, is matching up landfills with high users that might be close by so they could

effectively utilize the electricity.”


There’s another possibility on the horizon. Environmental groups are pushing for a federal tax

credit to make it easier for landfills to produce electricity. John Skinner is president of the

Solid Waste Association of North America.


“Our proposal is for a federal tax credit for landfills that use the methane gas as a fuel and

that will adjust the economics so that it’s economically feasible to do so. There’s probably

another 250 to 300 that would come on-line that won’t come on-line otherwise.”


Skinner says a previous tax credit helped create more than two-hundred new projects. But it

expired two years ago. The current proposal is expected to come to a vote in the House sometime

next year.


(sound of skating)


Meanwhile, the more creative landfill owners are forging ahead. They have to find a way to get rid

of their methane. But rather than seeing it as a waste product, they view it as a resource. Now,

they just have to find someone who’s willing to use it.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Karen Kelly in Saratoga Springs, New York.

Automakers Unveil Green Concept Cars

Ford and General Motors each plan to unveil new
environmentally friendly concept cars at this year’s North American
International Auto Show in Detroit. The cars are the outgrowth of an
initiative between the federal government and the big three auto
companies to develop a car that could fit a family of five but get 80 miles
to the gallon. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Julie Edelson Halpert has more:

Transcript

Ford and General Motors each plan to unveil new environmentally friendly concept cars at this

year’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The cars are the outgrowth of an

initiative between the federal government and the big three car companies to develop a car that

could fit a family of five but get eighty miles to the gallon. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s

Julie Edelson Halpert has more:


A mid-sized vehicle that triples the fuel economy of today’s cars. That was once only a pipe dream

for domestic auto makers. But after six years of research, they’ve done it. Using a combination

diesel and electric engine, Ford and General Motors have developed cars that get gas mileage up to

eighty miles per gallon. Jeff Coleman is a spokesman for General Motors. He says GM’s car, the

Precept, makes great environmental strides. but one big obstacle remains: cost.


“Many of the technologies that are on the GM Precept are not in high volumes today, and so you’d

expect the vehicle to be quite expensive. And the job over the next few years is to learn more

about these technologies, put these into use in real vehicles that are on the road today.”


Coleman says that as the technologies become more widespread, costs will come down. The auto

companies hope to develop an affordable high mileage car by 2003.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Julie Edelson Halpert.

Green Energy Fueled by the New Year

In the 1970’s during the Arab oil embargo, conventional fuel
prices skyrocketed and it appeared that alternative energy was going to
bloom. But in less than a decade, cheap fuel returned and interest in
solar
and wind energy declined. However today alternative energy is becoming
more viable, in part due to worries about a Y-2-K disaster. The Great
Lakes Radio Consortium’s Ley Garnett reports: