Leader Blues

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

TOP STORY >> Renewable; Group Pushes Energy independenCe

By JOHN HOFHEIMER
Leader staff writer

Gathered at Waste Management’s Twin Pines Landfill in Jacksonville on Tuesday, Democrats in the Arkansas Congressional delegation called on President Bush to put greater focus on the development of renewable sources of energy at home.

The news conference included Ark-ansas leaders and pioneers in renewable energy resources such as bio-diesel and ethanol.
It was set against the backdrop of six giant generators that a month from now will begin turning the methane gas generated by the landfill into electricity to power 4,000 homes in North Little Rock.

Although Waste Management currently creates electricity at 60 of its landfills around the nation, this one was financially feasible because of renewable energy tax credits, according to George Wheatly of Waste Management.

The company has about $6 million invested in it. The electricity will be put directly into the North Little Rock Electric grid, sold to the city for 5 percent less than the city pays for its other electricity.

“I am pleased that this site and others like it have benefited from landfill gas conversion tax credits that I worked hard to include in the last energy bill,” said Sen. Blanche Lincoln, who organized the event.

Other Arkansas innovators/businessmen who spoke were Tommy Foltz, CEO of Patriot Fuels; Jim Wimberly, a global energy consultant, and Bob Stobaugh of Stobaugh Brothers Farms near Conway. Stobaugh has been using a diesel/biodiesel mix for his tractors and pumps since 2002.

“We’re here to talk about how we can best reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” Lincoln said.
Of President Bush, Lincoln said, “He has not provided the leadership that this issue requires.”

In a letter to the President signed by Lincoln, Sen. Mark Pryor, Cong. Vic Snyder and Cong. Marion Berry — all of whom spoke — and Cong. Mike Ross, who was not there, the delegation recommended more money for 16 programs, grants or credits that could stimulate biofuels industry.

“We recommend appointment of a current member of your staff to evaluate these programs and the work of the Biomass Research and Development Initiative,” the letter said.

“We are determined to put America on the path toward energy independence by 2020.”

“We’ll always be a trading country,” Snyder said. “But let us be the leaders, the seller of technology, to be ahead of the curve. We have to invest in research and technology.”

Other lawmakers also pitched renewable fuels as an energy alternative.

Pryor said importing more than 20 million barrels of foreign oil into the U.S. a year is not good for the nation’s trade balance, currency valuation or work force.

“We have to acknowledge we have a problem,” he said. “We are missing opportunities to make America stronger by having a smarter energy policy.”

Foltz, who founded Patriot BioFuels, a former deputy energy director in the Clinton Adminis-tration, said his company will begin commercial production of 3 million barrels a year in March of bio-diesel fuel, with potential at the site to produce 25 million barrels a year.

He said that at current prices, the U.S. is sending $2 billion a week to OPEC countries that are not always America’s friends.