The last day of the Farm Progress Show is usually a day we can kick back as editors. We find new products galore the first two days and use the final day to see the show ourselves. It turned out to be an interesting day indeed for me this year.
Driving into the show I heard a radio report on a station carrying some ag reports - don’t ask me what station - it was one of the few I could get country music on in Decatur, Ill., believe it or not, I heard that ‘the Environmental Protection Agency now considers ‘carbon’ hazardous to human health.’ Oh, really? I’m waiting for the day they report oxygen is hazardous to human health.
The upshot of the report was that while current biofuel plants might be grandfathered in, it could affect whether EPA approves more plants in the future. With all the talk during last year’s campaign and during the cap and trade energy bill debate about the need for more biofuel, somehow that doesn’t seem to jive. I’m also waiting for someone to say ‘EPA is hazardous to our health.’
Anyway, at the show I eventually wandered into the excellent display of energy grasses on the show grounds. The University of Illinois specialists have been working with these plots for more than three years. I saw miscanthus, some 8 feet tall, and I saw it in bales, ready to be shipped to a processing plant, if there is one, that can turn it into energy.
Supposedly there’s one in western Missouri. And sitting in the audience, listening to Don King of the Illinois FSA talk about the new biofuels program, the one where the government pays people to produce such things as switchgrass and miscanthus, or pays them to sell biofuel feedstock to approved processing plants, once there are some, was a person who works for a facility in western Indiana. This facility, owned by Michael Meyers, has applied to be an approved facility with the Indiana FSA. Their goal is to mix biofuels, anything from cardboard to raw trash to swtichgrass, with coal, and turn it into pellets. The theory is that the utility companies could burn it, it’s more environmentally friendly, and they don’t have to invest in all new processing equipment to do it.
I hope you didn’t miss the reference to a USDA person with the Farm Service Agency telling farmers about a new program that will pay them to plant and sell biofuel feedstock, on the same morning that local radio stations carried reports that EPA says carbon is hazardous to human health, and that biofuels may be the wrong way to go.
I’ve always heard the expression ‘it’s not one world’ to describe these types of situations where one fact seems to fly in the face of the other. In this case, maybe it’s not one government. Do government leaders want biofuels, or not? Are they going to be reasonable about regulating truly harmful substances and leave the rest alone, or not?
I can ask lots of questions, but I don’t have any answers. I certainly didn’t get many on the last day of the Farm Progress Show. I just got more confused than ever as to which direction energy and environmental policy is going in this country. If you have it figured out, please leave us a blog and let us all know!
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