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Archive for April, 2012

Optimistic

From InShik Lee, TC3 SUNYGREENS NY Program Coordinator- and new to the BioEnergy discussion.
We are living in a time of great stagnation and great transition. The quest for “sustainability” and the reality that we are all dependent upon limited global resources has us all scratching our heads, wondering, ‘what is truly the right thing to do’? Fear of not doing the right thing has many of us doing nothing and perhaps waiting for someone else to take the first plunge- whether it’s the first electric car or the first pellet furnace…So how do we get out of this lull? How do we drive our efforts to get us to the next “wave of innovation” to achieve the levels of sustainability that we have come to know is necessary for a sustainable future? The multitudes of advances in high technology have us questioning their value. The philosophical and ethical discussion about the value of each and every technological innovation leads to a life time of discussions for philosophers. I think it is pretty much agreed that in the field of BioEnergy, we are ripe for innovation.
BioEnergy is a vast and open field of opportunity. As consumers we are bombarded from every angle –what is the best solution, what is the most efficient, what is the most economical…? We have end users who are still burning wood like they did in the 1700’s! We have homeowners complaining that a neighbor’s chimney gases are giving them health problems. We have whole hospitals or schools using the waste woodchips to heat their whole facility. We have corn being turned into ethanol and fueling our vehicles and yet being told it’s not an efficient use of food stock, new willow being grown to be burned… So, what is the best way? And what does it take to push forward an industry so diverse and full of opportunities for so many? And what about all the other side industries which are not energy related who can benefit from this economic growth arena? Manufacturing, transportation, sales & service to name just a few…
As an educator, designer, and consumer, I look for ways to promote opportunities for innovation. Innovations are NOT totally new inventions – derived from Latin ‘innovare’- “to renew or change,” from in- “into” + novus “new”. BioEnergy is not a new idea- Innovations continue to develop from existing ideas and it is what will drive us to the next wave, brought together within a new perspective. The much denigrated “S” word is creating consumer awareness, and a need for industry to rethink systems of growing, processing, manufacturing, processing, delivery, sales to meet the challenges of a changing paradigm. Inspired students and consumers are coming to this arena with questions and ideas which will drive the next wave of innovation. The Bio-Energizers will be the industry members who will answer the call and design solutions to make it economically viable. This will require education of a new generation of students who are looking at new ways to look at the concept of renewable, collaboration between the “old school/low tech / existing knowledge base” and the “new school /high bio-tech/new knowledge base”, and allowing for discovery through trials and failures. I think this aligns with one of Carlton Owens’ take-away from the BIOMASS conference last week- to take the ‘good’ not only the ‘perfect’… We need to move forward to build on the examples of the ‘good’ to move towards the ‘better’ and the ‘perfect’.
The BIOMASS conference I attended this past week armed me with a wealth of information to spread. I learned that the ideas need to be shared, misconceptions need to be cleared, and innovations need to be promoted. All it takes is time and money …and to quote Ephraim from the musical “Hello, Dolly” – “Money, pardon the expression, is like manure. It’s not worth a thing unless it’s spread about, encouraging young things to grow.” We depend on organizations such as NYSERDA and USDA to help forge BioEnergy innovations- as they have for solar and wind technologies. It can be done and I am optimistic!
This leads me to a shameless plug – Tompkins Cortland Community College will be hosting a USDA funded conference on April 27 to discuss the collaboration between education, agriculture, and business to promote and to grow the local BIOENERGY industry. Please follow this link for registration information for the conference
Bio Energy Opportunities in Upstate NY http://www.tc3.edu/about_tc3/sustainability.asp
Hope to see YOU in the BioEnergy future!

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