Monday, November 2, 2009

No on Issue 2

Here's a repost from Michael Ruhlman's blog. Please check his blog out at

November 1, 2009

Issue 2 would create an amendment to the state constitution, instituting a board with the legal authority to set and enforce the care of livestock throughout the state. Vote no. It's apparently a move to preempt national animal-rights groups from demanding changes in farm facilities that would cost big ag money and put smaller farmers out of business. A constitutional amendment is not the way to do this, especially given the vague wording on who would be on this board and how they would get there. My thoughts are these:

This is a really tricky issue with dangers on both sides. I'm truly skeptical of everything big agricultural interests do. If Issue 2 passes, this new board could basically say that the hundreds of CAFO's in Ohio are just dandy, carry on. They could also tell small farmers that it is illegal to pasture raise your animals due to safety concerns. Also, the ads urging voters to vote yes are downright creepy in their opacity. Without saying at all what the issue is about, they present bucolic images of small farm families with the message that a yes vote is a vote for safe wholesome food. As if anyone would vote for unsafe, nasty food. The deceptive, arguably dishonest, nature of the ad is, in itself, enough for me to distrust the interests pushing this issue.

On the other hand if the board were truly representative of all the voices out there, both big and little ag, as well as farmers concerned about good animal husbandry and animal care experts, it could be a good thing. I spoke yesterday with a fierce small-farm advocate who's referred to at the capitol by big ag as "the raw milk lady" who is for Issue 2. Acknowledging that the issue presented two difficult extremes, she seems to want to fight for what's right within the system, and she's also concerned that outside interests such as animal-rights groups may make good food too expensive for low-income families, which is and should be a primary goal—making good, humanely raised food available to everyone.

Such food must be founded on a good economic model if it is to succeed. While I don't want animal rights groups forcing any Ohio farmers out of business (business that will simply go elsewhere and do the same thing), I don't believe a constitutional amendment setting up some vaguely-worded board to create legal standards for animal husbandry in Ohio is a step forward; and it may well be a bad step backward. Read the Tom Suddes opinion piece below for a more black-and-white, Big-Ag-is-evil take on the subject. And keep paying attention to where your food comes from.

Download Issue 2 itself.

Download Issue2factsheet on the legal issues.

Here is a link to Thomas Suddes strongly worded opinion in The Plain Dealer.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Going green to heat greenhouses more cheaply

From article in Cleveland Plain Dealer, Thurs. May 21, 2009

Eagle Creek Wholesale near Mantua is going green to heat greenhouses more cheaply
Thursday, May 21, 2009
John Funk
Plain Dealer Reporter

Mantua- Volatile energy prices over the last five years have persuaded many businesses to turn to green technologies in self defense.

Wind turbines, solar panels and energy-efficient technologies are the new hedge for businesses trying to level their energy bills - by lessening their dependence on the utilities.

But green is not always clean.

John Bonner, general manager of Eagle Creek Wholesale LLC, a greenhouse operation in rural Portage County near Mantua, can tell you all about the dirty side of green. And he's proud of it.

Bonner heats 3.5 acres of greenhouse space with manure, sawdust and wood chips.

He plans to add 2 acres under glass that will be heated the same way.

He also has begun lighting the operation with electricity generated by wind. Eagle Creek recently installed a sleek, 160-foot-tall, 50-kilowatt wind turbine manufactured by a Colorado company. A second one is on the way. The two, along with a new high-efficiency lighting system, are expected to cut the company's utility power needs by up to 80 percent per year, slashing monthly bills.

The goal is to become 100 percent energy self-sufficient, Bonner said. And he may be able to do it because of the structure of his company.

Bonner, who holds a degree in economics and finance from Capital University, operates one leg of a multicompany family business that sits on a 1,400-acre farm and includes a small trucking company, a sawdust and mulch service and a retail garden center in Bainbridge township. The farm part of the business raises up to 1,000 head of cattle a year and plants three-quarters of the acreage and 700 more acres elsewhere in corn, soybeans and winter wheat.

The operations support one another. The cattle stalls produce fuel. The trucking division delivers sawdust from regional sawmills to the many nearby horse stables, bringing back more fuel. Trucks also deliver hundreds of thousands of flower and vegetable starts to retailers throughout the region.

All of this is done with a focus on energy efficiency and being green.

But Bonner is no ideologue. "I like the idea of being a steward and taking care of the planet," he said. "That's good. But the bottom line is the bottom line.

"I can't make ideological decisions just because I want to. When ideology and good business decisions come together, then everybody benefits."

The small commercial wind turbines the company is buying are the symbols of green technology - sleek white machines that many Americans still see as futuristic.

Manure and waste wood burners are something else. Hulking steel and iron giants, they appear to be straight out of the 19th century, when coal was king. And they can burn coal. But they are actually recyclers, making energy out of waste. Bonner has an EPA permit to burn wood waste, corn and even tires.

In more snooty terms, Bonner is burning "biomass," wood and animal waste that was, well, going to waste.

That was before Eagle Creek's gas bills looked like they would total $200,000 in the winter of 2005-06, after hurricanes Rita and Katrina shut down gas rigs in the Gulf of Mexico.

Bonner flew to Germany to check out renewable technologies and diesel fuel substitutes for the trucking company. He tried the biodiesel, but the costs were too high. The wind and biomass were financially feasible, and Bonner bought an American-made boiler and turbines.

Eagle Creek's 5 million-BTU boiler is fired by a mixture of sawdust, wood chips, "cow pies" and "road apples," the latter material coming from cattle and horse stalls. These solid fuels are allowed to dry a bit in enormous open-ended Quonset huts that look a little like giant, half-buried pipes.

BTU levels are a function of how much moisture is in the fuel, Bonner said. Wood has nearly twice the BTU value as manure, even dried manure, he said, and the boiler burns more wood than waste on the coldest winter days.

The 30,000-gallon computerized boiler was "idling" on a recent sunny but chilly day, keeping more than 60,000 gallons of water at 200 degrees and pressurized to about 25 pounds per square inch. Another cold night was ahead.

Smoke from the short stack was whitish - and odorless. That was not the case inside the large boiler building, where the air carried distinct barn smells and a certain aroma hard to describe - not horrible, but not exactly good.

The combustion chamber read 660 degrees, tech employee Gary Janson said, as the automated system slowly fed it minuscule amounts of material.

The only sound was the whoosh of fans and compressors ensuring complete combustion, punctuated occasionally by the mechanical banging and buzzing of a conveyor belt bringing up more fuel.

The fuel was stored in an adjoining room consisting of one very large pile of manure mixture and one equally large pile of mulch-like wood waste. Both were neatly piled, chest-high, in side-by-side, rectangular-shaped concrete stalls.

The stall floors were equipped with metal paddles that slowly moved the materials onto a conveyor system that sifted, sorted and mixed the bits and pieces before sending it into the fire box.

The super-heated water is piped into the nearby greenhouses. That's when things get really high-tech and ultra-efficient.

The greenhouses are automated: Everything - from the light levels, to the humidity, to the air and floor temperatures, to the watering and fertilizing - is computer-controlled. Even the water is collected, measured and recycled.

Competitors who don't embrace technology like this probably won't be around in 30 years, Bonner said, defending the huge capital expense of the operation and green energy investments.

The wind turbines cost $250,000 apiece - though $175,000 in federal and state grant money means the system may pay for itself in five or six years. Even more than the biomass boiler, the turbines are computerized robots, generating the maximum amount of power possible under varying wind speeds.

The massive boiler cost even more than the two turbines - Bonner didn't disclose the exact amount - and current low natural gas prices make the payback time hard to calculate. But the cost of the biomass is free, or nearly so, he said.

"When the price of natural gas is down, like now, we don't necessarily have a competitive advantage," he said. "But when gas goes up, people have to raise their prices and we don't - and hopefully we'll gain market share. We are making long-term strategic decisions."

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter:, 216-999-4138

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

We Surround Them


We Surround Them-The Unveiling March 13th on FOX News 5pm ET

Do you watch the direction that America is being taken in and feel powerless to stop it?

Do you believe that your voice isn’t loud enough to be heard above the noise anymore?

Do you read the headlines everyday and feel an empty pit in your stomach…as if you’re completely alone?

If so, then you’ve fallen for the Wizard of Oz lie. While the voices you hear in the distance may sound intimidating, as if they surround us from all sides—the reality is very different. Once you pull the curtain away you realize that there are only a few people pressing the buttons, and their voices are weak. The truth is that they don’t surround us at all.

We surround them.

So, how do we show America what’s really behind the curtain? Below are nine simple principles. If you believe in at least seven of them, then we have something in common. I urge you to read the instructions at the end for how to help make your voice heard.

The Nine Principles

1. America is good.

2. I believe in God and He is the Center of my Life.

3. I must always try to be a more honest person than I was yesterday.

4. The family is sacred. My spouse and I are the ultimate authority, not the government.

5. If you break the law you pay the penalty. Justice is blind and no one is above it.

6. I have a right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, but there is no guarantee of equal results.

7. I work hard for what I have and I will share it with who I want to. Government cannot force me to be charitable.

8. It is not un-American for me to disagree with authority or to share my personal opinion.

9. The government works for me. I do not answer to them, they answer to me.

12 Values

* Honesty
* Reverence
* Hope
* Thrift
* Humility
* Charity
* Sincerity
* Moderation
* Hard Work
* Courage
* Personal Responsibility
* Gratitude

You Are Not Alone

If you agree with at least seven of those principles, then you are not alone. Please send a digital version of your picture to: and then stay tuned to the radio and television shows over the coming weeks to see how we intend to pull back the curtain.

Time to Fast-track New Nuclear Reactors

Reprinted from

Time to Fast-track New Nuclear Reactors
by Jack Spencer
WebMemo #2062

Nuclear technology can help to meet America's growing demand for reliable, clean, affordable electricity. This has led many politicians, including presidential candidate John McCain, to conclude that the nation needs to start building new nuclear plants now.

The electric power industry has already begun plans to start building new reactors. While approximately 20 applications have been filed or are in preparation to build over 30 new reactors, no permits have been issued and no new plants have begun construction. A primary reason is that the regulatory process remains arduous and unknown. To overcome this, Congress should authorize a fast-track permitting process for a limited number of reactor projects.

A Slow, Arduous Process

The Department of Energy instituted the Nuclear Power 2010 program in 2002 as an effort to address the regulatory and institutional barriers to new reactors' near-term deployment. As its name implies, the original time frame called for new reactor deployment by 2010. Unfortunately, the program has not succeeded in this regard. Most believe that the earliest that a new plant will come on line is the latter half of the next decade.

The problem is not technical or economic—new reactors are being built around the globe, and plans for more are being announced every month. The problem is political. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), after so many years with no applications for new reactors, does not have a proven process for efficiently licensing new reactors. The NRC estimates that it needs a minimum of 42 months to issue the design, site, and construction/operation licenses required for reactor construction to begin. This includes—in addition to the safety assessments that are NRC's primary responsibility—about two years for environmental reviews, a year for design reviews, and a year for public hearings. And even this time frame is contingent on complete applications and minimal opposition from outside interests. This has led for calls to streamline the process.

Streamlining is necessary because the process cannot just be sped up. Specific procedures are in place that the NRC must follow, and that process takes time. Simply adding manpower, as some have suggested, would only provide marginal benefit. Because training regulators can take two years, it would be years before the NRC could hire and train enough people to shorten time schedules.

To speed up the current permitting process, Congress should authorize a fast-track program that is open to new reactor applicants that meet certain conditions. The goal would be to cut by at least 50 percent the amount of time it takes to permit a new plant. This must be done without sacrificing safety standards or security.

The lessons learned from the fast-track program could be applied to necessary regulatory overhauls in the future.

The program's objective would be to reduce the permitting schedule from four years down to two or less and should be available for up to two construction permits per reactor design.

The fast-track program would consist of:

1. Focusing NRC Resources. Per congressional direction, the NRC should focus its resources on permitting designated fast-track applications as quickly as possible without sacrificing safety or quality assurance.

2. Mobilizing National Laboratory Capabilities. Although the NRC already uses the national labs to support their activities, the national labs should be compelled by Congress to organize themselves to support the fast-track applications.

3. Focus University Funding Around Supporting the Effort. The Department of Energy funds programs that support nuclear education in the university system. These programs should be focused on supporting the NRC's fast-track program. This would not only provide additional resources to fast-tracking permits but would also develop a workforce with the technical expertise to design and operate America's reactors.

4. Ensuring a Science- and Technical-Based Assessment. The NRC must have the freedom to pursue a transparent, fact-based process in a non-adversarial environment. While inputs from local stakeholders must be accommodated, the NRC must be allowed to make decisions based on good science and engineering in a timely manner. This requires an efficient process that allows legitimate concerns to be heard and resolved without being hijacked by outside, agenda-driven interests.

Fast-track program applicants would have to meet certain criteria. These would include:

1. NRC Certified or Proven Design. The NRC has already certified four designs (although one is currently being amended) and reviewing three others. While only reactors with certified designs are licensable, applicants with designs that are nearing completion, especially if those designs are proven elsewhere, should be eligible for a slightly modified fast-track program that would include design certification.

2. Proven Site with Broad Public Support. The reactor site must already be licensed for operating reactors, and the applicant must demonstrate that the new reactor is welcome by the local community. Furthermore, the applicant must establish that an additional reactor will be safe and environmentally compatible. Under such conditions, the NRC should be permitted to provide an expedited environmental review, which takes roughly two years under current policy.

3. Proven Reactor Owner/Operator. The application must be submitted by an operator with extensive experience with nuclear operations and be in good standing with the NRC. This is not to suggest that some current COL applicants are not capable, but fast-track applicants must have extensive nuclear operations experience and credibility with the state and local community. Each applicant would have to demonstrate its competence to the NRC before entering the program.

4. Proven Demand. The applicant must demonstrate that there is a market for the power to be produced by the reactor.

5. Complete COL (Combined Operations and Construction License) Application. The applicant must have a full and complete COL application per NRC guidance. One of the current problems slowing the NRC is the lack of completeness of some of the applications. Complete applications are critical to ensuring that the NRC is able to conduct a comprehensive design and safety review without having to go back to the applicant for additional information.

6. Long-Lead Components Commitment. The applicant must demonstrate both a financial commitment and a preparedness to earnestly move forward by securing a source for timely delivery of long-lead components. Many of the components used to build a nuclear power plant must be ordered years in advance. Applicants seeking fast-track permits should be required to place early orders or deposits as soon as they are granted a fast-track permitting status.

7. Applicant Fees. Like most other NRC activities, industry should fund most of the activities associated with the fast-track program through the assessment of a program participation fee.

To execute the program, Congress must:

1. Provide Specific Direction to the NRC, National Labs, and Department of Energy. Congress must explicitly state its intentions for the fast-track program and make funding contingent on the NRC, national labs, and DOE to organizing themselves to achieve the objective of early completion of new reactor construction.

2. Adequately Fund. If Congress is serious about reducing the time it takes to permit and build new reactors, it must give NRC, the national labs, and the DOE the resources and regulatory flexibility they need to get the job done. Rebuilding America's energy infrastructure is exactly the kind of direction that each of these institutions should be working toward.

Many Benefits, Few Drawbacks

Many in Congress have begun to realize that the nation's energy, economic, security, and environmental objectives cannot be met without nuclear power. This has led to multiple initiatives to restart the industry in the U.S. Unfortunately, many of these plans rely heavily on subsidies and are not sustainable. However, instituting a program to fast-track the notoriously arduous process of permitting new plants would demonstrate Congress' commitment to nuclear power and provide the regulatory stability that investors need to grow the industry. Furthermore, it would provide a common purpose around which America's energy-related institutions could organize. And finally, it would provide the information necessary to bring about comprehensive regulatory reform that the nation needs for a nuclear renaissance to take hold.

Jack Spencer is Research Fellow in Nuclear Energy in the Thomas A. Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation.

Omnibus Public Lands Package Fails House

March 11, 2009
2:00 PM

CONTACT: American Rivers
David Moryc, American Rivers, 503-307-1137 ext. 3069
Caitlin Jennings, American Rivers, 202-347-7550 ext. 3100
Omnibus Public Lands Package Meets Opposition in the House
The House stops legislation that would protect over 350,000 acres along 86 rivers

WASHINGTON - March 11 - The House of Representatives rejected legislation today that would have included the second largest Wild and Scenic package in history. The House voted on S. 22, the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, under a suspension of the rules. Unfortunately, the bill was defeated 282-144, just two votes shy of the necessary two-thirds of the Representatives present.

The bipartisan S.22, which passed the Senate with 73 votes to 21, seeks to safeguard over 1,100 miles of rivers in Oregon, Idaho, Arizona, Wyoming, Utah, Vermont, and Massachusetts. The legislation also includes important protections for 350,000 acres of land along 86 new Wild and Scenic Rivers and it also contains new Wilderness designations for over two million acres of public land.

"While we are very disappointed that the House chose not to protect these national treasures today, we hope Speaker Pelosi and Chairman Rahall will bring the bill up for another vote in the near future," said David Moryc, Senior Director of River Protection at American Rivers. "We are very grateful to the Members who supported this bill today and to the sponsors of the Wild and Scenic provisions on both sides of the aisle for their continued efforts to pass S. 22."

A Wild and Scenic designation creates a protected buffer along both sides of a river, blocks dams and other harmful water projects, and preserves a river's free-flowing nature. It also helps protect and improve water quality, as well as the river's unique historic, cultural, scenic, ecological, and recreational values.

"From the Snake River headwaters in Wyoming to the desert Southwest's Fossil Creek, to the trout streams of the Rockies, and the popular fishing and paddling streams of the Pacific Northwest, our nation's heritage is knit together by these rivers," said Moryc. "They are the lifeblood of the land and our communities. I hope the House soon realizes that these Wild and Scenic designations would be a tremendous gift to future generations."


American Rivers is the only national organization standing up for healthy rivers so our communities can thrive. Through national advocacy, innovative solutions and our growing network of strategic partners, we protect and promote our rivers as valuable assets that are vital to our health, safety and quality of life.

Founded in 1973, American Rivers has more than 65,000 members and supporters nationwide, with offices in Washington, DC and the Mid-Atlantic, Northeast, Midwest, Southeast, California and Northwest regions.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Sarah Susanka's 'Not So Big Remodeling'

Sarah Susanka's 'Not So Big Remodeling': "
Sarah Susanka, author of  "The Not So Big House," jumps into the remodeling market with "Not So Big Remodeling," due next ...