Thursday, March 26, 2015

Mainstream Islamic Culture, and a more modern view

I don't like to get too involved in the Israeli-Palestine Conflict because it is filled with misinformed outrage. I generally like to leave it at, Both sides need to stop. However, that actually makes me a radical, since a huge crowd has built against Israel alone, the Zionists. As such, my examination and reflection has taken me to the basics. The Arab Muslims have been manipulated by their leaders, who they have followed in large numbers, to hate the Jews. They rejected the UN proposal, or any idea of a compromise, in 1947, then made war on May 15, 1948. Take it from there to its logical conclusions. I found two Muslim views which demonstrate the distinction between the overwhelming mainstream Arab Muslim culture, and getting free of that. Ministering to the Upwardly Mobile Muslim By SAMANTHA M. SHAPIRO Published: April 30, 2006 Early one gray Friday morning in late December, Mona K. left her parents' house in a residential neighborhood in Alexandria, Egypt, and headed downtown to Al Amirat, a wedding hall facing the Mediterranean Sea. She was going to see Amr Khaled, a Muslim TV preacher. Khaled's devotional programs are broadcast on Iqraa, a Saudi-owned religious satellite channel, and together with millions of other mostly young Muslims in the Middle East and Europe, Mona is a loyal viewer. Olaf Blecker for The New York Times Amr Khaled. Olaf Blecker for The New York Times Getting His Word Out: It wasn't until sales if Khaled's first tapes, sold by street vendors, hit 50,000 that an Egyptian TV network took notice. I traveled with Khaled in Egypt, England and Germany last winter, listening to him speak to large crowds and small groups. Many of his followers had stories much like Mona's. Her family, as she was growing up, was traditional — she prayed fairly regularly, and she always fasted during Ramadan — but not extremely religious. She had been listening to Khaled's sermons and watching him on television since a friend took her to one of his talks when she was a teenager. She was blown away. Khaled was different from any religious speaker she had ever heard. He wasn't an imam; in fact, he didn't have any official religious credentials at all. He was young, just 38, and like Mona he'd had a secular education. He had worked as an accountant for Cairo's most prestigious firm. On TV, he dressed in stylish European suits or jaunty sweaters and polo shirts — no long robes — and he spoke not in classical Arabic but the way she did, peppering his sermons with Egyptian slang. He told emotional stories about the Prophet Muhammad that often concluded with simple, satisfying morals and a list of practical lessons to apply in the week ahead. He used modern Western terms, saying that Islam "empowers" women and that the Prophet Muhammad was "the first manager" and held "press conferences." Unlike traditional Muslim religious leaders, Khaled didn't parse the finer points of Islamic law or get too deeply into political questions — he emphasized that he wasn't qualified to speak on either. He talked instead about how to be successful and happy and how to enjoy life while avoiding sin. On his TV show and in his frequent public appearances, he told his audiences how much Allah loved people, how merciful Allah was and how easy it was to earn his forgiveness. Khaled was tall and athletic and masculine, but he had a gentle demeanor, and when he prayed with his audience, he often broke down in tears. Khaled is especially popular among women, who are drawn in part by the fact that he addresses them directly in his sermons and emphasizes their central role in Islam — he has pointed out that the first convert to Islam and the first martyr to die in jihad were both women. He compares women's bodies to pearls, so precious that they require a thick shell of covering. He once told his followers that when the Prophet's wife Aisha had her menstrual period and was moody, Muhammad always made extra efforts to "display love and compassion." As she watched and listened to Khaled's sermons, Mona grew more excited about Islam. She began praying more often. She tried fasting on Mondays and Thursdays, which the Koran recommends. Once, Mona wrote a letter to Khaled asking for "Islamic guidance" concerning a personal problem. Khaled receives thousands of letters and phone calls a week from young people asking for his advice on everything from whom to marry to how to pray to what to do if they think they might be gay. "He replied back with the most tender words," Mona recalled when I met her. (She asked that I not use her full name.) "He sent a card, and it said, 'If you want to ask me anything else, consider me like your elder brother!' It wasn't copied and pasted — he really reads your letters and gives you his thoughts, and he is so tender and most adorable." When Mona arrived at Al Amirat that morning, a few bubbly young volunteers stood at the entrance with clipboards. One of them checked Mona's name off the list, and then Mona headed upstairs to a ballroom painted maroon and gold and hung with chandeliers. It was crowded; about 250 middle- and upper-class young professionals and university students were milling around. There was a stage at the far end of the room, where men in suits who looked to be management consultants were setting up projection screens for a PowerPoint presentation. None of the men in the room wore traditional beards, which Khaled says are optional — he himself has no beard at all, just a neatly trimmed mustache. All but one of the women in the room were wearing hijabs, or head scarves, which Khaled says is a requirement of Islam. Some women were fully covered by what amounted to burkas: in addition to robes and head scarves, they were wearing veils that cover the face and eyes, and gloves to cover their hands. Other women had negotiated a compromise between piety and fashion; they wore hijabs trimmed with pink lace around their faces, or they wore them with jeans or electric blue eye shadow. My Life as an Egyptian Muslim Radical Dr. Tawfik Hamid reveals the indoctrination of Egyptian youth and the election of the extremist Muslim Brotherhood. by Rabbi Shraga Simmons Dr. Tawfik Hamid (pronounced taw-feek hameed) was born and bred in Egypt. While attending medical school in Cairo he joined the Muslim terror organization Gamaat Islamiya, where his colleagues included Ayman al-Zawahiri, the current leader of Al Qaeda. Using the powers of his intellect, Dr. Hamid was eventually able to pry himself away from the extremist indoctrination and embrace a far more moderate and tolerant version of Islam. Currently, Dr. Hamid is a Senior Fellow and Chair for the Study of Islamic Radicalism at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies. His book, Inside Jihad: Understanding and Confronting Radical Islam, has been hailed as a manifesto on how to neutralize the threat of radical Islam. Dr. Hamid spoke with this week from his home in Washington DC. In a wide-ranging and candid interview, he offers insights into the recent election of Mohamed Morsi as president of Egypt; the possibility of a nuclear Iran; and the key to revitalizing Islam as a “religion of peace.” Dr. Tawfik Let’s go back to the beginning. How did you – who grew up in a liberal household, the son of an orthopedic surgeon – become a member of a radical Islamic group? Dr. Hamid: I was a normal kid occupied with school and hobbies such as sports, stamp collecting, chess and music. Although my parents were secular, I had a desire to find God. I always believed that God and the world are aligned, but I never connected my heart to my mind. Then I took a biology class where I learned about the molecular structure of DNA. I felt that I’d discovered an expression of God in the world. This was the beginning of my spiritual journey. Unfortunately my zealousness for God led me to the darker side of Islam. You joined Gamaat Islamiya, a U.S.-designated terrorist organization dedicated to the violent imposition of Sharia law. How did that come about? Dr. Hamid: I was at medical school in Cairo. Studying anatomy and physiology increased my belief in God and made me more enthusiastic about Islam. The radicals were on the lookout for people like me. I was recruited and indoctrinated in three psychological stages: 1) hatred of non-Muslims and dissenting Muslims, and 2) suppression of my conscience. At that point I was open to accepting the third psychological stage: violence in the service of Allah without guilt. What specific goal did they have for you? Dr. Hamid: I met Ayman al-Zawahiri, now the leader of al-Qaeda, who was one of the top postgraduate students in the medical school. He dreamed of forcing the West to conform to a Taliban-style system where women are obligated to wear the hijab, are legally beaten by men to discipline them, and are stoned to death for extramarital sex. I was groomed to go to Afghanistan to join other young Muslims in training for jihad, to perform crimes in the name of God. My sponsors pledged to make all the logistical and financial arrangements. I was excited to go because my personal dream was to be an Islamic warrior, in accordance with the verse: “When you meet the unbelievers, smite their necks” (Koran 47:4). This seemed the easiest way to attain my purpose in life and to guarantee my salvation in the afterlife.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Seed Banks in the US- SAve Agriculture from Big Business

My brother, his wife, and their kids were passing through recently, and I brought up Vandana Shiva briefly. I had read about her in Francis Moore Lappe and Anna's Hope's Edge. There are also a few sweet videos on line where VS's cutting intellect bursts forth. She hasn't won the Nobel Prize, or the Right Livelihood Award, for that matter, and maybe she doesn't need it. She is all about helping the grassroots organize there in India, as opposed to, say, the corporate executive driven farmer suicides there. I was wondering about the US. In taking a look at Via Campesina in the US I found something interesting, but nothing I recall about seed banks. Then I just found this on Alternet.... Environment Seed Libraries Are Sprouting Up Across the Planet, and Corporate Dominated Govts Are Trying to Stop Them Amid government crackdown, seed libraries expand biodiversity and food access. By Christopher D. Cook / Shareable March 17, 2015 Print COMMENT NOW! It’s easy to take seeds for granted. Tiny dry pods hidden in packets and sacks, they make a brief appearance as gardeners and farmers collect them for future planting then later drop them into soil. They are not “what’s for dinner,” yet without them there would be no dinner. Seeds are the forgotten heroes of food—and of life itself. Sharing these wellsprings of sustenance may sound innocuous enough, yet this increasingly popular exchange—and wider seed access—is up against a host of legal and economic obstacles. The players in this surreal saga, wherein the mere sharing of seeds is under attack, range from agriculture officials interpreting seed laws, to powerful corporations expanding their proprietary and market control. Seed libraries—a type of agricultural commons where gardeners and farmers can borrow and share seed varieties, enriching their biodiversity and nutrition—have sprouted up across the U.S. in recent years, as more Americans seek connection to food and the land. This new variety of seed sharing has blossomed from just a dozen libraries in 2010 to more than 300 today. The sharing of seeds “represents embedded knowledge that we’ve collected over 10,000 years,” says Jamie Harvie, executive director of the Institute for a Sustainable Future, based in Duluth, Minnesota. “Healthy resilient communities are characterized not by how we control other people, and more about valuing relationships.” As Harvie suggests, seed libraries offer a profound alternative to the corporate takeover of seeds, which has reached frightful proportions: according to the non-profit ETC Group, just three firms control more than half of the worldwide seed business (more than doubling their 22% share in 1996), while the top ten corporations now occupy 76 percent of the global market. Monsanto alone has 26 percent of the world’s seed market, with Du Pont and Syngenta not far behind. A 2013 report by ETC Group shows the startling scope of the industry’s market power, across the panorama of seeds, agrochemicals, and genetics: Four firms control 58.2% of seeds; 61.9% of agrochemicals; 24.3% of fertilizers; 53.4% of animal pharmaceuticals; and, in livestock genetics, 97% of poultry and two-thirds of swine and cattle research. Kristina Hubbard, communications director for the Organic Seed Alliance, sees a direct connection between corporate control and the seed-sharing movement. “I think community-based projects like seed libraries are at least in part a direct response to concerns people have about who controls our seed,” explains Hubbard. “It’s a necessary response, as seed industry consolidation continues and is increasing the vulnerability of our seed and food systems. We need more decision makers in the form of seed stewards, and more resiliency in our seed and food systems.” Seed Libraries Rising “Love the earth around you,” urges Betsy Goodman, a 27-year-old farmer in Western Iowa, where “most of the landscape is covered in uniform rows of corn and soybeans.” Working on an 11-acre organic farm that sprouts 140 varieties of tomatoes and 60 varieties of peppers, among other crops, Goodman has become something of a seed evangelist. In 2012, she launched the Common Soil Seed Library, just across the Missouri River in nearby Omaha, Nebraska—enabling area gardeners and farmers to borrow some 5,000 seed packets (112 different varieties) to date. “It didn’t make sense to me that no one was perpetuating the cycle of seed and life,” says Goodman. “People have this idea that you put a seed in the ground, harvest your food, and let it die.” Goodman says she is working to perpetuate life. “The basis of our whole food system comes from the seed,” she says. “I think people are not generally conscious of how grateful we should be for our food diversity and wealth.” Goodman sees the seed library as an essential reclaiming of farming traditions and local food security. “I want farmers to go back to saving seeds. It’s our responsibility to uphold our food system. It takes everybody.” But, she says, many farmers remain isolated and unaware of the seed-sharing movement. “The consciousness around this is not there yet. I haven’t really heard from farmers yet…The farmers buy their seed each year from Monsanto and Syngenta, this huge industrial system that’s very much in control of this state and surrounding states.” Farmers, she adds, “rely on these companies to buy their corn, they are very tied into these companies, and can’t even feed themselves off of the food they’re growing.” Motivated by similar concerns, the Wisconsin Seed Savers Alliance has helped germinate six seed libraries (with three more on the way this spring) across five counties in the state’s economically isolated northeast, along the shores of Lake Superior. “A lot of food grown here is shipped away,” says Alliance director Tessah Wickus. She explains that seed libraries are about “sharing the burden of growing food and making sure we all have something nutritious…We don’t have a whole lot of income sources, our schools are in the system for hot lunch programs, and we have a high poverty rate. One of the concerns here is food security and expanding local foods.” While small in scale, Wisconsin’s seed library alliance has tapped a well of interest among new farmers and old, says Wickus, who is 25. “Sharing seeds is part of helping the next generation of farmers…[T]his is an integral part of how to survive and sustain yourself, how to pass along knowledge from one generation to another. People have a hunger to know where their food comes from, something we’ve lost.” About 200 miles westward, on the White Earth Indian Reservation in northern Minnesota, a new seed library offers varieties of sunflower, bean, corn and other seeds to residents—many of whom are poor and seeking a reconnection to indigenous food and farming. Most of the money here “goes off the reservation,” says Zachary Paige, farm manager at the White Earth Land Recovery Project. “This is one way to get the economy back on the reservation, and save money for food, instead of buying seeds from catalogs,” he says, while also “closing that loop in producing food.” Paige (who is not Native American) helped start the White Earth Seed Library two years ago, and is working with local college and school garden projects to cultivate traditional seed varieties. He points to an indigenous tradition of growing and sharing food, and a revival of highly nutritious pre-Columbus crops, such as Bear Island Corn. Sharing seeds fits into a larger goal on the reservation of “trying to eat healthier and relieve diabetes.” Seed-Sharing Crackdown But all this seed-sharing love is butting up against some prodigious economic and regulatory challenges. As the libraries spread across the US, they are catching scrutiny from agriculture officials in states such as Pennsylvania, Minnesota, and Iowa, who express concerns about unlabeled seed packets, and the spreading of contaminated seeds and noxious or invasive species. One flashpoint in this battle is a small seed library in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, which ran into a regulatory dispute with the state’s department of agriculture. Last June, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture informed an employee of the Joseph T. Simpson Public Library that its seed library ran afoul of state seed laws and would have to shut down or follow exorbitant testing and labeling rules intended for commercial seed enterprises. County Commissioner Barbara Cross raised the specter of terrorism, telling local media, “Agri-terrorism is a very, very real scenario,” she said. “Protecting and maintaining the food sources of America is an overwhelming you’ve got agri-tourism on one side and agri-terrorism on the other.” The library was forced to limit its sharing, holding a special seed swapping event instead. As Mechanicsburg seed librarian Rebecca Swanger explained to media at the time, “We can only have current-year seeds, which means 2014, and they have to be store-purchased because those seeds have gone through purity and germination rate testing. People can't donate their own seeds because we can't test them as required by the Seed Act.” While the Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC) insists that laws regulating large commercial seed companies do not apply to seed libraries, “other states are now considering adopting Pennsylvania’s seed protocol,” Shareable reported—potentially stopping the seed library movement in its tracks. But Pennsylvania and some other states “have misapplied the law entirely,” says Neil Thapar, staff attorney at SELC, which is spearheading a national seed library campaign called Save Seed Sharing. Pennsylvania’s Seed Act, he says, “does not actually authorize the state agriculture department to regulate noncommercial seed sharing through seed libraries.” Thapar argues that applying state seed laws to the libraries is “inappropriate because it violates the original spirit and intent of these laws. Seed laws were created solely as consumer protection laws to protect farmers from unscrupulous seed companies in the marketplace.” In contrast, seed sharing takes place outside of markets, as a “noncommercial activity in community.” Minnesota’s budding seed library movement has encountered similar resistance. Last September, the state’s department of agriculture (MDA) informed the Duluth Seed Library that it was in violation of state seed laws that prohibit transferring ownership of seeds without comprehensive testing. Harvie, who helped organize the library effort in Duluth, recalls the crackdown “really shocked people…it seemed like an egregious overreach.” Harvie says the Department of Agriculture enforcements nationally are galvanizing people to support seed libraries. “What people are asking is, who’s being hurt,” he says. “Nobody is being hurt. The only one anyone can imagine being hurt is the seed industry.” Was the seed industry behind the MDA’s actions? Harvie does not suspect a conspiracy, but he notes, “There had to be some pressure, the [MDA] has plenty of other things to do. Perhaps the MDA knew that by purposefully enforcing the law, it would draw out support for saving.” Minnesota’s Seed Program Advisory Group, which advises the MDA on state seed laws, meets three times a year and publishes no records of its meetings. Its members include major state commodity groups such as the Minnesota Corn Growers Association, Soybean Growers Association, and the Minnesota Crop Improvement Association. When the advisory group met last December, Harvie recalls, “I think the Department of Agriculture was excited for us to be at the meeting. It provided them with some community voice,” he says, “when too often it is only industry that can afford the time and expense of attending meetings. The lesson is, the community has to stand up and be present.” With nationwide challenges to seed libraries, activists worry about a chilling effect on this nascent and increasingly popular form of seed-sharing. In Omaha, Nebraska, the community “has responded really well and been very supportive” of Common Soil’s initiative, says Goodman. “We’re not being attacked, we are being supported,” she says, by gardeners and lawmakers interested in putting the libraries on more solid legal ground. But, she adds, “I was approached by others across Nebraska who wanted to open seed libraries, but they were afraid they would put all this work in and get shut down.” It remains unclear whether the seed industry has played any role in promoting the enforcement push, but this powerful agribusiness sector is vigilant about expanding its control over seeds. As first reported by MintPress News this January, the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is peddling its “Pre-Emption of Local Agricultural Laws Act”—a law providing “exclusive regulatory power over agricultural seed, flower seed and vegetable seed and products of agriculture seed, flower seed and vegetable seed to the state.” Despite the conservative mantra of “local control,” ALEC’s measure would prohibit local governments from enacting or enforcing measures to “inhibit or prevent the production or use of agricultural seed, flower seed or vegetable seed or products.” Meanwhile, the American Seed Trade Association advocates for “Strong intellectual property protection,” to keep investment dollars flowing, and to “add value to agriculture and society through new products. Any state legislation that could undermine this simple principle is vigorously opposed.” Asked for its stance on seed libraries, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) stated, “We have not received any formal complaints of mislabeled seed being distributed in interstate commerce through these programs (seed libraries).” The Federal Seed Act (FSA) governs “truthful labeling of agricultural and vegetable seed shipped in interstate commerce,” the agency said, adding, “It remains to be seen if any of the seed being obtained from these libraries will make it into interstate commerce.” Unless the seeds are shipped across state lines, or “determined to be a variety protected” under the federal Seed Act, the FSA “has no jurisdiction over this seed. Individual States will need to establish internal methods of dealing with labeling and possible mislabeling of the seed packets.” Saving the Libraries As state agriculture agencies consider whether to curtail seed libraries, legislative efforts are underway in Nebraska, Minnesota, and other states, to protect them. The Community Gardens Act [pdf] currently moving through the Nebraska legislature would exempt seed libraries from state laws governing seed labeling and testing. In December 2014, the city council of Duluth, Minnesota passed a resolution supporting seed sharing “without legal barriers of labeling fees and germination testing.” Perhaps more significantly, the Duluth resolution advocated reforming the Minnesota Seed Law to “support the sharing of seeds by individuals and through seed libraries,” by exempting these forms of sharing from the law’s labeling, testing, and permitting requirements. After one reform measure was withdrawn from the Minnesota legislature, activists are gearing up for another legislative push soon. In coming months, seed-sharing advocates can expect legislative battles across the US—some seeking to expand libraries’ sharing rights, and others limiting the exchange. Meanwhile, agribusiness continues to widen its economic and legal control over the world’s seed supply. “Seed sharing is an interactive and vibrant contrast to the extractive marketplace,” says Harvie. The battle over seed libraries and sharing represents “a clash of worldviews that just don’t reconcile.” Despite the challenges, Goodman remains buoyant about the seed library movement. “It’s natural for companies to try to get power over this, but it’s our responsibility to push back and establish our freedom,” she says. “We are losing huge chunks of our food system, and it’s our responsibility to reclaim it. We have to be the ones to do it.” Christopher D. Cook, an award-winning journalist and author, worked as communications director for the No on S campaign in Berkeley. His work has appeared in Harper’s, The Economist, the Los Angeles Times and elsewhere. His website is

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Hogfarm Waste and Biogas Generators Anyone?

Besides the fact that Wind Power, solar, and small hydro are some exciting RE technologies, there is the question of intermittency, you know, variability. Biogas generation can solve that. Moreover, I was reading about Hog Farm Waste again recently, huge pools of stopped up animal manure in toxic pools, just because they are left sitting there. It should be no problem, not least of which is the same solution as for intermittency, biogas. I was reading about one company, Midwest Biogas, from 2009. Alas, nothing since then, so the prize goes to Avant Energy. Europeans, especially the Germans, have been doing it for more than 30 years, I'm happy to say. The US has been big on cell phones, iPads, and tablets, all toxic and slave-labor made. A few years ago, Greenfreeze ozone-safe refrigeration technology was finally had bans lifted. Now there's biogas. That is some of the scope of the US's insanity, but Corporate Executive imperialism and oligarchy have only severely slowed Climate Change ecological response. Slowly, some good news has appeared. -------- The Legacy of Slavery: What Inequality and Industrial Hog Operations Have in Common By Laura Orlando The location of North Carolina's industrial hog operations in 2014 overlaid on the density of North Carolina's enslaved people in the 1860s. Steve Wing American agriculture is not one story, but many. Millions of animals living in confined spaces as part of large scale, market-directed production—industrial agribusiness—is one of the more horrific ones. For people that live near industrial hog operations, where hundreds or thousands of hogs are raised in a confined space, with open pits of urine and feces and regular disposal these wastes near their homes, it becomes a story about health and quality of life. Steve Wing, an epidemiologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill shows that it’s also about environmental injustice. Research by Wing and Jill Johnston, a UNC postdoctoral scholar, documents that most of the 9.6 million hogs in North Carolina live in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) in the eastern part of the state where they disproportionately impact African Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans. Their 2014 study found that the swine CAFOs—also known as industrial hog operations (IHOs)—permitted by the North Carolina Division of Water Quality are located in counties with high non-white populations. Duplin County, on the southeastern coastal plain, is home to 2.35 million hogs distributed among 530 hog operations. In Duplin, 43 percent of the population is non-white. One of the poorest counties in North Carolina, Duplin has a poverty rate of 23.6 percent. Wing and Johnston do not focus directly on issues of wealth and poverty in their study, but they observe that IHOs are “relatively absent from low-poverty White communities.” After all, no industrial hog operation is located next to North Carolina’s Executive Mansion. Over the past two decades, the number of U.S. hog farms declined by more than 70 percent while hog production rose by more than 30 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In 2007, 97 percent of hogs were raised in places with over 500 animals. Three-quarters of hogs sold for market are from “specialized operations” with corporate production contracts that buy 30 to 80 pound pigs from other “specialized operations” and finish them to 240 to 270 pounds, slaughter weight. The people that manage these operations are not called farmers: they are “contract growers.” Like other U.S. corporate agribusinesses, industrial hog operations are heavily supported by state and national policies. Larger operations are more profitable than smaller ones because the pigs are treated as commodities, their feed is mechanized, and the cost of environmental and public health damage is not considered in the balance sheet. The human and environmental costs Water and air pollution from the confinement of thousands of swine endanger the health of people living nearby. Industrial hog operations pollute the air with a complex mixture of particulates (e.g., fecal matter and endotoxins), vapors and gases (e.g., ammonia and hydrogen sulfide)—all of which have negative health effects. Add odor from feces, not only a nuisance but also the cause of health problems, and you get sick people. Wing and colleagues have recorded stress, anxiety, mucous membrane irritation, respiratory conditions, reduced lung function and acute blood pressure elevation.... (read the rest at the main article....) ----------- Here is a fine, recent overview, with a confirmation of the Hometown plant as the first successful electrical generating plant in the US....apparently, the efforts by Midwest Biogas did not go through somehow.... original article Market improving for waste-to-energy projects in Minnesota Posted on 09/16/2014 by Frank Jossi The Hometown Bioenergy plant near Le Sueur, Minnesota, can produce up to 8 MW of electricity. (Photo ©Le Sueur News-Herald, used with permission) With the help of some aggressive bugs that thrive on a diet of waste and manure, the $45 million Hometown Bioenergy plant in Le Sueur, Minnesota has reached 60 percent capacity since opening in December of 2013. “It’s a biological process, it’s not like you can flip the switch,” said Kelsey Dillon, the vice president of bioenergy for Avant Energy Inc., which manages the plant. “There’s definitely an art to getting the bugs acclimated and getting them tuned up to digest this material at higher and higher strengths, if you will, we’re still in that ramp-up period, but it’s going well.” The anaerobic digester, capable of producing 8 megawatts of electricity, is one of the largest facilities of its kind in the country. It sits on a 35 acre site and draws customers from a 60 mile radius, including sweet corn canning operators and other vegetable processors, who bring their waste and pay tipping fees to have Hometown take care of it, she said. A subsidiary of the 12-member Minnesota Municipal Power Agency, Hometown is one of a growing number of industrial scale digesters either under construction and in the planning stages in Minnesota and around the country. The Port Authority of St. Paul, for example, has made investments in nine large-scale anaerobic digester projects in St. Paul, South St. Paul, Chaska, East Grand Forks, Austin and Becker. They range in size from $10 million to $35 million, said Peter Klein, the Port Authority’s vice president of finance. The Central Region office of Natural Systems Utilities LLC will soon announce two industrial-scale anaerobic digester projects in the Midwest valued at between $14 million and $40 million, one that will be located in Minnesota, said Ryan Brandt, executive vice president. “We’re starting to see the market shift to favoring projects in the $10 million to $50 million range, while the projects $10 million and less are harder to raise capital for,” he said. Several trends are making for a more attractive market for digesters, among them a desire to reduce the level of waste going to landfills, to produce more renewable energy and to create value out of agricultural waste, he said. Minnesota’s food industry needs disposal options and anaerobic digesters provide an answer, said Brandt. What differentiates these new projects from the kind of farm-based digesters that employ manure to produce methane is that the larger operations rely on food and agricultural waste, he said. In some cases the digesters will be located near food and beverage manufacturers that have a steady of waste available for disposal. “Europe has had this for decades but now we’re just catching wind and seeing how waste is being redefined for us,” Brandt said. “We’re seeing a market shift to ban organics from coming into landfills, which offers opportunities for anaerobic digesters to handle that waste.” The Minnesota Project in a major study on farm digesters reported that the United States has 126 anaerobic operations producing electricity. Hometown Bioenergy is one of the first, if not the first, to produce electricity from waste in Minnesota. In some cases biogas is being used to replace natural gas, too. The Metropolitan Council Environmental Services added a solids processing facility at Blue Lake Wastewater Treatment Plant in Shakopee that opened in 2012. By being able to replace as much as 80 percent of the plant’s natural gas needs with methane biogas the Met Council saw a savings of $500,000 annually. The biogas facility also fuels hot water boilers and provides other advantages that reduce the need for natural gas purchases. Other market drivers Additional factors fueling biodigester growth include regulations, tax credits, a push by the White House, and aggressive marketing by three German companies which see a rich American market, said Paul Greene, director of the American Biogas Council. The federal government in August issued a new “biogas roadmap,” he said, that calls for creation of 11,000 more digesters, up from the 2,116 that exist today. By reaching that total the nation could see enough methane to power three million homes and fuel 2.5 million vehicles. Digesters are taking off because “it’s a good greenhouse gas story, a good renewable energy story, a good nutrient management story a good green energy story, so that has all helped,” he said. Several Northeast states have implemented new regulations banning food waste from landfill sites, Greene said, with Massachusetts’ new law starting in October. New York City businesses that produce more than one ton of food waste a week must divert that to something other than a landfill, he said. Larger producers, such as hotels, can no longer send their food waste to landfill sites, leaving a potential for entrepreneurs to come in with an anaerobic digester solution. Agencies in the Northeast, he added, are offering financial encouragement for developers. Anheuser-Busch, for example, uses a “beneficial energy recycling system” that takes brewery waste and makes methane gas that is reused in plants for heating, he said. The St. Paul Port Authority has invested $1.3 million in digesters that began when the RockTenn paper recycling plant was threatened with closure, said Klein. Although he points out that RockTenn will not use the biogas from digesters directly, the Port Authority will receive carbon credits while “producing an economic benefit” to those communities. For now, however, the investments have yielded only one completed project, Klein said. Full Circle Organics in Becker has been operating since June and collected several thousand tons of organic material, according to an article in the St. Cloud Times. The carbon credit market may be struggling, but the Port Authority believes it will rebound, he said. In the meantime, food processors would benefit by having anaerobic digesters and be more competitive by having to pay less for their energy, he said. “The country has to look at what Europe is doing,” he said. “There is a value to it if you can separate waste out — you can produce energy from it. If you just put it in a landfill it will create methane, anyway, which is a harmful greenhouse gas. The landfill companies have these collection systems but they don’t really collect all the gas.” The Port Authority has offered a proposal to the state to create a state-sponsored fund to promote $80 million in investment in five large scale anaerobic digesters at wastewater treatment facilities. Although it has yet to pass the legislature, Klein said the effort will continue. ------------ Midwest Biogas to use ethanol byproducts, animal waste By Anna Austin Minnesota-based Midwest Biogas LLC is greeting the new year with plans to construct a biogas plant in northern Iowa, a project that will mark the company's renewable energy debut. appears not to have been completed ..... (read the rest at the main article site) (see also below, Mid-size Dairy Farms) ---------- Biogas comes of age As biogas becomes big business, it’s creating new opportunities for all involved in managing food waste. Iyad Omari from London-based cleantech investor, Frog Capital, and Peter Stepany, Chief Technology Officer of German biogas specialists,, set out the choices facing biogas companies and the challenges that need to be met. by Iyad Omari & Peter Stepany A unique source of renewable energy Despite the recent UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen showing how hard it is to build an international consensus, the worldwide drive to find clean, renewable energy sources remains undimmed. This isn’t simply an issue of global warming. Many countries are also keen to cut their reliance on fossil fuels due to concerns over security of supply. Germany has been a beacon of sustainable energy practice in Europe for 20 years, with a strong regulatory framework to encourage clean energy production. is one of the success stories to emerge from Germany’s green wave. Since 2004 it has set up around 50 plants across Germany, Austria and Italy to generate biogas – gas extracted from organic matter including organic waste. The company is the largest biogas producer in Europe and the huge demand for clean energy looks set to underpin its rapid growth for years to come. To date’s model has relied on the use of purpose-grown crops as fuel. But as the biogas sector becomes big business, it is creating a wealth of opportunities for profitable partnerships with those who manage an alternative fuel – food waste. To understand these opportunities, it helps to get a taste of biogas production and the complex choices it offers. The recent investment in by London-based cleantech specialist, Frog Capital, was driven by a belief that biogas has unique advantages. It uses well-proven technology and combines strong green credentials (e.g. its ability to recover energy from biodegradable waste, thus diverting it from landfill) with reliability and ease of storage. These are characteristics that other renewable energies such as solar, wind and wave power find it hard to match. A technology whose time has come For many, Germany is the model to follow when it comes to biogas. The German Renewable Energy Act (known as EEG) gives biogas producers a lot of comfort. Producers who burn biogas to generate electricity for the grid earn a tariff that’s guaranteed for 20 years from the plant’s inception. This certainty helps producers obtain the 10-year finance that plants need and supports long-term contracts with feedstock suppliers. Although most of Germany’s biogas producers currently convert it to electricity, they also have the option of pumping a purified version of the gas directly into the national network. The tariffs for this aren’t guaranteed but they’re not entirely free-moving either; so much gas is ultimately burnt to generate electricity that its price tends to move in line with electricity prices, creating a level of predictability that facilitates long-term gas supply contracts. Deciding how to use biogas from AD Several factors have to be weighed up when deciding how to use the biogas. Injecting gas into the grid demands complex processes for scrubbing it. On the other hand, burning it to create electricity involves running an engine and finding a customer for the excess heat emitted by the process; without a customer for the heat, a lot of the primary energy value is wasted. So far most sites established by burn gas to create electricity because they’ve been able to identify local clients for heat, e.g. commercial businesses that operate drying processes. But the number of customers for year-round heat is limited and many are already satisfied. Increasingly, therefore, new plants will inject gas into the mains. Getting the right mix of inputs A fundamental decision for a biogas producer is which feedstock to use. Put simply, this comes down to a choice between purpose-grown food crops (biomass) and organic waste generated by households and businesses such as food waste. For a biogas operator running many plants, an ‘ideal’ feedstock has three characteristics: homogenous – the content is consistent and produces stable outputs and that doesn’t upset the bacteria used high energy density – many cubic metres of biogas are produced per tonne of feedstock no pollutants – it does not contain unwanted elements that will be difficult and costly to dispose of at the end of the process. Under the German framework, each plant needs to specify upfront the broad category of feedstock that it is going to use (e.g. food waste or biomass). typically uses feedstock that is roughly 70 % biomass and 30 % animal manure. The crops have high gas yields of around 200 m³ per tonne. The manure’s gas yield is only a tenth of this level, but it contributes useful minerals and makes the overall mix malleable. The feedstock mix also enables it to agree long-term contracts with farmers for the supply of crops and manure, which provides much-needed certainty for everyone.....(go to main article site -------- Energy: Biogas / Methane Digesters New Digester Opportunities — Studying Digester Feasibility for Mid-Sized Dairy Farms Anaerobic digestion technology holds many benefits for Minnesota farms. It has the potential to reduce environmental problems associated with animal agriculture and provide economic benefits to farms and rural communities. It can reduce odor, pathogens, greenhouse gas emissions, costs for bedding by utilizing recycled solids and adds value by producing renewable energy which provides distribution generation of electricity. However, most of the commercially developed anaerobic digester technology has been proven to be most economically feasible on dairy farms that have 300 or more cows. But according to the 2002 Census of Agriculture, 96% of Minnesota's dairy farms have 200 cows or less. This brings into question if there is a possibility that 96% of Minnesota's dairy farms can receive the same economic and environmental benefits from anaerobic digester technology that larger farms can? Through funding provided by AgStar Fund for Rural America, the Minnesota Project was able to contract with Philip Goodrich to complete a preliminary report assessing existing digester systems appropriate for small to mid dairy farm size. Mr. Goodrich has over 30 years of experience in the field of anaerobic digester systems. The report he prepared contains information about six digester models that could be applied for use on small to mid-sized dairy farms. Each model contains information dealing with the schematics of the system, an explanation of how the system functions, environmental benefits, and lessons learned from other similar digesters. Capital costs for the installation of the digesters and yearly costs are presented. (Find more at the original article site) -------- Then there is Peter TAglia, who seems to have made a nice bit of work in Wisconsin a few years back now for the American Biogas Council -------- More information on Midwest Biogas from 2009.. Biogas plant coming to Welcome 0 Posted: Tuesday, September 1, 2009 9:06 pm | Updated: 1:04 am, Tue Sep 2, 2014. By Brian Ojanpa The tiny town of Welcome is hoping to reap big benefits from barnyard manure. Gaylord-based bioenergy development company Midwest Biogas plans to build a plant near the 700-resident community that turns hog and chicken waste into energy for electricity and natural gas. Midwest Biogas President Nick Nelson said the bioenergy park would be the first of several the company plans to build throughout the upper Midwest. “We need to crawl before we can walk,” Nelson said of the start-up venture that would be the first plant of its type in Minnesota. .... Midwest Biogas will use Schmack BioEnergy as its anaerobic digestion technology supplier and is working to secure U.S. Department of Agriculture loan guarantees for the projects. original article