Green Energy – a Gift that Keeps on Giving

November/23/2011 16:38PM
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Solyndra is just one example of taxpayer money wasted on green energy over the years. Here’s an example of another from my blog titled Green Energy Success Story, dated 5-27-09.

Green Energy Success Story
May 27th, 2009 Through the Department of Energy, we taxpayers have made billions of dollars in green energy investment. Through the ethanol subsidy we have paid billions in support to ethanol producers so they could produce a net energy loss product and raise food prices. The Stimulus Bill adds $50 billion a year to the EPA to kick start green energy. Biggest idea from Dr. Chu, make all of us buy a white roof for our house. Big idea for only $50 billion, eh?

So far, none of the huge expenditures have brought about any telling results. I have been looking high and low for a green energy success story, and it appeared this week in the Chicago Tribune.

I was shocked that, Illinois, a state that produced a governor who is serving prison time, another who will be soon, and a U.S. senator who was wiretapped buying his seat from the one and only Rod Blagojevich, could have any success story. After all, Archer-Daniels-Midland is headquartered in Illinois. They have parlayed ethanol into their primary business. They did it by buying votes to support ethanol.

This success story is small by Washington standards. Only $217 million and counting. But, the results will be remarkable. They will turn human waste into fertilizer pellets. Touted as a green project, the “black box” has not cost the city a dime, as yet.

It’s a typical green project. More than 5 years behind schedule. And, $15 million over budget. More interestingly, the city has found better and cheaper ways to dispose of human waste in the 10 plus years the project has been in planning, approval, and construction.

So why is it a success, you ask? There is a contract provision that requires the facility to pass certain tests. If the tests are failed, the City of Chicago can just walk away and stick the investors and the village of Hodgkins with this $217 million loser. That would probably bankrupt the village. Probably the company too. Someone was smart enough to think this might be a product built by lobbyists for lobbyists and political gain. So, they put the escape clause in the contract.

Maybe the company and the village have enough skin in the game to make it work and pass the four tests to begin in June. But, it is late and over budget, so the city may luck out on this one. It would only break a company and a village. It takes a bridge to build a village, not a bad green project.

But, if it passes the tests, the city will have to run it for 5 years even if it isn’t cost effective. Then they can walk away for only a paltry $188 million.

Spinning human manure into gold has proven harder than everyone thought. But, this project will stand alone. You can rest assured all the billions the DOE and the EPA will spend on projects that will be behind time, over budget, and not cost effective will not have escape clauses. So, let’s give credit where credit is due.

Guess what happened? Here’s the followup story. The taxpayers got stuck as always.

The Tribune first reported in May 2009 that the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District had concluded that the 60-foot-tall sludge ovens aren’t needed. After several attempts to block it, district staff recently determined they couldn’t escape the contract and its steep price tag, which keeps growing as consultant fees and other costs pile up.

“You have to remember this contract was signed a decade ago,” said Richard Lanyon, the district’s general superintendent, who inherited the troubled project when he took office. “If we were confronted with the same situation today, we would say we don’t need it. But we have a contract, and we have to live with it.”

The district’s elected commissioners are expected to grant final approval early next month.

The sludge cooker, nicknamed the “Black Box” even though its corrugated steel walls are white, was unveiled a decade ago when district officials feared they were running out of disposal options. Turning a quarter of the region’s sludge into tiny pellets, they said, would make the dried human and industrial waste more marketable to sell as fertilizer to farmers or soil conditioner to park districts.

But the project has been plagued with problems and cost overruns since commissioners awarded the lucrative contract to a company partly owned by the district’s former superintendent, Bart Lynam, raising questions about Chicago-style cronyism and insider politics.

District officials also have found other ways to safely dispose of the region’s sludge — the industry prefers to call it “biosolids” — without sending it through the ovens. Most of it already is being shipped to farmers and park districts, according to water district records.

Attempts to walk away from the contract hinged on the results of four tests conducted last year to determine if the machine works properly.

In documents obtained by the Tribune under the Freedom of Information Act, district officials argued that the contractor failed to follow the letter of their agreement during the tests. Some of the equipment ended up emitting more air pollution than allowed under a state permit, the district wrote in several memos, and a foul stench wafted through the area from a manhole that was supposed to be odor-free.

The contractor responded by obtaining a permit modification from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, which concluded that overall levels of air pollution from the machine were well below state limits. It turned out the stinky manhole could be traced to district officials who inadvertently removed a special cover designed to tamp down odors.

“Technically, they have passed the tests and they are complying with their permit,” said Osoth Jamjun, the district’s chief of maintenance and operations.

Until now, the project’s construction costs and other expenses have been covered by the company and bonds floated by the nearby village of Hodgkins.

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Tags: Green Energy
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11 Responses to “Green Energy Success Story”
No Smoke Blown » Blog Archive » Green Energy Success Story | Green Being says:
May 30, 2009 at 6:16 am (Edit)
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May 31, 2009 at 3:44 am (Edit)
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