From Budgets to Biomass Gasification and Combustion

By Rona Johnson | June 22, 2011

I wanted to write something about the budget battle going on in Washington and attempts to cut funding for the Biomass Crop Assistance Program, but the situation is so fluid that anything I write would be passe within 24 hours, or less.

I do, however, urge members of Congress to keep in mind when they discuss eliminating money for developing biomass projects, the amount of money the U.S. spends to subsidize and to import fossil fuels, not to mention cleanup costs for accidents such as the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Now, on to bigger and more pleasant topics like biomass combustion and gasification, which is the focus of this month’s magazine.

We were fortunate that this issue coincided with the construction startup of Jim Taylor’s waste-to-energy facility in Montgomery, N.Y. Taylor is a brave and patient man, after having to deal with permitting issues that lasted for several years and the threat of losing a federal loan guarantee worth $100 million.

Thankfully, the loan guarantee was restored and, as you can see by the photos in Associate Editor Anna Austin’s feature “Full Steam Ahead,” dirt work has begun on the site. The photos were taken at the end of May so construction is probably farther along by now. You can read more about Taylor and the gasification system he will be utilizing in his New York facility starting on page 22.

Check out Austin’s “Cleaner and Leaner” feature starting on page 30 if you want to find out how the nation’s largest waste-to-energy companies—Covanta Energy and Wheelabrator Inc.—reduce emissions and make their plants more efficient.

Associate Editor Lisa Gibson delved into the biomass situation in India and its efforts to use gasification to power rural areas in her feature called “Biopowering India” on page 42. While the country already uses much of its bagasse and rice husks for energy, rice and cotton straw, coconut husks, bamboo waste and municipal solid waste offer opportunities for further development.

Gibson also wrote about a National Renewable Energy Laboratory assessment of biomass combustion and gasification and how it has impacted its development in the U.S. in her feature “Inspiring Investment” on page 36.