Biomass Hits a Road Bump in Olympia

Biomass is an interesting “green” energy story.  Biomass got added into the last round of Federal legislation that had funding for alternative energy tax credits.   Biomass has some green potential, but the devil is in the details.

Here in the NW, biomass means burning forest materials to produce steam, electricity and that’s probably not so green because it puts more market pressure on NW forests and NW forests are amazingly powerful engines of carbon sequestration.

Here in South Puget Sound, the green energy tax credits have spurred construction planning of a whole bunch of new biomass plants.  The construction trades need the jobs of course and there are reasons (qualifying for tax credits) why the biomass incinerators have to break ground asap, so the battle is joined between environmentalists who are scurrying to gather data about the air quality impacts, the deforestation impacts, and the simple long term economics of these incinerators.

I can write more about biomass with links if there is interest, but for now, I just want to note that Thurston County, WA (county seat – Olympia, the State capitol) passed a one year moratorium on construction of biomass to provide time to study air quality impacts.  This may be the first regulatory stop for the biomass industry in the country.  My hat is off to the Thurston County Commissioners for demanding time to study the impacts.

TESC Biomass Update

I asked Jason Wettstein at The Evergreen State College to put the TESC Biomass – Department of Commerce Grant application online several weeks ago and I never heard back from Jason on that request.

A public records request to the Washington State Department of Commerce did allow me to get access to the TESC grant applications and it’s a dense set of documents, letters, forms, and engineering construction plans.  I haven’t counted the pages, but I think it’s in the hundreds of pages.  I have the document printed, organized in a 3 inch 3 hold binder and I am going through it as time allows.

I will post pages here as I plow through them and find information of interest.

Here are the first things I note:

In the Notice of Availability of Funds (begins near the bottom page 2 of the 5 page attachment) Commerce states:

Performance Requirements

All grant awards are contingent on applicants reaching binding agreements with their contractors to achieve or exceed projected energy savings, and to meet or beat the proposed budget and project start date stated in the application.  If an applicant and its contractors cannot execute binding agreements that meet or beat these key metrics for scoring applications, then the initial grant allocation will be cancelled and the applicant will be encouraged to resubmit the application in a subsequent round…

In the TESC grant application the expected construction start date is February 28, 2011 as stated in the middle of page 5 of the attachment.

The timing of construction start is an important element of the grant scoring because the grant funds were designed to create job opportunities quickly.

I am under the impression that construction has already been delayed beyond the February 28, 2011 deadline and if that is true, then Commerce should consider cancelling this grant award now.

The background for all of this work to stop the biomass project at TESC is the global warming crisis and the fact that the conversion of the existing natural gas boiler at TESC to a biomass boiler will greatly increase greenhouse gas production at the college under a theory of biomass carbon neutrality that is pushed by timber industry.

The gaming of greenhouse gas production that proceeds from carbon credits and carbon offsets guarantee that a profit can be made in greenwashing some really terrible projects.  The gaming falls away immediately through a simple carbon tax  that discourages production of greenhouse gases, stimulates clean energy, but does not create the opportunity for the profits of trading and commodifying carbon credits.  Carbon credit trading has potential to create a bubble economy where profits can be made based on speculation.  How is that working out for us?

5 pages from the TESC Biomass grant public record request

News Bits and Bites

A little of this and that for the weekend.

clipped from


Heroic GOP War Critic — Traitor or Patriot?

Since Rep. Ron Paul of Texas
is that rarest of Republicans — a war critic who’s both rational and prescient
describing our careening, imperial foreign policy, let us openly address his probing
questions (italics) Friday on the House floor.


In defending Wikileaks disclosures, Paul proclaims what should never be forgotten (but is, every day):

Just as with the Vietnam War, the Iraq War was based on lies. We were never threatened by weapons of mass destruction, nor al Qaeda in Iraq, though the attack on Iraq was based on this false information. Any information which challenges the official propaganda for the war in the Middle East is unwelcome by the administration and the supporters of these unnecessary wars.

Number 1: Do the America People deserve to know the truth regarding the ongoing wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen?

Read the whole piece by Robert S. Becker here

Meanwhile, Ron Paul also has a piece at OpEdNews Assange has given us a gift.


I am going out on a limb and asserting that Paul is not speaking for the republican party on the war and Wikileaks.

Also, here’s a kicker also from  Mastercard and Visa are joining Paypal and not transferring funds to Wikileaks.  But if you want to move some money to the Ku Klux Klan, Mastercard and Visa are willing to be of service. Read that one here.

Hard to know where to start deconstructing this mess.

Obama brought the fight

to the progressives in recent days.

He is in the bubble to the extent that he doesn’t understand why progressives are disgusted with him and do not share his sense of the legacy power of his health reform legislation.   If he wanted legacy credentials, he needed to fight for the public option and he ran from that fight as he did on the tax cut for unemployment extension deal.  As a deal maker he’s a chump.   His attempt to bring a no-partisan, bi-partisan, post-partisan politics to WA is noble, but wildly naive.

Obama faces an entrenched and disciplined opposition whose first priority is to make him fail, no matter what that failure costs the republic and its citizens.  If he refuses to acknowledge and act on this fundamental knowledge, he is a chump.

Gail Collins at the NYT got this part of the Obama folly in her opinion piece today:

“This isn’t the politics of the moment. This has to do with what can we get done right now,” the president said heatedly as he defended his tax deal with the Republicans against outrage from the Congressional left.

It takes a lot to make President Obama incoherent. I think the vision of trying to corral 60 votes in the Senate on the night before Christmas sent him over the brink

Yep, that’s incoherent.   and then the gloves come off as Obama takes on his progressive critic.   He does have some fight in him apparently, but he’s saving it for staunch progressives who are noticing and commenting that the emperor has no clothes.

Maybe this is as simple as just not recognizing that the country cannot be governed for anything but a corporate-militarist agenda?

Krugman Calls the Twofer

Paul Krugman has a good piece in the NY Times today that connects the hypocrisy and incompetence of our bipartisan government as it moves to freeze the wages of Federal workers for a couple of years in the name of austerity at the same time that it moves forward in the direction of extending the Bush era tax cuts for the richest of the rich.

In addition to this pandering to the “have-mores” the extension of unemployment benefits continues to languish.  Americans who have been out of work for the longest time exhausted their extensions on November 30 and now enter the land of no jobs and no benefits.

Compounding this problem, Washington State is reported to have made errors in calculating benefits that are resulting in drastic cuts in benefits that will continue to be paid out for some recipients.

We need a manufacturing base in this country that makes something other than military arms.  Being the arms manufacturer and merchant to the world has been great for millionaires, but not so good for the rest of us.

It’s the Economy, Stupid.

Blaming the Left?

Robert Parry at Consortium News posted his analysis of how the US got to the sorry state it finds itself in today.  Parry has a lot of the history correct as he spells out how the right planned, financed and engineered their dream of one party rule in the US, but I think he has it somewhat wrong when he chooses to blame progressives and liberals for making poor choices like working on grass-roots organizing instead of matching the right in taking over the media and trying to control the national messaging apparatus.

I think there are simple human personality processes at work that make it difficult for

  • The Left – a disparate group of folks with strong independent and iconoclastic impulses (relatively hard to organize and unlikely to maintain party discipline)

to compete with

  • The Right – a disparate group of folks with strong impulses to want to define the world in simple black and white terms that support their individual need for stability and conformity (quite a bit easier to organize and to persuade to march on orders)

Moneyed interests will naturally find it much easier to subvert The Right to do its bidding and feed the greed.  The Left may occasionally succeed at coordinating on a message and a political zeitgeist to elect a democratic president and congress, as happened in 2008, but the Democratic Party is not The Left.  The Democratic Party is strongly beholden to the same moneyed interests who usually work through the Republican Party, so in the rare instances when Dem are in control as they have been since 2008, they have few choices.  Enacting a Leftist agenda is one, but in the last two instances of Democratic ascendancy – Clinton 1988 and Obama 2008 – they chose instead to bash their heads against the wall of healthcare reform by nibbling at the problem.  The leftist agenda is simple on healthcare – Medicare for Everyone – single payer.  Allow the health insurance industry to complete for Medigap Insurance for Everyone.  Both Clinton and Obama failed to come out strongly and on message for Medicare for Everyone and that was the end of any leftist legislative legacy in their terms.

That simple analysis limits the discussion to health care as an example of the failure of the Dems to embrace a leftist agenda because both Obama and Clinton chose health care reform as the lead off issue.  You could look for and find similarities between Clinton and Obama on other important progressive issues like protecting all the rights that should be available to the GLBT community including marriage and the right to serve openly in the military.

In the Obama administration it certainly would have been a better choice to lead with a focus on jobs with a focus on manufacturing  jobs that produce solid goods.  And I mean GOODS in multiple meanings – especially in the sense of material that serve a good purpose – like clean energy, a move away from the petro-chemical age, and not just pumping more money into the defense industries that produce weapons of mass destruction.  There may be an argument that maintaining our military arms industries keeps us safe, but that argument starts to unravel when you look at how we sell state of the art military weaponry to so many folks around the world.  That may be good for the stock prices of General Dynamics but it is not Good for the people who live between our borders.

So, Robert Parry thinks the Left should have chosen to match the Right in its media control.  Maybe that would have helped, but I doubt it.  I suspect that a leftist media would have experienced all the success that Wikileaks is enjoying today.

Wikileaks challenges today:

  • Assange is under indictment
  • Wikileaks is having to jump around to find servers to host their website and work
  • Paypal has pulled their ubiquitous funding system from the organization
  • The website itself is under well-organized (which is to say Non-Leftist) denial of service attacks

An unethical, dishonest attack campaign is a little difficult to counter.  Even attacking the dishonest message means you repeat the message and probably give the lie legs.  Like don’t think of elephants, that kind of unfortunate linguistic programming occurs.  Maybe you can attack the messenger as a liar, maybe that needs to be the primary counter with a dishonest campaign, but we could dream that a positive, and true message could carry the day.  Don’t know if that is likely or not, but we could dream that dream.

For an example of how a dishonest attack campaign works, think back on how Dan Rather fared when he tried to get George Bush’s military service or lack thereof in the political discussion.  This is the stuff that Lee Atwater and Karl Rover have built campaigns around (the tactic, not any particular message).

I like a lot of what Parry has to say about how we got here, but he needs to make more concrete proposals about how we can make things better.  Lack of media control and message discipline is not the whole answer or the whole problem imho.

I see the looming global climate crisis as a reasonable lever to move the US economy away from the militarism and imperialism that is so destructive to our democracy and our constitutional legacy of freedoms.  I dream of a democratic president and congress that would make a bold choice to pursue a progressive legislative agenda.