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Renewable Global Warming Energy

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Former Vice President Al Gore won an Academy Award for a documentary about global warming. Gov. Bill Ritter wants to make renewable energy one of his top priorities. The media has caught on to the issue of the environment, and we hear and read more about renewable energy and global warming than I can ever remember.

Yet it’s hard to say how much the issue is sticking in the minds of the average person, and a press release I received from Rep. Mark Udall’s office offers a perfect example of why it may not always stick. Quite simply, it’s hard to understand. Take a look at this press release:

Colorado Congressman Mark Udall (D-Eldorado Springs) today announced that Broomfield-based Range Fuels has won a grant of up to $76 million from the Department of Energy to build the nation’s first full scale commercial cellulosic ethanol plant in Georgia.

This plant will use slash and wood chips from forestry operations to produce ethanol through a unique anaerobic thermal conversion process. This process promises to use less energy, less water and to release fewer emissions than other cellulosic ethanol technologies.

“America’s energy security is dependent upon our ability to produce billions of gallons of cellulosic ethanol and to produce other essential products from resources other than petroleum. I am excited that this Colorado company is leading the way on renewable technologies. Our nation must continue to explore all viable cellulosic technologies as we work our way toward a renewable energy economy,” said Udall, who sent a letter earlier this month to Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman in support of Range Fuels’ application.

Earlier this year, Range Fuels, formerly Kergy, Inc., announced that they will break ground at their Georgia location in May, and this grant may expedite that construction. The company estimates that this facility will have the capacity to produce one billion gallons of ethanol per year. Range Fuels has 25 employees and will be expanding to 100 by the end of the year.

I’m pretty sure that this is a good thing. In fact, it sounds great. But then again, I really have no idea what they are talking about here.

The press release says that “the nation’s first full scale commercial cellulosic ethanol plant…will use slash and wood chips from forestry operations to produce ethanol through a unique anaerobic thermal conversion process.” Um, yeah. Good luck with all that.

I’m sure this makes perfect sense to people smarter than me, but the only thing I took from that was that a Colorado company is going to use wood chips to make a new kind of ethanol, which is a gas that I don’t know if I can use, and even if I can, I have no idea where I would buy it. I’m absolutely in favor of creating new forms of renewable energy, but I say that in a very broad sense; I understand why it is important, but I don’t really understand what it entails exactly.

Then again, maybe it doesn’t matter all that much. You don’t need to know a lot about education plans to know that you want your kids to have good schools. But I still think that in order for the issue of saving the environment to really take off in the public mind, we’re going to have to figure out a much better way to explain it.

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