John W. Aiken, Jr. for Washington State Governor in 2008

Energy Self Reliance - Part 1
Energy Self Reliance - Part 2
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state_seal30.gif (1600 bytes) Washington State Energy Self-Reliance Program
Part 1

As governor, I would promote a state wide energy self-reliance program that would fund and manage citizen-owned energy production systems. Energy is so critical in modern society that it must be included with the other basic necessities of life such as air, food, water, and shelter. Our population is growing and we have to eliminate contaminating forms of energy that damage our ecosystem and our health. We must incorporate cleaner forms of power that have minimal impact upon our environment and economy. In it’s pure form, electricity is the cleanest source of power. We take it for granted but a great benefit of electricity is that it can easily be transmitted to even the remotest of places. Electricity however is often produced using dirty fossil fuels and put to environmentally harmful uses. Even the mining of materials to produce inductors, conductors, and transformers is not very “green”. Sure we talk about solar panels and wind turbines being “green” but many people are not looking at the environmental cost to manufacture these power producing products and its impact on local ecosystems. The truth is sometimes we are forced to make unpopular but advantageous long term decisions. We need metals, chemicals, wood and so on to continue to enjoy the standard of living we have. Mother Nature does not always put these needed resources in desolate regions and often they’re even close to where we live.

We should phase out dirty forms of fuel and energy in exchange for cleaner ones. For the time being, dirty forms of energy production should be concentrated in large regional facilities for power production that we can better manage. More specifically we need to further optimize their discharges of pollutants into the air, ground, and water. The fact is that it’s easier to manage and monitor a large facility than thousand of smaller ones. It is my desire to eventually replace all carbon emitting fuel to non polluting fuels such as, wind, solar, tidal, and geothermal sources. I have looked into the costs of these systems on a macro-scale. I have analyzed their impact on our energy consumption cost, how long it would take to payoff the new or additional infrastructure, and how soon we would reap the benefits of this substantial investment. I have come to the conclusion that with the current value of materials, power, and labor, this can be done at a reasonable cost. The only way that this can occur is that the people get behind me and support this. This is why I have included the people as owners of these systems. You the people are the ones that will fund it and should be the ones to reap its benefits financially. At this current time, my immediate concern is to do something about those forms of energy and fuels that are having a daily effect on our citizens and businesses in our state. I don’t want to tell you that it will take a decade for this to turn around or miraculously new energy sources will show up on the market to lower prices. I would rather tell you this fact, we can have cheap fuel within the next two years.

Ethanol from Sugar Beets – A crop Washington State already knows well.

I propose that we purchase 400,000 acres in the south central counties of our state to produce sugar beets for ethanol. Parts of sugar beets would also be used for cattle feed. In that acreage we would also raise the cattle that would feed on the sugar beet stalks. The cattle’s waste would be used to create methane. We would have to rotate crops and only be able to put 200,000 acres into sugar beets each year. It will cost about $150-170 million to grow and harvest 200,000 acres. During the harvest months the top green stalks of the sugar beets are cut and can be used for animal fodder. The total beet tops harvested would yield about 600,000 tons. (The tops contain a minor content of sugar, fiber, and other beneficial minerals.) This is enough feed for 50,000 head of cattle for an entire year. The cattle would be raised on the other rotated 200,000 acres in grass and grazing land. I would like 25,000 dairy cows to be raised producing about 50 million gallons of milk annually. This is enough milk to provide a million children in our state a pint each day. There will be additional labor and veterinary cost with raising dairy cows. The sugar beet roots contain about 17.5% sugar and 200,000 acres should yield about 6 million tons of beets which contains about 2 billion pounds of refined sugar. As you know sugar beets need to be processed to yield sugar and ethanol products. The waste products after processing contains enough fiber, minerals, and sugar content to classify it as an animal food, of which a million tons would be produced annually. This is enough feed for about 75,000 head of cattle for an entire year, in addition with the previously mentioned 50,000 head. Annually we would harvest about 35,000 head of cattle for about 25 million pounds of meat and hides.

It is not my desire to compete against small farmers and ranchers. I intend the food products that we receive from this operation to go to Washington State corrections, institutions and any state program that we are obligated to feed people through. Small farmers and ranchers for instance can specialize in organic and high quality foods that they can sell for a premium price to restaurants and high quality food markets with a higher mark-up. It is my intent to be economically efficient with the waste products that are produced in this ethanol process from sugar beets. It simply makes sense to raise cattle next to an ample source of their food. Also since cattle will produce lots of waste, it makes sense to use that waste to produce energy and fuel in one or more facilities in the area.

Methane and Methanol Production

The cattle and dairy cows will produce over 700,000 tons of waste annually that can be converted into methane and methanol for heating and the production of electricity. As you know there is labor cost to gathering and transporting waste to even a local methane gas production facility. There is also costs for processing methane, thus turning it into a marketable gas or liquid fuel. In the state of Texas, a feedlot and slaughter pens are being developed for methane production. The total annual amount of manure from the Texas Mead feedlot is 300,000 tons, equivalent to the solid waste generated by a city with a population of 350,000. “The cattle manure and thin stillage are mixed in the 500,000 gallon influent tank, with the digestion process taking about three days,” states one of their spokesmen. “An ideal temperature is 100°F, which we maintain consistently. The manure enters the system at about 12 percent solids, and the resulting digestate has an impressive nutrient value.” Digestate is stored in another 500,000-gallon tank. The portion of digestate to be used as bedding is sent to a nutrient recovery unit to make organic ammonia fertilizer, as well as extract potassium and phosphorus. The ammonia fertilizer can be injected below-ground to the roots of growing plants, instead of applied at the surface. The Texas Mead feedlot are processing 350,000 tons and we would be looking at a doubling of that amount with our annual cattle waste.

The Future of Ethanol Fuel

I think crude oil is heading back down to the $80-90/barrel area again soon and possibly may even go as low as $60 during a frenzied futures contracts sell off by shorting and panicking hedge and pension funds brokers. Once oil stabilize it should be around the $80 price, so we will have a temporary relief from what we have been experiencing with the over $4/gallon gasoline prices. This may cause us to forget about the $4-5/gal gas-diesel prices and begin taking it all for granted again. We must not become complacent and become hostage to a very volatile world oil market that contains risks from weather to geopolitical variables. Are we to repeat history again as we did after past decade's energy crisises? We must instead be steadfast in our resolve to make our state energy self-reliant for the benefit of our citizens and businesses.

I have been researching sugar beets for ethanol production to replace the use of corn. Corn is a very inefficient source of ethanol when compared with sugar beets. By using corn for ethanol production we are making all the food we eat cost more. We also increase pollution with the additional use of nitrate fertilizers and irrigation water for a plant that depletes the soil of nutrients and requires a lot of water to produce. This runoff irrigated water laced with herbicides and fertilizers contaminate our streams, lakes, and river systems creating dead zones in which no organism can live. This is happening now at the mouth of the Mississippi River from the over farming of corn along the tributaries into the river system. There are vast dead zones where shellfish and marine organisms cannot tolerate the high concentration of nitrates, fluorides, and phosphates.

If we put 200,000 acres into sugar beets, we would yield over a two billion pounds of refined sugar that can be converted into almost 150 million gallons of ethanol valued at $600 million @ $4/gal ethanol. It costs about $150-$160 million/year to grow and harvest 200,000 acres. There are ethanol production costs that can easily tack another $50-75 million/year in processing. Projecting and factoring financial variables for inflationary dollars, property cost, and labor and other variables, I believe that this enterprise can be cost-effective when the price of gasoline is above $1.60.gallon.

Because I want an efficient closed system, I had to look at waste management for environmental concerns. Because it cuts down transportation and labor cost, it’s more efficient to have a ethanol processing plant by where the ethanol is produced. Even though sugar beet tops can be processed into low yielding ethanol, the tops would be better suited for cattle feed. The major cost of raising cattle is providing them with food and water, which we would be able to do at a cost substantially below the average. The cattle will supply dairy and meat products along with hides and waste. By producing and manufacturing what we need for our own use, we offset costs for the Washington State taxpayer. This way we are not competing against private enterprises that rely on a competitive consumer base for profit. The chain food super markets offer more selection and higher quality foods to their customers, who in return are willing to pay more for it.

We will need an area that, including rain, can provide 24-30 inches of irrigate water a season to grow beets, as well as provide 500,000 gallons of drinking water daily for the 125,000 cattle. So, why do you want to raise cattle you may ask? We will be harvesting each year over 30,000 head that will provide 25 million pounds of meat, 50 million gallons of milk and enough leather to make hundreds of thousands of shoes and belts. The fact is that these are secondary products to utilize the sugar beet feed and what I’m really after is what the cattle gives every day, and that is about 35 pounds of waste from eating the sugar beet fodder. This totals 2187 tons of waste every day that contains about 60% methane gas that can be used for heat and electric generation. This comes out to almost 800,000 tons of waste per year to process for methane and methanol. This is equivalent to the annual waste treatment for the City of Seattle, which incidentally is not being processed for methane and methanol. It takes about three days for waste to ferment in closed tanks at 98 degrees Fahrenheit. At this point it’s completely decomposed and has emitted at least the bulk of its methane and carbon dioxide gas. The methane gas produced is used to warm the waste to efficient decomposition temperatures. The surplus gas is utilized onsite for the entire operation and the excess is generated into electricity for onsite use, or resale on the public market. It should be noted that the methane processing is not as efficient as the sugar beets ethanol processing and also is more labor extensive. However the secondary agriculture food products help justify the overall ethanol facility as a complete closed system for a cleaner environment.

Feasibility to Initiate Funding for Construction

The cost to construct and operate this project is very expensive in terms of the property that the operation will occur on. There is however one prime place in our state that can be purchased and easily converted for what we would like to do. Productive agriculture land costs more than undeveloped scab land in terms of water rights and availability of water. It would take less than two years to be at full production capacity. I estimate it will cost about $250-300 million dollars to operate annually. I also estimate that it will provide several thousand jobs from farm laborer to chemists. When ethanol is at $4/gallon, the entire operation has a potential to produce over a billion dollars annually in fuel, energy, and animal products.

I submit that the cost to earnings, once the land is paid for, makes this a very profitable operation. If we use state property to operate this program, we would have no real estate cost as the people already would be the landowners.

When purchasing land, my research shows that it would be better to purchase farmland already producing sugar beets. I believe that we can get this entire program going for under $1 billion and another $1 billion would put it at full capacity and production. It should take less than two seasons to get to full production. We would produce enough ethanol to provide all the fuel necessary for our entire Washington State workforce including the Washington State Ferry System, Public Schools, Colleges, Corrections, Institutions and Washington State Patrol. It’s likely we will have surplus fuel to provide local county and city governments fuel to help with their cost for police, fire, emergency, and roads crews. Is this worth investing $2 billion to be able to provide transportation fuel for all of our state’s governments at the lowest cost possible to produce? You bet it is.

In a matter of years, this project will be able to pay back its construction and operating costs. It will produce more fuel than our government can consume and some of it will be stored for emergencies in huge tanks all over our state. Nationwide if anything happens, we here in Washington State will be ready for any interruption of our fuel supply. I also will not convert all of the refined sugar into ethanol but instead would store a portion for future use in case of drought, fire, or floods as these can set back production temporary, or for an entire season. Once a reserve amount has been obtained that we feel comfortable with, we would be able to sale or trade our surplus for fuels that we cannot produce, such as gasoline, diesel, and natural gas. It’s my desire to convert everything to ethanol and eliminate those other fuels, but I know we will still have a transition period before that will happen. It will however be easier to accomplish this task since this fuel is for governmental use. As Governor I will make an executive order that we will convert to ethanol by a certain date.

What this does for the Washington State citizen is we have provided a means for our government to not be at the mercy of high fuel costs, thus our operating budgets can be better used for other important programs that need funding. We will see a reduction in transportation fuel costs in all of our state governments and tax dollars that once went for this can be shifted to other things. Government’s ability to fund programs often means increasing taxes, which now should not need to happen. By producing our own fuel, we (the state, county and city governments) are not competing for petroleum based fuels with our private citizens and businesses. This is likely to reduce gas prices at the pump. 

The agricultural products this program provides will help offset what taxpayers would have had to purchase on the open market at a higher price for those people that the state has an obligation to feed, shelter, and cloth.

I expect this to be a state project managed by state employees who work for you, the Washington state citizen. Eventually this project will be able to support itself and help fund other government aided energy producing projects that our citizens will become the benefactors of and reap its windfalls. I want to make sure that this project provides for emergency reserves of fuel and food products in case of natural disasters or terrorism. Once we meet these goals, I want us to fund another ethanol facility. In case something happens to one, the other can take up the demand. This second facility will not need public financing and is funded by the first facility. The sugar and ethanol produced by the second facility will be sold on the world spot market for cash thus providing capital for other future state aided energy producing programs. Between the two facilities we would be producing between a half to three-quarter billion dollars in milk and meat for our institutional programs. I believe that when this occurs the cost of retail meats will become lower. Again, I want to remind you that it is not my intent to compete with farmers, ranchers, and chained food markets, as they can specialize with higher quality foods and selected foods for higher prices. My goal is to slowly bring the cost of food down for our citizens by removing the state’s institutions which act as a massive competing consumer, thus keeping prices and demand high. I also have other ideas on how to eliminate hunger in our state.

I hope you enjoyed reading this idea that I have. All I can do is come up with ideas and throw them at you to see what you think and whether you are willing to help fund it. I am looking for something that can be done very quickly and will have an immediate impact in our state’s economy within one to two years. To eliminate fuel costs to all our government entities that manage our state, counties, and cities, I can’t think of anything that can be done quicker than this. This is something I believe is possible to do right now and would benefit the taxpayer in the near and long term.

See Part 2 of John's Washington State Energy Self-Reliance Program

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