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Confused by DNR study

French Lick, Ind.

The Department of Natural Resources' available Woody Biomass Feedstock study states DNR supports burning forest resources for energy. The content, however, doesn't seemingly justify that support. My reasoning:

Liberty Green Renewables' permit application said it'd handle 50 tons per hour fueling a 32-megawatt generator. DNR states one bone-dry ton (equal to two green tons) of woody biomass produces one megawatt. Who's got it wrong?

DNR states there were 17,700 tons of woody biomass available in 2005 from primary mills. Their chart lists only 2,542.18 tons. The report says there is sufficient fuel for A (emphasis added) facility. Does that mean there is fuel for only one, not even the two currently proposed?

DNR, with one group of figures, indicates Hoosier woods produce over 20 tons per acre per year of biomass, with other figures, only 1.638 tons. A third group yields 65,217 tons per acre. The first is over seven cords of oak per acre per year, the second just over a half. The third is absurd. Other source material indicates 1/2 to one cord per acre per year is reasonable. Which did DNR use to determine there is plenty of biofuel?

DNR admits no data's available for the percentage of wood in construction and demolition debris. It admits the debris contains other things, that demolition debris is most often contaminated. DNR, admitting there's no scientific justification, then estimates — based on no data, remember — the amount of wood that can be burned from the debris.

No agency's records give data for the total mill residues available, and DNR's published figures aren't even internally consistent. But it confidently states a cost for transporting woody biofuel: 35 cents per bone-dry ton per mile; that's 70 cents per green ton per mile, which is the condition forest resources come in from the forest. Seventy cents per mile; LGR's Missouri twin indicated it intends to pay about $24 per ton. This limits the fuel supply to within 34.3 miles, and that's without paying for gathering and processing the fuel.

Picture a circle, smaller than 35 miles in radius, possibly far smaller, centered at LGR, stripped of 394,200 tons of forest and nutrients — termed forest wastes in the industry — EVERY YEAR. DNR admits, "Removal of large volumes of biomass from timberlands has the possibility of reduced long-term site productively [sic] for future needs." In other words, "Bye-bye forest and bye-bye fuel."

A U.S. government document, cited by LGR for their own data, shows there isn't enough forest fuel for even the Milltown LGR plant within LGR's stated cost-effective distance for transport of fuel.

If there is insufficient fuel LGR claims it will use, what will it burn? An Iowa study puts the cost of producing switchgrass at $40 per ton, dropped at the farm gate. That's cost; no profit. Add 35 to 70 cents per ton per mile to deliver to the incinerator. Ain't gonna fly. That's why tax dollars are proposed to be fed into the maw of this apparent scam. What're left to burn are plastics, tires, sewage sludge, hazmat, coal and garbage; all will pollute and poison Crawford County elders, adults and children.

Why is it so difficult uncovering the truth? If the county has liability insurance, why should the commissioners fear to protect citizens by regulating industrial schemes?

Alec Kalla
April 21, 2010

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