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Fueling the Future?

BiofuelsEnergy production, sources, costs and impact are a constant fundamental part of the economy and the construction industry.  Nevertheless, there is a diverse flood of fuel related topics and commentary over the last week or two in Engineering News Record that is suprisingly interesting and dense.

On the biofuel front, ENR reprints and AP report that the biofuel market is particularly dead.  A federal tax credit has expired and, "The biodiesel industry is now operating at only 15 percent of its potential capacity, according to the National Biodiesel Board, largely because the price of traditional diesel has collapsed."  Meanwhile, ENR separately reports that the Canadian government has ordered a study into the environmental and health effects of producing ethanol and biodiesel fuels.  While this is not the first such critique of some ethanol or some biodiesel products, it cannot be heartening for biodiesel producers when juxtaposed against the current economy.

In a more heartening turn, ENR highlights a report of a California trash to gas project that is being used to run a fleet of Waste Management, Inc. garbage and recycling trucks.  The project converts methane gas created by deteriorating natural waste at a 240 acre landfill serving San Francisco and Oakland.  "We've built the largest landfill-to-LNG plant in the world; this plant produces 13,000 gallons a day of LNG," said Jessica Jones, a landfill manager for Houston-based Waste Management. "It will take 30,000 tons a year of CO2 from the environment."   Finally, ENR rounds out the energy card with Don Short's opinion blog making a forceful call for loan guarantees and regulatory support for complete replacement of coal and gas electrical plants in favor of nuclear power.

In my view, energy is absolutely core to sustainable design and development.  Nevertheless, it is striking to see ENR pulling on so many different threads of the energy cloth in such a short period of time.

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    Timothy Hughes is the managing shareholder of Bean, Kinney & Korman. He also represents clients in construction and commercial litigation, as well as corporate, contracts and general business matters. With over 20 years ...