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Amos the Poker Cat

Hmm, $250K grant plus dollar for dollar matching, and it will save $50K per year? 7 to 15 years to pay for itself. What is the lifetime of the furnace? I expect it must be pretty high tech to burn wood fairly cleanly. Any addition staffing to feed the fuel or repair and maintain it?

Sam M

Amos makes some very good economic points here. But I think that is one of the reasons this suggests a new level of craftiness on the part of people who advocate timber harvesting: This is not, fundamentally, an "economic" project. Nope. See, it's an "alternative fuel" project.

That is, none of the alternative fuel plans make economic sense, at least in the short term. If windmills made electricty more cheaply than a coal-fueled plant, it wouldn't take long for the companies that generate electricity to figure that out. So advocates of wind power figure that in the short run, the government will have to subsidize such projects in order to get the ball rolling, to capture efficiencies, etc. The feel good side of windmills, of course, is that they are cleaner than coal plants.

What's the feel good side of wood? Maybe it is cleaner. Or at least it can be. Or maybe the argument is that it "could" be cleaner, but only if we do the research to make it happen. Or maybe its an autonomy argument: We rely too much on foreign oil and gas. We have trees locally. Independence! Moreover, it might even keep from having to drill in the arctic! National security AND environmental stewardship.

See, that's why I think this is so crafty, regardless of whether it makes sense to try it. "Alternative" has been a go-to word for a certain sector of the population for years. No a completely different sector of the population is seeing the value of that word. I mean, if cutting timber in national forests is "alternative," well, what isn't.

I find these kinds of rhetorical battles intriguing.

Does in amount to a disingenuous argument for people who already support timber harvesting to suddenly support it for a different reason? I don't know. A lot of the support--both financial and otherwise--for wind farms comes from companies that build windmills. So I don't know.

But again, Amos' points are well taken. On purely economic grounds, this project makes little sense. Especially in the short term.

Amos the Poker Cat

How, I did not realize I had stumpled on such a profound point. Unlike most people, I have actually used wood for heating for a number of years when I was out in CO. It was cheap, but it was a freaking time consuming pain. (Re: Your old Reason article: I once ran into some lost and quite stoned Rainbow family people on the way home one night.)

Oh, just to agree with your elaboration, here is the feel good energy blurb from the SotU:

... Since 2001, we have spent nearly $10 billion to develop cleaner, cheaper and more reliable alternative energy sources. And we are on the threshold of incredible advances. So tonight, I announce the Advanced Energy Initiative, a 22 percent increase in clean-energy research at the Department of Energy to push for breakthroughs in two vital areas. ...

Ten years, and still on the threshold. I bet in ten years from now, we will still be on the threshold.

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