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Old October 5th, 2008, 11:00 PM   #1
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Missouri Energy Independence Tour

Last week Missouri political leaders, energy experts and local advocates of energy independence toured Missouri for four days as part of Missouri Energy Independence Tour. Members of the tour spoke about alternative energies that can be implemented in America and how Barack will work to break our dependence on foreign oil.
Dan Kammen, a policy advisor for Barack, joined Tom Carnahan, the president of Wind Capital group, to visit Rock Port. Rock Port is the first community in the US to become completely energy independent. Both men focused on the turbines and the wind power that generates electricity throughout the community.
Tom told Dan the achievement the turbines have made...
If you look at the meters, you'll often see something remarkable in this business: they're running backwards. On many days, we actually generate more energy than we can use. That means we get to sell the surplus back to the power companies, saving the community even more.
Dan remarked about the importance of implementing these strategies...
We haven't had a real progressive energy policy in this country for over twenty years... Making America energy independent is going to require more than just new energy sources, it's going to take new energy in Washington to make it a reality. We have that in Barack.
After Rock Port, Dan took the tour to Conception to show the members of the tour the Conception Abbey, one of Dan's favorite projects.
The Abbey itself is a beautiful structure that stands out atop the northwestern Missouri landscape. Late last year, the Capital Wind Group completed the construction of a small wind farm in the area surrounding the Abbey. He gestured at the turbines in the background and explained how this had provided not only a wellspring of jobs and interest in the area, but also has become a new source of tax revenue for the area. Those taxes have gone towards improving schools and infrastructure in the surrounding community.

As Ken continued to outline the benefits to the community, one of the monks came out to greet the group. After some brief introductions he joined the discussion and extolled the values of this environmentally friendly form of energy. The members of the Abbey had blessed the wind farm earlier in the year, and according to the friar, they've really taken to it. "I haven't heard any complaints. Everyone loves it."
The next day the tour traveled to Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph. Students, undecided voters and local residents gathered at an informal town hall discussion on energy independence.
After some brief opening remarks and reflections from the panel, the audience began to ask questions and offer their own thoughts. One man sitting near the back indicated that upon being informed of this discussion, he got off his tractor and came straight to the auditorium.

"I was out in the field when I got word, and I just had to come be a part of this. I'm a proud investor in Lifeline foods, one of the few production outlets totally owned by independent farmers. Our idea was, you put in your share, and you get something back for it. We took our time, and we did ethanol right. We produce food from corn, for numerous manufacturers like Frito Lay and then use the by products, which would normally be tossed, to create ethanol. It's a method that benefits the farmer directly and doesn't run up the price of food."

The panel applauded the methods employed by Lifeline, indicating that it set an example for the rest of the industry. Still, Dan Kammen noted, there is no one clear path to energy independence. Everything must be explored. He stood up and took a piece of chalk in his hand, writing the "$700 Billion" on the blackboard. "What does this number mean to you?" As members of the audience shot back with various things, including bail out, Dan nodded and underlined the number.

"700 Billion dollars is not only the proposed amount for the bail out, but it's also the amount of money we spend EVERY YEAR on energy in this country. That's by far the single biggest industry in the world, yet energy companies only invest less than one half of one perfect of their revenues into research. By comparison, the three biggest bio tech companies invest around 15 percent of their earnings back into research.

To do this right, you have to explore all the possibilities. We can't simple pick one standard and run with it, that's the wrong path. In order to really achieve energy independence, we need to look at all forms of bio-fuels. Corn and cellulosic based ethanol, solar, wind and many others."

Tom Carnahan nodded in agreement and later built on that sentiment.

"I heard Sarah Palin on the radio today saying that Obama and Biden are fools for wanting to invest in alternative energies because they're unproven. Well, my mom always tells me the story of how she held me up to the television when they showed the first man setting foot on the moon. We didn't know for sure that we could put on the moon when we started, but we had a leader with the vision to challenge our industry and our industry to help make that a reality. We can have that moment again. Barack is challenging this nation to become energy independent, and to believes by investing 150 billion dollars over the next ten years, we can make great strides towards achieving yet another American dream."
On the last day of the tour, the team traveled to Centerville to visit the Show-Me-Energy Cooperative. The Director, Steve Flick, told the team that when he started the cooperative no bank in town would loan him money or invest in the project. He explained the project as they walked by an assembly line of plastic bags.
These bags escalated towards a spout that would soon fill them with fuel pellets. These tiny pellets, about the size of an apple stem, might look unremarkable at first glance but the energy they possess could be a huge step towards energy independence.

“We took our time with this, made sure we did it right… All of our pellets are produced from things that would normally be tossed away and considered waste.”

The biomass fuel pellets are made from non-grain bearing crops of cellulose like switch grass, cornstalks, cereal straws, fescue straw and other agricultural residues or energy crops that have no food value. This allows the farmers involved to generate additional revenue from the crops and plants they were already growing. The pellets themselves can be used in furnaces to heat homes, and have also been utilized to generate electricity. That’s an exciting development that with the proper funding and research could have large applications moving forward.

Dan Kammen was impressed by the operation.

“It seems you really took the whole picture into account here. ‘Cradle to Grave’ carbon output especially, which is something that Senator Obama wants to make standard.”

He marveled at some of their practices, such as avoiding the use of water in adhesion and asked what Steve felt the government could do to help advance these sorts of technologies. Steve looked up at the whirring machinery and harkened back to his earlier statement about financial backing.

"Not only did we work alongside University of Missouri in Rolla to develop this technology… We were also lucky enough to get some government grants and subsidies to make this a reality. Without that, this never may have happened. So we need a president and a government body that sees the long term value in what we’re doing, and is willing to make those investments."
Barack has a detailed plan for energy independence in America. Visit our environmentalist page for more information and to see a side-by-side comparison with John McCain's energy policies.


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