4FRI Science Fiction

Hindenberg

 

The latest news out of Arizona’s 4FRI project, which seeks to thin several hundred thousand acres of worthless trees on four national forests, has left rational observers scratching their heads. First, the Forest Service has transferred the contract from one fly-by-night company with no track record or discernible assets to another fly-by-night company with no track record or discernible assets. Even better, the new company has ties to a high-level government sultan in Oman, one of the world’s most corrupt countries.

The new company, Good Earth Power Global (hey, what’s not to like with a name like that?), says it will build a biomass facility that “will use clean, green technology in a three-stage process to produce 99.99 percent pure hydrogen.”

Wow! Cool! Oh, but wait, turns out “there are no processes commercially available for centralized hydrogen production from biomass.”

So what’s really going on here? At the heart of every inconceivable, fiscally wasteful boondoggle lies a government agency willing to spend bundles of tax dollars. 4FRI’s new contractor is counting on the Forest Service and/or electricity utilities to spend lavishly to subsidize its operation.

The only gas this latest fantasy will produce is hot air.

14 Comments

  1. Having been an active advocate of, and participant in, biomass-based renewable energy development for the past 30+ years, I can assure you that the field is chock-full of con artists and get-rich-quick promoters. The F.S. is a strange critter – Regionally (R-3) it falls for a hot sales pitch (could there be more to this story?) for a huge highly-questionable development, while at the local level (R- 8) turns a blind eye to repeated requests for an opportunity to provide feedstock for an established renewable energy facility. Telogia Power Co. Fl. (20 yr. old, 14 MW) has yet to burn the first chip from the adjacent (0.5 mile) Apalachicola N.F.

  2. Seems like with these giant stewardship projects the FS can keep having their meetings and not be bothered with really doing anything. The closer you get to todays FS the more you realize what trouble they and we are in. Nobody is in any one position for more that a few years, you can have a two year contract and by the next year all the personnel is new from somewhere else and don’t have the slightest idea were they are or what is going on. Their main interests is don’t make waves, get a good report and move on.
    We are working way up on a ridge top harvesting a few dead burnt trees out of the millions that were incinerated and they are threatening to shut us down because the soil biologist(who we never see) thinks we “might” be disturbing the soil to much. Then we drive down by main stem of the river and here they are cutting down green old growth trees on the hillside above the road, just tearing everything up. Then they dragging these trees down into the river again tearing the place up all for “salmon habitat restoration”. Must be 10 people standing around while the machine pulls the freshly cut old growth, which was a healthy tree, into the river, moving rocks, gravel, vegetation. And they expect us to take them seriously?

  3. Would not be news in the land of timber jobs subsidies in the hundreds of thousands dollars and our bids for billion dollar bridges to nowhere.

    Here on the Tongass the Sealaska Corporation, with the help of the Coast Guard in Sitka, have promoted establishing Southeast biomass (wood pellet) plants, with of multiple taxpayer subsidies for plant construction, raw material supplies and operations/marketing.

    The game plan was first to get enough government facilities and public schools to convert to wood pellets to support a minimum size pellet plant in Alaska. Second, the plan was to entice enough residents with grants and low cost loans to convert to pellets as well. However, the general public is not buying it. Moreover, some schools see the high maintenance cost of wood boilers and pellet storage a major disadvantage even when faced with high fuel oil costs. And, unfortunately, the Coast Guard in Sitka made the conversion but then suffered a catastrophic boiler accident. I am not sure if the boiler ever came back on-line.

    Rather than due diligence, representatives of the Obama Admin., the FS, Sealaska Corp. and the Coast Guard have told us it is the next big thing for our economy and environment – For cynics like me, this is merely an exercise of: drink the Kool-Aid, build it with taxpayer dollars and surely they will come.

    So welcome Arizona 4FRI to Alaska’s world.

  4. Good morning
    Just by looking at the previous comments its not hard to see “something is going on here” The question is are we doing anything to stop this? WHERE IS OUR LOBBYING?
    If deals like this are approved the somethinng is stinking in DENMARK
    The trouble once again is that some people are getting used to these happenings and the ones doing it are not afraid because they have been succesfulll for many years since the spotted owl syndrome. We must admit they are very smart or at least smarter than we are so please once and for all,get together and do something

  5. Considering that 85% of the Arizona forests are classified as “sawtimber” (>9″ DBH) by the FIA, and considering that only 10% of the cubic foot volume is in trees under 9″, and considering that 80% of the timber sold by the USFS under the White Mountain Stewardship Project is “sawtimber”, and considering that that the purely antidotal observation of the forests around Alpine, AZ look pretty merchantable to me, and considering that the average sawlog run through Oregon’s sawmills is 9″…I’d say it’s a pretty good resource.

    I’d love to be a fly-on-the-wall at some of the meetings Pioneer had with investors. “YOU want me to go into business with the most radical enviro group in the country!” (CBD) I doubt the OSB scheme would have attracted 300 million in money for the same reasons.

    That said…I’m with Andy in that “biomass conversion to fuel” is about as ridiculous as subsidizing solar power (now how many more decades do we have to wait before mass production brings down cost LOL.) Pellet mills? Now we all know the Europes insatiable climate change driven desire for wood pellets is a BOOM to the South East, and I was surprised to hear the British Columbia is in on the game, but I would think that a buyer would want a long term contract from a supplier that couldn’t get litigated every time a 16″ DBH tree gets nicked during skidding.

    By the way…wind and solar have been a financial disaster for Europe. Even though the U.S. never signed the Kyoto treaty, we are the only country that has reduced carbon emissions by 10% in ten years. Half that was due to our wonderful economy, 48% was due to conversion to Nat. Gas powered electricity, and a measly 2% was due to “wind and solar.” Fracking anyone!

    It’s interesting that Colorado has quadrupled timber harvest…with no “collaborative” groups at all. They’ve managed to attract some pretty damn sharp timber industry guys to invest in the state. The resource in Arizona should attract some sharp timber industry guys…especially ones who specialize in Ponderosa…hell they’re giving the timber away…but I’ll guarantee know one would have bought a sawmill in Colorado if the CBD was a “partner.”

    I wish the 4FRI good luck…meanwhile…in the interest of “finding common ground,” we need to “air brush” history to cover up the true reasons Arizona is in this fix.

  6. Interesting conversation, seems like a few of you should actually do some research before you respond, but I guess that wouldnt be any fun at all.

    Couple of Facts:
    1. CBD is part of the 4fri collaborative, but that doesnt make them collaborative http://www.4fri.org
    2. the average price per acre that good earth power will pay to the fs is $22/acre, and this is a stewardship contract so an exchange of goods for services
    3. The buisness plan of good earth is not dependent on bio fuels. but even you guys can guess what riches could be had if they make that breakthrough.
    4. Good earth is a new company but according to their website has assets more than $1 trillion, but i am sure they didnt run that through Andy.
    5. Building a buisness plan on public lands is risky, its not like hords of contractors were linning up to bid on the 4fri contract, and of the ones who did, none had guarentees of funding, so you could pack up and go home or give the guy with the money a chance.
    6. you are all so smart, i dont understand why good earth didnt consult you……

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