Monday, March 10, 2008

New Milford On the Global Map: Can You Say 'Cellulosic Ethanol?'

Little ole' New Milford on the global map. A solution to our dependence on foreign oil. A boon to the local and national economies. Jobs for New Milford and so much more. This is certainly the most significant and timely project that I have seen in this Town and it may ultimately be one of the most important projects that many of us will experience in our lifetimes -- up front and personal -- with significance for generations!

The Mayor announced at tonight's Town Council Meeting that an entity named American Energy Enterprises in Brookfield has offered $4,500,000 for the Brass Mill. That alone is significant but the kicker is that it intends to build a $100,000,000 facility that makes ethanol from biomass materials -- green waste -- not from food crops such as corn.

The project has obviously been in the works for a while and it appears that a lot of groundwork has already been done by Mayor Murphy and various Town agencies. Although the State DEP and Fed EPA have clearly been hands-on, no permits have yet been issued for this green-waste to ethanol plant. I have no doubt that the Governor has an eye on the project and you can bet that the big oil boys do, too. "As soon as the big companies like Exxon see us coming, they're going to start to kick us," said AEE's Chairman, Christopher H. Brown, an affable, down-to-earth entrepreneur who lives in Brookfield who presented the proposal. With him were many of his associates, all of whom live in the area. Some, I believe, in New Milford.

Simply, the process uses any cellulose-based materials such as wood and leaves, anything that can be broken down to its carbon base, to make ethanol. Ethanol is then blended at a "gas" station to fuel your car using E85, a product that is 85% ethanol.

The enzyme process produces no odor, no noise, no water pollution, no air pollution. The small amount of water that is used is treated and is put into the sewer system cleaner than when it went into the plant. Here are some other highlights:

1) it has already raised $75,000,000 of the $100,000,000 estimated cost of the project without any of the many government grants that are available;
2) the waste materials are fertilizer, liquid gypsum used for the manufacture of drywall, liquid carbon dioxide, lignan which is separated from the sugar in the green waste and furferol, a byproduct of the breaking down of cellulosic materials. These are readily marketable commodities;
3) If spilled, ethanol evaporates and thus doesn't get into the ground water;
4) the plant will generate between 5 to 7 Megawatts of clean and green electricity -- enough to run New Milford and areas south --that will be put back into the grid as KC is doing and the Company is willing to make a deal with the Town to buy its needs at a discount;
5) it will produce about 200 jobs, with preferences given to area residents. Three to five engineers, 20 lab techs, 40 to 50 person labor force, security personnel, railroad engineers, truck drivers and sales reps. It will operate 24/7 with 3 shifts;
6) it is self-sustaining. Once up and running, it will not need any energy to keep running;
7) the plant will have its own safety and fire-fighting equipment and the Company will train local fire personnel in the correct procedures for handling emergencies; and
8) the project will need between 200,000 and 500,000 tons of wood and plant materials per year and this will include properly sorted waste demolition materials. [ed. note: thanks to Mark, I corrected these numbers]

The Council authorized the Mayor to move ahead with negotiations. It also authorized her to bring some consultants for the Council to interview.

Councilman Walter Bayer said it all. "I don't see anything wrong with us being a beacon for this type of project...I don't want AEE to be chased away." Bravo!

"This is going to change the future," said Mr. Brown and I agree. New Milford can play a role in ending our dependence on foreign oil and it can be the envy of the world. What a wonderful idea. I hope the Members of the Council have the wisdom and foresight to embrace it.

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