BioTown USA: Going Off the Grid

The New York Times brings us the story of Reynolds, Indiana, a corn, soybean and hog farming town smack dab in the middle of America's breadbasket. The town, whose population has dwindled to just 533 residents, wants to secede from America's energy grid and power itself entirely with renewable sources, like its corn and pigs. The State of Indiana first brought the idea to Reynolds last year, calling it BioTown, in an experiment Gov. Mitch Daniels acknowledged could be viewed as a bit of "a stunt." But in the ensuing months, as the price of gasoline soared, Reynolds adopted the notion as its own, and residents began speaking passionately of an end to their reliance on foreign oil and of the potential electricity they could envision in the more than 150,000 pigs raised nearby. Since last November, nearly 100 of the community's residents have begun driving cars that can run on ethanol-based fuel, as has the employee who drives one of the town's three vehicles. The other two town cars have been replaced with diesel vehicles, so they can run on biodiesel.And this month, officials here began work on a plant that would allow Reynolds to draw its electricity from pig and cow manure, as well as human waste (see our round-up of others realizing the power of poo here). After that, they say they want to make their own renewable natural gas with the methane from the waste of those same pigs, cows and people.

While some of the plan seems to have a pie-in-the-sky dreaminess to it, the small scale experiment might prove useful for other towns considering similar measures. There are lots of obstancles for Reynolds to achieve their off-grid goal, but we like the idea that going off the grid could be used for economic as well as environmental sustainability. Good luck, Reynolds! via ::New York Times
photo copyright Peter Thompson for The New York Times