Industrial Ecology Spreads in the US Heartland


We earlier wrote of a wondrous industry park in Kansas being built on the Waste-To-Product cycling principles espoused by world class consultants and industrial ecologists . Industrial Ecologists define their ideal thusly: "the use of energies and materials is optimized, wastes and pollution are minimized, and there is an economically viable role for every product of a manufacturing process." The most famous and long standing example of applying these principles with great success is "The Industrial Symbiosis at Kalundborg, Denmark". Now we've found evidence that the sleeping and massively inefficient giant called the United States is awakening to the large scale effficiencies of industrial ecology, not starting in Washington DC, but in the heartland.As reported in the Oct 27, 2005 - Omaha World-Herald, Backers of the E3 Biofuels Complex being built in Mead Nebraska say it's innovative design will boost ethanol's competitive edge while easing environmental problems related to ethanol production and large livestock operations. Construction has begun for the project, first in the nation to pair an ethanol plant with a cattle feed yard.

"The ethanol plant will be powered by methane gas from cattle manure, while the cattle will be fed byproducts from the corn used to make ethanol. The manure and corn residual would be sold as fertilizer...David Hallberg, president and chief executive officer of E3 Biofuels, said his goal is to build more than 100 such plants across the country in the next 15 years".

"E3 Biofuels is spending $71 million on the operation, part of which is being used to buy the Mead Cattle Co., an existing 30,000- head feedlot. Hallberg estimated that ethanol will cost about 30 to 50 cents less per gallon to make at this plant, compared with conventional plants. That's due in large part because the plant won't have to buy natural gas for fuel. Using methane, he said, should save about $8 million annually in natural gas costs".

We hasten to point out that according to the USEPA "Methane is about 21 times more powerful at warming the atmosphere than carbon dioxide (CO2) by weight...Methane's chemical lifetime in the atmosphere is approximately 12 years. Methane’s relatively short atmospheric lifetime, coupled with its potency as a greenhouse gas, makes it a candidate for mitigating global warming over the near-term (i.e., next 25 years or so)". The cattle manure-generated methane is presently being released to the atmosphere unabated. Projects such as the one discussed above are, therefore, a net positive.