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Conversations from the Four Rivers Region

Archive for the ‘WKMS Abroad’ Category

Put a Sticker on It

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The WKMS sticker made its mark on Mizzou.

Written by Angela Hatton

October 13, 2010 at 10:04 am

Posted in Photo Op, WKMS Abroad

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Expert Answers WKMS Biomass Question

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Chad Lampe asked the following question about biomass:

“Missouri’s Democratic 8th District Congressional Candidate Brett Sowers mentioned last night during a debate that his district is like the Saudi Arabia for trees. He wondered why there aren’t any major biomass productions in his district. I’d be darn interested to learn more about biomass production in our part of the country. What would they yield? Does the effort justify the outcome? Would we lose all of our “treescape” if we adopted this biomass alternative energy model?”

Patrick Westhoff of the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute at the University of Missouri offered the following answer:

Many people have been discussing the possibility of turning woody biomass into biofuels, and of course we’ve been burning woody biomass for thousands of years. So far, no one has figured out a way to make biofuels profitably from woody biomass—there have been some research-scale efforts, but nothing commercial.

The future of using woody biomass for biofuel production depends on:

1)      Technology—will we discover more efficient ways to harvest, transport, and process woody biomass to make biofuels?

2)      Policy—will existing incentives be continued or increased?  As it is, some of the special incentives for biofuel production from woody biomass are set to expire within the next three years. Investors may be wary of making long-run investments when it’s far from clear what the policy environment will be when plants are actually operational.

3)      What will be the price of oil? Things that don’t make economic sense at $80/barrel oil may look a lot more attractive if oil prices increase sharply.

4)      Lots of other things, ranging from rules governing what can be harvested to the development of competing biofuels.

Woody biomass can, of course, also be used for electricity generation.  As with biofuels, this will depend on prices, policies, technology and much more.

Potential per-acre yields of woody biomass are relatively high, but I’m probably not the best person to ask (you might want to talk to Francisco Aguilar from the Agroforestry program here at MU).

Given all these uncertainties, you should not be surprised to hear that it’s almost impossible to guess the potential scale of activities, and thus what the effect on the landscape might be.

Written by Angela Hatton

October 12, 2010 at 3:07 pm

Making Kentucky Proud

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. . . at least that’s what I hope I’m doing here. I believe that I’m the only representative from the Bluegrass State attending the conference.

The biofuels discussion went by in a rush. To give an explanation in one sentence, it’s a complicated issue. Since corn ethanol has been studied more than anything else, that was the main topic discussed. One concern economists and scientists are looking at is that the federal tax incentives for biofuel production are set to expire December 31 this year. The question is, if the incentives aren’t renewed, will standards go down? I’ll have more from the biofuel discussion later.

The session on Immigrant Labor is beginning soon.  Watch it here.

Written by Angela Hatton

October 12, 2010 at 1:54 pm

Connecting at UMC

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Folks are milling around here at the Food, Fuel, and Society Conference, drinking coffee, and chowing down on some breakfast bagels and fruit.

So far, I’ve met Donna Vestal, editor of Harvest Public Media. Harvest is a consortium of six member stations focusing on issues related to agriculture. They’re brand new. Only a few months old, according to Vestal. They’re working with a small staff on a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Their two-year goal is to be self-sufficient. Their goal at this conference is to make connections and build their mission for reporting in the future. Check out their Facebook page.

I’ve also met Dave Swenson, an economist from the University of Iowa. He’ll be at this morning’s breakout session, “Biofuels or Bust.” (Still time to get your questions in, *nudge* *nudge*.) Swenson said he plans to talk about some of the problems in developing biofuels. Basically, he said, even though develop seems to be moving forward in states, including Kentucky, innovation is stagnant.

Looking forward to meeting new people and bringing back some good ideas to the WKMS newsroom.

You can watch this morning’s sessions (including the keynote with Ira Flatow) and check out the live blog here.

Written by Angela Hatton

October 12, 2010 at 8:31 am

Let’s Get Ready to Conference

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by ANGELA HATTON

Greetings from Columbia! The city is a busy college town with hip shops and trendy restaurants, but outside the city the rolling farmland isn’t that much different from western Kentucky. And the local NPR station, KBIA’s call letters? 91.3. I’m right at home.

Tomorrow is the Food, Fuel, and Society Conference. There’s still time to send me some questions about biofuel and immigrant farm labor. For example, one thing I’ve heard so far is that E-85 fuel seems to burn faster than traditional gasoline. So, the question is are ethanol-makers are aware of that, and are other biofuels (like switchgrass) better as gasoline replacements?

P. S. If you’re ever in Columbia, check out India House for some good Indian food in generous portions.

WKMS likes the food of India.

Written by Angela Hatton

October 11, 2010 at 8:31 pm

WKMS Goes to Missouri

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by ANGELA HATTON

Today I’ll be celebrating Columbus Day by driving to Columbia, Missouri, for the Food, Fuel, and Society Conference at University of Missouri, Columbia’s Reynolds Institute for Journalism. Now that’s a mouthful.

Ira Flatow, the host of NPR’s  Science Friday is the featured guest speaker at tomorrow’s conference. The focus will be better practices in agriculture reporting.  It’s not just plowing and planting, people. I’ll be talking to other reporters, farmers, professors, and analysts. And you can participate too. Here’s how:

I’ll be attending two panel discussions. One on bio-fuels, and the other on immigrant farm labor. If you’ve got a question you’d like me to ask, leave it as a comment at the bottom of this post.

To find out more about what’s new in the world of agriculture, visit Harvest Public Media’s Facebook page.  You can follow them on Twitter too.

Hey, WKMS is on Facebook and Twitter too!

More later from the Show-Me State!

Written by Angela Hatton

October 11, 2010 at 9:53 am

Photos from Vegas are here

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As promised, here is just one of the photos from WKMS’s trip to Vegas. It was a very informative, very fun trip.

Follow this link to see the rest of the album.

Written by Bec Feldhaus

October 7, 2010 at 11:43 am