The dynamic duo of editorial page editor Nathan Crabbe, (a/k/a good guy) and retired editorial page editor Ron Cunningham (a/k/a bad guy)—the Sun-Shine Boys–decided that Saturday, March 23, 2013, would be a good day to throw the bull around City issues, to assure us that there is more than “driving under the influence” arrests of the only two candidates for Mayor of the City of Gainesville, at stake in the run-off on April 16, 2013.
With reckless disregard of facts or history, they threw at us readers the views of Pamela Mincey. She claims to be a cargo airline pilot. She extols the virtues of the coming biomass plant to us good citizens of Gainesville, and other customers as well of GRU—the Gainesville Regional Utilities.
Her voice might seem fresh except for the fact that during the last three years, she has written about this topic only for the Sun, on eight different occasions, several times at an unreasonable length, including today. If further distraction still is needed, we will hear from Rob Brinkman, or Ray Washington next.
While most of us writers of letters to the editor nowadays are limited to 150 words every month or so, if we can please the Sun-Shine Boys, they make sure their favorites are given all the space those opinionaters need, as long as the editorial page editors agree with the views expressed, or they see a chance to create a “controversy” or “debate” when one no longer exists, because their point of view has been rejected by the public, either at the polls or in current events.
So Ms. Mincey is allowed to go on and on about the wonders of biomass as a fuel without a single meaningful reference to the real current issue–the soaring, unanticipated costs of the fuel, and more recently, about the miscalculation of GRU in applying financial reserves toward those expenditures rather than for their intended purpose for GRU customers.
But our Ms. Mincey makes clear that her topic is not about economics, but what she still loves to call science. In the last six of the eight articles, including that published on Mar. 23, 2013, Ms. Mincey assures us “scientists” are behind the GRU plant all the way. In six of those columns/letters she holds out as her scientific authority Dr. James Hansen, Director of the NASA Goddard Institute of Climate Change. She either does not know or ignores the criticism he has undergone since last year of basing his theory on mathematical formulae rather than on sound data backed reasoning.
See, e.g., “Global Warming: An Exclusive Look at James Hansen’s Scary New Math,” By Paul Tullis, the Space and Science Section, Time Magazine, May 10, 2012. Ms. Mincey also has been challenged by Greenpeace for her claim that the organization endorses biomass, as she describes the issue.
In fact, however, in the first of her contributions to the Gainesville Sun, on this singular topic, Ms. Mincey recognized that the ongoing controversy is about the financial mistakes made by GRU in its agreement for a private company to supply biomass as a primary fuel source for electricity during a 30 year period.
In short, GRU, and its retired but re-employed Ed Regan were given carte blanche to enter into a 30-year contract without an escape clause, and then they made an error in judgment in 2008-09. Apparently not believing anyone knew more than they did, or could offer any insights of value, they have caused the on-going debate about the biomass issue to flourish, now that it is apparent to most of us that the City of Gainesville acted improperly in keeping the 30-year-contract secret from the public.
What they did was make a mistake. They bet our future utility payments that natural gas prices would continue to rise. They fell. By this year, President Obama recognized in his state of the union address that natural gas would provide a proper stimulus for a return to a thriving economy.
Based on that mistake, GRU and the City expected to be able to sell much of the plentiful supply of biomass in the designated area, to other utilities, to other users. But once the price of natural gas declined sharply, and showed no signs of increasing, in part because fracking has supplied increased amounts of the fuel, no one around Gainesville was interested in buying biomass as a fuel for their communities or businesses.
As Mr. Regan reported on deposition after he retired, GRU has been unable to sell any of the products to other customers. So the utility in the foreseeable future will be paying more for the amount of biomass used, rather than less, as they anticipated. But wait. Isn’t it all worth it, if somehow biomass fuel–as it is locally defined–is great for the environment and the economy (more jobs)?
Perhaps. But certainly the science of Ms. Mincey hardly is enough to create believers in the rest of us. Her source is a single science “god”:
Letters to the Editor – July 22 2010 “Dr. James Hansen, Director of the NASA Goddard Institute Climate Change, physicist and discoverer of global warming, states conclusively (as do all climatologists) that coal emissions are the culprit, not car emissions. Millions of tons of coal emissions annually are adversely changing the Earth at an accelerating rate. Hanson supports biomass and renewable (not nuclear) energy development.” http://www.gainesville.com/article/20100722/OPINION02/100729905
Letters to the Editor – March 14, 2011 “The climate crisis is now. Dr. James Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and a leading climatologist, has issued this statement: ‘Well-planned sustainable biomass power plants are a viable source of clean renewable electricity … Knee-jerk opposition to all biomass projects has no sound scientific basis … In my opinion, the proposed waste and residue-powered 100-MW Gainesville Renewable Energy Center deserves support and is a useful step toward the essential task of phasing out coal emissions.’” http://www.gainesville.com/article/20110314/OPINION02/110319767
Pamela Mincey: GRU Contrarians spin conspiracy theories, Sept. 6, 2011 “In fact, thanks to GRU’s management and city commissioners’ leadership, Gainesville has received national recognition for its renewable sustainable solar energy development. The greatest climatologist in the world, Dr. James Hansen, has endorsed GREC. The only individuals benefiting from this abuse of our community and GRU are oil drilling, coal mining and gas fracking industries. For GRU consumers this should say it all.” http://www.gainesville.com/article/20110906/OPINION/110909688
Pamela Mincey: Science vs Tooth Fairy candidates, Dec. 16, 2011 “The world’s leading Climatologist, Dr. James Hansen, states, ‘The tragedy is that many environmentalists line up on the side of the fossil fuel industry, advocating renewables as if they, plus energy efficiency, would solve the global climate change matter…suggesting that renewables will let us phase off fossil fuels in the United States, China, India, or the world as a whole is almost the equivalent of believing in the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy.’” http://www.gainesville.com/article/20111215/OPINION/111219746
Pamela Mincey: Biomass is closed-cycle carbon neutral, Jan. 19, 2012 “In 2011 CDAIC converted 70 percent of its facility to forest debris-based biomass energy. The world’s leading CO2 scientists have endorsed sustainable forest-debris biomass as Co2 neutral energy. Dr. James Hansen, of NASA’s GISS, climatologist and grandfather of global warming, stated unequivocal support for Gainesville’s GREC as means to reduce FFCO2 emissions. The science is complete: Biomass is closed cycle carbon neutral, sustainable, renewable energy.” http://www.gainesville.com/article/20120119/NEWS/120119453
Pamela Mincey: Gainesville making smart energy moves with biomass, Mar. 23, 2013 “The scientific community is on the side of renewable and sustainable energy sources: World renowned climate scientist James Hansen endorsed the Gainesville Renewable Energy Center (GREC, a.k.a. the biomass plant) and eminent climate activist Bill McKibben of 350.org is a strong advocate of the sustainability of biomass, just to name two. http://www.gainesville.com/article/20130323/OPINION03/130329910
But what about Bill McKibben? Where did he come from? We would note his connection with James Hansen in the following comment to an article in 2012. They are referenced in this report in a 2012 comment, to “Massachusetts Finalizes Strict Regulations on Biomass Plants” By Meg Cichon, Associate Editor, RenewableEnergyWorld.com
“New Hampshire, U.S.A. — The Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) finalized the Massachusetts Renewable Portfolio Standard Class I regulations for biomass eligibility yesterday after more than two years of evaluation and heated debate.
joe-zorzin August 27, 2012″ Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, likes the small biomass plant built on the Middlebury College campus, where he teaches. And, James Hansen, one of the first scientists to warn of global warming once said the following: “”Well-planned sustainable biomass power plants are a viable source of clean renewable electricity, and thus are helpful for the task of phasing out coal-fired power plants. Knee-jerk opposition to all biomass projects has no sound scientific basis and is harmful to attempts to stabilize climate for the sake of our children, grandchildren, and future generations. In my opinion, the proposed 100 MW Gainesville Renewable Energy Center deserves support and is a useful step toward the essential task of phasing out coal emissions.”
Zorin concludes: The obvious point being that if these 2 can support certain biomass facilities- biomass can’t be all that bad- it’s all about how you do it and where you get the wood.
So enough about biomass for the moment. Let’s get back to what, if anything, can be done, for example, to persuade Stuart Craig Lowe and Ed to step aside, because neither can generate faith in good government among the vast majority of registered voters in Gainesville, if the race comes down to a choice of the lesser of these two evils. Even without a voter boycott, the turnout is likely to be the lowest imaginable. The loser is clear–the City of Gainesville.