Michigan or Bust: How Ag Can Help Solve Detroit’s Woes

27 08 2011

They say there are two seasons here: construction…. And winter.

As I drove my car down highway 94 east towards my new home this morning, the transition to Michigan from Illinois didn’t seem too bad.

To pass the time, I tried to read everything down the interstate that I could. Passing cars, semis, billboards… you name it.

I stopped in the Welcome Center and picked up the Michigan Agricultural Tourism booklet (oh yeah, and to grab a state map and other free schwag).

Where does it mention anything about alternative fuels that are grown here in the heartland of the Midwest? Well, kinda. There is mention of how adding soy to your plate is a great way to support Michigan agriculture and your health. What about how soy can fuel our cars?

Apparently, there doesn’t seem to be a large focus on raising corn, either, for food or fuel. Berries (you name it, I think they got it here), at first glance in this booklet appear to be one of the staple crops.

Now, I am an avid berry eater. Do not get me wrong! They offer some of the greatest health benefits out of all fresh foods. You can’t say enough about antioxidants.

But… do blueberries have the potential to eliminate smog? Don’t think so. Can cherries power vehicles while reducing our dependence on foreign oil? Not likely.

Corn, while also a tasty summer snack on the grill, can also satisfy the preceding characteristics. Soy can, too.

It seems to me that folks in Detroit are hurting. Hurting for industry, hurting for a better housing market, hurting for job security. They need alternatives, now. They need cutting edge technology, fast. They need a proliferating industry that has the potential to put food on our families’ plates AND power a greener, cleaner tomorrow.

So Michigan, please tell me… why not add a little green industry to your fields?

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Ethanol Myths. Busssssted!

23 08 2011

To kick start my blogging career, I wanted to focus on a topic that most family, friends and everyday people I run into love to bring up, especially when they hear what I majored in for my undergraduate degree.

(‘Wait, renewable energy? What’s that?’… they ask.

‘The gas used in a tractor to plow the crops doesn’t outweigh the fuel produced from the corn.’)

This was even a hot topic of debate at my cousin’s baby shower over the weekend!

Well, I can only answer with what I’ve learned in the classroom. But people want credentials, right? They want hard, true facts. And I don’t blame ’em.

Now, finally something I can cite!

 

 

 

 

Thanks to the folks at Argonne National Laboratory and an article featured in Wired two months ago, the top five major false attacks against this clean, renewable fuel have met their match.

Go to the article to read through all of them. I want to extrapolate on the first, busted myth (also the topic of heated debate at my family’s house this past Saturday).

The Argonne folks have found that producing ethanol delivers a net energy GAIN of 8.8 megajoules per liter. Okay… so what does that really mean?? And how does it have a net gain in energy?

Compared to thirty years ago, corn yields have increased dramatically. Coupled with more efficiency gains in the dry milling process, compared to wet milling, the outputs (i.e. ethanol) far outweigh the inputs (i.e. fuel in the tractors).

So, next time your cousins or friends bring up the false claims against ethanol… you’ll have the proper source to back up this sustainable fuel.

…Even if you’re not at a baby shower!





McLean County Fair: 4-H’ers perservere.

12 08 2011

I enjoyed every minute out at the McLean County Fair last week.

I have never seen so many pigs, goat, bunnies, chickens… or little kids all in one place! The diverse smells were abundant, too, wafting from the bubbling corn on-the-cob fryers and sizzling funnel cake griddles.

My favorite part? The 4-H’ers. Each kid demonstrated immense dedication and perseverance to his/her chosen craft. And to think the youngest out there competing is merely eight years old!

These photos embody the 4-H’ers’ hard work put forth at the 2011 McLean County Fair.

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I hope you are also inspired by these little tykes’ commitment.

Up next – Illinois State Fair… here I come!