Jon Carson: Well, good afternoon everyone. Welcome to the White House. I'm Jon Carson, the Director of The Office of Public Engagement here at the White House. I want to welcome everyone who's following along online at whitehouse.gov/live, our fantastic audience here today, but of course and most importantly, our fantastic champions of change in renewable and clean energy who we're celebrating here today. I want to first tell you a little with about the Champions of Change program. But then, before we kick things off, I have an ask for everyone who's following along online, everyone who's here in the audience, and most importantly, our champions of change. We started this program here at the White House because this President and this administration firmly believes that we here in Washington do not have a monopoly on good ideas, that while we here in Washington are arguing over things like renewable energy tax credits, there are people out across the country who are making change happen every single day. And so what we wanted to do with the Champions of Change program is shine that spotlight on these champions, on people who are driving innovation, who are making a difference.
And we've had many different themes that we've celebrated. But I think this theme of renewable energy, of driving toward a clean energy economy, is so dear to this President's heart, is so important to what we're trying to achieve as a nation. And so the ask that I have for all of you, whether you're following online or are here as one of our champions is to help us tell this story, to help us take the idea of a clean energy economy and make it real and concrete with what all of you have achieved. Because what we've seen is that there are millions of other Americans who perhaps wonder can they be part of the solution, can they make a difference. And telling the story, whether you're online or here in the audience, of what you or your organization are doing and, most importantly, of what our champions are doing, you would be surprised, I think, the number of people that can motivate and inspire. One other Champions of Change group we had here were chefs who found a local school district and partnered with them to bring the ideas of Let's Move! and healthy practices to cafeterias across the country.
And we've received e-mails from dozens of other chefs in school districts who saw that example and followed it. So we're so excited about what our champions here today are going to be able to inspire with all of your help of telling this story. So whether you tweet it, blog about it, or find three people in the grocery store tomorrow to tell this story, please help us in lifting up their voices. And to kick things off today, I'm very excited to introduce here to this stage someone that I use to work for. I spent my first two years here as the Chief of Staff at the Council On Environmental Quality. And I am here to tell you, if you care about clean energy, if you care about renewable energy, if you care about any of these issues, you have an advocate here in the White House who knows, first and foremost, how the real world works, someone who has worked at all levels of government and helped drive transformation, the President's Senior Advisor on Energy and Environmental Issues, the Chair of the Council on Environmental Equality, Nancy Sutley.
(applause) Nancy Sutley: Thanks, John, for that very nice introduction. And I don't even pay him anymore. So good afternoon. And welcome to all of you. Welcome to the White House, particularly to our champions of change. Welcome to the White House. And as Jon said, you know, the President strongly believes that change doesn't always come from Washington. In fact, it probably doesn't come from Washington. It comes from Americans, people all around the country who are working to make a difference in their communities, at home, and working to make a better life for their families and for their communities. And that's why this Champions of Change program is so exciting. And this week, we're recognizing nine champions who are making a difference advancing new ideas and new ways to lead the way in the clean energy future.
And that's going to help us build an economy that's built to last. Every day, every one who's on this panel helps to meet some of the most significant challenges that we face in the 21st century. And their work demonstrates how investments in innovative renewable energy are fueling a new clean energy economy, reducing our dependence on foreign oil and making our country safer and healthier. And the President is committed to working with you. He understands the need for an all of the above energy strategy, one that relies on clean renewable resources like wind and solar power and new technologies that help us use less energy over all. And that's why he's made the largest investments in clean energy in American history. And since President Obama took office, America's dependence on foreign oil has decreased every year.
In 2010, the United States imported less than half of all the oil it consumed. That's a first in 13 years. And last year, we've cut net oil imports by 10%, which is a million barrels a day. Thanks in part to the investment in clean energy, the United States has nearly doubled renewable energy generation from wind and solar and geothermal sources since 2008. And last year, according to industry experts, the United States has reclaimed the title as the world's leading investor in clean energy technologies, besting countries like China, India, and Germany. We need to leverage American ingenuity, innovation, and technology so that we can safely and responsibly develop more energy here at home and be a leader in the global clean energy economy. We all have a role to play in building this more sustainable and more prosperous future for the organizations you're all with, for your communities, and for our country and really for our planet. So I want to thank all of you for everything you're doing and everything you're going to continue to do to help improve lives around the country. And know that, as you fight for safer communities for a more secure energy future and a healthier planet, that the President is in your corner.
So thanks very much. Congratulations. And thank you all. (applause) Jon Carson: Thank you, Nancy. And while our champions are driving change around the country, the federal government has taken renewable energy very, very seriously as well. And I think one thing that Nancy and the President are so proud of is that, of all the agencies across the federal government who are driving change in renewable energy, the Department Of Defense is clear and away one of the strong leaders. And so today, we would like to have three leaders at the Department of Defense and the different branches of our military say a few words about the great work that's going on at DOD. And we'll start with the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations Energy Environment, Katherine Hammack. (applause) Katherine Hammack: Thank you, Jon. I'm delighted to be here with so many fascinating individuals.
And I had an opportunity to talk with them before and learn a little bit about their stories. And I'm sure you're going to enjoy the next hour or so as you learn about what their advancing. Nancy, I appreciate your leadership. It is certainly critical that we have an advocate in the White House as we move forward. Representing the Army, the Army's mission is very dependent upon power and energy and upon our ability to adapt to change and innovate to the circumstances in which our forces find ourselves. We know that change and innovation begins with people. And so it takes champions of change, people willing to make a difference, to step out of the norm and try something new that will help us succeed in our mission to advance technology and advance our energy performance. In looking over the bios and in talking with you, I was amazed in the diversity from wind to solar, biomass to some nascent chemistry. It is absolutely fascinating the different technologies.
And then it's also very wide reaching. Talking to Jan, NRG is, across the world, I think 150 different countries. From Rocky Mountain to California, to the East Coast, the changes are around the world. And from Lieutenant Colonel Samuels who I last saw when we were in Afghanistan and he was showing me the microgrid project that is going on at Bagram. And just talking with Ed O'Rourke about some of the technologies that are being deployed in our Ford operating forces to enable them to operate on solar power and other resources in lieu of liquid fuels. To the Army, the mission really is serving, protecting, and defending this nation. And we put some of our soldiers out in situations that are very leading edge. It's very difficult to get fuel to them. And with some of the technologies advanced by people just like this, it means that we can have fewer fuel convoys on the road. And one in every 46 convoys suffers a casualty, which means if we have fewer convoys on the road, we are saving lives.
And that's very important to our mission, that we're able to succeed at our mission to defend the United States and to try and keep our sons, daughters, husbands, and wives out of harm's way. So it is very important to us what you do. One thing you all have in common is your passion. And as we were talking — I didn't get to talk to every one of you, but you're so passionate about what you're doing. And that's absolutely amazing. And I would encourage you to keep up that passion as you advance and continue to innovate in the face of adversity. Whether it's expiring tax credits — which we know some of these are going away. That doesn't mean the technology goes away. Storage solutions. We've got to have some of these energy storage solutions that will help us with the intermittency of renewables. So I really want to thank you for what you're doing every day for this nation and for energy security. (applause) Jon Carson: Thank you, Katherine. And again, for those of you following online or are here in the audience who can get reception, I encourage you to tweet about our event today.
We're using the hashtag whchamps. And you can tweet me at joncarson44 as well. Now here from the Navy to tell us about the fantastic things happening on the high seas under the U.S. flag across the country is Tom Hicks, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Navy for Energy. (applause) Tom Hicks: Thank you. First I want to congratulate all the winners here. All well deserved, remarkable people, remarkable products remarkable technologies that they're doing. I think it's just terrific. I just want to say just a few words and start with, you know, the Secretary of the Navy laid out a number of energy goals when he took office and came on board. Overarching is, by 2020, half of our energy will come from alternative sources.
And we do this — while it has great attributes, environmental attributes, but we don't do this to advance an environmental agenda. We're doing this because it adds combat capability. It saves lives. It saves money. And I think there's no better example than the folk that are up here and the technologies that they represent than that. And if I can call it specifically just because we have such a close connection with it, Ed O'Rourke's work that he's done with Iris has been — I don't know if there's a better example than what the Marine Corps has done, incorporating technologies such as that toward the Secretary of the Navy's vision. Well known, but for one in every 50 fuel convoys in theater, we have one marine killed or wounded. So taking fuel out of theater not only saves money but it also saves lives. And I think that's — you know, taking on that challenge, the Marine Corps initiated their experimental Forward Operating Base back in March of 2010 and invited industry in to come in and bring their technologies in to test what can work and what they can bring in to theater, what they can Marine proof and Marine test and take into theater.
And just over six months later, India Company 3, 5 took those technologies in into Afghanistan. And not just any part of Afghanistan but the most fiercest part of the fight to great effect. They saw reductions of energy between 25 and 90% in the forward operating environment, taking that precious fuel out and saving those precious lives as a result. And in that theory — or that thought continues. In fact, later this month, April 30th through May 4th, the experimental Forward Operating Base will continue on. This will be at Camp Lejeune, bringing in more industry, more technologies to test and take out into theater. But what they did back in March is really test out and prove out a number of great technologies that they can bring into theater, technologies such as tent liners and LED lights and renewable generation systems and technologies like Ed represents, solar blankets that they're able to use to charge batteries. And to that end, they saw a tremendous impact, able to look at a marine patrol that would normally need a battery resupply every two to three days and allow them to go out to three weeks, again, adding combat capability while taking energy and money out of the theater.
So really together, with these technologies, we really see that the ExFOB will be a way for us to further test, highlight the clean technologies such as represented here, again, so that we can save lives, add, enhance our combat capabilities, and save money. With that, thank you. (applause) Jon Carson: Thank you, Tom. And finally, we have Major General Marcia Anderson, the Deputy Chief of the Army Reserve. Thank you. (applause) Major General Anderson: Thank you very much. Good afternoon Ms. Hammack, Mr. Hicks, distinguished guests, and of course our champions. I want to talk a little bit today about the Army Reserve's contribution because Lieutenant Colonel Samuels is a DA civilian, which means he's a citizen soldier. And he, however, is being recognized today not for his accomplishments in remote sensing technology but for his accomplishments as a champion with renewable energy. As an Army Reserve soldier, sustainable energy practices, as our previous speakers have indicated, are not just a judicious use of taxpayer funds. They're critical to our national security.
And they not only save money, they protect and save our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines. More importantly though, his project also helped us with our efforts to win the hearts and minds of the Afghani people by showing America's concern for their well being and their standard of living, as well as helping curb violence. His efforts in Afghanistan reduce power outages by 50% and fuel consumption, in terms of power generation, by approximately 20% in aiding in local populous. So no matter what we do in Afghanistan, and particularly as Army Reserve soldiers, the capability that we provide helps the population, saves dollars as Mr. Hicks and Ms. Hammack have indicated, but it also serves the population there. And as I said earlier, it saves lives. So aside from the now apparent operational benefits, the Army knows we have to continue to find ways of save money during these tough economic times.
And our approach to sustainable and renewable energy is just one of those. Our intent is to go to net zero as we build installations and Army Reserve centers that produce or recycle as much energy and resources as they use. Our first net zero is at Fort Hunter Liggett in California and will use solar energy to supply over 30% of the installation's power. So it's innovators like Lieutenant Colonel Samuels and our champions here who not only help our country, they also help our Army and they help other people around the world. So again, I urge you to continue your vital work, inspire innovation elsewhere, and keep spreading the word about the importance of sustainable energy resources. Thank you very much for your contributions and your time. (applause) Rohan Patel: Thank you. And my name is Rohan Patel. I work at the Council on Environmental Equality. I want to offer up my congratulations. I want to — I have the honor of being able to actually introduce the champions.
I know you guys have been standing up here for a little while, so I'll make it as quick as I can. Our first champion is somebody you've already heard a lot about and clearly a very proud group of DOD folks that you just heard from, Lieutenant Colonel Alan Samuels. Lieutenant Colonel is a reserve officer assigned to the Army Reserve Sustainment Command in support of the Research, Development, and Engineering Command. He deployed to Afghanistan for nine months in support of the initiative to stand up a science and technology collaboration and integration center and theater. In his department of the Army, in a civilian capacity, Dr. Samuels is a research chemist, studying remote sensing technology at Edgewood Chemical Biological Center in Aberdeen. Congratulations, Lieutenant. (applause) Our next champion is Jerome Taylor from Columbia, Missouri. Jerome is a 30 year employee and CEO of MFA Oil, farmer owned energy cooperative headquartered in Columbia, Missouri.
And I noticed some of my former USDA colleagues here who I'm sure are very, very excited about this particular champion. MFA Oil is owned by 40,000 farmers with the mission of improving the economic well being of its farmer members through distribution of energy and energy related products. MFA Oil entered the renewable fuels markets in the 1960s when it purchased an ethanol plant to make gasohol and currently invests in oil refining and biodiesel production. One of the unique qualities that they have started is the use of — and I'm going to probably make a mistake here — Miscanthus giganteus which is an energy crop. It's a noninvasive perennial that needs moderate inputs and grows on marginal ground. It's carbon neutral, and it produces significant energy per acre. And Mr. Taylor is on the board of the National Cooperative for Refinery Association and the Mid-America Biofuels. So thank you very much. (applause) Next champion is Dr. James Liao from Los Angeles, California.
Dr. Liao is a Parson's foundation Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular engineering at UCLA. As a leading expert in metabolic engineering and synthetic biology, Dr. Liao has developed several microbial technologies for production of fuel and chemicals. Most recently, he and his team have created an integrated process for converting electricity and carbon dioxide to a gasoline substitute. He was also the recipient of the 2010 Green Chemistry Challenge Awards. Congratulations, Dr. Liao. (applause) Next recipient is Ed O'Rourke from Irvine, California. You heard a little bit about his story from our DOD partners. Ed is the CEO of Iris Technology Corporation, Irvine, California based company dedicated to delivering the best power and energy solutions for American troops. Iris technology supplies the military with products that promote energy independence and enhance national security. PV powered battery recharging technology, including from Iris Technology Corporation, has allowed marine patrols to go rather than just the two or three days it would need for recharging, two or three weeks without battery recharging. And it's just extraordinary.
And Ed, I want to congratulate you for this honor. It's fantastic. Ed O'Rourke: Thank you. (applause) Rohan Patel: The next champion is somebody I had a chance to meet with yesterday and is just doing some phenomenal work, something that I'm very excited about. Erin Geegan is from Boulder, Colorado. Erin is the CEO of Zam Energy and part of the leadership team for environmental entrepreneurs in the Rocky Mountain region. She's working toward a future where transportation is fueled by sustainable resources to reduce air pollution, enhance national security, and grow jobs and the economy. Her company installs solar carports in parking lots and integrates electric vehicle charging systems to deliver smart energy solutions. So thanks for your leadership.
Congratulations. (applause) Next champion is Vernice Creese from Fresno. Vernice is President and CEO of Unlimited Energy Solutions, Inc., a 28 year old renewable energy company in Central California that specializes in solar, photovoltaic, and thermal integration. UESS, Inc. provides solar integration systems for commercial, residential, municipal and agricultural customers throughout California and is the only woman owned business certified solar company in the entire state. The company holds one of the oldest solar contractor licenses in California. And her team focuses on the needs of their customers and the community at large, advocating for solar and renewable resource options throughout the region. Ms. Creese is an active member of the Women in Green local Chambers of Commerce and serves on the board of the Children's Services Network. Congratulations, Vernice. (applause) Eric Ingersoll from Newton, Massachusetts is the CEO and founder of General Compression, one of the inventors of its core technology.
General Compression is developing utility scale compressed air energy storage technology. The company which has partnerships with several major energy companies is building projects that will transform intermittent wind farms into firm baseload generators. Ingersoll also is on the board of the Clean Air Task Force, a global non-profit focused on solutions to climate change. Congratulations. (applause) Next champion is from Hinesburg, Vermont, Jan Blittersdorf. Jan is President and CEO of NRG Systems, which provides wind and solar measurement and turbine control equipment to electric utilities, wind farm developers, turbine manufacturers, and research institutes. During her tenure, she has doubled the size of the companies workforce and extended its reach to 150 countries.
NRG systems was also named Top Small Workplace by the Wall Street Journal in 2007 and has consistently been recognized as one of the best places to work in the state of Vermont. Recently, it received LEED Gold Certification from the USGBC for its state of the art green manufacturing facilities. Jan serves on the board of directors for the American Wind Energy Association. She's the chair of the American Wind Wildlife Institute and is on the board of the American Institute for Sustainable Communities. Congratulations. (applause) Last but not least, our final champion is Kevin Frank from York, Pennsylvania. Kevin is President and CEO of York, Pennsylvania based Voith Hydro. Kevin is a board member of the National Hydropower Association, currently chairs its CEO council which advocates for hydropower at both the federal and the state level. He's used these positions to discuss and advance both the economic and environmental impacts and benefits of hydropower as the nation's largest renewable energy source.
Most recently, Frank lead Voith Hydro's efforts to secure the contract for the Red Rock Hydroelectric Project in Iowa, the most recent large hydro project scheduled to be constructed in the United States. The construction and completion of Red Rock will create and sustain jobs, both in Iowa and in York, Pennsylvania. Congratulations! (applause) And to lead our first panel discussion is the Director of the ARPA-E Advanced Research Projects Agency, Dr. Arun Majumdar. Dr. Majumdar is the country's only — leads the country's only agency devoted to transformational energy research and development. And he also serves as the acting Undersecretary of Energy. He has a long bio, and he's done a whole heck of a lot of stuff. I'm not going to read the entire bio, but I will say that the most exciting part of the bio to me was that he and my father both went to the same undergraduate institution in India. So I'm particularly pleased to have you lead this and moderate this panel.
Dr. Majumdar. (applause) Dr. Majumdar: First of all, let me offer my thanks to Nancy Sutley and Jon Carson for their support and leadership on behalf of the White House. This is an immensely important issue, recognizing our innovators. And I would like to put that into context in a few minutes. I also want to thank my colleagues in DOD for your leadership of making energy such an important issue in national security for the nation. And I'm here to represent the Department Of Energy so on behalf of the Secretary of Energy, Dr. Steven Chu and the rest of the department, let me congratulate all nine of you for all the work that you've done and the innovations that you have developed. And I was looking at the backgrounds, reading up on what you've done, and I must say that I'm totally humbled.
I am from the science and engineering community. I taught at it a little bit. But when I look at you, this is incredible. And the combination of what you have done for our nation is just absolutely phenomenal. Let me put that in context before we start the discussion. If you look at the history of our nation, and especially the last 100 years because that's fresh in our memory, the United States, I believe, has been the most innovative nation in the world. Think about the transistor integrated circuits, the internet. Everyone's familiar with that. Think about planes, airplanes, the Wright brothers. Think about the Polio vaccination. And you can go on and on. Think about nuclear energy. This all started out here in the United States. And we are the most innovative nation in the world. And as the President has said, we will out-innovate other nations. Not hope to. We will.
And what you have done, all nine of you, have out innovated the out-innovators. (laughter) You are the Edisons and the Teslas and the Norman Borlaugs and the Benjamin Franklin of the 21st century. Let me just be blunt about it. You are the crown jewels of our nation. The nation's future, that is the future of our children, the security, the national security, the economic security and the environmental security of our nation are in your hands. No pressure. (laughter) What you have not been told is that part of the program that will come right after this, there will be an experiment performed on you where you will be cloned — (laughter) — because we need many more of you. But it is, it's just a pleasure to be among the company of heros of our nation.
But before I start, let me just give you the opportunity. I know that a lot of us have talked. It's our time to listen to you. So if you don't mind, Jerry and Jim — I'm there, supposed to be in the middle, but I'm here — and Colonel Samuels and Ed, maybe if you could take a few minutes to talk about what you have done in your own words. And then I could ask a few questions later on and then open it up for discussion among the audience. All right? So Jerry, why don't you start? Jerome Taylor: Thank you, doctor. I'll make it very short. Quick thank yous to the USDA, the Foreign Services Administration, our partners, all Tera, who are in the room, the farmers of Missouri, Southwest Missouri, Northeast Arkansas, Northern Ohio. We have so many players in what we've accomplished.
I'm CEO of an 83 year old farmer owned cooperative owned by 40,000 farmers. We were in the ethanol business in 1960, which was gasohol. It was the front runner of it. So an old company who has persisted, I think, through the environment that we live in as a company. We're a farmer owned cooperative where our user and our owner are the same person. And I think it's that element of being a cooperative that's allowed us to be incredibly creative. Farmers are incredibly creative. We have 175 farmers who have, in the first year of planting, what we hope to be 200,000 acres of Miscanthus giganteus. (laughter) It's an energy crop. It's carbon neutral. And it grows enough tonnage and has the right fiber make up. Sequesters carbon, as I mentioned, which is critical today.
But it grows on marginal land. So it's outside the food versus fuel debate. And of course being a farmer owned cooperative and being in the ethanol business, we've been very aware of that debate as well. The renewable fuel standard that got us to the first — it's a path that has really lead us to where we are now which is the second generation of biofuels, transportation fuels. In our project, with the help from USDA and FSA and the biomass crop assistance program, we hope to — we're well on our way — our first 13,000 acres are in. We're well on the way to, if you put it in barrels per oil of reserves terms, which is, I think, critical, Exxon Mobile, largest reserves of oil, would have 700 million plus barrels. Our project, just one little old farmer owned cooperative in Central Missouri and surrounding states, our reserve as this project plays out, will be the equivalent, on a BTU basis, of about 125 million barrels.
In five years, we're going to produce, we think — if you put it in those terms, because those are the terms we're used to speaking in is barrels per oil on ground. We'll have the equivalent, coming off of that crop every year, of 125 million barrels, a substantial game changer. And that money all stays in those communities. Those are farmers who had 30 acres and 40 acres of Miscanthus on marginal ground. That income, we think, will produce somewhere around $400 an acre net profit for those farmers. Very competitive. So from an economic development standpoint, it's huge. From an energy standpoint, it's a game changer. From an environmental standpoint, it's a huge plus. So I'm delighted to be here and share our story. And I — Oh, you did change. Dr. Majumdar: Since my name is here, I guess I shouldn't change my name. So Jim? James Liao: Okay. First I would like to thank the White House for putting together this program. I'm truly honored and humbled by the peers that I'm sitting together with.
And I'm here to sort of represent a larger team of researchers who are funded by ARPA-E in a program called Electrofuel where we try to convert electricity and carbon dioxide in the air to a form of liquid fuel that we can use directly in a regular car. We know that we can harvest sunlight to produce electricity in different forms, but electricity is difficult to store even though battery technologies and various technologies have advanced tremendously. We still want to have some flexibility to convert this electrical energy to a form of energy that we can use in the regular car so we don't have to rely on a different form of infrastructure or different design of our car. So on that background, our team started to develop technologies that convert electricity and carbon dioxide to a liquid form of fuel that we can substitute gasoline. And I'm very lucky to get it to work.
And I'm very happy to be honored in this panel. Thank you. (applause) Dr. Majumdar: Colonel Samuels? Lt. Col. Sameuels: First I would like to thank the esteemed DOD reps that are here, principally for alleviating the need for me to give you some of the acronyms. Already ECOM has been spelled out for you, and I don't have to explain a lot of these things. But I do want to explain that, in the Army, we are a team. And I feel very humbled to be here to represent a huge team of extremely exceptional people that are doing extraordinary things in this area, especially as a research chemist whose expertise is in remote sensing. So I feel it's important that I explain a little bit about the background about how this came to be. So in my Reserve capacity, in what we affectionately call Weekend Warriors, I work part-time a couple days a month, a couple weeks a year in support of RDECOM headquarters, Research Development Engineering Command. And I work specifically for Colonel Boyd, the Director of Operations.
And one day, Colonel Boyd sat me down and said, Allen, I want you to deploy into Afghanistan. I said Roger, sir. And he said, I need your technical depth. I need to send someone into theater to stand up a collaboration cell in science and technology and to engage that theater and build a capability of air and theater at Bagram Airfield to support the war fighter. Said, Got it, sir. So as I got on the plane to deploy over to Afghanistan, I was thinking, okay, great, this is good, I can use my technical depth and put my skills to work in a place where they're needed to support the war effort. Nowhere, in any of my dialogue with anyone, was the word energy mentioned. So within a few days, after taking office there and learning the ropes and learning a little bit about what my predecessor Lieutenant Colonel Yolanda Frazier had done to establish the grounds for this facility to enter into engagements, one of those engagements that she and Colonel Boyd had entered into was with PM, the product manager for mobile electric power. And that PM had been recently involved in what the DOD called a Joint Capability Demonstration, a Joint Capability Technology Demonstration.
We like to use the acronyms of course, so it's a JCTD. So in that JCTD, which was called Net Zero Plus, a host of energy technologies from the various laboratories within RDECOM, within the Army Corps of Engineers, and from industry were being demonstrated in their capacity to support operational efforts. And some of the shining stars of those have emerged into the E2O initiative that you heard about earlier. A lot of those initiatives ended up on the ground in Afghanistan. And one of those initiatives hadn't yet arrived. And that was called the microgrid. I didn't know what a microgrid was, but I had to quickly learn. So I think that the achievement that I had there was to quickly engage and to embrace this problem space. Along the way, I learned some really great things from a lot of really great people.
The U.S. Army Rapid Equipping Force had an Energy to the Edge initiative. And they were working with Ms. Hammack on developing those technologies and fielding them out where they were needed most. So I immediately reached back to my headquarters and I said, Send me a subject matter expert in power and energy, I need some help here. And next thing I knew, Major General xxWeiss, the Director of Operations at Army Material Command, our higher headquarters, was telling the Pentagon that my center was our cell of expertise for power and energy and theater. That was a pretty big burden to carry. So I engaged with the Rapid Equipping Force and I said, What are you guys doing and what can we do to help? They said, Well, we need to get out to all these remote FOBs and COPs, the Forward Operating Bases and Combat Outposts, and get a feel for where these things will fit.
We have solar power technologies. We have hybrid electric technologies. And we have deportable rucksack enhanced power systems that provide electricity where it's hard to get electricity. I said, okay, Roger, let's do this. Luckily, I had an esteemed and decorated non-commissioned officer arrive just in the nick of the time, Sergeant Major DeLay. And if you'll please stand up, Sergeant Major DeLay, I want you to be recognized for what you did. (applause) Sergeant Major DeLay was a real boon to the effort. He was able to take those REF teams out — the Rapid Equipping Force is affectionately called the REF — And bring them out to those sites where they needed to see what was going on. And that enhanced vision of what was happening and what the actual power demands were, brought them better understanding of what the problem was, and they were able to fine tune their effort to more effectively field those technologies that were needed most.
So again, the bottom line is it is an army of one. I represent a huge and tremendous community. And it's a very humble thing for me to do as a research chemist without any real expertise in power and energy. I'm glad I was able to make a contribution to help out. Thank you very much. (applause) Ed O'Rourke: It's hard to know where to go after this. Iris Technology is a small business. We've been in operation 26 years now. And originally, we got into the business of building satellite gadgets. That's a lot of the high-technology situations and circuitry and electronics and software. In 1996, we had an opportunity to connect with the Marine Corps. And I'll be forever grateful with, at the time, the Marine Corps Systems Command. I want to thank the Office of the Navy, E20. Certain batteries were in short supply, and they were hazardous waste. And it was a disposal problem. And it was just an operational nightmare.
So this was 16 years ago. And we thought well, this will be easy, we'll just fix this problem, we can make a little gadget for them. And the system worked well. We built the first one, gave it to them in six weeks, it was great. The problem was it was, I think, before the whole emphasis on alternate energy really was getting traction. And we have continued to work with all branches of the service. We work a lot with the Marine Corps. They are an extremely demanding customer, extremely fair. And over the last 16 years, we have delivered a variety of all kinds of products, more than 20,000 individual gadgets in all for vehicles, for radios, for power. The thing most recently was an opportunity to provide a solar powered device with some panels and cables and batteries. It's a pretty sophisticated gadget. We wanted to make sure that we took the same care we put into these, you know, satellite systems into the tactical products we deliver, because it has to work.
And we started providing these in large quantities on a program called spaces. And more than anyone, I guess I wanted to thank the gentlemen, Platoon Commander Lieutenant Patterson. He took a moment out of his time. It was probably just a happenstance for him. He was the gentleman from 3, 5 India Company in Helmand Province. He did an eight minute video clip on Defense Vid DVID, the military version of YouTube. Extremely impactful. And he talks about what life feels like there for the guys and the gals. And in this, he talked about the role of alternate energy and solar power and keeping his guys safe. And I will tell you, it transformed our company. We've always been pro-user from day one. This really helped me explain and give it heart. And we do it every day, every day like we've done for 26 years. And we're just thrilled to be a part of this. (applause) Dr. Majumdar: Well, thank you all for, you know, explaining what you do.
Clearly, this is such a variety. So let me ask the first question of things that I know very well — not really well, but someone I know out here, that is Jim Liao. And the question that I have for you is — let me put it in context. When he talked about making fuels using synthetic biology, what he has not talked about is something that you're trying now. And correct me if I'm wrong. You know, all the biofuels for example, or for that matter food, comes from plants, the plant food and the biofeuls. And that all depends on photosynthesis. And photo synthesis has a process in it called — where it takes carbon dioxide and fixes it, something called the Calvin-Benson cycle. And our whole life on earth depends on the Calvin-Benson cycle.
And what Jim is trying to do is something intriguing. It turns out the Calvin-Benson cycle is very inefficient. The amount of energy that goes from sunlight to biofuel is less than 1%. 99% of the sunlight is wasted. And what Jim is trying to do is to change that cycle from the Calvin-Benson cycle to something much more efficience which will not only effective energy, bioenergy, but perhaps even food. And if that happens, you will be, I believe, the Norman Borlaug of the 21st century. You will get your Nobel Prize and other things. No pressure on you. You will save the world. So tell us a little bit about how you got into this and what is it that was going through your mind that triggered? Was it because you wanted to do basic science and get into do something really interesting? Or was it the need for energy? Was it macro or was it micro? James Liao: This is a very important question and a very interesting question. I think most of us will agree that we're going to run out of oil sooner or later. Maybe in our generation, maybe the next, maybe the following generation. Suppose we run out of oil. When are we going to get as a replacement? There are only a few alternatives.
And we try to do it in a way so that we don't have to dig something out from underground. So the only option that we have is to recycle carbon dioxide in the air. So then we think about how many different ways to recycle carbon dioxide. And one of the most effective ways is actually developed by biology. Plants for example, fix carbon dioxide. However, plants fix carbon dioxide for its own purpose. It grows slowly, as we all know it. And it's not necessarily efficient enough for the kind of thing we want to do, which we want to make a few instead of making sugars. So we started out thinking about the problem and trying to see where the inefficiency of carbon dioxide fixation comes from. And one thing lead to another. We investigate the detailed biochemistry. We figure out a potential way — I stress on potential because we haven't accomplished that yet. We figure out some potential ways to increase the efficiency of carbon dioxide fixation.
And if that can be done, then, as Dr. Majumdar said, we will be able to increase the food as well as the fuel output significantly. Thank you. Dr. Majumdar: Great. I should say that, you know, part of this program that he's working on, the founder of the program is Jonathan Bourbon who's sitting right there. Maybe — great. (applause) And one of the projects — and this is very intriguing, making biofuels. As you know, algae can make oil. The problem with algae is that it doesn't grow very fast. It's kind of expensive to make it. So this group is deciding to take the metabolic pathway of algae and putting it in a plant like tobacco that grows fast on bad soil. And I hope they're wildly successful. And I hope you're wildly successful too. But if the tobacco guys are successful, they will bring big oil and big tobacco together and change the world. (laughter) You can't get better than that. But I really hope you all, the whole community, is successful.
And I know you're hear to represent the community. But you also, for your own personal success in your project, I really hope so because this will indeed change the world. On a similar line, Jerry, let me ask you the question, going from science and engineering to something that leads to economic growth. You're involved in the biofuels business. You worked in Missouri, in the Midwest. Tell us in your own words, in your own thinking, if this biofuel industry can scale — and you heard from the Navy they're very interested in looking at biofuels and reducing the consumption of petroleum based fuel. And that may lead to an industry. Tell us what it would mean to the people on the agricultural side, on the economic growth, and how it could transform our nation. Jerome Taylor: You got to remember, I think for the starting point, is what we're dealing with is marginal land, which is abundant.
When we started this project, I sat with the director of the FSA. And he said Jerry, this can be a tough project because nobody knows anything about it in this country. There's not very much of it except for a few university test plots, so we're going to have to go through the whole environmental assessment and the need for process, which is a very worthwhile but lengthy and costly process to proof something out. One of the things that — I state that as just evidence of how the biomass industry has been kind of a chicken and an egg problem. It takes a lot of it. And no piece of it was moving ahead. Probably the technology, cellulosic ethanol, more dollars were being put into than anything else. But they're quickly finding out that, if there's not enough biomass, then all the technologies, the thing is out of balance.
And there was no harvesting/planting equipment. We had to start really from day one. It's a rhizome, it's a sterile plant that doesn't have a seed. So it's non-invasive, which is, for farmers, that was an absolutely requirement for us, that it was non-invasive. This process that we've gone through with the help of FSA and USDA has opened up a new horizon, I think, for biomass because it is — essentially, we can see the chicken and the egg problem beginning to dissolve because we now are manufacturing the equipment in this country that effectively plants the rhizomes. But two years ago, there was people on the back of wagons dropping rhizomes down chutes. But if you're talking about planting 200,000 acres, that's a long day, to do it on that scale. So every piece of it had to be sort of invented as we go. Today we've got 20 planters planting 40 acres a day effectively in the fields that need to be planted in so that we've seen sort of the first scaling of the biomass. So, again, the chicken and the egg thing is starting to dissolve a little bit.
What will happen — and particularly with the BCAP Program, the Biomass Crop Assistance Program, why it's so critical is that what it's doing — our goal was to drive down the cost of rhizomes, which was about $14,000 in acres. As the head administrator was telling me, Jerry, this probably isn't doable, look at the cost on it. And I said, well, here's what we're planning on doing. We're now down to $500 an acre a cost, just in the matter of a year. We've broken the rhizome market by having our own farms multiply the rhizomes. Illinois University cloned — it's the particular plant that we verify and certify. We've got the farmers absolutely thrilled about the process. In fact, the energy at the farm level is, in small towns — and keep in mind, the people hit hardest by the cost of energy are rural people. They drive big vehicles because of what they do for work.
They drive long distances. And for the most part, most of us don't make much money. We live in rural areas. Energy costs are critical to keep in balance for rural America. That enthusiasm is just unbelievably infectious in rural areas. The fact that our farmers are growing an energy crop that will stay there is a long way to get to your answer, doctor, scalable. What we have know is we, in the next year or two, in our original VCAP application, pointed to the fact that we're going to drive the cost of planning down to $250 an acre. And we believe, on a net/net basis, that farmers can get $400 an acre per year out of that at $55 a ton. Remember, the plant produces 12 to 15 tons an acre. Switch grasses, you're talking two to three tons an acre. This is a game changer.
And it's the right type of fiber. It wasn't in this country before in any amounts. It will be — because of the support of the USDA and FSA, we are putting those acres in an scalable fashion that can go into almost any town. Now, what we're doing, for example with Tyson poultry looking over our shoulder down Southwest Missouri and Arkansas where we are now, we own a furnace company, produces a biomass furnace. So I have farmers that have six chicken houses. They're growing 15 acres, on a farm, of Miscanthus. We have a service go out and process it, pelletize it, put it in the bin that feeds the furnaces that we service as a farmer owned cooperative. That farmer was probably paying $1.60 at least for propane last year, if not $1.70 a gallon. On this program, I can guarantee him an equivalent BTU basis of less than a dollar a gallon for the next 20 years. That's a game changer for agriculture.
And those are the pieces that we're seeing. So it's not only scalable. We actually — one of the pieces, one of the hardest things to get started was this jump from nothing in the biomass industry which doesn't exist in this country outside of wood which has already found its limits, to scalable and manageable on a basis that can be put almost in any community where you can put a small plant. So scalable on one hand, but it's also local on another. We're a small town of 5,000 people. We're now in a project with the Department of Natural Resources in the state of Missouri which, by the way, sponsored the study that studied energy crops for Missouri that lead to Miscanthus but also told us it's probably not doable because it's too expensive.
Now we're going to be at one seventh of that cost, and now it's doable. We're now with the Department of Natural Resources. We are now on two lead projects because of the Clean Water Act of 1998 or 96. And the lawsuits, environmental lawsuits that have pursued in 2009 and 10 where all of the Department of Natural Resources now have to enforce the Clean Water Act. And Miscanthus turns out to be one of the solutions. Now, because of the particular capabilities in the five-foot root because it has as much mass below the grounds as above, we're taking the waste water from the cities. We are now in an underground forced irrigation system. So there's no run-off into the streams. The plant takes up the balances of soil and does its thing. We cut the crop off, we produce and return, have a system for producing energy for the city, the town. So it's, in essence, a closed loop.
That's in play now. We're doing that. We're planning our first small ten acre pilot on a mining operation in Missouri. Missouri is a big mining state. And we have soil problems because the lead blows around in the things that come out of the mine. We're planting Miscanthus on it, taking the energy crop from that, providing the energy for the mining operation. So there's this amazing sort of connection of what we thought were loose ends are all sort of coming together. It's scalable, but it's very local. Dr. Majumdar: Well, thank you. I really think that, you know, what Silicon Valley is for information revolution, I really think the rural areas, the agricultural places in the United States, is the same thing to bioenergy, not just for the United States but in how to do it for the rest of the world as well. And I hope you're successful in that. Let me turn to my left and let me ask both of you. I mean, what you're doing is absolutely fascinating. You have been in the front lines and, Ed, you're providing solutions for the military.
If you don't mind, for the rest of us, paint the picture for us of what life is like on the front lines for our young men and women in uniform and how your solutions are changing their lives. How well are they accepting it? What are the barriers that you are going through in getting these solutions out there and saving lives? Maybe if you could just paint a picture for us what life is like out there. Ed O'Rourke: Do you want to take that? Lt. Col. Samuels: I'll give it a shot. The guys on the ground have got a tough road to hoe. I mean, they're out there in hostile areas. And they're under austere conditions. And they don't have the niceties of life that we've become accustomed to. Operational commanders take every measure they can to provide whatever they can. And as I mentioned, we have 200 years of institutional knowledge and logistics. We do everything to get that stuff out, those resources out. But as you get further and further out to the pointy end of the sphere, Sergeant Major DeLay can tell you, those guys are living it pretty rough. They don't get to take showers. They don't get heating and cooling.
It's a pretty rough existence, as you get and further and further out on those front lines. As we continue to push those resources out, there's a cost involved in both dollars and in blood. So as the microgrid was coming in to give us an answer for some of that, how do we reduce some of that logistics, I took a look at that. I engaged and found out that there were some pretty high-level folks looking over my shoulder. The microgrid itself was actually sponsored to come out of the Net Zero Plus JCTD and go into theater out of the Operational Energy Plans and Programs Office, the Honorable Sharon Burke. So next thing I knew, there was the Army Corps of engineers calling me, and there were folks from the Pentagon calling me and sending me emails asking me how things were going. And what we found was that as operational commanders try to bring these niceties back, as they try to push capability forward, they're often reaching into the private sector and pulling whatever they can out on inefficient models, off-the-shelf models of environmental petroleum. That was what was on the demand side of the equation for this microgrid.
You're taking really ingenious technology, the ability to turn on and off generators to reduce the amount of power based on the demand. But there wasn't much happening on the demand side. We had these relatively inefficient environmental control units that were cooling what? A tent. In temperatures well over 100 degrees. There was some work to be done on the demand side of the equation. Luckily, the PM for forced sustainment systems was already behind that with tent liners, tent shades coming out. That gave us an opportunity to engage and provide some of these operational and these quality of life capacity that we needed to for those soldiers who were out there sweating and freezing. And I think there's still a lot of work to do. But in the final analysis, taking a look at the whole problem as a system is what matters. Dr.
Majumdar: May I add one thing? I know one of the things the Marine Corps has been absolutely all over is the training because I think the American experience with power is, if you want something, you flip the light switch on and it comes on and it always comes on. So we're pushing gear forward where people have to somehow make choices about what's more important. Do you want to run this? Do you want to run that? How long can you run this? And so there's a lot of training. But there's also a lot of innovation in how to even describe to the user the nature of his choices. One of the things — I think the Marine Corps has been extremely proactive on this. They have field service reps on the ground in Afghanistan now, and we support them. For us, you know, in a lab, it's pretty easy to say, this is how it's supposed to work. But when the guy gets here and says, which way does it go? Okay, plug and play. Okay, got it.
It's all about trying to be operational and make it easy on the person to use the gear which is a new kind of gear they've never seen before. Dr. Majumdar: Fantastic. I mean, what you all are doing is just absolutely amazing. Let me just open it up for questions to you all. And maybe if you could just raise your hand. There's a mic out here. There's a mic over here. Maybe just line up behind the mics if you have any questions. I think you are the only one. But maybe you could start thinking about other questions, the rest of you. Go ahead, sir. Audience member: Colonel, my name is Todd Lopez. Can you explain to me what microgrid technology is, how it's used and what it does? Lt. Col. Samuels: Sure. Essentially, what we were trying to do with the microgrid was demonstrate that you can use computers and sensors to assess how much electricity is actually in demand. So at a baseline level, the out-of the box systems that have been used for hundreds of — well, for decades consists of a generator set that puts a certain amount of power out.
And that generator set comes on and it is delivering the capability to give you a certain number of kilowatts of hour. As your systems come on and off, they're demanding against that basis. What happens is, if you go out and do some actual matrix, you find that you're probably only using 20% of that. So we had 60 kw generators putting out anywhere from 5 to 15 kw around the clock. And that's kind of bad news for the generator systems. For one, they're using a lot of fuel that they don't have to be using. Fuel is an equity that is extremely precious and valuable. And you're not really using it efficiently. Second, there's maintenance issues that are associated with that. Since the generator is not running at it's load, then it's not reaching the temperature that it needs to be to efficiently burn that fuel and put out the power based on the demand. So what these computer technologies do, the components of the microgrid systems, is sense that load and only turn on those generators that are needed.
So now the generators are running more on their designed ratings. And their maintenance as well as their fuel consumption goes way down. Dr. Majumdar: Question? Bryn Bird: Hi. Bryn Bird with National Farmers Union. Mr. Taylor, I had a quick question. A lot of your crops are being grown, you said, on not as fertile land. We were with people this week from Montana, very rural Montana, Washington. And how — our largest worry is transportation cost of getting our crops to the city sometimes, two to three hours. How are you guys working on getting the biomass to the refineries? Jerome Taylor: Logistics is really the nut of the problem because you're moving — people don't even have a remote understanding of what 15 tons an acre is. It's a lot of biomass. So logistics is the name of the game.
The biomass itself, the further you hall it, the more uneconomic it becomes, of course. So the solution in the technology is the uses have to be very local. That was recognized. Even in our BCAP application, the requirement was it had to be within a 50 mile radius because the understanding was very clear. Logistics is what we're talking about. And I think that there's so many uses in local areas, and the industry is so scalable. Pelletizing is a very basic process. It can be done in a small amount or a number of them added to it. It can be we're in Perryville, Arkansas on the Mississippi River. We'll be exporting to Europe probably because that is a market that is premium right now. And you're dead on with what has to be thought about in biomass, but that's very manageable. You're pretty thin up there in Montana with people though, aren't you? Spread out, aren't you? We're a little more dense where we are.
Dr. Majumdar: Question over there, gentleman with the glasses? Yep. Go ahead. Audience Member: This is John Mosheim from First Environment. And I had a question again for Mr. Taylor in terms of where do you see your end product ending? At the pump? At homes? Where will we use it at the end of the day? Jerome Taylor: That is still — it's kind of interesting. I've been in the energy business for 35 years and served on an oil refinery board and a biodiesel board. Every year I ask when is cellulosic ethanol going to be here? And the answer is five years. It's been that answer for 20 years. But we know things are closer today. So certainly the big problem in this country, or one of the problems, is transportation fuels. Trying to replace the infrastructure, as good as electric cars or other things may be, compressed natural gas, you have a huge cost to replacing the infrastructure.
So if you can start with the same infrastructure and solve the transportation problem with renewables, hence the ethanols but certainly biomass and drop-in fuels which obviously alleviate all the refining process as well are the goal. How close people are today, there are no commercial units. We have discussions going on every day. When we receive BCAP funding, our phone, globally, began to ring. I mean, it's unbelievable, because all the people from Japan to all over, they're beginning to understand that biomass is one of the very viable renewable fuels. The problem is, there isn't any of it. Everybody's working on technologies, but there's not enough biomass. We do 140 billion gallons of gasoline in this country. Ten percent of that is now ethanol. So you've got about 14 billion gallons.
By 2022, on renewable fuel standard 2, we've got to get to 36 billion gallons. That's a big jump. That's cellulosic ethanol. There's a lot of pull and push to get to that point. But we think there's a lot of smart people working on that. Certainly $100 plus oil. The cost don't — if you use that as the judge of what the global BTU value is of the price of a barrel of oil, $100 is a game changer. There are a lot of things that begin to replace it. So we're very hopeful that cellulosic breakthrough will come. We are prepared to do that. We will have the biomass. As I mentioned before, if our original application to VCAP played out, we would have 125 million barrels, reserves of oil, one-seventh of Exxon Mobile. And we're just a little farm cooperative in Missouri and surrounding states. The others — but meanwhile, we have to survive to get there. So we are doing the pelletizing, very traditional known technology. I happened to have lunch, and as I was talking to some of our legislators, I had lunch in one of the buildings next to the Capitol.
And the containers are all made out of recyclable material. We absolutely will be in that realm. The plant Miscanthus has a long fiber. We know that there's markets for producing even car parts. So they may not be energy, but we have known technologies that will bridge the gap. And that's very critical for our path. That was critical. What USDA and FSA had to understand was we had a path that would honest and workable. So it could actually achieve the end result which was driving down the rhizome cost, getting the transportation, all the logistics figured out. And the end result we hope will be transportation fuels. But we're prepared — if that's five years away again, we're prepared. And that's critical in these programs, to be able to be realistic about your financial sustainability. We also put a lot of money into — from our former members who are very much bridging the gap for us as well. But those end markets are numerous when it comes to biomass. Dr.
Majumdar: Great. Let me just ask one final question in the interest of time. Maybe just one sentence answers. And this is a change of topic. And I hate to put you on the spot. But you are — as I said, you are the Wright brothers and the Teslas of the 21st century of our nation. And you know, just one word, one sentence answers. People will look up to you, all of you. And I just would like to hear your thoughts on what you would tell the next generation. My daughter is 15 years old. The older daughter is 18. It is their future, I believe that we are all here, their security. And many of them will be inspired by you. Give us just a one sentence answer. What would you tell them. Ed? Ed O'Rourke: Actually, my daughter is here with me. I'm very fortunate today. This is an all-in moment for us all. You do what you do with great passion, totally unreservedly.
Lt. Col. Samuels: I would say that the environment is what we live in and that we need to apply our energy at doing what's right to protect it. James Liao: I'll say education is important. You are young. Spend the time to make sure that you learn something every day from either home, school, or your friends. Jerome Taylor: I would say don't be scared to take a risk. I came out of the oil side of the world, and I've got a lot of people that think I'm crazy. So take a risk. Dr. Majumdar: Great. On that note — (applause) Rohan Patel: Thanks so much to our first panel. And as we're making the quick switch to our second panel, I just wanted to point out a couple of people to thank. One is on our staff on loan from the Department of Energy who works normally for Arun, Dr. Majumdar. Eli Levine has been the driving force behind this Champions of Change.
I just want to thank him for all of his efforts. (applause) And the second person I want to point out is the new federal environmental executive, somebody who is an Iraq war veteran himself. And we're lucky enough to have here at SECU, formerly at DOD, Jon Powers is in the back of the room. (applause).