President Carter plants seeds, don't always expect peanuts.
President Carters investment from 20 years ago helped paved the way for new technologies to combat global warming. The technology now sequesters carbon while producing hydrogen and a slow release fertilizer.
September 7, 2002: South Georgia is typically considered as a conduit for those on their way to Florida. Along Interstate 75, hundreds of miles of corn, peanut and cotton fields, watch thousands of cars daily pass by unknowing that cutting edge scientific research is being done in rural Georgia. Yet, only a short 40 miles from Plains, Georgia, (we all know where that is) was the location of what potentially may become humanity’s best chance for solving the Global Warming problem. A 100-hour demonstration biomass to hydrogen experiment culminated from work by a team of researchers from Clark Atlanta University, Enviro-tech, Georgia Institute of Technology, DOE National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and Scientific Carbons. Scientific Carbons and NREL have filed for a patent to make a slow release fertilizer during the production of hydrogen from biomass. This invention could break the cost of fertilizer from its tie to world oil prices and potentially offer a massive new sink for atmospheric carbon build up. In addition, its adsorptive properties allow it to reduce herbicide and pesticide run-off. Oddly enough, Plains and more specifically, President Jimmy Carter’s involvement 20 years ago, seems to be like the ripple of a wave, reflecting another example of his long-standing efforts in solving global problems.
When Carter was a peanut farmer back in the days before politics took him to the Whitehouse, he and a few other South Georgia peanut businesses invested in a start-up at Georgia Institute of Technology called Tech-Air Corporation. Georgia Tech was heavily involved in biomass conversion at that time with trailer loads of all types of agricultural waste heading into the back of a red brick building on the edge of campus, called the ‘Engineering Experiment Station’. Some research had commercial funding and others government grant funding. While students were feeding the pilot systems known as ‘Blue Two’, 200 yards away, Danny Day was taking a class on Options in Environmental and Energy Policies. ‘I watched Jimmy Carter win the 76 election at the Varsity (a well known burger-dog drive-in landmark next to the college) and had no idea one day I would be working with technologies, he helped fund.’
Almost 20 years later, Danny began a personal research in the uses of peanut hulls. A 1976 news article that activated carbon had been made from peanut hulls at GA Tech lead him to a group of researchers, headed by Dr. John Tatom, who had been funded by EPA grants and watched his funding come to a halt when Tech-Air and its technology license was purchased by the American Can Corporation.
‘John headed a group of very active researchers who lost access to equipment and further research work, when Tech-Air was bought. They wanted to see the successful culmination of their work back then and just as much 20 years later.’ With $800,000 in equity funding from the USDA and many small private investors, a limited liability company was founded with the team, which successfully built a facility to produce activated carbons from a host of different biomass materials.
‘The work we are doing today continues the vision of producing clean drinking water, renewable energy, and needed co-products such as a slow release carbon/nitrogen fertilizer. The one thing President Carter probably never envisioned is that his support for a technology to help solve a dilemma for the peanut industry, could one day lead to a sustainable solution for producing renewable hydrogen, reducing greenhouse gas buildup and farm pollution all while increasing global food production.’
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