Obama energy adviser praises area energy projects
February 14, 2012
ST. MATTHEWS - Homeowner and independent clearing and grading contractor Jordan Johnson needs to keep his house extra comfortable for his two precious children, both under 6 years of age.
The children depend on daddy to keep them cool in the summer and warm in the winter. But when electric bills came in about $400 a month, Johnson knew it would not be easy.
The economy has fallen off and so has work.
"I have a few months of the year I can work a little bit but other than that, there is not a thing to do," Johnson said.
And so when Johnson just about had it with high utility bills, he contacted Tri-County Electric Cooperative. After an audit of his power usage, it was determined that Johnson qualified for the "Help the House" program.
With the help of a $6,500 Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina loan, he replaced his heating and cooling unit, patched up leaky duct work and added insulation to his mobile home. The program is made possible through the State Energy Office and the U.S. Department of Energy.
The program requires a $61 per month payback over the next five years.
Johnson said, "It is a lot more comfortable in the home and the power bills are a lot less" - an average of $100 to $200 less per month. "It will save me a lot of money."
Johnson's house was a stop on a Monday tour of energy efficiency and biofuel programs by Sixth District Congressman James Clyburn and Nancy Sutley, President Barack Obama's principal environmental advisor and chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.
Sutley praised the program.
"This has a lot of potential to do a lot and touch small parts of the country," she said. "I look forward to hearing more about the results here and look forward to seeing what we can all do together. The president has said in the State of the Union and many other times that American-made energy includes the energy we save. Congratulations and keep up the good work."
Heath Hill, board president at Tri-County Electric Cooperative, said the program is needed.
"We are in a poverty-stricken area with well water and septic systems," Hill said. "People need this. This retrofit ... is good for everyone."
Sutley also toured Claflin University's Biofuel Production Initiative, biofuel research labs and the Molecular Science Research Center.
The university is working to use bacteria to break down cellulose into a fuel known as butanol, which researchers say can use the existing gasoline infrastructure without costly retrofitting.
Clyburn has secured about $4 million in federal funding for this research and development project.
Sutley received a presentation from Dr. Kamal Chowdhury, associate professor of biology; Dr. Muthukrishna Raja, associate professor of chemistry, and Dr. Omar Bagasra, professor of biology.
The men discussed their work in microbe fusion engineering to convert carbohydrates into ethanol, and genetically modifying sugarcane to grow in cooler temperatures.
Chowdhury said though sugar cane is a tropical crop, it can be genetically modified to handle the cold.
"We need to grow millions of plants within a short time and then we can try to grow it here," he said. "Sugarcane has productivity three times better than corn."
Sutley said such research is critical.
"We know that we are in a global race for capturing new sources of energy and in this technology will make those resources of energy available," she said.
Throughout the world, countries are investing in alternative energy, Sutley said.
"We are all looking at the same thing, which is we have a finite set resources that we depend on and we have to develop new sources of energy," she said. "Officials at Claflin are really pushing us ahead to help make sure we finish that race."
Clyburn says energy policy has to look at national security, environmental safety and job creation.
"Those are three legs of that stool can be supported here in South Carolina," he said.
Contact the writer, Gene Zaleski: email@example.com or 803-533-5551.
(Taken from The Time and Democrat