February 28, 2018
Ashlee Painter lead students from the Patel Collge of Global Sustainability at USF Tampa on an adventure into the unknown with saltwater digesters. Their goal was to research how biodigesters can help to combat coastal pollution and climate change.
The best way to describe the experience is through the words of our Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Student Kaitlin Davis who wrote in her class relational summary:
“I had the opportunity to be apart of a project that aims to mitigate and adapt to climate change when I came to help Ashlee build her biodigesters in Apollo Beach. Ironically, the Suncoast Youth Conservation Center, where we built the biodigesters is located on TECO land and right next to one of their major power plants. I have never seen a power plant this large and up close before so driving up to this location gave me a very bad feeling in my stomach. Ashlee comforted that feeling a little when she told me she needed to get approval from TECO to build the biodigesters and the executive there was actually the most excited about it. She also pointed out the solar farm that TECO owes close by. This was reassuring in the sense that our major energy provider is at least aware of sustainable energy alternatives and has also already invested in one.
I went home to do some further research on TECO and found their parent company, Emera Inc, is seeking regulatory approval to convert that plant, which happens to be the oldest and last major coal-fired facility in its fleet, into natural gas. I like the comparison made by Joel B. Stronberg in the “Natural Gas: Bridge or Barrier to a Clean Energy Future?” article where he compares the common argument that natural gas is “cleaner” than coal to be like saying smoking Marlboro Lights won’t kill you as fast as Marlboro Reds. I, among many other environmentalists like Stronberg, argue that just because natural gas reduces carbon emissions in the short term, doesn’t mean the harmful impacts from extraction such as surface and groundwater pollution, excessive water usage and diminishing farmland should not be ignored.
That is why building Ashlee’s biodigesters right beside the power plant painted a symbolic picture of what the future of sustainable energy could hold. Unlike natural gas, converting biomass to energy in the form of biogas offers a closed looped system that is truly self-sustaining for future generations. The process encompasses the mitigation and adaptation properties that are necessary to combat climate change. Bringing this sustainable energy and waste solution to the forefront of the climate change conversation is one of the greatest defenses we have. I am so grateful to have been exposed to biodigesters and biogas as I now know what to fight for when it comes to the argument of renewable energy and waste solutions. It is, in fact, the ONLY truly renewable source of energy and the missing piece of the sustainability puzzle as T.H. would say.”
I foolishly did not take any photos while building the biodigesters. Probably because I was just too into it but here is a group photo of us at the end.
I love her quote, “building Ashlee’s biodigesters right beside the power plant painted a symbolic picture of what the future of sustainable energy could hold.”
With affidavits like that, shouldn’t we all be building biodigesters as the prime symbol of our needed evolution off of fossil fuels?