Net Effect #50 – Jill Hamilton, President and Founder of Sustainable Energy Strategies

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“…you have to ask yourself, is there any challenge that’s too big for God to handle?”

About Our Guests in this episode:

Our featured guest is Jill Hamilton, President and Founder of Sustainable Energy Strategies (SESI), Inc. located in Fairfax, VA. For more than 20 years, Ms. Hamilton has provided the clean tech industry with leadership on funding and public awareness. As President of SESI, she leverages alternative fuels industry funds with public and private resources for her clients, as well as manages their federal grant programs.  She provides business plans, project management and technical support for biofuel infrastructure development, including market research, fleet analysis, equipment assessment, and fleet and retailer liaison efforts.

Ms. Hamilton also coordinates public outreach activities to promote awareness of biofuel transportation technologies; authors alternative fuel articles, presentations and speeches; manages media and and prepares alternative fuel marketing strategies. She is a staunch supporter of climate justice.

Ms. Hamilton attended the University of Missouri and graduated with honors from Principia College in Elsah, Illinois with a BS in Environmental Sciences and a minor in Education.

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Transcript of Episode:

Robin Jones: I’d like to welcome you all to episode number 50. Wow. Kind of a milestone for us.

This is the Net Effect and we are so excited to have Jill Hamilton with us today. She is a terrific, wonderful person, and I know that you’re going to be really excited to learn about the really neat things that Jill has to offer. 

So before we do, I want to make sure that you all know that we are sponsored by The Albert Baker Fund. We are really dedicated to helping students grow in their education and their career development. We help students in North America, Europe, Asia, and we have two full time employees in Africa to help African students go to school in Africa. 

I love working with all of them. So if you have questions or, you know someone that is a student and they are needing financial assistance or interested in scholarships, please have them go to the AlbertBakerFund.org and all the information that you need is right there. It’s really easy to understand, but if you have any questions, you can always email me robin@albertbakerfund.org and I’ll be glad to help you. 

Let’s get started, our guest again is Jill Hamilton and she has an incredible, wonderful company that focuses in the field of sustainability. She’s president, owner of the company.

And I want to bring you in Jill. Tell us a little bit about Jill Hamilton. 

Jill Hamilton: It’s a pleasure to be here. I’ve been an alternative fuel consultant focused largely in biofuels for the last 30 years. And the last 24 has been part of Sustainable Energy Strategies. That’s my company. 

This first slide depicts my pathway. How did I get to where I am?

Robin Jones: I work with students often and many of them are interested in sustainability.

They’re interested in this kind of a space and that’s such a huge window. So I thought this would be great for you to talk a little bit about your career path and how you got, where you’re going to give them a little bit of insight for what’s available or what they can potentially think about focusing in with their career.

Jill Hamilton: When you’re going off from high school, usually somebody kind of points you in the direction. And in my case, I went to very small, rural high school. And my science teacher asked me, Jill what do you want to do with your life? Where are you going? And I said, I wanted to do something for the environment.

This was back in the eighties and it’s coming off of an energy crisis at that time, similar kind of similar today. And he said, why don’t you go into energy in environment? And that really stuck with me. I thought about maybe doing education and environment, but this energy environment really, he said, there’s always going to be work to do in the field of energy.

That rings true today as well. I attended Principia College as well as my undergrad. I received a degree in environmental studies, which is kind of the precursor to environmental science today. They didn’t really have that back then.

This was 30 years ago. So when I was working during a spring break I had to work to put myself through school was so I can really appreciate what Albert Baker does and has helped. I received support similar to that and very much appreciate the role that Albert Baker plays today.

Along those lines, while I was working one of the professors asked me the same question, Jill, what do you hope to do? And I said, I really want to do something on energy environment. And he said, well, you can make trees and grasses into fuel for your vehicle. And I’m like, that is so cool.

I really want to do that. How do I do that? I worked with another Principian and Christian Scientist who through my professors, they helped me get an internship in the Biomass Office of the Department of Energy. And I did an internship and then they offered me two summer jobs and they even offered me a job when I graduated.

And I decided not to do that. Civil service was not for me, but I really wanted something where I could interact with those that were making policy change or really boots on the ground. So again, through prayerful listening although I didn’t want to burn any bridges either, they at Department of Energy really helped me get connected to a small ethanol lobbyist. 

Ethanol back then was just a few million gallons. It was kind of a boutique fuel really was just getting off the ground. There was no some of these other fuels that I’m going to talk about today, there weren’t any. I was also offered other jobs.

As most kids graduating. You applied for several jobs. I had several job opportunities for some larger consulting firms and I chose through prayer and listening to pass up those opportunities to work for this small ethanol consulting lobbying group, because I felt like that’s really the direction I was being called to go into.

This job didn’t have a lot of benefits. One of the guys that work I worked for, he said, you got to work eight hours to get paid a very minimal wage. And then the rest of the eight hours that you have to put in for Uncle Sam. So you guys get the idea, but it was a really cool experience.

I get to go see go to the White House several times under the Bush and Clinton administration got to see a lot of behind the scenes through how a bill is made, got to go to some inaugural balls, a couple of inaugural balls. That was fun, but it, but it also sometimes it’s, it’s kind of funny when we’re praying, as if you kind of stay prayed up God has a way of creating opportunities for you.

So a sister company kind of scooped me up and I without again, burning any bridges, but it was at a time when the energy bill first passed on the Bill Clinton administration and they needed to help starting up some alternative fuel hotlines and a clean national clean cities program, which I got to be a key consultant on and now have been consulting for 30 years under that program.

And that’s again prayer in action, right? 

Robin Jones: That program’s grown too, right? 

Jill Hamilton: I mean, it’s, it has grown there’s about 88 of them. And every major city is participating in that program. Yes. And that’s to help establish grant that give grants out and also help create opportunities at the local level.

I’ve told a lot of students about that’s a great place to get started in this field too. So moved on from this ethanol lobbyist to a small consulting firm, but I got to work on this national program. And that was great. It gave me experience about how to bid a contract, how to negotiate a contract, lots of small business skills that allowed me to now do what I do today.

But I was working like 50 to 70 hours a week. I couldn’t keep a date with my husband. I was flying 50,000 miles a year. It just wasn’t right. I felt like there was a need to change. It wasn’t balanced. 

I prayed and listened and that prayer, took a little while.

So I had to continue to pray and listen. Sometimes when we do that, we might doubt our prayer that it was going to be answered.

I was actually training for a marathon and running with a Christian Science friend and he reminded me that God needs to unfold your plan.

Sometimes it takes some unfolding. You need to just listen and watch. And during this period, I did again, have several job offers, but they just didn’t seem to fit for me. And so I ended up we went out to rebid it on a big contract and this is one that we’re currently managing and ended up that this small consulting firm didn’t get it.

So what that did is it allowed me to step away and start my own consulting. And I couldn’t have done that. I might’ve burned bridges. I might’ve upset people had I walked away without giving it my all. Everybody I was managing at the time either worked for the company that got the contract or they started their own consulting or they took that next step in their career path.

So it didn’t hurt anybody. It was actually God’s way of creating this opportunity for me to start my own consulting. So that’s kind of the pathway on which I kind of got to where I am and I couldn’t have done it without, of course the loving support of my dear husband too. I gotta give him a shout out.

Robin Jones: Thank you for all the husbands that are out there and I know your dear husband and he is a very dear man. I’ve owned several businesses and there’s always challenges with that.

And it’s so impressive that it’s such a young part of your career that you moved into that place with great courage. One of the first questions when you start your own business, having had to write some of those checks myself and wondering, okay, where is this going to really come from?

And sometimes you’re paying your employees before you pay yourself. In fact, that was always my approach. I took care of them first, before I took care of me, because that’s how it should be done.

You put this up here as a how to meet payroll. I love thinking about that.

There’s a lot of students that graduate, or recent graduates, and they start to think about starting their own business and thinking about how I can move. And they even today get out of school and they go, I’m going to start my own business, you know? 

So I thought this would be a really good topic to think about and address, and take a few minutes to talk about some of the things about owning a business.

Jill Hamilton: It’s so true. I will answer this by saying one of my colleagues who’s been with me 20, I’ve been in business about 22 years and she’s been with me the whole time. And we judge that based on my oldest, how old he was. Cause that’s kind of when I started about, I was about 30 years old. 

She commented, Jill, it doesn’t matter what happens. Whenever something seems to be ending, you always seem to find a new work for us. How is that? And I said, that’s divine direction right there. 

Mary Baker Eddy says, I’m going to read a quote to you, in scientific relation of God to man, we find that whatever blesses one blesses all. As Jesus showed with the loaves and fishes, Spirit, not matter being the source of supply. 

That’s so true. If we’re truly trusting that God is governing us on a daily basis, governing our business and that we are listening for direction, that we are going to find it.

And those loaves and fishes are going to jump into our nets, so to speak. And that’s certainly been the case for me. I’ve been very grateful that I really haven’t had any dull time. Even though it might seem that it’s going to happen as contracts close, there’s always been something else to fill that, but that comes through being kind of prayed up if you will.

Robin Jones: I also know that in the course of your business and your practice, I am sure that you occasionally run across some of those difficult situations. And I love how you attach this healing of personal sense. I think that’s a really neat way to think about that. Tell us a little bit about what you mean by healing personal sense? 

Jill Hamilton: That’s one of my favorites and I really need to submit this one. I think I’ve even written it up and I need to submit it to the periodicals. 

It doesn’t matter what your business, I think there’s times that there’s a seeming friction between personalities, quote unquote human personalities and those never go well. When we’re in that human trying to reason things out. 

I had a client who has been my client for 10 years at that point who, for whatever reason, we’ve always had no problem, renegotiating contracts this particular year. I don’t know whether we were trying something new and the way in which we manage the contract.

I was getting a lot of resistance to the point where I actually cried and I never cry over anything, but it was very upsetting. And then I realized I tried to go back and forth with them until I stopped and prayed and got myself out of the way. And really tried to trust that he is a child of God.

He’s listening to God’s voice, not just Jill that I needed to really hear what he had to say and understand it and not try to solve it, but just understand it. And as soon as I was humbled by that situation, took myself out of the equation and let God do the talking. Then that’s when I really found that answer.

Mary Baker, Eddy writes, even if you cling to a sense of personal joys, spiritual Love with capital L will force you to accept what best promotes your growth. 

I thought I knew what best promoted my growth and that didn’t get me anywhere. So I really had to listen and humbly ask God for that resolution.

It truly was God’s voice that brought us together and solved that problem. Never had any problems since then. That’s one of my issues of how to handle a difficult client. It could be staff as well. It’s whenever you prayerfully, let Love guide, you find that answer 

Robin Jones: I thought this third point, protection in the form of technology and client diversification… that’s a mouthful. Tell us a little bit about that. 

Jill Hamilton: This business has been around for 22 years. In that period, as you heard, there’s some times when things get quieter and then they pick back up. 

Over the past few years, that still small voice was telling me, I needed to look at diversifying what we did and how we did it and trying to figure out, well, what does that look like?

Of course human doubt likes to jump in and say, well, you don’t know much about that, or you’re not in that space. You can’t do that, but that’s just mortal sense again, right? That’s just not trusting our supply to God, but this reiteration kept coming to me about trying to diversify what we did and boy, did I really see a lot of growth in that? 

Not only do we go from being biofuels, transportation, but now we’re doing liquid hydrogen, green hydrogen, we’re doing hydroprojects, hydro as in water, to renewable electricity to a solar project. I’m a solar developer. Who knew! All those things couldn’t have come about without having a sense of that supply being God derived.

Robin Jones: I love all of those things. Those are really great points. I think now we should take a few minutes and start diving into the subjects. There is a lot on this slide.

Jill Hamilton: It’s really helpful to understand where we’re going if we understand where we’ve come from. 

Let’s take a look back to 2013. That’s about eight years ago, and I want you all in the audience to think about, well, how has it, how has our energy use in the United States going to change in eight years? So this is a Lawrence Livermore Lab. They do this pathways of energy.

So on the left is all the energy feedstocks or forms of energy that go into the different sources of how we use that energy, whether it’s electricity, residential, commercial, industrial, or transportation. And of course, as you’ve heard, I’m primarily in the transportation space, but let’s just look at this for a second on the left.

Well, before we go to the left that 97.4 quads of energy, let’s just bump that up to a hundred. It makes it easy from a math standpoint to think about. All the inputs on the left are percentages. So solar is less than a third of a percent. Hydro is 2.5%. Wind is 1.6. Geothermal is 0.2, natural gas is about 26. Coal 18, biomass is 4.5% and petroleum is 35. 

All these different lines are showing you where those inputs are going and how they’re being used. 

One of the ones that’s fascinating to me is that we think of a lot of electricity going into transportation, but it’s it’s 0.025%. It’s very tiny. 

Biofuels is about 1.2 quads of energy. So that gives you a little perspective on how is our energy being used. Now let’s flip it to the next slide. 

 Total renewable quads is about nine quads of energy in that last one. So here, unfortunately, it’s cutting off the top, but it’s for 2021 and it’s about the same quads of energy.

So not to worry, for all intents and purposes, our energy hasn’t changed. 

Now, in reality, if we hadn’t had a pandemic or our energy use was going up every year. And so we’re seeing it, it actually level off, but in reality, we’re probably going to see this pick back up in the next few years. So every year we tend to grow in our energy demand.

One of the biggest questions I have for you is did your prediction come true? Did you expect the changes that occurred in these eight years? 

I’m going to point it out. So solar’s quadrupled. Huge. That’s great, but it’s only 1.5% of our energy use. Hydro really hasn’t changed. 

Coal dropped in half, nearly in half.

That to me is pretty significant. That’s a huge change in eight years that we’ve taken this dirty coal and, and mostly converted it to natural gas use. So natural gas went up. Biomass went up slightly and petroleum really hadn’t changed. But to me, one of the things that’s most interesting, again, out of this is that this the electric power into transportation, which is an issue in my space really hasn’t changed.

I was really surprised to see that there’s so much energy and research and promotion going into this area, but really hadn’t seen a lot of movement yet in that space. 

I just want to give you a lay of the land before we start talking about some of the biofuels.

Robin Jones: This whole biofuel thing is really interesting to me. I’m a farm boy. And so talking about that is fun. I read this article just the other day about fuel for jet engines. And it’s like a biofuel for that. That just seems incredible to me.

What are biofuels? 

Jill Hamilton: When I first got involved in bio-fuels remember, I’ve mentioned that professor telling me trees and grasses can be, that’s ethanol. You can convert any kind of biomass into ethanol.

Now we have as part of a regulation, 10% of transportation fuel in your life due to market is ethanol. When you go to fill up your car, you probably notice a sticker that says this fuel contains 10% ethanol. That didn’t exist 30 years ago. 

Robin Jones: Has ethanol changed at all, in terms of its formula? There used to be a lot of criticism, it’s going to junk up my carburetor or fuel injectors. Has it gotten better?

Jill Hamilton: That is a misunderstanding out there. Back in the eighties there was some swelling of hoses and rubbers, et cetera. There were some problems in those early days.

If you have a boat that isn’t designed for ethanol, you can still have those issues. You really need to be careful. 

But as far as any vehicle, 2001 and newer, it’s designed to run on E15. Most flex fuel vehicles can run on up to 85% ethanol.

I think in the future, you’re going to see some more hybrid technologies that allow higher blends as well. 

Biodiesel is something that came out of a need for waste oil out of the soybean industry. They had a glut of oil and they needed a higher value market for it. 

It didn’t really move so much in the food industry. 

The soybean industry developed this biodiesel and it’s a very simple chemical process. We have it in about 5% of our diesel market. 

Renewable diesel and sustainable aviation gas are more traditional hydrocracking processes, similar to what we do with petroleum today, but just swapping out crude oil for our renewable feedstocks.

You’re going to see some investments over this next decade in green hydrogen that could either be used in transportation or in things like aviation or even rail or marine, which is harder to use electric power.

Can’t go across the nation or across the ocean in electric power. We need a liquid fuel. 

What are these biofuels made out?

Most people know ethanol is made out of cornstarch. You can also now take that distiller’s corn oil and make it into biodiesel.

You’re not taking oil that would be fed to animals, that’s still available. Anything that’s excess, they’re pulling out and making it into biodiesel. 

We’ve got soybean oil. I mentioned that’s been a kind of a waste product and that’s now being used in, and now they’re growing a lot more soybeans and there’s so much of a need for biofuels that now we’re even short in supply.

We’re looking at possibly crushing more soy beans in the United States, instead of sending them to China, for example. We’re looking at crushing them here to keep that oil here and sending the crushed meal over instead. 

Barley is also been used for ethanol, camelina, and canola oil. 

Animal fats, again, a waste product that had a low value is now being used. And about 95% of our restaurant grease is all going into the production of biodiesel. Talk about a hundred percent waste product being used and recycled. 

So fun for me interested in sustainability, seeing that happen is really a lot of fun.

Robin Jones: That’s pretty remarkable really to think about all of that excess going into something that’s productive and something that you actually use and is being used. 

Jill Hamilton: Yeah, 20, 25 years ago, you did not see that. It’s all because of this growing need for sustainable energy. 

Robin Jones: Talk to us about what’s on the horizon.

Jill Hamilton: So this is just a few. Corn oil I mentioned a moment ago. They’re now looking at ways to extract it. There are a couple of things, you can extract it out before you do other processes to make ethanol. So you can get a little bit more out. You’re not changing the crop, but you’re changing the extraction process.

The seed industry is also looking at ways of growing crops in such a way to produce more oil. 

Cotton seed oil really hasn’t been used, but now they’re looking at that. 

Algae has been on the horizon for a while, there’s such an abundance of it, but it’s still not profitable without some incentives. It could very much produce a lot of feed stock for us if we get the right incentives.

In place Cornetta cover crest. I’m going to talk if we have time later about some sustainable ag practices, cover crest is a cover crop, which is a more sustainable way of growing and doing agriculture.

And we’re now looking at seeing these feedstocks come into play for biofuels there being normally it keeps soil in place and keeps green on the ground instead of just leaving a fallow field. And if we can use those crops now to produce oil, we’re going to have a lot more feed stock.

Robin Jones: Pretty interesting, we had a giant snow storm right after Christmas and just wiped out unbelievable amounts of trees, and it didn’t really matter if it’s a hardwood or softwood.

It just took them out. And on the side of the highway, there were stacks and stacks and stacks of trees and they they were chipping them. 

We do have a lumber mill here in town and I thought for sure they would log it, but no, they chipped it up and it makes me wonder, I wonder if it was going towards some sort of biomass product? 

Jill Hamilton: Most likely not bioenergy, very unlikely. But there is some, there’s some.

I do have a client right now that’s looking at a hydrothermal liquefaction, which is similar to making a bio crude that can make sustainable aviation or renewable diesel out of it. We’re in the equity fundraising stage of that project, but that’s a billion dollar project. It’s going to take a little while. It’s expensive to do these projects. 

Robin Jones: I look at all this stuff and I think I’m perfectly fine filling up my car, going to the gas station, putting it in. I have a hybrid, so why should I care about all this other stuff? 

Jill Hamilton: With the high energy prices right now, everybody’s wondering why aren’t we doing more?

It does keep consumer prices down the pump and believe it or not ethanol in particular for light duty is better for your vehicle. The higher the octane, the better it is for your engine. If you understand much of that ethanol as a high octane, and it does really work better for your vehicle. A lot of people put out a lot of misinformation out there. 

From a standpoint of a consumer it’s cheaper and better for your engine. 

Biodiesel is about on par with diesel fuel, but you get it. It reduces imported oil. I think that’s a pretty straightforward one. We’re not sending our money to invest in other countries. We’re keeping that money here. 

Low cost pathway to carbon reductions. A lot of very smart people have done analysis on it, MIT Fuels Institute, are saying that we have a lot of legacy vehicles, the ones Robin you’re driving, the one I’m driving, are going to be on the road for awhile. 

Right now we need something that’s sustainable for those vehicles until we replace them with something better for the environment.

And in the meantime, we need to have low carbon fuels. And this is a cost-effective way of doing it.

It boosts rural economies. Basically we’ve lost about 50% of our rural economies over the past 40 or 50 years. Keeping jobs in rural economies, high paying jobs is a wonderful thing to do and biofuels is a great way to do that.

And it’s out competing other technologies in the carbon and low carbon and clean energy space. And we’ll get into that in a minute.

Robin Jones: I love what you said about helping rural economies. That’s where I grew up. You didn’t really as a student who graduated high school, becoming a farmer, the stigma was, well, if you do that, guess what, you may not have the kind of income that you want.

And so that was kind of always the challenge. It’s like, well, if I do that, I’m never going to make any money at all, you know? So it’s nice to hear that. 

Jill Hamilton: A lot of the farmers have invested in these plants and are receiving additional income from it if they’re a co-op of some sort. 

Robin Jones: We live in California and, we have some of the most comprehensive policies and laws as it relates to sustainable energy and sometimes they feel a little onerous sometimes, frankly. What does it look like across that landscape? 

Jill Hamilton: I call it paying for the true cost of our fuel there, Robin, I know it’s a little onerous, but it really is trying to assign a value for what we want to do in terms of making fuels more sustainable.

Federally what’s driving biofuels is the Energy Policy Act and the renewable fuel standard that’s in there and actually passed in 2015 under Bush. And then two years later, he signed another bill to revise it, to expand that program. So that’s been around for awhile. And it’s really what drives it at a federal level.

Here in Fairfax, Virginia, where I am, that’s what is driving it and I’m not in California, but California has its own incentives. Right? 

The farm bill, which is revised every five years is another thing that creates a lot of the loan guarantees that allow us to produce these technologies, bring them to market from a production standpoint.

It also provides grants, loans and research, other things that are really good that help us keep, keep these technologies going. You mentioned the low carbon fuel standard and you’re in California, that’s the gold standard for low carbon policies in the United States and Oregon and Washington have both adopted them.

Some states have biofuel policies and actually a lot of the states now have biofuel policies. I think Illinois and Iowa, Iowa just signed their bill today. Illinois, signed a bill a couple of weeks ago, renewing some tax credits and incentives for biofuels. 

The gold standard is this low carbon fuel standard.

And we are seeing the west coast states have adopted it and we’re seeing it come up in New York. So some heating oil and policies and Vermont and others, but the states can have as much of an influence as the feds on this, but those are the major ones. 

Robin Jones: Well, I thought this was an interesting slide. Tell us a little bit the numbers and kind of what this means. 

Jill Hamilton: Okay. So what you’re seeing on the left there is the renewable fuel standard that I mentioned, the federal policy that’s driving the use in our transportation liquid fuels market. And the one on the right is how it’s playing out in reality.

And I apologize, I didn’t put up a more recent one, but I like the parallel between these and I don’t have one with more recent numbers. 

The goal of the policy is to displace 25% of our petroleum use with renewables by 2022. Well, here we are in 2022.

So we should have about 36 billion gallons of displaced fuel, but we’re really at about 20 billion. So why not? Why aren’t we needing that? Right. The biggest reason in the corn ethanol, we would, we would do more if corn ethanol wasn’t capped at 15 billion gallons, but that’s why the lower green is capped at 15 that’s your corn ethanol.

Your blue line is your advanced biofuels. And most of that’s being met with our biodiesel renewable diesel. And then the biomass based diesel is also your biomass that you can fit in either category. It really depends on where the incentive credit is. The dark brown is our cellulosic biofuels.

 I mentioned trees and grasses to energy. That’s your cellulosic biofuel. And the reason that hasn’t come to fruition as everybody hoped is because EPA has the discretion to modify or not move forward with policy. So if there aren’t investments made and they don’t require that the petroleum industry who are the obligated parties under this bill, they don’t require the purchase the cellulosic biofuel and that kind of what do you call it? A catch 22 or a chicken and egg problem. 

This is where it’s important to have proper incentives for those new technologies to bring them to market.

Robin Jones: Do you see a move and a trend toward that direction? I would love to hear more debate, more things about that. But from the insider’s view, do you see that happening? 

Jill Hamilton: Well with this administration we do. And we’re seeing a lot of, especially you mentioned sustainable aviation fuel. This administration wants to basically do electrification for the light duty market, but what do you do for the heavy duty market?

And especially those harder to modify policies like technologies like rail and aviation and marine. And this is where they’re moving investments into those spaces. 

We’re hoping that that that will include more feedstocks. I’m hopeful that we’re going to get a lot more movement in that direction in these next 10 years. 

Robin Jones: What are some of the challenges moving forward? And by the way, those of you that are out there, there’s a lot of technical things here, but, we really wanted to kind of dive into this. We have a lot of students that are interested.

We wanted to dive into some of the specifics, but if you have any questions, be sure that you type them in the Q and A. Tell us a little bit about some of the challenges that you see going forward.

Jill Hamilton: If there was a silver bullet, we would be doing it already. So all of these new technologies, these change the way we do the status quo, it requires effort. And that isn’t without problems. I don’t want to say that biofuels are without problems. 

I mentioned the need for expanded feed stock. Land use change. Right now, in the United States, the low carbon fuel policies require us to monitor land use change associated with biofuels. 

Some people debate whether or not feedstocks, such as corn, that use a lot of oil and a lot of fertilizer and a lot of water, are those sustainable? Can we scale to meet the demands?

Are we going to be able to not only have the technology, but the feedstocks?

Public policy makes a difference. If we don’t have the right policies in place, things stagnate as you saw with the renewable fuel standard. 

Robin Jones: So I do have a question that Nancy submitted and she says, ask about concerns over bio fuel redirecting of crops from food to biofuel. Do you see that as a problem, you see it as a real issue? 

Jill Hamilton: I of course am a biofuels advocate. So I’m going to have a biofuels spin, full disclosure. But most of these crops are grown for food and fuel and that’s a big misunderstanding. But all of the energy and all the carbon benefits are all going towards the energy use and not the food use of those crops.

Are we growing crops for fuel rather than food? And of course my answer is no. And why? 

If you look at this trend on acreage in the United States, after the renewable fuel standard passed in 2005, and 2007, if you look at the number of farms and the acres in farmland, it’s going down.

So that really doesn’t marry with this fear that we’re not going to have enough land for food. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t pay attention to it. And there are some real challenges with land use change.

Deforestation is a real problem in some countries. Brazil, for example, is doing a lot of deforestation. So here we are, our policies United States protect against us importing these feedstocks that are coming from Brazil.

We can’t control Brazil’s policy. What we can control is how we do business with Brazil and what are we doing to incentivize them to grow sustainably, as opposed to deforestation.

This particular slide shows that that land use change. Isn’t related it’s burdened on the, on the biofuels, but it has no burden on if we are to do more oil.

And right now, as much as Biden doesn’t want to admit it, they want to produce more oil in the United States. And so this is, this is actually Alberta, Canada, but the message is still the same that then if you go after oil, you can clear cut whatever you want. There’s no obligation to hold them accountable to environmental policies. That needs to change.

This is another example of the tar sands, whereas beautiful meandering Creek and in the background and just stripped it off. Acres and acres of it. That’s another one. Just keep going. And this, this one is same thing, oil spills. If we’re doing a lot more to get oil out of the ground and don’t hold these companies accountable although we’re holding the biofuels initially accountable, that is not really equitable.

And you need to address that from a public policy standpoint. The Gulf oil spill in 2010 costs 41 billion pounds of damages. Same thing with solar. As I mentioned, I do solar development, but if we’re clear cutting forests and you can bounce the next one, Robin.

It’s not appropriate. It’s not the intention of the policy to clear cut forests to put up our solar, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it translates down to the developer. And so we have to put proper public policies in place or local ordinances. In Virginia, we’re looking at doing this and I think they’re doing it in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, I believe as well.

You can’t, you can’t take farmland. You can’t cut down forests existing from a forestry to, to put up a solar farm. So that compromises how we look at doing solar. So I I’ve kind of gone off a little bit on a tangent, but the upshot about the food versus fuel is that we are growing soybeans and corn to do both feed the world and provide fuel.

It’s not one or the other it’s synergistic. 

Robin Jones: Chris asked the question it doesn’t look like in the model and curve you showed it doesn’t look like a reduction in petroleum, but more of absorbing the growth in need with renewable alternatives.

What about reducing the need for energy? What about, yeah. What about local audience? It’s so funny. I got a buddy of mine being from Texas. We see these giant trucks and he says, Robin, I can’t believe how big these trucks are getting and how much tonnage and how big the tires are. When you start doing all that, the weight, I think there’s a good point about that.

How, what about reducing energy and then localizing energy to reduce the costs of transmission shipping and distribution. So what do you say to Chris? 

Jill Hamilton: I say amen brother, Easier said than done. I mean, I would like to see us do more in, and no question that we are trying again, this is where public policy and incentives, if there was an incentive to to, to do those things for, for businesses to reduce their carbon footprint, they could do that through efficiency improvements, whether it’s proper tires or teaching drivers, how to drive better or being more local in their economies and how they purchase it.

But we also have to plan for I will tell you population growth hasn’t slowed down and energy demand is not slowing down. So what do you do if it isn’t? And that doesn’t mean that we don’t address efficiency, we should continue to do it. And I I’ve written many efficiency grants. There are some, but they’re small they’re for like $20,000 to $250,000, maybe half a million dollar project.

But most of these projects to do efficiency improvements, cost a whole lot more than that. If you’re talking about changing the way we do the way we do business. 

Robin Jones: So do you think that there really is an opportunity here for biofuels?

Jill Hamilton: So we mentioned the California low carbon fuel standard is kind of the creme de la creme or the gold standard. And this slide depicts how it’s from 2019, but it really hasn’t changed too much since then. As to how a low carbon fuel standard basically sets the policy of reducing carbon and it ramps up year after year, and biofields continue to meet the majority of that need.

So if you look at this graphic, the 39, 26 and 15% are all renewable feed stocks and 10% is ethanol and 9% is biomethane. That’s renewable natural gas. 1% is other, I’m not sure what that is. Maybe a sufficient data now, but my point about this is that we have a lot of those legacy vehicles on the road and that they can be running today on renewables and continue to ramp that up.

It doesn’t mean that we aren’t going to continue to see a migration to electric or other more sustainable pathways besides an internal combustion engine or a diesel engine. But while we have this technology in play, we’re going to sit and still need a role and an increasing role for biofuels. 

Robin Jones: So Jervis, he asks a great question. Is there a possibility to use waste food for biofuels? 

Jill Hamilton: I think that biomethane is doing that. You can digest that stuff into biomethane. You can also we’re looking at, I have a client that’s using a it’s it’s somewhat related. So you take a waste products that have oils in it. And I’m going to excuse me for saying this, but I call it the cream of the crap.

So it’s taking municipal solid waste for example, and taking the oils out of that. So yes, we can use pathways such as waste food and, and digest it either into biomethane or extract out oils. Again, the incentives need to be there, but the carbon market needs to be there. Somebody asked earlier about all right, food and fuel.

This is my one slide that I use. There there’s two points on this slide. One is that the majority of that soybean is still going to meal. Proteins and carbohydrates are all going to feed mostly livestock. Only 20% of that bean is being used to extract out for oil for biofuel, whatever biofuel you pick. But all of the carbon value is assigned to that 20% oil.

So when we think about how are we looking at carbon policies in the future and how do we is it fair that biofuel and it’s grown for food and fuel, but yet all of the carbon is going to the fuel portion of it. That’s not really a fair way of cutting the pie if you all are placing the burden.

So I would like to see public policy address that in the future and for us to make sure we realize that we’re not just doing food or fuel it’s food and fuel. So there you have it. 

Robin Jones: I just love the idea of partnerships and working towards a common goal where you can bring people together and have good discussions about things that can benefit us.

Jill Hamilton: Well, this particular partnership, I just finished a a hundred million dollar grant application. I’m glad you wanted to talk about this. I’m so excited about where agriculture is going and how it’s going to impact the biofuels industry. But also agriculture is going to affect the, this project is also, our program is also going to affect the way we grow foods, the way we use fiber in our clothing, et cetera, the entire supply chain.

USDA has put out a billion dollars to create this marketplace where not only the farmers can go, but also those that want those smart climate smart agricultural products. So from my industry, the biofuels industry wants these practices, these sustainable crops that are grown, maybe with cover crops or with less water or fertilizer And these practices have to be, have a third-party validation, but that’s what this platform is going to do.

And then we can bid on and buy or offer up that we want to buy these commodities through this platform, and this is going to change the way we look at agriculture. And so I’m so excited that we finally are getting, if not through policy, through it consumer driven incentives, some of the changes we need to see.

Robin Jones: Let’s talk about professional opportunities for the future and what’s happening now. Tell us a little bit about this. 

Jill Hamilton: There are jobs in pretty much any industry you go in, any fields you go into in, in sustainability, whether it’s stem jobs, if you’re into engineering, I would direct you to those that are doing engineering, communications and training.

I work with national trade groups and even most businesses have communications teams that deal with sustainability now and actually an environmental justice. ESG is becoming a real important part of business nowadays, and you’re actually, many of the contracts can be held. You as a public corporation, can your sustainability goals can almost be considered legally binding.

So communications and public outreach is important. Already mentioned all the policies that are around these fuels. These aren’t going to come to fruition without a lot of public policy. 

These are just a couple of websites of either businesses that are in this space, either in renewable energy or the clean, I mentioned the clean cities program earlier.

They have a lot of internships through the clean cities program through Argonne National Lab. I didn’t put Argonne up here, but the Clean Cities Program can connect you with them.

Robin Jones: It sounds like we have a bright future for yeah, it, it sounds pretty awesome.

I did want to ask you a couple of quick questions here as a follow-up. Some of this sounds a bit daunting, like way over my head and overwhelming, and it’s like, how’s this going to impact my life? 

We’re already having all kinds of challenges because as we read the newspapers every day, so can we actually meet today’s energy crisis. And can we meet the climate things that people keep talking about? What are your thoughts about that? 

Jill Hamilton: Oh, this is a great question, Robin and a lot of students have asked me that too. They always become fearful that it’s too daunting. 

You have to ask yourself, is there any challenge that’s too big for God to handle?

I’ve got a great quote and I, can I read this quote to you? It’s a Mary Baker Eddy quote that says material substances or mundane formations, astronomical calculations, and all the paraphernalia of speculative theories based on the hypothesis of material law or life and intelligence resident in matter will ultimately vanish, swallowed up in the infinite calculus of Spirit.

There are many other quotes about infinite intelligence that Mary Baker Eddy talks about intelligence that it’s derived from God. And that there’s infinite capacity if we turn that over to God. And so I believe that there’s infinite ways in which we can meet this problem if we don’t get stumbled up on fear and personal sense getting in the way. 

Robin Jones: I appreciate knowing that, hearing that, certainly from your perspective. So it sounds like that may be business as usual is not, is not in our best interest.

And it sounds like there really does need to be that, as you mentioned earlier, kind of that symposium, that people come together and look to try to solve and, and find ways to figure this out. And, and you’re saying it’s not too big to solve. 

Jill Hamilton: It’s not too big to solve. There are lots of pathways we can reduce carbon if the climate changes your fear, whether it’s sustainable agriculture or woody biomass, or what have you, but we do need to get the right incentives out there and we can do that. 

Robin Jones: It’s been really wonderful. If any of you have any questions, you can reach out to me, robin@albertbakerfund.org and I’m happy to reach out to Jill, or you can contact her directly.

It’s really important as you can see, Jill talked about how Albert Baker Fund helped her when she was going through school.

We help students every single year and have been for over 50 years. So we’d love to ask you all and your friends and family to invest in the education of young Christian Scientists is so very, very important to help these students pursue a degree in sustainability and whatever else they might want to be sustaining.

Please take a moment to come to the Albert Baker Fund and look at investing in our youth. Is so very, very important as you can see. We have a shining example of Jill who is doing incredible things an incredible leader in a very, very important and current topic in the world. So that kind of shows you what you get when you do make that investment.

It’s pretty remarkable. 

Please follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. 

Jill, you have had some very inspiring things today to say a lot of really good information. There is no doubt that you are casting your net on the right side. And we just want to tell you, thank you so much from the bottom of our heart for being willing to help for being a mentor at the Albert Baker Fund and a Career Ally as well.

So thank you so very much. 

Jill Hamilton: My pleasure, anytime Robin. For you, anything, 

Robin Jones: We so appreciate it and thank you all. It’s great to hear from you and look forward to seeing everyone on the next episode of the Net Effect. Have a great weekend, everyone.

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