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Profile Information

Gender: Male
Hometown: Michigan
Member since: Sun Feb 24, 2008, 10:46 PM
Number of posts: 29,366

Journal Archives

Helping agriculture go green

Over the past months I've been reading about solar, bio-gas and geothermal off and on and also about how some farms are installing such. With that, I've been kicking around ideas how the federal govt. could greatly assist farms in going green and how to fund such a national project.

I live in Michigan so almost all my research on agriculture is on this state so I'll use Michigan as an example of what could be possibly done. Most of the numbers I'll be citing is from memory so I could be off. Maybe even way off and it's also possible that some of the articles I read contained inaccurate information so bear with me on that. Michigan ranks 22nd in agriculture output which makes it about average amongst all states and that works out quite well here.

There are about 100 farms in this state that produce enough animal waste where it thus makes economic sense to install a bio-gas electric power plant on site. The approximate cost for a bio-gas plant is about 2.2 million for a total of 220 million.

Dairy farms are energy intensive because of the need to cool the milk and power the milking equipment. There are about 2500 dairy farms in Michigan and the average herd size is 114 cows. The approx. cost to install a solar system that would provide enough electricity for dairy farm with an average size herd is $80,000. The approx. cost to install a geothermal heating cooling system for a home is $30,000 for a total of $110,000 which I'll increase to $125,000 to take into account potential unforeseen expenses.

Hog farms and poultry farms are also electrical energy intensive too. There are a little less then 500 hog farms in the state and I've never been able to find out how many poultry farms there are here but I'll use the figure of 500 for a total of 3500 dairy, hog and poultry farms. Multiplying $125,000 by 3500 gives a cost of $437,500,000.

There are about 56,000 farms in the state. The majority of which are small or part time. Subtracting the number of farms already mentioned gives a total of 52,400. Installing a 5kw solar system and a geothermal heating /cooling system would cost about $75,000 each for a total cost of $3,930,000,000.

Adding it all up comes up with a total cost of $4,587,500,000 just for Michigan. I'll round this up to $5 billion to make my calculations on the back of an envelope easier and to provide a cushion to account for extra costs. If one agrees that Michigan is about average, the total cost for the entire nation would be $250 billion..

That's a great deal of money but the way to pay for it would be to eliminate the home mortgage tax deduction or cap it. The home mortgage deductions costs the federal govt. about $80 billion a year and even if one just capped it so the revenue was $50 billion, that be way more then enough to fund such a project over a ten year period of time as it'd be impossible to accomplish such a task in just a few years. The extra money could go to fund the construction of large scale solar farms in the South West on military bases and Indian reservations and for the construction of high powered transmission lines to transfer that power not just west to California but as far east as Atlanta, Georgia. And I believe there would be enough money left to also fund the construction of desalinization plants in California, Texas and Florida. Agriculture requires a great deal of water and the three states I mentioned are ranked 1, 2 and 10th respectively nationwide in agricultural receipts.

Dehydrating apples today

The plan to make apple sauce and apple butter with my ex hasn't panned out yet but when I was over there a couple of days ago, her parents were also there and we got to talking about it. They, the parents, said that they had a dehydrator that I could use it for as long as I needed it so when my ex was bringing me back, we stopped at her parent's house and got it. Yesterday I made a batch and it took about 12 hours. Enough to fill a quart size freezer bag and part of another. I got another batch going this morning. I may be dehydrating apples for some time as I do have quite a few. I still want to make applesauce and apple butter and that may happen yet.

My ex's niece who stayed at this house for a few months last year left a number of bills (most of which I had to pay) behind and I saved them. Yesterday I was doing some paperwork and came across the gas bill for last November when she was here and she had used 76 therms that month. I'm positive I'll be using much less then that but then again, she didn't have the furnace shut off during the night and much of the day like I'm doing. It's about 40 degrees outside right now but a balmy 62 inside even with the furnace off. The dehydrator itself is putting out some heat.

Got a letter from SS explaining the extra payment I got at the beginning of the month. The letter also said that my regular monthly benefit will be $1103 in December and not $1071 and there will be another increase in January for cost of living adjustment. How much of an increase in January will not be known till it is determined how much is deducted for my Medicare premium and that won't be done till sometime in December. So the monthly budget I posted here will have to be tweaked a bit when I get the info.

Monthly Budget -Updated 1/24/13

I now now what my monthly SSDI will be after the Medicare premium has been taken out and I have the montly averages for gas and electricity costs since Feb. of last year. I also know what my property taxes for the year are and my home owners insurance premiums are.


$1119 SSDI
+$16 SNAP
$1135 Total


$75 Phone & Internet
$33 Natural gas for heating, hot water and cooking
$39 Electricity
$88 Property taxes and homeowners insurance
$25 Garbage pickup
$48 Water & sewer
$150 Payment on hospital bill
$8 Netflix
$120 Food, personal hygiene
$16 Dog food
$90 Cigarettes
$34 Dog's medications
$5 My medication
$100 Miscellaneous, clothing
$831 total expenses

$304 available for discretionary spending

I myself won't have that $300 some dollars a month until very early next spring as I'm helping out the ex-wife with some of her expenses as she's gotten herself in a heck of a financial pickle since the divorce.

Assuming there are no further charges on my account at the local hospital, I ought to have that paid off in full by January of 2014. That would add another $150 to the monthly discretionary fund for a total of $454.

Quitting smoking would add another $90 for a total of $544 a month.

Looking at my gas and electricity usage history

Spent a bit of time signing up for on line payment on the utilities and garbage pickup. Interesting info to look at when reviewing my accounts at the gas and electric websites.

Here's the history of my gas usage since Feb. in therms (a therm of natural gas contains about 100k btu's of heat)


Looking at my bill, a therm costs me a little over a dollar and that includes service charges and tax. The reason my usage was so high in April was that I was doing drywall work that month in the kitchen and I needed the heat turned up for the mud and paint to dry. At the end of June or beginning of July, I stopped washing my clothes in hot/warm water and that would explain the drop there. At the beginning of August, I turned the gas valve on the water heater to pilot which provided a minor savings.

As for my electric usage, the amount in kilowatts varied greatly from month to month but that's because they only did actual meter readings every other month and estimated the usage the other months and based that on my consumption 12 months before when no one was living here. So, the following month when they did an actual reading, I had to make up the difference.

Here is the history in kilowatts:


On average, I used 159 kilowatts a month since April. I had called the electric company a few weeks ago and asked them what a kilowatt cost (as it wasn't explained on my bill) and was told it's 19 cents. Adding tax and distribution charges to that, my monthly bill is about $38. Right at the end of August, I stopped using my electric clothes dryer but it's hard to see how much I saved by doing that because of they only did an actual reading on the meter every other month.

By signing up to pay my garbage pick up bill on line, which I pay every quarter, they waived the $4 administrative fee. A very minor savings but it all adds up.


Gas bill came in today for October and it's $19.75. A couple of dollars more then for the month of September. I use natural gas for heat, hot water and cooking. Looking at the extended forecast for this area, it may be in the 40's all of next week so I won't use much gas then and then it's expected to drop into the 30's and 20's the following week.

Went on line yesterday to balance my checkbook and noticed there was much more money in my account then I expected. There was a deposit made by SSA into my account so I called Social Security to find out about it. Thinking that someone may be missing their SS payment as it had been deposited in my account by mistake. After being on hold for awhile, I talked to an agent and he said I had been underpaid in 2010 and that was money owed me. Woot! Woot! So today I paid off in full an account I had with a local hardware store and then continued to walk to the county courthouse where I paid in full what I owed for 2011 property taxes. The money I was going to pay on those two debts I'll apply to two other bills and they will then be paid in full. This will reduce my monthly expenses by $225 a month giving me $300 a month available for miscellaneous. But I'm going to open up a savings account and transfer $200 of that a month into the account which will be spent on replacing all the old windows and doors in this house by early next fall. I already have budgeted $100 a month to be set aside for future property tax payments and fire insurance premium payments and I'll transfer that amount into the savings account too.

This mistake by SSA is a major blessing as had I been paid that in 2010, the money would be long gone on whatever but now I'm going to be pretty much debt free months earlier then I thought.

The county I live in provides a transportation service and I applied for and was approved to get reduced fares. It's getting cold now and doing the walking that I did today was invigorating to say the least. Every Wednesday I have to go to the hospital to have my blood thickness checked so I can get a ride there for 75 cents. It's a short walk from the hospital to the grocery store which I can do and from there, I can get a ride back home with my groceries for another 75 cents. That sure will beat walking 3 miles, carrying groceries for half that distance, when the temp gets down to below freezing. I have another debt that I'm paying $100 a month on but it'll be paid off early next year and I plan on then using that money for payments on a new motor scooter which I can use for much of the year.
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