Keith Logan and the Mind Numbing Details 122811
Keith Logan; he likes the grub at the new Sierraville Cafe.
Keith Logan, of Logan and Associates, is well known in Sierra County as the “biomass dreamer”. Indeed, the Prospect recently had great fun referring to him as “The Music Man” because if encouraged at all, he can expound on a grand vision for the Loyalton Cogen Plant, and indeed, for all of Sierra County.
I met with Logan at the new café in Sierraville to pin him down on his vision, and discovered a very different side of Keith Logan, the man I call “The Mind Numbing Details Man”.
It’s easy to see how some might think of Logan as a dreamer, but “visionary” comes closer to the truth. You don’t have to talk long with Logan to learn that he is a wholistic thinker, things are connected for him, and he keeps a map of the relationships in his mind. The mind numbing details, he tells me, come in when you shift from ideas to plans. The Loyalton cogen plant, at this point, is an idea.
But, not a dream. Plumas Rural Services has been working hard to purchase the cogen plant, to get it spinning again for electricity and to support a host of dependent businesses. Logan has been providing some information for the idea, but he’s keenly aware of the challenges.
“The cogen plant and industrial park is if…if…if” he says. If a purchase agreement for the electricity can be found, if the price per kilowatt is enough, if transmission lines can be contracted, if biomass can be found at a reasonable price- if, if, if. One of the big problems is natural gas, which is cheap, abundant and subsidized. Turning excess forest fuel into electricity is more expensive, but if rates are based on natural gas, biomass kilowatts will be hard to sell. Hard, but not impossible. That’s part of the backbone of the vision: hard but not impossible.
Hard but not impossible is good enough for Logan. Everything today is hard, he points out. The future is worth working for. That’s where the community comes in.
“This is the community’s project, that’s part of the idea,” people will work toward it, and it will be their product. “It can’t be done without the willing support of the community.” A willingness to work hard is the antidote for mind numbing details; hard work is what causes visions to blossom into reality.
Logan sees the cogen purchase as a very real possibility, partly because Plumas Rural Services has friends helping them with the idea. There have been a number of boosters for the idea, but some are not obvious. Logan made it clear that, without the generous cooperation of Sierra Pacific Industries, who owns the cogen plant and old mill site, the idea couldn’t have progressed as much as it has. SPI didn’t have to cooperate, he says, but they have. It could make all the difference.
Logan shares PRS’s Michelle Piller’s dream for the site. The cogen plant generating electricity and hot water, and other businesses benefiting from those resources to power greenhouses, drying sheds and processing plants for some very high end herbs and veggies. Most likely there would be a composting facility, though such a facility to turn woody debris into useable compost takes a lot of nitrogen. Cow flops would be great, but local ranchers and farmers use manure as a valuable resource for the fields. Down the road, the holy grail of affordable biomass electricity might be a biomass to motor fuel facility.
Such a self-sustaining industrial park would be of interest to people all over the world, Logan maintains. “There have already been people here from outside looking at the site. It has the infrastructure we need.”
It became clear that the heart of Logan’s vision is the certain knowledge that we will need renewable electricity and non-petroleum motor fuels someday. The vision, the idea, anticipates a certain future. There was a time when oil was just poison water. Today, cars burning petroleum race over roads made of petroleum. Black liquor, the first product of biomass to fuel, is essentially renewable crude oil. There won’t come a time when the U.S. doesn’t need crude. When the oil in the ground is gone, our hills will still be filled with carbon.
But, the ideal situation would find the cogen plant as the hub of commerce. Even there, Logan notes, the infrastructure is available or close at hand. “Plumas Sierra Rural Electrical Cooperative is dedicated to bringing high speed internet to the whole of the Sierra Valley; that is an essential infrastructure for truly modern commerce.” He also points to the railroad tracks, some of which have been paved over. “So, someone spends a million bucks to revitalize the tracks. Then, they have rail service, as in tank cars”, tank cars full of biomass crude. The line is very short by railroad standards, and much of the track is over stable ground. A million dollars might not cover revitalization of the tracks, but most likely a few million would, and someone who could pay off a few million by doing millions of dollars of business over ten years would consider it a viable plan.
Logan concluded the interview by returning to the community. “You have electricity, heat, plentiful fuel, and you also have a place where people would like to live and work. It’s really about the community.”