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Reflections on the meeting with BION Technologies, Inc., representatives at Oswego State on 14 July 10

As a general observation, Mr. J. Kappel was the best speaker for Bion, which does not mean I accepted all he said. Dr. J. Morris was a bit too political in his manner; almost a Bill Clinton “I feel your pain” schtick with his Tennessee drawl to impress us common folk how common he was also. Mr. D. Bassani – who spoke last and appeared to me to be wishing he were somewhere else all evening – was arrogant, almost taunting the audience, condescending, and it seemed he was looking for a fight.

Factually, however, all these people are seriously challenged; they either do not really know what they are talking about, or at least any one of the three does not at certain times. First, Dr. Morris stated (in response to a question from the audience about a slide showing a bovine representation which stated that this animal emitted 360 Lbs./year of nitrogen) that it did not matter whether or not it was a dairy cow or beef cattle. However, later on, Mr. Bassani tried to tell us that dairy cows consumed and emitted 2.5 times as much as cattle, while trying to convince us that a 500-cow dairy herd currently operated in the county would be equivalent to (1) their 1250-cattle test operation in Pennsylvania and (2) would also emit as much as one of their five 14,400-cattle sites which would use their patented digestion technology for waste treatment.

Also, Mr. Bassani, et. al., apparently dismissed such facts as: unlike a 500-cow dairy herd grazing on open pasture – their operation would require feed being brought to confined cattle on a continuous basis, their waste being removed by truck (and liquids filtered in engineered wet lands), and cattle (600 per day overall, prorated to 120 per site) being brought in by truck to replace those slaughtered. They have not invented non-polluting trucks (or in the case of excrement and distillery grain – the feed — transport, leak- or crash-proof trucks), to my knowledge.

Also, at the meeting, Dr. Morris pointed out that Bion’s digester technology would be heated to ensure it operates as it does in warmer climes; the impact of burning large amounts of fossil fuel to effect this was not explained, but is another fact that gives the lie to the “closed-loop” pitch that Bion makes.

They mentioned that they would pay some 2.5 million dollars annually in taxes, but that is really not known because a PILOT agreement might be considered. And, in any event, 2.5 million dollars will not go far when spent over the entire county, especially considering the damage to roads and infrastructure caused by hundreds of additional heavy truck sorties daily over our roads, and certainly will do nothing to cover any environmental damage done by their operation.

As to this last point, when asked if Bion would post any bond or other such insurance fund to cover inadvertent damage or – a question specifically asked – for the loss of local livestock due to mandated destruction if one of their 72,000 animals contracts a contagious disease (he did not answer the question as to where they would procure cattle for finishing), Mr. Bassani simply said, “No.” Never mind the mess left behind if their huge experiment fails and they walk away from it.

In regards to the chances of that happening, consider this from Bion Technologies’ 10-Q Report to the SEC, 5 March 2010:

“…The Company has not generated revenues and has incurred net losses of approximately $1,312,000 and $1,779,000 during the years ended June 30, 2009 and 2008, respectively, and a net loss of approximately $2,227,000 for the nine months ended March 31, 2010. These factors raise substantial doubt about the Company’s ability to continue as a going concern.”

The last phrase expressing doubt about Bion’s being a “going concern” also appeared in a 2005 auditor’s report. Based on the above history of exponentially-increasing losses, this company has no financial underpinning to carry out such a venture as they have proposed. Period.

Finally, what about all the wonderful jobs that have been promised? It turns out that Bion comprises 8 people. That’s all. They do not have the intention or the capability of operating or overseeing any of this scheme themselves. This will all be done through subcontractors – for the cattle sites; for the grain shipping; for the cattle, waste, and feed, and meat trucking; for the slaughterhouse operation; and for the engineering of man-made wetlands, waste treatment systems and lagoons, barns, “buffer” crop areas, etc. Bion has no contractors lined up at this time – none that they would name for us, certainly. How could they know all the employment plans of so diversified a set of unknown companies? (This is probably the reason that employment estimates have varied from the 600 range to the 300 range – they are guessing.)

Add to this their admission late in the meeting that they might not build their own ethanol plant but would “partner” with the Sunoco operation just getting started in Fulton, and the number of jobs falls further. More to the point, the number of high-paying, skilled jobs falls precipitously. (Note also that the Sunoco plant was not engineered to burn animal waste for fuel, nor was it designed with the animal-waste-in and distillery-grain-out balance necessary to accommodate a 72,000 cattle in a “closed-loop”, so this is purely speculative even from a technological point of view. Bion has no concrete plan as to how it will produce ethanol.)

Here is the deal as I see it: Bion makes (or will try to make) money, has no liability, and few if any good jobs result from this exercise. Water pollution due to routine operation or accidents, adverse effects on wells near the cattle sites (such as lowering of local water tables), malodorous living conditions for residents within several miles of some sites, road damage, and less safety on our roads (remember, these trucks will have to transport cattle, feed, and waste all winter, every day) are all distinct possibilities; and no bond to make us whole should problems result.

Only a naïve optimist could love this proposal.

(Let me know if you heard something at the meeting that I did not, or if you disagree with my recollections; my notes are not always the best, though I believe the above is an accurate representation insofar as facts discussed.)