The MacArthur Initiative

On June 2, 2016, the New York Times announced1 that, beginning in 2017 the MacArthur Foundation will award a major grant every three years to organizations that have indentifed a problem of global significance and have a viable plan to address that problem.2

The new competition provides an opportunity for the creation and support of an industrial-size, energy-generating demonstration project that relies on tallowfuel as a fuel source and would be a model for sustainable, renewable and carbon-neutral technology for the production of electricity.

According to the MacArthur Foundation's 100&Change website,2 applications to the competition will be scored according to four major criteria:

1. Meaningful:  "Is the proposal bold?  Does it seek to solve an important and urgent problem?  Will the proposed solution significantly improve the condition of the target beneficiaries and result in broad public benefit?"

2. Verifiable:  "Does the proposal present evidence that the solution has previously yielded practical and concrete results?  Does the proposed solution rely on existing methodology, technology, and/or provable science?"

3. Feasible:  "Does the team have the skill, capacity and experience to deliver the proposed solution?  Do the budget and project plans align with a realistic understanding of the costs and tasks to implement the proposed solution?"

4. Durable:  "Does the team propose a solution that has staying power?  Is there a plan in place to support the resolution of the problem, including any need for ongoing support, if necessary?"

In the present instance, the "team" would consist of experts in the fields of agriculture, engineering and business who would create a realistic plan for producing quantities of tallowfuel sufficient to fuel at least one power plant as part of a demonstration project.  Thousands of acres of tallow trees would be required.  The principles of orchard management and mechanical harvesting are well developed, and what will be needed is a reliable stream of product delivered to an electricity-generating site and the cooperation of an existing power company willing to be an early adapter of this new technology.  Clearly, the coalition would be dedicated to the purpose of using tallowfuel as a replacement for coal for the production of electricity in coal-fired furnaces that have been modified to use the new fuel source.

The objective of carbon and oxygen neutrality inevitably leads to photosynthesis as the ideal basis for trapping the energy from the sun.  Inherent in the vegetative approach is the sustainability and renewability of the tallow tree because the forces of nature are utilized to repair and replenish the mechanisms by which energy is trapped and incoporated into the tree's seeds.  In turn, the pellet-size seeds can be harvested by mechanical means and burned as an alternative fuel to generate electricity in appropriately modified furnaces.

The author reaches out to professionals who are excited by the ideas presented here to partner with colleagues who potentially would be in a position to participate in this important means of meeting the future energy needs of our planet.  The author agrees to assist to the extent that he is able.

  1. Christine Houser, "MacArthur Foundation Will Award $100 Million for Solution to a Global Problem," The New York Times, June 2, 2016,, accessed 06/03/2016.  Reprinted in accordance with the "fair use" provision of Title 17 U.S.C. § 107 for a non-profit educational purpose.

  2. The MacArthur Foundation, https://www.100&, accessed 06/03/2016.

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