Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Mysterious Mister Tien

The man who sold Cleveland on visions of prosperity isn't all he claims to be

CLEVELAND — “The city of Cleveland and Cleveland Public Power made up their minds back in 2008: A revolutionary system that would vaporize trash was definitely the way to go.

The so-called “gasification plant” would fit nicely at the city’s Ridge Road garbage transfer station, and it would save oodles of cash that for years has been forked over to a landfill in Mansfield. Plus, the gas that would stream from it could fire boilers that would generate free electricity for the city. The new plant would even turn useless garbage sludge into fuel pellets and decorative bricks that could be sold on the side.

And they found the perfect company to help spin their trash into gold: Kinsei Sangyo of Japan had advertised garbage-gassing units so clean and so green that only wisps of what looks like water vapor float from the stacks. Cleveland would be the first city in the U.S. to showcase the Kinsei technology — a new toy to wave in front of jealous neighbors.

So Cleveland Public Power called the only company licensed to sell Kinsei units in the U.S.: Princeton Environmental Group, based in New Jersey and headed by a man named Peter Tien. He made wonderful promises: a $180 million gasification plant would employ 90 to 120 Clevelanders. A Kinsei manufacturing facility would be built here, and Cleveland would become an epicenter for plant design and manufacturing across the country.

In order to witness the gasification majesty in action, the city paid for a junket to Asia in August 2009. For Tien, the trip marked the ideal opportunity to trot out another enviro-happy sales pitch: Could your fine city use some LED light bulbs too?”

— Maude L. Campbell, SCENE Magazine 
 link to the full article

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