BioEnergy Conference Sets National Goals

Sponsors of “BioEnergy: The Future of Rural America” have set goals to improve America’s economy, environment and national security. They want to triple U.S. use of bio-based products and bioenergy by 2010, which could create US$15 billion to $20 billion in new income for farmers and rural America and reduce fossil fuel emissions by an amount up to 100 million metric tons of carbon. They also want to produce more biofuels from renewable, domestically supplied biomass, which presents an opportunity for the country to ease the burden of protecting U.S. interests in the Persian Gulf. The conference will be held on November 6.

Westminster, Colorado – October 31, 2003 [] The public and private sector partnership organizing the conference includes Tri-State Generation and Transmission (Tri-State G&T), the Denver Regional Office of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the Colorado Governor’s Office of Energy Management and Conservation (OEMC), the Western Area Power Administration (WAPA), the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), Global Energy Partners, and the Delta-Montrose Electric Association (DMEA). “The DOE is working with other federal agencies and the private sector on research and demonstration projects producing alternative energy from agriculture, including methane from livestock operations and the production and use of biomass crops,” said Bill Becker, Regional Director of U.S. DOE’s Denver Office. At the Tri-State G&T Conference Center, in Westminster, Colorado, Becker will present “BioEnergy’s Potential to Power the American Economy,” in which he will illustrate how the government is working to develop 21st century bio-based industries that use trees, crops and agricultural and forestry wastes to make fuels, chemicals, and electricity — and how Colorado has significant opportunities to fuel its economic growth with these renewable energy resources. “Non-profit electric cooperatives serving the nation’s rural communities are becoming increasingly involved in the development of bioenergy,” said Mark McGahey, Marketing Manager of Tri-State G&T, an electric generation and transmission cooperative serving 44 electric distribution cooperatives in Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, and New Mexico. “Recently the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association signed an agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to identify and advance cost-effective opportunities for rural electric cooperatives to partner with farmers and ranchers to increase the use of renewable energy including biomass gasification power plants, waste-to-energy systems, thereby improving rural economies and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.” The agreement recently signed between the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) will expand bioenergy education and outreach efforts, including workshops and programs to ensure that farmers, electric cooperatives and others have research and information available to them. Anaerobic digestion of animal wastes is one bioenergy opportunity described at the conference. Methane gas produced by anaerobic digestion can be burned in a generator or microturbine. In the future, it could also be used in fuel cells. “Biodigesters hold a lot of opportunity for agriculture, particularly for those involved in confined animal feeding operations,” says Chuck Sopher of Global Energy Partners. “Technology has progressed to the point where anaerobic biodigesters are becoming commercially viable. These digesters can help feeding operations turn mortality and waste products from a liability into an asset by converting them into energy.” The feasibility and economics of this type of system will be illustrated in a case study showcasing Colorado Pork in Lamar, Colorado. According to the OEMC, the farm has been producing about 35 percent of its energy use and about 50 percent of its peak electrical load with a generator running on the gas derived by anaerobic digestion. Ed Torrero of NRECA’s Cooperative Research Network will present decision-making and analysis tools on whether or not such an operation makes sense for other agricultural operators. Scott Haase of McNeil Technologies will describe the economic feasibility of bioenergy developments and public policy innovations that could accelerate the commercialization of these emerging energy technologies. Composting, another way to convert animal wastes to usable resources, will be explained by Cal Kuska, a consultant who has helped establish composting operations in Asia, Latin America, Kuwait and Africa. Forest materials and wood wastes can be “co-fired” in existing coal-fired power plants. Wood chips can also be “gasified” and then used to generate electricity in turbines. Ed Lehrburger, President of PureVision will describe “The Dawning of the Age of BioRefineries.” Since 1992, PureVision has been developing enzyme-based waste recovery technologies to replace fossil fuels. PureVision, based in Fort Lupton, Colorado, recently was awarded a $2 million grant from the USDA to help demonstrate the economics of PureVision’s biomass recovery technology that converts corn stalks and other wastes into bio-products such as ethanol. Researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) are developing alternative transportation fuels that could dramatically improve our environment, economy, and energy security. NREL’s research is working toward developing cost-competitive alternatives to gasoline, reducing U.S. reliance on imported oil, and creating major new domestic industries. “Biodiesel, made from renewable sources such as vegetable oils and recycled restaurant greases is one such fuel,” said conference speaker Shaine Tyson, of NREL’s Renewable Diesel Project. “Biodiesel reduces air pollution, reducing cancer causing emissions by 94 percent compared to petrodiesel. It also produces 78 percent less carbon dioxide than diesel fuel.” NREL and other DOE labs’ research hopes to reduce the cost of biodiesel to less than $1.00 per gallon over the next five years. Dan Bell in the Public Works Department of the Town of Breckenridge, Colorado, is the concluding speaker. Breckenridge, a pioneer in the use of biodiesel in municipal vehicles, presents an example of what vehicle fleet operators can do to improve our environment, economy and future.
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