Friday, March 21, 2008

Rendell hails ethanol but looks beyond it


Like a baseball coach who praises his current squad but has an eye on up-and-comers in his farm system, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell on March 13 praised developers of the state's first ethanol plant at its groundbreaking ceremony but days later was encouraging research to hasten the day when fuel can be produced from such cellulosic sources as switch grass and wood waste.

Making fuel from corn is what BioEnergy LLC’s will be doing at its $265 million ethanol biorefinery now under construction in Clearfield County. It's Pennsylvania’s first such facility and will be one of the largest in the nation.

The plant is expected to produce 100 million gallons of ethanol when operational in 2010--among the largest outputs east of the Mississippi and among the top 10 in the nation--and create at least 110 jobs.

Pennsylvania taxpayers played a significant role, contributing a total of $17.4 million to get the project off the ground.

On March 17, the governor told members of the Pennsylvania Association of Conservation Districts that corn-based ethanol was the "near-term alternative," a "technologically and economically viable alternative that can be put into our supply today to reduce our dependence on foreign oil."
But, he added that he sees cellulosic ethanol technology as "more promising for the state's future and the environment."

Rendell plans to convene a cellulosic biofuels summit in Pennsylvania later this year. His administration is already investing in private research and development projects focusing on cellulosic ethanol that may be produced from biomass materials like switch grass, crop residues, small-diameter trees and agricultural waste.

The developers of the state's first ethanol plant apparently are also looking to the future. BioEnergy plans to build a cellulosic research and development pilot plant next to the ethanol biorefinery to test different types of biomass including organic wastes.

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