Bredesen Announces Next Steps In Alternative Fuels Strategy

Sunday, February 04, 2007 | 06:00pm

Nashville - Governor Phil Bredesen announced today that his proposed 2007-2008 budget will include $61 million for a comprehensive alternative fuels strategy to position Tennessee to be a national leader in the production of biomass ethanol and related research.

Combined with $11.6 million in existing funding for an ongoing related project at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), the Governor’s proposal represents a $72.6 million comprehensive plan.

(For more information, visit the Governor’s Web site)

“This proposal, at its core, is about joining the best of Tennessee’s agricultural and academic resources and leveraging them in a unique way that will position us to take advantage of the opportunities of tomorrow,” Bredesen said. “These investments will help secure our economic and environmental future and allow us to maximize our potential to be a farm-based fuels leader.”

Bredesen’s proposed budget includes $40 million to build a pilot biomass ethanol plant that will operate at a capacity of five million gallons per year.

“We know we can make ethanol from grassy and woody materials,” Bredesen said. “The challenge is producing it in large volumes and at a price that is competitive with gasoline, and in proving we can be the ones to take the discovery from the laboratory to the marketplace.”

Scientists at ORNL and the University of Tennessee (UT) Institute for Agriculture have developed ethanol from switchgrass, a crop that can be grown virtually anywhere in Tennessee. Biomass crops like switchgrass represent significant new markets for Tennessee farmers and new opportunities for Tennessee’s economy.

The Governor’s proposal augments $11.6 million provided by the General Assembly for construction of the Joint Institute for Biological Sciences currently at ORNL. The facility is scheduled for completion in August. UT and ORNL are currently competing for a $125 million Bioenergy Research Center from the U.S. Department of Energy. If successful, the Bioenergy Center would be housed in the Joint Institute for Biological Sciences.

Other components of the plan in the 2007-2008 proposed budget include:

  • $10 million for UT and ORNL to fund additional research to increase switchgrass production and achieve efficiencies in the production of cellulosic ethanol.
  • $3 million in research funding to find other, non-biomass alternative fuel sources.
  • $8 million in agricultural incentives to help Tennessee farmers tap into the new farm-based fuels market and produce switchgrass in the quantities required to supply the pilot ethanol plant.

“I want to be clear about Tennessee’s commitment to farmers and rural communities,” Bredesen said. “We are a biomass state. We have the right conditions, climate and resources to grow virtually unlimited quantities of biomass. We also have the scientific and research communities in our universities and laboratories required to help us realize this potential in a way that can be truly transformational for our state and our economy.”

Representatives of UT, ORNL, the state’s Alternative Fuels Working Group, Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation and other stakeholders were on hand for Bredesen’s announcement at Ellington Agricultural Center in Nashville.

“This initiative represents an incredible merging of scientific research and technology with the rich agricultural resources of this state,” said John Petersen, UT president. “That combination gives Tennessee the clear advantage in pursuing a leadership role in biomass fuels.”

“We appreciate Governor Bredesen’s interest in Tennessee farmers and rural communities,” said Lacy Upchurch, Tennessee Farm Bureau president. “Converting biomass to energy is a perfect match for Tennessee agriculture and has great income potential for our producers and the rural economy.”

Bredesen also announced that the specifics of the application process for three alternative fuels grant and loan programs will be unveiled on Thursday. The three programs, representing a $3.5 million investment, were recommended by the state Alternative Fuels Working Group. They include:

  • Agricultural Feedstock Processing Loans to help attract investment in soybean crushing facilities to create local markets for Tennessee-grown soybeans and supply the oil needed to create biodiesel.
  • Innovation Grants to help governments and state-funded universities increase the use of alternative fuels in their fleets, particularly in areas not currently attaining federal air quality standards.
  • Green Island Corridor Grants to build a network of publicly-accessible B20 and E85 refueling stations or “green islands” along Tennessee’s major highways.

“These programs will allow us to increase the production and use of cleaner, renewable energy resources in our state and expand existing markets for traditional crops like soybeans and corn that can be refined into alternative sources of fuel today,” said Agriculture Commissioner Ken Givens, who co-chairs the state’s Alternative Fuels Working Group.

For more information contact:

615.741.3763 (OFFICE)
615.289.9375 (CELL)

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