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- Governor Jim Doyle announced Friday morning the formation of a new bioenergy consortium in Wisconsin.
The Consortium on Biobased Industry, composed of various experts in both the public and private sectors, will work with the State Departments of Agriculture and Natural Resources and the Administration Department's Energy Office to determine what the state government can do to advance biobased alternative energy solutions in Wisconsin.
Doyle said the commission would work to determine what government policies could best encourage the growth of new energy research in Wisconsin. Some policies Doyle suggested included tax credits and making capital available to startups, helping to move UW research results into the marketplace and using government to bring all the intellectual work together as a whole.
The commission is expected to meet six times and deliver its final recommendations next spring, according to Pat Meier, director of the Biobased Industry Initiative, a division of the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.
Some of the eventual recommendations could be done administratively through the executive branch, while others might take longer to accomplish legislatively.
Doyle spoke of the importance of pursuing alternative energy solutions, both to reduce dependence on foreign oil and to increase the efficiency and opportunities of established agricultural sectors in Wisconsin and across the country.
"Where we used to cut down a tree and use 30 percent or 40 percent of the tree, we're now working to use 100 percent of what happens with that tree, and similarly with agricultural products," Doyle said.
One example at the press conference was Virent Energy Systems, Inc.
, a Madison-based company specializing in hydrogen fuels drawn from sugar-based materials, which in turn can originate as by-products of bio-diesel production.
Virent president and CEO Eric Apfelbach described his company's system, which converts the sugar-based materials to hydrogen fuel at the user end rather than the production end. Apfelbach said this advance would make hydrogen fuels safer and more economical for common usage.
Apfelbach added that the alternative energy sector will be aided by the political and environmental concerns now being recognized from world dependence on oil.
"When prices go up that high, our economics look much better and our ability to raise money and get new business becomes easier," Apfelbach said. "But I think people have gotten used to the idea that energy prices are going to be higher now and that we can't take it for granted and that the oil economy will at some point start to diminish."
Wisconsin Secretary of Agriculture Rod Nilsestuen said Wisconsin has multiple strengths in the area, including a diverse agricultural base and scientific research at UW and within the private sector. He emphasized the importance of the government taking action to bring those resources together.
"I think we have very strong components to get there, but this is the next big chapter in U.S. economic development history, and we can't take it for granted that because we have strength it's going to happen," Nilesestuen said.