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- Wisconsin's biobased industries could become a model for the rest of the world if the right plans are made, government and industry officials said at a leadership summit held Thursday at the Capitol.
The Governor convened a summit to discuss Wisconsin's forest and agricultural industry and its ties to the growing biofuels market, and to identify issues affecting expansion. Representatives from the U.S. Department of Energy
and the Department of Agriculture
came to comment on federal biobased energy plans and how they align with Wisconsin's development.
In his introductory remarks, Governor Jim Doyle said Wisconsin, as a major dairy provider and the top paper state in the country, is eager to translate these resources into bioenergy. He predicted industry and university projects will move forward in the state thanks to recent Green Tier legislation, which sets up rewards for companies that go above and beyond environmental regulations, and "financial modernization" that is leading to more grants.
Doyle said one of the big steps toward securing Wisconsin's future in biofuels was "closing the loop" for ethanol production. Right now, most corn grown in Wisconsin is sent to processing plants in Minnesota and Iowa and returned as biofuel. Doyle's goal is to have five plants operational in-state by 2006, producing 200 million gallons of ethanol fuel.
"I want to make sure that when we look back down the road we seized this time and the majority of our state's economy is on biobased initiatives," Doyle said. "We've got all the pieces in place and the commitment from agriculture to get this done."
After the governor spoke the summit led into a discussion about where Wisconsin has to go to meet this proposed future, and which of its resources need the most focus.
Doug Kaempf, program manager of the USDOE Office of the Biomass Program, said the federal government is encouraging work on domestic bioenergy to reduce dependency on foreign oil. Since the budgets are constrained, the government is focused on education and demonstration to show biomass is feasible at a large scale.
Ted Wegner of the USDA Forest Products Laboratory also said that federal interest in biofuels is growing, especially with increased efficiency in ethanol conversion. He said the USDA and the USDOE are collaborating to pool their resources and technical support and intend to track down businesses that can adapt biofuels technology.
Kaempf said that Wisconsin could serve as a "pilot project" for the rest of the country since it has so many of these technologies already in place, establishing practices that are more inclusive and informative than other states. "It could be a showcase for the rest of the nation," he said.
This is possible, according to Agenda 2020
Executive Director Lori Perine, because the state has a good supply of natural resources and a climate of collaboration. The laboratories at University of Wisconsin-Madison often work with the state's farms, and organizations like the Center for Technology Transfer
have spearheaded many networking efforts between public and private resources.
"What we have here is an extended leadership committed to the biobased industry and building across sectors," Perine said. She added it should be Wisconsin's goal to take these successful partnerships and use their example to connect with other states.
In addition to working with other states, it is important for Wisconsin to learn from their efforts in biobased industry. Examples included growing biofuel plants in Iowa and Missouri, tax-based initiatives in Minnesota to smaller farms working with ethanol production and the construction of the country's largest biodiesel plant in North Dakota.
While many options were discussed, the summit participants agreed that before any major steps can be taken the legislature and major organizations need to put together some sort of plan for spreading biofuels. Wegner said the main problem is not developing the technology but reproducing it at different locations, so it is important to understand which companies and states they can talk to.
"These ideas are in embryonic form, and we want to articulate this into an outline," Perine said. "What we have to do here is replicate to other states and nations."