17 Jan Governor wants $2 million for biofuels in budget
Madison, Wis. — Governor Jim Doyle announced Wisconsin’s next energy move would be away from oil on Friday with the creation of the Biofuels Initiative. The initiative opens up funding to develop new fuel sources, such as ethanol from corn, and research where they would be most effective.
“In Wisconsin, we may not have oil fields, but we have the corn for ethanol,” Doyle said in a statement. “We have wind and sun and biofuels. And we have ingenuity.”
According to gubernatorial spokesperson Melanie Fonder, the establishment of the Biofuels Initiative is one of several “key pieces” building on Doyle’s Grow Wisconsin plan. It continues the work of the Task Force on Energy Efficiency and Renewables, which was established in September 2004 to improve the state’s energy infrastructure.
The state plans to establish a consortium for managing biofuel programs, consisting of representatives from the academic, manufacturing, and environmental fields. The consortium will spearhead a program to analyze the use of alternative fuel here compared to that in neighboring states and discuss how the state can become part of a global biofuel market.
“You’ll see leaders from several different sectors, who will be charged with providing an outline about how the energy in Wisconsin can be counted,” Fonder said.
According to Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council, the establishment of the Biofuel Initiative has a great deal of potential because it can improve the state’s self-sufficiency. Wisconsin imports the majority of its fuel. By working off unrecognized resources such as feed corn and wood pulp, the state has a chance to craft a renewable and efficient power source.
Still said one of the potential effects of the project is to help spread ethanol-extracting technologies in rural Wisconsin, where they have had challenges getting started. With the help of the $2 million Doyle wants to make available for farmers and alternative energy companies in the next state budget, the industry will have more room to take root and grow.
“We have an opportunity to grow an indigenous business that would rely on our natural resources and secure energy independence,” Still said. “It’s a smart call to take a long hard look at this and tap our potential.”
Eric Apfelbach, president of the biofuel research company Virent Energy Systems, said that the initiative brings into focus a market Wisconsin has long neglected. He agreed with the need to develop new avenues for fuel, citing the lack of a commercial biodiesel program in Wisconsin.
“We’re a bit behind our neighbors … the state needs more long-range projects,” Apfelbach said. He added that while Virent is not yet part of the initiative, executive vice president Randy Cortright has been invited to be part of the consortium and they would apply for the grants if Virent’s projects fit the requirements.
The main goal of the initiative is to make biofuels a prominent part of Wisconsin’s energy system. By the year 2010 Doyle’s administration hopes to have 20 percent of government energy come from renewable sources, and make up 10 percent of the energy in homes and businesses by 2015. Still said while this is an aggressive goal, it is an advantage because it forces the state to work even harder in developing new avenues of power.
“It’s time to reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” Doyle said in his State of the State address last week. “When it comes to our energy future, let’s rely on the Midwest – not the Mideast.”