Summit promotes growing high-energy plants
BY DUSTIN TRACY
Posted on Saturday, October 11, 2008
Northwest Arkansas Times Fayetteville’s first ever Sustainability Summit brought more than 300 people to the city’s center to talk about ways organizations can become more environmentally friendly. One way discussed was a switch from conventional diesel fuel to the use of bioenergybased fuel. Jim Wimberly with BioEnergy System LLC in Fayetteville talked about the energy-efficient idea at a small breakout session during the summit. “ Agriculture and energy are so intertwined, ” Wimberly said.
He said the idea is to start promoting the growth of high-energy yielding plants that can be processed and manufactured into a full spectrum of energy projects, including fuel for automobiles.
“ In essence, plants are batteries, ” he said. “ They store energy through photosynthesis. ”
Arkansas provides a large amount of natural resources to make bioenergy manufacturing a reality, Wimberly said, and if the state takes an active interest in the concept, it could cut in half its yearly 1 billion gallons of petroleum used each year.
“ It would take just under a million acres of herbaceous energy crops (crops high in energy ) to displace half of that diesel used, ” he said.
Wimberly said a lot of research is being done on soybeans to create biodiesel, and that it’s a good fuel. However, he said fuel users need to broaden their horizons.
“ We need to quit being worried about planting a future around traditional approaches to biofuel, ” he said.
The state has the forest and farmland to support biofuel operations, which makes it already an attractive location to bioenergy companies, Wimberly said, but Arkansas and its cities need to work towards sealing the deal with the green fuel producers.
“ We are in competition with neighboring states, ” Wimberly said.
Financial incentives as well as getting state landowners and far mers on board with the idea could be the key, Wimberly said.
“ It’s not going to happen unless (farmers ) can make at least as much money as they do growing traditional crops, ” he said.
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