Published: Wednesday, 06/27/07
TennesseeVoices
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Tennesseans can fight high gas prices with our own 'farm-to-fuel-tank' options

By GERALD NICELY

Tobacco was once the cash crop for Tennessee farmers, and gas and diesel were the only fuels available to Tennessee motorists. But times are changing. Farming and our need for clean, homegrown, renewable fuel sources are converging to offer other options.

There are two biofuels getting increased attention and use in Tennessee. Ethanol is made from starchy crops such as corn and wheat and converted to simple sugars. The most common ethanol is E-85. And biodiesel is a cleaner-burning fuel made from natural, renewable sources such as new and used vegetable oils and animal fats.
Since February 2006, Gov. Phil Bredesen's Alternative Fuels Working Group has focused on ways to encourage the development of alternative fuels. We are working to develop local markets for farmers who grow crops that can be used in bio-fuels. And we're encouraging local governments and state-funded universities to increase the use of alternative fuels in their fleets and measure positive impacts. It's equally important for business to take on the manufacture of these products and for fuel station owners to invest in the distribution. The last link in this "from farm to fuel tank" process is the customer.

Bredesen awarded 10 "Green Island Corridor" (GIC) grants June 6 to retail fuel stations, bringing us closer to making biofuels a viable option for Tennessee drivers.

These grants help small, independent businesses install new E85 ethanol and B20 biodiesel pumps as part of the emerging Green Island Biofuel Network across the state. More GIC grants will be awarded in coming months.

Tennessee has the potential to be a national leader in the production of ethanol from biomass. Biomass is plant matter such as wood waste, grasses, agricultural crops or other biological material. The governor has allocated $72.6 million for the research and development in this, primarily ethanol produced from switchgrass.

Americans gain in freedom and independence when we lessen our dependence on foreign oil. Thursday is the first-ever "Biofuels Day" in Tennessee. It kicks off a statewide public education effort and outreach campaign called "BioTenn" to increase citizen awareness and understanding of biofuels in Tennessee.

The use of biofuels can provide small-business investment opportunities for station owners, agricultural options for farmers, choices for consumers and, last but not least, environmental quality for all of us.

We want Tennessee to be a leader in biofuels in the Southeast, and we need your help as a motorist and consumer of fuel. Join us Thursday and celebrate independence with biofuels in Tennessee.