Penn. governor touts potential of cellulosic biofuels for Chesapeake Bay states

Governor Edward G. Rendell said that the commonwealth and other Chesapeake Bay watershed states can emerge as the national leader in developing advanced homegrown alternatives to foreign oil by following the recommendations of a report that was issued today. The report, Next Generation Biofuels: Taking the Policy Lead for the Nation, is the result of a nearly year-long effort led by the commonwealth and the Chesapeake Bay Commission...

Sep 8th, 2008

• Says Pennsylvania positioned to lead national movement towards next generation biofuels

HARRISBURG, PA, Sept. 4, 2008 -- With America's dependence on foreign oil jeopardizing its national security and way of life, Governor Edward G. Rendell said that the commonwealth and other Chesapeake Bay watershed states can emerge as the national leader in developing advanced homegrown alternatives by following the recommendations of a report that was issued today.

The report, Next Generation Biofuels: Taking the Policy Lead for the Nation, is the result of a nearly year-long effort led by the commonwealth and the Chesapeake Bay Commission to ensure that the region's states work in concert, and strategically, to maximize the economic and environmental benefits alternative fuels like cellulosic ethanol can yield.

"I firmly believe cellulosic ethanol could be to Pennsylvania and our neighboring states in the Chesapeake Bay watershed what corn-based ethanol has been to Iowa," said Governor Rendell. "Our region was blessed with many of the natural resources we need to develop these next generation alternative fuels. Cellulosic ethanol relies on feedstocks like wood chips and wood fibers, switchgrass, municipal waste and agricultural waste -- all things that we have in abundance throughout the region.

"If managed properly, we can grow and cultivate cellulosic feedstocks in a way that's better for our environment. If we work together and follow the recommendations put forth in this report, we can see to it that the national movement towards next generation biofuels delivers the greatest economic potential to our region. That means more jobs, less of a dependence on foreign oil, cleaner water, and, ultimately, a stronger economy."

The Next Generation Biofuels report was released today as part of a day-long summit on the topic in Harrisburg that was co-hosted by the commonwealth and the Chesapeake Bay Commission.

Since calling for the summit in December, Governor Rendell said a panel of 25 energy and environmental experts have studied key issues, including raw materials supplies, natural resource protection efforts, as well as marketing and infrastructure concerns.

The report offers three major areas of action for states in the bay watershed to take in order to capitalize on the transition from conventional biofuels to next generation alternatives, including taking measures to assure the production of a large, reliable and accessible supply of biomass feedstocks; adopting best management practices and planting the types of biomass feedstocks that could help improve water quality if grown in the right location; and ensuring that the proper infrastructure and marketing mechanisms are in place to spur development within the region.

The report also offers 20 recommendations -- 10 for the collective region and 10 for the states to each follow.

At the regional level, recommendations include coordinating state efforts to secure federal support for next generation biofuel development, discouraging the use of invasive species, encouraging the local or on-farm use of biomass products, and establishing regional frameworks and priorities for research and development, use and outreach.

Recommendations for individual states include establishing requirements and incentives for purchasing biofuels, using best management practices for growing and harvesting feedstocks, providing incentives for creating and implementing forest management plans, and supporting the sustainable production of next-generation feedstocks on abandoned or underutilized land.

"Pennsylvania has established itself as a leader in developing alternative fuels," said Acting Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Hanger. "Under Governor Rendell, we've made strategic investments to spur the in-state production of ethanol and biodiesel, established the first state-specific retail mandate for cellulosic ethanol, and made additional resources available through the Alternative Energy Investment Fund to attract even more growth in this industry."

"The growing interest in energy self reliance and energy security could mean tremendous growth for our agriculture industry," said Agriculture Secretary Dennis Wolff. "If we are able to manage biofuel development in the bay region correctly, we will have the potential to provide significant and permanent new income sources for farmers and foresters, while serving as a means to reduce greenhouse gases substantially and better manage agricultural nutrient loadings within watershed."

Forest resources, including fast-growing trees developed on abandoned mine lands and other underutilized tracts, could also play a key role in development of cellulosic ethanol in the region.

"Pennsylvania's 17 million acres of forest are being considered as a source of biomass energy feedstocks for thermal energy and liquid transportation fuels," said Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Michael DiBerardinis. "It is critically important that we manage this irreplaceable natural resource in a sustainable manner, so that the economic and environmental benefits of biofuels can be achieved while preserving the ecosystem, habitat, water quality, recreation, and aesthetic values that our forests provide. Economic and environmental sustainability are intertwined."

Next Generation Biofuels builds upon the bay commission's Sept. 2007 report, Biofuels and the Bay: Getting It Right to Benefit Farms, Forests and the Chesapeake.

>>View the 'Next Generation Biofuels' report

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