April 28, 2012
TC3 conference examines bioenergy
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Tiffany Fleming, of Boyce Thompson Institute at Cornell University, speaks Friday at the Bioenergy Opportunities in Upstate New York conference at Tompkins Cortland Community College.
DRYDEN — Tompkins Cortland Community College hosted a daylong conference Friday on the potential and future of the bioenergy industry.
The Bioenergy Opportunities in Upstate New York conference brought together educators, businessmen and agricultural experts for a discussion about the future of bioenergy and its potential uses for residential and commercial customers in the Southern Tier.
In Shik Lee, the program coordinator, said the school received a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to sponsor the event. The goal was to bring together different perspectives so people could get the complete picture, she said.
“We wanted to bring together businesses, agriculture and educators so we could have three different points of view and have a discussion,” she said. “It’s a growing industry and we wanted to provide local opportunities so that our young people can find good jobs and stay in the area.”
Over a dozen speakers gave presentations on current trends in bioenergy, education programs, local bioenergy businesses and opportunities as well as government policies that affect the industry.
McKenzie Jones-Rounds, president of the Ithaca Biodiesel Cooperative, gave a presentation on how the company is growing and its plans to open up a pump station for biodiesel. The company collects used oil from local restaurants and uses it to make biodiesel.
Biodiesel is molecularly similar to petroleum diesel, which means it can run diesel engines with no modifications, Jones-Rounds said.
“We want to create a world that is safer and more environmentally friendly for our children,” she said. “Keeping biodiesel local creates skilled, good paying jobs and reduces our dependence on foreign oil.”
Other presentations focused on changes in the logging industry. To produce wood pellets, loggers must harvest smaller trees that are worth less money than high-value, larger trees.
Cathelijne Stoof, a biological and environmental engineering researcher at Cornell University, said the conference was a way to educate people on all the changes in bioenergy and the industry’s potentials.
“We’re talking about sustainability and local jobs,” she said. “It’s a great way to educate people about the opportunities that are out there.”
Stoof is working on a project examining sustainable perennial grasses for bioenergy.
Bill Overbaugh, general manager of Erhart Propane & Oil, said his company has faced challenges in selling heating oil based on biofuel.
“A lot of the challenges have come from myths and fear about biofuels,” he said. “The other challenge is cost.”
Lauren Dowler, a renewable energy, bioenergy, and bioproducts educator at Cornell University, said she came to learn more and meet some of the experts in the field.
“I came for the networking,” she said. “ I liked the entire idea of this event.”
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