Fact Sheet “Growing our economy in a sustainable way is one of the
great challenges of our time. Accelerating the development of bioenergy to replace fossil fuel dependence is the key to meeting this challenge. -Troy Runge, Director, Wisconsin Bioenergy Initiative
Frequently Asked Questions Are we creating more greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through planting, harvesting and processing biomass than if we just burned fossil fuels? When ethanol is produced from corn, for every one unit of energy input, 2.3 units of energy are produced, when fossil fuels are used in the process, according to a USDA study released in June 2010. But when biomass is used for energy in this process, the ratio increases to a 2.8 energy unit output. By increasing production efficiency and renewable energy use at corn ethanol plants, fuels with higher energy outputs can be produced. The goal of research at the University of Wisconsin is to break the bottleneck for production of next generation cellulosic fuels with a variety of biomass feedstocks other than corn. These biomass feedstocks are expected to have much higher energy production than energy inputs.
Why Wisconsin? Why now? Wisconsin is well-suited to be at the forefront of bioenergy industry development. From agricultural and woody biomass to farm and food waste opportunities, our state holds a variety of widely available resources. Combining the state’s legacy of innovation in agriculture, forestry and manufacturing with the cutting-edge research being conducted in our universities, we have already begun to pave the way in developing the bioenergy industry. Because Wisconsin does not have oil, coal, natural gas or uranium, it is far more dependent on the importation of fossil fuels. In 2006 alone, the state’s energy costs were more than $19.5 billion. By promoting energy from biomass, we are increasing the potential to bring those dollars back into our home state.
WBI Fast Facts • Created in 2007 by the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences • A statewide initiative, housed at UW-Madison • Coordinating with state and regional stakeholders to develop the biomass opportunity in Wisconsin • Bridging the gap between research and policy through collaborative policy projects • Focusing on demonstration projects to build a bioenergy marketplace
We have been looking at biofuels for years. Will anything substantial ever be commercialized? More than 150 years ago, whales were overhunted and becoming scarce due to the growing demand of the whale oil that was used for lighting. Eventually, the invention of kerosene lamps replaced their oil as the illuminant of choice. Today, we are in a similar situation. Inexpensive fossil fuel energy resources are running out and need to be replaced with better, more sustainable alternatives. With looming environmental issues like global warming, biofuels and other renewable energy sources combined with new energy-conserving technologies will be the natural choice to fill the energy gap.
WBI In the Media More than enough biomass is available surrounding the Charter Street June 10, 2010 Biomass Magazine
April 29, 2010 Wisconsin Technology Council
December 9, 2009 Wisconsin State Journal December 8, 2009 Agri News
Heating Plant on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus to provide a supply if the coal plant converts, according to the Wisconsin Bioenergy Initiative. The WBI issued a request for information (RFI) from biomass producers, aggregators, equipment producers and transportation companies, the results of which look promising. Troy Runge described Wisconsin as uniquely positioned to “return to our roots” and develop biofuels and other bio-based products from sustainable resources readily available, such as farmland, forests and waste materials. Existing federal and state goals call for converting about 1 billion tons of plant biomass to biofuels every year by 2025, Runge noted, “and we’re in a strong position to be a big part of that.” The county is seeking a consultant to design a system that would make use of the
30,000 tons of food waste from homes, businesses and institutions disposed of annually in the Dane County Landfill, which gets about 200,000 tons of material a year.
“I think agriculture will come around and see this opportunity and get into this market…Co-ops bring a lot to the table,” said panelist Gary Radloff, the Midwest energy policy director of the Wisconsin Bioenergy Initiative, a part of the University of Wisconsin.
Contacts Media inquiries, speaking requests:
Falicia Hines Communications Specialist firstname.lastname@example.org 608. 890. 2489
Gary Radloff Director of Midwest Energy Policy Analysis email@example.com 608. 890. 3449
Industry information, project opportunities: Troy Runge Director firstname.lastname@example.org 608. 890. 3143