Over one hundred fifty gather in state capital to discuss future of alternative fuels

By Diane Godwin, Patty Drapala and Patrick Young

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2009 MSU Biofuels Conference

The 2009 Mississippi State University (MSU) Biofuels Conference welcomed over 150 attendees to the Jackson Marriott in the state's capital August 6 and 7. Hosted by the Sustainable Energy Research Center (SERC), the Bagley College of Engineering, MAFES and Industrial Outreach Services, this year's conference focused on "the next generation of biofuels."

Researchers, small business owners and leaders in renewable energy commercialization attended the event. Conference director and MSU associate professor of chemical engineering Rafael Hernandez said,. "This annual conference is important because it allows for researchers to interact with industry representatives who are looking for alternative energy strategies and opportunities.

 Dr. Glenn Steele, Director of SERC, said the conference was highly important for the state and even the nation.

"It's an exciting and critical time to be in the renewable energy business," Steele said.

"We can't depend on the things we have relied on for the past 50-100 years and conferences like these help trigger discussion or even more research on how we are going to be less intertwined with foreign oil."

 Throughout the two day conference, researchers collaborated with those in the business sector to find ways to help the state become a major player in the energy field. To get this accomplished, researchers must produce products that are economical and provide the same level of quality as oil.

"Consumers will get excited about biofuels and sustainable energy if the price is no more expensive than conventional fuel," Hernandez said. "They will be resistant to higher costs for energy and we must make sure that research and industry work together in developing alternative energy and targeting the price that consumers are willing to accept." In order to make the state front and center of the debate, Mississippi must promote its abundance of woody biomass. A fact Al Darzins of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory said could revolutionize the state.

"Mississippi potentially has a lot to offer in the biomass area because of all the woody materials they have going on," Darzins said. "There's going to be a place in the future for biomass whether that is a chemical conversion into ethanol or through a more thermal conversion for other types of green gasolines."

Dr. Bill Batchelor, Director of SERC, said that with every year of the conference the goal of a competitive renewable marketplace gets closer.

"Every year we're a little closer to commercialization. Every year we'll grow, but it takes this kind of interaction to get us there. This conference helps us take those steps needed to ensure a future where Mississippi is the center of the renewable energy field."

To learn more about the biofuels conference and to keep track of information for next year's event, click HERE.

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SERC - Mississippi State University - [Last Updated: 10/14/09 ]