The following guest blog from Dr. Mike Strain, Commissioner of the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry since 2007, underscores the value of biofuel development at the state level.
Louisiana has been a national leader in energy for generations. Our state’s vast natural resources – including crude oil and natural gas – help power a state economy that is outperforming the national average in terms of unemployment rates. However, many do not realize that Louisiana’s strong agriculture and forestry industries have also primed us to be a national leader in new forms of energy: like advanced biofuels.
The Louisiana State University recently announced it has received a five-year, $17.2 million grant from the United States Department of Agriculture, paving the way for the LSU AgCenter Audubon Sugar Institute to open a pilot plant in St. Gabriel. The new facility is designed to produce biofuels and biochemicals from agricultural crops and byproducts like sweet sorghum, energy cane and other grassy feedstocks.
Our state has the incredible potential to produce 813.5 million gallons of advanced biofuels each year. This opportunity is a win-win – it benefits our rural communities by providing economic opportunity while diversifying Louisiana’s economy so that it can continue to grow and adapt in the coming decades.
To ensure that Louisiana remains a national energy leader as our country’s energy mix evolves, our elected officials need to support the development of a comprehensive national energy strategy that continues to promote the use of advanced biofuels. In addition to providing economic opportunity for our state, this policy helps enhance our energy security, environmental sustainability, and fuel diversity.
Even established companies like Valero Energy Corporation and Darling International Inc. recognize the value and importance of a new energy future. That is why they have invested millions in a 137-million gallon per year renewable diesel facility in Norco, Louisiana, about 20 miles west of New Orleans. This project is estimated to create 700 jobs during peak construction and more than 60 jobs during operation.
Similarly, companies like Sundrop Fuels and Emerald Biofuels are investing in biofuels and creating jobs in Alexandria and Plaquemine, respectively. The production of renewable fuels nationally already supports jobs for, and has employed, more than 400,000 Americans, while reducing the need for foreign oil by more than 462 million barrels.
Rolling back our national commitment to a more diversified liquid transportation fuels sector would not only send the wrong the message to the biofuels industry and hinder job creation across the country, but also block Louisiana from attracting additional jobs in the energy sector, a sector in which this state has always been – and should always be – a leader.
As we look forward, it is encouraging to see that biomass from Louisiana agriculture will play a role in supplying the feedstocks for manufacturing advanced biofuels and biochemicals as we move the USA toward the goal of energy independence.