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Governor Announces Initiatives to Increase Production and Use of Biofuels in New York State

Renewable Fuels Part of Comprehensive Effort to Develop Homegrown Biofuel Industry in New York

imageFrom the NY State Office of Science, Technology and Academic Research

Governor George E. Pataki today announced a major initiative to increase the production of biofuels in New York State, part of a comprehensive plan to develop and expand markets for ethanol and other biofuels, and help reduce our dependence on foreign energy sources.

Under an Executive Order issued by the Governor, all State agencies and public authorities will be required to increase their purchase and use of biofuels for heating their facilities and fueling their vehicles. The proposal also is expected to provide a boost to farmers in New York State who will see an increased market for feedstocks used in biofuel production.

“New York has an opportunity and an obligation to reduce our dependence on unstable foreign energy supplies, and we can begin to achieve this by boosting the production of homegrown biofuels,” Governor Pataki said. “High energy prices have significantly impacted families and businesses across the Empire State, and have clearly shown our vulnerability to foreign energy sources. By developing a strong biofuel industry in the State, we can break free from our dependency on foreign fuels, provide an economic boost to our farming community, and keep energy dollars here in New York.

“The Empire State is a national leader in the promoting the use of renewable fuels, but we must continue to work to increase our use of alternative energy sources and strengthen our economy,” the Governor said. “With this initiative, I am calling on State agencies and authorities to set higher standards for using renewable energy, which will help to spur investments in biofuel production and make New York a pioneer in this emerging energy industry.”

Under the Executive Order, state agencies and public authorities will be required to purchase and utilize biofuels for use in boilers, heating/cooling plants, and in their motor vehicle fleets. The Order mandates that by 2012, at least 5 percent of the heating fuel used in State buildings will be biodiesel, a biodegradable fuel made from agricultural products. In addition, by 2007, at least 2 percent of fuels used in the State fleet must be biodiesel, with this percentage rising to 10 percent in 2012. The Governor’s Clean Fueled Vehicle Council also will develop and implement plans to increase the number and accessibility of ethanol refueling stations.

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) also will offer an incentive package to developers to promote the construction of bio-refineries in the State. Under the $500,000 program, applicants are eligible for grants of up to $100,000 for the planning, design and construction of biodiesel refining facilities, as well as other qualifying costs associated with construction and operations. The incentives are designed to attract potential investors and bolster the in-State supplies of biofuels.

Peter R. Smith, president of NYSERDA said, “Increasing the use of biofuels for transportation and heating purposes here in New York represents a major step forward for our economy and our environment, as well as our energy independence. NYSERDA has been working with several partners here in New York on programs from crop growth to fueling infrastructure, and we are excited about this new initiative, which will provide expanded markets and create economic investment in the biofuel industry.”

State Office of General Services Commissioner Daniel D. Hogan, who chairs the Clean Fueled Vehicles Council, said, “Once again, Governor Pataki proves his commitment to environmental conservation and energy efficiency in New York State. This important initiative will promote agricultural growth, environmental improvement, and energy diversity throughout the State and will help New York remain a national leader in the purchase and use of alternate fuel vehicles.”

Renewable Fuels Association President Bob Dinneen said, “Thanks to the vision of leaders like Governor Pataki, ethanol use is expanding from coast to coast. Governor Pataki, as a member of the Governors’ Ethanol Coalition, understands the energy, environmental and economic benefits a robust renewable fuels industry provides. The Governor’s Executive Order, coupled with the new ethanol production facilities soon coming online, make New York an important player in the march toward energy independence.”

Along with these efforts, the Governor also has directed the State Department of Agriculture and Markets to work with farmers to identify the best locations to grow soybeans and other biofuel feedstock crops. Since new strains of soybeans and other potential feedstocks such as switch grass and willow can be competitively grown in New York, an expanded biofuels market for these products will significantly benefit the State’s agricultural community.

State Agriculture Commissioner Nathan L. Rudgers said “There’s as much as two million acres of underutilized farmland in New York State that could be put into productive use growing energy crops, creating markets for our farmers, supporting jobs and rural economic development, and replacing imported petroleum with home-grown fuels and products. This Executive Order will help create important markets for New York’s growing biofuels industry, and is yet another example of the Governor’s strong leadership in developing renewable energy.”

John Lincoln, president of the 35,000-member New York Farm Bureau, said, “The farming community of New York strongly supports the development of ethanol and other bio-fuels and we are grateful Governor Pataki has made it such a high priority as well. In light of skyrocketing oil prices, much of which is absorbed by farmers, finding cheaper fuel alternatives that utilize our crops is a best-of-both-worlds scenario we are eager to see play out.”

These initiatives build upon State efforts to increase biofuel production and use. Governor Pataki previously directed NYSERDA to work with the Syracuse Center for Excellence to identify strategies to produce a viable and sustainable biofuels industry in New York. In addition, Cornell University and the SUNY College of Environmental Sciences and Forestry are leading a research effort to examine new technologies and feedstocks to make biofuel production more efficient and economical. One avenue of their research is cellulosic ethanol, a biofuel produced from agricultural wastes, woods and grasses such as switchgrass that could potentially provide significant energy savings.

SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF) President Cornelius B. Murphy said, “SUNY-ESF is working with Northeast Biofuels and International Paper to examine implementation of the cellulosic ethanol technology. SUNY-ESF is currently in the process of designing a biofuels demonstration on the Syracuse campus.” Ethanol is a clean-burning, renewable, domestically-produced product made from fermented agricultural products such as corn, grass or willow.

Ethanol contains oxygen, which can promote more complete combustion of fuel. Ethanol use also can reduce carbon dioxide, a major contributor to global warming. The carbon dioxide that is produced is naturally recycled by the same crops that produce ethanol.

Within the next year, up to three ethanol plants are expected to begin production in New York State, including Northeast Biofuels in Fulton, Oswego County. The Northeast Biofuels plant would be the largest ethanol plant in the Northeast, with a capacity to produce 100 million gallons annually. The Fulton biofuel site also will be home to a 5 million gallons/year biodiesel production facility built and operated by NextGen Fuel, Inc. of Potsdam, St. Lawrence County.

New York State agencies and public authorities annually consume more than 48 million gallons of diesel fuel and 55 million gallons of heating oil, which are both primarily imported. The price of crude oil on worldwide markets has increased as much as 80 percent over the past year.

This initiative builds upon Governor Pataki's previous initiatives to promote clean and efficient energy use, including New York’s Renewable Portfolio Standard for Electricity, and Executive Order 111. Originally proposed by Governor Pataki in 2003, the Renewable Portfolio Standard requires that at least 25 percent of the State’s electricity be generated with renewable resources by 2013. Executive Order 111, signed by the Governor in June of 2001, requires the use of alternative fuels in State agency fleets, along with energy efficiency and green building practices in State facilities.

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