February 13, 2008

Symposium to explore future of biofuels

by Tim Crosby

CARBONDALE, Ill. — One only has to stop at a gas station to understand why interest in biofuels is booming.

Southern Illinois University Carbondale will help move the conversation on this subject forward when it presents a symposium and panel discussion titled "Biofuels: Ethanol, biodiesel and beyond." The event is set for Feb. 21 at the Knights of Columbus Hall, 110 S. Monroe St., in West Frankfort.

The evening will start with refreshments and conversation at 5:30 p.m., followed by the program at 6 p.m. A question-and-answer period will follow the panel discussion, with the event scheduled to end by 8 p.m.

The event is the third in a series sponsored by the University aimed at updating the public on advances surrounding coal technology. Lay people, elected leaders, educators and business people interested in gaining more understanding of coal energy technology issues are welcome to attend.

Previously, the University held discussions on coal gasification technology and the future of coal mining. John S. Mead, director of the Coal Extraction and Utilization Research Center at SIUC, said the next event's focus on biofuels will help bring valuable information to a public strapped by rising energy costs.

"Everybody uses transportation fuels and we're all concerned about the price of gasoline," Mead said. "Also, much of Southern Illinois has a connection to biofuels in terms of agriculture, which is a leading part of our economy here. Biofuels have the potential of adding value to those agriculture products."

These days many people are concerned about energy sustainability and the environment. Biofuels might address both of these concerns, Mead said.

"They can potentially reduce your carbon footprint and are more environmentally friendly," Mead said. "Our discussions all tie into the future of fuels and coal. To a large extent, all these fuels will eventually be intermixed in the marketplace."

The event will feature several knowledgeable participants who work or do research in the biofuels arena. They include:

• John V. Caupert Jr., director of the National Corn to Ethanol Research Center at SIU Edwardsville, who will speak on "The Impact of the 2007 Energy Independence Act."

• Ira J. Altman, assistant professor of agribusiness and economics in the College of Agricultural Sciences at SIUC, who will speak on "The Economics of Biofuels Project Development."

• Darryl Brinkman, member of the National Farm Bureau Board of Directors and the National Biodiesel Board, who will speak on "Agricultural Producers Perspective."

• Brian Boyle, of Stepan Co., a large Northbrook-based biodiesel company, who will speak on "Large Producer Perspectives."

• Tim Lindsey, a researcher with the Illinois Waste Management and Research Center at the University of Illinois, who will speak on "Small Producer Perspectives."

• Tom Dersch, vice president of Dersch Energies Inc., who will speak on "Biofuels from a Retailer Perspective," as well as how the petroleum market relates to biofuels.

• Blaine H. Heisner, assistant instructor in the automotive technology in the College of Applied Sciences and Arts at SIUC, who will speak on "Biofuels as Alternative Motor Fuels."

The Southern Illinois Entrepreneurship Center at SIUC is co-sponsoring the event. Emily Carter, director of entrepreneurship and business development, said biofuels hold great promise for the area.

"We have a lot of clients here who have expressed interest in starting or expanding into alternative energy, so it's a good fit for us," Carter said. "Many of our clients have businesses that are in or touch the alternative energy sector."

The SIUC coal research center and Connect SI, a local organization aimed at connecting public and private resources to create a sustainable, globally competitive economy, organized the event.

The event is free and open to the public, but organizers encourage those interested in attending to pre-register before Feb. 19, as seating is limited to 150. To pre-register, contact Man-Tra-Con Corp. at 618/998-0970, ext. 215; by FAX at 618/998-1291, attention: Tammy Kirk; or by email at TammyKirk@mantracon.org. You can also write to Man-Tra-Con Corp at 3000 W. DeYoung St., Suite 800-B, Marion, IL 62959.