Abundance of agricultural, forestry biomass in U.S. Midwest could provide new opportunities for economic development, energy security, environmental conservation, report says

WEST LAFAYETTE, Indiana , December 8, 2011 (press release) – An abundance of agricultural and forestry biomass in the Midwest could provide new opportunities for economic development, energy security and environmental conservation, according to a report to be released next week at a Purdue University event.

"Harnessing the Power of Biomass Residuals: Opportunities and Challenges for Midwestern Renewable Energy," a Heartland Papers report written by Steve Brick, senior fellow on energy and climate at The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, will provide the backdrop for the discussion from noon to 2 p.m. Wednesday (Dec. 14) at Purdue Memorial Union's West Faculty Lounge.

Joining Brick in the panel discussion will be Wally Tyner, the James and Lois Ackerman professor of agricultural economics at Purdue, and Phil Lehmkuhler, the Indiana state director of U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development.

"We have tremendous research strengths, more than 60 faculty and their research groups, here at Purdue in all aspects of the biomass-to-biofuels pipeline," said Maureen McCann, a biological sciences professor and director of the Purdue Energy Center, a lead sponsor for the event.

"Our faculty expertise can be a key resource in implementing bioenergy crops into the Midwest landscape. I'm very much looking forward to hearing how Purdue can work with the Chicago Council to move forward," said McCann, who also leads the Center for Direct Catalytic Conversion of Biomass to Biofuels, or C3Bio.

The report, the fourth installment of The Chicago Council's Global Midwest Initiative's Heartland Paper series, examines the opportunities and challenges limiting the current capacity of alternative biomass energy technologies, including financial constraints, market penetration barriers and behavioral routines. It concludes with a series of recommendations that offer a framework for making better use of the region's biomass.

Tyner will discuss Purdue's recent research on the economics of corn stover and the related findings from a recent National Academy of Sciences study on biofuels. Corn stover, consisting of cobs, stalks, husks and leaves, is the Midwest's most promising residual biomass feedstock.

"If technologies for producing biofuels from the cellulose in stover can be perfected and commercialized, a portion of that stover could be used as a biofuel feedstock, reducing food-fuel competition and providing an additional source of farm income," Tyner said. "Corn stover, because of the relative proximity of the grain produced for biofuels, is by far the most abundant crop residue readily available today."

This latest biomass report, made possible in cooperation with the USDA's Rural Development Agency, is based on original research that examines key issues and provides policy recommendations to support the Midwest's success in a global economy.

Joining The Chicago Council on Global Affairs and Purdue's Energy Center as event sponsors are the Purdue Center for Regional Development, Discovery Park and Purdue's Global Policy Research Institute.

Tyner's research focuses on energy, agriculture, and natural resource policy analysis and structural and sectoral adjustment in developing economies. His efforts in energy economics encompass oil, natural gas, coal, oil shale, biomass, ethanol from agricultural sources and solar energy.

Brick, who joined The Chicago Council in 2009, brings more than 30 years of experience working at the intersection of energy and environmental policy. He also has worked with the Joyce Foundation, the Energy Center of Wisconsin, PGE National Energy Group, the Clean Air Task Force, and was co-founder and vice president of energy consulting firm MSB Energy Associates.

Lehmkuhler was appointed by President Obama to serve as Indiana director of USDA Rural Development in summer 2009, overseeing operations of the 105 staff members in five area offices and eight sub-area offices around Indiana. Before that, he worked with the Indiana Municipal Power Agency and the Economic Development Division of the Indiana Department of Commerce.

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, founded in 1922 as the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations, is a leading independent, nonpartisan organization committed to influencing the discourse on global issues through contributions to opinion and policy formation, leadership dialogue, and public learning.

* All content is copyrighted by Industry Intelligence, or the original respective author or source. You may not recirculate, redistrubte or publish the analysis and presentation included in the service without Industry Intelligence's prior written consent. Please review our terms of use.