ethanol for several
years. Sparks mentioned a North Alabama farmer who has
retrofitted his pickup truck to run on wood. Sparks said one cord
of wood is able to transport the farmer more than 5,000 miles. He said
the truck may not look like much, but it gets the farmer where he wants
to go. And, he doesn’t have to shell out $3 for a gallon of gas
either, as was the case late last year.
absolutely ridiculous that we are having to pay the type of prices we’re
paying now for fuel in this country," Sparks said, shortly after
being introduced at the conference. "It’s government’s
responsibility to look at alternative fuels and agriculture is where we
ought to be looking." Sparks said he is a "firm believer that
every gallon of oil we can produce in Alabama is one less gallon we have
to bring out of the desert." If America does not do something about
its foreign oil dependence, he said, "We’re going to be in the
same situation we’re in today and that is being held hostage to OPEC
nations for our fuel."
Bransby said the U.S. could replace 30 percent of its oil imports simply
by using agricultural byproducts to produce alternative fuel, Clyde
Leavelle of Tuscaloosa County took notice.
30 percent of our energy needs by using agricultural products would be
significant, in my opinion," said Leavelle. "I think we’d be
foolish not to use our natural resources for this important issue in our
University professor has been working hard to find a way to transform
barnyard residue and other agricultural byproducts into useful fuel
sources. Dr. Oladiran Fasina, an assistant professor in AU’s
Bio-systems Engineering department, has transformed projections and
predictions into reality with his work on use of pelleted poultry litter
as an alternate fuel source. Working with Bransby and two other AU
professors — Charles Gilliam and Jeff Sibley — Fasina has been able
to prove that poultry waste is a definite option to OPEC’s roller
coaster oil policies.
fossil fuels that aren’t renewable, bio-energy has an unlimited
future, according to Fasina and his AU colleagues. In other words,
chickens don’t run out of "wasteful" discharges and it can
be turned into an American asset.
chickens are involved in studies about alternate fuel sources and Fasina’s
group released results of a study that detailed just what’s out there.
has 22 million acres of forestland and 6 million acres of grassland and
cropland, according to state forestry experts. Add those assets to other
agricultural resources and it adds up to substantial fuel sources.
strictly on the agricultural and forestry sectors, Alabama has enough
raw biofuel to provide electricity for all the residents of the
state," said Fasina’s group, in its position paper.
"Additionally, municipal landfills daily receive millions of tons
of wastes with fuel value."
of the Auburn group knew it would take a demonstration to prove their
point. That’s why they undertook an experiment to show the value of
farm and forest energy sources. In early 2005, Fasina began using
pellets from chickens and other sources to heat a greenhouse on campus.
The goal was to evaluate the fuel potential for pellets from various raw
materials on an energy efficiency basis.
a $50,000 grant from the Alabama Department of Economic and Community
Affairs (ADECA), the AU experiment was conducted at the Paterson
Horticulture Complex in a Quonset greenhouse equipped with a natural gas
samples were manufactured at Auburn in the Corley Bio-systems
Engineering Building. Switchgrass and poultry litter became fuel, along
with pelleted peanut hulls and composted household garbage — the
latter obtained from AgFiber Inc. in Dothan and another company in
AU group said results from the experiment indicated a savings of between
$5 and $8 a day in energy and heating cost for the greenhouse. That
might not seem like much, but multiply it many times over and it’s
easy to see how valuable it could become in time.
spokeswoman Kathy Hornsby, who has helped the AU group, says the
pelleting process has "a lot of potential," but also has some
drawbacks, which isn’t unusual for anything with a new wrinkle.
can be a cumbersome process," she said. "However, if we can
find a way to overcome some of the problems, it would appear pelleting
has applications in several areas."
Auburn conference, which was sponsored by ADECA, focused on the Energy
Policy Act of 2005 and a variety of issues related to alternate fuel
sources. Four "policy drivers" toward that goal were national
security, air quality, public health and economics.
aspect of the federal act involves something called the "Joint
Flexible Fuel/Hybrid Vehicle Commercialization Initiative." It
established a research and grant program to advance the
commercialization of hybrid vehicles, especially those that can achieve
"not less than 250 miles per gallon of gasoline."
should ever happen, Americans, one day, could be able to travel coast to
coast on a fill-up or two. That might upset the oil companies, but the
American consumer would be smiling every mile, every day as they
mentally count up their savings.
250 miles on a single gallon of gas may sound a bit science fictional,
but those in the know cite as examples the huge increase in the use of
ethanol during the past quarter century in America. In 1980, vehicles in
the U.S. used 200 million gallons of ethanol a year as a power source.
Today, it’s closer to two billion gallons a year.
is made by converting the carbohydrate portion of biomass into sugar
that then is converted into ethanol through a fermentation process. Corn
is a good crop for ethanol and that’s why Midwest farmers are taking a
close look at that possible moneymaking idea.
moonshiners who’d get into trouble with the law at times because of
their own unique "fermentation process," those who can find a
way to speed up ethanol conversions might wind up making a lot of
"hay" off of their farm commodities and waste.
will tell, but positive results from experiments conducted by Fasina and
others indicate that America’s bio-energy future looks much brighter
than the past.
Benn is a freelance writer from Selma.