Participants to discuss past, future of alternative fuels
By MATTHEW WEAVER
The University of Idaho will celebrate 30 years of biodiesel research later this month.
The Moscow, Idaho, school wants to bring together everybody that has been involved in biodiesel during the past three decades. The event begins at 1 p.m. May 25 with a farm tour featuring oilseed research by plant breeder Jack Brown, held at the Palouse Research, Extension and Education Center's Parker Farm, two miles east of Moscow on Idaho Highway 8.
A biodiesel laboratory tour at 3 p.m. on campus in the J.L. Martin Laboratory, at Sixth Street and Perimeter Drive, includes topics like biodiesel production co-products, current and future industry prospects and the national importance of biodiesel.
The celebration concludes with a banquet beginning with a social hour at 5 p.m. at the University Inn Best Western. Charles Peterson, an agricultural engineer who first began biodiesel research at the university in 1979, will deliver a presentation. Peterson retired in 2006.
Jon Van Gerpen, head of the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, said he wants to bring together the people who had a role in the research.
The state has made a substantial investment in biodiesel research for years, Van Gerpen said.
"We're really seeing that it has yielded an industry," he said.
"Biodiesel is now basically a commercial product," he said, pointing to roughly 200 production plants in the United States. "From that perspective, biodiesel has been a success story."
Biodiesel has had an effect on several levels of agriculture, Van Gerpen said. It has provided a new, non-petroleum-based fuel, which helps farmers cease their dependence on foreign fuels. More directly, biodiesel represents the opportunity for farmers to grow crops like rapeseed, canola and camelina, he said.
Van Gerpen believes people who have had contact with the biodiesel research program in the past would be most interested in attending the celebration.
"That's literally hundreds of people, either who have been involved with different aspects of growing the crops, processing the seeds or making the biodiesel," he said. "It's a chance for us to reconnect with some of those people and find out where they're at, what they're involved with now."
Van Gerpen foresees the university's research becoming more diverse and examining other fuel opportunities, such as cellulosic ethanol and renewable diesel, a hydrocarbon-based fuel from plants.
Registration is $30. Contact Jyotsna Sreenivasan at 208-885-7626 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.