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Biomass Kickoff Event Celebrates Next Step For Project Liberty

By Staff | Aug 19, 2010

Excited About The Future – POET Chief Executive Officer Jeff Broin speaks to members of the media along with Iowa Governor Chet Culver, right, during the Biomass Harvest Celebration event Tuesday in Emmetsburg. The event paid tribute to the 85 area producers who will harvest the first biomass feedstock products to be used for Project Liberty, which will begin construction in 2011 at the Emmetsburg POET facility. – Dan Voigt photo

“Our future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams, and that’s very true. We’ve been dreaming of this day for a long time,” noted Iowa Governor Chet Culver. “These are literally fields of opportunity, but you have to go out there and aggressively make it happen.”

The governor’s remarks came during a gathering of area producers and residents who turned out for the kickoff of the 2010 biomass harvest season at the POET biorefinery in Emmetsburg Tuesday morning, Aug. 17. The kickoff celebrated the start of construction on a 22-acre tract on the POET complex that will become home to the biomass harvest of feedstocks for Project Liberty. The biomass storage facility will have a capacity to house some 23,000 tons of biomass bales.

“The domino effect of this biomass project will be unbelievable,” Culver stated. “Not only will it provide new jobs with the creation of cellulosic ethanol, it will also create jobs in the manufacturing sector, as companies build equipment to meet the biomass harvesting needs. It will also help the trucking industry, through growth provided by the transportation of biomass to Project Liberty, and it will also help our railroad industry, through the transportation of ethanol to other parts of the nation.”

“Through the continued growth of the ethanol industry by plants like POET and Project Liberty, Iowa can become energy independent,” Culver stated. “These are very exciting times in Iowa and I wouldn’t trade places with any other governor in the nation. The efforts of Jeff Broin and POET are taking Iowa to the next level, much like the work of Dr. Norman Borlaug and Henry A. Wallace.”

“This project is the most important thing in our state right now,” Culver noted, This is all about our future and that’s why this is so exciting. We’re not only securing our energy future, but we’re also securing our economic future that will be tied to this new, exciting endeavor here at POET.”

The governor continued, “This is going to be a great thing for the next generation of young Iowans, who want to stay in places like Emmetsburg and continue to farm in our state. This will give them another reason to stay home and carry on in terms of our rich tradition of value-added agricultural opportunities, and they’ll be able to make a good living with this new product that’s going to be on the market.”

U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley was unable to attend Tuesday’s kickoff in person, but sent a video message to the gathering.

“Iowa’s farmers and biofuel producers have proven that corn ethanol is viable, – a proven alternative to fossil fuels,” Senator Grassley noted. “What POET is doing in Emmetsburg will demonstrate that we are ready to move to the next level in ethanol production. The facility to be built here will be the first in the nation to produce biofuels from cellulosic materials. The Project Liberty biomass program is important – not only to Iowa, but to our entire nation.”

Noting that the project would create an additional 25 million gallons of ethanol a year, Grassley admitted such a step will be challenging. “The Iowa corn farmer will play a key role. It will be a great challenge, but I’m confident Iowa’s farmers will once again stand up to the challenge and will be at the forefront of cutting-edge, biofuels development.”

Grassley pledged to continue his efforts in the nation’s capitol to reinstate the federal biodiesel tax incentives, as well as extending the ethanol tax incentives and cellulosic tax credits. “Congressional leadership has the power to continue these important incentives, and it’s past time to do so.”

 “We’re here today to celebrate that and to show our appreciation for your courage to act in this new market. What’s happening this Fall represents a turning point in American agriculture,” stated POET Chief Executive Officer Jeff Broin. “For years, farmers have had a growing role in producing grain-based ethanol. Responsible and efficient work on America’s farms has helped drive the production of 12 billion gallons of ethanol this year without sacrificing our ability to provide food for the world. Now the time has come to apply that same ingenuity and hard work into harvesting a new crop, one devoted to energy production.”

Broin continued, “As America’s reliance on foreign oil wanes, it will be replaced by a new reliance on rural communities in our own borders. The American farmer will provide food, feed and fuel for the country at an unheard of rate. When the rest of the country realizes what Iowa has started and this new market becomes a mainstay of agriculture, those of you here will be able to say “I was there when it all started.”

For Broin, the road to Project Liberty has been long, sometimes trying, but one filled with promise. But, looking at the big picture, the POET CEO knows there is one key factor that could change the ethanol industry as a whole.

“I’m used to working in a capitalist market, and we’re in a government regulated market,” Broin admitted, “I’m more used to doing business in a capitalist environment where supply and demand and price are the controlling factors, but today, that’s all trumped by government regulation. It’s critical that the government move out of the way – move from E10 to E15, and they assist us with more blender pumps and flex-fuel vehicles to give consumers more of a choice…we can make a gallon of ethanol 50 to 80 cents a gallon cheaper than gasoline. If we can compete on price, we’ll beat gasoline every time.”

While some areas of the government continue to hold the ethanol industry at arms’ length, there are positive signs. The USDA’s BCAP program for one, and other efforts from individual states, such as tax breaks for blended fuels, such as is found in Iowa, fuel Broin’s continued optimism.

“We’re certainly working hard to educate Congress and the White House everyday on the value of ethanol,” Broin noted. “We truly feel that American fuel producers will be able to compete globally with other producers.”