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EcoTrek Visits Project LIBERTY Site

By Staff | Feb 8, 2011

Tom Holm, founder of EcoTrek, refuels the tank of his environmentally-friendly pickup with cellulosic ethanol during a stop at POET’s Project Liberty Biomass Office in Emmetsburg. Holm is driving across the United States using cellulosic ethanol to promote Project Liberty and POET’s efforts in reducing the nation’s dependence on foreign oil. – Dan Voigt photo

The EcoTrek “Best of America Tour,” powered by POET cellulosic ethanol, came to the site of Project Liberty last week to learn more about the new fuel. The 10,000-mile tour started at the Santa Monica pier (the start of Historic Route 66) on Jan. 11 and is making its way across the country, demonstrating how a renewable, American-made fuel can green our nation’s transportation system.

EcoTrek founder Tom Holm, who is driving across the United States, stopped in Emmetsburg on Wednesday afternoon, Feb. 2, to see the future site of Project LIBERTY and learn about the biomass storage operation at the Emmetsburg facility.

Holm, the founder of the environmental nonprofit EcoTrek, is making his drive across the country in a 2011 Ford F250 pickup that is being fueled by the cellulosic ethanol made by POET’s research facility in Scotland, SD. A day earlier, Holm stopped at the Scotland facility to fill supplemental fuel tanks in the box of his pickup with the cellulosic ethanol fuel. By carrying his own fuel supply, Holm is able to refuel the truck’s from the supplemental tanks during the transcontinental trip.

Holm’s Flex Fuel pickup has other environmentally friendly accessories, including “clean oil” tires, an interior partly made of recycled plastic bottles and recyclable aluminum wheels.

“Our ultimate goal is the preservation of natural resources, and – pardon the pun – my vehicles are the vehicle to get this message out,” Holm said.

Holm, who in the past has modified vehicles to run on everything from vegetable oil to hydrogen, said he has put in 3,000 miles on the truck with no problems. “The truck has run like a top,” he said. “I’ve taken it everywhere, taken it off-road.”

Driving from Sioux Falls, SD to Emmetsburg last Wednesday, Holm came to the rescue of a pair of motorists, using the truck to pull two vehicles out of snowdrifts.

Arriving at the POET facility in Emmetsburg, Holm greeted members of the POET staff and the Biomass department employees, showing the specially outfitted truck, including a self-contained tent on the roof, which Holm has spent several nights in during the journey. Holm also refueled the truck during the stopover.

“The most promising fuel out there is ethanol, and the most promising thing there, in my opinion, is cellulosic ethanol,” Holm said. “In our society, the environmentalists want everything perfect and they want it that way right away. It takes time to make things right, and that is what POET is working to do with cellulosic ethanol.”

Allan Kent, Manager of the Biomass Department, explained to Holm what Project Liberty would require, in terms of corn stover, when the cellulosic plant is operational, and pointed out that a byproduct of the cellulosic process, the creation of methane gas, will be used to power the Project Liberty facility, along with a portion of the main POET plant.

“This sends a message to America,” Holm said. “You’re using American corn to improve the economy, to reduce the dependence on foreign oil and improve America’s National Security all in one project. Everyone is applauding those ideas.”

“There’s a lot to the improvement of the economy,” Kent agreed. “There are six of us here who didn’t have jobs a year ago and now do because of Project Liberty.”

Eric Woodford, owner of Woodford Equipment, echoed the statement, pointing out he opened a business in Emmetsburg, creating five jobs as well dealing with stover harvesting equipment.

“For me, it’s so easy to talk about American jobs and how projects like this are going to create more jobs,” Holm said. “As I travel, people ask me if this will all really be worth it, worth the time, the effort. I believe it will and I can’t wait to talk about it.”

But, according to Holm, one obstacle will have to be overcome in the effort to promote cellulosic ethanol.

“Unfortunately, there is still animosity between the environmentalists and the farmers,” Holm said. “It just seems so strange that the environmentalists are against ethanol, when it’s so earth-friendly I just hope that my trip can help bridge those differences and help gain a better understanding between the two.”