New Mexico launches biofuels initiative

By Erin Voegele
Posted December 18, 2009, at 9:34 a.m. CST

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and the state's congressional delegation recently launched an initiative to develop a statewide strategic plan that will make New Mexico a leader in the biofuels industry. The Dec. 9 kick-off meeting was coordinated by the Southwestern Biofuels Association, a nonprofit organization that promotes renewable biofuels through strategic partnerships with universities in the Southwest, national laboratories, state agencies, agriculture, the energy industry and consumers.

"Clean, sustainable domestic sources of energy are the solution to America's dependence on foreign oil," Richardson said. "By focusing on New Mexico's unique combination of climate and natural resources, scientific expertise, business infrastructure and economic policies, we are perfectly positioned to lead the country in the development and distribution of third-generation biofuels."

Approximately 50 experts representing industry, science, education, agriculture, nonprofit and government attended the initiative's initial meeting, which was titled "Toward a New Mexico State Plan for Biofuels Leadership." The goal of the meeting was to begin developing a comprehensive roadmap for sustainable, economically feasible and cost-competitive biofuels that capitalizes on New Mexico's human and natural resources.

According to Maria Zannes, SWBA's director of outreach, monthly work groups are scheduled to meet over the next four months. Each work group will focus on a different topic, including research and development, feedstock handling and markets, production and distribution, and education and outreach. "The idea is that we want to look at the various stages of biofuels development within each group," she said. "There are 10 to 12 people in each of these work groups, and over the next four months they will develop this plan."

Zannes noted that work to develop the strategic plan will not be limited to the monthly meetings. Between meetings, those involved in developing the plan will be working on the project. "In addition to the work groups that we have set up during the next four months, there will be an advisory group of individuals who will be presented with the plant as it progresses and will advise the work groups," Zannes said. Members of the public will also have an opportunity to submit comments on the plan at each of the four monthly meetings.

Plan documents, meeting dates, times, location and additional information will be posted on the SWBA Web site. Interested parties will also have the opportunity to post comments on the Web site as documents become available for review. The final plan will be unveiled in April at the SWBA Biofuels Policy Summit in Albuquerque, and will be open for public comment until May 30. According to Zannes, the plan will consist of a broad range of recommendations, including policy initiatives, regulations, law, research, educational curriculum, forums and outreach.

"The extraordinary level of cooperation between policymakers, industry, scientists and farmers is a major step forward for the timely development of next-generation biofuels with low-energy inputs, large production potential and easy distribution," said Tim Zenk, SWBA chairman and vice president of Sapphire Energy. "We look forward to working with this distinguished group of experts on viable solutions to achieving energy independence."