Gas prices may be down, but that doesn't mean there can't be a bright future for biofuels in Wisconsin. That's according to Wisconsin Technology Council President Tom Still.
"We have the research capacity here, to try to figure out what's going to work, and work the best," says Still. "We've got the raw materials, whether it's in our forests or in our fields, and we've got the production expertise." However, Still cautioned an Assembly Committee not to pick "winners and losers" when it comes to policy and funding decisions. "What can look really good in a lab may not work all that well in a production facility. It may be tough to scale up, to reach economically viable production levels."
Still's advice to legislators – don't starve research at the U-W and elsewhere. "Federal dollars, private dollars, other institutional dollars, pay for the lion's share of it," says Still. "But the state dollars are important, to fund the basic research that really makes it possible for us to attract merit-based grants that help get these ideas out of the lab and into commercial use.
Still notes plenty of research being done right now in Wisconsin on biofuels such as cellulosic ethanol , ethanol made from cheese waste , and biodiesel. And he says the state's industrial base means we're well positioned to deliver those products to market when the time comes. "We have people here who know how to ramp it up, and how to get the product into the marketplace."
Still says gasoline prices will go back up, as global demand continues to increase, and the global economy works out of recession. "That all adds up for ethanol and other biofuels to get into the market," he says, adding that "in some ways it's a blessing that some of these other alternatives aren't ready for the market yet, because prices right now are low."