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Biofuels industry leaders looked into the future of their fast-growing industry last month at the "Managing the Biofuels Boom: A Catalyst for Success," a forum hosted by Successful Farming magazine.

"The Biofuels Forum provided an opportunity for some of our key business partners and industry leaders to come together to discuss this important industry," said Scott Mortimer, Publisher of Successful Farming. "The Biofuels Forum was a tremendous success, and served as a platform for businesses to showcase their extensive expertise and engage in an informative exchange of ideas with the forum participants."

Isobel Osius, Ph.D., Consumer Insights Director for Successful Farming magazine's parent company, Meredith Corporation, shared the results of a recent study they conducted among female consumers. She reported that 63% of consumers said they are "familiar with" the term "ethanol", 36% have "heard of it but aren't sure what it is" and 1% are "unfamiliar" with it.

Fourteen percent of female consumers said they have purchased ethanol in the past three months, but 63% said they don't know if ethanol is available in their area (editor's note: in fact, last year 46% of U.S. gasoline consumed was blended with some amount of ethanol according to the Federal Highway Administration).

That being said, when asked if federal tax dollars should be used to support the biofuels industry, 88% said yes. Research and development funding for the industry gathered the most votes.

A panel of ethanol plant managers discussed the industry from their perspectives. Chuck Woodside is Gen'l Mgr of KAAPA Ethanol LLC, Minden, NE, which owns and operates Nebraska's largest ethanol plant. He talked about the "economic renaissance" the industry has generated in rural America.

Woodside reported there are currently 110 plants in operation with a capacity of producing 5.4 billion gallons of ethanol annually. There are an additional 63 plants under construction which, when on line, will produce an additional 5.3 billion gallons, bringing total capacity to 10.7 billion gallons — equivalent to 10% of the oil the U.S. imports annually.

Woodside said the industry estimates it had 154,000 jobs in 2005 generating more than $5.7 billion in household income. Three-year projections indicate total jobs growing to 208,000. "Our main challenge,"
Woodside said, "is finding the talented people we need who want to live in the rather remote areas in which many of the plants are located."

Erik Fyrwald, Group VP, DuPont Ag & Nutrition provided the Forum an update on his company's biofuels initiatives. He said, "We have a three-part strategy. First is to improve existing ethanol production by providing seed hybrids through our Pioneer Hi-Bred subsidiary that improve the efficiency of ethanol production.

"Second is to advance the technology to produce biofuels from cellulosic sources such as corn stover. DuPont and the U.S. Department of Energy are jointly funding a research program to develop that technology.

"And, third, we have formed a partnership with British Petroleum to develop biobutanol, a product that enhances ethanol-gasoline blends in a number of ways.

GM Spokesperson Dr. Mary Beth Stanek, said biofuels are the second step in the evolution of powering motorists. The first step was internal combustion. The second step is biofuels, the third is hybrid energy, and the ultimate goal is the hydrogen fuel cell.

She announced that by 2010, GM is planning to have a flex fuel engine option available in all GM models.

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