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Lowndes Student finds fuel alternative

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April 17, 2008

Valdosta - Georgia forests produce millions of tons of biomass every year.

It's regarded as useless, but one South Georgia student thinks the waste could be the key to more alternative fuels in the state.

So when Governor Sonny Perdue issued a challenge, Lowndes High Senior Nicholas Worley stepped up.

"It was a challenge to agriculturists to solve the energy crisis we are having here in Georgia."

And he thinks he may have found a new way to ease pain at the pump.

He worked with a professor at UGA to turn waste forest biomass, "That's tree tops, underbrush of the forest, stuff that's left over from logging," Worley says.

Into ethanol.

"The good thing about Nick's project is he's taking the waste stuff. It's not the wood fibers itself He's taking what's not used to make into ethanol which is definitely going to be beneficial," says Lowndes Ag Teacher James Corbett.

"The way gas is now. We have all this waste sitting around. Why not use it?" Worley adds.

In fact, Worley not only concluded that the waste would easily produce the alternative fuel but he predicted that the state could produce nearly two billion gallons of ethanol from only half of Georgia's forest waste.

But as great as that may sound, he doesn't see it happening anytime soon.  "The technology is there. Its just the market. Getting the market set up is a problem," Worley says.

He's now hoping to convince the state or forestry department to conduct a feasibility study for production of ethanol using forest waste so drivers may soon be using cheaper, home grown fuel.

Worley has also been named Georgia's Agri-science student of the year for all his work over the last four years.

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