South Georgians attend Bio-fuels 101 - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

South Georgians attend Bio-fuels 101

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May 7, 2008

Albany--  Could Georgia be a key in reducing gas prices? After a few days of slightly declining prices, they're back up near record levels again now. Drivers say something has to be done. Research engineers say the solution lies in the alternatives to gas.  

It's hard to believe it's actually a bargain but drivers in Tifton waited in line for gas at $3.48 a gallon Wednesday. It's sllightly cheaper gas but it still adds up quickly.

"$48.57 for 13 gallons," said Jack Daughtry after a fill-up.

Drivers like Daughtry are frustrated. "Looks like they're just taking advantage of us sometimes," said Daughtry. And he's looking for solutions to the rising gas prices. "They're tough," said Daughtry.

A solution may have been on a screen at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College Wednesday evening. A room full of people gathered in a classroom for a lesson in bio-fuels.

"When you talk about bio-fuels, you're talking about any energy you can produce from crops, agricultural residues, even animal waste products," said Daniel Geller.

Their teacher for the night was Daniel Geller, a research engineer with the University of Georgia in Athens who says the bio-diesel technology has been around since the 1980's. It's getting more attention now. Last year, 400 million gallons were produced and is available at more than 300 stations nationwide, about 10 in Georgia.

"They call Georgia the potential Saudi Arabia of the South when it comes to bio-mass," said Geller.

But the technology hasn't evolved without some opposition. Some opponents are against ethanol which most often is made from corn. They say the production is driving up food prices. "I just read a study today that only about 4 percent of the increase in the price in food is due to corn in ethanol," said Geller.

Supporters say the final product will help reduce the U.S. dependence on foreign oils and Geller says Georgia can lead the way towards that goal with all kinds of materials.

"I think ideally what we'll see next is paper waste, wood waste, and corn stover, cotton stalks, all those things going in to produce all these bio-fuels," said Geller.

As the numbers at the gas pump continue to roll, drivers like Daughtry hope something helps to stop them. "We have to watch our pennies in order to keep going," said Daughtry.

Bio-fuels could be one answer to the growing problem but both the remedy and the ailment continue to emerge.

Several other community education sessions are scheduled throughout the month. One will be held Thursday at the Ag Center in Camilla at 7 p.m. Another will be held in Americus on May 22nd. In August, Tifton will host a national bio-fuels conference.

A couple of area colleges will play a pivotal role in the emerging bio-energy technology. Beginning this Fall, ABAC and Georgia Southwestern will expand their joint Bachelor of Business Administration degree program.

Students will be able to major in Resource Management and choose Bioenergy and Renewable Resource Business as a concentration.

ABAC also got more than $102,000 in funding from the University System of Georgia Intellectual Capital Partnership Program to provide education like the event Wednesday evening and to help create bio-energy industry jobs.

"We are on the ground. We are in the middle of Georgia's vibrant, agricultural area. We crank lots of students through here and this thing is a mutually beneficial program to everybody," said ABAC President David Bridges.

Other concentrations for the new BBA major are Agribusiness, Forestry and Wildlife Business and Turfgrass Business.  

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