Biomass Could be Missouri's Energy Future

Posted: Aug 25, 2010 10:55 AM

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COLUMBIA - Sen. Kit Bond held a roundtable Monday at Bond Life Sciences Center urging local researchers and politicians to consider biomass as an alternative to traditional renewable energy sources. Biomass is the burning of hay, grass, wood or other plant material to produce energy. Missouri's abundance of farm land lends it to become a major supplier of biofuels.

"We have the ability to be the Saudi Arabia of biomass energy," Bond said.

He gathered more than 50 people in the namesake center on the MU campus. Professors, engineers, politicians and lawyers talked about the benefits and possible obstacles in the way of making biomass Missouri's clean energy source.

MU Forestry Professor Harold Garret said there are several grasses native to the state that would be effective sources of energy. He is also looking at some non-native species to transplant in Missouri.

"They haven't showed any signs of being invasive when they're planted upland," he said in response to hesitation about adding a new species to the habitat. Garret said some of these grasses could even help increase the quail population in Missouri which was previously declining.

One benefit of encouraging biomass production is attracting businesses who want to get their power from a clean energy source. Bond announced there is a "major information company" looking to build a $1.6 billion data center in Columbia. He said international companies in particular are looking for locations with renewable energies. Bond said legislation giving tax incentives to companies who use biofuels will encourage this system to grow in Missouri.

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