An energy answer: Grow your own |

An energy answer: Grow your own

Imagine a diesel engine Volkswagen with a sign on its side that says, “This car gets 5,000 miles per acre.”

That’s the image Tom Potter painted to explain biodiesel fuels at a renewable energy forum held Wednesday at Holy Cross Energy in Glenwood Springs.

Potter, director of the New Center for Rural Economic and Energy Development in Denver, said biodiesel fuels are being produced and sold in Colorado at a steady pace. He expects them to soon compete head-to-head with petrodiesel.

The forum ” co-sponsored by the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, the Governor’s Office of Energy Management and Conservation, and other organizations ” brought together a handful of local ranchers and Western Slope energy producers.

A reoccurring theme came from Potter and Rocky Mountain Farmers Union President John Stencel, when they asked participants to support proposed state legislation that would mandate production and use of renewable fuels.

“If we can’t transition our energy needs to renewable fuels, woe be to our grandchildren,” Potter said.

Potter started his presentation by holding up a quart whiskey bottle of amber biodiesel fuel, noting the color is about the same as the liquid that preceded it.

Biodiesel fuels are produced from animals fats, waste vegetable oils from restaurants, and virgin vegetable oils from sunflowers, mustards, canola and other plants.

“We’re looking at very reliable markets,” Potter told the forum.

The most popular product blends a 20 percent biodiesel mixture with 80 percent petroleum diesel fuel.

Biodiesel fuels burn cleaner than 100 percent petroleum diesel, and use renewable resources.

Colorado farmers and ranchers can grow the crops and products required to produce biodiesel, which is another advantage over petrodiesel.

“We can ship our dollars one way to Kuwait and Louisiana, or keep them closer to home,” Potter said.

Potter said a Volkswagen dealer came up with the figure of a biodiesel engine getting 5,000 miles per acre of vegetable products, and that’s the sign he plans to put on his new diesel engine car. He said the Eastern Slope town of Wray is even inviting biodiesel vehicle owners to come out and visit the acres that power their cars.

“It will give people a better understanding of the economics of biodiesel,” Potter said.

The forum also touched on farm and ranch opportunities for growing crops that can be used to produce ethanol.

“Ethanol has already added 30 cents to a bushel of corn,” said Charles Ryden, Garfield County Farm Bureau president, referring to better prices for corn growers. “That’s significant.”

Farmers and ranchers in parts of Colorado are also diversifying by leasing land to energy companies to build 250-foot tall turbines to produce energy from wind.

“When natural gas hit $4 (per thousand cubic feet), that created the economic potential for wind,” Potter said. “Today, natural gas was at $5.28.”

Potter said wind is connected to natural gas, because every kilowatt of wind power takes away a kilowatt that must be produced by increasingly expensive natural gas.

“Wind insulates us from natural gas prices,” he said.

Wednesday’s forum was the first of 10 the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union will hold around the state in the next two months, Potter said.

Potter concluded the forum by urging participants to seek out alternative energy sources, tell their elected officials to support renewable energy, and find out what their utility companies are doing with renewable energy.

“Holy Cross is doing a very good job with renewable energy,” Potter said.

Contact Lynn Burton: 945-8515, ext. 534

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