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A bill to encourage the processing, market development and research of alternative fuels derived from agriculture products such as grain was signed into law Tuesday. SB 363, authored by Sen. Robert Kerr, D-Altus, and Rep. Dale DeWitt, R-Braman, creates the Oklahoma Biofuels Development Act.
“We believe this new law will help expand the use of our state’s agricultural products,” said Kerr. “This is an opportunity to create more efficient and less-polluting energy sources and reserves, which will make Oklahoma less energy dependent, reduce atmospheric carbon monoxide levels and keep Oklahoma dollars within our economy. This in turn will generate additional jobs and income here rather than sending those dollars out of state.”
SB 363 also creates the Oklahoma Biofuels Development Advisory Committee. The legislature approved a similar committee in 2000 known as the Ethanol Development Committee. SB 363 expands that committee’s responsibilities to include the production of ethanol, biodiesel and bio-based lubricants. The committee will consist of eleven members including the Commissioner of Agriculture, the Executive Director of the Department of Environmental Quality, the Director of the Oklahoma Conservation Commission along with members or representatives from the Corporation Commission, the Natural Resources Conservation Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Oklahoma State University. There will also be five members appointed by the Commissioner of Agriculture to represent the following industries – feed grain producers, oil seed producers, oil and fuel marketers, ethanol producers and oil seed processors.
The committee will conduct a systematic review and study of the ethanol and biodiesel industry in Oklahoma and other states, study the feasibility of developing and enhancing the ethanol and biodiesel industry in Oklahoma, and find the best ways to work with the private industry in the establishment of ethanol- and biodiesel-related production facilities in the state.
Members will also recommend policies or programs to enhance the ability of Oklahoma agricultural landowners to participate in ethanol and biobased oils development and production, encourage the production of educational and advisory materials regarding ethanol and biobased production on agricultural lands and participation in systems of carbon or greenhouse emissions trading.
Numerous state organizations and agencies are currently undergoing these types of studies. Oklahoma Farmers Union Sustainable Energy (OKFUSE) has completed a feasibility study and is finishing a business plan and site location for a 40 million gallon ethanol plant, which will be a $50 million investment in the state. The Oklahoma Farmers and Ranchers Energy Enterprise (OKFREE) has received a USDA grant to consider oilseed processing in western Oklahoma. OKFREE will consider the practicality of processing biodiesel, bio-based lubricant and food grade oil from canola and sunflower, which are grown in great abundance within the state. Currently, all oilseeds except cottonseeds are shipped out of state to be processed. There are also other groups considering such things as the possibility of processing animal fat into biodiesel in northwest Oklahoma.
“The ideas and resources are there. Our agricultural industry just needs a little push in the right direction,” commented Kerr. “I think the new committee will be very beneficial to furthering our efforts in creating new energy sources.”