Project in works to assess Mich. biorefineries


On Tuesday morning, Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., visited Lansing to speak about the future of agriculture, statewide and nationally, at a breakfast hosted by the Michigan Agri-Businesses Association.

Stabenow said part of this comes from the support for Michigan’s universities and research institutions, such as MSU.

Stabenow’s address came after MSU received a grant of $349,695 for its bioenergy and bioresearch initiatives from the United States Department of Agriculture, or USDA, in December.

One of the faculty members utilizing the grant is Satish Joshi, an associate professor in the Department of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics, who said the money will be used to facilitate a project to help fulfill part of the USDA’s Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.

The act mandates the use of 21 billion gallons of advanced biofuels in the U.S. by 2022, Joshi said. He said biofuels are plant fuels that mix easily with gasoline.

This project is an attempt to plan and assess biorefineries in Michigan, the facilities that create the biofuels, Joshi said.

He said cellulosic biofuels use the entire plant from grasses or woods and are more efficient to mix with gasoline than other fuels, such as corn ethanol.

MSU is collaborating with faculty members from Ohio State University and Bay Mills Community College on the project.

Joshi said this is a real world example of how MSU’s agriculture is potentially affecting the day-to-day lives of Michiganders ­— an aspect research horticulture senior Briar Adams said he is excited to see develop at MSU.

“A lot of people, they don’t want to go out and work outside, they don’t want to do hard work, they want a nice office job,” Adams said. “An agriculture job, it’s got to be a little more work than others, and a lot of people come to college and pick other majors.”

Although Adams is preparing for work in agriculture, both Stabenow and Joshi are concerned about lack of interest in the field.

“Students don’t consider agriculture or (agribusiness) as something that is ‘cool,’” Joshi said. “Somehow, it has (been) the major of being ‘old school.’”

Joshi added this lack of interest leads to many holes in the agriculture job market.

Joshi said areas in need of more college graduates include many fields in agriculture such as bioenergy and bioresearch to supply chain management and agribusiness management.

Stabenow agreed and said there are many jobs available that require an interest both agriculture and new technology.

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