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Experts: Homegrown Energy a Big Win for Jobs, Chesapeake Bay



Annapolis, MD -- (SBWIRE) -- 02/05/2010 -- Homegrown energy could power a robust local economy and improve the water quality of the Chesapeake Bay by significantly reducing pollution runoff to the Bay’s local waterways. That's the top finding in a report released today by the Chesapeake Bay Commission and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The authors, a multidisciplinary team of economists, scientists, and other experts conclude:

* Farms, forests, and landfills in the Chesapeake Bay area could realistically produce about 500 million gallons of fuel -- equivalent to a six week supply of gasoline for the DC metro area.
* Raising the crops, refining the fuel, and getting it to market would support about 18,559 jobs
* Raising switchgrass, willows, and poplars for fuel on suitable land would reduce water pollution from fertilizers by millions of pounds.

“This report clearly highlights the real and quantifiable benefits a next-generation biofuels industry presents to the Bay region, and outlines very near-term policy decisions each state could – and should – take to enhance an already growing economic opportunity for the region and get it right so that the industry can grow in a way that is environmentally sustainable,” Maryland Delegate Jim Hubbard said, Chair of the project’s Advisory Panel for the third year in a row.

"Biofuels" is a broad term that covers several forms of energy derived from plant materials. One process is growing and processing switchgrass and fast-growing poplar and willow trees into ethanol. By 2020, the authors forecast a sustainable production of 500 Million gallons of next-generation biofuels per year, using only land resources and practices that improve water quality throughout the region. This estimate assumes no use that limits farmland currently in food or livestock production or forests currently used for wood products.

Hitting this level of production would support more than 18,500 jobs across the economy – from construction jobs needed to build biorefineries to on-farm production jobs needed to grow and harvest the cellulosic feedstocks that produce the fuel. About half of the farmland and private forests in the Chesapeake Bay are currently idle. The report does not call for reducing production of food, livestock, or wood products on working farms or forests.

“A next-generation biofuels industry can create major advances for the Bay region in economic growth, renewable energy produced sustainably right here at home, and improve water quality by reducing runoff to the Chesapeake Bay,” said Maryland Senator Thomas “Mac” Middleton, Chairman of the Chesapeake Bay Commission and the only full-time farmer in the Maryland General Assembly. “Over 18,000 green collar jobs created from a renewable energy industry while improving the health of the Bay – now that’s something we can’t ignore.”

“Pennsylvania appreciates the opportunity to co-champion this initiative with the Chesapeake Bay Commission to grow the biofuels industry in the Bay watershed,” said Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Russell C. Redding. “Building a regional biofuels industry is good for the environment, national security and our agricultural economy.”

Over the past two years, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the Chesapeake Bay Commission have taken the necessary steps to position the Chesapeake region as a national leader in the evolution to sustainable advanced biofuels. The report released today, Chesapeake Biofuel Policies: Balancing Energy, Economy and Environment, presents the responses and accomplishments of the Bay state Governors and legislatures from the past year, as well as the results of ongoing analysis by a select Biofuels Advisory Panel.

The Biofuels Advisory Panel recommends that regional leaders focus on the following near-term opportunities:

1. Officially adopt a regional production target and set supporting state-specific production goals.
2. Implement policy on the following near-term opportunities:
a. Develop biomass harvest guidelines.
b. Encourage winter crops as biofuel feedstocks.
c. Avoid the introduction of invasive species.
3. Create an interstate, interagency Regional Council for Bioenergy Development that will promote collaboration among jurisdictions and integrate the issues of biofuels and environmental improvement with other regional priorities such as agricultural and forest sustainability.

The Chesapeake Bay Commission is a policy leader in the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay. As a tri-state legislative body that advises the legislative branch of state government, its mission is to identify critical environmental needs, evaluate public concerns, and ensure state and Federal actions to sustain the living resources of the Chesapeake Bay. The commission works directly with the state General Assemblies and the U.S. Congress and serves as the legislative branch of the Chesapeake Bay Program.

Environmental communication and media support for this announcement provided by Water Words That Work, LLC.