Ethanol and Biodiesel Producers Turn to Rutabagas as Feedstock
"Food or fuel" has been the battle cry of biofuels opponents, but a growing industry hopes to quash that argument once and for all. Instead of corn or soybeans, renewable fuel producers will start distilling rutabagas into biofuels.
April 01, 2007
CEDAR RAPIDS, IA, April 1, 2007 -- Opponents of biofuels, backed in part by petroleum giants reeling in all-time world-record profits, have zeroed in on forecasts predicting a shortage of corn, soy, and other roadworthy crops. "Nobody likes rutabagas... nobody really eats them. They're perfect for making fuel."
--Toby Marston, CEO of startup Rutaba-Gas LLC.
"We can't grow our way out of our oil addiction," says Rick Chaney of Americans for Clean Fuels, a pro-petroleum advocacy group. "An addiction to biofuels could divert agricultural production away from food crops in a hungry world -- even leading to mass starvation and urban riots in the poor countries."
"Nobody likes rutabagas... nobody really eats them. They're perfect for making fuel."
The popularity of biodiesel and ethanol has climbed steadily since the price of petroleum-based fuels skyrocketed in 2005. Biodiesel and ethanol are collectively known as biofuels, made from feedstock such as corn or soybeans.
Rutaba-Gas LLC chairman Todd Byron "Toby" Marston, in an exclusive interview with Energy Priorities, explains why his product is such a well-kept secret.
Watch out Bio-Willie: Here comes Rutaba-GasResearch by the biofuels industry has turned up a feedstock that does not compete with the food supply: rutabagas.
"Nobody likes rutabagas," says Toby Marston, CEO of biofuels startup Rutaba-Gas LLC. "American farmers grow tons of rutabagas, but nobody really eats them. They're perfect for making fuel." Marston says people buy the distasteful, turnip-like vegetables with the best of intentions, but they sit in the refrigerator and end up being thrown out.
President George W. Bush, in his State of the Union address, called for 35 billion gallons of renewable fuels per year within 10 years, enough to replace 15 percent of gasoline and make nuclear power safer.
"We can do 35 billion gallons easy, just with rutabagas," insists Minnesota farmer Les Braun. "Rutabagas grow quick and don't take hardly any [fertilizer]."
Rutabagas potential winner in the global food vs. fuel battleRutabagas are known as "swedes" in the UK and Australia. Rutaba-Gas will be marketed there as SwedeSuper. The company slogan, "I'm rooting for Rutaba-Gas," will also have to be adjusted, admits Marston.
With rutabagas as feedstock, planting just four percent of the earth's surface could supply all of humanity's energy needs. Only 40 million acres could supply 100 billion gallons of renewable fuel a year by 2030, claims venture capitalist Vince Kastle.
"Farmers will be better off, the world will be less dependent on Arab oil, and we will take a big bite out of greenhouse gases," Kastle argues. "That beats a bite of rutabaga, any day."
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