Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran, ranking member of the committee, pointed out that in the Southeast there are many opportunities to use emerging biofuel feedstocks that are readily available but not traditionally used for food or feed. “Can you elaborate on some of the barriers to development of advanced biofuels in the South?”

Biofuels offer good options for regional strategies, answered Sumesh Arora, Vice President of Innovate Mississippi and Director of Strategic Biomass Solutions in Ridgeland, Miss. Instead of the regional approach, however, “we’re trying, I think, to pursue a one-size-fits-all strategy for the whole country. We should be looking at ethanol, which works beautifully in the Midwest as well as for other applications. We should be looking at biofuels in the Southeast where the feedstocks are different -- woody biomass or poultry industry biomass and convert it to ethanol. We should be looking at this on more of a regional basis.”

Arora also testified that the South is capable of growing many different types of feedstocks “like switchgrass and grasses like miscanthus. Actually, one of them was developed at Mississippi State University and licensed commercially. But when we say ‘commercially’ we’re still talking about relatively small penetration.”

Tennessee, for example, has more than 6,000 acres of switchgrass. “But that’s very small compared to, say, corn. We need much greater penetration of the acreage of these feedstocks.”

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Poultry litter also has great potential. “It’s generated all the way from Maryland to Arkansas. The numbers I’ve seen show over 26 billion pounds of litter generated. That’s often considered a liability for the country. But it could lead to over $550 million worth of methane gas.”