The U.S. needs a consistent energy policy that will lessen future uncertainty and encourage development of biofuels and lessen dependence on fossil fuel, according to Charles Peterson, University of Idaho interim engineering dean.
Peterson spoke during a recent Boise conference, “Bio Fuels Production and the New West,” organized by the Center for the New West and National Commission on Energy Policy.
U.S. Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho and a Center for the New West trustee, opened the conference at the Boise Centre on the Grove.
David Garman, U.S. Department of Energy assistant secretary of energy, energy efficiency and renewable energy, and other speakers explored the potential for biofuels and their implications for the West.
R. James Woolsey, former CIA director and vice president of the Washington strategy and technology consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, addressed the conference participants via satellite.
There is much to discuss, according to UI’s Peterson, an agricultural engineer. He was one of the early researchers to explore the use of animal and vegetable oils and biodiesel derived from them to power engines. For more than two decades, Peterson’s work focused mostly on the use of plant-based oils to fuel farm equipment and passenger and commercial vehicles.
“We need government regulations that encourage
development of biofuels and is consistent enough to remove the uncertainty
for investment so an industry can become established and self-sufficient,”
Peterson said. There is continued need for research and education to
help consumers recognize the issues and benefits of developing a biofuels
industry, he added.
The National Institute for Advanced Transportation Technology, headquartered at the UI, engages 26 faculty members from several colleges to study and solve biofuels issues, Peterson said.
Peterson and Jon Van Gerpen, UI Biological and Agricultural Engineering Department head, are leaders in national biodiesel education efforts. In 2003, UI received a five-year, national USDA grant totaling $950,000, to bring nationwide education to the public about biodiesel.
Working closely with UI agricultural scientists at Moscow, Peterson helped popularize biodiesel by using it several diesel-powered vehicles, including a Volkswagen Beetle equipped with a standard diesel engine. A small bus, the Vandal Trolley, powered by biodiesel also operates on the Moscow campus.