Technology Discourse: Bio Fuels

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#Bio fuels #corn ethanol #biodiesel #energy #energy independence

This first IEEE Technology Discourse on Bio Fuels was held at Duke Energy's Indiana headquarters on August 20 in Plainfield, a suburb of Indianapolis. Attended by 40 persons, this event was organized by Earl Hill and Will Kassebaum of the Central Indiana Section as part of an on-going program to encourage discussion of technology and public policy. 

This program includes highlights of the workshop, including interviews with the sponsors and presenters.  Approximately half of the audience were IEEE members. Many of the speakers were included representatives from the Indiana bio fuels community including business,university research groups, government, and trade associations.  The topics included R&D, industry trends, economics, manufacturing, distribution, marketing , and public policy regarding a full range of bio fuels, including bio diesel and ethanol. Two economics professors were also invited speakers who analyzed the economics of bio fuels and the impact of of government policy. Unfortunately, there was no speaker on the program with the expertise to address the scientific aspects of environmental issues.

Although many of the speakers were bio fuels advocates from industry, the more controversial aspects were acknowledged, including questions regarding environmental impact, economic viability, and impact on food supplies and prices.  Discussion focused mainly on government policy, R&D, the proper role of government, and the role of bio fuels in lights of the energy "crisis." One of the economics professors, who gave the concluding presentation, provided a measure of overall balance by focusing on the controversies of bio fuels, particularly corn-based ethanol, regarding their impact on the environmental and on food supplies in developing  countries.

Many of the speakers acknowledged both sides of the issue, but framed them to suit their purposes. The role of bio fuels to reduce dependence on "foreign oil" was often mentioned. Fortunately, balance was to brought to the discussion by two economics professors in the program, who raised questioned concerning the economic and political aspects of bio fuels.  Environmental issues were mentioned, including the role of bio fuels in reducing carbon emissions,  but there was no one there who was able to address the environmental impact of bio fuels factually.

Overall, this Technology Discourse succeeded in providing informed points of view to the discussion of bio fuels, its pros and cons. It deemed worthwhile by the participants, most of whom stayed for the entire day.  This was a great opportunity for those interested in bio fuels to network with local leaders in that industry.

This program contains the highlights of the first IEEE Technology Discourse on Bio Fuels, organized by Central Indiana Section and the IEEE Central Indiana PES Chapter, as part of an on-going program to encourage discussion of technology and public policy.