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Tenn. getting greener

As Texans braced for the impact of Hurricane Ike in Septem-ber, most Tennes-seans had no idea the effect Ike would have on our state. Not since the 1970s have Tennes-seans had to wait in long gas lines. The entire scene brought into stark focus Tennessee’s major dependence on gasoline.

In this environment, it is imperative that the state look at other energy options, such as biofuels. Today, we are well on our way toward making biofuels a real option for Tennesseans. The Governor’s Alternative Fuels Working Group has developed recommendations for a comprehensive alternative fuels strategy for the state and many key pieces to the plan are already in place.

One major initiative has been Tennessee’s investment in developing technology to produce ethanol from substances like switchgrass and corn cobs and stalks. It’s commonly called cellulosic ethanol. Gov. Phil Bredesen joined The University of Tennessee and DuPont Danisco to break ground on a first of its kind pilot-scale ethanol biorefinery. When complete, this facility will produce ethanol in a way that is cheaper than current methods from two different biomass feedstocks – switchgrass and corn stover, which includes corn cobs, leaves, stalks, and fiber.

You may wonder who can use biofuels? Many vehicles on the road today are capable of running on either ethanol or biodiesel. Biodiesel such as B20 can be used in most diesel engines with no modifications, making it an excellent option for diesel drivers, while all gasoline vehicles can run on a 10 percent ethanol/90 percent gasoline blend. In addition, almost 90,000 Tennesseans drive flex-fuel vehicles, which are capable of running on either gasoline or an 85 percent ethanol/15 percent gasoline blend, or E85. Currently eight major car manufacturers offer 58 different vehicle models that can run on E85. For the most recent list, visit

Tennessee Department of Transportation’s key role in this effort is helping expand the availability of biofuels. In 2006, TDOT initiated the Green Island Corridor grant program to provide incentives for retail stations to offer biofuels. Today, 40 stations in the state offer biofuels, and many more will be opening soon. Our goal is to establish biofuels stations no more than 100 miles apart along all our major Interstates by 2010.

In October, we joined Indiana, Kentucky and Alabama to announce Interstate 65 as America’s First Biofuels Corridor. Today, a motorist can drive from the Great Lakes to the Gulf Coast entirely on biofuels. The corridor was made possible by a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy and a strong partnership with the other states.

Tennessee has some distinct advantages as America strives to meet its current energy challenge. Our central location and quality transportation system make us an important hub, and our universities and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory are leaders in biosciences and bioenergy research. Tennessee is poised to lead the region, if not the nation, in alternative fuels technology.


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