Friday, April 23, 2010

Expert touts biofuels to spur Solano economic growth

By Barry Eberling

April 22nd, 2010

FAIRFIELD — Be ready for job growth in such emerging energy fields as biofuels, but expect oil and gas to play a role in daily life for decades to come, an energy economist advised local business leaders today.

Economist Sara Banaszak delivered that message at the Solano Economic Development Corp. breakfast in the Hilton Garden Inn. She works for the American Petroleum Institute.

Oil companies are financing biofuels research and clearly see that as a good bet, Banaszak said.

“There are opportunities here to build on the sort of incubator that exists in this area and piggyback on that opportunity,” she said.

Biofuels range from ethanol to algae-based fuels to biomass fuels made from such materials as rice straw and tomato residues. Scientists at UC Davis, UC Berkeley and the national laboratories in the Bay Area are doing research.

Solano EDC President Michael Ammann said after the breakfast that Solano County has a good location to take advantage of biofuel developments. It has underutilized, non-prime farmland that can be used to grow biofuel crops and is near to the research centers. It could be the site for processing plants, he said.

The Solano County energy cluster report issued by Solano EDC in November 2009 mentions biofuels. Among other things, it said a research center could be built in Vallejo to look at algae-based, clean-burning fuel.

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