ST. GABRIEL, La. – A group of future international leaders visited the LSU AgCenter Audubon Sugar Institute on June 11 to learn more about alternative fuel development in Louisiana.
The International Visitor Leadership Program, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, annually brings upcoming leaders from around the world to the United States to see what’s happening here and to look at ways to improve their local situations, said LSU AgCenter International Programs coordinator Ivana Tregenza.
The group, with representatives from Algeria, Egypt, India, the United Kingdom, Latvia, and Malaysia, heard about the work at the institute to develop alternative fuel sources to decrease dependence on fossil fuels.
Matthew Brown, head of communications and campaigns at the World Society of Chemistry in London, said each group that comes has a theme, and the theme for this group is Climate Change and Renewable Energy.
“There are 22 of us in the overall group, and we come from all over the world. We are united by our interest in these issues,” Brown said.
LSU AgCenter professor of biofuels at the Audubon Institute Donal Day said his presentation was just to give an overview of the energy situation in the United States and the world and what is being done.
“I let them know that when it comes to fossil fuels, there are two competing streams,” Day said. “First, the U. S. has enough natural gas to replace all of our oil if we decided to do so politically. Then there are biofuels, which will have to be regional in terms of the crops required.”
Getting enough fuel from all of these crops, requires going to the areas that can grow them, Day said.
“The South is an area which has been targeted for 50 percent of the biofuel crops in the United States because we have the best growing conditions,” he said. “In the middle of the country they want switchgrass and out West, they want timber.”
The biofuel crops grown here and in parts of the South are energycane and sweet sorghum. “These crops have to be grown where there is available land, but also where there is not competition with food crops,” Day said.
“Sweet sorghum is known to produce as much as 26 tons to the acre, while there is speculation that they can get up to 100 tons with energycane,” Day said.
The visitors are part of a larger group that is touring the United States looking at various aspects of the research and extension, said Ben Legendre, LSU AgCenter head of the Audubon Sugar Institute.
“These individuals were in some way interested in our green fuels effort; looking at development of biofuels from various substrates,” Legendre said. “And for us, that would include bagasse, energycane and sweet sorghum.”
Most of the visitors come from countries with no relationship to any of the crops that were discussed, but they are interested in what the United States is doing when it comes to developing second- and third- generation biofuels.
“I think there’s a lot of interest worldwide. They look toward the United States as a leader in that particular area, and they were here to take a look at what we are doing,” he said.
Legendre said a week earlier, a group from the Philippines visited the U.S. sugarcane industry.
“The difference is that group was actually involved in the sugar industry and was interested in how our industry works here,” Legendre said.
By having the infrastructure here to grow the type of crops needed for biofuels and by having the equipment and the factories here already, it’s just natural for those crops and the research to be here, he said. Johnny Morgan
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