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Chris Peterson: Michigan holds strong potential to lead the bioeconomy

Chris Peterson talks with Kirk Heinze on WJR

Michigan’s strong research institutes, diverse agriculture and plentiful forests position it to become a bioeconomy leader given the political will, according to Michigan State University researchers.

Another plus is that Michigan didn’t over-invest in corn-based ethanol and biodiesel plants, says Chris Peterson, director of the MSU Product Center.

“Michigan has geographic advantages over other states in terms of diverse feedstocks, underutilized forestry resources and vast water resources,” says Peterson, who is also an MSU AgBioResearch scientist. “A thriving bioeconomy is not a certainty, but Michigan has the ability to shape its own future and has significant opportunities to expand its bioeconomy and advance its position on the global bioeconomy market.”

Michigan ranks in the top third of states in commercial ethanol and biodiesel crops and now hosts five ethanol plants. Its first commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant, one of only seven in the country, is under construction. A number of smaller-scale anaerobic digester facilities, turning animal and other waste into methane, also are in use while MSU researchers work to make the technology more broadly accessible.

The state currently ranks in the top fifth in ethanol consumption and electricity production from biomass. Michigan grows more than 19 million acres of forest, a 6 percent increase since 1980. More than 1.7 million megawatt hours of electricity are produced from burning woody biomass at 10 plants, Peterson says.

“Honestly, there are other states that are more competitive with respect to corn biomass, but Michigan’s diverse crop mix and strong timberland resources puts the state in an excellent position if cellulosic ethanol becomes commercially viable,” he says.

Click on the arrow above to hear Peterson's February 13 Greening of the Great Lakes conversation with Kirk HeinzeGreening of the Great Lakes airs Sunday evenings at 9 on News/Talk 760 WJR.

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