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Upstate NY: Future Bio-Fuel Hub?

A Mid-Western company has sights on New York for an alternate energy project that has the potential to boost jobs and strengthen the upstate economy. Hudson Valley Bureau Chief Dave Lucas reports.

“Biomass” – a component of the renewable energy sector – has become a buzzword among Green Energy proponents...   Aloterra Energy of Ohio has been developing biomass conversion facilities capable of cultivating and processing biomass crops to expand fuel marketing and distribution. 

The company wants to add New York State to its expanding "biomass reserve" : Chief Business Officer Matt Griswold says Aloterra is recruiting farmers in Greene, Schoharie and Delaware Counties.

The company says growing Miscanthus puts farmers on the front lines of helping reclaim our country’s energy independence. The warm-season non-invasive grass is native to Southeast Asia. It flourishes in marginal soil that's not normally farmed anywhere from North Texas to Vermont - SUNY Cobleskill is growing a test patch.

Howard Rennell is from Prattsville - he works in New York City and is responsible for bringing Aloterra upstate. He notes that plans entail expanding into surrounding counties in 2014 - planting Miscanthus in Ulster, Dutchess, Columbia, Sullivan and Albany counties - among others. Matt Griswold expects the Port of Albany may play an important role.

Albany County Comptroller Mike Conners has been a long-time advocate of biofuels, and welcomes future contact from Aloterra.  State Senator James Seward sees the Aloterra project as a much-needed boost for the region.  Howard Rennell hopes planting will begin next year - with production the following year - creating "many" new agricultural and between 50 to 100 manufacturing jobs.

An Aloterra release notes that reaching a goal of 50,000 acres in upstate New York can create 800-1,000 new jobs in the initial three county area and the surrounding seven counties included in Phase II, with an annual economic impact of $50M dollars.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.