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Huge Science Nerds and Corn Growers, Now Really Cool

By Timmy Watson in News on Jun 16, 2007 6:05PM

As we mentioned a few months back, the state of Illinois, and the Midwest in general, are at the forefront of the increasingly high-profile energy debate in the United States. With ethanol at the top of the pack as alternative sources go, the price of corn has doubled, leaving Illinois corn growers with lots of dough. It isn't just corn though folks, the state is also making headway in research and development regarding new biofuels; including wind energy, solar energy, liquid coal, and ethanol (sans corn).

Why the interest, and more importantly, where is the funding coming from? Well, the interest is a pretty simple one. Consumers are unhappy with gas prices and our representatives at the local, state, and federal level are using their great foresight and actively searching out alternative energy sources. By the way, they aren't called representatives anymore, we simply call them "The Planeteers". Currently, the planeteers in the U.S. Senate is working on an energy bill that is somewhat complex, and, of course, controversial. The most controversial aspect of the bill is the so-called 15% national renewable electricity standard. The standard provides a deadline of 2020 requires U.S. utilities to have 15% of their electricity supplied from renewable energy sources. 07_06_16_windfarm.jpgThere are currently twenty-three states that have similar standards or are already working towards using a larger renewable energy source, however, some feel those in the Southeast, where wind energy is harder to come by, is drawing the short straw.

The U.S. is having somewhat of an identity crisis when it comes to a national energy policy, with different factors pulling both our leaders and our economic interests in different directions. This is one reason the energy bill is beneficial, as it is a start to developing a comprehensive policy that is consistent across the country. More importantly, however, is for the research and development to continue. Only recently has the additional funding for R & D become available, meaning a lot of the debate, especially across Illinois, is still clouded with uncertainty and is still very much in its infancy. For example; the Coal Research Center right outside of Carbondale, IL is working on taking coal and stripping out the good parts (such as hydrogen), while safely burying the bad parts (carbon dioxide) in the ground. But, environmental groups are skeptical of anything that uses coal. Additionally, researchers at the the bioenergy research center at the University of Illinois are weary of coal. For the most part, any new energy sources that involve a lot of separation or manipulation will consume a lot of energy in the process. A lot of times outweighing any benefit they may have had over current energy sources.