Steven Fales, Office of Biorenewable Programs, (515) 294-3917, firstname.lastname@example.org
Susan Thompson, Communications Service, (515) 294-0705, email@example.com
PROMOTING BIORENEWABLES IS NEW JOB FOR IOWA STATE AGRONOMY PROFESSOR
AMES, Iowa -- Soaring gas prices have everyone talking about alternative energy options. Iowa State University's Steven Fales is just like everyone else - he doesn't enjoy paying more at the pump. But he does enjoy the increased focus on using agricultural crops to reduce oil consumption.
"Driven by the impending end of the petroleum era and by the reality of climate change, the transition to a biobased economy will likely prove to be the biggest change impacting civilization since the industrial revolution," Fales said. "Not only is this an exciting place to be given all the activity in Iowa and worldwide, but it also is the right thing to do."
Fales serves as the College of Agriculture's Bioeconomy Initiative coordinator. The university-wide Bioeconomy Initiative is focused on developing technologies for converting crops and plant materials into chemicals, fuels, fibers and energy. Scientists across the university are affiliated with the initiative, including several College of Agriculture faculty.
Fales is the former chair of the Iowa State University agronomy department, a position he held from 2001 through 2005. In his new position, Fales assists research, teaching and extension activities related to the Bioeconomy Initiative within the College of Agriculture and with other entities on and off campus. "My role is to represent the college in all things related to the development and production of biorenewables in Iowa," Fales said.
Fales also is the new associate director of the Office of Biorenewable Programs (OBP) at Iowa State. Robert Brown, OBP director, said creating this new role for Fales "represents a big commitment by the College of Agriculture to biorenewables."
"The college has a big stake in biorenewables, because by definition biorenewables are products of agriculture," said Wendy Wintersteen, dean of the College of Agriculture. "There are tremendous opportunities for Iowa growers, not only for corn and soybean as feedstocks, but also in the production of dedicated energy or biorenewable product crops. For our faculty, biorenewables offers an opportunity to strengthen our competitive advantage in a new frontier of science."
Fales said the College of Agriculture also has the expertise to assure that the production of feedstocks for the biorenewable industry doesn't encourage practices that accelerate land degradation or impair water quality.
"There are issues relating to scale and siting of biorefineries and related plants that will impact not only local natural resources, but also rural infrastructure and communities," Fales said. "Our faculty in economics and sociology can help address those issues."
Fales is working with the OBP team to identify funding opportunities, plan events such as the Biobased Industry Outlook Conference in Ames Aug. 28-29 and represent the office to clientele around Iowa, plus identifying opportunities for faculty to work collaboratively with individuals across campus and within the region.
In July, Fales will lead a panel discussion on the sustainable production of biomass at the World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology and Bioprocessing in Toronto. He's also helped organize a national symposium on biorenewables at the November annual meeting of the American Society of Agronomy in Indianapolis.
As a faculty member in the agronomy department, Fales is collaborating on a research project growing kenaf, switchgrass and some other biomass crops in an effort to help develop new crops for Iowa producers. "I sense that people affiliated with agriculture really feel they are part of something vitally important for the nation," Fales said. "It is good to be allied and aligned with that thinking."
Fales said the obvious benefit of biorenewables for Iowa is the boost the growing industry has had and will continue to have on its economy. "The explosion of the ethanol industry alone has created several thousand new jobs in Iowa," he said. "As we move to biorefineries, there will be more opportunities as all kinds of materials and products are produced. Hopefully, much of the added value will be captured here by businesses using the products of these biorefineries."