Mid-Columbia is natural choice for more biofuels

By:  Editorial Board
Source: The Tri-City Herald

Sen. Maria Cantwell's push to make the Tri-Cities a federally designated Center of Excellence for aviation fuels development seems like a logical step for the community and the biofuels industry.

We echo her invitation to the Federal Aviation Administration to consider this area as an obvious choice for the designation.

We also second her recommendation to local officials to apply for this status -- a suggestion that most likely doesn't need belaboring. Our community leaders have a reliable record for being ahead of the curve when it comes to matters like this.   

What makes us the perfect choice? Preparation, preparation and preparation.

Washington State University Tri-Cities and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory already are working together to harness biofuels at their Bioproducts, Sciences and Engineering Laboratory.

In fact, 90 employees and graduate students already are working on world class research and development, according to Jud Virden, acting associate laboratory director for the Energy and Environment Directorate at PNNL.

Add to that the Mid-Columbia Energy Initiative, a collaborative effort aimed at creating an energy park on surplus Hanford land that will attract other energy-producing clients and like-minded industries.

The federal designation only would bolster our already-strong credentials.

And being one short hop over the Cascades from a major aviation industry should also strengthen our appeal.

All these arguments support applying this designation to the Tri-Cities.

We have plenty to offer the nation, but this arrangement also would be good for us. Mutual benefit is the hallmark of any successful partnership.

As Hanford moves toward cleanup and beyond, more space becomes available for industrial use. Even now, the Department of Energy is exploring how much and which parts of the Hanford reservation will be used for industry in the future.

It's a path that will help diversify the Mid-Columbia's economy even further.

It promises even more value to the nation. As a society, it's clear we don't want to stay home. We want, even need, to be on the go. The global economy depends on transporting goods and people.

There's no doubt we can use biofuels to put cargo in the air, the trick now is to do it in an economical way.

The Dec. 5 issue of Scientific American considered the barriers to profit and sustainability that successful biofuel makers will have to overcome.

Containing the cost of fuel for aviation and other uses only will grow more important. Our dependence of foreign oil markets must be reduced.

The Mid-Columbia is poised to be a leader in the inevitable shift to green energy -- on all fronts. The Center of Excellence designation would help us soar.