|By MEGAN KUHN
REYNOLDS, Ind. — One small Indiana town is getting a complete energy makeover. Gov. Mitch Daniels, along with Indiana Agriculture Director Andy Miller, announced Sept. 13 that the White County community of Reynolds is the first BioTown, USA.
BioTown is a project of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture (ISDA) to replace all of the energy needs of a town with renewable fuels.
“BioTown, USA is an aggressive plan that I believe will become a model for rural communities throughout our state and country,” said Governor Daniels. “We are taking challenges and turning them into opportunities by developing homegrown, local energy production to become independent from foreign sources; creating a cleaner environment; finding new solutions to animal waste management issues; and developing new markets for Indiana agricultural products and byproducts.”
White County Commissioner John Heimlich sees the announcement as a shot in the arm for not only the town, but also the entire county.
“As a life long citizen of the county, I see this as a tremendous opportunity, especially for economic development,” Heimlich said. “This could be a real economic boost for Reynolds and the county as a whole.”
He said that Reynolds was chosen to be the inaugural BioTown, USA for several reasons. First, with a population of about 540, it is the right size. It also has the needed infrastructure with two major highways (IN-43 and US-24) and two major rail lines.
Heimlich also said the proximity to Purdue University and the number of large livestock farms close to the town were considerations when the state chose Reynolds.
Phase I of the BioTown, USA plan for Reynolds revolves around biofuels.
“Our objective is for every vehicle to run on renewable biofuels,” said Gov. Daniels. “This is a bit ambitious, but we won’t be happy with less.”
To meet this goal, the governor announced that an E-85 (85 percent ethanol) fuel pump will be added to the community’s gas station to support the flex-fuel vehicles already in Reynolds. The town also has committed to convert its fleet of vehicles to E-85.
Daniels also announced that General Motors will be a partner in the project. While the specifics of its role have yet to be defined, the vehicle manufacturer will work with the ISDA to get more flex-fuel vehicles into the town.
While only specific vehicles can use E-85 fuel, a 10 percent ethanol blend can be used in any vehicle, according to Chris Novak, of the Indiana Soybean Board and Indiana Corn Marketing Committee.
“There is a great opportunity to use Reynolds to show consumers that ethanol is an option for them,” Novak said. “We want to get people to make a choice to use an ethanol blend.”
Novak also said that there is an opportunity for the Indiana Soybean Board to talk to town, county and school corporation officials about the advantages of using soy biodiesel.
He said that Excel Co-op, a local fuel provider, already offered biofuels - in the form of B-2 soy biodiesel and E-10 ethanol unleaded gasoline - to its customers before last week’s announcement.
Greg Stockment, Excel Co-op petroleum manager, hears positive comments from users all the time. He said renewable fuel users recognize the clean-air advantages and also report no difference in performance.
“At the BioTown announcement, we topped off tanks with hundreds of gallons of free soy biodiesel and ethanol-blended gasoline,” he said. “The organizers knew we already had the supply, the reputation and the experience to assure consumers that this is the right fuel for our community.”
Andy Miller said that Phases 2 and 3 of the BioTown, USA plan revolve around transforming animal waste from area livestock farms into electricity and natural gas.
There are more than 150,000 hogs within a 15-mile radius of Reynolds, as well as numerous sources of organic waste products. This makes it a likely location for a digester, manure gasifier or some other type of technology to turn manure and biomass into energy for the homes and businesses of Reynolds, according to the ISDA.
“Our goal is to make Indiana a leader in the future of agriculture, and to do that, we must be progressive in advancing new uses for our products and finding more environmentally-friendly ways to dispose of our byproducts,” said Miller. “In our efforts to grow our livestock industry, we will not ignore our responsibility to the environment. Therefore, it is our goal to recycle manure and other waste products into useful inputs, and energy production is a good example.”