The Southeast has the potential to become the “Saudi Arabia” of biofuel crop production, according to Bill McCutchen, executive associate director of Texas A&M AgriLife Research. McCutchen called this region the “Bioenergy Belt.”

McCutchen offered his remarks at the recent Growing Texas Conference. He told attendees that too much attention has been placed on corn as a feedstock for renewable energy. He offered an overview of research into other crops that could be used for biofuels.

“Corn is not the way to grow our biofuels industry,” McCutchen said. “What we are going to see is an emergence of cellulosic-based conversion facilities, and when this infrastructure is in place, we will see a new set of dedicated energy crops that will complement food and fiber crops. We are starting to see the deployment of cellulosic and biomass conversion facilities for biofuels being put into place.”

He explained why the Southeast was in a prime position to capitalize on the region’s strengths. He claims the Gulf Coast of Texas is in a “sweet spot” because it gets enough rain and is warm enough throughout the year to accommodate multiple biofuel crops. Also, he explained that Texas A&M was already partnering with BP, Chevron, Ceres and others in the oil industry.

McCutchen said the agency’s corporate research partnership strategy was developed five years ago and has grown to $50 million dedicated to research and development.

“Overall, our bioenergy research goal is for these energy crops not to compete with food and feed,” he said. “Corn is not the way to grow our biofuels industry.”