JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Known throughout the world as a renewable energy advocate, former President Jimmy Carter today helped break ground on a biodiesel plant in his hometown.

The plant will be built in Plains, Ga. - just six blocks from Carter's home. What's more, the new Alterra Bioenergy Corp. plant plans to make some of its biodiesel from the very peanuts grown on the President's farm.

"The development of alternative, environmentally responsible energy sources has been a passion of mine since I became a public servant," Carter said. "The production of alternative fuels, such as biodiesel, is a very important step toward energy independence while at the same time being less harmful to the environment and supporting local farmers."

"We can thank President Carter for the thriving renewable energy growth of today," said Joe Jobe, CEO of the National Biodiesel Board. "Many people within the biodiesel and ethanol industries credit his leadership in the 1978 Energy Bill for launching the renewable fuels effort in the United States."

Carter's history with peanuts fits neatly with the history of biodiesel. Rudolph Diesel, who designed the diesel engine, ran early models on peanut oil. He advocated the use of vegetable oils as fuel and believed they would one day play a key role in our energy economy.

Carter said that he is looking forward to making his family farm crop production available for the purpose of producing biofuels. The new plant's location will place it at the epicenter of the oil seed production belt for the eastern United States. The plant will be producing biodiesel fuel from regional soybean, peanut, and cotton crops, as well as creating a market for a new area winter crop -- rapeseed.

"We chose Plains because of its ideal position in the country's oil seed farm land," said Alterra Bioenergy CEO Wayne Johnson. "And, the fact that President Carter has spoken passionately about alternative fuels for more than 25 years makes his hometown a natural choice. Access to the ports of Savannah and Brunswick by way of the Heart of Georgia Railroad were also an important factor in our decision."

When constructed, the Alterra plant will join 105 other biodiesel plants operating throughout the nation. Plant officials say it will have the capacity to produce 15 - 30 million gallons of fuel a year, with volume production added in phases. The plant is expected to begin production by November 2007 and will provide about 25 jobs.

"The growth of the biodiesel industry is almost staggering," Jobe said. "To put this in perspective, in September 2006 we had 86 plants. Today we have 105. We're always hearing about how no new petroleum refineries have been built in the U.S. in 30 years. This is where biodiesel can make a difference. Every plant that goes up is adding fuel refining capacity to our nation's energy capabilities."

Jobe added that fostering this development is critical, pointing to favorable public policy that has spurred development. A federal tax incentive makes biodiesel blends more affordable to all consumers.

Production of biodiesel nearly tripled from 75 million gallons in 2005 to an estimated 225 million gallons in 2006. The fuel reduces emissions significantly. Biodiesel blends of up to 20 percent work in any diesel engine without modification. Low blends of 2 percent and 5 percent are also increasingly used in all diesel applications throughout the country.

SOURCE: National Biodiesel Board.