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WMU professor makes sense of alternative energy sources

Nov. 5, 2007

KALAMAZOO--The looming realities of global warming, oil prices that have surpassed $90 a barrel, economic instability, homeland security threats and political power struggles--alternative energy expert Dr. Steven Bertman says these and other current events point to the United States' need for new energy sources.

Bertman, Western Michigan University professor of chemistry, forgoes the cryptic implications of these issues that are often found in scientific reports and texts for a chance to address the realities of the nation's energy crisis.

A talk about "What Biofuels are in Your Future?" will be held at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 14, in Room 1220 of WMU's new Chemistry Building. During this free, public discussion, Bertman will touch on the nation's current and future energy needs, basic properties of biofuels and other alternative energy sources, and the viability and accessibility of resources needed to maintain the modern lifestyle.

"We are certainly not the world's leader in alternative energy," Bertman says. "We're way behind the game. We should have been where we are now decades ago."

According to Bertman, the United States is trailing behind other countries, specifically European countries, which have taken a proactive approach to solving their energy plights. In many of these nations, governmental policies spurred action years ago. In the United States, he says, the market has controlled the issue. It wasn't until very recently that the economy started calling for a change in energy sources.

"The 20th century was the century of fossil fuels," Bertman says. "We need to move away from that now. Biofuels are not the single answer to solving our energy needs. They are, however, a viable alternative to the petroleum diesel used for transportation."

Bertman is co-director of the WMU faculty initiative, Bronco Biodiesel, which uses restaurant trap grease to develop biodiesel. The fuel is then used in Kalamazoo buses instead of petroleum diesel. A proven renewable fuel, Biodiesel can be made from any fat or oil. It burns more completely than petroleum diesel, emits fewer toxic by-products and significantly lowers greenhouse gas production. Its superior lubricity can reduce engine maintenance costs, and it is safer to use and transport.

Media contact: Tonya Hernandez, (269) 387-8400, tonya.hernandez@wmich.edu

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