The Delta Grassroots Caucus (DGC) is a broad coalition of grassroots leaders in the eight-state Delta region. DGC is also a founding partner of the Economic Equality Caucus,
which advocates for economic equality across the USA.

Alternative Energy Update, including New Biodiesel Plant in Arkansas Delta

Posted on February 20, 2008 at 05:16 PM

Lobbying for much greater use of alternative energy is one of the top priorities of the Delta Grassroots Caucus, because it holds great potential for a brighter economic future in the Delta. US Rep. Marion Berry, Rep. Mike Ross of Arkansas and others in the Delta are leading the way in supporting expanded alternative energy in our region and throughout the country. Gov. Mike Beebe and Speaker of the Arkansas House of Representatives Benny Petrus and others are active at the state level, and we know there are many leaders in all eight Delta states who are likewise active on this crucial issue. We include information below about a new biodisel plant that has just opened up in DeWitt, Arkansas, in the heart of the Delta.

On Feb. 19, 2008, farmers and elected officials welcomed to DeWitt, Arkansas, a new biodiesel plant that will process soybeans grown by local farmers, who later will buy fuel made from the beans.

The Arkansas SoyEnergy Group’s plant is the first in Arkansas with an on-site crusher, used to extract soy oil from the beans. The oil goes through a blending and refining process, by which biodiesel is made, as well as other products like cooking oil to help the plant keep functioning in varying market conditions.

Congressman Marion Berry is a leading advocate in Congress for alternative energy, and he said “Developing new markets as well as sustainable forms of domestic energy is crucial to the success of the local economies in Arkansas.” Congressman Berry is a farmer and co-chairs the congressional soybean caucus.

Arkansas SoyEnergy Group, which began operating last year and will start fuel production in April, is part of the Hornbeck Agricultural Group. Arkansas SoyEnergy is the state’s first biodiesel plant that uses only soybeans as its feedstock, and it can process approximately 2.75 million bushels annually.

Terry McCullars, manager for the plant, said it plans to buy soybeans grown in about a 50 mile radius.

Arkansas is the nation’s eighth-largest soybean producer.

“We need this facility, as well as others around the state, to succeed in order to have a stronger economy in our state,” state House Speaker Benny Petrus, D-Stuttgart, said.

The plant currently has the capacity to make 3.5 million gallons of biodiesel annually, but could eventually produce up to 10 million gallons by combining oil produced onsite with oil from other suppliers, officials said. About 250 million gallons of biodiesel was produced in the U.S. in 2006, according to the National Biodiesel Board.

The plant will employ up to 20 people, officials said. Arkansas SoyEnergy will benefit from the Arkansas Alternative Fuels Development Act, passed by the Legislature last year, which made $16 million available for grants to companies that make biodiesel from soybeans or wood products.

Congressman Marion Berry of Arkansas is one of the leading supporters of alternative fuels, and we would like to quote this excellent statement on his official website on this issue: “One of the best ways to sustain a strong farm economy is to explore new markets. Americans are tired of paying record prices for gasoline and want to see greater investment in alternative fuels like ethanol and biodiesel. This will not only reduce America’s dependence on oil, but give rural America an important role in securing our energy supply. We need to expand tax incentives for biofuel production, invest in new research and technologies, and educate farmers about the resources available to enter this growing industry.”

Congressman Mike Ross has introduced bipartisan legislation to increase our nation’s energy security and to put our nation on a path towards energy independence. Ross’ comprehensive legislation, the “American-Made Energy Act of 2008,” will make significant investments in alternative and renewable energy, and encourage increased domestic production to address our nation’s failed energy policies and rising gas and electricity prices.

Among other initiatives, Rep. Ross’ comprehensive legislation includes the following:


• Extends and expands tax credits for the development of biofuels, such as cellulosic ethanol and biodiesel, and the installation and use of solar and fuel cell technologies for business and residential use. It also provides grants to build cellulosic biomass ethanol plants and authorizes cellulosic facilities for bonus depreciation.

• Extends the loan guarantee program for biorefineries, increases grant funding for biofuel research and development projects, establishes a forest bioenergy research program, and creates an advanced biofuel credit program to acknowledge those who are blending more than the required amount of biofuels.


• Includes a comprehensive package to promote coal to liquid fuel production, including expanded tax credits for projects that demonstrate significant carbon capture and sequestration capabilities that will combat global warming.

• Supports renewable electricity by extending tax credits for the production of electricity from renewable resources and authorizes new clean renewable energy bonds for public power providers and electric cooperatives. It also expands the tax credit for electricity produced from agriculture waste.