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The Franklin News-Post
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
Fax: 540-483-8013

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Perriello announces plan for clean energy
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Staff Photo by Joel Turner: Fifth District Congressman Tom Perriello listens as Dean Price, owner of Red Birch Energy in Bassett, describes his biofuels project.

Monday, July 6, 2009

By JOEL TURNER - Staff Writer

Against the backdrop of the Gereau Center, Fifth District Congressman Tom Perriello announced a plan for making Franklin County and Southside Virginia a leading region in the nation for the future clean energy economy.

Perriello (D-Albemarle County) said that it was fitting that Friday's announcement was held at the Gereau Center because it is one of Southside's leading facilities in technology innovation.

"The Gereau Center and its students are the future of the clean energy economy in the Fifth District," he said.

Construction is scheduled to start this summer on the Center for Energy Efficient Design (CEED) at the Gereau Center.

The proposed center for the study of alternative energy sources will put the Franklin County school system on the cutting edge in energy education, according to school officials.

At Perriello's news conference, clean energy entrepreneurs and representatives from several companies in the Fifth District said they support the push for clean energy.

Among those who spoke were Frank Hodges, vice president of Mod-U-Kraf Homes in Rocky Mount, and Dean Price, owner of Red Birch Energy in Bassett.

Perriello said the Fifth District is positioned to be a leader in the clean energy economy because:

"The location is right due to the abundance of farmland for the production of bioenergy, and post-industrial sites are available and ideal for developing clean energy technologies.

"The people are right because entrepreneurs and farmers in the region are ready to become leaders in the struggle to reduce the nation's dependence on foreign oil.

"The resources are right since the region is home to world-class research centers and is positioned to leverage funds provided by the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission.

"And the time is right with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the American Clean Energy and Security Act providing federal funds for investments in clean energy.

Franklin County and Southside Virginia can be winners under the Clean Energy and Security Act because farmers and localities can profit from the new clean energy economy, according to Perriello.

"We can convert former tobacco farms into future biomass producers. And we can see farm and municipal waste turned into power," Perriello said.

The Clean Energy and Security Act will spur investments in biomass fuels that can flourish on former tobacco farms, he said.

Perriello also said that manure on cattle and poultry farms can be converted into power with new technologies that will produce profits for farmers.

"We will not turn this economy around by hiding from our problems, but by having the courage to reinvent our competitive advantage," he said.

Perriello said the energy bill would reduce American dependence on foreign oil, solving a national security problem, while creating jobs in the biofuels and nuclear industries.

The vote for the clean energy bill was a vote for America over petro-dictators, he said.

"It is a vote for innovation over the erosion of our jobs," Perriello said. "It is a vote for demanding American leadership, rather than settling for a slow slide behind India, China and other competitors. This is our time to switch from fossil fuels. We have to move from small bio-refineries to the next generation of technologies in clean energy."

Perriello said he is tired of the United States sending billions of dollars for oil to foreign dictators.

"This is the time to be bold," he said. "We have put together a blueprint for the region to lead the United States back to energy independence."

Price, a former tobacco farmer who owns Red Birch Energy in Bassett, said the federal clean energy legislation will allow more American entrepreneurs and farmers like him to grow and sell their energy.

"These kinds of jobs can't be outsourced and will be a huge part of a new economy and business model in Southern Virginia," Price said.

Red Birch Energy produces biodiesel, which is sold at Price's store in Bassett Forks.

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