U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand was in central New York Thursday to discuss a new kind of renewable energy fuel.
About 20 farmers, supporters and members of the press met on a farm in Mexico, New York, with Senator Gillibrand, who was promoting a new source of New York grown energy -- shrub willow.
"One of the things that really makes sense for our country is being independent of Middle Eastern oil. And one of the best way to do that is through biofuels," said the senator from New York.
But Gillibrand said attempts to use corn-based ethanol as energy have only raised prices for farmers and consumers, and that alternatives are needed.
"This is a perfect example of using an up-and-coming renewable industry--biofuels--and using willow as the fuel source. Not corn," said the senator.
Gillibrand helped direct $4.3 million of federal money to grow shrub willow in New York.
The crop's admirers call it a win-win situation. The tall woody stalk will put marginal farmland back into production because it grows where little else can. And supporters say shrub willow has a zero carbon footprint.
Finally, its renewable. Farmers can harvest shrub willow every three years -- in a method known as coppicing. From there, it can be chipped and burned in furnaces to generate power.
ReEnergy, the company in charge of the project, says it will create 144 jobs in nine New York Counties.
Growing shrub willow will also contribute to an effort to have a quarter of New York state's energy come from renewable sources by next year. Farmland is being prepared for the crop to begin growing next year. The project's first shrub willows will be harvested around 2016.