Pittsfield- Today, State Senator Benjamin B. Downing (D-Pittsfield) hosted Senate President Therese Murray (D-Plymouth) on a tour of the Berkshire Biodiesel facility located at the former Beloit R&D site off Hubbard Avenue in Pittsfield.
“Having the Senate President in Pittsfield is the most effective way I know to highlight the challenges and priorities we face that are unique to western Massachusetts. Our tour of Berkshire Biodiesel is important as we attempt to decrease our dependence on foreign oil and promote a clean energy economy,” stated Downing. “Berkshire Biodiesel is pioneering the biofuel frontier and it’s my job to make sure our top policy-makers are aware of their innovations.”
Once complete and open for operation, Berkshire Biodiesel will be the state’s largest producer of biodiesel, producing 50 million gallons of biodiesel derived from soybean oil, restaurant waste oil and animal fats each year. Berkshire Biodiesel will be a local source of clean-burning, renewable fuel for home heating as well as for diesel vehicles, including municipal buses, school buses, trucks and construction vehicles.
Industry leaders estimate job creation for the Pittsfield production plant to reach 100 during the construction phase, with at least 30 permanent positions once production begins. Total project costs will be approximately $65 million, with a direct investment in the facility to reach between $50 to $55 million. Plant construction is expected to begin in the second quarter of 2008 with biodiesel production slated for the second quarter of 2009. “Locating Berkshire Biodiesel in Pittsfield ensures that western Mass. will be on the cutting edge of biodiesel technology,” said Downing.
The benefits of incorporating more uses for biodiesel are many-fold. Comparing the use of 100 percent biodiesel versus 100 percent petroleum, biodiesel produces cleaner emissions and are safer for people to breathe with an estimated 67 percent reduction in carbon dioxide, 48 percent reduction in carbon monoxide, 47 percent reduction in particulate matter and a 100 percent reduction in sulfates. Additionally, biodiesel creates a positive energy balance with each 3.24 units of energy gained for each unit of petroleum energy used in production, the highest energy balance of any fuel.
With increased global concern for energy consumption and pollution, support for biofuel technology has been gaining steam in Massachusetts. Today’s tour of Berkshire Biodiesel is especially timely as earlier this month, Senate President Murray, Governor Patrick and Speaker DiMasi filed legislation this Fall that calls for cleaner energy standards in Massachusetts. If passed, Massachusetts would lead the nation in requiring biodiesel blends in home heating oil, while joining other states in setting biodiesel standards at the pump.
“The Legislature continues to work hard on making energy reform a reality in Massachusetts, and biofuels will play a major role in our efforts,” Senate President Murray said. “The innovations of Berkshire Biodiesel signal the commitment we need from our industrial base and mark a new direction for alternative energy in the Commonwealth. Through our common efforts, the public and private sectors will push our economy forward, reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and decrease our dependence on foreign oil.”
Berkshire Biodiesel is one of three biodiesel refineries in the planning stages, the other two are in Greenfield and Quincy.
“With this new legislation, Massachusetts becomes a national leader in this new 21st Century industry, and the Senate President and Senator Downing deserve a lot of credit for their vision on this issue,” said Lee Harrison, Berkshire Biodiesel executive vice president, “This new industry is vital, not only to mitigate the ravages of global warming, and reduce air pollution and our reliance on foreign oil, but also to create new jobs and investment in Massachusetts, and the support we are receiving on Beacon Hill makes us proud.”
Joining Today’s tour was State Representative Christopher N. Speranzo (D-Pittsfield), Pittsfield Mayor James Ruberto, Dalton Town Manager Kenneth E. Walto and representatives from the local business community.