Iowa State University conference examines developing bioeconomy

AMES, Iowa -- Venture capitalist Vinod Khosla told last year's Biobased Industry Outlook Conference at Iowa State University why he believes fuel blends containing 85 percent ethanol can replace the country's gasoline supply.

Khosla -- who last year told The New York Times he's invested "tens of millions of dollars" in private companies developing ethanol production technologies -- ticked off several reasons: Political and special interest groups back ethanol, there's land to grow new energy crops, ethanol's energy balance and emissions are good.

And, he told the conference, "The single most important issue for me is how many miles can you drive per acre of land."

Today's technologies produce about 500 gallons of ethanol per acre. In 25 years he said production could jump to about 3,000 gallons per acre.

What's he saying about ethanol and the bioeconomy these days?

Khosla -- co-founder of Sun Microsystems and founder of Khosla Ventures in Menlo Park, Calif. -- will share his views during a keynote address at the 2007 Biobased Industry Outlook Conference, "Growing the Bioeconomy," Nov. 5 and 6 at the Iowa State Center on the Iowa State campus. He's scheduled to speak at 12:30 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 6 in Hilton Coliseum.

The conference is targeted for elected officials, economic development professionals, manufacturers of biobased products, biofuel producers, farmers, bioprocessing engineers and venture capitalists. Presentations cover plant sciences; feedstock production; conversion of biomass into fuels and products; bioproducts use and energy efficiency; conservation and sustainability; and economics and policy. Early registration for the two-day conference (including a welcome breakfast, two lunches, receptions and materials) is $219 before Oct 1. and $299 after. There is a student rate of $139.

Conference information is at and registration information is at

Khosla isn't the only big name who will address the conference about the future of the bioeconomy.

J. Craig Venter -- the scientist who engaged the publicly funded Human Genome Project in a race to map the human genome and who recently announced he had sequenced his own genome -- will address the conference at 9:15 a.m., Monday, Nov. 5 in Hilton Coliseum.

Venter is founder and president of the non-profit J. Craig Venter Institute and a co-founder of Synthetic Genomics, Inc., in Rockville, Md. The company is using genomics in a variety of ways to design or engineer microbes that can efficiently produce fuels.

"Genomics is going to do for the energy and chemical field what it did in the early 1990s for medical biotechnology," Venter told the Washington Post in February.

Also addressing the conference are Jeff Broin, the chief executive officer for the POET biofuel company; Phil Frederickson, the executive vice president of planning, strategy and corporate affairs for the ConocoPhillips energy company; Suzanne Hunt, the bioenergy project manager for the independent Worldwatch Institute that advocates for a sustainable world; and Jeremy Tomkinson, the executive director of the National Non-Food Crops Centre, the United Kingdom's national center for biorenewables.

The conference's primary sponsors are Iowa State's Office of Biorenewables Programs, Iowa State's Plant Sciences Institute, Iowa State University Extension's Center for Industrial Research and Service, ConocoPhillips and Pioneer/DuPont. Last year's conference attracted 620 people.