By Carol Stender
KENSINGTON, Minn. — Kensington farmer Paul Stark is excited about agriculture’s role in renewable energy.
Stark is a member of the NextGen Energy Board, a 19-member board of agriculture, state agency and energy experts.
A 33-year Farm Bureau member from Stevens County, Stark and Minnesota Farmers Union member Thom Petersen represent agricultural organizations on the board.
Board members will make recommendations to Gov. Tim Pawlenty and the Legislature on how the state can become energy independent. The NextGen board will develop policy recommendations and coordinate and distribute research and bio-energy grants, he said.
Stark raises corn, soybeans, alfalfa and wheat and has a beef cow herd. He backgrounds calves and rents some land to a young farm neighbor, he said.
He remembers his father paying three to four cents per kilowatt hour for electricity at a time when energy and electricity were cheap. He recalls how, decades later in the 1970s, cars lined up at gas stations during a gasoline shortage.
"People were driving gas-guzzling cars and whether it was truly a real shortage or not, we discovered then that we might run out of oil someday and the world situation got us thinking about it. We started moving into a conserving mode and we need to continue that," he said.
The country can never produce enough fuel to meet domestic energy needs, he said. Hybrid vehicles, fuel efficient cars and wind generation helps the supply situation.
"We need to remember that Minnesota is really a leader in ethanol and bio-fuels," he said. "There are a number of projects, about 10 or 12, on the table looking at biomass gasification to hydrogen. They will all need funding."
Stark is conscious of his own energy use.
"Everyone is affected," he said about energy consumption and the need for new energy resources.