Interview with Nathan Schock of POET, biofuel producer
Nathan Schock is currently the director of public relations for POET, managing a department of two at the largest producer of biofuels in the world. Nathan coordinates media relations, new media efforts, community relations and special events. Nathan started with POET a few weeks before a name change and has seen the company go from a virtual unknown outside the industry to one that is widely respected as an industry leader in production, technology and efficiency. Nathan’s career as a public relations professional started in electoral politics and has included stints in public policy, lobbying, private business and higher education. Nathan has communications experience in a wide variety of industries including renewable energy, manufacturing, electoral politics, food, financial services, software, health care and entertainment.
Q. What inspired you to become involved in a Renewable Energy Company?
NS. When our company was founded more than 20 years ago, it was because the founder saw the government paying farmers to leave productive land idle while more and more oil was imported into the country.
Q. What’s the difference between cellulosic ethanol and regular ethanol?
NS. Regular ethanol is made from the starch in grains (corn), which is a feedstock, but cellulosic ethanol is made from the stalks of the corn, which is usually just hauled away as rubbish, it is not a food source.
Q. So, Poet does not use a food crop (corn) to make their ethanol biofuel?
NS. Correct, we utilize the cob, the leaves, the husk and the stalks of the corn.
Q. Where can a regular consumer find ethanol biofuel?
NS. There are 3000-4000 pumps available at regular gas stations; you don’t have to find a particular distributor. The EPA just tested E15 (a blend of ethanol and gasoline) and found no problem with using it in vehicles made after 2001.
Q. Do you have to convert or modify your gas engine to use ethanol?
NS. No, 90% of existing gas is already blended with ethanol, E10, for example, can be used in any vehicle.
Q. Just as a point of interest…is the name of the company (POET) an acronym?
NS. No, the Broin family, the founding family of the company wanted to change the name to reflect their feelings about bringing out a product that is creative, and helps beautify the world.
Q. How much corn is used to make regular ethanol?
NS. It takes 1 bushel of corn to produce 3 gallons of ethanol, where it takes one ton of corn stalks, leaves, husks and cobs to make 90 gallons of cellulosic ethanol.
Q. Is there a specific gas to ethanol blend that is best for colder climates?
NS. Yes, in colder climates, the ethanol should be less than 70%.
Q. How much water is used in your process?
NS. Right now we use less than 3 gallons of water to create 1 gallon of ethanol, and we are constantly finding new ways to reduce the amount of water usage.
Q. Are there any projects you’re working on now that you’d like to mention?
NS. We’re just finishing a new plant we call Project LIBERTY. Project LIBERTY is the construction of a biorefinery that produces ethanol from corn crop residue, using the cobs, leaves and husks that are left on the ground after harvest. By making use of a waste product and using renewable energy to power the facility, our ethanol decreases Green House Gas emissions more than 110% in comparison with gasoline.
Q. What are some of the other positive results of Project LIBERTY?
NS. We are not only reducing 56,000 tons of waste for the local farmers, we are creating new jobs, new equipment needs to be manufactured for the process and we hire people who will transport the waste from the fields to our plant.
Q. Where can our listeners find out more about your company?
NS. POET is located in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, they can call us at # 605-965-2200, visit our POET website or email me, Nathan Schock, Director of Public Relations at [email protected]