4 Minutes With…Tim Hughes, Director of Biofuels, Department of Energy Development and Independence, Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet

October 8, 2014 |

hughesTell us about your organization and it’s role in the Advanced Bioeconomy.

The Division of Biofuels’ mission is to provide leadership to encourage the growth of Kentucky’s biofuels and biomass industries through research, development and commercialization while continuing to produce safe, abundant and affordable food, feed and fiber.

Tell us about your role and what you are focused on in the next 12 months.

  • Funding from the USDA Forest Service for our Kentucky Statewide Wood Energy Team will be a catalyst to coordinate the efforts of a number of existing agency personnel, rural development leaders, agricultural organizations, forestry expertise, and other stakeholders for the purpose of improving the utilization of woody biomass resources for energy uses. In order to enhance the stewardship of our natural resources, strengthen existing forest industry sectors, identify efficiencies, and stimulate new demand for undervalued woody materials, the emphasis will be on LOGS:
  • Improving Logistics in woodland management, timber harvesting, and resource transportation
  • Evaluating existing biomass energy Opportunities
  • Promoting Growth in expanded bioenergy markets for diseased, insect infected, and storm damaged trees, while reducing the hazardous fuels in our public and private woodlands
  • Emphasizing Sustainability that considers energy resource, economic, and environmental criteria

What do you feel are the most important milestones the industry must achieve in the next 5 years?

It is imperative that several of the commercial advanced and cellulosic ethanol and renewable fuel projects succeed in being cost competitive and returning dividends to their shareholders. While most businesses and consumers want good stewardship and domestic energy security, the industry will overcome its skeptics by showing them the money.

If you could snap your fingers and change one thing about the Advanced Bioeconomy, what would you change?

HONESTY. Communities, public officials, lenders, and investors have been bombarded by overly optimistic claims and poorly executed projects. While new technologies take time to perfect, we must be realistic in the availability and productivity of producing energy from low cost resources. Real successes are needed and will gain support when shown.

Of all the reasons that influenced you to join the Advanced Bioeconomy industry, what single reason stands out for you as still being compelling and important to you?

Opportunities for farmers and rural communities to generate additional revenue while enhancing our environment and promoting our nation’s energy security. That sounds like three, but American farmers are used to delivering more than expected

Where are you from? 

I grew up on a family farm in south central KY. Taking care of calves and operating farm equipment while in elementary school taught me many life lessons and provided me a good understanding of finances.

What was your undergraduate major in college, and where did you attend? Why did you choose that school and that pathway? 

I graduated with a BS in Agriculture from Western Kentucky University (WKU). While I didn’t get the “social” education of some students, I was able to work full-time on our farm, build some financial equity and finish in four years. The personal relationship with a number of my college professors while at WKU has helped open a number of doors.

Who do you consider your mentors. What have you learned from them?

My dad, James Hughes, taught me to be thrifty, honest, dedicated, and respectful. My agricultural teacher, David Duncan, encouraged me to get involved in FFA and develop communication, leadership, and business skills. I strive to reflect the teachings of Christ which include – Character, Honesty, Responsibility, Innovation, and Sensitivity, and Teamwork.

What’s the biggest lesson you ever learned during a period of adversity?

In January of 2000 my wife and I received a call while out of state that our home was on fire. A few minutes later we received a follow up call that there was no need to rush home because the fire had destroyed the house and its contents. While the four hour drive back seemed to take forever, we were met at the site by a number of friends and family. We were truly thankful that the only things we lost were “stuff”. Fire is a great equalizer; we had a few hundred dollars cash in a file cabinet that was completely incinerated yet a box of pennies undamaged. We found a few porcelain figurines unharmed, but our cast iron skillet melted. Several items we had loaned or given to others were returned to us as gifts, but the things we thought were safely in our possession were destroyed. It truly is better to give than to have to receive, but it is a great blessing when others express kindness in a time of great need.

What hobbies do you pursue, away from your work in the industry? 

Travel and involvement with our local church. We like cruising to different ports of call and experiencing the local culture. I have also had the opportunity to participate in a number of short term overseas mission project. These have included Brazil, Romania, Ethiopia, and Guatemala with activities ranging from construction through medical.

What 3 books would you take to read, if stranded on a desert island?

The Bible, John Maxwell’s latest book on leadership, and a translation guide to communicate with the natives.

What’s your favorite city or place to visit, for a holiday?

We have only made the trip once, but a cruise to the Persian Gulf that included Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Oman was truly a memorable experience. I hope to return in a few years to see the changes. While the opulence and petroleum infrastructure was staggering, it reinforced my desire of keeping those energy investments at home.

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Category: Million Minds

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