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Alumnus Wes Bolsen Advocates Biofuels as Setting Course for U.S. Energy Independence

September 7, 2011

"I don't want anybody to think that Rose-Hulman only graduates engineers.  It puts out problem solvers," Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology alumnus Wes Bolsen told a standing-room-only crowd at Rose-Hulman Ventures as part of this summer's James R. Baumgardt Distinguished Speaker Series.

Bolsen is among a legion of Rose-Hulman alumnus who has found success outside of engineering.  As Chief Marketing Officer of biofuels innovator Coskata, the 2000 electrical engineering graduate is working to solve some of the nation's energy problems.  He recently was named the top CMO in the U.S. (among companies with revenues less than $250 million) by the CMO Institute on www.CMO.com.

Coskata is a Chicago-based company that's on the cutting edge of new technologies that are set to revolutionize the biofuels industry.

"When we talk about biofuels everyone says, 'what about batteries?'" Bolsen stated.  He points out that developing and implementing battery-powered vehicle technology across the board is a gradual process.  "Liquid fuels are going to be used for at least the next 50 years," he added.

Coskata's hybrid gasification plus fermentation process is a proprietary technology which involves the use of patented microbes, specially developed to produce ethanol from a variety of biomass feedstock.  The hybrid technology allows for greater efficiency, while the microbes enable Coskata to make fuel without tapping into our nation's food supply.

"I don't believe in 'food or fuel', I believe in 'food and fuel'," Bolsen explained.  "We don't need more corn-based ethanol, but we need more biofuels."  His vision involves the use of a various sources of biomass, including trash to make fuel.   Ideally, he said, these items would be sourced locally, and processed in local facilities, eliminating the need for transportation costs while increasing job opportunities in rural areas.

Lowering dependence on foreign oil would enhance the U.S.'s energy security, and influence the way the country interacts with the rest of the world.

"Let's start shifting global politics and taking our future into our own hands," Bolsen encouraged the student interns, faculty members and staff.

Bolsen credited his achievements to his faith, family and perseverance. 

"Sometimes it's the willingness to charge forward and not let someone tell you 'you can't'," he told the audience.  His keys for success included first replacing the term "success" with "significance," emphasizing  that's it's not those who have the most possessions, but those who make a difference in the lives of others who truly succeed.

Bolsen enhanced his Rose-Hulman education with a master's of business administration degree from Stanford University.

"Knowledge matters, but people matter more," he said.  "Know what you are working and living for . . . know what matters to you most and why . . . leave a legacy behind with people."

Bolsen added: "Rose-Hulman wasn't just an institution - somewhere I came to get an education - it was a family."