According to a new report, “Positive Energy Trends Bode Well for U.S. Security and the Economy,” smarter use of energy is the biggest contributor to three positive trends: reducing of oil dependence, slowing the growth of electricity needs and making energy services more affordable to Americans.
“Despite what you may be hearing from a final onslaught of negative campaign ads, the security and affordability of America’s energy services has never been better, and energy efficiency is the most important reason why,” said Ralph Cavanagh, co-director of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) energy program, who commissioned the study. “The latest data confirms that our consumption of energy, including oil and coal, remains well below its peak levels from a decade ago. However, we can and should do more.”
NRDC’s Second Annual Energy Report is an analysis of new government data on 2013 U.S. energy use that shows optimizing energy use through efficiency continues to contribute more to meeting U.S. energy needs than any other resource, from oil and coal to natural gas and nuclear power.
“Efficiency helps America get more work out of less oil, natural gas, and electricity while pushing our economy forward and cutting residential, business, and industrial customers’ bills,” added Cavanagh. “Far less costly than adding other energy resources like fossil fuels that also create climate-changing pollution, efficiency saves the nation hundreds of billions of dollars annually, prevents millions of tons of carbon emissions, helps U.S. workers and companies compete worldwide, and increases our energy security.”
The report notes the nation is already two-thirds of the way toward meeting President Obama’s goal of cutting 3 billion tons of carbon pollution by 2030 through his administration’s efficiency standards for appliances and federal buildings, which also will lower customer energy bills by more than $4 billion. Meanwhile, the government’s proposed emissions standards for existing power plants would keep over 5.3 billion additional tons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. But based on the nation’s positive energy trends, the report says even larger reductions are feasible and cost-effective.
Department of Energy Secretary Ernst Moniz was on hand to help Abengoa Bioenergy celebrate the grand opening of its cellulosic ethanol plant in Hugoton, Kansas. With a beautiful day and a full house, excitement was high as Moniz took the stage to congratulate Abengoa’s achievement.
The $500 million biorefinery was supported, in part, by a DOE loan guarantee. Moniz began his remarks by putting the bioenergy plant in perspective of the larger picture and that is as part of President Obama’s “all of the above” energy strategy.
Moniz said the cellulosic ethanol plant serves three major objectives:
- Growing the economy – creating jobs.
- Advancing our energy security interests. No only for the United States alone, but also for our allies and friends.
- Moving towards the low carbon economy- addressing climate change.
Moniz also noted the importance of the innovation chain, “…and what we’re seeing to today is part of that…But if we’re going to kick start this, we have to work with the private sector with state and local governments with our research institutions and laboratories to get these technologies deployed and drive those costs down to be competitive continued Moniz. So this plant shows all of these features.”
He said that while there will be a few rough spots along the road, what the country is seeing today is the beginning of a new industry.
Listen to Energy Secretary Moniz’s complete comments here:
Listen to Energy Secretary Moniz’s remarks: Energy Secretary Moniz Remarks
Check out the Abengoa Cellulosic Ethanol Plant Grand Opening photo album.
Propane supplies going into the winter are looking good this year. The Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) is citing U.S. Energy Information Administration information that expects a warmer winter and a propane stocks up 17 percent from a year ago in the Gulf Coast and Midwest, along with a 12 percent increase in production from 2013.
“These are positive signs,” said Roy Willis, president and CEO of the Propane Education & Research Council, “but our industry is working hard to ensure our customers are prepared. Propane retailers across the country remain focused on safety and encouraging customers to consider early fills, automatic refills, and payment programs now before cold weather hits.”
PERC launched a $5.5 million consumer safety and preparedness campaign in early September directing residential heating customers and agribusiness operators, among others, to propanecomfort.com. On the site, propane customers can take a quiz to determine if they are prepared for winter and review energy efficiency tips. Visitors can also sign up for news updates from PERC.
“Preliminary numbers for the campaign show that nearly 20,000 customers have already taken advantage of our online resources and we expect to see continued engagement as we get closer to winter,” said Willis.
PERC will TV ads through Thanksgiving in 30 states most affected by deliverability challenges and temporary price increases last winter.
The following is a guest editorial by American Coalition for Ethanol founder Merle Anderson.
I just want to remind EPA and Big Oil that I am still around. Since organizing the American Coalition for Ethanol nearly 30 years ago I have just celebrated my 93rd birthday.
I am damn mad because I think we’ve let EPA fool us into letting the fraudulent 10 percent ethanol blend wall stand. It has collapsed grain markets by dishonestly ending ethanol’s growing demand for corn and they call that free enterprise. I call it stealing many, many billions of dollars from agricultural economies.
That blend wall exists because EPA fooled people into thinking it is legitimate because fueling standard cars with E30 illegally increases gasoline’s hazardous emissions. Ever try drinking gasoline? My friend Orrie Swayze’s research agrees that E30 reduces gasoline’s hazardous emissions by 30% because, unlike gasoline, ethanol does not produce known human carcinogenic tailpipe emissions.
I also find it laughable that EPA claims E30 can harm standard auto engines. Show me a legitimate warranty denial. I have never owned a flexible fuel vehicle and fueled my last 7 vehicles with half E85 or used E30 through blender pumps to travel over 600,000 miles. When I traded in the vehicles, the engines were still in top condition.
When blender pumps were installed for the first time, I started hearing many positive remarks about ethanol’s engine performance. EPA tries to deny that standard auto owners have successfully driven millions of miles annually on popular, high octane E30 since blender pumps were installed five years ago. Our typical report still is “more power and can’t tell any difference in mileage compared to E10.”
I challenge agricultural and ethanol leaders to dare and expose EPA’s lies that built the blend wall. I also urge that you use E30 in standard vehicles and openly endorse premium E30 as the legal, safest, best, lowest cost fuel choice on the market today for standard vehicle owners.
Researchers for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are making advancements on an advanced biofuel, cellulosic ethanol. This article from the USDA says the scientists at the Bioenergy Research Unit in Peoria, Illinois, have recently completed studies on multiple approaches that could help streamline cellulosic ethanol production.
In one study, a team led by ARS chemical engineer Bruce Dien looked at using switchgrass, a perennial grass native to the prairie, for ethanol production. The team concluded that biomass producers could optimize cellulosic ethanol production by planting Kanlow variety—a lowland ecotype—and harvesting at either mid-season or post frost. Results from this study were published in Environmental Technology in 2013.
ARS chemist Michael Bowman led another study of switchgrass xylans, which is challenging to convert to sugars with enzymes because of its complex chemical structure. Bowman determined that structural features of xylan remained the same as the plant matures, even though the amount of xylan changed with maturity. This is good news for biorefiners, because it suggests that they can use the same biomass hydrolyzing enzymes to break down xylans in all switchgrass biomass, no matter when the crop is harvested. Results from this study were published in Metabolites in 2012.
The article also gives progress reports on work with microorganisms needed to ferment xylose—molecules that make up xylans—into ethanol and promising field trials with a yeast strain that grew almost four times faster than other strains that contained XI enzymes and one that could produce ethanol at significantly greater yields than other yeasts engineered to ferment xylose to ethanol.
Two biotechnology companies have been recognized for their contributions to making green chemicals. Amyris and Solazyme, Inc., received awards in the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge for industrial biotechnology applications that produce farnesene and algae oils. The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) sent its congratulations to its member companies on receiving the awards, which recognize industrial biotechnology’s contribution to reducing pollution at the source.
BIO President & CEO Jim Greenwood said, “Industrial biotechnology applications once again are recognized in the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge for their ability to prevent pollution. Today’s award for Solazyme marks the first time that a microalgae biotechnology application has been recognized. Solazyme’s algae oils are a sustainable alternative to petroleum. Likewise, Amyris’ farnesane is a breakthrough renewable hydrocarbon that displaces petroleum in diesel and jet fuels. I congratulate both Solazyme and Amyris on receiving their accomplishments.”
Amyris received the Small Business Award for its design of farnesane, a hydrocarbon building block that can be converted into a renewable, drop-in diesel or jet fuel.
Solazyme received the Greener Synthetic Pathways Award for oils produced through microalgae fermentation. These oils can be tailored to replace or improve upon traditional vegetable oils and petrochemicals.
The Environmental Protection Agency has been handing out the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards each year since 1996. About a third of the nearly 100 annual awards given were awarded to biotechnology and biobased applications.
Farmers are using… but also making… a lot of energy. A new report from the U.S Energy Information Administration shows that American agriculture used nearly 800 trillion British thermal units (Btu) of energy in 2012, or about as much primary energy as the entire state of Utah. While growing and harvesting the crops and the energy needed to raise livestock are significant expenditures (with crop operations consume much more energy than livestock operations), those same farms are also big contributors to our nation’s fuel supply.
Energy makes up a significant part of operating expenditures for most crops, especially when considering indirect energy expenditures on fertilizer, because the production of fertilizer is extremely energy-intensive, requiring large amounts of natural gas. For some crops like oats, corn, wheat, and barley, energy and fertilizer expenditures combined make up more than half of total operating expenses. The proportion of direct to indirect energy use varies by crop. For example, corn, which is also used as an energy input for ethanol production, has relatively low direct fuel expenditures but has the highest percentage of fertilizer expenditures.
The energy consumed in livestock operations is almost solely direct energy consumption and is relatively low compared with crop operations, both as a percentage of total operating expenditures and on a total energy basis…
In addition to being major energy consumers, some farms are using renewable resources to produce energy. Wind turbines, methane digesters, and photovoltaics are the most common on-farm renewables. Renewable energy can help to offset the need for purchased energy. In some cases, the renewable energy produced on farms is sold to electric power suppliers, providing additional income for farmers.
The report also says that water and chemicals used in agriculture can be big users of energy resources.
Renewable Fuels Association’s (RFA) President and CEO Bob Dinneen has submitted a letter to the California Air Resources Board (CARB) where he expresses concern over their analysis of indirect land use (ILUC). He writes, “serious concerns about the openness, transparency, and scientific integrity of staff’s new indirect land use change (ILUC) analysis for the California Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS).”
On September 29, 2014 CARB hosted a workshop where they disclosed they were planning to disregard the latest published research on ILUC. They have committed to using the current ILUC modeling despite the voluminous amount of stakeholder comments received.
RFA, along with near 40 other stakeholders, submitted detailed technical comments in April 2014 aimed at improving CARB’s analysis, but “it was abundantly clear that the information submitted by stakeholders in the spring had been wholly disregarded” by the time CARB held its September public workshop. CARB staff gave no reason as to why it ignored the comments “even when stakeholders explicitly asked for staff’s rationale for ignoring new information.” CARB staff also remained vague about future plans to examine the new information. Because CARB staff failed to explain why it disregarded the technical comments submitted by RFA in April, the extensive comments were re-submitted.
Moreover, Dinneen’s letter highlighted CARB staff’s misguided belief that it is “not productive” to examine real-world data concerning agricultural land use. Dinneen remarked that, “Any objective scientist would find it prudent to examine the real-world data to determine whether predictive model results agreed with actual observed outcomes… Certainly, it is difficult to disentangle the real-world impact of biofuels expansion from the effects of other factors on actual global land use—but that does not mean CARB staff shouldn’t at least attempt to ground-truth its predictive results against real-world data.”
As an example of the disconnect between CARB’s ILUC modeling results and the real world, Dinneen noted that CARB’s model predicted that roughly 100,000 hectares of forest would be converted to cropland for biofuels production between 2001 and 2015. But real-world data show no U.S. forest loss has occurred; instead, U.S. forestland has grown 7 million hectares since 2001.
Dinneen concluded by calling on CARB to ensure its staff is transparent in its decision making and responsive to legitimate stakeholder concerns, stating, “We urge you to ensure that the CARB staff responsible for the ILUC analysis are held accountable for their decisions and abide by the agency’s long-standing norms for science-based rulemaking.”
The full letter can be found here.
A new Indo-U.S. Advanced Bioenergy Consortium for Second Generation Biofuels (IUABC) has been launched. Partners include the government of India’s Department of Biotechnology, Indian corporate leaders and Washington University in St. Louis, who have invested $2.5 million in the consortium. The IUABC is a joint bi-national center led by Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay (IITB), and Washington University.
The Indian transportation fuel infrastructure is undergoing massive transformation due to increased consumer demand and a growing population, which is estimated to reach 1.6 billion by 2050.
“Biofuels are an essential solution to this demand challenge, not only to bridge the supply between traditional fossil fuels and consumer demand, but to deliver better environmental performance,” said Himadri Pakrasi, PhD, director of I-CARES, Washington University’s center for research on energy, the environment and sustainability, and the university’s McDonnell International Scholars Academy ambassador to JNU. “Over the next three years, the IUABC will invest significantly in the knowledge base in India and the U.S. to meet this challenge.”
The goal of the center is to increase biomass yield in plants and algae, enabling downstream commercial development for cost-effective, efficient and environmentally sustainable production of advanced biofuels.
The lead organizations are all members of the McDonnell International Scholars Academy and the new consortium strengthens this relationship.
Fuel prices are on the decline and the Renewable Fuels Association wants to know how low E85 is at your station.
In an effort to promote E85 (85 percent ethanol, 15 percent gasoline) sales and track E85 prices, RFA is offering the opportunity to win FREE E85 for one year with a simple snap of a camera and click of a mouse. All you have to do is submit a photo of an E85 pump to www.chooseethanol.com/PostYourPrice and the winner will be drawn at random. E85 is currently sold at more than 3,440 stations and is approved for use in all flex-fuel vehicles.
“The more information we collect on E85 prices, the more we are able to track and ensure consumers receive a fair price for the high-octane, environmentally-friendly fuel. We hope consumers have fun with this contest, but also understand the cost-saving benefits of higher-level ethanol blends,” stated Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the RFA.
E85 offers tremendous price savings for consumers, often being sold at $0.75–1.00/gallon less than E10 gasoline. However, RFA recently uncovered signs of price gouging in the St. Louis market during the 2014 summer driving season. It examined retail E85 prices at nine Big Oil-branded stations, finding an average E85 price of $3.48/gallon while the average E10 price stood at $3.45/gallon. The St. Louis retail price for E85 was surprising, given that wholesale E85 prices in St. Louis averaged $2.58/gallon compared to $2.93/gallon for E10. When factoring in RFS RIN prices, locally-available ethanol prices, hydrocarbon blendstock, and a more typical markup, RFA concluded that E85 could have been sold to consumers at retail prices as low as $2.44–2.55/gallon.
In addition to an overall winner, two others will be chosen receive free E85 for a month. This award will be given to the individual who posts a photo of the largest gap between E85 and regular unleaded gasoline and the individual who posts a photo of the smallest gap between E85 and regular unleaded gasoline.
Find out more about the contest here.
It’s no secret that we think the folks who make biodiesel are angels, but one actually now will get her own HALO! Cassandra Lin, a teenager from Westerly, Rhode Island is part of that area’s Project TGIF, Turn Grease Into Fuel, a student-led project where restaurants and residents recycle their waste cooking oil, it gets turned into biodiesel and is donated to charity to support families who require heating assistance. She’ll be honored by the kids’ TV network Nickelodeon with one of its HALO – Helping and Leading Others – awards. The star-studded musical event is being held in New York City and showing across all Nickelodeon networks, streaming on the Nick.com website and the Nick app on Sunday, Nov. 30, at 7 p.m. (ET/PT).
“We’re taking over New York City with the hottest music performers and the most awe-inspiring kids for one huge fun night at this year’s Nickelodeon HALO Awards,” said [pop music star Nick] Cannon. “The HALO Awards embodies the altruistic spirit of the holidays with its positive message and I can’t wait to celebrate the terrific work of these young heroes.”
If you live in Rhode Island, Project TGIF has more information about drop-off locations and details on its website.
As the world celebrated World Food Day yesterday, the folks at the National Biodiesel Board (NBB), along with their friends at the American Soybean Association (ASA), make the case that the biodiesel industry, soybean growers and livestock producers are an important part of the food chain.
“The world has a protein gap that needs to be filled,” said American Soybean Association World Initiative for Soy in Human Health Chairman Andy Welden. “Our crop offers soybean meal for livestock feed and human food, which at the same time, creates an abundant supply of soybean oil for biodiesel.”
October 16 is annually recognized as World Food Day. The 2014 Theme is Family Farming; Feeding the world, caring for the earth. The United States produces more than 3.2 billion bushels of soybeans a year, offering an abundant supply of meal for human foods and livestock feeds as well as oil for biodiesel and other uses. U.S. soybean growers also participate in support sustainability programs for conservation and other environmental practices.
NBB also pointed that increased biodiesel production benefits poultry and livestock farmers, as increased amounts of soy oil for biodiesel production also means more soy meal is available for livestock feed and human food. The group added that, according to the United Nations, 805 million people are estimated to be chronically undernourished in 2012–14. But that number is actually down more than 100 million over the last decade, in no small part because of the ASA’s World Initiative for Soy in Human Health (WISHH) that assists developing country entrepreneurs and leaders in filling the “protein gap” with nutritious soy-based foods as well as livestock and aquaculture feeds.
Along with reducing the cost of livestock feed, biodiesel also adds value to animal fats. In 2013 demand for fats and oils for biodiesel production increased the value of beef tallow an estimated $567 million, pork fat an estimated $165 million, and poultry fat by more than $51 million, making the production of animal protein more economical.
If you’re an ethanol advocate, there’s an app for that from the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA).
In this edition of the Ethanol Report, RFA president and CEO Bob Dinneen talks about the new app, what it does, who should use it, and why they developed it. He also comments on when we might yet see a final rule on the 2014 volume requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard and how railway transportation issues continue to impact the industry.
Ethanol Report on New Advocacy App
The world has been introduced to the largest batter powered vehicle developed by BYD Motors. The company unveiled the double barreled EV bus during the 2014 American Public Transportation Association (APTA) Expo in Houston, Texas this week. During a ceremony, attendees were invited by VP Michael Austin to, “throw off the shackles of a single-fueled system – an electric platform is ‘adaptable’ – it becomes cleaner as you do, through the use of renewable wind, water and solar renewable power generation.
Austin challenged the status-quo of those promoting fossil fuels as a clean alternative. “The consequences of our choices today will leave a legacy that our children will live with, both environmentally and economically, for decades into the future.”
The Lancaster eBus, a 60-foot, articulated battery-electric bus, can drive 170+ miles with a passenger load of up to 120 people. “BYD’s mission is to create safer and more environmentally-friendly battery technologies. This has resulted in the BYD Iron-Phosphate Battery, a fire-safe, completely recyclable, and incredibly long-cycle technology — the foundation of BYD’s Electric buses,” BYD Motors Fleet Sales Vice President, Brendan Riley. “These buses run entirely off battery power lasting up to 24 hours on a single charge, with single off-peak charging time of 2-4 hours. No additional generation capacity is needed to be built to charge our buses at night since the grid is only 40% utilized.
Also on display at the BYD Exhibit was a 40-foot, Battery-electric Transit bus from Antelope Valley Transit Authority. AVTA Board Chairman Norm Hickling boasted that the 40-foot bus on the Expo show floor was the only bus, “that drove over 1500 zero-emission miles from Los Angeles all the way to Houston for the Expo under its own power.”
AVTA tested BYD buses in the hottest part of the Lancaster, California summer in August with full air-conditioning running and with 5250 pounds of sand bags to simulate a full passenger load. Hickling added, “We drove nearly 100 miles more than BYD advertises — up to 250 miles per bus charge and we covered almost 750 miles in 24 hours! We are very impressed with BYD technology and quality. The most interesting news about this 1500 mile journey to Texas is that it was completed for $200 in electricity–the lowest cost trip to the show of all buses.”