About Cindy Zimmerman

Cindy has been reporting about agricultural topics since 1980 when she graduated with a degree in broadcasting from the University of Florida. She is an emeritus member of the National Association of Farm Broadcasters and 1991 Oscar in Agriculture winner. She and her husband Chuck started ZimmComm New Media in 2003. They have three beautiful daughters and live near white sand beaches of Pensacola, Florida.

Focus on Ford in London

Ford has been generating ethanol excitement this week at the British International Motor Show in London with its Ford Focus FFVs.

Ford announced that UK supermarket giant Morrison’s – which recently became the first retailer to sell “bio-ethanol” – became the proud owner of the 1,000,000th Ford Focus FFV sold in the country.

The company also announced that the Focus is the first FFV to be backed by discounted insurance, and that a new study measured the Focus FFV emissions at under 100 grammes of CO 2 per kilometer – lower than comparable vehicles using hybrid technology.
Ford also unveiled the snappy little number in the photo with a name that sounds like a French wine – Coupé-Cabriolet. This concept car was one of three new FFVs Ford has on display at the show.

In addition, Ford announced it’s intention to invest at least £1 billion to reduce emissions and fuel consumption in the UK.

Toyota “Considering” FFVs

Toyota While all of the “Big Three” U.S. car makers are pushing their lines of flex-fuel vehicles (FFVs) capable of running on up to 85 percent ethanol, Toyota continues to mull it over.

A press release this week quoted Toyota Motor North America president Jim Press saying, Toyota is strongly considering introducing a flex-fuel vehicle program in the U.S. “We’re already developing vehicles that can operate in ethanol-rich Brazil and we’re optimistic that we can offer similar vehicles to American consumers.”
He said Toyota is also pursuing a plug-in hybrid vehicle that would be capable of traveling greater distances without using its gas engine, with the ultimate goal of conserving more oil, reducing smog and greenhouse gases to near zero emissions levels.

Press made his comments in a talk at the National Press Club (no relation to him), and numerous media outlets picked up the story out of DC from their own perspectives. The Chicago Sun-Times headlined that Toyota was “charging ahead with plans for plug-in hybrid.” Detroit Free Press noted that Press ” stopped well short of committing Toyota to bringing either technology to the U.S. market.” Associated Press headlined with Press’ denial that Toyota was thinking of hooking up with GM and buried the ethanol/plug-in angle about mid-article. Bloomberg focused on the plug-ins.

Bush Praises IRL Ethanol Use

IRL at the White House The Indy Racing League made a White House call Tuesday to meet with President Bush and talk about racing and ethanol.

Indy 500 winner Sam Hornish Jr. presented the president with an autographed racing helmet and IRL CEO Tony George “shared a brief exchange” with Bush about ethanol, according to an IRL news release. The IndyCar Series is using a 10 percent ethanol blend this season and will convert to 100 percent fuel-grade ethanol for all races in 2007.

“You’re leading edge, leading edge,” said Bush, who has touted exploration and support of alternative fuel sources in his State of the Union address for the past two years.

Tom Slunecka, executive director of the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council, was pleased with the president’s recognition of the IRL’s ethanol use. “We appreciate the sentiments of the Bush administration, which has been a long-time supporter of ethanol, and together with its efforts to bring more ethanol to the consumer, we believe ethanol can take our country a long, long way.”

Pretty BioWoman

Julia Earth Biofuels The stars just keep coming out for biofuels. The latest to lend a name to the domestic fuel movement is none other than Oscar-winning actress Julia Roberts, according to a release from Earth Biofuels.

Ms. Roberts joins fellow Oscar-winner Morgan Freeman and country music legend Willie Nelson in promoting the use of renewable fuels such as Earth Biofuels’ biodiesel and ethanol.

“It’s very important that we expand our use of clean energy and make a long-term commitment to it,” Roberts said. “Biodiesel and ethanol are better for the environment and for the air we breathe.”

The Advisory Board will provide guidance to senior management on key issues and will serve to broaden biofuels awareness on a national scale. Earth Biofuels and Ms. Roberts will collaborate on a program to encourage the use of clean-burning biodiesel fuel in the more than 500,000 diesel school buses currently in service across the United States.

Texas Groundbreaking

White Energy Dallas-based White Energy Holding Company broke ground Tuesday on a new state-of-the-art ethanol facility in Hereford, Texas. According to a Business Newswire release, the $117 million project is expected to be operational by the fourth quarter of 2007 and will have a nameplate production capacity of 100 million gallons per year (MGPY), placing White Energy among the top ten ethanol producers nationwide and the first operator in Texas. The company currently operates a 45 MGPY nameplate ethanol plant in Russell, Kansas that was recently acquired from U.S. Energy Partners, LLC.

The E-Squadron

Vanguard Squadron Ethanol-fueled airplanes are on the program for an air show at the Sioux Falls Regional Airport this weekend.

The Vanguard Squadron of Sioux Falls is a four-plane formation group that flies in air shows across the country. I had a chance to meet the entire squadron last week in Sioux Falls at the Broin Companies for media training. Here is a short interview I did with one of the pilots, Steve Thompson, who talks about why they have been using 100 percent ethanol in their planes since 1993. Listen to MP3 Thompson Interview (1 min MP3)

The Vanguard Squadron, which is sponsored by the Broin Companies, will also be appearing at the 2006 EAA AirVenture next week in Oshkosh, WI.

Michigan Ethanol Promo

Dave Camp Congressman Dave Camp (R-MI) hosted a promotion of E-85-fueled passenger cars and trucks Monday at the Dixie Motor Speedway. According to a story in the Saginaw News, representatives from DaimlerChrysler, Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Corp. attended to demonstrate their new flex-fuel vehicles, while the Michigan Corn Growers Association and Michigan Farm Bureau also participated to share perspectives on the future of ethanol and its impact on Michigan families, farmers and workers.

Cool Blue Fire

Blue Fire The logo is very cool and the company is “established to deploy the commercially ready, patented, and proven Arkenol Technology Process for the profitable conversion of cellulosic (“Green Waste”) waste materials to ethanol,” according to the Blue Fire website. The Irvine, CA-based corporation announced its management team this week, “led by Arnold R. Klann the founder of Arkenol and its cellulose conversion technology that has now been licensed on an exclusive and perpetual basis to BlueFire,” according to a MarketWire release.

Lots of interesting stuff on the website about this technology, as well as tribute to a Higher Power, for the inspiration and passion of the company’s founders. Amen. That’s pretty cool.

Pacific NW Ethanol Plans

The first Pacific Northwest ethanol plant is scheduled to break ground July 20 in Oregon. Cascade Grain is being constructed by JH Kelly Ethanol of Longview, Washington. According to JH Kelly, the plant will be the largest on the West Coast and one of the 10 largest in the United States. Cascade Grain has been working for more than six years on the 113 million gallon per year plant project which is expected to be complete in 2008. More on the story from the Longview (WA) Daily News.

Fill Up, Feel Good on the Highway

e-podcastThe latest “Fill Up, Feel Good” podcast from the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council is about ethanol hitting the highway.

Ethanol was the official fuel sponsor of the Interstate Highway System 50th Anniversary convoy across America last month and this report features some of the comments that were made about ethanol during the event.

The “Fill up, Feel Good” podcast is available to download by subscription (see our sidebar link) or you can listen to it by clicking here. (4:50 MP3 File)

The Fill Up, Feel Good theme music is “Tribute to Joe Satriani” by Alan Renkl, thanks to the Podsafe Music Network.

ACE Plays Pair of Governors

Kansas and Missouri may be rivals when it comes to college football and basketball, but they are on the same team when it comes to ethanol. That’s why governors of both states will share the stage at the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) 19th annual ACE Ethanol Conference & Trade Show August 8-10 in Kansas City, Missouri at the Crown Center. Missouri Governor Matt Blunt and Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius will both address the conference on August 9.

Missouri will also be represented at the conference by Senator Jim Talent who will receive ACE’s Legislative Leadership Award for helping champion the 7.5 billion gallon Renewable Fuels Standard in Congress.

More information on the conference is available on-line.

Farm Bureau Calls for More Tanks

AFBF The American Farm Bureau Federation is asking Congress to provide incentives for gas station owners to install storage tanks so that alternative fuels will be more available to the public. House and Senate bills H.R. 5346 and S. 2614 would provide those incentives for not only ethanol and biodiesel, but also compressed natural gas or hydrogen.

According to a release, AFBF President Bob Stallman sent a letter to members of Congress last week urging them to pass the bills, saying “The result of this legislation would be increased consumer access to alternative fuels and more use of such fuels as E-85 and biodiesel, which are renewable fuels produced from the crops grown by America’s farmers.”

Ethanol Prices

USDA One question everyone always wants to know is how much does ethanol cost? While some people in the industry can provide lengthy explanations about spot market prices and long term contracts and so forth, the short answer is – it varies from day to day and location to location. Unlike the oil industry, which is largely controlled by OPEC, there is not a cut and dried daily price for ethanol.

That being said, it is interesting to take a look at where prices might be in down the road – which is what the futures market is for. When the Agriculture Department released its report last week on the cost of making ethanol from sugar, USDA chief economist Keith Collins covered that issue as it related to the economic feasibility of sugar-based fuel.

Collins pointed out that in May of 2006, “ethanol sold at a 94 cent premium to gasoline” averaging $3.00 a gallon. “That is an aberration, that is a wide spread and it reflects this transition we’ve been going through as we shift from MTBE as an oxygenate to ethanol, and ethanol has been selling at a premium.”

However, Collins says the futures market believes both ethanol and gas prices will go down within the next six months. “If you go out to January 2007 delivery, gasoline falls to $1.94 (on NYMEX) and ethanol (on CBOT) falls to $2.50, the spread between the two is only 56 cents.” (Collins was quoting futures prices the week ending July 7)

Some media reports have taken that to mean that the ethanol gold rush will come to an end in six months and investors will begin selling out. What it really means is that ethanol prices will come back to more normal levels as production begins to catch up with demand. And, of course, the futures prices do not reflect the energy tax credits and incentives for ethanol at federal and some state levels.

Incidentally, the full USDA report on Ethanol Production from Sugar is now available in PDF form on the USDA website.

East Coast Ethanol

AEP Ethanol might soon become more available on the east coast. Agri-Ethanol Products of Raleigh, NC has announced that it now has financing to build as many as 20 renewable energy facilities from the Gulf states to New York. AEP is already building the first 100 million gallon ethanol plant located on the East Coast near Aurora, NC. According to a news release, at least two new North Carolina ethanol projects, in addition to the Aurora site, are anticipated as a part of the 20 potential facilities. Each of these facilities will produce 108 million gallons per year of undenatured, fuel grade ethanol; 380,000 tons of high protein DDGS and 320,000 tons of CO2, that will be purified and marketed into the food and beverage industries.

It’s a Wrap

Bean Bus The National Biodiesel Board is showcasing colorfully wrapped bean-powered vehicles. This photo is the “Bean Bus” at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Beltsville Agricultural Research Center in Maryland. NBB has a number of other photos of vehicle wraps on their website and they want more. If you have a creative way you’ve shown your support of biodiesel, send them a picture and a brief discription. Some of the other organizations that have sent in pictures include the South Dakota, Kentucky, Iowa and Minnesota Soybean Councils.