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.

Phoenix Flex Fuel

E85 can now be sold in the greater Phoenix area. Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano recently signed a bill into law that will allow the alternative fuel to be available throughout Maricopa County, according to a release from the National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition.
“Our deep appreciation is extended to Representative Boone and his associates, as well as Weights and Measures, and the Legislative Staff for an important, well crafted and well needed piece of legislation,” said Colleen Crowninshield, Clean Cities Coordinator of the Tucson Regional Clean Cities Coalition. Good thing – since the Clean Cities Congress will be held in Phoenix May 7-10.

Alternative Fuel Vehicle InstituteDomestic Fuel coverageSouthern California Gas Company
of the Clean Cities Congress is made
possible by these sponsors.

Answering the Critics

During the “Truth about Ethanol” conference call last week (see previous post), I got to ask the guys to answer the critics who charge that ethanol and corn production rely too heavily on natural gas and nitrogen fertilizer. Bob Dinneen of Renewable Fuels Association, notes that the ethanol industry continues to evolve, “$11 natural gas is a great motivator to look at other technologies,” such as biomass gasification and methane digestors. “Our industry is unrecognizable from what it was five years ago, it will be unrecognizable again five years from now.” Jon Doggett with the National Corn Growers Association says farmers are using precision farming and precision fertilizer application, “we are producing the same units of corn with a third less fertilizer than we did seven years ago,” and seed companies are working on corn plants that use significantly less nitrogen than those being grown today.
The reporter after me asked the same question, so here is the complete Q and A on that topic. (2:20)

Slow Start For New Team Ethanol Driver

SimmonsA crash during practice and another on lap 40 of the Indy Racing League Twin Ring Motegi gave new Team Ethanol driver Jeff Simmons an 18th place finish in the 20 car field over the weekend. Simmons was unhurt, but the No. 17 Ethanol car did sustain some damage. Needless to say, Simmons was disappointed with his Rahal Letterman Racing debut, according to Motorsport.com. “It is really disappointing for everyone on Team Ethanol. This is never the way you want to start anything. Crashing two cars in one weekend is something I have never done before. As disappointed as I am right now we will move past this and start to focus on Indianapolis.”
Meanwhile, his RLR teammates had better luck. Buddy Rice started 18th and finished 5th, while Danica Patrick started 14th and finished 8th.

Biofuels Hearing

senate ag The U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry will be holding a hearing on the “State of the Biofuels Industry” Wednesday, April 26, 2006 at 10:00 am. The witness list includes Renewable Fuels Association president Bob Dinneen, National Biodiesel Board CEO Joe Jobe, CHS Inc. Executive Vice President Jay Debertin and Iowa State University professor Robert C. Brown, Ph.D (read previous post about Brown’s bio oil research).

Summit Welcomes “Pro-Ethanol” President

RFAPresident Bush will be headlining the 2006 Renewable Fuels Summit Tuesday in Washington. “Growing America’s Energy Security” is the theme of the summit, sponsored by the Renewable Fuels Association, which is understandably “proud to welcome the most pro-ethanol President in history” to the invitation-only event. Other honored guests include Sen. Ken Salazar (R-CO); Reps. Jack Kingston (R-GA), Gil Gutknecht (R-MN), and Jerry Weller (R-IL); Chrysler Group CEO Thomas LaSorda; former CIA Director R. James Woolsey; and American Petroleum Institute president Red Cavaney.

Prices Fueling Partisan Politics

Higher energy costs were the subject of dueling Earth Day radio addresses by President Bush and the Democratic Party. Bush at NREL
Here’s part of the president’s address, promoting the administration’s energy initiative:

…hydrogen fuel cells, one of the exciting new technologies supported by my initiative. These fuel cells have the potential to revolutionize the way we power our cars by giving us vehicles that will emit no pollution and will be more efficient than gas-powered cars.
My Advanced Energy Initiative will also help improve hybrid vehicles — cars and trucks that run partly on electricity and help drivers save gas. We’re funding research into a new generation of plug-in hybrid vehicles that could be recharged in electrical outlets and could allow many drivers to make their daily commute using no gasoline.
By developing these and other new sources of clean renewable energy like ethanol, we will continue growing our economy, reduce energy prices and protect our environment, and make America less dependent on foreign oil.

NelsonMeanwhile, Florida Senator Bill Nelson spoke for the Democrats, saying the same thing needs to be done, but claiming the administration’s emphasis is on drilling rather than “the tough policy changes needed to make a real difference.”

More hybrid vehicles, and alternative fuels such as ethanol made from cost-effective crops would make a huge difference — and, relatively quickly.
We have the technology to raise the mileage standard for all passenger vehicles to at least 40 miles per gallon. The president has urged only a modest 2 miles-per-gallon increase for light trucks.
We should produce synthetic fuel from coal, with attention to global warming concerns.
We should set a course of developing an engine that is powered by a new source of energy such as hydrogen, which will also be less polluting.

Read Past the Headlines

Over 120 articles on a Google news search for ethanol are coming up with headlines blaming ethanol for gas shortages in Texas and on the East Coast. But if you read the whole article, there’s a little more to it than that.

Take this AP report, for example. The lead sentence says stations are facing shortages as “the industry grapples with a transition to more ethanol-blended fuel.” Read on and you find analysts “emphasized that the problem has more to do with delivery schedules than a dearth of fuel,” and that the problem will be temporary.

US Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman is quoted placing the blame for higher gas prices right where it belongs – on crude oil.

”There’s no simple way to bring down high crude prices,” he said, pointing out that the climb has been due to supply concerns stemming from global production disruptions and geopolitical tensions, as well as strong growth in global demand for oil. Crude futures for June delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange closed at just above $75 a barrel, a record high. Gasoline futures for May delivery closed at $2.24 a gallon. ”I wish there were a magic wand I could wave that would cause prices to decline,” Bodman said. ”There isn’t one. We’re continuing to deal with the same issues we’ve been dealing with — suppliers having a hard time keeping up with demand.”

The supply disruptions are mainly due to terminal owners having to drain their tanks of MTBE-laced gasoline before they fill them up with ethanol blends, a delay that ideally should take maybe a day or so for any one terminal, making this a very short term shortage.

Pricing Right at the Pump

This article in the Billings (MT) Gazette offers a refreshingly positive look at ethanol compared to many stories in the mainstream media this week. While acknowledging some of the concerns, such as negative publicity regarding the fuel’s energy balance and the lack of flex-fuel vehicles and E85 pumps, it notes that ethanol in Montana is being priced right.

Sherrie Allyn, manager of the Quealy Sinclair gas station in Laramie, said E85 was selling at $1.89 per gallon Friday, compared with $2.59 for regular unleaded. That’s a 27 percent savings, which more than makes up for a nearly 10 percent loss in fuel efficiency that new flex-fuel vehicles will have while running E85 instead of gas. “It seems to be picking up. More and more people are using it,” said Allyn, whose station is one of only three in the state selling E85.

The article also points out that the availability of flex-fuel cars and E85 pumps is increasing dramaticially and new technologies on the horizon offer even more-efficient methods for producing ethanol.

Clean Cities Congress Highlights

Clean Cities Congress Have you registered for the Clean Cities Congress May 7-10 in Phoenix yet? If not, here are a few good reasons why you should.
1. John McCain, U.S. Senator from Arizona, will welcome attendees to his home state on Monday, May 8.
2. Dr. Robert Hirsch, Senior Energy Program Advisor at Science Applications International Corporation, will give the keynote address Monday on why peak oil is a global problem of unprecedented proportions that deserves “immediate, serious attention.”
3. Toronto Star Auto Reviewer Jim Kenzie will provide an engaging look at alternative fuel vehicle and advanced technology options that are available in the marketplace today during Tuesday’s general session.
4. Lori Weiss, “Comedienne of an Environmental Nature,” will entertain during the closing general session on Wednesday, May 10.
5. You don’t want to be left out. With an expected 1,500 attendees and 85 exhibitors, this is the largest alternative fuel and vehicle technology gathering in the world.
Register on-line today. You’ll be glad you did!
Alternative Fuel Vehicle InstituteThe Alternative Fuel Vehicle Institute (AFVI) and Southern California Gas CompanySouthern California Gas Company are sponsoring Domestic Fuel coverage of the Congress.

Toyota Moving Forward To Flex Fuel

ToyotaToyota apparently intends to follow the U.S. car manufacturers flex-fuel lead and start producing cars that can run on ethanol. According to business reports out this week which site “an unnamed company executive” and a Toyota spokesperson, Toyota “acknowledged that Japan’s top auto maker was developing flexible-fuel vehicles, mainly for the ethanol-smitten Brazilian market for starters, but declined to disclose specific product plans.”

Questions About Ethanol Imports and Tariffs

Ethanol imports and the Brazilian tariff made up the majority of questions from the media during the “Truth About Ethanol” press conference Tuesday. Why do we need to import any ethanol if the industry can meet the demand? How much ethanol will we import this year? What about a temporary waiver of the Brazilian import tariff? What are the secondary tariffs on ethanol? How does the Brazilian tariff fit into the WTO negotiations and is it vulnerable to a challenge? Do you expect an unsuccessful effort to repeal the tariff and by who? Obviously this is an issue that the media believes is important. RFA president Bob Dinneen did a very good job of explaining the entire tariff structure for ethanol in response to one question. What I found interesting was that because ethanol can enter the US duty free from a number of countries – such as those in the Caribbean Basin Initiative – Brazilian ethanol can basically circumvent the secondary tariff by going through another country. Listen to Dinneen’s entire explanation here.

Ethanol Gets Media Ears

The Truth About Ethanol press conference today (see previous post) lasted nearly an entire hour and included questions from media such as UPI, Chicago Tribune, Inside US Trade, Des Moines Register, Inside Washington, and Congress Daily as well as a number of farm journalists, although not as many as I would have expected. Bob, Bob and Jon did a pretty darn good job fielding some tough questions about the Brazilian tariff, in particular. It was the first question that was asked, in fact – do you think there will be a major legislative effort to remove the tariff? NCGA’s Jon Doggett answered simply, “No, I don’t.” When asked to elaborate, he said there are a lot of things congress won’t get done this year and this is on that list. RFA’s Bob Dinneen was a little more specific, “I don’t think there’ll be a successful effort to lift the tariff. The fact of the matter is, it’s not necessary.” Listen to the first Q and A of the Truth press conference here.
Like I said, this conference was almost an hour long, so I will break it down into smaller bites to feed over the next few days.

EPA Honors Willie

WillieThe Pacific Southwest region of the Environmental Protection Agency today honored biodiesel advocate and singer Willie Nelson for his support of the cleaner burning fuel. According to the National Biodiesel Board, the award was presented during the agency’s eighth annual Environmental Awards Ceremony in San Francisco.

Nelson first heard about biodiesel two years ago from his wife, Annie, pictured here with him at the National Biodiesel Conference in February.

Enzymes Enhance Ethanol Efficiency

Dyadic Dyadic International, Inc. is working to make ethanol production more efficient. That’s just one of the uses this Florida-based company has found for biological products such as proteins, enzymes, polypeptides and other such things in the agricultural, industrial, chemical and biopharmaceutical industries. For example, they actually pioneered the stone-free method used to make “stone-washed” blue jeans. Instead of tumbling them in the washer with pumice stones, manufacturers use a cellulase enzyme isolated from a fungus to selectively modify the fabric surface. For real! Now they are redesigning the enzyme to “make ethanol quicker, better and cheaper,” according to Dyadic CEO Mark Emalfarb. Chuck interviewed both Mark and Dyadic Chief Science Officer Glenn Nedwin at BIO 2006, and it is a very interesting conversation about how this fungus-derived enzyme can help to make more ethanol from corn and also bring down the cost of making ethanol from other sources. Listen to it here: Listen To MP3 Dyadic Interview (8:00 MP3)
AgWired coverage of BIO 2006 was made possible by: Rhea & Kaiser Marketing Communications