What’s the Real Deal with E15?

What’s the real deal with E15? Do we hate it? Do we love it? Well Big Oil certainly has not shown an affinity for the ethanol fuel blend. But why?

Ron Lamberty ACEAccording to Ron Lamberty, Senior Vice President for American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE), American Petroleum Institute (API) began its campaign against E15 as part of its attempt to get rid of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS2). One of the things API has done, explains Lamberty, is hyped a study by CRC that found E15 could be harmful to your vehicle. Yet what hasn’t gotten out, he says, is that when CRC submitted the request for proposal, they sought out vehicles that would be particularly sensitive to higher blends of ethanol.

When you dig into the study, says Lamberty, you discover that CRC tested cars that already had issues such as leaky values, engine leaks and all kinds of trouble lights. So of course, he says, the cars would be sensitive to all blends of ethanol. Yet interestingly, the data also shows that the cars had the SAME trouble when using 100 percent gasoline.

So how is this a valid study? It’s not.

Get a great breakdown of the study in my  interview with Ron Lamberty: What's the Real Deal with E15?

View the ACE Biofuels Beltway March 2013 Photo Album.

Sapphire Energy To Sell Algae-Based Crude to Tesoro

Sapphire Energy has entered into an agreement to sell its algae-based Green Crude oil to Tesoro Refining and Marketing Company. Under the agreement, Tesoro will purchase crude oil from Sapphire Energy’s Green Crude Farm in Columbus, New Mexico, which recently reached a new milestone: continuous cultivation and crude oil production. This begins the first step of a commercial relationship to process Green Crude oil from Sapphire’s future commercial facilities.

SAPPHIRE ENERGY, INC. GREEN CRUDE OIL ALGAE“In less than one year, Sapphire Energy has started up its commercial demonstration to grow algae; has produced crude oil from our farm; and now with Tesoro as our first commercial customer, we’re providing barrels of our oil to be refined for market use,” said Cynthia ‘CJ’ Warner, CEO and chairman of Sapphire Energy. “This moment is enormously important for the industry as it validates the benefits and advantages of Green Crude, and confirms its place as a market-viable, refiner-ready, renewable crude oil solution.”

Sapphire says it is now producing crude oil daily from algae biomass. The company says its process enables algae to be processed without the need for a timely and costly drying step. With this process, which is the result of more than four years of research, development and field trials, the entire algae cell is now used in oil production, greatly improving yield. Furthermore, the process is scalable, and has proven to be effective with a wide range of algae strains.

In initial testing by Sapphire Energy, Green Crude oil was refined into on-spec ASTM 975 diesel fuel, proving its compatibility with the existing network of pipelines, refineries and transport systems. Moving forward, the company plans to grow production significantly to further expand its commercial demonstration and begin the transition towards commercial-scale production.

Joel Larkins, vice president of Renewable Development at Tesoro, added, “Tesoro is continuously looking at new technologies for producing renewable fuels. We are pleased to become a purchaser of Sapphire Energy’s Green Crude, which shows promise as an alternative fuel solution.”

What is a RIN?

Recently, Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) gave a one minute briefing on what, exactly, is a Renewable Identification Number (RIN). Shimkus explained:

“Mr. Speaker, there’s been a lot of media coverage on RINs.

A RIN is a Renewable Identification Number, which is given to refiners upon the purchase of renewable fuels. It is then used by refiners every February to establish that they have met their previous year’s obligation under the Renewable Fuel Standard.

These recent stories raise a question as to why RINs are being blamed in the increase in gasoline prices. RINs are given away for free by ethanol and other renewable fuel producers to refiners and only have value in the submission of the report in February. We are currently in the month of March and soon to be in April.

There are questions that need to be asked on why such swift dramatic price shifts are being reported in the market. Are speculators at work? There is an excess of over two billion RINs. Why is that not proving and providing stability?

I encourage the media to ask these types of questions, but to simply jump on and blame the renewable fuels sector is incorrect.”

Big Oil’s Big Stall

ace logoBig Oil lobbed another attack today against the biofuels industry. Brian Jennings, executive vice president of the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) responded by saying the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) is not about the oil industry’s comfort; it is about providing cleaner American-made alternatives to consumers.

“The RFS costs taxpayers nothing and is doing exactly what Congress intended; saving consumers money at the pump and providing them access to new affordable blends such as E15. The RFS is also disrupting the lucrative choke-hold oil companies have on the market. As a result, Big Oil is desperate to repeal the RFS this year.”

Jennings continued, “With respect to Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs), every time a refiner blends a gallon of ethanol with gasoline, they get a RIN for free. When they purchase more ethanol than the annual RFS obligation, RINs are a reward and provide value to them. The fact there are 2.5 billion excess RINs available for use in 2013 is proof that over-compliance has been commonplace with oil companies. Refiners only have to buy RINs if they refuse to follow the law, and that’s what this is about – they have had more than six years to evolve and comply with the law, but have refused to adapt and change.”

“Most refiners are trying to keep an oversupply of RINs on hand, to be sure that they are able to control the marketplace. The current Big Oil hue and cry isn’t about ethanol supply; it is fear of actual competition,” concluded Jennings.

Remembering Ethanol’s Past, Looking to Future

Remember the days when the ethanol industry was growing like gangbusters? And then the industry was hit with overblown concerns that are still prevailing such as “food versus fuel,” “land use” and environmental concerns relating to just how much greenhouse gas reductions biofuels offer as compared to traditional petroleum fuels. Then the recession took down ethanol plants, companies and consumers alike, and yet the ethanol industry still bounced back. Not enough hardship? Que last summer’s drought. Once again the ethanol industry took another hit and with this, the rural communities where most ethanol facilities are located, have begun to struggle as well.

The New York Times is remembering ethanol’s past and looking to ethanol’s future in its article, “Days of Promise Fade for Ethanol.” With nearly 10 percent of the plants idled and ethanol storage nearing capacity due to a drop in gasoline use, the Times is asking the question of whether ethanol’s light has faded. While the industry admits Kids Visiting Advanced Bio Energy Planttimes have been challenging, Todd Sneller, with the Nebraska Ethanol Board (NEB), says in the article that the industry remains optimistic that technological innovations and sound public policy will keep the industry afloat.

So what would happen to consumers across America if the ethanol industry fades away? One doesn’t have to live in a rural community to feel the impact if such a situation were to occur. Gas prices would go up. The country would need to increase its dependence on oil with all the problems that brings. People who were able to live and work in their hometowns will leave for jobs in larger communities with higher living expenses and less pay. Local, rural businesses will shut down. Homes will be shuttered.

Is ethanol’s light truly fading? Not if the industry can help it. The biofuel industry brings good paying jobs to rural areas across the country. Ethanol both extends the gas supply and lowers prices at the pump. Ethanol is a proven environmental asset for the transportation sector. Ethanol and the ethanol industry has other benefits as well. Yet why don’t people around the country or other know this? Because the industry doesn’t do a good enough job of telling its story in visually compelling ways.  Where are the faces of ethanol? Are you one? Get involved, tell us your story. The industry needs to be heard so it’s light keeps shining strong.

Thank a Farmer Today

This week is Ag Week. Have you thanked a farmer yet?

For those of you reading this post and wondering why you should thank a farmer, remember that they not only produce our food, but also our fuel and fiber. Growers are planting and harvesting crops that are used to create biofuels – biodiesel, ethanol, cellulosic and soon algal-based biofuels.

Need some inspiration? Watch country singer James Wesley music video, “Thank a Farmer.” You can find James’ song on YouTube and purchase it at iTunes.

Solarbrush Robot Takes Industry by Storm

A robotic invention by Ridha Azaiz, an aspiring German Engineer, is taking the global solar industry by storm. Spurred by the need to keep solar systems clean, or the energy yield of the solar panels would decline, Azaiz developed the Solarbrush.

SolarbrushAzaiz explains that a dirty solar power system only produces two thirds of its power, so Ridha Azaiz came up with a solution. Where solar power systems are most useful – in the aptly named ‘Sunbelt Countries’ like Morocco and Saudi Arabia or Arizona and California – sand deposits are a major problem for solar panels. His Solarbrush robot brushes sand and dust from solar panels until all the particles fall into the gaps away from each panel and onto the ground. Other robots suck, wash and clean the panels with water and detergent.

Azaiz explains these devices are difficult to use and require pumps and pipes which are usually more expensive than a small car. However, Solarbrush produced in higher quantities would only cost around $3,000 per robot. Solarbrush expects that to be profitable, four robots at a time need to be supervised by a service team. Currently, the Solarbrush robot needs to be manually moved from one row of solar panels to the next.

His technology is being noticed and Azaiz’s Solarbrush won the hy! Berlin Hardware Award. Now he is bringing his technology to America, and specifically San Fransisco where he will showcase his technology during the Clean Tech Forum and meet with potential investors.

80 ChargePoint EV Charging Stations for NY

New York will soon be the home of more than 80 new ChargePoint electric vehicle (EV) charging stations. The program is being funded through a $1 million incentive from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). The EV charging station installed at The Solaire in Battery Park City is ChargePoint’s first Bloomberg-EV-Charging-Stations-ChargePointinstallation of what will be part of a significant NYSERDA EV charging station investment. The Solaire, developed in 2003 by the Albanese Organization is the nation’s first LEED Gold-certified residential building.

“Upgrading the city’s EV infrastructure to new, universal ChargePoint chargers is imperative to the future success of a sustainable society. By working with ChargePoint and NYSERDA to bring new chargers to our LEED-certified rental properties in Manhattan, The Solaire, The Verdesian and The Vanguard Chelsea, the Albanese Organization hopes to inspire more drivers to consider electric vehicles, while providing current adopters with new access to convenient charging locations,” said Russell Albanese, Chairman of the Albanese Organization. “The partnership of ChargePoint and NYSERDA has been an excellent example of the public and private sectors working together to make a great contribution.”

Last year, Governor Cuomo announced $4.4 million being awarded to 10 EV companies, municipalities and other entities, including ChargePoint, to bring 325 charging stations to New York. Earlier this year, Governor Cuomo announced Charge New York, a new initiative to promote EVs through investing $50 million over five years. The program calls for investment in 3,000 public and workplace charging stations by 2018, plus other steps meant to encourage the growth of electric vehicle ownership. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has also announced a plan to make up to 20 percent (or 10,000 spaces) of new New York City parking spaces EV-ready over the next seven years.

“New York is laying the foundation to become a leader in the United States for EVs,” said Pat Romano, president and CEO of ChargePoint. “The majority of residents in New York City live in apartments and without this kind of public infrastructure investment, residents would not be able to buy electric vehicles.”

Energy Security Trust Not the Answer

Advanced Biofuels LogoAdvanced Biofuels USA says President Obama’s proposed plan for an Energy Security Trust is not the right solution. The organization calls the plan, “counterproductive, insufficient and inconsistent with previous Administration statements regarding the urgency of addressing the harmful effects of climate change.” Advanced Biofuels USA says that if the Obama Administration is serious about reducing the effects of climate change and reducing national security threats to the US, anything less than a carbon tax invested in achieving specific goals of electricity use reduction and transition to truly renewable transportation fuels is unacceptable.

The organization states that the Energy Security Trust is the opposite of what needs to happen: reduce the consumption of all energy types, and convert non-renewable GHG producing fuels to renewable non-GHG producing fuels.

They counter with the proposal of the immediate passage of a carbon tax that would be used to 1) to fund a major research effort  focused on producing 75 percent of our transportation fuel needs from advanced biofuels within a decade; and 2) a 50 percent reduction in US electrical energy use.

In conclusion, Advanced Biofuels USA states, “If the Administration is serious about reducing the effects of Climate Change and reducing National Security threats to the US, anything less is unacceptable.”

Fast Stop in Cresco, Iowa Offering E15

E15 Blender Pump in Cresco IowaDave Sovereign from Cresco, Iowa has been busy. Last week he helped to convert the Fast Stop station he owns in his hometown to E15. Then he caught an airplane to Washington, D.C. to participate in the American Coalition for Ethanol’s (ACE) Biofuels Beltway March where he met with a number of freshman Congressman. Fast Stop, located in Northeast Iowa at 22268 Highway 9 West in Cresco, marks the fourth retailer in Iowa to offer consumers additional fuel choices at the pump.

Sovereign said from the time the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association helped him file the application to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to become an approved seller of E15, it only took about 45 days to when he began to sell the fuel. In the case of Fast Stop, Sovereign said they already had a blender pump in place so it was just a matter of adding E15 to the pump using EPA’s recommendations.

“Consumers need more renewable fuel choices to support our communities and keep dollars in our local economies,” said Sovereign. “Since flex-fuels were not available in Cresco, a group of local business leaders formed an LLC, purchased land and constructed a fueling location to remedy this Dave Sovereignsituation. Also, with unblended 87 octane gasoline no longer being shipped through the pipeline this fall, ethanol blended fuels will dominate Iowa’s fuel market and we wanted to be on the cutting edge with E15.”

During his meetings with legislators, Sovereign discussed E15 and told his personal story about bringing E15 to his area. He said that the majority of those he met with were optimistic about ethanol and that the legislators appreciated his coming to DC to hear is story first hand.

Listen to the interview with Dave Sovereign interview here: Fast Stop in Cresco, IA Offering E15

View the ACE Biofuels Beltway March 2013 Photo Album.

Copper Mountain Solar 2 Facility Dedicated

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and Boulder City Mayor Roger Tobler joined Sempra U.S. Gas & Power officials and community leaders to dedicate the state’s newest solar energy project, the 92-megawatt (MW) first phase of the company’s Copper Mountain Solar 2 facility in Boulder City. Sempra says Copper Mountain Solar 2 is one of the CopperMountainSolar1country’s largest photovoltaic (PV) solar plants, and when its second phase is completed in 2015, the project’s total operating capacity will be 150 MW, or enough energy for 45,000 homes.

“Large-scale projects such as this shows that Nevada continues to be a leader in developing renewable energy and is another step towards making our state the western hub of renewable energy activity,” Gov. Sandoval said. “With an abundance of sunshine in the Silver State, this project will harness the sunlight and turn it into clean electricity, while creating jobs for Nevadans. I’m pleased to be a part of this dedication ceremony.”

During the dedication, Martin announced the start of construction of Copper Mountain Solar 3. When completed in 2015, the project will be capable of generating 250 MW, or enough electricity to power about 80,000 homes. In all, Copper Mountain Solar 1, Copper Mountain Solar 2 and Copper Mountain Solar 3 will represent one of the largest solar power complexes in the U.S., capable of generating 458 MW.

“Our hats off to the leadership in the state of Nevada,” said Jeffrey W. Martin, president and CEO of Sempra U.S. Gas & Power. “This state is a shining example of how a pro-growth business climate continues to attract clean energy investments. Our success here today also reflects the vision and leadership of Pacific Gas & Electric, which stepped forward to procure the output of this facility for the next 25 years.”

Global Wind Day 2013 Photo Competition

Global Wind Day logoThe European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) and the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) have launched a global photo competition – ‘Discover the stories behind wind energy’. Deadline for submissions is May 5, 2013. The first prize winner will receive a 1,000 Euro voucher. Second prizes of 250 Euros will be awarded by region. The winning photographs will be displayed in the European Parliament in Brussels in June. They will also be published in the renewable energy newspaper ‘Recharge‘ and EWEA’s magazine ‘Wind Directions‘.

Prize winners will be announced on Global Wind Day, the worldwide day ‘to discover the power of wind energy’ that occurs annually on June 15 with several hundred events, exhibitions, open wind farms and local activities organized in about 40 countries all around the globe, as well as online actions.

You can find information on the photo competition here.

SE Region of Cleantech Open Launches in Miami

A new Southeast Region of Cleantech Open is launching in Miami and Sean O’Hanlon has been named the Area Director for Florida, the Caribbean and Latin America. The Cleantech Open is a source of potential funding for cleantech entrepreneurs. Startups submit their ideas and technologies and compete for funding and along the way experts help mentor the entrepreneurs on how to take their ideas to market.

Cleantech Open logo“Cleantech Open is the world’s oldest and largest cleantech accelerator that is currently working with entrepreneurs in more than 30 countries,” said O’Hanlon. “It’s the most effective way for promising startups to reach a broad national and international network to receive the investment and mentoring support in order to truly be transformative and provide solutions in diverse areas such as energy, agriculture, and water/wastewater.”

Together with Cleantech Open business development co-chairs, Marianne Canero and Sonia Succar Ferré, O’Hanlon is launching Cleantech Open in South Florida during an event on March 28th starting at 6pm and will be hosted in partnership with Wexford Science & Technology at the state-of-the-art University of Miami Life Science & Technology Park.

William D. Hunter, Wexford Project Leasing Manager who is currently leading the $110 million Phase 1 project for the urban research park said, “This is an ideal synergy to bring together innovators in the cleantech industry to our facilities where we provide the infrastructure and interdisciplinary opportunities to foster the development of life sciences, technology, and biotechnology innovations. We are excited to be part of the Cleantech Open initiative.”

The launch event will be the start of an eight-month business accelerator program in which clean and green entrepreneurs from around Florida, the Caribbean, and Latin America are invited to submit their business concept to receive training and mentoring from business leaders that cultivate into funding for their business. The accelerator program will culminate in November when finalists go on to compete at the national level competition.

Kalaeloa Solar Farm Now Generating Power on Oahu

Kalaeloa Solar FarmThe new 5MW Kalaeloa Solar Farm has gone online in West Oahu, Hawaii. Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie joined representatives of the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL) and Hawaiian Electric Company during during an event hosted by Bright Plain Renewable Energy (BPRE), who manages the solar farm.

“Hawaii has growing energy demand and abundant sunshine, and it makes sense for the state to maximize our use of this clean, reliable and affordable solar resource,” said Governor Abercrombie. “I applaud partners Bright Plain Renewable Energy, SunPower, Hawaiian Electric Company, and the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands for uniting to build this project. As the largest, most productive solar farm on Oahu to date, it will have significant positive impact on the state’s renewable portfolio standards goal of 40 percent by 2030.”

At the 36-acre site, SunPower installed its SunPower solar panels on a SunPower T0 Tracker system. According to SunPower, the Tracker positions solar panels to follow the sun’s movement during the day, increasing sunlight capture by up to 25 percent over conventional fixed-tilt systems, while significantly reducing land requirements.

“Solar is a valuable source of power and attractive investment opportunity, particularly in Hawaii, as it cleanly and reliably serves our growing energy demand without imported fossil fuels, while providing a predictable, low risk return to investors over a long period of time,” said David Buzby, CEO of BPRE. “We’re confident that, with SunPower’s leading solar power plant technology, this project will benefit the residents of Oahu for years to come.”

The solar farm is the first utility-scale solar project on state land, located on 36-acres leased from the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands. Hawaiian Electric will buy the power produced by the solar farm under a fixed-price contract for 20 years.

Bioenergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDFMass Megawatts Wind Power will be exhibiting a prototype of its new patented, ‘Wind Electric Power Generator’ with only seven moving components at the Denver Home Show being held at the National Western Complex in Denver, Colorado on the weekend of March 15, 2013 through March 17, 2013.  This wind-based, power system produces reliable, low-cost, and clean energy that’s well suited at remote and rural locations, including agricultural and commercial facilities.
  • The National Algae Association has made a last call for presentations for it’s Commercial Algae Farming Workshop being held April 11-12, 2013. Presentations will include growing for Nutraceuticals (Omega 3, EPA, DHA), pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, feed, food, bioplastics and organic fertilizer, CO2 and nutrients, harvesting and extraction methods and financing opportunities.
  • DuPont has joined the Office of the Chief Scientist (OCS) in the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor Global Enterprise R&D Cooperation Framework.  The OCS provides a one-stop-shop to enable new opportunities for collaboration between DuPont and Israeli start-up companies focused on food, energy and protection.
  • The European Parliament has called for the “successful” 2020 renewable energy target to be prolonged to 2030. The European Commission will be publishing its Green Paper on 2030 energy policy soon.
  • Steve Hartig, currently Vice President Bio-Energy with DSM’s Bio-based Products & Services unit, has been named General Manager POET-DSM Advanced Biofuels LLC, and is responsible for the roll-out and licensing of the JV’s integrated technology packages.