Obama Maintains Commitment to Biofuels

According to a top aide to President Obama, the White House is still highly supportive of renewable fuels. Heather Zichal, Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change made this statement during the Renewable Fuels Association’s Washington Legislative Forum that was held this week at the Newseum in Washington, DC.

“One of those most promising [clean energy] industries has been American biofuels,” said Zichal. “Right now, domestic biofuel production is at the highest level ever. In fact, monthly production has increased more than 40% in the last three years. That means that biofuels are already reducing our dependence on oil, cutting pollution, and creating jobs across the country.”

Zichal referenced the need to continue the expansion of the biofuels industry that includes advanced technologies. Last year, President Obama set a goal of breaking ground on at least four commercial scale cellulosic or advanced biorefineries by 2013. She said this goal has been met ahead of schedule and combined, the biorefineries will produce nearly 100 million gallons of advanced biofuels each year.

“[S]o last week, we were encouraged when the biofuels community stood behind EPA’s implementation of the Renewable Fuels Standard – which we think is critical tool to promote growth in renewable fuels production in the years ahead,” said Zichal. “At the same time, we’re taking steps to help level the playing field. Not only has the Administration supported repealing subsidies for oil and gas companies, the President announced yesterday that we’re taking new steps to crack down on manipulation in the oil markets to help protect consumers at the pump.”

While production is important, Zichal also underscored the Obama Administration’s commitment to infrastructure and deployment of renewable fuels and technologies. “Now, as we produce more biofuels, it’s also important that we focus on deployment. If you think back to when America was moving from horseback to rail and then cars and trucks, we didn’t say your own your own. We laid tracks and paved roads and built bridges to accelerate the transition. We need to make a similar effort on biofuels.”

Zichal commended the work beging done by various government departments including the Dept. of Agriculture and Dept. of Energy to bring biofuels, such as ethanol to the market.

“The Obama Administration has been a trusted and reliable partner with America’s growing and evolving ethanol industry,” added RFA President and CEO Bob Dinneen. “President Obama and his team appreciate the vital contributions already being made by existing ethanol producers and are committed to ensuring the commercialization of promising new ethanol technologies.”

Solar Power Fastest Growing Utility Source in 2011

New findings by the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) have found that solar power is the fastest growing source of energy for the utility sector in 2011. Solar power capacity grew by 120 percent from 2010 as utility companies contract for more solar power. In 2011, utilities installed more than 62,000 PV systems of various sizes that equates to nearly 1,500 megawatts of electricity per year. If the pace of solar power adoption continues, 2012 should be another record breaking year.

“In addition to the photovoltaic systems added by customers and third-party producers, much of the growth has come from the direct actions of utilities,” says Julia Hamm, SEPA President and CEO. The findings show that 39 percent of new solar capacity came from utilities owning or contracting for solar power. Large solar projects, greater than 10 megawatts each, represent the bulk of this capacity.

The two regions of the greatest growth were the Southwest and the east. The Top 10 utilities, according to SEPA’s annual Utility Solar Rankings survey, added more than 1,000 megawatts of solar power in 2011. Overall, 240 utilities added solar capacity in 2011 for a total of 1,500 megawatts. The installed capacity represented a mix of large utilities, rural co-ops and consumer installed systems. This is equivalent to six new natural gas power plants.

“This is a marked shift from a few years ago, when customer-owned, net-metered systems dominated installed solar generation,” said Hamm. “Today, utilities are taking a greater role in the expansion of solar power in the United States.”

Pacific Gas & Electric held the top spot for the 4th straight year. Public Service Electric & Gas Co. based in New Jersey was also in the top 10 along with Southwestern Public Service based in New Mexico. The full report will be available in May 2012.

Jerome Taylor Awarded Champion of Change

MFA Oil CEO Jerome Taylor has been recognized by the White House for being a Champion of Change due to his cooperative’s work in helping to build the renewable energy industry. He was one of nine people honored by the White House yesterday and is no stranger to the biofuels industry. In 2006, Taylor was honored with the Fields to Fuel Marketing Award (now the Paul Dana Marketing Vision Award) by the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) for his support of ethanol.

“Jerry Taylor and MFA were already promoting ethanol and making E85 available in their Break Time convenience stores and 24-hour cardlock sites when ACE started our Market Development program twelve years ago,” said ACE Senior Vice President Ron Lamberty. “Jerry picked up some of our “Why is Ethanol Good for My Car” brochures at a Missouri Petroleum marketers’ trade show, and over the next several years MFA distributed tens or even hundreds of thousands of them through their retail units.”

Lamberty continued, “MFA has provided a roadmap for other petroleum marketers who want to promote and sell ethanol profitably, and ACE is thrilled that those efforts have been rewarded with recognition by the White House.”

Sen. John Hoeven Discusses Domestic Fuels Act

The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) hosted it’s first ever Washington Legislative Forum this week and Senator John Hoeven took time to discuss the elements of the bipartisan Domestic Fuels Act that was released this past March. The discussion was timely as RFA recently released results of a poll showing that 58% of respondents were more likely to purchase fuels with higher domestic renewable fuel content, like E15, when available.  The Domestic Fuels Act is aimed at making it easier for retailers to offer consumers higher blends of ethanol.

“We need to make all fuels available to American consumers and businesses, and we need to do so by using market-based measures that increase competition and remove bureaucratic obstacles to producing and marketing renewable fuels,” said Hoeven. “This is really about giving customers more choice and better prices at the pump by empowering retailers to market multiple fuels using the same equipment. That’s good for the customer, good for business and good for the nation.”

Hoeven pointed out some specific benefits of the Act that included:

  • Streamline the process so that all fuels, both traditional and renewable, can be stored and dispensed with common equipment.
  • Provide liability protection for retailers that meet the streamlined EPA standards, so that they can sell multiple types of fuel with less red tape, providing consumers with more choice and lower fuel prices.
  • Establish a new pathway for retailers to ensure that their equipment is safe and legally recognized as compatible to sell new fuels, thereby reducing the cost of entry for many retailers.

RFA President and CEO Bob Dinneen added, “Expanding the availability of fuel choices like E15 directly reduces America’s demand for imported oil and creates jobs and economic opportunities that cannot be outsourced. The Domestic Fuels Act is a perfect example of the kind of thoughtful policies that can be created when all stakeholders work together for the common good.”

Algae Technology May Clean Up Dirty Water

OriginOil has announced that a breakthrough chemical-free process developed for algae harvesting may also aid in the clean up of dirty water that is a byproduct of oil well water flooding and hydraulic fracturing. According to the company, using a lab prototype of the technology, its researchers have successfully clarified samples of flowback water from a Texas oil well carrying frac flowback. In essence, the technology separates the organics from the water, which then float to the surface and from there can be easily removed.

Hydro fracturing is becoming more popular with petroleum companies and in states like North Dakota operations using this technology are gearing up. Large amounts of water are used to release the oil and gas, lodged deep in rock formations, oil that until this technology was developed, couldn’t be harvested. The market grew 63 percent, from $19 billion in 2010 to $31 billion in 2011 and is expected to rise another 19 percent in 2012 according to Platts.

“Our research team has learned that extracting petroleum and contaminants from water is very much like extracting algae,” said Riggs Eckelberry, OriginOil CEO. “They are both very hard to remove without using chemicals and heavy machinery. Our innovative chemical-free, high flow and low-energy process holds promise for the billions of gallons of water used daily in the oil and gas industry worldwide.”

Oil production uses a lot of water and the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that for every barrel of oil produced globally, an average of three barrels of contaminated water is produced. In worse case scenarios, the water to oil ration can be as alarming as 50 to 1. As a result, the market for cleaning the water is growing, and Greentech Media reports it costs between $3 to $12 to dispose of each barrel of water. Therefore, the market for water cleaning technologies could be between $300 billion to $1 trillion per year.

Eckelberry added, “It seems that in addition to helping create the renewable energy market of the future, we may add value to a massive existing energy market. We will continue to investigate and report on this promising new application of our technology.”

Carbon Prices Must Go Up

According to EU environment ministers, the carbon price must be urgently boosted to fix the EU’s Emissions Trading System (ETS) and fight climate change. This message was delivered today during in an informal discussion in Horsens, Denmark. The focus of the meeting was whether or not to raise the carbon price in the ETS.

In a statement by the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) who held its annual international wind conference earlier this week, the carbon market is overflowing with spare emission allowances due to the economic crisis.  The result has been the lowering of carbon prices.  EWEA says the most effective way to push the price back up is by avoiding too many allowances coming into the market in the next few years.

“The EU ministers need to ensure no more emissions allowances are put on the market,” said Rémi Gruet, Senior Regulatory Affairs Advisor for EWEA. “This must be included in the Energy Efficiency Directive, currently being negotiated between the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament, where decisions can be taken by a majority of Member States. This directive is the only upcoming legislative opportunity to push such a measure.”

EWEA says the European Parliament supports such as move and voted by a large margin in favor of withholding carbon allowances in the ETS and voiced it’s decision in the low carbon roadmap 2050 that was released this past February. In addition, there is major support from energy companies and the wind energy industry for such a move to take place.

RFA Forms Renewable Fuels PAC

A Political Action Committee (PAC) has been formed by the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA). Referred to as the Renewable Fuels PAC, it will be used by RFA members to support federal office candidates that are believed to be pro-biofuels and support domestically produced renewable energy, such as ethanol. RFA submitted its statement of organization on April 5, 2012 to the Federal Election Commission.

“Domestic renewable fuels offer America a real opportunity to put an end to our addiction to imported oil while creating jobs and putting American ingenuity to work creating fuel technologies for the future,” said RFA President and CEO Bob Dinneen.

“In order to ensure the full potential of American renewable fuels is realized, consistent and forward-looking public policy is essential. The Renewable Fuels PAC will allow RFA members to contribute to candidates for federal office that share our view that ethanol and all renewable fuels are an essential element in our nation’s energy, economic, and environmental strategy,” concluded Dinneen.

Matt Hartwig will serve as the Renewable Fuels PAC Treasurer.

Movie Review – Carbon Nation

I took a brief break from my 2012 La Nina Reading list to watch a documentary on climate change.  Carbon Nation touts itself as a “climate change solutions movie that doesn’t even care if you believe in climate change.” Yet this movie does care about climate change.  The narrator says, “We thought we had time to figure things out. Trouble is there is no more time. Climate change is happening now.”

The movie features many of the same players and same technologies as other films – Lester Brown, Van Jones (who just released Rebuild the Dream, which I will be reviewing soon), Amory Lovins, and Thomas Friedman.  In terms of technologies, it covers wind, solar, geothermal, biofuels, and it also has sections that discuss land use, deforestation, transportation, and energy efficiency.

The movie was well done, interesting and had great graphics. In addition, I really liked some of the people who were interviewed – real down to earth people who are taking clean technologies into their own hands. The other thing I liked about the movie was the way it broke down how each technology or action will or can affect carbon.

What do I mean?

For example, globally, the world uses 16 terawatts (TWh) of energy each year. Of those, it is estimated that when fully developed, solar could produce 86,000 TWh, geothermal 32 THw, and wind 870 THw. In other words, these three technologies alone could replace all fossil fuel based energy and leave room for growth. This doesn’t even include the amount of energy saved and carbon reduced when you factor in gains from energy efficiency and land use strategies.

Continue reading

Nevada Opens New Gas-to-Energy Plant

Waste Management has opened another gas-to-energy power plant in northern Nevada at its Lockwood Landfill.  The landfill gas will be captured and converted to electricity – enough to power more than 1,800 homes.  Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval was on hand at the ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the first of its kind of project in the state.

When organic materials break down, they create a gas comprised of nearly 55 percent methane gas (a gas more potent than carbon dioxide in terms of climate change).  The gas is captured via collection wells strategically placed around the landfill and then pipe the gas to the power plant. Once the gas arrives, it is used to fuel two generators.  It is estimated that the electricity produced will offset around 700 railcars of coal.

“The Gas-To-Energy Facility at the Lockwood Landfill ensures that not even garbage will go to waste,” said Justin Caporusso, Waste Management spokesperson. “By investing in landfill gas-to-energy, we are powering homes using the same waste that is left at the curb.”

Waste Management (WM) cites some benefits of the project including the plant is not dependent on other sources of energy like wind or solar; it’s reliable during peak energy hours; it’s an economical alternative to other fuel sources such as natural gas; and it’s endorsed by the Environmental Protection Agency.  In total, WM operates 131 landfill gas-to-energy facilities across North America equating to more than 9 million mW hours of electricity per year.

Paul Pabor, vice president of renewable energy for WM added, “Waste Management has been developing landfill gas-to-energy technology for over two decades, and we operate more of these facilities than any other company in the United States. As a leader in this industry, we understand how landfills operate and how to use technology to extract the most value from the waste stream.”

Book Review – Roosters of The Apocalypse

The second book in my  2012 La Nina Reading List was “Roosters of The Apocalypse,” by Rael Jean Isaac. This book could be a dictionary definition of “opposite” as compared to Climate Wars. Where Climate Wars is on the far right side of hysteria of the evils of climate change, Roosters of The Apocalypse is on the far left side of hysteria that it is a major, orchestrated hoax upon the world that is costing us billions upon billions of dollars.

So what is a rooster anyway? Isaac quotes Richard Landes who describes “those who initiate and build support for these movements as roosters (aka Al Gore) for they crow an exciting new message, and their opponents as owls, gloomsters counseling caution and skepticism (Real Issac).” Issac weaves the message of the Xhosa throughout the book, a parable about an orphan girl’s vision of truth. I can’t tell you her truth because I was unable to follow the thread. Rather than explain it in one section, she drops little nuggets of the story throughout the book and not in a clear, concise way.  I could have looked up the story on Google, but quite frankly, I’m far to lazy to go to the trouble.

Anyway, the key to building momentum is getting “elites” to join the cause. Al Gore, or U.S. Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid would be considered rooster elites.  Once that happens, ordinary people will join in.  Isaac tells the story of how the prophecy of global climate change caught fire and spread around the world in breathtaking speed.  While doing this, she deconstructs all the “deceptive techniques” and fakery” used by organizations such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). I won’t rehash the scandal involved in their report but the bottom line was accusers claim they fudged the numbers to support climate change.

It is no doubt that those on the “right side of green” will make millions on global climate change.   Continue reading

Incentives and Fuel Demand Boost Biofuels

According to a new report from GlobalData, government incentives and fuel demand are helping to boost biofuels markets. “Biofuels (Biodiesel and Bioethanol) Market – Global Production, Regulations, Export-Import Analysis and Key Country Analysis to 2020,” found that countries in Europe, Asia and North America (U.S.) are heavily involved in biofuel production – both ethanol and biodiesel.

Ethanol production globally began in ernst in 2003 and has grown significantly with the help of government subsidies. Canada and China both have blending targets, as well as the U.S. who passed a Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS2) to drive the use of biofuels. In 2003, production numbers were 33,514 million liters and grew to 105,608 million liters by 2011. The Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) was 15.4 percent during this time period and the report expects production to grow another 4.4 percent between 2011-2020.

Biodiesel production picked up speed on a global level in 2005, and has also seen various government subsidies and incentives spurring growth. Key biodiesel exporters in 2010 were Germany, China, the Netherlands, Argentina, Belgium and the U.S. In 2005, global production of biodiesel was 4,854 million liters, and grew to 23,579 million liters by 2011. Biodiesel boasted a CAGR rate of 30.1 percent and is expected to grow an additional 3.5 percent between 2011-2020 for an annual production level of 4,205 million liters.

The report says the the growth demonstrates the importance of government and environmental policy for the current growth of the industry. It also concludes that future production increases will be dependent on similar support from global governments.

Celebrate Global Wind Day

Did you know that June 15 is Global Wind Day? Well now that you do, there are many fun activities you can take part in to learn more about wind power.

The event is coordinated by the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) along with the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC). This year, they are holding a photo competition.  To enter, find a way to convey wind energy technology in a new way. You can capture the turbines at dawn or capture the activities that take place around a wind turbine or in any way your heart desires.

Once you get your award winning picture, submit your photo to the Global Wind Day website. The winner will receive a  €1,000 Amazon voucher and the winning photo will become part of online professional photography archive.  The photo will also be published in Recharge and Wind Directions magazines.  Five runners up will get a voucher worth €250.

Yet what might be the coolest aspect of the competition is that all photos will be displayed in the European Union section of the event being held in Brussels.  The deadline for submissions is May 6th so you’d better start snapping away!

Wind Energy ‘Green Growth’ Report Released

The wind energy industry contributed $32 billion Euros to the European Union’s (EU) gross domestic product (GDP) between 2007 and 2010. In addition, the industry grew more than twice that of the EU’s GDP overall. The information is part of the ‘Green Growth‘ report that was released today during the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) International Conference.

The report also determined that the number of people employed in the wind energy industry increased by 30 percent from 2007 to 2010 with approximately 240,000 people employed in the field. It is estimated that there will be nearly 520,000 jobs in the sector by 2020.

The industry was a net exporter of 5.7 billion Euros worth of goods and services in 2010 while the energy created avoided 5.71 billion euros of fuel costs in the same year. In addition, the industry invested approximately 5 percent of its spending back into research and development (R&D), while on average, wind turbine manufacturers invested close to 10 percent of their revenue back to R&D.

“Wind energy is a recession-busting industry,” said Arthouros Zervos, President of EWEA. “It is countering the recession – providing increasing economic activity, more jobs and exports every year to an EU struggling with an economic crisis intensified by ever increasing amounts of fuel being imported at rising costs to European citizens.”

To ensure the continued growth of the industry, Green Growth states that several things must happen including stable national renewable energy frameworks; a post 2020 energy policy with a binding renewables target for 2030; a joined up European power grid and single energy market; a more ambitious 30 percent greenhouse gas reduction target for 2020; and sufficient and dedicated EU funding for wind energy research.

Incentives Help Drive PV Market

The solar photovoltaic (PV) systems market is growing with the help of government incentives that encourage investment. This news came as a result of a new report by GBI Research, “Semiconductors in Solar PV Power Systems to 2015 – Government Incentives and Feed-in Tariffs to Create Growth Potential for Semiconductor Manufacturers.” The report concludes that investments in renewable energy will continue to be a major driving force of technological advances in the global semiconductor market. Semiconductors are used in solar PV systems.

The growth of the industry was helped along by programs such as feed-in tariffs (FIT). The majority of countries leading in solar PV adoption are in Europe including Germany, Italy, Czech Republic, France, and the UK. While there is no federal FIT program in the U.S., some states have experimented with them including California, Florida, Hawaii, New Jersey, and Washington.

Both China and Japan have announced their support in being the leaders in creating more efficient solar PV technologies and this has also helped boost the semiconductor market. Sales in solar PV systems were nearly $27.8 billion in 2011 are expected to grow to $32 billion by the end of 2015. Ultimately, the increase in semiconductor revenue has been invested back into development and improved the technology’s efficiency, which has improved the efficiency of solar PV systems.

The report said that next technological advancements will be focused on reducing energy losses and cost-per-watt in an effort to extend the grid to more remote places.

Renewable-Energy Exporter of the Year

The Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank) is awarding Northern Power Systems (NPS), a Vermont-based company that designs, manufactures and sells wind turbines globally, its Renewable-Energy Exporter of the Year Award. The honor was given today during the Bank’s 37th Annual Conference in Washington, D.C.

Northern Power Systems is a great example of an innovative company that is creating American jobs by helping other nations meet their energy needs,” said Fred P. Hochberg, chairman and president of the Ex-Im Bank. “Ex-Im’s financing for renewable energy projects exceeded $720 million last year, and the Bank remains committed to supporting U.S. exports in this vital sector.”

NPS 100 wind turbines are exported into European Feed-in-Tariff (FIT) wind farms and hybrid power applications. Typically, the wind energy offsets diesel-generated power. To help grow its business, NPS recently used Ex-Im Bank’s Renewable Express financing to export 55 wind turbines for a FIT project in Italy. This was the largest export sale from the U.S. to date.

John P. Danner, President and CEO of Northern Power Systems said of the award, “Ex-Im Bank helps NPS successfully compete in global markets by allowing us to offer customers very attractive project financing. We are looking forward to expanding our relationship with Ex-Im beyond Italy to the United Kingdom and numerous other markets.”