Recent Department of Commerce figures are showing that despite an effort for America to curb its imports of foreign oil, they are actually increasing. This at the cost of billions of dollars flowing to foreign companies, governments and citizens. For this reason, Clean Fuels Development Coalition (CFDC) is urging Congress to be mindful of the significant contributions from ethanol. They also applauded Growth Energy’s call for new thinking about ethanol tax incentives and the need to improve market access.
Douglas A. Durante, CFDC Executive Director, in a call with reporters this week, said that disjointed policies regarding tax incentives and market initiatives needed to be reconciled if first generation ethanol is going to lead to 2nd and 3rd generation biofuels. Durante noted that the incentives to blend have certainly been effective but with the E10 blend wall facing the industry, such an incentive has little or no value when there is nowhere to put the product.
At the helm of Friends of the Earth, a new report was released today highlighting government programs and subsidies that are wasteful to taxpayers, harmful to the environment and bad for consumers. The Green Scissors 2010 report targeted four major areas for budget cuts including energy, agriculture and biofuels, infrastructure, and public lands.
Many of the recommendations of this report come as no surprise to the agricultural and biofuels industry, as over the past two weeks, members of Friends of the Earth surreptitiously called agricultural organizations across the country, questioning them about their methods of production.
According to an industry insider whose company received multiple calls from various people in the employ of Friends of the Earth, the organization was asking questions about ground water quality (ag production, mainly corn and soybeans have been linked to the Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone) and hypoxia; two issues that have made national headlines in recent weeks. It is also no secret that Friends of the Earth has engaged in an active anti-agribusiness and biofuels campaign over the past few years, and the environmental organization has been tied to Big Oil through contribution monies.
They write on their website, “Tens of billions of dollars of taxpayer money has already been wasted under the credit [VEETC]. And these funds do little more than to further line the coffers of the oil industry. This coalition is working to prevent an additional 30 billion plus dollars from being lavished on the industry to fulfill a legally mandated requirement to blend an environmentally harmful fuel into another environmentally harmful one.” Continue reading →
The University of Tennessee Biofuels Initiative (UTBI) is closely watching how more than 1,000 acres of newly planted varieties of switchgrass will compare to current varieties. This project is part of a U.S. DOE project that was developed to study improved efficiencies in bioenergy production from biomass. The scale of the acreage will allow for assessment of the environmental and economic sustainability of the different varieties. Farmers and researchers should gain useful information on seed stock performance including disease and drought resistance, tolerance to humidity, and other agronomic variables.
The project team is headed by UT researchers Dr. Sam Jackson and Dr. Nicole Labbe who are also working with Ceres and Dupont Danisco Cellulosic Ethanol (DDCE). Farmers from nine east Tennessee counties, along with members of the research team, have planted more than 1,000 acres of switchgrass varieties that have been developed by Ceres. The results will be compared with 1,000 acres of a more traditional variety of switchgrass known as “Alamo”. These acres have been established on private farms as part of the UTBI farmer incentive program that now totals nearly 6,000 acres.
Once the switchgrass is harvested, it will be turned into cellulosic ethanol at Genera Energy/DDCE’s demonstration-scale biorefinery located in Vonore, Tenn. Genera Energy is hosting a groundbreaking of the facility located in the Tennessee’s Biomass Innovation Park on July 29, 2010. Continue reading →
Everyone has an opinion about the veracity of global warming, except, maybe global governments who are pursing economic improvements on the back of climate change. The quest for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and predominately carbon dioxide (CO2) has led to a spurt of new research around the development of more sustainable practices and technologies. But at what cost to the environment? This question is asked and answered in the new book Green Gone Wrong, by Heather Rogers.
This question may on the surface sound like an oxymoron. How can you be developing technologies to reduce CO2, yet hurt the environment at the same time? According to Rogers, this is in fact happening every day, all over the world. Rogers breaks up the offenses into three categories: food, shelter and transportation.
The crux of the food section studies what organic farming really means (or doesn’t mean) and the movement to “beyond organic”. The next section discusses green building and the last section studies transportation, where I will focus. One element that is weaved throughout this section, is the discussions of the validity of carbon offset programs.
Many of the arguments she presents in the section are not new. She writes about biofuels, “As for ecological sustainability, biofuels have been widely discredited. The energy efficiency achieved with ethanol is dubious and a source of much debate. While some researchers say more energy goes into making ethanol than the alt-fuel can supply, others estimate a positive energy balance. A commonly cited figure is that for every gallon of fossil fuel used in production, only 1.3 gallons of corn-based ethanol can be refined. Either way, by now it’s apparent that biofuels pressure both ecosystems and the access to food.” Continue reading →
Environment Magazine has published new research today that finds that the greenhouse gas emissions derived from military use of oil is worse than previously thought. University of Nebraska professors, Adam Liska and Richard Perrin write in the article, Securing Foreign Oil: A Case for Including Military Operations in the Climate Change Impact of Fuels, “we assert that military activity to protect international oil trade is a direct production component for importing foreign oil—as necessary for imports as are pipelines and supertankers—and therefore the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from that military activity are relevant to U.S. fuel policies related to climate change.”
Other areas that may be considered tied to military production of GHG emissions are the global protection of oil reserves and Middle Eastern wars.
The authors note that as part of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, specific GHG emission reductions must be met by biofuels including direct life cycle emissions as well as indirect emissions; however, in current legislation, only the direct GHG emissions are accounted for when calculating life cycle emissions of gasoline production. Therefore, the authors wanted to understand how military emissions affect the total amount of GHG emissions of gasoline. What they discovered is that direct spending on military activity and military acquisition of oil results in the release of nearly 289,000 tons of carbon dioxide per billion dollars spent.
To get a handle on the billions of dollars spent just on the Iraq War, the U.S. Congressional Research Service report estimated that the average annual cost of the Iraq War has been $93.5 billion.
Ultimately, the authors conclude, “In order to have a balanced assessment of the climate change impacts of substituting biofuels for gasoline, a comparison of all direct and indirect emissions from both types of fuel is required.”
Several ethanol organizations came out in support of the report today including Growth Energy who reiterated the environmental costs associated with our dependence on foreign oil and the Renewable Fuels Association who heralded the study as “groundbreaking”.
Looking for a new way to charge your cell phone? Then look no further than the sun. Solio has released an improved universal Solar Charger for all electronic devices, including your phone, that stores power for up to one year and never overcharges. This device sounds perfect for places that are lacking outlets, like airports, airplanes and restaurants three of the places your phone battery loves to die.
So how does it work? You charge it up for free with a little help from the sun, and then when you need power for your MP3 player, GPS or phone, you simply plug the solar charger into your electronic equipment using one of the multiple “tips” that you switch out. The charger is compatible with over 3,200 devices and stores in its own sleek case.
For those of you who live in the Iowa where it never seems to stop raining this year, no worries. The solar charger has a back-up plan. It can be charged a USB port or wall charger, both included. The price for this nifty gadget is around $99.
RFA President Bob Dinneen expanded on the issues his organization has taken with the report. “It may seem penny-wise, but would be pound-foolish to dismiss the benefits of current biofuels in light of the havoc wrought by our dependence on fossil fuels,”
“Analyzing American energy policy cannot occur in a vacuum. To effectively address the energy, environmental and economic problems caused by our addiction to oil, we need to take a holistic approach,” continued Dinneen. All comprehensive analyses demonstrate that ethanol provides a real world, cost effective tool to reduce dependence on oil and create domestic jobs. Additionally, as CBO rightly notes, ethanol also reduces carbon emissions compared to gasoline.”
Also missing from the CBO report, says RFA, is the discussion about the continual evolution of ethanol production. Biotechnology Letters recently published a study that demonstrated that ethanol production has reduced water use by 20 percent and overall energy use by 28 percent in less than 12 years. During this same time period, ethanol plants have increased yields and produce valuable co-products.
However, what RFA felt was done correctly in the report was the exclusion by CBO of international indirect land use change (ILUC) and its estimates of CO2 reduction costs. This theory has been highly debated for several years and is under fire due to the scientific inability to prove it’s assertions.
“There is no renewable technology available today that can match ethanol’s ability to reduce oil use and create jobs, all while emitting fewer climate changing gases than gasoline,” said Dinneen. “New biofuel technologies, like cellulosic ethanol, promise to provide even greater benefits. Unfortunately, it appears CBO has chosen to take a narrow, time constrained look at the issue and has failed to
consider the much larger picture.”
I have my eye on California. They are leading the way in “green” policies; yet they make it difficult for companies with “green” products to get permits. They are also in the middle of a new Governors campaign and I can’t help but wonder if a new Governor will undo or improve any of the state’s current policies. One in particular that I’m watching is the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (CARB) which is currently under fire by the petroleum industry, trucking industry and corn ethanol industry. Each of these groups has filed a lawsuit against the California Air Resources Board (ARB) over various pieces of the policy.
One organization not filing suit is the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (UNICA). To date, sugarcane ethanol has received the lowest carbon life-cycle rating of all forms of ethanol and seems to have become the ethanol darling among politicians. Recently, President Obama, who is afraid to utter the word “corn” in conjunction with ethanol, touted the benefits of sugarcane ethanol.
UNICA has repeatedly called for these organizations to drop their lawsuits against ARB. In this light, I spoke with Joel Velsco, the Chief Representative of North America for UNICA, and asked him to weigh in on what is happening in California. In terms of the LCFS, he said that they were hoping for a different decision from Judge O’Neil but it wasn’t a surprise – meaning after a review, the lawsuits have not been thrown out.
“California’s LCFS can help break our dependence on fossil fuels, protect us from market price volatility and provide consumers with cleaner and more abundant fuel choices,” said Velsco. Continue reading →
The high volume of ethanol exports plummeted in May by 58 percent from April’s totals. U.S. producers exported just 17.1 million gallons in May, while they exported 40.8 million gallons in April and 48.3 million gallons in March. Despite the drop, May exports were still above the five-year monthly average. In addition, to date in 2010, the U.S. has exported 25 percent more product than in the entire 2009 calendar year.
Additionally, at 141.4 million gallons, 2010 U.S. exports are still on track for a record year. In 2008, exports totaled 157.8 million gallons and in 2007, they were 150.2 million gallons. Prior to this year, it is believed that the highest export year was in 1995 when 197.5 million gallons of denatured and undenatured ethanol were exported. Since January 2005, the monthly average for total ethanol exports has been 10.2 million gallons.
“Fluctuations in unpredictable ethanol export markets highlight the need for America to focus more attention on increasing its consumption of domestically produced ethanol,” said RFA President Bob Dinneen. “America must stop dragging its feet and move aggressively to open up more domestic markets to ethanol. This starts with a full and complete waiver for the use of E15 by EPA. Bifurcating the market or limiting E15 use by vehicle model year aren’t real solutions. Exports and the use of mid and higher level ethanol blends, such as E30 or E85, are important markets for ethanol, but they cannot expand fast enough to absorb increasing production and use of ethanol as called for by federal law. It is time for the Obama Administration to back up its rhetoric with action and increase the amount of ethanol American consumers can use.”
The past month, the majority of denatured ethanol exports, topping out at 11.2 million gallons and down from 24.9 million gallons in April, went to Canada and the Netherlands. After importing significant quantities in April, Jamaica, the United Kingdom, Singapore, and United Arab Emirates (UAE) imported virtually no U.S. denatured ethanol in May.
Undenatured, non-beverage ethanol exports totaled just 5.9 million gallons in May. Top destinations were the Netherlands, UAE and Mexico. Those three nations accounted for more than 95% of U.S. exports of undenatured, non-beverage product.
Why? Because as Don Siefkes, Executive Director of the organization points out, “Twenty gallons of gasoline per barrel means 36 billion gallons of gas saved over 15 years or 2.4 billion gallons of gasoline per year. We use 140 billion gallons of gasoline per year so we would save only 1.7 percent of our gasoline usage and it is going to cost $25-$50 billion to achieve this meager savings. We felt it ridiculous to spend so much for so little and decided to form our group and see what we could do.”
Siefkes explained that to make the U.S. independent of imported oil, as well as avoid having to deep water drill, we need to cut our usage of gasoline by 50 percent down to 70 billion gallons per year. The organization has invested time in reaching out and discussing the issues with various ethanol organizations, everyday drivers and retail gasoline stations to encourage them to help make change. So while the ethanol industry focuses on getting the E15 Waiver approved, a short-term fix for a long-term problem, E100 Ethanol Group has decided to focus on E100.
“After 100′s of millions of dollars invested and 17 years of trying to convince consumers to buy E85, only 0.13 percent of the 10 billion gallons of fuel grade ethanol sold in the U.S. in 2009 went into E85,” said Siefkes. The other 99.87 percent went into 10 percent gasoline blends. This is in spite of the fact that we have 8 million E85 capable vehicles on the road and over 2,000 E85 stations. Why is this?”
According to Siefkes, it’s because E85 offers negative value to the consumer who has to fill up more often and sees a fuel economy loss. “There is no evidence that simply putting more E85 vehicles and stations out there is going to correct this problem,” he said. Continue reading →
At the end of June, the Cape Wind project received federal approval much to the dismay of vocal opponents. This will be the first off-shore wind project in the U.S. and will consist of 130 wind turbines and the project is expected to be complete in 2012. While the debate was raging on around Cape Wind, several other states were moving forward with developing off-shore wind projects of their own including New Jersey, Road Island and Maine.
Two months after Cape Wind was federally approved, New Jersey passed the Offshore Wind Economic Development Act. This act was designed to create financial incentives for offshore wind development and sets a target of 1,100 megawatts of wind generation. This goal ties into the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard which sets targets for renewable energy including solar and wind. The act authorizes the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) to set financial regulations and oversee applications for new projects and also requires suppliers of electricity to retail customers to hold an Offshore Wind Renewable Energy Certificate (OREC).
In addition to the creation of the ORECs, the act created a 100 percent tax credit for capital investments of $50 million-$100 million in new offshore wind facilities. In addition, the act will work in tandem with the Economic Development Authority to allocate money from the Global Warming Solutions Fund to support these projects and provide assistance to the manufacturers of offshore wind equipment.
While the act may seem somewhat cumbersome, here is what it boils down to. BPU has already provided $4 million to a developer who is looking to build a 346-megawatt project 16 miles off the southern coast of New Jersey. In addition, BPU has approved a 20-25 megawatt project three miles of the coast of Atlantic City. Should either of these projects see fruition before Cape Cod, New Jersey will take the title of the first completed offshore wind project.
However, what may be more important than who is first, is the support that offshore wind is receiving on the East Coast. The Atlantic Offshore Wind Energy Consortium was recently established by 10 states to promote the development of offshore wind projects. When you combine all of this activity it appears that offshore wind development has great momentum. Let’s hope that this momentum is not stymied by difficult and drawn out permitting processes.
Our country is quickly sliding down a slippery slope. Not too long ago, we were the leaders in renewable energy – wind, solar, biofuels. Today, not only have the major technological advancements come from overseas, our manufacturing facilities, entrepreneurs and investors are going, or have gone overseas as well.
Where are they going? Brazil. India. China. Why? Because these countries have the winning recipes for success: cohesive energy policy, long-term incentives and private investors. These are the exact three things we do not have in America.
We have other problems. We have states like California, that purport leadership in green policies and renewable energy, who make it nearly impossible to get permits for projects to meet its “green” initiatives.
Yesterday, Martifer Renewables Electricity dropped its plans to build a 107MW hybrid solar-powered biomass plant in California. The reason? After nearly 2 1/ 2 years, they have yet to obtain permits. Another company run out of California due to difficulty in obtaining permits, Blue Fire Ethanol – a next generation bioenergy company.
It may not be too late to head back up the hill but there are some things that must be done. Continue reading →
The world’s longest solar flight landed safely today. The solar plane, HB-SIA, dubbed Solar Impulse, completed a 26-hour test flight above Switzerland this morning and now holds the record for the longest solar-powered flight ever. However, what might be the coolest thing about the journey – the plane took off at night.
Solar Impulse took off from the Payerne airbase at 06:51 with André Borscherg, CEO and co-founder of the Solar Impulse project, at the controls. During the flight, the plane reached an altitude of more than 28,000 feet above sea level and reached speeds of 68 knots.
The plane features 12,000 solar panels built into its enormous 63.4 meter wing. It also holds 400-kilogram battery pack, which were fully charged during the plane’s decent.
“During the whole of the flight, I just sat there and watched the battery charge level rise and rise! Sitting in a plane producing more energy than it consumes is a fantastic feeling,” said André Borschberg, CEO and co-founder of the Solar Impulse project from the cockpit.
Bertrand Piccard, Initiator and President of Solar Impulse added, “This is a highly symbolic moment: flying by night using solely solar power is a stunning manifestation of the potential that clean technologies offer today to reduce the dependency of our society on fossil fuels!”
This test flight is a precursor to the real goal of flying around the globe using only solar power and not a drop of fuel. You can follow the journey at www.solarimpulse.com.
Yesterday, Indianapolis Colt tight-end Dallas Clark joined Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy and Gen. Wesley Clark, Co-Chairman of Growth Energy to tout the local economic benefits of Indiana’s ethanol industry. The presentation was given during the Indiana Ethanol Forum, an event that focused on the economic impact and importance of ethanol to the state as well as to the U.S. As part of their remarks, the group stressed the need for federal lawmakers to include support for domestic ethanol in any Congressional debate over clean energy and job creation.
“During this Independence Day recess, we are urging Congress to bring an energy bill to the floor that promotes America’s fuel,” said Tom Buis. “In these tight economic times when we are sending billions of dollars overseas to fund the economies of foreign countries, we need legislation that will keep that money right here in America. Domestic ethanol is the only commercially viable, renewable fuel that creates American jobs while cleaning our air and strengthening our economy and national security. Now, more than ever, ethanol must be at the heart of this debate in Congress.”
Clark continued by stating, “What we’re seeing in places like Indiana and elsewhere around the country is that people want to have a choice at the pump – and they want domestic ethanol to be one of those choices. The more domestic ethanol we produce, the less foreign oil we need. And every gallon of domestic ethanol creates U.S. jobs, cleans the air and strengthens our national security. Today we’re asking Congress to hear the people of Indiana and include provisions to level the playing field for domestic ethanol in the July energy debate.”
Prior to breaking for the July 4th holiday, Congressional leaders indicated they would take up legislation for energy and green jobs upon their return. Growth Energy believes there are several specific measures that should be included in the legislation that will build out infrastructure for biofuels including a flex-fuel vehicle mandate and federal support for the installation of blender pumps. Both of these initiatives would empower consumers with choices at the pump.
Many school-age children spend quite a bit of time riding the bus. Unfortunately, many reports have indicated that the emissions from buses are extremely harmful, especially for those children with health issues such as asthma. Today, ROUSH Performance Products and Micro Bird, Inc. have announced that they have integrated the ROUSH Liquid Propane system into the new 30-passenger Micro Bird by Girardin, a Type A School, Multi-Function School Activity Bus (MSFAB) and Commercial Bus. One of the biggest benefits – significantly reduced tailpipe emissions.
“Propane is a perfect alternative fuel option for school districts that must reduce their operational costs as well as lower their emissions,” said Jack Roush, motorsports legend and chairman of ROUSH Enterprises. “Historically, propane trends 30 to 40 percent less than diesel which helps the school districts to stretch their fuel budget considerably further, and there is no question that the emissions are much cleaner.”
On the emissions front, ROUSH says that propane burns cleaner than gasoline or diesel, with up to 20 percent less nitrogen oxide, up to 60 percent less carbon monoxide, 24 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions, and fewer particulate emissions when compared to gasoline. They also promote the cost-savings benefits of the fuel.
“We are excited to partner with an industry leader like Micro Bird,” said Todd Mouw, vice president of sales and marketing for ROUSH. “We have spent four years perfecting this liquid propane injection technology and this partnership will show that propane is the best alternative fuel for school districts and shuttle operators across North America.”
Bill Danner, Blue Bird vice president of sales, North America concluded, “We are thrilled by the introduction of the new Propane-Powered Micro Bird as it extends Blue Bird’s offering of affordable green solutions into all school bus vehicle segments.”
The buses will be sold exclusively by Blue Bird Dealers throughout North America. Sales will begin in July with production scheduled for late 2010.