EPA Set for Action

During the Fuel Ethanol Workshop (FEW), Executive Vice President for the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) Brian Jennings sat on a panel with other ethanol industry leaders to discuss key policy issues in Washington, D.C. However, in a follow-up to the discussion, Jennings said the real action is taking place on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

EPA is set to release the final 2013 RFS volumes. And this is important, said Jennings, to make sure the cellulose numbers are high enough to incent some of the production. At FEW13-ace-jenningsvirtually the same time, the EPA will propose the 2014 RFS volumes, or numbers.

“What’s really important here, is that in the past EPA has reduced cellulose but have assumed that other advanced biofuels, sugarcane ethanol from Brazil, domestic advanced, biodiesel, can make up the difference when they reduce cellulose.” Next year the cellulose number is so high, 1.75 billion, that they’re going to have to reduce it such that there probably isn’t sufficient advanced biofuels to make up the difference, explained Jennings.

“So we could be looking for the very first time in 2014 with changes across the board of the RFS from EPA not Congress.” Jennings added that ACE is trying to get their arms around how they want to tackle this with EPA.

Jennings also discussed the farm bill and the Energy and Commence Committee Renewable Fuel Standard (RFA) white papers. He believes hearings may take place in July but is not sure if ACE or any other association will be invited to participate in the hearings. But, he stressed, ACE will be active in the debate.

Listen to my interview with Brian here: EPA Set for Action

Visit the 2013 FEW Photo Album.

Motorcycles & E15

The American Motorcycle Association (AMA) is hosting an event for motorcycle riders to come to Washington, D.C. and lobby on Capitol Hill. They want to stop E15 from being sold until testing has been done on motorcycles to see if harm or damage will occur.

sturgis Photo RussBrown.comIn response, the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) held a press call to discuss motorcycles and E15. On the call were Robert White director of market development for RFA and Harley Davidson owner, as well as engine experts Bobby Likis and Bryan O’Neill.

All the participants stressed during the call that since the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved E15, it has never been approved for motorcycles – only E10 has been approved for motorcycles. The message back to AMA and all motorcycle riders, said White, “…is to not use the fuel. In fact, it would be illegal, and will remain illegal no matter what any testing would confirm.”

The big question – Why E15? “I think we need to look not further then the event sponsor, the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, known as our nation’s oil refiners,” said White. He also noted that the RFA has taken concerns of AMA and others seriously when it comes to E15.

In addition to the call, RFA also released a fact sheet specifically for motorcycle owners answering common questions about E15 (85 percent gasoline/15 percent ethanol) and motorcycle engines. The document entitled “E15 and the Motorcycle Industry” makes it clear that E15 is illegal to put into a motorcycle engine, but E10 is approved for use.

Listen to the full press call here: Motorcycles & E15

New Mexico Students Learn with Solar

Thousands of students in Rio Rancho, New Mexico will now be learning with solar power. Conergy is currently installing two solar power plants on the campuses of V. Sue Cleveland and Rio Rancho High Schools. The solar Conergy reference project_Boron High School California USAinstallations will total 1.2 megawatts (MW). The public schools will be using the power produced by the sun, via a 20-year Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with Washington Gas Energy Systems.

“We are very proud that our two high schools will be supplied with renewable power and that we will be making a valuable contribution to sustainability in our community,” said Al Sena, responsible for building management at the Rio Rancho public schools. “This will allow our students to experience the benefits of clean power generation, first hand. With the solar installations, we cover about 80% of our total annual power requirements while cutting our electricity costs at the same time – without major upfront investment.”

The power plants consists of more than 8,200 solar modules installed on 4.7 kilometers of Conergy SolarLinea mounting systems. They will produce nearly 4.3 million kilowatt hours of energy each year. This is the same amount of energy as needed by 43,000 laptops running 8 hours a day for one year.

Anthony Fotopoulos, Managing Director of Conergy USA added. “In many regions of the USA, grid parity has been achieved for end consumers, and solar power is already considerably cheaper today than power from the grid. Local consumption via power purchase agreements is the future of the American electricity market.

“With this electricity market model, end consumers benefit from considerable electricity cost savings from the green power – without substantial upfront costs. In the sunshine state of California, for instance, around 70% of all solar plants on private homes are already financed by third parties today; in the case of commercial power plants, the figure is over 40% – and the trend is upwards,” Fotopoulos concluded.

Needed Now: Farm Bill with Energy Funding

For two years the Senate has passed its version of a farm bill. Last year the House did not and later this week is set to debate its version of the bill. During this process, the current farm bill was extended but ag, energy and other groups are at a full court press to get a bill passed before the legislators break for summer vacation.

I sat down with Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy recently who is a Washington insider and FEW13-growthenergy-buishas been working on behalf of the agricultural industry and now the biofuels industry for many years to learn more about the current farm bill, or lack thereof.

Buis explained that the 2008 Farm Bill was the first ever with an energy title, all designed to help investment into next generation biofuels. This year, the Senate extended the program and funded it and those are two critical programs said Buis. If a new bill isn’t passed, the extension will expire on September 30, 2013 and with it all the energy programs.

He continued, what the House does is only authorize the programs but don’t put in any money in the bill. “It’s a good press release but it doesn’t mean anything. And the battle will probably end up like that if and when it gets through the House they won’t have any funding for the programs and restrictions on whether or not USDA can fund development under the REAP program, flex pumps in rural communities. They’ll probably have a prohibition which the Senate does not and will have it work in out in conference.”

Tom along with his members have been extremely active in defending ethanol on the Hill and will continue to do so. Realizing that they need more boots on the ground, several years ago Growth Energy launched its “Growth Force” where anyone from around the world can sign up to support biofuels. Now the association is taking it one more step, and individuals from around the country can become members of Growth Energy.

During our sit down, Buis also discussed several other current issues including market access and the ongoing debate over the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Listen to my interview with Tom here: Needed Now: Farm Bill with Energy Funding

Visit the 2013 FEW Photo Album.

Volvo Debuts Noiseless Electric Buses

The launch of an ultramodern bus service in Gothenburg, Sweden will pick up passengers indoors, without noise or emissions via electric buses. The initiative is sponsored by the Volvo Group, Swedish Energy Agency, the City of Gothenburg, Västtrafik, Lindholment Science Park and Johanneberg Science Park. The project has been coined, ElectriCity.

“This represents an entirely new mode of travel and will allow for the public-transport system to contribute to a more pleasant urban environment,” said Olof Persson, president ElectriCityand CEO of Volvo. “A silent and emissions-free public-transport system will enable the inclusion of locations in the city that are currently off limits. It is immensely satisfying to be able to launch this in our hometown, in cooperation with Region Västra Götaland and the City of Gothenburg.”

The use of electric power not only places Gothenburg on the map in terms of sustainable and innovative solutions for public transport; the new bus service will also open up new possibilities in city and urban planning. Commencing in 2015, the electric buses are to run between Johanneberg Science Park adjacent to Chalmers and Lindholmen Science Park in Hisingen.

Anneli Hulthén, Chairman of the Municipal Board added, “The electric bus service entails a new mode of public-transport system usage, which is highly positive for Gothenburg. It will highlight Gothenburg as a progressive city in terms of city planning. This is also in line with our prioritized objective of having Gothenburg reduce its climate impact to become a climate-neutral city, and increasing sustainable travel.”

In addition to the electric buses, the cooperation also includes the creation and trial runs of new bus-stop solutions, traffic-routing systems, safety concepts, energy supply and business models.

Turning Plant Matter into Fuel

Charles Wyman, a University of California Riverside professor in the Chemical and Environmental Engineering Department, recently edited a book, “Aqueous Pretreatment of Aqueous Biomass BookPlant Biomass for Biological and Chemical Conversion to Fuels,” that provides in-depth information on aqueous processing of cellulosic biomass into fuel.

The just-published book focuses on aqueous pretreatment of cellulosic biomass to promote sugar release for biological, catalytic, or thermochemical conversion into fuels and chemicals. Introductory chapters provide the rationale for converting biomass to fuels; its importance to national security, balance of trade, and the environment; and insights into biological and catalytic processing to fuels. Also included are in-depth information on the chemistry and biology of cellulosic biomass, leading pretreatments to facilitate its biological and chemical conversion to sugars, and methods important to assess the effectiveness of biomass conversion technologies.

In recent decades, interest in converting cellulosic biomass to fuels has closely tracked the price of petroleum: support jumps when petroleum prices are high and wanes when prices drop.

“That creates a big challenge,” Wyman said. “The volatility of oil prices and associated enthusiasm for alternatives results in a very unstable environment in which to build a business.”

Yet, cellulosic biomass conversion has unique and powerful benefits. It has the potential to substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions and imported petroleum dependence and is widely available and inexpensive. For example, cellulosic biomass costing $60 per dry ton has about the same cost per energy content as petroleum at about $20 per barrel. Continue reading

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDFGenscape is sponsoring the first New York Energy Week, a cross-sector energy event series launched to stimulate industry investment and innovative energy solutions. The event will take place in New York City June 24-28, 2013. Genscape energy experts will be sharing their insights during a number of headline events throughout the week including the Oil and Gas breakfast panel and the Energy Data Jam at Google headquarters.
  • Green EnviroTech Holdings Corp. has appointed Kim Johnson as VP
    of Marketing. Johnson has more than 30 years of experience in the energy industry. Prior to joining the company, she was the President of eBarton LLC.
  • NuMat Technologies, a materials technology company that captured top honors at cleantech business competitions across the country, has announced it closed a $2 million seed round, bringing the nanotech startup’s total funding to $2.4 million. The GOOSE Society of Texas, an angel network, led the round, which included participation from Owl Investment Group.
  • Renewable Energy Systems Americas Inc. has been selected as the balance of plant constructor for phase two of the Lower Snake River wind farm. The 267 megawatt wind farm is located near Dayton, Washington, northeast of Walla Walla, and will utilize 116 Siemens Energy wind turbines with a capacity of 2.3 megawatts.
  • Real Goods Solar, Inc. has announced that Jirka Rysavy resigned from his position as a director and chairman of the board of the company. Rysavy has served as the chairman of the company’s board of directors since its inception. Until recently, Gaiam was the largest shareholder of the company.

Sioux Indian Tribes Adopt Wind Energy

Leaders from six Sioux Indian Tribes along with former U.S. President Bill Clinton have announced a new wind power initiative for South Dakota. The project is being assisted by Arent Fox a team including former Senator Byron Dorgan, co-chair of the Government Relations practice, and Communications, Technology & Mobile partner Jonathan E. Canis and associate G. David Carter. The project is supported by the Clinton Global Initiative.

Crow-Lake-Wind-Farm-S-Dakota“Having served as Chairman of the US Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, I understand the strong desire of the Indian Tribes to build ‘Indian owned’ wind power projects to create new jobs and affordable power for their Tribes,” said Senator Dorgan. “This project is a unique opportunity for the Sioux Tribes in South Dakota to chart their own destiny. They live on lands that are rich with wind resources and they can use those resources to build a large wind energy project that can both help the Tribes and produce clean, renewable power for our country for decades to come.”

Dorgan continued, “Together with my colleagues at Arent Fox, I have been honored to work with elected leaders of the Tribes to plan this project and I am especially proud of the recognition given it today by President Clinton and the Clinton Global Initiative.”

Through the project, the Tribes stand to infuse up to $3 billion directly into the South Dakota economy, an amount roughly equal to the impact of the entire manufacturing sector in South Dakota in a given year. The planned project could generate 1-2 gigawatts of power annually. Measured conservatively, that’s more than enough power to electrify the homes in Denver, Colorado for the next 20 years, the typical useful lifespan of the wind turbines.

The majority of the project’s funding will come through the sale of bonds by a Multi-Tribal Power Authority, which are expected to be made available to investors in about two years, following a critical planning and preparation stage. For this reason, the Tribes have partnered with the crowdfunding platform Rally.org to seek funding and raise general awareness for the project.

The Tribes participating in the project include Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, Crow Creek Sioux Tribe, Oglala Sioux Tribe, Rosebud Sioux Tribe, Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate, and Yankton Sioux Tribe.

SiNode Systems Wins 2013 Clean Energy Challenge

SiNode Systems has won the top prize in the 2013 U.S Department of Energy National Clean Energy Business Plan Competition. The company was also a finalist in Clean Energy Trust’s 2012 Clean Energy Challenge and earned a sport at the national competition after SiNode Systemswinning the 2013 Rice Business Plan Competition.

SiNode’s game-changing battery technology will change the way we use cell phones, computers and even electric cars,” said Amy Francetic, CEO of Clean Energy Trust. “We are enormously gratified that we could help advance such a dynamic and creative company since its initial formation through the 2012 Challenge.”

SiNode, a cleantech startup from Northwestern University, is commercializing an anode for lithium-ion batteries that allows the battery to charge more quickly and hold a charge 10 times longer than current technology.  SiNode’s anode could greatly enhance battery life for electric vehicles and smartphones. The startup won first prize and more than $800,000 at the 2013 Rice Business Plan Competition.

“These wins validate the Midwest’s clean energy ecosystem and demonstrate its ability to launch viable businesses with homegrown technology from our world-class research institutions,” Francetic said. “We are thrilled to have a Clean Energy Trust company win the national title two years in a row.”

Hybrids, EVs Causing States to Ponder New Road Taxes

According to an article on Fox News, several states, with the latest being North Carolina, are looking at how to tax hybrid and electric vehicle (EV) owners. The states are trying to recoup road funding, earned via taxes at the pump.

Politicians are taking the stance that all drivers, no matter what they drive, are responsible for helping to maintain the roads they use as well as build new ones. Whereas hybrid and Nissan_LeafEV drivers along with other alternative fuel vehicles say this is the wrong approach to promoting U.S. energy independence with sustainable infrastructure funding.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), gas taxes comprise nearly 40 percent of all state highway revenues and more than 90 percent at the federal level. However, the Institute on Taxation on Economic Policy says revenues are not keeping up with rising construction costs, falling 41 percent in real value at the federal level since they were last increased 18 years ago. State are facing the same problems.

Some say the solution is to overhaul the gas tax system to miles traveled but this approach has not been well received. Continue reading

U.S. Firms Sign Climate Declaration

Twenty-two American investment firms with nearly $240 billion in assets under management have signed a Climate Declaration, calling on U.S policymakers to seize the American economic opportunity of addressing climate change. The move was timed with the start of the Global Investor Forum on Climate Change that took place this week in Hong Kong. The declaration asserts. “Tackling climate change is one of America’s greatest economic opportunities of the 21st century … There must be a coordinated effort to combat climate change—with America taking the lead here at home.”

Jack Ehnes, chief executive officer of CalSTRS, one of the organizations who signed the Climate Declaration said, “As the global economy moves toward a low-carbon future, governments that act aggressively to enact strong, long-term climate and energy policies will reap the biggest rewards. In order to tackle the global climate crisis, we must realize the strength of our combined efforts. That is why CalSTRS signed the Climate Declaration. U.S. policy leaders need to step up on this issue and embrace climate change policies as an economic opportunity.”

Investors have been an important force in supporting policy changes related to clean energy and efficiency. Last year, investors managing $800 billion in assets called on Congress to renew the Production Tax Credit for renewable energy, which was ultimately extended for another year. Investors have also been outspoken proponents of state Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPSs) that more than two-dozen states have enacted to boost sourcing of wind, solar and other renewable energy. RPSs have catalyzed billions of dollars of investment, thousands of new projects and hundreds of thousands of good-paying jobs, including 30,000 new jobs in 2012 alone.

“Being smarter when it comes to climate change is the right thing to do for all of our families, and it also will translate into economic and investment opportunities,” said Oregon State Treasurer Ted Wheeler, who has previously called for better disclosure of climate-related opportunities and risks and who also signed the declaration. “I am proud to stand with Oregon’s largest employers and premier ski destinations to recognize that a cleaner future will also be a more profitable one.”

Continue reading

API Still After RFS

The American Petroleum Institute (API) is still after the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and E15, a blend of 15 percent ethanol, 85 percent gasoline by filing yet another waiver. Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) responded by Dont Mess with RFSsaying this is another example of oil companies unnecessarily scaring people and “it’s just flat out wrong.”

“The Renewable Fuel Standard has created jobs, helped the economy and saved consumers money at the pump. It’s ironic that the industry that brought us MTBE, benzene, tar sands, fracking chemicals, Deepwater Horizon, Exxon Valdez, and other environmental disasters is suddenly concerned about ‘consumer safety’.

Dinneen continued by asking the question, “How many times is API going to trot out the same tired study? They have pointed to their self-sponsored NERA study over and over again. But as we have noted in the past, that study ignores the flexibility of the RFS to make it easier for refiners to meet their RFS obligation. API is simply misleading people in suggesting the RFS will increase gasoline costs. The opposite is true. Ethanol is less expensive than gasoline today. It lowers prices at the pump. That’s the fact.”

“API is being irresponsible in suggesting ethanol harms vehicles. API points to the Coordinating Research Council (CRC) study on E15 that has been widely criticized by the Department of Energy and many others. Ten percent ethanol is safe and approved for all vehicles on the road today. E15 is safe for all vehicles for which EPA has approved its use, 2001 and newer,” added Dinneen.

Click here to see a review of the facts.

Ethanol Veterans Honored During FEW

few13-schwartzkopf and hicksTwo 30-year ethanol veterans were honored during the Fuel Ethanol Workshop in St. Louis, Missouri this week. Kevin Hicks, research leader for the Sustainable Biofuels and Coproducts Research Unit of the USDA’s Eastern Regional Research Center, received the Award of Excellence. And long-time friend of DomesticFuel, ethanol dragster, and true ethanol champion Dan Schwartzkopf with ICM, was presented with the High Octane Award.

Listen to Kevin Hicks’ remarks here: Award of Excellence

Listen to Dan Schwartzkopf’s remarks here: High Octane Award

Visit the 2013 FEW Photo Album.

Study: Alt Fuels Developing Faster Than Expected

According to a new study commissioned by a coalition of investors, utilities and makers of alternative fuels, the alternative fuels market has developed faster than anticipated. Electric vehicle sales are beating early projections, the surge in natural gas supply is helping decrease the carbon intensity in trucking, and consumption of biodiesel and renewable diesel supplies are growing rapidly, according to the report. The coalition includes CalETC, Ceres, E2, the California Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition, the National Biodiesel Board, and the Advanced Biofuels Association.

Screen Shot 2013-06-17 at 9.43.40 AM“The Low Carbon Fuel Standard is exceeding our expectations and driving us towards a clean fuels future,” said Eileen Tutt, executive director of the California Electric Transportation Coalition (CalETC). “The standard is doing exactly what it was designed to do – open the way for new fuels and technologies to compete fairly in the marketplace.”

The report analyzes recent developments in the transportation sector and presents three scenarios that ratchet down the carbon intensity of transportation fuels 10 percent, to meet the goal of California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard by 2020. All three projections point to an increasingly diverse fuel supply, with more innovation leading to more renewable fuels and advanced vehicles.

Emerging as the report’s biggest surprise is the promise of substitutes for diesel, including biodiesel, renewable diesel, and natural gas – all of which can be produced from waste materials, including animal fats, corn oil, and the gas that would otherwise escape from landfills. The report stated, “2013 promises to be a banner year for biodiesel consumption in California.”

The report also highlights the benefits in terms of greenhouse gas reductions from two additional low-carbon fuel strategies: the addition of off-road electrification (such as electric locomotives and battery-powered forklifts), and improvements to California’s fuel-recovery and extraction processes (using solar energy in crude oil extraction or installing carbon capture and storage technologies at oil and gas wells).

Global Wind Day Puts Pressure on G8 Summit

This Saturday, June 15, is Global Wind Day, and this year the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) is asking people globally to put pressure on world leaders leading in to the G8 summit to keep their commitment to phase out fossil fuels and adopt renewable energy.

According to EWEA, the level of fossil fuel subsidies has increased nearly 30 percent to $620 billion since 2010. Today, fossil fuels receive six times more subsidies than renewable energy. Simultaneously, global carbon dioxide (CO2) levels have reached a record high of 400 ppm, a level that climate change experts say is hindering efforts to bring human-produced emissions under control.

“While world leaders pay lip service to combating climate change, what they are actually doing is subsidizing CO2 emissions to the tune of US$110/tonne. Fossil fuel energy GWDAppsubsidy reform could take us a long way towards protecting the climate,” said Steve Sawyer, Secretary General of the Global Wind Energy Council.

EWEA says wind energy has become a mainstream technology: it is already cheaper in Australia and Brazil than conventional energy sources and directly competes with them in an expanding number of markets including Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa and parts of China and the U.S. Wind power is turning into the power technology of choice as utilities, energy planners and governments seek to diversify their energy mix, reduce CO2 emissions and air pollution, protect their economies from volatile fossil fuel prices and benefit from increased investment and job creation. EWEA says with the right policy support wind could reach 1,000 GW by 2020 avoiding over 9 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions per year.

Opinion polls and surveys across the markets show overwhelming public support for wind power providing an important signal to decision-makers: According to a Eurobarometer survey 89 percent of EU citizens are in favor of wind energy, compared to 43 percent for coal and 36 percent for nuclear. In 2012 a survey conducted in the U.S. showed that 71 percent of Americans want to see more wind power development and in Canada a research poll found that 78 percent of Ontarians say that wind is one of the safest forms of electricity generation. In a recent survey in the UK, two-thirds of the Britons voted in favor of wind energy.