Muscatine Students Win Fuel the Future Contest


The winners of the 3rd Annual High School Renewable Fuels Video Contest hail from Muscatine, Iowa and wow are they clever. Alli Burns, Ana Arzate and Sariah Garrido of Muscatine took the top price in the “Fuel the Future” video contest for high school students that was sponsored by Faegre Baker Daniels, LLP. The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) awarded the team its $1,000 prize during the 7th Annual Renewable Fuels Summit. The video, titled “Fuel the Future” beat 37 other entries.

Second place, and winner of a $600 prize, was awarded to Sam Fathallah of Marion, Iowa for his video entitled, “Why You Should Use Ethanol 15.” Fathallah is an eleventh grader at Linn-Mar High School.

IRFA Video Winner CheckThird place was awarded to Drew Laviada-Garmon and Tiler Lemkau of Muscatine for their “Gangnam Style” spoof entitled, “E15 Style.” The two Muscatine High School seniors won $400 for their video.

“The renewable fuels industry needs to look no further than the IRFA YouTube page for its next big promotional video,” said IRFA Communications Director T.J. Page. “The IRFA congratulates the ‘Fuel the Future’ winners as well as each of the Iowa high school students who took on the challenge of entering this contest.”

So for those of you reading our blog who live outside of the U.S., let me give you a little context to the video. It is a superb spoof of an ASPCA commercial, a non profit that rescues animals, that featured Sarah McLachlan and her hit song “In the Arms of the Angels”.

You can watch all of the videos that were submitted at IRFA’s YouTube channel.

IRFA Renewable Fuels Summit Photo Album

Amyris Ships First Product

240617Amyris has shipped it first commercial product from its plant in Brazil. The facility was the company’s first purpose-built industrial fermentation facility and produces Biofene, the company’s brand of renewable farnesene, to be used in a range of specialty chemical and fuel applications.

“This initial shipment marks the successful completion of our start-up activities. We have operated multiple tanks without contamination or surprises through several production runs during the first month of operation,” said John Melo, President and CEO of Amyris.

“We are now focused on ramping up Biofene production and delivering product to our customers, from renewable diesel for bus fleets in Brazil to squalane emollient globally and soon a range of specialty chemical applications,” Melo concluded.

Amyris’s Biofene plant in Brotas, in the state of São Paulo, Brazil, sources its sugarcane feedstock locally from the Paraíso mill. Prior to the start-up of this facility, Amyris relied solely on contract manufacturing for commercial production.

Biofuel Industry Responds to RIN Integrity Proposal

biodiesel_and_ethanol_fuel_pumps_at_retail_fuel_station_e85__e10_ethanol_b5_b20_biodiesel_mind_J53-1369484The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its proposed rules for the 2013 Renewable Fuels Standard yesterday. A portion of the proposal focused on dealing with Renewable Identification Number (RIN) fraud. Last year, several individuals were indicted for committing fraud by selling fake biodiesel RINS. The proposal is open for comment until March 19, 2013 and the industry is just now beginning to review and digest what it entails.

“While we are still reviewing the details, this proposal appears to be another positive step toward ensuring that RIN fraud is a thing of the past,” said Anne Steckel, National Biodiesel Board’s vice president of federal affairs. “We want to thank the EPA for working aggressively to address this issue and for proposing constructive solutions that will restore confidence in RIN markets.”

Steckel continued, “This problem was caused by a handful of wrongdoers who took advantage of a good policy for advancing America’s energy security. Two of those people are now facing significant prison time, and that enforcement along with these tightened regulations will go a long way toward preventing anything like this from happening again.”

The organization intends to continue working cooperatively with the EPA and our partners in the petroleum sector in bringing this issue to closure.

While the fraud cases were around biodiesel RINS, the EPA proposed rules addresses fraud across all renewable fuel sectors of the RFS. This includes ethanol RINS and cellulosic RINS. Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy said, “We are pleased to see that EPA is moving forward with a voluntary program to address the concerns raised about the integrity of RINS in the RFS program. We look forward to reviewing the proposal and will work with EPA to ensure that the program is successful.”

Bioenergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDFNovozymes has acquired Iogen Bio-Products, industrial enzyme business of Ottawa-based Iogen Corporation for CAD 67.5 million and potential earn-out payments of up to CAD 12.5 million.
  • IKEA has “plugged-in” the solar energy system installed at its South Florida store in the City of Sunrise, which will be the largest solar installation in South Florida and, when combined with IKEA projects already completed atop stores in Orlando and Tampa, will make IKEA the state’s largest non-utility solar owner.
  • SunPower Corp. has announced a new program with U.S. Bancorp, the SunPower Lease program, to expand financing options available to homeowners interested in high-efficiency SunPower solar power systems. Two to three thousand homes are expected to benefit from the new program.
  • Suntech Power Holdings Co., Ltd. has completed a 3.5 megawatt ground mounted solar PV system in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The system is owned by Saudi Aramco and was  installed on the grounds of the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center.
  • GlobalData has released the new report, “Offshore Wind Power – Global Market Size, Average Installation Price, Regulations, Market Share and Key Country Analysis to 2020.”
  • Solar 2013 has announced its line-up for speakers including Bill McKibben, author and founder of and Kevin Knobloch, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists. Click here for the full agenda.

Biodiesel Industry Supportive of 2013 RFS Proposal

NBB-logo1The biodiesel industry is indicating is support today for the proposed rules from the EPA establishing this year’s advanced biofuels requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFs). In response, Anne Steckel, vice president of federal affairs for the National Biodiesel Board (NBB), thanked the EPA and the Obama administration for standing strong behind the advanced biofuels standards. She indicated that the U.S. biodiesel industry is ready to meet these requirements, which means reduced greenhouse gas emissions, a better economy and more domestic fuel choices for consumers.

“With plants across the country and more than a billion gallons of production last year, the U.S. biodiesel industry is already the leading producer of Advanced Biofuels in the country, accounting for more than 80 percent of required production to date,” Steckel continued. “The industry is adding new feedstocks and building capacity every year, and this policy will only help us continue that growth.”

For 2013, the EPA’s proposal calls for an overall advanced biofuel requirement of 2.75 billion gallons. Within that total, explained Steckel, the biomass-based diesel requirement – which has already been finalized and was not a part of today’s announcement – is 1.28 billion gallons. Refiners have the option of using biodiesel or other EPA-designated advanced biofuels to help fill the remaining overall advanced biofuel pool, and many experts are predicting that biodiesel will play an increasing role in doing so this year.

EPA Releases Proposed Rule for 2013 RFS Obligations

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released it proposed rules today for the 2013 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) volumetric requirements. Public comment is open until March 19, 2013. The proposal waives the cellulosic biofuel requirement from one billion gallons to 14 million gallons, but retains overall advanced and renewable fuel requirements.

rfa-logo-09The ethanol industry responded today with statements and Bob Dinneen, the president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association said, “The 2013 RFS requirements will be the catalyst that finally compels oil companies to get serious about breaching the so-called blend wall. This year’s RFS requirements will necessitate the use of more E15, E85 and other higher-level blends. Injecting larger volumes of biofuels into the U.S. fuel supply and spurring a more rapid transition to domestically produced renewables is exactly what the RFS was intended to do. The program is working as envisioned by Congress.”

ace logoBrian Jennings, Executive Vice President of the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) noted that his organization is concerned, as our other ethanol organizations, about the way the advanced biofuel pool serves as a magnet for imports of Brazilian ethanol. “We appreciate EPA providing us the opportunity to elaborate on this concern and look forward to continuing the dialogue on how to ensure Brazilian imports don’t displace domestic ethanol. The RFS is a catalyst for technology innovation and we believe 2013 will deliver key breakthroughs for U.S. grain sorghum based advanced biofuel and cellulosic biofuel. We look forward to providing additional comments during the 45 day comment period,” said Jennings.

Growth_Energy_logo-1Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis said there are a number of issues that should be considered, which could have serious impacts on the U.S. production of biofuels. “The RFS has been a resounding success, helping create jobs in America that cannot be outsourced, revitalizing rural economies across the country in addition to reducing our dependence on foreign oil and providing consumers with a choice and savings at the pump,” he added.

aeclogoOne of the elements of the proposal waives the cellulosic biofuel requirement from one billion gallons to 14 million gallons. Brooke Coleman, executive director of the Advanced Ethanol Council said that the EPA’s is getting to right number on cellulosic biofuels and noted that the industry is just breaking through at commercial scale. ” U.S. EPA worked hard to ensure that the cellulosic biofuels volume standard for 2013 would be tied directly to the commercial production of cellulosic biofuels expected to come online this year. While weaning the United States off of its addiction to foreign oil is not easy, the volume standards proposed today will continue to provide advanced biofuel investors and innovators with a predictable and durable path forward in that effort.”

In conclusion, the industry representatives said they look forward to working together to finalize the targets.

U.S. Ethanol Prices & Production Lower Than 2011

According to a 2012 Brief released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), U.S. ethanol prices and production are lower compared to 2011. Spot prices for U.S. fuel ethanol were lower throughout most of 2012 compared to 2011. Prices were relatively stable during the first half of 2012, but they rose at mid-year as severe drought and high temperatures reduced corn yields, resulting in higher prices for corn that is used to produce the majority of all U.S. ethanol.

Screen Shot 2013-01-31 at 12.53.22 PMHigher ethanol prices during the second half of 2012 were mainly the result of higher corn prices, which rose 35 percent from mid-June through August due to concerns that the corn crop would be affected by the worst drought in the Midwest since the 1950s, coupled with triple-digit temperatures. During the hot and dry summer of 2012, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that 88 percent of the U.S. corn crop was within a drought area.

The 2012-13 U.S. corn crop is expected to be the smallest in six years at nearly 10.8 billion bushels, according to USDA’s January 2013 crop forecast, 13 percent smaller than the 2011-12 crop. USDA indicates that about 4.5 billion bushels, or 42 percent of the harvest, will go to make ethanol. That level is down from just over 5 billion bushels used to make ethanol during the previous crop year.

The brief finds that the combination of lower corn supplies, higher corn prices for ethanol producers, and weaker gasoline demand contributed to U.S. ethanol output falling from an average 900,000 barrels per day (bbl/day) during the first half of 2012 to an average of 815,000 bbl/day during in latter half, about 90,000 bbl/day less than in the second half of 2011.

DOE Announces New SunShot Projects

The Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded seven data-driven projects focused on reducing costs and accelerating solar energy deployment as part of the SunShot Initiative. DOE said the goal of the projects will result in viable methods for dramatically transforming the operations of solar researchers, manufacturers, developers, installers and policymakers, and speed the commercialization and deployment of affordable clean energy.

Print“Through powerful analytical tools developed by our nation’s top universities and national labs, we can gain unparalleled insight into solar deployment that will help lower the cost of solar power and create new businesses and jobs,” said Energy Secretary Steven Chu. “Projects like these will help accelerate technological and financing innovations – making it easier for American families and businesses to access clean, affordable energy.”

The Energy Department will invest about $9 million across the seven projects. These efforts will help scientists, project developers, installers and communities work together to discover previously unexplored ways to improve solar cell efficiency, reduce costs and streamline installation processes.

As part of the investment, DOE will provide $7 million to research teams led by Sandia National Laboratories, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Yale University and the University of Texas – Austin, and $2 million across three projects led by the University of North Carolina – Charlotte, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and SRI International.

Find the full list of projects here.

RFA Condems UN Biofuels & Food Security Study

Earlier this month, the U.N. Committee on World Food Security (CFS) has released a draft study on biofuels and food security with a public comment period until January 30, 2013. Yesterday, the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) submitted comments about the report and its several policy recommendations.

maize harvest Photo: FAO/Giulio NapolitanoThe authors write, “Our report has confirmed the central role of biofuels in provoking high and volatile food prices, and therefore, we point to the fact that there is enough evidence to call in question the use of mandates/targets together with subsidies and tariffs where these artificially stimulate biofuels production. Our Report concludes, however that in the context of persistent high oil prices, biofuels from maize in the US and from sugar-cane in Brazil can be, for different reasons, market competitive. In this situation, we must advance beyond the discussion of mandates and subsidies to include mechanisms for controlling the growth of biofuels markets. The recent EU Directive has moved in this direction, and while the EPA in the US has rejected the suspension of targets, maize/ethanol has almost reached its current allocated share of the biofuels market. Policies should now be directed at ensuring that domestic ceilings are not made innocuous by the emergence of a global biofuels market.”

Geoff Cooper, RFA’s Vice President for Research and Analysis, explained that the draft report “needs substantial revision before it can be submitted for official peer review. Not only does the report fail to discuss potentially positive impacts of biofuels expansion on food security, but it also inappropriately expands the intended scope of the study, blatantly disregards input from the May 2012 consultation, fails to include a comprehensive literature review, and adopts highly questionable assumptions regarding animal feed co-products, crop yields and other factors.”

The RFA comments reflect the association’s belief that “biofuels are providing tangible benefits and positive outcomes for both the world’s farmers and consumers. Biofuels have already proven themselves as agents of economic development, environmental improvement, and social progress in many developed nations. We believe biofuels can bring the same benefits to developing nations without jeopardizing food security. In fact, biofuels have the potential to serve as an important tool in reducing food insecurity. Indeed, we agree with the U.N. Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) that: ‘…investment in bioenergy could spark much-needed investment in agricultural and transport infrastructure in rural areas and, by creating jobs and boosting household incomes, could alleviate poverty and food [in]security.’”

You can read RFA comments in full here.

IRFA Renewable Fuels Summit Smashing Success

A bit of bad weather couldn’t keep people away from the 7th Annual Iowa Renewable Fuels Association’s (IRFA) Renewable Fuels Summit. The event kicked off with remarks from Executive Director Monte Shaw who said that the renewable fuels industry was ready to fight for the future. The organization, on behalf of its members, said Shaw will fight for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS2), as well as consumer access to higher ethanol and biodiesel blends.

“Today I can assure you that the Iowa renewable fuels industry is ready for the fight ahead,” said Shaw during his presentation. “We know that Big Oil has the money, but we have iarfa-13-montethe facts. We are ready to fight for more choices at the pump – cheaper, cleaner, homegrown choices.”

Shaw noted that the national priority is to defend the RFS from attacks by the petroleum industry. “We should start by protecting the federal renewable fuels standard (RFS) from the assault by Big Oil,” continued Shaw. “In the face of the federal petroleum mandate and the massive Big Oil tax subsidies, the RFS is the best tool we have to help open doors for ethanol and biodiesel. The RFS promotes consumer fuel choice at the pump. The RFS brings more marketplace forces into the fuel sector, not less.”

In addition, Shaw called upon Governor Terry Brandstad, who also presented during the morning session, along with the Iowa Legislature, to promote higher biodiesel and ethanol blends. “Iowa does not suck one hydrocarbon out of the ground. We produce renewable fuels. Today, IRFA is calling on the Iowa Legislature and Governor Branstad to include a B10 and E15 tax differential in any legislation changing Iowa fuel taxes,” said Shaw.

Shaw noted that relative to other states, the last five or six years have been good for Iowa and renewable fuels have played a major role. To underscore the point, IRFA released a biodiesel economic study.

“We must fight for our future. So join me in committing to fight for renewable fuels in 2013,” concluded Shaw.

Click here to view Shaw’s entire speech.

Click here to view the IRFA Renewable Fuels Summit Photo Album.

You can listen to my wrap-up interview with Monte here: Renewable Fuels Industry Ready to Fight for Future

Study: Biodiesel Boosts Revenue for Iowa’s Farmers

A new study released today during the 7th Annual Renewable Fuels Summit quantifies how biodiesel production boosts revenue for Iowa’s crop and livestock farmers. The study’s results demonstrate that when Iowa farmers use biodiesel, they not only positively impact Iowa’s economy, they boost their own bottom line. The study was conducted by John Urbanchuk, an economist with Cardno Entrix and was supported by the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA), Iowa Soybean Association (ISA), Iowa Corn Growers Association (ICGA), and Iowa Biodiesel Board (IBB).

iarfa-13-urbanchukDuring the unveiling of the study, Urbanchuk said, “Biodiesel producers are part of a manufacturing sector that adds substantial value to agriculture commodities produced in Iowa and makes a significant contribution to Iowa agriculture. Increased biodiesel production raises both soybean and corn prices and boosts revenue for Iowa crop farmers. Since increased crush demand for soybeans also increases production of soybean meal, an increase in biodiesel use and soybean oil demand will reduce soybean meal prices to the benefit of Iowa’s livestock producers.

Seventy-two percent of all biodiesel produced in Iowa was produced from soybean oil in 2012. This increased demand, said Urbanchuk, benefits Iowa’s growers by raising the price of soybeans by more than 8 percent, and increasing the price of corn by more than 5 percent. For example, for a corn and soybean grower with 400 acres, this would equate to a more than 9 percent increase in net profits. In addition, demand also reduces the cost of some feed ingredients, such as soybean meal, by more than 13 percent and distillers grains by 5 percent.

While soybean oil was the leading feedstock last year, the biodiesel industry also used nearly 250 million pounds of animal fats. Taking into account both production costs and revenues, biodiesel production boosts the net income for an Iowa farmer finishing cattle by more than $16 per head. In addition, the study found that the industry also decreases production costs for hogs while increasing revenue leading to a net income for an Iowa hog farmer by more than $4 per head.

When crop and livestock production are combined, the benefits to Iowa’s farmers are even greater. Taking into account both production costs and revenue an Iowa farmer raising crops and cattle would see nearly a 17 percent increase in net income, while an Iowa farmer raising crops and hogs would see nearly a 20 percent increase in net income.

“The bottom line is that biodiesel has a net positive impact on finishing hogs and cattle in Iowa,” added Urbanchuk.

View the IRFA Renewable Fuels Summit Photo Album.

EcoCAR 2: Plugging in to the Future

Year two is underway in the EcoCAR 2: Plugging in to the Future, competition, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and General Motors. The program offers students hands-on experience in designing future cars. The competition began in 2011 and during year one, the competition emphasized the use of math-based design tools and simulation techniques in establishing vehicle foundation.

In year two, students will be challenged to reduce the environmental impact of a 2013 Chevrolet Malibu, donated by GM. The teams must do this without compromising performance, safety and consumer acceptability. In years two and three, students will build the vehicle and continue to refine, test and improve vehicle operation.

There are 15 teams competing in the EcoCar 2 challenge and many of them will head to the winter workshop in Austin, Texas on January 23, 2013 where the year two competition schedule will be unveiled.

During the three-year program, General Motors provides production vehicles, vehicle components, seed money, technical mentoring and operational support. DOE and its research and development facility, Argonne National Laboratory, provide competition management, team evaluation and technical and logistical support. By sponsoring Advanced Vehicle Technology Competitions, GM and the DOE are developing the next generation of scientists and engineers.

Rice Solar Energy Project Gets Green Light

SolarReserve has been given the green light from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to sell power from its 150 megawatt solar project under an amended 25-year power purchase agreement with Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E). According to the company, the Rice Solar Energy Project will be the first large-scale solar project in the state to include energy storage capabilities.

artist_picture_of_rice solar energy projectLocated in eastern Riverside County, and sited on privately owned and previously disturbed land in the Sonoran Desert, the Rice Solar Energy Project, with eight hours of full power energy storage, should generate more than 450,000 megawatt hours annually of energy – enough to power more than 65,000 homes during peak electricity periods. The solar project will utilize a dry-cooled system to minimize water usage in the desert location resulting in less than 20 percent of the water used per kilowatt of electricity produced by conventional coal or nuclear facilities. Financing activities are underway, and the project is expected to break ground in early of 2014 with commercial operation scheduled for mid-2016.

CPUC Commissioner Ferron said of the project, “In my personal view, projects like the Rice Solar Energy Project will be important to demonstrate that we can firm and shape intermittent renewables with clean technology, not just with fossil technology.”

The hope for the project is that it will be more flexible in terms of being able to support renewable integration to the grid.

“SolarReserve’s market leading technology is a true alternative to conventional generators and can provide firm and reliable electricity as needed by the utility or system operator, day and night,” added SolarReserve CEO Kevin Smith. “This capability will be crucial as California progresses towards its 33 percent renewable target. We are also making tremendous strides in exporting this proven U.S. technology worldwide to markets in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America, and our projects in Nevada and California help establish the U.S. as an innovation leader in alternate energy.”

Bioenergy Bytes

Regional Clean Energy Challenge Winners Named

Aerosol Control Technologies (ACT) of Washington University in St. Louis, has won the $10,000 Missouri Clean Energy Student Challenge. The team will compete for more than $300,000 in prizes in the second annual Clean Energy Student Challenge on April 4, 2013 in Chicago. ACT is developing an advanced particulate matter capture system that will significantly improve diesel engine efficiency using electrostatic precipitators.

missouri student clean energy challenge“ACT absolutely exceeded expectations and brought a first-class business plan with cutting-edge technology to the Challenge,” said Joshua Campbell, executive director of the Missouri Energy Initiative who held the Missouri competition. “This was their second year and their success clearly demonstrates what a tremendous learning experience it is. They took what they learned last year and created an application that I think could take them to the national competition.”

Applications to the Missouri Clean Energy Student Challenge were submitted in a range of technology areas from waste-to-energy solutions and biofuels to solar cells and new wind energy innovations. As the Missouri winner, ACT will compete in the 2013 Challenge and will receive mentoring and training to prepare business plan presentations to a judging panel comprised of venture capitalists, corporate investors and business leaders. The winner of the 2013 Student Challenge will compete in the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Clean Energy Business Competition in Washington, D.C. this summer.

“The Student Challenge is truly bringing the best and the brightest students from some of our nation’s most prestigious universities to the forefront of the clean energy world,” added Amy Francetic, executive director of the Clean Energy Trust. “They have taken wonderfully innovative technologies and built viable business plans around them.”