About John Davis

Domestic Fuel welcomes our newest blogger, John Davis. John is a 20 years+ veteran of traditional news and is getting his first taste of this "new media." We've known John since Chuck hired him to work at the Brownfield Network in January, 2000 after he served an 11 year stint in the U.S. Air Force as a broadcast journalist. John lives in Jefferson City, Missouri with his wife, two sons, two dogs, a cat, a mouse, and a fish! You can read more about him and his thoughts at his own website John C. Davis Online.

New Report Confirms Purdue Ethanol Study

A couple of weeks ago, we told you about how Purdue University had come out with a study that showed that increasing costs for oil were responsible for 75 percent in the rise in the price in corn, while demand for ethanol accounted for just one-fourth of corn’s skyrocketing price.

Now, a report coming out of Nebraska also says the real blame for the spike in food prices are higher fuel costs and greater world grain demand:

The report, “The Impact of Ethanol Production on Food, Feed and Fuel,” was produced by Ethanol Across America and co-sponsored by the Nebraska Ethanol Board. The findings confirm a recent study by Purdue University, which found that record high oil prices have caused 75% of the inflation in corn prices.

Ethanol is reducing gas prices. In Nebraska, about 77% of all gasoline sold contains ethanol. E10 is typically 10 cents cheaper than regular and economists have found that ethanol production lowers oil prices by 15% nationwide. Ethanol will save Nebraska motorists more than $70 million at the pump during 2008 according to the Nebraska Ethanol Board.

Ethanol Board Chairman Jim Jenkins said that ethanol generates a resounding economic benefit to Nebraska by lowering gas prices and providing livestock producers with lower-cost feeding alternatives.

“As a cattle producer and restaurant owner, I am directly impacted by skyrocketing energy prices. High energy costs hit everyone hard, but Nebraska ethanol is lowering gas prices. Ethanol also provides relief for the livestock producer with high quality, low cost feed in the form of distillers grains,” Jenkins said. “The Nebraska economy is significantly better off as a result of our $4 billion ethanol industry, which has made our state a net exporter of motor fuels.”

You can read the entire report at the Nebraska Ethanol Board’s web page in the “Resources” section.

North America To Be Big at World Wind Energy Trade-Fair

Mark your calendar, and check your passport because the town of Husum, Germany is set to host the world’s largest and longest-running wind energy industry trade show, HUSUM WindEnergy.

A press release from HUSUM’s web site says the five-day event, September 9-13, 2008, will have 700 exhibitors from 35 countries, with an expected record for North American participation… 17 from the United States and 13 from Canada.

More than 20,000 visitors from 40 countries will participate in the 2008 trade show in the North Frisian coastal town, located in the federal state of Schleswig-Holstein.

The accompanying congress will feature nearly 60 seminars relevant to the international wind energy industry, including sessions regarding recent innovations in the industry, presentations by leaders of countries new to wind energy development, and an international conference on wind energy in North America. The North American conference will include discussions of financing models for U.S. and Canadian wind farms.

“HUSUM WindEnergy is both a showcase and market place in what truly has become a global discussion for clean energy development and transmission,” said Managing Director Hanno Fecke. “We provide the ideal environment for making and expanding international contacts, as well as a forum for enhancing multinational dialog exchange.”

Governors from 22 wind-rich states have been invited to participate in the event.

Camelina’s Role as Biodiesel Feedstock Expands

While camelina has really taken root as a feedstock in the Western United States (see my post from July 22, 2008), it’s starting to make some inroads back east.

This radio story from the USDA says that some farmers in Pennsylvania started growing camelina last fall and are expanding their efforts this year:

Joel Hunter is a Penn State University Cooperative Extension Educator. “This year we tried it in kind of a big way about, somewhere between 300 and 400 acres.”

The story goes on to say that the goal is to sell the camelina oil to the Lake Erie Biofuels plant in Erie, PA.

“Camelina seed has about 40 percent oil. So we’re looking at something like two barrels of oil per acre.”

USDA says that the Penn State Cooperative Extension bought 2,000 pounds of camelina seed for farmers to grow, while really going out on a limb and might not even be able to get grants to cover the school’s costs. But Hunter thinks it is worth it if it gets the camelina effort off the ground in that area.

Vikings Helping Turn Minnesota Green

I’m not talking about those guys with the funny horns on the side of their football helmets. A group of Swedes have traveled to Minnesota to give residents there some ideas about how biomass can heat a home.

This story from Biomass Magazine says a delegation from the city of Växjö, Sweden… dubbed the Greenest City in Europe… is visiting Duluth, Minn., sharing their ideas:

In 1996 Växjö, a city in southern Sweden, set goals to reduce carbon dioxide emissions per capita by 50 percent in 2010 and by 70 percent in 2025. So far, the city has reduced its emissions by 35 percent, mainly due to the expansion of its heating system, which uses wood waste biomass from sawmills for fuel.

“It has been a good thing for the families, the municipality, and the economy to use the heat from this biomass,” said Henrik Nilsson, public relations manager for the city of Växjö. “It is the cheapest way to heat your house and you don’t have to be an eco-friend. If you just want to save money, you will use this way of heating and then, of course, you will be an environmental hero, as well, and that is just a bonus.”

Duluth and Växjö have been sister cities for 20 years, with this annual visit the first to focus on economics and the environment.

USDA, DOE Hand Out Biomass Grants

The U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Energy announced $10 million worth of grants for 10 places of higher education to help accelerate the use of biomass into cellulosic biofuels.

This USDA release has details:

“USDA is committed to fostering a sustainable domestic biofuels industry at home in rural America,” [Agriculture Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics Gale Buchanan] said. “These grants will broaden the sources of energy from many crops as well as improve the efficiency and options among renewable fuels.”

“Cellulosic biofuels offer one of the best near- to mid-term alternatives we have, on the energy production side, to reduce reliance and imported oil and cut greenhouse gas emissions, while continuing to meet the nation’s transportation energy needs,” [Energy Department (DOE) Under Secretary for Science Raymond Orbach] said. “Developing cost-effective means of producing cellulosic biofuels on a national scale poses major scientific challenges-these grants will help in developing the type of transformational breakthroughs needed in basic science to make this happen.”

Here’s a list of those schools picking up the research grants:

* Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research (Ithaca, NY), $882,000
* Colorado State University (Fort Collins, CO), $1,500,000
* University of Georgia (Athens, GA), $1,295,000
* University of Georgia(Athens, GA), $1,200,000
* University of Massachusetts (Amherst, MA), $1,200,000
* Michigan State University (East Lansing, MI), $540,000
* Pennsylvania State University (State College, PA), $587,191
* Purdue University (West Lafayette, IN), $1,200,000
* Oregon State University (Corvallis, OR), $1,200,000
* Oregon State University (Corvallis, OR), $1,200,000

All-in-One Algae Biodiesel Plant Coming to Missouri

West-Central Missouri is about to become home to an algae-biodeisel refinery… the first of its kind in this nation.

This story from the Marshall (MO) Democrat-News says commissioners of Saline County, Missouri have signed a resolution and intend to issue $141 million in bonds to help Green Star Products Inc.’s EcoAlgae USA build a commercial algae production facility in conjunction with an integrated biorefinery complex:

The EcoAlgae project will involve algae production at the heart of this biorefinery complex because its high production biomass feedstock only requires sunlight, CO2 and brackish or saltwater.

“(This will be) the first facility of its type in the nation,” said Marshall-Saline Development Corporation Executive Director Roy Hunter, the man who spearheaded this project. “It’s going to bring national recognition to Saline County as a renewable fuels region.”

“(This) should make us a home base for research and advanced renewable fuels in the future.”

“The biorefinery will be the first of its kind and will incorporate all the technologies to produce oil, cattle feed, electricity, biodiesel, cellulosic ethanol and steam,” the company said in a press release.

EcoAlgae must come up with an economic development plan, as well as getting the proper permits and complying with state laws before the bonds will be issued. That process, including some public comment time, could take 60 to 90 days.

Biodiesel, Wind Lose in Tiff over Energy Policy

The fight between Democrats and Republicans in Washington, DC has hurt the biodiesel and wind energy programs in this country.

The Des Moines (IA) Register reports that Congress, deadlocked and heading for its August break, failed to renew tax credits for wind power and biodiesel that are due to expire at the end of the year:

Republicans have successfully blocked the tax package and other legislation from getting through the Senate because of the Democratic leadership’s restrictions on what GOP energy proposals can be put to a vote.

Greg Wetstone of the American Wind Energy Association said today that the delay in acting on the tax credits is creating uncertainty among investors in his industry.
However, he said he still he expects Congress pass the extensions before the end of the year.

“This is an issue that is popular on both the Democratic and Republican side of the aisle. Sadly, it’s been a very difficult climate to legislate in,” he said.

The biodiesel industry is heavily dependent on a $1-a-gallon tax credit that is at stake in the bill. The primary feedstock for biodiesel is soybean oil, and prices for that have been so high recently that biodiesel producers have been struggling to stay in operation even with the subsidy.

The August break is a chance for lawmakers to go back home and hear from their bosses… the people who elected them in the first place. Maybe its time they got an earful from all of you for them to get their heads together and get these important tax credits passed… before they run out at the end of the year.

CNN’s Biodiesel-Fueled Trip Hits Hoover Dam

CNN’s trip across the country (as we first reported this past Monday) in a 1978 International Scout running on biodiesel has made it to Hoover Dam, (with acknowledgments to Chevy Chase’s “Vegas Vacation”) where they shot some dam video, filed some dam reports, and did some dam blogging!!! (Where can I get some dam bait?).

Seriously, though, CNN.com producer Cody McCloy and web developer Brian Hardy are out to prove during the two-week, cross-country trip that started earlier this week how viable biodiesel is as a fuel for a road trip of this magnitude. Here’s one of their latest entries:

[A]s we attempt to drive from California to Georgia on biodiesel fuel, our 1978 Scout is thirsty, and Haycock Petroleum came through for us. Haycock is a wholesaler to area Sinclair stations, which in turn sell B5 to retail consumers. Although we aren’t a retailer, Haycock let us fill up the Scout and a fuel can with their higher-blend fuel. Maybe this will get us to Grand Canyon.

The duo is also testing other green energy measures, such as solar panels to power their computers and video gear. You can follow their progress by clicking on the CNN interactive map of the trip here.

New QC System for U.S.’s Largest Biodiesel Refinery

The nation’s biggest biodiesel refinery has installed a quality control system that promises to cut testing times from hours to minutes.

This press release from Cognis Corporations’ QTA (Quality Trait Analysis) says GreenHunter BioFuels in Houston, Texas, which produces 105 million gallons of biodiesel a year, has put in QTA’s new biodiesel testing system:

“Biodiesel quality testing traditionally requires gas chromatographs and a trained chemist” said Kerry Staller, Corporate Engineer with GreenHunter. “As such. quality control is difficult to integrate with operations because testing needs to be done in a separate lab by a chemist with the results coming up to an hour after a sample was taken. But with Cognis’ QTA System, our operators are able to conduct the quality tests right in the control room and see easy-to-understand results that they can act upon–all in less than 2 minutes after the sample is taken.”

Barbara Stefl, Cognis’ Global Business Director, said, “One of the benefits of our fast biodiesel testing process is that quality testing and general operations can now be more tightly linked. Efficiencies improve due to reduced handoffs between chemists and operators and quality increases due to the ease of doing more frequent testing.”

Cognis’ QTA patented Biodiesel Analysis starts by digitizing the light spectra of a fresh biodiesel sample using proven infrared technology. Those spectra are then sent, via the internet, to Cognis’ central database where algorithms convert the spectra, in real-time, into highly accurate standard quality measurements that are viewed online by plant personnel. All this occurs in less than two minutes.

QTA says the service is subscription-based and does not require capital investment.

Soybean Growers Help Dispel Ethanol, Biodiesel Myths

Battling the myths and misinformation that swirl around both ethanol and biodiesel seems to be a fulltime job these days. While some groups, such as the American Soybean Association and the Renewable Fuels Association, fight these battles daily, they could use a little help from the novices and those interested in the success of biofuels. That’s why the ASA is giving them the tools to beat back those naysayers against the green fuels.

The ASA has created the document called “Myths and Realities Behind Rising Food Prices“:

Anyone who buys groceries or eats in a restaurant knows that food prices have increased, but few people truly understand the global factors that are driving the present situation…

All things considered, the demand for biofuels has played a relatively small role in rising food prices. According to U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, the primary reasons underlying the escalation in food prices are an explosion in energy costs driven largely by the price of petroleum, the surging demand for food and livestock feed from a growing and increasingly prosperous middle class in countries like China and India, drought and other weather patterns that reduced yields in numerous regions of the world, the declining value of the U.S. dollar, and export restrictions imposed by some countries.

Higher energy prices have greatly added to the costs of transporting, processing, manufacturing, storing and distributing the food we eat. Higher energy prices also have dramatically increased the prices U.S. farmers are paying for the inputs they need to plant, grow and harvest their crops. Compared to just two years ago, farmers today are paying twice as much for the diesel fuel they need to run their tractors, combines and grain trucks. Fertilizer, which requires a great deal of energy to produce, has quadrupled in price.

The fact sheet goes on to point out how, worldwide, ethanol and biodiesel have cut the amount of non-renewable petroleum crude oil by a million barrels a day… saving the world $43 billion in savings each year.

My suggestion is to print out the fact sheet and have it ready the next time some loud-mouthed, Big-Oil backer starts bashing biofuels. Then, you can bash back with FACTS!

Mass. Gov Signs Ethanol, Biodiesel Measure

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick has signed into law a measure that is hoped to make his state a leader in biofuels by exempting cellulosic biofuels (ethanol) from state taxes and creating a mandate for biodiesel in home heating oil.

The Boston Globe was there when Patrick signed the bill:

“It’s law,” he said, seated at a table at the Allston office of Mascoma Corp., flanked by state legislators, his energy secretary, and US Representative William D. Delahunt. Mascoma is one of a number of Massachusetts companies pursuing so-called advanced, or cellulosic, biofuels, which are made from agricultural wastes and forest products, rather than corn.

The Clean Energy Biofuels Act will make Massachusetts the first state to exempt cellulosic biofuels from state gas taxes, creating economic incentives for companies while requiring that the fuels meet strict greenhouse gas reduction standards. One major concern with biofuels such as corn-based ethanol is that they raise food prices and, in their growing and processing, cause more environmental harm than gasoline does.

The law also requires all diesel and home heating fuel to be 2 percent biofuels by 2010 and 5 percent by 2013.

The new law also contains a provision that will require the development of a low-carbon fuel standard for vehicles so greenhouse gases would be reduced by 10 percent.

USDA: Food and Fuel Crops Not Hurting As Much As Feared

Last month’s floods in the Midwest might not have put the corn and soybean crops, which are vital to ethanol and biodiesel production, in as much peril as originally feared.

In a news conference in Washington, DC today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief said that the Midwest corn and soybean crops have not been hurt as badly as first thought from last month’s flooding in the region. And Secretary Ed Schafer says that the number of farmers who want to take their Conservation Reserve Program acres because it is more financially advantageous is adequate enough his agency won’t be allowing any penalty-free releases of CRP acres this year:

Despite the damage and disruption caused by the very severe floods that hit the Midwest last month, the indications so far are that the impact on this year’s corn and soybean crops will be less than what was originally feared. The markets have been reacting favorably to the good growing weather we have been experiencing in recent weeks and encouraging reports on crop conditions. Cash prices for corn are down 25 percent and for soybeans 14 percent from their record highs just last month.

Even with the damage and delays in planting caused by the floods, this year’s corn crop is on track to be the second largest on record with an anticipated harvest of almost 79 million acres. The strength of the commitment America’s farmers have made to meeting the nation’s need for corn for food, feed and fuel has reassured the markets that there will be an adequate supply available this year.

The recent easing in prices is helpful to the livestock industry and will allow current CRP contract holders to make informed decisions about whether they want to make an early exit from the program. Continue reading

Poll: Public Not Buying Knock on Biodiesel

A nationwide survey from the United Soybean Board shows that a vast majority of the people in the United States believe American farmers and biodiesel are the solution… not the problem… in the issues of high fuel and food prices.

This story from CattleNetwork.com says that the National Agriculture Image Survey says more than 80 percent of consumers see foreign oil-producing countries and the high cost of fuel as the real culprits for food price spikes:

Other key findings show:

77 percent of consumers favor the use of biodiesel as a source of energy that can meet our needs in the next 5 to 10 years.

74 percent of consumers were more favorable toward biodiesel after hearing it benefits the environment.

70 percent of consumers were more favorable toward biodiesel after hearing it’s a new green industry that creates jobs.

“In a time when we all are feeling the pinch of high energy and food costs, it’s encouraging to know the American public realizes the benefits of soy biodiesel as a clean-burning, renewable, homegrown fuel,” says USB Vice Chairman and Nebraska soybean farmer Chuck Myers. “The soybean checkoff believes it’s important that consumers understand the rising cost of petroleum represents the major reason for higher consumer food prices and that biodiesel represents a viable, useful and beneficial alternative to imported oil.”

Myers also point out that demand for soy biodiesel is having very little impact on food prices because 98 percent of the soymeal is not lost in the biodiesel process and goes on to feed livestock. That means biodiesel and its by-product soymeal can fuel and feed the nation and the world.

Minnesota to Study Cold Flow Biodiesel Issue

As Minnesota gets set to implement the nation’s biggest biodiesel mandate (as we reported back in May), that by the year 2015 could see 20 percent of all diesel sold in the state come from biodiesel, officials are tackling an issue that literally gums up the works: the flow of biodiesel in the cold.

This article from Biodiesel Magazine says the Minnesota Biodiesel Task Force is putting together a committee to look at how to solve the flow of biodiesel problem in the state’s bone-chilling winters:

The Minnesota legislature instructed the task force to create a technical committee to discuss cold weather issues related to biodiesel. Plans are for the committee to start meeting in late July or early August and have recommendations for the NextGen board by January 2009. “That group will be made up of technical folks who will be able to discuss what problems we can anticipate and what can be done about those,” [Ralph Groschen, an agriculture marketing specialist for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture] said.

The article goes on to say that officials are trying to head off some of the problems of a couple of years ago when off-spec biodiesel and cold weather clogged a lot of diesel engines:

The technical committee will create recommendations to make sure that the cold weather problems with biodiesel won’t reoccur in future years. According to Groschen, the industry has already taken a proactive approach to preventing future cold flow problems. “We don’t expect a lot of big changes to be made at this point,” he said.

The percentage of biodiesel in Minnesota’s mandate, as well as the success, is dependent on availability of the green fuel and its quality control.

U.S. & China Become Wind Power Leaders

The world’s superpowers… the current reigning one and the up-and-comer… are also super when it comes to wind power.

This story from CNN says the U.S. and China are leading the world in wind energy development. And as we’ve reported before, the American charge is being led in Texas, which produces more wind energy than any other state:

Several Texan transmission companies announced Monday they were forming a consortium to invest in the $5 billion cost of building new power lines to take advantage of the state’s vast wind power.

The consortium, comprised of existing transmission operators, includes Dallas-based Oncor, the state’s largest power delivery company, Electric Transmission Texas (ETT) and units of American Electric Power Co. among others.

Those new lines, dubbed by Oncor as a “renewable energy superhighway,” will accommodate about 18,500 megawatts of wind generation by 2012– enough energy to power 4 million homes.

And America’s biggest rival is also rivaling it in wind energy development: Continue reading