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.

Biodiesel Fueling Cross-Country Trip

Following the route of the famous Cannonball Run of the 1970s (made even more famous by the movie in 1981), a pair of advertising copywriters will attempt to go from the East Coast to the West Coast… entirely non-stop and entirely on biodiesel.

This press release from the Willie Run ’08 web site has more information:

Scheduled for departure from Midtown Manhattan on September 22, Nik Bristow and Brian Pierce from Atlanta’s Fitzgerald+CO will embark on “Willie Run ‘08”, the first-ever non-stop, cross-country trek powered entirely by Willie Nelson’s own BioWillie® biodiesel. The two-man team will follow the route of the infamous Cannonball Run and arrive less than 40 hours later in Los Angeles on September 24. They won’t stop for fuel. They won’t stop to go to the bathroom. In fact, excluding driver changes, they won’t stop for anything for almost 3000 miles.

Their vehicle of choice? The “Willie One,” a diesel Volkswagen Jetta with an additional 60 gallons of fuel capacity that, along with the diesel car’s superior fuel economy of approximately 45-50 mpg, will allow it to travel coast-to-coast without a single fuel stop.

Bristow and Pierce have been biodiesel supporters for years and are ardent fans of Willie Nelson. After discovering the BioWillie® brand and linking those two passions, they began developing a relationship with BioWillie® and creating print ads and other marketing concepts on a pro bono basis.

“We’d been working on the BioWillie brand for a while and we were doing some pretty cool stuff. But it occurred to us that we were working with Willie Nelson, the original outlaw of the music industry, so we needed to be doing something outlaw. So we came up with Willie Run ’08,” said Pierce.

There are plenty of questions that come to mind, especially “what about going to the bathroom?” Well, you can find out the answer to that and more in some pretty hilarious videos the guys have posted on their web site: willierun.com.

Oilseed Production to Hit Record

While American farmers might have a smaller soybean crop this year, that feedstock and other oilseeds for biodiesel production is expected to be at record levels on the global market.

The latest USDA World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates report says the U.S. soybean crop will be down to 2.93 billion bushels… 39 million bushels lower than previous estimates. But this story from Biodiesel Magazine says the rest of the world is taking up the slack:

The lowered prospects for U.S. production is due primarily to lower yield projections in the eastern Corn Belt. The soybean crush was reduced 30 million bushels due to sharply lower projected domestic soybean meal use and meal exports…

Soybean oil stocks for 2007-’08 are reduced, reflecting lower production…

Global soybean production is projected at a record 238 million tons, up 9 percent from 2007-‘08. Argentina soybean production was raised to a record 50.5 million tons based on higher expected area. China soybean production was raised 500,000 tons to 16.5 million based on increased yields. Global rapeseed production was raised 1.2 million tons to 53.4 million, an 11 percent increase over 2007-‘08. Rapeseed crops are projected higher for Canada, EU-27, and Belarus. Other changes include increased global oilseed stocks, which were raised 3 million tons to 60.4 million for 2008-’09 – primarily due to increased rapeseed stocks in Canada and increased soybean stocks in South America and China.

Biodiesel, Ethanol & Wind Facing Uphill Battle on the Hill

The latest version of the energy bill, which includes an extension of the $1-a-gallon biodiesel tax credit and federal incentives for wind and solar energy (which were all set to expire at the end of this year), has passed the U.S. House, but its future is most assuredly less assured as it moves on to the U.S. Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is holding votes on four separate energy bills, possibly starting as early as tomorrow (Thursday, Sept. 18th), as lawmakers hit the final week before they go on their fall recess starting Sept. 26. This story from the Washington, D.C.-based newspaper The Hill says it might be too much with too little room and time for compromise to get a bill that will pass:

Few senators expressed optimism that the two parties could resolve deep disagreements in such a compressed, politically charged atmosphere, especially with 60-vote thresholds likely necessary. Reid himself suggested a lame-duck session after the Nov. 4 elections might be necessary if the issue cannot be resolved.

“It would definitely be the triumph of hope over experience,” said Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the GOP’s chief deputy whip. “The Democrats will run their bill, the Republicans will run our bill, none of them will reach 60, and my guess is that’s where everything stops.”

Still, there is some reason for hope. Both Democrats and Republicans say the energy debate will be simplified by passing alternative energy tax incentives in a separate tax package, leaving only the sticky problem of expanding offshore oil drilling.

So it looks like the incentives for renewable energy could get extended even if the energy bill as a whole is doomed. As I said yesterday, stay tuned… this story is far from over.

House Passes Energy Bill with Renewable Fuels Provisions

The U.S. House has approved a measure that will renew some tax credits for wind and solar power that were set to expire at the end of this year, as well as allowing more drilling for offshore oil.

This story from the San Francisco Chronicle says passage came after some contentious debate on the issue:

[House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi hailed the 236-189 vote as a victory because the bill also included Democratic priorities such as stripping oil companies of $18 billion in tax breaks, renewing expiring tax credits for wind and solar, and requiring electric utilities to get 15 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2020.

The measure “will put us on the path toward energy independence” and make “Big Oil pay for its fair share of our transition to a clean, renewable energy future,” Pelosi said.

The measure is far from a done deal as it still needs to make it through the U.S. Senate where there are three other energy bills that are very different than the House bill. Plus, the White House has threatened to veto the measure.

I’m sure there’ll be more to talk about on this in the next few days and weeks… stay tuned.

Montana Company Offers On-site Seed Crushing, Biodiesel Brewing

A new company out of Billings, Montana is offering to come to farms, crush the oilseeds farmers grow and even turn it into biodiesel to be burned right there on the farm.

This story from the Billings Business News says Paul Miller owns Big Sky Biofuels, which offers on-farm crushing and biodiesel conversion for farmers who have raised oil-seed crops:

“The idea is to encourage sustainable production and to have the farmer grow oilseed crops capable of fueling their operations,” Miller said.

Miller’s portable seed crusher and a generator that powers it fit on a flatbed trailer and can be hauled directly to a farm, where it can be used to extract oil from crops like canola, camelina, safflower and sunflower.

The crusher can process up to 5 tons of seed per day. Aside from yielding vegetable oil, the seed hulls can be used to make a protein-rich livestock feed, which can replace corn and other feed.

The farmers then have the option of either turning the oil into biodiesel for use on their own farms, or, if it is more profitable, they can sell the oil for someone else to use for either fuel or food (depending on the type of oil crushed).

Ike Idles US’s Biggest Biodiesel Refinery

The nation’s largest biodiesel refinery, the GreenHunter Energy Renewable Fuels Campus in Houston that is capable of cranking out 105 million gallons of biodiesel a year, will be shut down for the next six to eight weeks because of the damage caused by Hurricane Ike.

This information from the company’s web site has details:

Structural losses at the facility include damages to offices, piping between some reagent tanks, some small and intermediate tank foundations, two bulk storage tanks – one vegetable oil feedstock tank and one methanol tank. The vegetable oil tank contained edible canola oil and the facility released some canola oil off-site due to high water. The release of canola oil to the environment was estimated at less than 50 barrels. In response to the release of the vegetable oils into the environment, the Company promptly notified all appropriate local, state, and federal agencies, as well as the Company’s third-party oil spill response organization.

GreenHunter Energy’s Renewable Fuels Campus is currently without power or utility service, and will likely be out of operations for six to eight weeks. This estimate includes the expected timeframe in which the Company’s local utility in Houston, Center Point Energy, is able to restore electricity and natural gas service to the location. In the short term, temporary interruptible power will be provided by diesel and gasoline-powered generators with 600 kW and 5 kW capacities, respectively. Over the weekend, the Company was able to procure from the Gulf Coast of Louisiana, these generators which previously had been shipped there as backup power supply in the wake of Hurricane Gustav.

The good news: company officials say the damage to major process equipment is minimal. Something else to keep in mind is that since there are biodiesel refineries all over the country… and more opening every day… it’s not like the petroleum industry that has most of its eggs in one, hurricane-prone, no-new-refinery-in-more-than-35-years basket.

GM Officially Unveils Electric Car

While pictures of it might have leaked out last week (and whether that was an accident or not was the subject of my Sept. 9, 2008 post), officials at General Motors officially unveiled their new Chevrolet Volt… touted in this press release as “a vehicle that delivers up to 40 miles of gasoline- and emissions-free electric driving, with the extended-range capability of hundreds of additional miles.”:

“Revealing the production version of the Chevy Volt is a great way to open our second century,” said Rick Wagoner, GM Chairman and CEO. “The Volt is symbolic of GM’s strong commitment to the future … just the kind of technology innovation that our industry needs to respond to today’s and tomorrow’s energy and environmental challenges.”

The Chevrolet Volt is leading a new era of electrification of the automobile by creating a new class of vehicle known as the Extended-Range Electric Vehicle, or E-REV.

The Volt uses electricity to move the wheels at all times and speeds. For trips up to 40 miles, the Volt is powered only by electricity stored in its 16-kWh, lithium-ion battery. When the battery’s energy is depleted, a gasoline/E85-powered engine generator seamlessly provides electricity to power the Volt’s electric drive unit while simultaneously sustaining the charge of the battery. This mode of operation extends the range of the Volt for several hundred additional miles, until the vehicle’s battery can be charged. Unlike a conventional battery-electric vehicle, the Volt eliminates “range anxiety,” giving the confidence and peace of mind that the driver will not be stranded by a depleted battery.

GM officials say the Volt will cost about 2 cents per mile to run.

Alt-fueled Cars Get Sales Tax Break in Washington

New car buyers in the state of Washington are going to get a break on their sales taxes when they buy some vehicles that run on alternative fuels.

This story from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer says it’s expected to save them $18.6 million over the next couple of years and is designed to get people to trade in their old gas guzzlers (although, high gas prices ought to be enough incentive, right?):

The tax break, which takes effect Jan. 1, applies only to new vehicles. It also only covers cars and trucks getting at least 40 highway mpg, which includes the Prius and hybrid Honda Civic, but not the Toyota Camry or hybrid SUVs.

“What this law does is it helps people save some money to get them to choose a car that’s more fuel efficient — and that’s a good thing,” said Don Fahnestock, an owner of The Green Car Co., a Bellevue business that sells extra fuel-efficient vehicles.

The tax break (9.3 percent in the Seattle area) covers vehicles that run on natural gas, propane and hydrogen, as well as “neighborhood electric vehicles” or “medium speed vehicles” (street legal, but can’t go faster than 35 mph).

The incentive is for all vehicles purchased in and out of state between Jan. 1, 2009 and Dec. 31, 2010. Washington residents can take still buy a car before the end of this year to get the sales tax exemption. They just have to wait to register and title their vehicles until after the first of the year.

Biodiesel Bus Coming to ISU

Last week, I told you how a group of students at Washington State University had formed a biodiesel club to make their own green fuel to run a bus around campus. Well, it must either be the high cost of tuition or the realization that regular gas is just too much of a drain on the wallet (most likely, both), sprinkled in with some environmental consciousness, because there’s another school looking at a similar program.

This story in the Des Moines (IA) Register says students at Iowa State University in Ames have formed the ISU BioBus organization to turn reclaimed vegetable oil into biodiesel to fuel a bus on campus:

ISU Biobus President David Correll, a graduate student in economics, said the idea came late last spring.

About 15 students in the group brainstormed converting waste oil into biodiesel themselves using a simple chemical process.

Member Joe Fuller, a graduate student in mechanical engineering, said the students are still deciding on whether to produce the biodiesel themselves or outsource the process…

The students estimate the bus runs on approximately 25 gallons of fuel per day. Because they don’t plan on replacing all the fuel, they estimate they would make about 55 gallons of biodiesel every week.

The students had wanted to use waste cooking grease from the campus dining facility, but Dining Services has other plans for that waste (hmmm… wanna bet someone else is buying that to make biodiesel?). So, the students will probably have to look to the many fast-food places typical of the college town… not a problem in my opinion.

Hydrogen Car Gets Real-World Test at EPA

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is practicing what it preaches as the agency in charge of keeping America clean is testing a hydrogen fuel cell car that is part of its green fleet of vehicles.

This press release from the EPA says the Chevy Equinox Fuel Cell Car is the latest in American technology:

“EPA is turning the key on an engine of change, by turning fleet emissions from CO2 to H2O,” said EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson. “EPA supports new technologies such as hydrogen fuel cells that are good for our environment and good for our economy.”

The vehicle, the forth generation Chevrolet Equinox Fuel Cell, is an electric car enabled by General Motors’ advanced fuel cell propulsion system and is tested and engineered for 50,000 miles of driving life. With hydrogen as its only fuel, this vehicle emits no greenhouse gases and serves as an alternative to traditional, petroleum-dependent vehicles that emit carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and other air pollutants. Featuring the latest advancements in fuel cell technology, the vehicle can travel up to 150 miles per fill-up, and is expected to meet all applicable 2008 federal motor vehicle safety standards.

The project has been made possible through cooperation with the U.S. Department of Energy in the form of a grant from the DOE to pay for a six-month lease on the vehicle.

Biodiesel Board Makes Case for Tax Break

Members of the National Biodiesel Board were on Capitol Hill this week, trying to convince lawmakers to renew the biodiesel tax incentive set to expire at the end of this year.

This NBB press release says Manning Feraci, the Vice President of Federal Affairs for the board made the case before the U.S. House Committee on Small Business:

“We have clearly seen a positive impact since the biodiesel tax incentive was enacted as part of the American Jobs Creation Act of 2004,” Feraci stated. “Not only has there been an increase in jobs, biodiesel has proven to be a viable energy alternative which is environmentally friendly. Continuing this incentive will take the nation one large step closer to energy independence,” Feraci continued.

In 2007 alone, the U.S. biodiesel industry contributed over $4.1 billion to America’s GDP and provided for 21,803 jobs. The biodiesel tax incentive will foster greater growth within the industry and continue to create and promote new, “green,” jobs. By investing American money in America, this tax incentive also helps break our nation’s addiction to foreign oil.

Earlier this week at the new, green NBB building grand opening ceremony in Jefferson City, Mo., Missouri Congressman Kenny Hulshof made the case why the biodiesel industries needs the incentives. He explained that it’s the only way to level the playing field with the petroleum industry that has been the benefactor of tax breaks for decades… even as it enjoyed record profits.

You can hear Hulshof’s comments here:

Wazzu Biodiesel Club Gets Start

A handful of students at Washington State University are trying to take their energy future into their own hands. While the WSU Biodiesel Club only got about 10 members at their first meeting this week, organizers hope that the student-run operation soon will be producing 200 gallons of the green fuel a day.

This story from the student paper, The Daily Evergreen, says once they start making a profit, the club’s first order of business is to pay back benefactor Bob Richards, who has put $4,000 of his own money into the idea:

So far, all members of the club are engineering majors currently attending WSU.

“There’s really no qualifications necessary to be a part of this club,” [Nate Storrs, a sophomore mechanical engineeering major and a member of the Biodiesel Club] said. “It was just by chance that we are all of the same major. Really we’re just looking for people who would be willing to devote time and energy into a process that they believe to be worthy.” However, not just anyone can hop onto a machine and make biodiesel. Before production can start, members will need to take a hazardous materials course as well as read up on materials that are on the material safety datasheet, to prevent problems down the line. Once preparation is done, the actual production of biodiesel is simple, Smith said. “All it really takes is cleaning out the oils and grease and then mixing it with methanol and potassium hydroxide, and after a heating process you create usable biodiesel,” Smith said.

If you’re on the campus in Pullman, check out the Biodiesel Club at 5:30 p.m. at the Sloan Hall second-floor lounge.

NBB Ceremony: Biodiesel Part of Solution

During this week’s ribbon-cutting ceremony at the new National Biodiesel Board building in Jefferson City, those in attendance included local and state officials and nine members of the Board from around the country.

Ed Hegland, chairman of the NBB, told the crowd that as a family farmer from Appleton, Minnesota he has felt the pain at the pump as fuel prices have skyrocketed.

“However, prices would be about 15 percent higher if biofuel producers were not increasing their output, according to a US Department of Energy estimate,” said Hegland.

And Hegland said that with increased efficiencies, America’s farmers are able to produce the energy AND the food the world needs.

“With biodiesel, we can have both food and fuel.”

Listen to Hegland’s remarks here:
Continue reading

Oklahoma Going 100% Wind by 2013

Oklahoma might be famously known for its “winds that come sweepin’ down the plains,” and one of the leading universities in the state is going to put that to work.

The Oklahoma City Oklahoman reports officials with the University of Oklahoma in Norman have inked a deal with Oklahoma Gas and Electric to buy nothing but wind power for the campus by the year 2013… a significant increase over the 10 percent wind power the school uses now:

[OU President David] Boren said the switch will cost about $60,000 in initial surcharges, but the university could end up breaking even or making a profit by selling carbon credits on the Chicago Climate Exchange and participating in investment funds with OG&E.

“It is our patriotic duty as Americans to help our country achieve energy independence,” Boren said at a news conference at OU. “We should become a national role model for the environment.”

Boren said OU would be the nation’s largest public college to convert to renewable energy.

The deal is dependent on a new wind farm going up near Woodward, OK and about 140 miles worth of transmission lines to carry the power to Oklahoma City… both of which still to be approved by the state’s Corporation Commission.

Wind and Biofuels Keep Iowa’s Economy Going

While much of the nation’s economy is on shaky ground right now, places in the Midwest, such as Iowa, seem to be doing all right… thanks to wind energy and biofuels, such as biodiesel and ethanol.

This story from the Burlington (IA) Hawk Eye says Mike Tramontina, director of the Iowa Department of Economic Development, recently told a group in Fort Madison that the state is fortunate to be on the cutting edge of the alternative energy market:

While some industries such as housing and auto have taken nosedives, that has been offset by industries dealing with infrastructure, energy and bio-technology, he said.

Tramontina touted the Siemens windmill blade manufacturing plant in Fort Madison.

“If we could actually be lucky enough to keep our economy going and diversify moving into new industries like the new wind industry, into the new bio-fuels industry, into the new bio-economy and sciences industry … maybe we have a chance to absorb some of the workers we see coming out of some of the companies we are seeing out of housing, financial services automobiles and their supply chains,” he said.

Tramontina said the nation’s economy is shifting from an oil-based to a greener bio-based economy, that Iowa is primed to capitalize on.

Iowa now exports more ethanol than it uses, he added.

Tramontina admits that the high price of corn and soybeans has taken a bit of the wind out of the ethanol and biodiesel industries’ sails. But he expects they will come up with new innovations and increased efficiency to help keep them viable.