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.

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

Dynamic Fuels Refinery on Track

A planned biodiesel refinery in Louisiana that will make the green fuel from low-grade, inedible fats and greases is on schedule to open at the end of next year.

This press release from WebWire.com says Dynamic Fuels, a joint venture of Tyson Foods and Syntroleum Corporation, has gotten final approval from its parent companies to build its first renewable synthetic fuels facility at Geismar, Louisiana:

In conjunction with plant approval, Tyson and Syntroleum have approved the project budget of $138 million. Capital funding includes $100 million in GO Zone Bonds previously approved by the Louisiana State Bond Commission. The balance of $38 million will be funded through equity contributions in the form of cash commitments of $19 million per owner, $13.25 million of which each owner delivered to Dynamic Fuels on July 11.

Construction of Dynamic Fuels initial refinery remains on schedule. Construction is expected to begin in October, and mechanical completion of the plant is expected by year end 2009. Prior to plant sanction, Dynamic Fuels placed orders for long lead time equipment, thereby locking in pricing and securing delivery times consistent with the overall project schedule.

“Approval to construct and fund the Geismar plant is a huge milestone for Dynamic Fuels, reflecting an outstanding effort by the Dynamic Fuels team to complete basic engineering and advance the project,” said Jeff Bigger, senior vice president of business development for Syntroleum. “With this approval we maintain our original project schedule and budget for the Geismar facility.”

The plant is expected to be produce about 75 million gallons of biodiesel a year when it is complete.

Highlights of Renewable Energy Conference Posted

U.S. government officials are following up on the success of last March’s Washington International Renewable Energy Conference (WIREC 2008) with a report of that three-day conference.

This press release from the USDA announces the launch of the WIREC Conference Report at www.WIREC2008.gov, as well as the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s release of a preliminary impact assessment of the pledges submitted to the Washington International Action Program at: http://www.nrel.gov/analysis/wirec/pledges_08.html :

The WIREC 2008 Report is a comprehensive overview of the three-day March conference which focused on cross-cutting renewable energy policy issues: research and development; market adoption and finance; agriculture, forestry, and rural development; and involvement of sub-national authorities. “The vast supply of renewable energy resources must be harnessed in ways that are technically feasible, financially viable and socially acceptable,” said Ambassador Reno Harnish, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans, Environment and Science. “The United States looks forward to working together with public and private partners, both domestic and international, to make renewable energy a growing reality in the years to come.”

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has been authorized by the U.S. government to document the carbon dioxide (CO2) savings from the pledges made at WIREC 2008 . These pledges represent a large number of players and sectors from participating countries demonstrating the wide variety of opportunities that exist to accelerate renewable energy markets around the world. Upon receiving and reviewing comments on their preliminary assessment from the pledging entities, NREL plans to publish a robust impact analysis in August.

Officials say the 145 pledges are the most important outcome from the conference, having the potential to provide thousands of megawatts of renewable electricity capacity through 2030, while eliminating billions of tons of CO2.

CNN Starts Biodiesel-Fueled Road Trip

At a time when fuel prices are through the roof, a major American news organization is sponsoring a road trip across the country… running on biodiesel.

CNN.com producer Cody McCloy and web developer Brian Hardy jumped in a 1978 International Harvester Scout and kicked off the two-week trip on Friday, going from San Francisco to Atlanta. Starting Monday morning at 9:40, they’ll be blogging about their adventure on the green fuel on CNN.com Live. This article tells a little bit about what you can expect to see from the trip… and it won’t just be about biodiesel:

During our road trip, we’ll blog and report about what kind of mileage we’re getting with biodiesel fuel and how easy it is to find places that sell it.

Biodiesel is just one of several biofuels powering more and more U.S. cars and trucks. Mesa, Arizona, for example, has switched its fleet of 1,000 municipal vehicles such as fire engines and street sweepers to biodiesel and other green fuels such as ethanol, and compressed natural gas. Video Watch for details on benefits of biodiesel fuel »

Some biofuels are less expensive per gallon than gasoline — cutting the average cost of gas by 20 to 35 cents per gallon, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. An average American family can save up to $300 per year by using ethanol, according to the DOE Web site.

Now while they’re about half right when they say biodiesel is a mixture of diesel and vegetable oil, they do get it right when they point out the green fuel is biodegradable and is cleaner than petroleum-based diesel.

Should be an interesting trip to follow. You can see an interactive map here, and as I mentioned earlier, they’ll be blogging on CNN.com Live starting Monday morning.

New Company Looks to Lead U.S. Hydrogen Market

A new company has been formed that looks to lead the U.S. hydrogen market.

Eden Hydrogen Inc. is the product of the merging of two American subsidiaries of Australian-based Energy Ltd… Hythane Company of Denver, Colorado and HyRadix of Des Plaines, Illinois. This story from the Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch web site says the new company will be headquartered in Des Plaines, Illinois.

“Eden Hydrogen is a milestone in our growing capacity to deliver integrated hydrogen solutions to customers in the U.S. and globally,” said Greg Solomon, Executive Chairman, Eden Energy Ltd. based in Perth, Australia. “We have captured the hydrogen supply chain within a single, efficient company.”
Robert Gray has been named Chief Executive Officer of Eden Hydrogen Inc. He was formerly Chief Executive Officer of Eden Innovations Ltd. and a past president of HyRadix. Roger Mamaro, President of Hythane Company, will lead global operations and Dave Cepla, President of HyRadix, will lead global sales and marketing for the new company.

“As consumers in the U.S. and around the world demand cost effective and clean alternatives to petroleum, the market for hydrogen-based fuels and technologies is rapidly expanding,” said Robert Gray, CEO, Eden Hydrogen Inc. “Eden Hydrogen is uniquely positioned to provide economical onsite hydrogen generation, delivery, and storage.”

The announcement comes on the heels of a study that recommends the government spends $55 billion over the next 15 years to help hydrogen vehicles are competitive with their petroleum-fueled counterparts on American roads.

Run on Biodiesel, Keep Your Warranty

With the rising interest in biodiesel and the increasing popularity of biodiesel-fueled vehicles (as we reported last Tuesday, July 22nd), consumers need to know how they can use the green fuel and still keep their manufacturer’s warranty.

Recently, biodiesel received ASTM approval for meeting standards for fuel use. That means that any biodiesel that meets that standard is as safe as regular diesel fuel. But some auto manufacturers and dealers are being a little hesitant in giving biodiesel a thumbs up for use. This story from the gas2.0.org web site has tips from the Northwest Biofuels Association to make sure that those car makers will honor their warranties, even if you use biodiesel:

* Whether or not a biodiesel blend is “recommended” by your automaker is separate from the question of whether the use of biodiesel affects engine warranty coverage. Make sure you know exactly what your automaker specifies.
* Because vehicle warranties only cover parts and workmanship, fuel is not covered under any vehicle warranty.
* Conversely, if consumers that use biodiesel have an engine failure unrelated to the use of biodiesel and the cause is found to be faulty parts or workmanship, then the failure would be covered by the warranty.
* If a customer brings in a vehicle that has used biodiesel and the customer is told that the warranty is voided solely because the customer is using biodiesel, this violates the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act.
* A vehicle’s warranty cannot be voided solely due to the use of biodiesel.

The association included the tips with a letter written in collaboration with Oregon auto dealers and Oregonian biodiesel distributors.

Postal Service Delivering on Alternatives

Your mail could be delivered using green energy.

This story from NPR says that the U.S. Postal Service has the largest fleet of alternatively-fueled vehicles in the country… 43,000 strong. And that’s just the beginning of its green efforts:

It’s using solar cells to power some buildings. It’s using eco-friendly packaging.

It’s so hip, it even has a vice president of sustainability.

Walt O’Tormey, USPS vice president of engineering, says this independent federal agency is pushing harder than most to move away from petroleum.

“We’re exploring all the alternatives in the marketplace for us, just to get out of gas consumption,” O’Tormey says. “And we know we owe the environment … to come up with a technology that does not impact the environment.”

This summer, the Postal Service is testing the latest generation of hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles with General Motors.

“We’ll test anything!” O’Tormey says. “Propane, compressed natural gas, biodiesel, electric. We have electric vehicles delivering packages in midtown Manhattan, and we have plenty of test sites, from the Grand Canyon to Alaska.”

Considering that each one-cent increase in the cost of petroleum-based fuels costs the USPS $8 million more, it’s no wonder officials want to burn anything but non-renewable sources. Maybe it will help keep down the price of a stamp.

MO Gov Candidates Debate Ethanol

As we reported back on July 16th, ethanol has become a key issue in the race for Missouri’s governor office. Tonight, the two key opponents in the debate over Missouri’s ethanol mandate, one of the first in the nation, faced off in a televised debate.

Republicans Congressman Kenny Hulshof and State Treasurer Sarah Steelman tangled over each other’s positions on the green fuel… with Hulshof backing Missouri’s ethanol mandate and Steelman siding with Big Oil and calling for repeal of the mandate.

During the debate on Springfield’s KY3-TV, Hulshof defended ethanol saying the big oil companies have spent tens of millions of dollars to blame ethanol for the nation’s energy woes. He says Steelman has been misled down that path, when in fact, “the only solution we’ve been able to come up with as far as increasing our supply of energy has been domestic biofuels. Instead of looking to the Mideast for our energy needs, why aren’t we looking to the Midwest?”

Hulshof also pointed out that ethanol is being credited with keeping gas prices down by up to 40 cents a gallon. And in Missouri, where a 10 percent ethanol requirement for nearly every gallon of gas sold is in effect, we are enjoying some of the lowest prices in the country (Coincidence? I think not!).

You can here both of their comments on the KY3 web site.

While I realize that this is a Missouri debate before our August 5th primary, I think it is indicative of the debate and attacks that ethanol and biodiesel are undergoing across the country. Keep an eye on this race… it could have implications throughout the U.S.