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.

Oilman Makes Major Wind Investment

A man entrenched in the oil business is looking to the wind for the future.

This story from Engadget.com says billionaire oilman T. Boone Pickens is investing $2 billion in a 667 turbine wind farm in Texas:

That would translate to roughly 1,000 megawatts of electricity, or enough to power about 300,000 homes, but Pickens says that is only the start of what he has in mind. As he tells CNN, Pickens says he plans to expand the wind farm to a full 4,000 megawatts by 2015, which would likely make it the biggest wind farm in the world. What’s more, in addition to pumping out electricity, the wind turbines would give a boost to the pocketbooks of anyone willing to put ‘em on their property, with Pickens estimating that each turbine will generate about $20,000 a year in royalty income, although they apparently won’t get electricity straight from the turbine in their backyard.

Challenge X Approaches D.C.

Teams participating in Challenge X, a multi-year engineering competition with 17 university teams from across North America developing GM vehicles, is getting ready to pull into the nation’s capital.

They’ll be finishing up a 400-mile road rally from New Jersey to Washington, D.C. with the finish line at U.S. Department of Energy Headquarters tomorrow (Wednesday, May 21st).

This YouTube video has some more information:

To see a little bit more about what Challenge X is all about, check out this from the competition’s web site:

Since 1987, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has sponsored more than two dozen competitions challenging thousands of engineering students to achieve better fuel economy and lower emissions while maintaining the safety, performance, utility, and consumer appeal of a variety of vehicles.

Now, General Motors Corporation (GM), DOE, and other government and industry leaders have developed a new competition called Challenge X: Crossover to Sustainable Mobility. This ground-breaking, three-year competition will give engineering schools an opportunity to participate in hands-on research and development with leading-edge automotive propulsion, fuels, materials, and emissions-control technologies.

National Wind Building Major Nebraska Project

Wind power builder National Wind Assessments is putting up a major project in Nebraska.

This company press release says National Wind will put in 10, 60-meter meteorological (met) towers for Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD), which serves about one million customers in the state:

Nebraska ranks sixth in the country in wind power potential, but currently ranks 19th in installed capacity, with just 73 MW of existing projects. As the primary owner and developer of a 60 MW wind energy facility in Ainsworth, NPPD has led the charge for wind power development in Nebraska.

Meteorological towers are becoming a crucial component of every wind development project. Typically a minimum of one year, on-site wind data is needed to effectively site a wind farm.

“We are pleased to provide our wind assessment services to Nebraska’s leading utility company,” says Kevin Romuld, President of National Wind Assessments. “We are excited NPPD chose us to help capture Nebraska’s wind resources and we look forward to working with them on this project,” says Romuld. “I think being chosen as part of the RFP process, validates National Wind Assessment’s expertise and efficiency in met tower installation and wind resource analysis.”

The towers will be installed in two phases with the first one to begin this month.

Hythane Gains in Popularity

,A new fuel made by mixing natural gas and hydrogen is gaining in popularity. Eden Energy owns the technology to “Hythane” purported to reduce greenhouse gases and particulates that affect air quality.

In a company press release, Eden Energy says Hythane® was developed to help make a practical and affordable transition from petroleum-based fuel to hydrogen:

“Like Xerox, Hythane has entered the language to describe both our original product and all the others following in its footsteps,” said Greg Solomon, CEO, Eden Energy Ltd. “What remains unique about Hythane® is our optimized blend hits a ‘sweet spot’ with hydrogen that results in a 95% reduction in emissions compared to petroleum diesel. Even compared to cleaner natural-gas powered vehicles, Hythane reduces harmful nitrogen oxides by half.”

New projects using Hythane® and Hythane derivatives in truck and bus fleets are being reviewed for funding in many U.S .cities such as New York, Syracuse, Albany, Niagara Falls, Las Vegas, Barstow, Santa Monica, and Sacramento. National programs are also underway in India and China.

Eden Energy officials add that their company has been tapped to put in the first public hydrogen fueling station in New Delhi, India. That country wants 20 percent of all the vehicles in the country to run on hydrogen by 2020.

Bubble in Renewables Feared

A report out from accounting firm KPMG says that 60 percent of executives believe that consolidation in the renewable energy sector will continue. That’s leading to fears that a bubble may be developing in the solar, wind, and biofuel sectors as bidders compete for assets and send prices sharply higher.

This story from Reuters says many of those same executives expect to jump in as well:

Thirty percent expect to purchase such a company themselves between now and 2010, the survey said.

Earlier this year, oil giant BP (BP.L: Quote, Profile, Research) said it may part-float some of its green energy assets because Chief Executive Tony Hayward said BP’s own market capitalisation did not fully reflect the high market values of such assets.

Fears over climate change have boosted interest in renewable energy and government incentives such as mandates that green sources should account for a portion of the total motor fuel or power markets have helped make the industry more economically viable.

You can read the KPMG report by clicking here.

NBB Honors New Uses for Glycerine

The National Biodiesel Board has recognized a group of U.S. Department of Agriculture researchers for finding new uses for natural glycerine, a by-product of biodiesel production, replacing glycerine made from non-renewable petroleum.

This press release from the NBB has details:

For their research, Drs. Richard Ashby, Daniel Solaiman and Thomas Foglia of the USDA’s Agriculture Research Service Eastern Regional Research Center (EERC) in Wyndmoor, Penn. received the 2008 Glycerine Innovation Award. The award recognizes outstanding achievement for research into new applications for glycerine, with particular emphasis on commercial viability.

The award, sponsored by the National Biodiesel Board and the Soap and Detergent Association, was presented today at the 99th Annual Meeting of the American Oil Chemists’ Society in Seattle, Washington.

“Through the development of new eco-friendly commercial uses for glycerine, the USDA is making an important contribution to our global environmental sustainability,” said Steve Howell, NBB’s Technical Director. “Commercial uses for natural glycerine help improve the overall value of biodiesel production while finding new uses for environmentally friendly, domestically produced products that can replace petroleum-based products.”

The biodiesel glycerine is being used in a wide variety of products from cosmetics to hard plastics.

Obama Calls for Greater Fed Role in Wind Power

Democratic Party presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama has called for a greater role for the federal government in the wind energy business. He believes with the proper amount of help, the industry could produce half of the nation’s energy needs.

The senator made the remarks during his first campaign stop in the state that is becoming a leader in wind energy production in this interview with the Argus (South Dakota) Leader:

Q: Does the federal government have a role in promoting wind power, and if so, what is that role?
A: Absolutely. The main thing we need to do short-term is pass the tax incentives that will expire in December. If we don’t get those tax incentives, those federal tax breaks in place, then you’re going to see a whole lot of wind power generation and industry moving to Europe. It’s already starting to happen. That’s one of the reasons I supported the energy bill that was passed a year ago. Not because I was thrilled with some of the provisions. In fact, I tried to get some stripped out – like tax breaks for oil companies. But because it represented a huge expansion and investment in wind energy. I want to put $150 billion over the course of 10 years in research around wind, solar, biodiesel, advanced technology for more fuel- efficient cars. And we can pay for it by charging polluters who are helping to contribute greenhouse gases. That, I think, is not only good for the environment, not only good for our national security because over time we’ll reduce our consumption of foreign oil.

Obama goes on to say that if the federal tax incentives for wind energy aren’t renewed, this country will lose out to European interests.

Just for the record, here are the renewable energy policies of Obama, Sens. Hillary Clinton, and John McCain. You read, you decide.

More Biodiesel Plants Switching to Animal Fats

As the price of the main feedstock for biodiesel… soybeans… continues to rise, more producers are switching to alternatives, especially animal fats.

This story in the Des Moines (IA) Register says the change might help solve the food-versus-fuel debate:

Renewable Energy Group (REG) of Ames now runs animal fats in at least four of its seven biodiesel plants in the state, according to Gary Haer, vice president of sales and marketing.

He says the animal fat fuel works well in the diesel market, whether it’s blended at 5 percent, 10 percent or 20 percent with regular diesel.

“Biodiesel made from animal fats is a very good product, and we are using it as one of our alternatives to soybean oil,” Haer said.

Another biodiesel group, Benefuel, which uses an India-developed technology to process the animal fat, is scouting the state for investors and plant sites.

The article goes on to point out that Iowa is a natural place for an animal-fat biodiesel plant since the state is such a large producer of cattle and hogs, and the fats would be available from the rendering plants.

But don’t think that animal fats, just like soybeans, will be immune to price hikes. The price for this new commodity has jumped 8 to 9 percent this year.

House Committee Extends Biodiesel Incentive

The U.S. House Ways and Means Committee has approved the Energy and Tax Extenders Act of 2008, a measure that will extend the biodiesel tax incentive through the end of next year and provides a dollar-per-gallon incentive for all biodiesel regardless of feedstock.

Passage in the committee gained the praise of the National Biodiesel Board:

“I would like to thank Chairman Rangel and the members of the Ways and Means Committee for extending and improving the biodiesel tax incentive,” said Joe Jobe, CEO of the National Biodiesel Board (NBB). “The biodiesel tax incentive is working, and the committee’s decision to support biodiesel will help our industry improve America’s energy independence by displacing foreign petroleum with clean-burning, domestically produced fuel.”

If finally passed by Congress and signed by the president, HR 6049 will also stop what’s known as the “splash and dash” loophole that has been letting fuel produced outside of the U.S. to come into this country and then sent to another country for actual use. That issue has been a bone of contention for many American biodiesel producers and groups for some time.

DOE: Wind Could Provide 20% of US Power

A new report from the U.S. Department of Energy says that America could get 20 percent of its power from wind energy in about the next 20 years.

This agency press release says it will mean increasing the amount of wind power by nearly 20 times current production levels… a doable number according to the DOE:

Entitled “20 Percent Wind Energy by 2030”, the report identifies requirements to achieve this goal including reducing the cost of wind technologies, citing new transmission infrastructure, and enhancing domestic manufacturing capability. Most notably, the report identifies opportunities for 7.6 cumulative gigatons of CO2 to be avoided by 2030, saving 825 million metric tons in 2030 and every year thereafter if wind energy achieves 20 percent of the nation’s electricity mix.

DOE Assistant Secretary of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy for the U.S. Department of Energy Andy Karsner said, “To dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enhance our energy security, clean power generation at the gigawatt-scale will be necessary, and will require us to take a comprehensive approach to scaling renewable wind power, streamlining siting and permitting processes, and expanding the domestic wind manufacturing base.”

Prepared by the U.S. Department of Energy and a broad cross section of stakeholders across industry, government, and three of DOE’s national laboratories – the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, CO; Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, CA; and Sandia National Laboratory in Albuquerque, NM, the report presents an in-depth analysis of the potential for wind in the U.S. and outlines a potential scenario to boost wind electric generation from its current production of 16.8 gigawatts (GW) to 304 GW by 2030.

The report goes on to say that infrastructure will need to be improved, as well as streamlining the siting and permitting processes to meet that goal.

Canada Ag Minister Defends Biodiesel, Ethanol

Canadian Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz is blasting those opposing a proposed mandate for biofuels in the country.

This story from the Lloydminster (Alberta, Canada) Meridian Booster has more details:

Ritz defended the plan in the House of Commons against criticism from the New Democratic Party, which once supported the use of biofuels but has switched its position. The bill would mandate a five per cent ethanol mixture in gasoline by 2010 and a two per cent mixture of biodiesel by 2012.
“It’s an excellent situation for the environment, it’s a great thing for farmers, and a great thing for rural communities,” said Ritz.

The NDP’s about-face comes after a number of studies have been released indicating that using wheat and corn-based ethanol could drive up food prices in light of what some experts are calling a global food shortage. The United Nations recently called biofuels a “crime against humanity” for diverting food away from hungry mouths.

Ritz says this situation doesn’t apply to Canada where the price of basic food commodities actually dropped slightly in February. The government estimates it would take five per cent of total production capacity to produce the three billion litres of ethanol which the plan would require. He says the weather has more impact on Canada’s agricultural output than five per cent.

The article goes on to say that Ritz points out that the United Nations has said there’s enough food. The issue is getting it to where it needs to be at the right time.

Steelman Calls Out Lawmakers for Biofuels Action

Missouri State Treasurer Sarah Steelman, who is also running for the Republican nomination in the state’s gubernatorial race, has labeled Missouri lawmakers “cowards” for changing a law that kept those same lawmakers and their family members from investing their own money in ethanol and biodiesel plants in the state.

This AP story posted on the KY3 (Springfield, MO) web site says Steelman oversees a program that provides state money to assist in investing in biofuel plants and has been barring companies from getting the money if there was even just one investor who is an elected state official, department director or a relative of those people:

The policy outrages some lawmakers who are investors in ethanol and biodiesel plants. Senators voted 21-10 about 2:30 a.m. Wednesday to overturn Steelman’s policy by allowing the incentives so long as state officials own less than 2 percent of the business. The provision is an amendment to a larger tax credit bill and was approved on a head-count vote, avoiding a written record of who voted “yes” or “no” that would have been kept had they taken a roll call.

Rural lawmakers, many of whom invest in the plants, say Steelman’s policy is not fair. They argue it punishes Missouri residents simply because they have invested in the same facility as a lawmaker.

The policy has prevented incentives from going to the $82 million Show Me Ethanol plant because its investors include Rep. John Quinn, R-Chillicothe; his wife, Mary; and Andy Blunt, a brother of Republican Gov. Matt Blunt.

“They were cowards, and didn’t want to do what they did in the light of the day, because they didn’t want the people of the state to realize they were protecting their personal interests,” Steelman, a former senator, said later Wednesday.

Some senators say Steelman was out of line by insisting on an unreasonable conflict of interest policy.

Steelman’s actions have ruffled the feathers of many of her fellow Republicans, who invest in the plants. It will be interesting to see how this plays out as she tries to woo those same Republicans to vote for her in her primary race to see who faces presumptive Democratic nominee Jay Nixon for the governor’s seat as incumbent Republican Blunt is not running for re-election.

Major Wind Project Planned for Minnesota

In a move to expand its renewable wind energy development, while reducing carbon emissions, Minnesota Power has announced a plan to buy a North Dakota power line and use that infrastructure to move wind-generated electricity.

This article from Finance and Commerce says that the Duluth-based company has already been buying about half of the coal-generated power that has been moving through the line:

The transmission line will instead be used to pipe wind power to Minnesota customers. Mullen said the majority of Minnesota Power’s energy is derived from coal, and the transition will help the company meet the state standard of 25 percent renewable energy. The plan is to transfer the line’s the power source from coal to wind over the course of a decade, shifting to 100 percent wind energy by 2025.

“We’re finding it very competitive right now to go out and find the right renewable energy mix,” including power from water, wind and wood, [vice president of marketing and public affairs with Minnesota Power Pat] Mullen said. “This project alone should get us to, and probably exceed, our renewable energy goal.”

Minnesota Power owns two 50-megawatt wind farms near Young Unit 2 that are already up and running.

Mullen said the utility plans to begin developing several hundred megawatts of new wind generation near Center, N.D., once the transmission line purchase is complete.

Minnesota Power serves 141,000 retail customers, as well as some of the biggest industrial companies in the country.

Old Ducks Getting New Biodiesel

One of the fixtures of Boston Harbor are the World War II-era amphibious landing vehicles, affectionately known as “ducks.” Those tourist-carrying ducks are going to have more than water rolling off their backs… they’ll have carbon emissions rolling away as they switch to cleaner burning biodiesel.

This story in the Boston Herald says Boston Duck Tours has been wanting to make the change for some time, and now it is making the green fuel part of its package:

The $300,000 vehicles initially will run on a B5 biodiesel fuel blend that’s 5 percent vegetable oil, according to director of vehicle maintenance Tony Cerulle. The vehicles’ manufacturer will only cover the one-year warranty for their diesel engines if that mix is used.

“We’ll probably go up to 40 percent or 50 percent (vegetable oil) after that,” Cerulle said. “But the real savings is if you were to run straight vegetable oil or blend your own biodiesel.”

Five “ducks” will run on the green fuel.

Biodiesel Maker Practicing What It Preaches

A Colorado biodiesel producer is following its commitment to making the green fuel by moving its headquarters into a green building. Blue Sun Biodiesel has moved into one of just 26 Leadership and Energy and Environmentalism Design (LEED)-certified buildings in the world.

This article from Biodiesel Magazine says LEED means the building reduces carbon dioxide emissions by 35 percent to promote a “whole-building” approach to sustainability:

“Blue Sun Biodiesel is working to reduce their carbon output at all stages through careful management and process,” said Mike Miller, president of Blue Sun Biodiesel.

The move testifies to Blue Sun’s commitment to green business practices, said Jeff Probst, chief executive officer of Blue Sun. “With the decision to locate our headquarters in a sustainable building, we’ve shown our commitment,” he said.

“It is important to be committed to the core principles of your business in every way,” Miller said. “Blue Sun Biodiesel recognizes that everything we do, including the office in which we work, should say something about the quality of products we offer and our industry leading principles.”