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.

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.

Shrimp Goes Big with Biodiesel

Researchers at Mississippi State University are looking at ways to turn the millions of pounds of shrimp parts not used for food into biodiesel.

This story from Biodiesel Magazine says the project is being funded by the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium (MASGC), part of a federal/state partnership that matches National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration experts and resources with state academic institutions:

The goal of the research project is to find a higher value for the millions of tons of shrimp and other seafood waste that gets processed each year near in the Gulf Coast areas of Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana, according to Todd French, an assistant microbiologist at MSU who is a lead on the project.

“What we’re trying to do is find pieces to the puzzle and find something that has a higher value than their byproduct currently has where a lot of times they have to pay to truck off,” French said.

Seafood-based biodiesel production would be a boon for existing shrimp processors looking to eliminate some of their disposal costs, which have been estimated at about $145,000 per producer. As a building block for fuel, the waste also would bring additional income streams from the products it’s used to create.

Mississippi State has been a very hot place for biodiesel recently. As you might remember from my post on June 16th, the school is also working on turning wastewater sludge into biodiesel (in fact some of the same researchers are working on the shrimp-to-biodiesel project). In addition, back in May, we told you about how Mississippi State was the winner of Challenge X… a four-year engineering competition with 17 university teams from across North America developing General Motors vehicles using alternative energies. That winning vehicle ran on biodiesel.

Diesel Vehicles Gain Popularity, Good for Biodiesel

Diesel-powered vehicles are gaining in popularity, despite the higher price of diesel fuel compared to regular unleaded gasoline. And that rise in interest in those vehicles is good news for the biodiesel industry.

Business Week reports sales are brisk with many makes getting into the business:

Howard Cooper Volkswagen in Ann Arbor, Mich., for example, says that a buyer putting money down today will probably have to wait until January to receive his car. Volkswagen of America plans to sell 15,000 TDI Jettas this year. Next year, VW figures to sell more than 30,000.

The diesel sedan starts at $22,640, including shipping, and the station wagon at $24,240, a premium of about $2,000 over a similarly equipped model with a gasoline engine. BMW is also going ahead with plans to launch a diesel 3 series this fall. It also has plans for an X6 diesel after that. Honda is launching a diesel engine in an Acura sedan in 2010.

Perhaps the company most fully invested in diesel engines is Global Vehicles of Alpharetta, Ga., which plans to roll out Mahindra-branded pickup trucks at the end of 2009 and the first quarter of 2010. Mahindra is the brand marketed by Indian conglomerate Mahindra & Mahindra. Some 200-plus dealers have signed up to sell the vehicles. Global Vehicles Marketing Director Xavier Beguiristain says the company is undeterred, but not unconcerned.

The obvious big attraction is the better mileage diesel vehicles get. Mahindra pickups are expected to get about 30 mpg. That’s more than 50 percent better than full-sized pickups and 30 percent better than some midsize pickups. And VW’s TDI Jetta could get up to 44 miles to the gallon.

This is good news for the biodiesel industry, as the increased production meets the increased demand (or is that the other way around?). Vehicle manufacturers do warn that using homemade biodiesel could void the warranty. So make sure to use commercially-approved biodiesel… at least until that three years, 36,000 miles is up.

New Biodiesel Crop Becoming Cash Crop for Farmers

A new feedstock for the growing biodiesel industry could be a cash cow for the western states where it will be growing.

Camelina is an oilseed that is growing in popularity in the more arid regions of the western United States. In fact, the profit potential is believed to be so great that the State of Colorado’s Agricultural Value-Added Development Board has just issued a $41,059 Advancing Colorado’s Renewable Energy (ACRE) Program grant, which provides funding to promote energy-related projects beneficial to Colorado’s agriculture industry.

This story from the Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch says the state money will be joined by nearly $13,000 from Blue Sun Biodiesel to aid in the research efforts:

Blue Sun is using the grant to develop camelina production practices by conducting water use efficiency trials, fertility experiments, date of planting studies and observing on-farm production. The culmination of the grant will result in a spring camelina production guide.

Blue Sun is actively breeding spring and winter camelina, through traditional breeding practices, to develop superior regionally adapted camelina cultivars for the region. Blue Sun has a spring camelina variety Cheyenne commercialized and available for sale.

“Camelina is part of the next step for biodiesel,” said Sean Lafferty, VP of Technology at Blue Sun Biodiesel. “It is a non-food crop, and it can be grown on land unsuitable for most other crops. Camelina is a good rotation crop as well and it can survive low and variable rainfall conditions, reducing risk for the farmer.”

Camelina is a non-food oilseed that is estimated could bring $80 million to Colorado’s economy.

Ethanol Waiver Delay Gains Biodiesel Chief Praise

While the EPA delay of issuing a decision on Texas’ request for a waiver from the Renewable Fuel Standard (see Cindy’s story from earlier today) is seen as good news for the ethanol industry, it is also being praised by its biodiesel brethren.

National Biodiesel Board Chief Executive Officer Joe Jobe issued this statement on the decision:

“In considering the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) waiver request by Gov. Perry, it is important to note that all renewable fuels qualify for the current RFS. In fact, if the RFS is waived or cut in half in 2008, then the growth of all biofuels, including ‘advanced biofuels’ such as biodiesel, will be severely hindered.

“As Gov. Perry himself pointed out just last month, alternative fuels such as biodiesel play in an important role in ‘diversifying not only our energy portfolio, but our economic landscape.’*

“Beyond the environmental and energy security benefits provided by biofuels, the opportunity for green jobs and the continued economic development of biodiesel refineries in Texas must be taken into account by the EPA when evaluating whether to waive the RFS. Unfortunately, the goal of bringing biofuels, jobs and energy independence to Texas and the nation, which Gov. Perry praised just last month, will not be realized if the RFS is waived.

Jobe also pointed out that Perry has recently praised biodiesel for “providing a necessary alternative to fossil fuels without negatively impacting our food supply.” Jobe says that was the right thing then… and it’s still the right thing now.

Federal Grant Helps Buy Cincy’s Biodiesel Buses

Cincinnati has received a federal grant to help the city’s mass transit system buy some biodiesel buses.

This story from the Business Courier of Cincinnati quotes Ohio U.S. Sen. George Voinovich in announcing a $776,000 Clean Fuels Grant from the Federal Transit Administration through the U.S. Department of Transportation to the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA):

Funds provided by the grant will purchase as many as three biodiesel fuel buses for Cincinnati’s Metro bus system, according to a news release.

“I’m pleased that Cincinnati will be able to improve its transportation services while also supporting environmentally friendly biodiesel technology with this funding,” Voinovich said in the release. “Many people rely upon public transportation, and it is critical that we continue to improve and restore regional system infrastructures in Ohio.”

Beef Tallow to Fuel Nebraska Biodiesel Plant

A beef producer that cranks out 22 million pounds of tallow a week will be turning that waste into another alternative to non-renewable petroleum.

This story from the Sioux City (IA) Journal says Beef Products, Inc., better known as BPI, the world’s largest producer of lean boneless beef, has partnered with Natural Innovative Renewable Energy to build a 60-million-gallon-a-year biodiesel refinery in South Sioux City, Nebraska:

The company hopes to start construction this fall or early next year, said Jim Venner, a Breda, Iowa-based consultant for the biodiesel project. After the startup, production could begin as early as 18 months later, he said.

The $100 million project would become Nebraska’s largest biodiesel plant, and the first in the state to make the clean-burning, renewable fuel from animal fat.

Gov. Dave Heineman, who headlined Friday’s groundbreaking ceremony, said he expects Natural Innovative Renewable Energy to help elevate the Cornhusker state’s biodiesel industry to the same level as its corn-based ethanol production, which now ranks No. 2 in the nation.

“We want to be out of front and be a leader in terms of biodiesel, and that’s the opportunity we have here today,” Heineman told an audience of about 100 who gathered under a large tent set up in a field in the industrial park.

Right now, there are three soy-based biodiesel plants in Nebraska. But with high soybean prices, and the fact that Nebraska leads the nation in commercial commercial cattle slaughter… and that produces about a billion pounds of tallow each year… it certainly makes sense to use this resource for biodiesel.

Who is OPEC Kidding?

Ethanol makers all over the world are asking the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), “Who do you think you’re kidding?”

In a full page ad in the Financial Times, the biofuel industries of Brazil, Canada, Europe and the United States are challenging the oil cartel’s “outrageous, misleading, and unsubstantiated claims about the role of ethanol in world oil markets.” This press release has more details:

“Efforts to obfuscate and mislead the public about biofuels will do nothing to alleviate the energy crisis gripping the world. We realize that biofuels may be reducing your windfall profits. But, perhaps, the time for OPEC to face some competition has finally arrived,” the groups wrote.

The growing volume of biofuels in the global fuels market is helping to keep world oil and gasoline prices lower than OPEC may like. A recent Merrill Lynch analysis shows that biofuels keep world oil prices 15% lower than they otherwise would be.

The groups –- the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association (CRFA), the European Bioethanol Fuel Associations, the Brazilian Sugarcane and Ethanol Industry Association (UNICA) and the US Renewable Fuels Association – were answering the charges by OPEC that ethanol was in part responsible for the soaring price of crude oil, a price that will fetch OPEC nations more than $1.2 trillion dollars this year alone.

“According to the International Energy Agency, ‘biofuels have become a substantial part of faltering non-OPEC supply growth, contributing around 50% of incremental supply in the 2008-2013 period,’” the groups pointed out. “Without the growing production and use of biofuels worldwide, IEA calculates that more than one million barrels per day of new oil production would be required.”

The groups also cited a Merrill Lynch analysis that biofuels are helping keep oil prices 15 percent lower than if they weren’t around and gas prices in the U.S. would be 50 cents a gallon more without ethanol in the picture. Continue reading

Dakota Wind Gathering Public Investment

Dakota Wind Energy has announced South Dakota’s first intrastate public offering, where shares in the community-based wind project are offered to residents of that state.

This press release says Dakota Wind Energy wants to develop more than 750 megawatts of community-owned wind farms throughout South Dakota:

“We want landowners participating in Dakota Wind Energy to have the opportunity to own units in the company,” says Gerry Fisher, a member of the Dakota Wind Energy board of advisors. “An intrastate public offering makes this possible. It also allows us to return a portion of the development proceeds to Dakota Wind Energy members over a long-term period.”
All South Dakota landowners that reside within the project’s footprint may receive ownership units in Dakota Wind Energy. Landowners who grant wind-related rights to Dakota Wind Energy can receive either a traditional cash payment, or units in Dakota Wind Energy through this offering.

“Shared ownership is what makes Dakota Wind Energy different from traditional wind developers,” says Mark Lucas, Vice President of National Wind. “Most other developers do not offer ownership; they only provide turbine lease agreements. In our wind developments, even if landowners do not end up with a wind turbine on their property, they still have the opportunity to own a part of Dakota Wind Energy. More than any other private offering structure, an intrastate public offering allows for the greatest number of local landowners to participate.”

Back in April, Dakota Wind announced it had put up two on-site meteorological towers to measure the wind regime in Marshall County, where part of the community-based wind project will be located.