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.

Iowa Biodiesel Pros Are MVPs

Two Iowa biodiesel producers have been picked for high honors on the national level. The National Biodiesel Board (NBB) recognized Grant Kimberley, executive director of the Iowa Biodiesel Board, and Thomas Brooks, general manager of Western Dubuque Biodiesel, with 2014 Most Valuable Player awards.

GrantKimberleyKimberley, involved with biodiesel for more than a decade, this year expanded his already full plate within the Iowa Soybean Association to take on leadership of IBB. As executive director, he helped usher in the passage of state legislation extending a biodiesel producer incentive through 2017. He has also actively represented Iowa in the federal Renewable Fuel Standard efforts, including co-hosting two campaign events with both Senatorial candidates this year…

“It’s an honor to receive this recognition from my peers, but even greater is the feeling of accomplishment we share in watching this industry grow from 20 million gallons in 2003 to 1.8 billion gallons last year,” Kimberley said. “We know there is much work left to be done, and it will take all of us working together. But we can be proud of bringing biodiesel into the mix, diversifying our nation’s energy supply and driving economic growth.”

TomBrooks1Brooks took home the award in part for looking at the big picture beyond his own interests. Working with IBB, he was instrumental in earning press in Iowa and raising the volume on the RFS effort. This summer, he testified before the Environmental Protection Agency on the RFS volumes. In the last year, Western Dubuque Biodiesel hosted many key elected officials, including state legislators; an NBB sustainability tour; and a tour for U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley. Brooks also regularly hosts tours for colleges and the local high school, even going into the classroom himself to teach students about biodiesel.

“God asks us to always strive to do our best and expect nothing in return; albeit, this recognition means a lot to me,” Brooks said of the award. “I appreciate this recognition while there are many others deserving of it.”

NBB also honored Gary Haer of Iowa-based biodiesel producer REG and Iowa soybean producer Jack Hartman during the ceremony in the St. Louis NBB membership meeting.

VIASPACE Grows Desert Biomass for Biofuels, Feed

viaspacelogo2A proprietary variety of grass could be providing fuel for vehicles and feed for animals in the desert southwest. Biomass grower VIASPACE, Inc. says the results of the first two harvests of Giant King Grass grown at the University of California Desert Research Center (DREC) in Holtville, Imperial County, California are showing good signs as a viable biofuel feedstock and animal feed.

The results reported were for Giant King Grass harvested at approximately 8 feet tall for animal feed. Four representative sections of each planting type (replicates) were harvested by hand and fully characterized. Samples were also sent to Dairy One Forage Laboratory in Ithaca, New York for nutritional analysis.

The single node planting yield for the first harvest on September 2, 2014 was 37.4 fresh tons per acre (7.2 dry tons) and 58 days later, on October 30, 2014, the yield for the second harvest was 31.4 fresh tons per acre (5.4 dry tons). The crude protein level for the second harvest was 17.3% of dry matter. The whole stalk planting yield was about 27% lower with a crude protein level of 14.7%.

[Dr. Oli Bachie, Agronomy Crop Advisor, University of California Cooperative Extension] stated during the presentation, “This is the most giant grass I have ever seen. It is truly gigantic in terms of the biomass crops we are growing in the Imperial Valley.” Dr. Bachie emphasized that although the first two harvests were very impressive, the research program will continue for at least one year and the overall results will be compiled and published in the future.

VIASPACE is growing Giant King Grass in 11 locations in eight countries around the world for electricity production, biogas, biofuel, pellet and animal feed applications.

RFA: Feed Food Fairness Campaign Slings Bull at Biofuels

RFANewlogoThe folks representing America’s ethanol industry are taking a shot at a campaign by livestock producers and fast food companies that takes its own shot at biofuels. The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) says the Feed Food Fairness Campaign ran a one-sided advertisement in the popular Beltway publication “Politico” inaccurately blaming the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) for rising food prices.

“Never before in the history of misleading advertising has so much bull been slung in defense of chickens, hamburgers, and even potatoes. The ad is replete with misinformation. One would have to be awfully creative, for example, to draw any connection between biofuels and potatoes!” said Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the RFA.

“Apparently, the Feed Food Fairness campaign is not big on facts or transparency. Their ad conveniently leaves out the key fact that their numbers come from a 2012 study on commodity costs during the worst drought in 50 years.”

“Simply put, the information is outdated and misleading. We are now well into 2014 and that drought has long since subsided. Farmers are harvesting the largest corn crop in history. Corn prices have plummeted with this record crop and yet as a recent RFA study demonstrates, food prices continue to rise. They should take an ad out to explain that!”

Dinneen also said that numerous independent analyses have concluded energy prices, not the RFS, drives food prices, citing the World Bank finding that “most of the food price increases are accounted for by crude oil prices.”

Fly, Fight & Win Includes Electric, Biodiesel & Ethanol

U.S. Air Force tests first all-electric vehicle fleet in CaliforniaMy Air Force brethren are known for being able to fly, fight and win, and now, they’ll be doing it using electric vehicles, biodiesel and ethanol. This news release from the U.S Air Force says the Department of Defense’s first non-tactical vehicle fleet composed entirely of plug-in electric vehicles was unveiled at Los Angeles Air Force Base, California.

The rollout of the 42-vehicle fleet marks a milestone in the DOD’s demonstration of emerging technology and the vehicles will serve as a resource to the electrical grid when they’re not being driven.

“Everything we do to fly, fight and win requires energy, whether it’s aviation fuel for our aircraft or power to run the bases that support them,” said Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James. “This vehicle-to-grid pilot is a great example of how Airmen are driving the Air Force forward and finding new and innovative ways to make every dollar count.”

The PEV fleet includes both electric and hybrid vehicles ranging from sedans to trucks and a 12-passenger van. The vehicles have the capability to direct power both to and from the electrical grid when they’re not being driven, known as vehicle-to-grid technology. Unique charging stations have been installed on Los Angeles AFB to support the vehicles’ V2G capability…

In addition to the PEV fleet in L.A., the Air Force is also investigating the benefits of other alternative fuel vehicles. More than 9,000 ethanol flex fuel vehicles are in the service’s inventory worldwide, along with 50 biodiesel fuel stations on its installations.

The Air Force plans to expand this demonstration project to Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, and Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey.

USDA Looks to Get Ethanol from Kudzu

kudzu1It might be the scourge of the south, but kudzu could become the next feedstock for biofuels.

“When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade,” says Lewis Ziska with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS). “One of the possible potential benefits of kudzu is the roots are high in starch, and it may be a potential biofuel.”

Ziska says the USDA is working with the University of Toronto and Auburn University to look at the potential of kudzu roots. Since the USDA certainly doesn’t want to promote the growing of the weed that has overrun so many places in the south, he believes harvesting kudzu from abandoned farmland and other areas where it’s growing unchecked and easily harvested could end up producing as much, or even more, ethanol from an acre of the weed they want to eliminate as would be produced from an acre of corn.

“What we think we could do is to take the existing kudzu and convert into a biofuel for a win-win,” Ziska says.

You can listen to Ziska’s remarks here: Lewis Ziska, USDA ARS

USDA Working on Producing Butanol as Biofuel

qureshiU.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) researchers are working turning barley straw and corn stover into biobutanol. This article from USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) says the agricultural by-products could be a cost-effective feedstock for the green fuel.

Gallon for gallon, butanol has 30 percent more energy than ethanol and only around 4 percent less energy than a gallon of petroleum-based gasoline. [ARS chemical engineer Nasib] Qureshi has confirmed that both barley straw and corn stover can be converted to butanol via separate hydrolysis, fermentation, and recovery (SHFR) or by simultaneous saccharification, fermentation, and recovery (SSFR). In SSFR, releasing the plant sugars, fermenting them to butanol, and recovering the butanol are combined into a single operation that is performed in a single reactor.

In a recent study, Qureshi’s team used a process called gas stripping to “harvest” butanol fermented during SSFR. They obtained a final butanol yield that was 182 percent of the yield obtained from a control study that used glucose.

Using the same protocols, the scientists were able to ferment over 99 percent of the sugars in pretreated corn stover. This resulted in butanol yields that were 212 percent greater than yields observed from the controls, and 117 percent greater than the butanol yields from the barley straw.

In the corn stover-to-butanol process, the researchers are using vacuum technology instead of gas stripping to simultaneously recover butanol during fermentation. This new process released more than 97 percent of the stover sugars, making them available for fermentation.

Biodiesel Helps Houston Schools be District of Distinction

schoolbusesHouston schools are being recognized as a District of Distinction, in part, because of their embrace of biodiesel. This article from School Transportation News says the Houston Independent School District received the honor from District Administration magazine for, among other things, its “green” bus fleet.

“We are pleased to honor Houston Independent School District as a District of Distinction,” said J.D. Solomon, Editorial director of the magazine. “Like all our honorees, the district serves as a model for school leaders across the country.”

[A] goal the district achieved was minimizing the amount of pollutants emitted by its buses. Since the end of 2012, all 1,000 buses have been converted from diesel to biodiesel, which is about 75 percent cleaner than diesel. To further clean up its fleet, the district secured nearly $3 million in grants to purchase propane-powered buses and a fueling station. Nearly 90 percent of the district’s buses are now biodiesel and 10 percent propane.

Houston’s district was among 49 districts that were honored in the inaugural round of the publication’s new national recognition program. Andres Montes,

Branstad, Nixon to Head Bipartisan Gov’s Biofuels Group

Two Midwest governors might be from other sides of the political aisle, but they are on the same page when it comes to ethanol and biodiesel. Republican Iowa Governor Terry Branstad and Democrat Missouri Governor Jay Nixon will lead the Governors’ Biofuels Coalition beginning in January 2015 as chairman and vice chairman, respectively.

IA Gov Branstad at Hearing in the Heartland Jan 23 2013“I look forward to working with Governor Nixon to advance the bipartisan work of the Governors’ Biofuels Coalition, as the production and use of biofuels increases family incomes in rural America, diversifies our nation’s energy portfolio, and enables consumer choice at the fuel pump, ” Governor Branstad said.

JayNixon“Thanks to our corn and soybean farmers, Missouri has long played a leadership role in the development and production of biofuels,” Governor Nixon said. “Missouri was one of the founding members of the Governors’ Biofuels Coalition, and the Coalition has played a major role in our nation’s energy policies, including the drafting and passage of the renewable fuel standards. I’m honored to serve as the next vice chairman of this organization, and will continue working to strengthen the energy independence of Missouri and our country.”

Outgoing chairman Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat from Illinois, says everyone has a stake in the game, from farmers to energy consumers.

Arkansas Biomass Industry Expecting Big Growth

arkansasflagA building desire for woody biomass and a glut of forest materials has Arkansas set to be a major player in that sector of renewable energy, not just in the Midwest, but around the world. This article from the City Wire, which serves Northwest Arkansas, says the state’s biomass industry got some help this summer by some timely multi-million dollar investments in commercial biomass and by Europe’s desire to use the green fuel.

On July 30, Zilkha Biomass Energy announced plans to build a proprietary black wood pellet manufacturing plant in Monticello that company officials said could be easily integrated into the energy grid as a clean energy alternative to coal-powered electricity.

“Power companies across the globe are looking for renewable energy alternatives and biomass wood pellets stand as one of the most practical and cost-effective solutions,” said Jack Holmes, CEO of Zilkha Biomass Energy. “This plant in Monticello will be one of Zilkha’s largest and will help us capture more of the growing biomass energy market.”

Grant Tennille, executive director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, is one of the state’s biggest cheerleaders for the biomass industry.

Now, Tennille said, Arkansas is poised to become a big player in the biomass sector as the wood pellet market takes off in Europe.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, wood pellet exports from the U.S. nearly doubled last year, from 1.6 million short tons (approximately 22 trillion Btu) in 2012 to 3.2 million short tons in 2013. More than 98% of these exports were delivered to Europe, and 99% originated from ports in the southeastern and lower Mid-Atlantic regions of the country.

Given the fact that the European Commission wants to reduce EU greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent from 1990 levels, increase the renewable portion of EU energy consumption by 20 percent, and improve EU energy efficiency by 20 percent, and the large amount of woody biomass Arkansas offers to help meet those goals – an estimated 19.8 billion kilowatts (kwh) of electricity that could be generated using renewable biomass from the state – it’s no wonder the biomass future looks so bright in Arkansas.

Fuels Institute: Opportunities to Grow E85 Market

E85 price at Kum and Go in Adel Iowa on June 16 2014A group that looks at market issues related to vehicles and fuels says there are opportunities to grow the E85 market — but only if E85 prices remain way below regular grade gasoline prices. This news release from the Fuels Institute says also if automakers continue to produce flex-fuel vehicles at historic rates, E85 sales will, at a minimum, double by 2023 and could even see a 20-fold increase in sales over the same time period.

“This report is essential reading for federal regulators who are considering strategies to meet the goals of the Renewable Fuel Standard and for fuel marketers seeking options to diversify their product offer,” said Fuels Institute Executive Director John Eichberger. “It presents an objective analysis of the overall market for E85, including actual retail sales data, and represents a collective effort to identify opportunities and challenges facing this alternative fuel — without taking a position of advocacy.”

Biofuels have experienced remarkable growth over the past 12 years, from 1.75 billion gallons sold in 2001 to 14.54 billion gallons sold in 2013. The vast majority of this growth is from ethanol, particularly E10 fuel that is ubiquitous in most of the country. However, additional E10 sales are constrained by the size of the gasoline market, which has declined since 2007. Therefore, future biofuels sales growth will be highly dependent upon increasing the sale of higher grades of ethanol like E85, a blend of gasoline with 51 to 83% ethanol.

The report says E85 growth will be dependent on more gas stations offering the higher blend of ethanol and making sure there are plenty of flex-fuel vehicles on the road.

“Increasing the E85 station count would improve the potential for additional E85 sales and introduce additional competition to the market. But several other factors — including the relative price of E85 compared to unleaded gasoline and the number of vehicles on the road that can operate on E85 — must also be evaluated to determine the potential E85 market, especially because flex-fuel vehicles can operate on either E85 or gasoline,” said Eichberger.

$550 Bil in Fossil Fuel Subsidies Hurt Efficiencies, Renewables

GRFA1More than half a trillion dollars in subsidies for fossil fuels are discouraging energy efficiencies and renewable alternatives. This news release from the Global Renewable Fuels Alliance (GRFA) cites an International Energy Agency (IEA) report that shows worldwide fossil fuel consumption subsidies reached $550 billion in 2013, keeping down investments to make energy more efficient and renewable.

“Fossil fuel subsidies are theoretically intended to increase energy access, but according to the IEA these subsidies are failing while discouraging investment in energy efficiencies and renewables. This raises a glaring question; who’s the $550 billion benefiting?” asked Bliss Baker, spokesperson for the GRFA.

Despite falling oil prices, fossil fuel consumption subsidies rose by $6 billion, to $550 billion in 2013, up from $544 billion in 2012. By comparison, all global renewable energy sources received less than a quarter of that amount in subsidies.

“It seems counter productive to subsidize the most profitable industry on Earth that contributes the majority of global greenhouse gas emissions, especially when biofuels are growing and are the only commercial alternative to transport fossil fuels,” stated Baker.

GRFA also says that by 2040, biofuels use will more than triple, rising from 1.3 million barrels of oil equivalent per day in 2012 to 4.6 million barrels per day in 2040, about 8 percent of road-transport fuel demand.

India’s Railways to Power Trains with Biodiesel

indiatrain1Biodiesel in India gets a big boost as that country’s train company, Railways, decides to use the green fuel to power a fleet of 4,000 locomotives. This Times of India article says the move is to help clean up the environment and use less petroleum-based diesel.

Announcing the railway ministry’s move at a convention organized by Bio Diesel Association of India (BAI) on Wednesday, minister Sadanand Gowda said, “Railways is the single largest bulk consumer of diesel in the country and as mentioned in railway budget 2014-15, it will start using bio-diesel up to 5% of the total fuel consumption in diesel locomotives.” He added this will save foreign exchange substantially.

The national transporter annually consumes over two billion litres of diesel and foots a bill of over Rs 15,000 crore.

Road transport minister Nitin Gadkari also said that while his ministry is pushing for more use of clean and domestically produced fuel, he would take up the issue of allowing bio-diesel producers to sell their produce directly to bulk consumers in India. At present, only 20% of bio-diesel produced in India is sold here and the rest is exported.

Indian ministers added they are looking at plans to use waste land to grow the edible and non-edible oilseeds for the biodiesel.

Biodiesel Great But Broken Drivetrain Delays Trip

Ricketts shows problemWhile the biodiesel performed well, a busted drivetrain is postponing a cross-country trip featuring the chicken fat fuel. Earlier this week, we told you how Middle Tennessee State University Cliff Ricketts was driving from Key West, Florida, to Seattle, Washington, a 3,550-mile journey being made on pure biodiesel from waste chicken fat. But this update from the school says a broken drivetrain transmission on the left side of the 1981 Volkswagen Rabbit diesel pickup that happened near Kansas City, plus winter weather affecting the Great Plains, combined to now postpone the alternative fuel researcher’s “Southern-Fried Fuel” quest until spring 2015.

“I said at the beginning of this journey that we are on an adventure, and it has been,” Ricketts said.

“We’ll just postpone it until a later date. That is the common-sense thing to do.”

Traveling from the southernmost point in Florida up through Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois and Missouri — six of 13 states along his planned route — the 38-year MTSU School of Agribusiness and Agriscience faculty member called the trip an amazing experience.

His fuel source, totally pure biodiesel, did not include petroleum. The mechanical problems had nothing to do with the fuel he was testing in the research.

“The biodiesel did great,” said Ricketts, who added that data showed miles-per-gallon ranges were from 36 to 45-plus.

“Equal speed, power, torque. The diesel vehicle has shown it is a viable fuel option as and when needed. Any issues we had had nothing to do with the biodiesel.”

The trip is now expected to resume this coming March or May.

Biodiesel Ingredient Maker Gets State, Fed Incentives

ia-flag1An Iowa company that will make a key ingredient for biodiesel is getting some important loans, loan guarantees and tax incentives from the state and federal governments. This article from the Mason City (IA) Globe Gazette says New Heaven Chemical will get $128,000 in state loans and $402,000 in tax incentives, along with the chance for a U.S. Department of Agriculture $5 million loan guarantee, for the company’s plant at the Manly Terminal.

The Manly plant will produce sodium methylate, which is used to turn fat and oil into biodiesel.

Completion is expected by the end of the year. Startup is set for January.

New Heaven’s plant will bring money into the county, [Worth County Supervisor Ken] Abrams said.

“It’s gonna get jobs and people here,” he said.

County officials are expected to sign the contract later this week.

Growth Energy Comments on LCFS & Ethanol

growth-energy-logoA group representing ethanol producers in this country is giving the state of Washington a piece of its mind on the state’s draft report on the potential implementation of a Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS). This news release from Growth Energy says the comments outline how implementation of a LCFS could potentially displace clean burning, domestically-produced renewable fuels without significant environmental benefit.

Upon submission of the comments, Chris Bliley, Director of Regulatory Affairs for Growth Energy, noted, “As Washington considers a potential low carbon fuel standard, we wanted to make them aware of our strong objection to the inclusion of controversial theories such as indirect land use change. Ethanol continues to significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions in our transportation fuel. Washington should carefully consider these issues before moving forward with a California-style LCFS regulation.”

The comments outlined that, “With the success of a national biofuels program in mind, Washington’s draft report raises a number of issues related to the potential adoption of a low carbon fuel standard (LCFS) in Washington. One of the most controversial features of a potential state-level LCFS regulation is the belief that by regulating the carbon intensity of alternative fuels somehow value is added separate and apart from other efforts to reduce transportation sector greenhouse gas emissions by causing changes in biofuel production methods… To date there has been no net reduction in GHG emissions nationwide; the only impact has been ‘fuel shuffling,’ a resulting phenomenon which itself is likely to increase GHG emissions by requiring the transport of ethanol and other fuels further distances than if states did not try to regulate the carbon intensity of the ethanol sold or used within their borders.”

You can read all of Growth Energy’s comments here.