Ethanol Racing History

St. Petersburg, Florida was the site of the greenest racing event in history April 5-6 when ethanol was featured in both the IndyCar Series Honda Grand Prix and the American Le Mans Series Acura Sports Car Challenge.

e-podcastThe edition of “Fill up, Feel Good” features comments from Doug Robinson of the International Motor Sports Association; GM Racing program manager Doug Fehan; Corvette Racing team driver Johnny O’Connell; and Team Ethanol Indy Car Ryan Hunter-Reay.

The Ethanol Promotion and Information Council (EPIC) has been the leader in bringing “green” fuels to motorsports and the organization was instrumental in the IndyCar Series switch to 100 percent ethanol last year and the Corvette Racing Team usage of cellulosic E85 racing fuel this year.

The podcast is available to download by subscription (see our sidebar link) or you can listen to it by clicking here (5:00 MP3 File):

The Fill Up, Feel Good theme music is “Tribute to Joe Satriani” by Alan Renkl, thanks to the Podsafe Music Network.

“Fill up, Feel Good” is sponsored by the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council.

Latest Ethanol Podcast Features Industry Leaders

The latest “Ethanol Report” podcast from the Renewable Fuels Association features comments from four ethanol industry leaders about the future of the ethanol industry and what role the RFA will play in it.

RFA PodcastFeatured are RFA Vice Chairman Tom Branhan of Glacial Lakes Energy in Watertown, South Dakota; Renewable Fuels Foundation chairman Bill Lee with Chippewa Valley Ethanol in Minnesota; RFA and RFF board member Dan Schwartzkopf with ICM’s LifeLine Foods; and Ryland Utlaut of Mid-Missouri Energy, a board member of RFA and past chairman of the National Corn Growers Association.

You can subscribe to “The Ethanol Report” by following this link.

Or you can listen to it on-line here:

Introducting Domestic Fuel Cast

Domestic Fuel CastBecause we do lots of interviews and generate quite a bit of audio here at Domestic Fuel and because we are broadcasters by training, we thought it was about time we started our own podcast.

The Domestic Fuel Cast will feature people and news of interest in the alternative fuels industry. Expect it to run about 5-10 minutes in length and be produced every two weeks, starting now. You can subscribe to the podcast using the following url/feed link: You can use your browser (IE, Firefox, Safari, etc.) to subscribe or if you’d like to get it into your iPod or Zune then we recommend using iTunes or the Zune software. Of course we’ll always post a link like the following one that will let you listen immediately here. We’re also archiving the programs.

Robert ZubrinOur first podcast features aerospace engineer and author Robert Zubrin, who has been getting some media attention lately for his book, “Energy Victory,” in which he outlines a simple plan for “winning the war on terror by breaking free of oil.”

Here is the Domestic Fuel Cast #1:

Corvette Ready to Run on Cellulosic E85

CorvetteThe Corvette Racing team will make its debut race on cellulosic E85 in the upcoming American LeMans Series Acura Sports Car Challenge in St. Petersburg, Florida April 4-5. GM Racing program manager Doug Fehan says they are very excited about it.

“GM is the leader in the production of flex fuel vehicles, we produce over 2.5 million and we are the largest producer in the world,” Fehan said during a teleconference on Wednesday. “Corvette has always tried to position itself as a leader in GM and within the racing community and this was a chance for Corvette again to demonstrate that leadership.”

Fehan says they had some challenges perfecting the fuel cell for using E85 in the race car, which kept them from using the fuel in the ALMS Twelve Hours of Sebring but they have resolved that issue. Comparing E85 to gasoline, Fehan says there is a difference in fuel mileage “but from a power and performance standpoint, it’s virtually the same.”

Johnny O'ConnellThe Corvette Racing C6.R driven by Johnny O’Connell, Jan Magnussen and Ron Fellows captured ninth overall and first in the 12 hours of Sebring in Florida, the season opener for the American Le Mans Series.

O’Connell agrees that performance with the cellulosic E85 is identical. “There has been absolutely no loss in performance at all (running the E85 in the Corvette) it’s as amazing as it’s always been,” he says. Because of the lower fuel mileage he says they do have to carry a little more fuel which makes the car a little heavier at the start, but “we’ll make that up on the other side” when the car is lighter.

O’Connell is especially pleased with the environmental benefits of running E85. “We all want to be as green as we possibly can and recognize that we do need to change things to keep racing in our culture as we go forward,” said O’Connell.

Corvette Racing has a technical partnership with the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council to spotlight E85 in the ALMS, and the cellulosic E85 for the race is being provided by KL Process Design Group of South Dakota. Two other teams – the Intersport Racing Lola and the Drayson-Barwell Racing Aston Martin – are also running on E85 in the ALMS series.

Listen to part of the press conference here:

Update From NEVC

Phil LampertAt the recent Ethanol 2008: Emerging Issues Forum I spoke with Phil Lampert, Executive Director, National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition. Phil was a panelist on the subject of ethanol marketing.

One of the points he made in his presentation had to do with pushing for more flex fuel vehicles on the road. In an interview I did with him afterward he says that NEVC isn’t trying to have every vehicle in America run on E85 but get more FFV’s on the road since they can run on any blend up to E85, reducing the challenge of having different blend levels available.

Phil says that NEVC will continue to focus on high level blends of ethanol since that’s what the organization does better than anyone. He’s hoping the industry will embrace them and what they’re trying to accomplish. He encourages people to go to their website to learn more.

I also want to thank Phil for his very nice comments about Domestic Fuel!

You can listen to my interview with Phil here:

Georgia Innovations Focus on Bioenergy

Georgia’s Agriculture Innovation Center (AgIC) recently received nearly $200,000 for matching research grants to help support six agricultural-based businesses. Five of those six are focused on bioenergy.

GeorgiaBill Boone, director of the AgIC, says the focus on bioenergy is not surprising. “Georgia is among the leaders in the bioenergy revolution. In order to stay in the forefront, we must continue to expand our bioenergy research, especially in the areas of alternative feedstocks.”

Companies receiving the grants include Alterra Bioenergy, a biodiesel manufacturer headquartered in Macon which is researching the dry land weed, camelina as an alternative biodiesel feedstock.
Also researching an alternative biofuel feedstock is AgStrong, a small, family-owned agricultural engineering firm in Watkinsville.

US Ethanol, a company that currently uses the waste sugars from recycled cola products to commercially produce ethanol in its Cordele plant, wants to expand its feedstocks by using waste sugars from Florida and Louisiana sugar plants.

Fram Renewable Fuels, headquartered in Savannah, is studying the use of wood pellets to heat poultry houses.

Finally, Synergy Parametrics, an Athens-based engineering firm, will use the grant to identify a more efficient fermentation process for cellulosic ethanol while simultaneously reducing the amount of acetic acid from the process.

Listen to an interview with Bill Boone by Randall Weiseman of Southeast AgNet:

Long Term Lending Support Needed

Dave Vander GriendAt today’s Ethanol 2008: Emerging Issues Forum one of the speakers was Dave Vander Griend, President/CEO ICM, Inc. Dave spoke about financing new technologies and the move toward a market based incentive system. I spoke with him afterward.

He says that he continues to believe that the ethanol industry is solid and that there are opportunities. Right now he says the industry is experiencing a bump in the road with the higher corn prices and depressed ethanol prices. However, that’s something he says you see every 4 to 5 years in the grain markets.

According to Dave, one of the challenges right now is a lack of support in the lending community since they’re a reactionary group. They see something that’s not highly profitable today and as he puts it “they run and do something else.” But he says that although there are tight margins right now, in 2 years they’ll be great just like they were 2 years ago. So he says that a little more long term thinking on the part of lenders would be very helpful.

One of the things he’d most like to see happen is a long term strategy in Washington. It’s one thing he says to set a goal but there needs to be a plan in place to make it happen.

You can listen to my interview with Dave here:

25x’25 Emphasizes Alliance, Advocacy and Administration

Allen RiderClosing out the 25x’25 Renewable Energy Summit was Allen Rider, member of the organization’s steering committee. He’s also a past president of New Holland North America.

Allen’s job here was to summarize what we’ve learned at the Summit. To start with he says that he’s heard a real affirmation of the goal of 25x’25 and that it’s the right goal. He learned a lot about the economic benefit of realizing that goal in terms of what it will mean for revitalizing rural America. Finally, he says the environmental impact is huge and ties right in with the other two.

He left everyone with the 3 A’s – Alliance, Advocacy and Administration. He says the strength of the organization comes from the alliances and grass roots efforts. He says there’s such a big need to advocate and get the facts out to the public. Everyone in the room raised their hand when he asked if they had seen a story in the media in the last week about renewable energy that had fact errors. And finally, he said they will need to educate and assist the new administration in Washington, DC.

You can listen to Allen’s closing remarks here:

Wal-Mart Developing Sustainable Facilities

Charles ZimmermanThe luncheon speaker here at the 25x’25 Renewable Energy Summit is Charles Zimmerman, VP, Prototype and New Format Development for Wal-Mart. I’ve been looking forward to meeting him since he’s got such a great name.

He’s speaking right now to the group about the evolution of sustainable facilities at the retail chain. Now most of his experience is with the facilities but he says they’re also testing biodiesel in a segment of their truck fleet and with the fuel outlet facilities they own he says their very keen on what’s happening with other renewable fuels. He says their truck fleet drives about 900 million miles a year so it’s important what they’re doing . He says that utilities is their second highest line item expense so they’re doing things to be more energy efficient which is good for the environment while also helping their bottom line.

I interviewed him prior to his presentation since he’s leaving immediately when done.

You can listen to my interview with Charles here:

Achieving a Sustainable Energy Future

Dr. Steve ChuOne of today’s presenters at the 25x’25 Renewable Energy Summit was Dr. Steve Chu, Director, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. His topic was “Achieving a Sustainable Energy Future” in which he provided an examination of how 25x’25 can be reached through means that conserve and
protect natural resources.

I walked in to his presentation first thing upon arriving this afternoon and it was fascinating. The research that’s being done not only in his lab but around the country should give everyone hope that we’ll find solutions for our energy concerns much quicker than we might think.

I spoke to him after his presentation and asked him about what his message was to this diverse group of leaders looking at how we can create a bright energy future. He says that existing technologies won’t get us to where we want to go which is replacing a huge percentage of our transportation fuel. However, he says that we have sufficient land and resources to not only take care of this need but also provide for our food needs as well. He says we’re just going to have to do it differently.

For example, it will take making better plants and using marginal land and making more efficient processes to convert them into energy and doing so in an economical way. This is the type of research his lab is working on.

He also talked about how many young people are moving into this type of research with enthusiasm but they’ll need support at the research facilities in order to conduct the research, something that has been lacking from the government for example in recent years. That sounds like something that 25x’25 can work on in Washington, DC.

You can listen to my interview with Dr. Chu here:

Deere Provides Look at Ethanol in 2015

John Deere SessionOne of the most well attended learning sessions at the 2008 Commodity Classic in Nashville was “Starch and Cellulose as Ethanol Feedstocks” sponsored by John Deere.

Deere’s principal scientist for renewable energy John Hickman told the crowd that by the year 2015, most ethanol will still come from starch – or corn – but the growth to cellulosic ethanol will include some intermediary steps.

John HickmanAccording to their calculations, Hickman says the United States could produce a 15.6 billion bushel corn crop seven years from now. “If we grow as much corn as we did in 2007 and the yield increases go from where they have in the last ten years, that would be possible in 2015,” he said. “That could then produce 19 billion gallons of ethanol and still provide exports and other uses for corn.”

Down the road, as cellulosic technology improves, Hickman says growers may have to make different planting decisions. “They have a period of time yet. The first cellulosic plants will be rolling on board in 2010, 2011. We’re going to learn a lot from those first plants. That will give growers much better signals than they have today.”

Veteran farm broadcaster Stewart Doan of Little Rock, Arkansas interviewed Hickman after his presentation. Listen to that interview here:

New EPIC Executive Director on the Job

FUFG Logo The Ethanol Promotion and Information Council (EPIC) has a new executive director. She is Toni Nuernberg, who comes to EPIC from ACA International in Minneapolis where she worked for 29 years, the last 12 as chief operating officer of ACA International Holding Company Inc. and its for-profit subsidiaries.

Toni Neurnberg Nuernberg says when she decided to make a career move she was looking for an exciting new industry with lots of potential.

“Clearly the ethanol industry is that and so much more,” she says. “The thing that struck me about it was that every person that I talked with about this position from the CEOs of the member organizations to the staff was their passion and the excitement that they feel about this industry.”

This edition of “Fill up, Feel Good” is all about Toni. Find out about her background, her goals and ideas for moving EPIC and the ethanol industry to a new level.

The podcast is available to download by subscription (see our sidebar link) or you can listen to it by clicking here (6:00 MP3 File):

The Fill Up, Feel Good theme music is “Tribute to Joe Satriani” by Alan Renkl, thanks to the Podsafe Music Network.

“Fill up, Feel Good” is sponsored by the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council.

Farm Equipment Manufacturers Support of Biodiesel

Ed HeglandEd Hegland is a farmer from Minnesota and currently serving as Chairman of the National Biodiesel Board. He stopped by the New Holland booth while I was attending the Commodity Classic trade show in Nashville where I got to talk to him about how equipment manufacturers are supporting biodiesel.

Ed says that as a farmer he’s excited to see companies like New Holland and others following their lead to step up and help promote the use of biodiesel, a farm product.

I asked him what other things these companies can do besides providing warranty support for 100% biodiesel. He says that education would be one thing. He thinks the manufacturers need to make sure that dealers and distributors get the right information on usage and handling of biodiesel so customers will learn it and to make sure that they stress quality.

Listen to my interview with Ed Hegland here:

John Deere Ethanol Risk Protection

John Deere Risk Protection has introduced the industry’s first-ever Ethanol Policy by providing coverage to corn producers who have delivery contracts for the purpose of ethanol production.

John DeereThe policy was officially introduced at the end of January and Deere has been talking with growers at events during the last month, including the Farm Machinery Show and last week’s Commodity Classic.

Deere held a press conference at Classic where Dennis Daggett, Director of Marketing for John Deere Risk Protection, explained the policy to the ag media.

Dennis DaggettVery simply, the policy insures yield shortfalls below contracted volumes in the event the price to replace the corn rises above the federal crop insurance coverage. The policy is being offered in Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. “We offered it where the majority of the active ethanol plants are in existence today,” Daggett says.

Since they introduced the policy, Daggett says there has been a lot of buzz in the industry. “We have fairly modest expectations on the product itself because we know that there is a very specific type of farmer who would be interested in this product, a farmer who actually contracts more than 50 percent.”

Daggett says the policy is beneficial for the ethanol plants because it allows them to actually work with the farmer in case there is a shortfall on their delivery contract. “We think this is a win for the ethanol plants because it stabilizes their input of grain and stabilizes their relationship with the farmer.”

Listen to an interview with Dennis about the ethanol policy here:

Domestic Fuel coverage of the 2008 Commodity Classic
is sponsored by: John Deere

Deere Running on Biofuels

John Deere SessionJohn Deere sponsored one of the most popular and well attended Learning Center sessions at the 2008 Commodity Classic in Nashville this week.

“Starch and Cellulose as Ethanol Feedstocks” discussed the importance of starch as today’s primary ethanol feedstock, harvesting challenges for increased corn yields as well as cellulose, and how to increase demand for biofuels.

Don Borgman, director of Agricultural Industry Relations led the discussion on issues for future production and distribution of ethanol, looking out to the year 2015. “Mostly what we are concerned about it keeping our eye on that demand ball,” said Borgman.

Don BorgmanHe says there are two critical issues – making sure we increase the number of E85 pumps nationwide and increasing the number of flex-fuel vehicles on the road. “If we get those two things done, we ought to be able to keep up fairly well with the supply,” he said.

Borgman says John Deere has an interest in helping the biofuels industry not just because of their customer base, but also from an energy security standpoint and an environmental standpoint. They are helping by promoting the use of biodiesel blends in their equipment and by looking towards the future for cellulosic ethanol and developing equipment to harvest the next generation of dedicated energy crops.

Listen to an interview with Borgman here:

Domestic Fuel coverage of the 2008 Commodity Classic
is sponsored by: John Deere