Rahal Shares in Pre-Race Excitement

Bobby Rahal of Rahal Letterman RacingEarlier today, Bobby Rahal addressed the members of EPIC who came out to enjoy the Roadrunner Turbo Indy 300. Rahal said he felt good about today’s race and he was confident in Team Ethanol Driver Ryan Hunter-Reay, despite the tendency for crowding out on the Kansas Speedway’s 1.5 mile oval. There’s already been three delays due to Indy cars bumping and grinding out there on the track. So far, Ryan has avoided the trouble.

You can listen to Rahal here:

2008 Roadrunner Turbo Indy 300 Photo Album

Beatn’ the Heat on Ethanol

EPIC Food and Fuel DiscussionThere’s no question that there’s been a media barrage giving ethanol a bad rap. Just today, the Kansas City Star’s cover story focused on criticism of the alternative fuel. That story came just in time for today’s Roadrunner Turbo Indy 300. The entire IndyCar Series runs on nearly 100 percent ethanol fuel. And, leading representatives of the ethanol industry say there’s a reason why the IndyCar series backs ethanol. In fact, they say there are numerous reasons why. More importantly, they say there are a handful of reasons why consumers should support ethanol, despite the media’s recent ethanol scapegoating for rising food and fuel costs. The Ethanol Promotion and Information Council hosted a panel discussion at the Kansas Speedway today to address the recent abundance of “misinformation” about ethanol.

The panel included EPIC’s new Executive Director Toni Nuernberg, CEO and President of ICM Dave Vander Griend, Mike Sobetski with LifeLine Foods, and Greg Krissek with ICM. They argue that ethanol has a negligible impact on food prices, specifically corn. They talk about new technology that proves there isn’t a debate about “food versus fuel” but a discussion about “food and fuel.” And, they say that, despite what critics in the media suggest, ethanol actually keeps gas prices lower.

You can listen to the entire panel discussion here:

2008 Roadrunner Turbo Indy 300 Photo Album

Ethanol Podcast on Efficiency and Food Prices

RFA PodcastThe latest “Ethanol Report” podcast from the Renewable Fuels Association features comments from RFA President Bob Dinneen on the new report from Argonne National Laboratory about the increased efficiency of U.S. ethanol plants, as well as how higher oil prices are the real cause of food price inflation.

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

Or you can listen to it on-line here:

Ethanol Saves Missouri Motorists Money

A study released Monday shows that Missouri drivers are saving money at the pump thanks to ethanol.

John Urbanchuk at Missouri CapitolAccording to research results announced at a press conference in the State Capitol, drivers in Missouri are expected to save an average of 9.8 cents per gallon this year due to the 10 percent ethanol standard that went into effect Jan. 1, 2008.

The study, “Impact of Ethanol on Retail Gasoline Prices in Missouri,” was performed by John Urbanchuk with the economic consulting service LECG and paid for by the Missouri Corn Merchandising Council.

“The mandate went into effect in 2008, but last year 70 percent of the gasoline was voluntarily blended with ethanol,” said Urbanchuk. “So, using actual data for 2007, we calculated that the savings for Missouri was roughly 7.8 cents a gallon. Works out to about $156 million for consumers.”

“Then we looked at 2008 moving forward using current information for prices and projections by the Energy Information Administration,” he continued. “And we concluded that for 2008 the savings are about 9.8 cents a gallon, which works out to about $73 for every driver in Missouri.”

The study does not factor in the increasing use of biofuels like ethanol that are helping to extend gasoline supplies and hold retail pump prices down. According to Merrill Lynch commodity strategist Francisco Blanch, U.S. gas prices would be 15 percent higher without the increasing effect of biofuels. Without ethanol, the price at the pump would be $3.70 a gallon instead of the recent average price of $3.25 a gallon.

Listen to an interview with Urbanchuk about the study here.

A pdf file of the study report is available here.

The State of Cellulosic Ethanol

Cellulosic ethanol is no longer a pipe dream. It’s real and it is being produced today.

That was the message Tom Slunecka, Vice President of Business Development for KL Process Design Group of South Dakota, gave at the 2008 Agri-Marketing Conference in Kansas City last week. Slunecka provided a detailed overview of the state of cellulosic ethanol to agri-marketers during a conference breakout session that included just what cellulosic is and what the future holds.

Tom Slunecka at NAMA 08KL Process Design Group was the first company to get a small-scale cellulosic ethanol plant on-line using waste-wood material to produce about 1.5 million gallons of ethanol a year. The company is currently providing teams in the American LeMans Series with an 85 percent cellulosic ethanol racing fuel.

“Currently there are three different teams, four different cars running,” said Slunecka. “We have two Corvettes, we have a prototype car and we have an Aston Martin, all running on E85R cellulosic race fuel.”

Slunecka explained that there are several different processes that can be used to convert biomass into biofuels. “Our process is a heat and mechanical pre-treatment process. There is a biochemical process, there is a syngas process, and then there are combinations of all the above,” he said. “There is no silver bullet. We’re gonna need them all to produce the amount of fuel that is needed.”

And that would be the amount of cellulosic ethanol required under the energy bill passed by Congress last year. “The Renewable Fuels Standard does require that we have over 21 billion gallons of renewable fuels created from biomass over the next ten years,” said Slunecka, a goal he says is a high hurdle, but does provide incentive for investors to put money into the development of these fuels.

Slunecka also talked about the potential for the type of small-scale plant his company has designed to be created by adding a wood processing component on to the front end of a traditional corn ethanol plant, or adding a traditional corn ethanol-type component on to the back end of an existing wood processing plant.

In addition, Slunecka says one of the unique factors in KL’s process design is that it creates two different by-products that have very high value. “One is a very high protein syrup that can be used as a feed supplement or can be burned in biomass burners,” he said. “The other is a product called lignin, which is leftover from plants after the sugar has been removed.” Lignin has a variety of uses, from burning for energy to a basis for paints and cosmetics.

Listen to an interview with Tom Slunecka here:

Economists Discuss Food and Fuel Prices

Domestic Fuel CastRising food prices continue to make headlines and all too often the blame is placed on the use of corn for ethanol.

In this DomesticFuel Cast, we hear from two economists who have spent their entire careers studying farm and food prices – Jim Duffield with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and John Urbanchuk with the global economic analysis firm of LECG LLC. They talk about the multiple causes of rising food prices, the dramatic impact of energy costs, and what they expect prices for raw commodities to do in the near term.

Here is the Domestic Fuel Cast #2:

You can also subscribe to the Domestic Fuel Cast using the following url/feed link: http://www.zimmcomm.biz/domesticfuel/domestic-fuel-cast.xml.

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: http://www.zimmcomm.biz/domesticfuel/domestic-fuel-cast.xml. 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: