‘Clean Energy Victory Bonds’ Would Spur Alt Energy

U.S. Representative Bob Filner has introduced the “Clean Energy Victory Bonds Act of 2012 (PTC)” that would allow Americans to invest billions of dollars to help develop clean energy technologies. The bill has good support: 10 co-sponsors, Green America and more than 40 other institutions have come out in support of the legislation.

The majority of the production tax credits for alternative energy and energy efficiency projects have either expired or are set to expire this year. The tax extender package has some two-year extensions for wind, biodiesel and cellulosic ethanol, but not for other energy sources. While it has passed through the Senate Finance Committee, it must still pass the Senate and pass through the House.

This bill would extend all renewable energy and energy efficiency projects up to a decade and also give Americans the ability to help “choose” the projects they would like to support.  Similar to the Victory Bonds from WWII, Clean Energy Victory Bonds could leverage billions of dollars of public and private finance for development.

“The importance of a clean energy future for America cannot be overstated,” said Alisa Gravitz, president of Green America. “Just like Victory Bonds helped to ensure the nation’s victories in World War II, so, too, can Clean Energy Victory Bonds allow Americans to invest in a future that benefits our country economically, politically, and environmentally.”

Should the bill pass, with as little as $25, Americans could buy Clean Energy Victory Bonds from the U.S. Treasury. Over time, the bonds would pay the owner a competitive rate of return.

New Energy Farms Announces Development of CEEDS

New Energy Farms (NEF) has developed a revolutionary new method of propagating energy grasses that will reduce farmer establishment costs by 50 percent or more.

Cost effective scaling of perennial energy grasses such as Miscanthus, Arundo donax and energy cane has previously inhibited expansion. NEF has developed a new planting product for vegetative energy crops called CEEDS. These are small capsules that are established using automatic min till or no-till planters, like seed. The process applies to a number of energy grasses and is currently being evaluated by companies in the U.S. and Canada. The existing range of NEF energy crops will be available in the CEEDS format commencing from 2013 to 2014 depending on the cultivar and region.

“The focus was to make establishing vegetative energy crops as easy as other arable crops, to do this we started to look how to reverse engineer a seed, and the result was CEEDS,” says Dean Tiessen, president of New Energy Farms.

“CEEDS represents a step forward in energy crop establishment; that has been many years in the development, but solves all the issues that have previously made scaling energy crops difficult,” adds Dr. Paul Carver, CEO New Energy Farms.

The CEEDS planting system works alongside the NEF energy crop plantation management system, Biomass Direct to provide a farm to end user service for our customers.

The main advantages of CEEDS are
• New cultivars can be bulked up to market volumes 3 times faster.
• Establishment cost for crops like Miscanthus can be reduced by over 50 percent.
• Min / No till, fully automatic precision planting (no planting staff required).
• Substantially lower cost of planting, less ground cultivation.
• Reduction by up to 80% in transport logistics for planting material.
• Greater vigor after planting, more shoots produced.
• This system delivers the maximum yield from a cultivar.
• Makes planting energy grasses as simple as drilling conventional arable crops.

Report Raises Concerns Over Biomass Production

A new report from Carbon Trade Watch, “Nothing Neutral Here: Large-scale biomass subsidies in the UK and the role of the EU ETS,” is sounding alarms over the UK’s move to increase biomass consumption as part of its green economy plans. Earlier this month, Brazilian Suzano Papel e Celulose received approval for what is believed to be the most advanced genetically modified (GM) tree plantation trial ever.

The report ties together demand for biomass in the UK to the role of the EU’s Emissions Trading System and what Carbon Trade Watch says is the destructive expansion of industrial monoculture tree plantations around the world. The report came on the heals of an April 26, 2012 announcement from the UK government regarding its bioenergy strategy that included increased energy production from biomass. Carbon Trade Watch believes the “British biomass boom” will benefit polluters and cause “widespread environmental destruction through land grabs and deforestation.”

“The British government seems determined to lock the country into a dirty energy pathway that fuels climate chaos, arguably the greatest modern day threat to human survival,” said report author Joseph Zacune. “Campaigners are warning that the government’s new bioenergy strategy will require around 80 million tonnes of wood for biomass energy that would unleash land grabs and cause major emissions from deforestation. Why should we continue to subsidise polluters in favour of appropriate energy solutions like wind, solar and tidal energy?”

According to Carbon Trade Watch, local communities across the UK are campaigning to stop biomass-fueled power plants while companies are “greenwashing their polluting activities.

Tamra Gilbertson co-director of Carbon Trade Watch added, “Climate justice struggles bring together grassroots networks, groups and individuals that are demanding tough action against the root causes of climate change and for a truly sustainable, affordable and democratic energy system. To continue the same over-production and over-consumption of energy is a dead-end but governments continue to ensure that profit-seeking corporations control the energy systems and pollute our skies.”

Researchers Look at Using Food Waste for Hydrogen

What might be a good use of food waste? Hydrogen. Researchers from the University of Birmingham in the UK are creating bioenergy in the form of hydrogen for use an an alternative to gasoline. Researchers note that in a country like Brazil that is converting sugarcane to ethanol it may not be sustainable in the long-term. The reason is because the process generates carbon dioxide and agricultural waste. The advantage of creating hydrogen is that it can use the waste generated by the production of other products and it is sustainable and emission free.

Professor Lynne Macaskie, Professor of Applied Microbiology at the University of Birmingham, gave a presentation on the hydrogen research during a collaborative workshop in São Paulo on May 14, 2012. “Fuel cells need clean energy to run them. If you provide bacteria with a supply of sugary waste from, for example, chocolate production, the bacteria can produce hydrogen. At the moment manufacturers pay to dispose of waste but with our technique they could convert it to clean electricity instead.”

According to Macaskie, the research shows a huge potential for biohydrogen as a fuel for the future. “Biohydrogen could even be made from the wastes from bioethanol production – two biofuels for the price of one,” he said. “More work from focused teams, however, is needed, as agricultural wastes are tougher for bacteria to digest.”

The event was organized by O Conselho de Reitores das Universidades Estaduais de São Paulo (CRUESP) and the FAPESP bioenergy programme (FAPESP-BIOEN). Participants came from the University of Birmingham, the University of Nottingham, the State University of Campinas (UNICAMP), the University of São Paulo, and São Paulo State University (UNESP).

New Tool for Energy Efficiency Education

For those looking to learn more about energy efficiency, a new educational site has launched: MyEnergyGateway.org. Hosted by the Association of Energy Services Professionals (AESP) Foundation. The site was created to become a library of training programs, degrees and certifications that focus on energy efficiency, sustainability, green and alternative energy. In addition, visitors will also be able to research information about engineering, green building design and other disciplines.

While the site was created for students, returning military personnel and displaced workers, anyone interested in beginning or continuing his or her education in the space will find this site useful. Not only does it contain lists of education programs, but also compares tuition costs, room and board costs, student to faculty ratio, and scholarship and internship opportunities among other information.

Why this site?

In 2011, ASEP published a survey of its members and nearly 60 percent cited a lack of talented workers in the field and more than half were in the process of recruiting for open positions. The U.S. Department of Energy funded the costs of developing the site through a grant in an effort to promote the need and types of jobs in the energy sector.

“Companies and utilities involved in creating energy efficiency programs are facing a lack of talented and adequately traine candidates for jobs,” said Meg Matt, President & CEO of AESP. “MyEnergyGateway.org serves as an educational pathway for students, returning military and those seeking a career change to better understand the numerous opportunities that currently exist in energy. The website encourages users to enter the industry and quickly identify the best options to pursue.”

EnergyTrends 2012 Renewable Energy Grades

Did you know that California, Colorado and Massachusetts are the top three states in the U.S. for renewable energy? You can learn all this and more from a new data analysis by EnergyTrends.org, a project of Lexington Institute. The organization has assigned grades to each U.S. state based on its use and development of renewable energy.

The grading system considers both the amount of energy generated from renewable sources as well as the growth rate over a three-year period. It also takes into account savings achieved in electricity use, renewable energy state incentive programs and other factors. States were given extra bonus points for grid-connected renewable installations, dynamic pricing for power utility consumers and integrated of electric vehicles.

“Renewable energy is really still in its infancy here in the United States,” said Lexington Executive Vice President Don Soifer. “So we felt it essential to grade based on a growth model, with plenty of room to reflect future improvements in the integration of renewable. We worked to create a new resource that will be useful for everyone from schools to elected officials to keep track of their state’s critical patterns for energy consumption and generation.”

The scoring is based on data from 2003-2010, the most recent year for which confirmed information is available. Resources included the Department of Energy as well as other state-specific energy information. Data used also included per-capita consumption of energy from various fossil fuels such as coal, natural gas and gasoline, as well as renewable sources. All states are ranked in each category, along with indicators for important trends and summaries of important recent developments.

So what grade does my current state, Iowa, receive? A “C”.  It looks like Iowa has some work to do….

Driving The Bioeconomy Highway

The National Bioeconomy Blueprint was recently released by the Obama Administration.  The report outlines the steps that agencies need to take to drive the bioeconomy highway.  The Administration recognized the growing sector has a priority due to its potential for growth and job creation.  The bioeconomy will also help drive new sources of bioenergy, improve the agricultural industry, change the face of manufacturing and address key environmental issues, among other benefits.

America’s economy is slowing transforming to a biobased economy.  “Home-grown” bioproducts already developed include food, feed and fiber as well as chemical substitutes for petroleum-based products; yet the industry has barely emerged. Research is critical to the future of the industry, but it is also important, according to the report, to equip the workforce with the education, training and skills they need to have thriving careers in the sector.

Another step that needs to be taken is to reduce the troublesome regulatory barriers in order to accelerate the advancement of bioinventions and bring them to market.  There are concerns, both health and ethical, that are a result of work being done with biological systems.

The Bioeconomy Blueprint outlines “five strategic imperatives” for a bioeconomy with the potential to generate new markets and economic growth:

  • Support R&D investments that will provide the foundation for the future bioeconomy.
  • Facilitate the transition of bioinventions from research lab to market, including an increased focus on translational and regulatory sciences.
  • Develop and reform regulations to reduce barriers, increase the speed and predictability of regulatory processes, and reduce costs while protecting human and environmental health.
  • Update training programs and align academic institution incentives with student training for national workforce needs.
  • Identify and support opportunities for the development of public-private partnerships and precompetitive collaborations—where competitors pool resources, knowledge, and expertise to learn from successes and failures.

In conclusion, the Blueprint calls upon Federal agencies to accelerate their support of the bioeconomy sector for the benefit of the country.

Bioheat Part of Atlantic Region Energy Expo

Bioheat® is now be part of the largest energy events in the Northeast as they will join the Atlantic Region Energy Expo, reflecting a unique partnership with the National Biodiesel Board. The Atlantic Region Energy Expo and Bioheat is hosting the AREE 2012 event in Atlantic City, New Jersey, May 1 – 3. The conference, billed as the best energy, petroleum and HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) industry tradeshow in the Northeast, will explore the evolving world of home and building comfort, efficiency and environmental responsibility.

The event features an educational track of five Bioheat sessions, which do not require a registration fee, thanks to funding from the South Dakota Soybean Research and Promotion Council.

“We’re proud that AREE is the first industry trade show and convention officially combining traditional fuels with the renewable biodiesel found in Bioheat,” said Eric DeGesero, executive vice president, Fuel Merchants Association of New Jersey. The association was the catalyst for the founding of AREE 19 years ago. “But this represents more than a conference name change. It’s a sign of changing times for oilheat dealers, who recognize that Bioheat is their best option to adapt their businesses in the 21st century.”

The need for change is a powerful theme at this year’s conference as the oilheat industry works to remain competitive. That’s why the Bioheat team, led by Paul Nazzaro, the National Biodiesel Board’s liaison to the petroleum industry, is bringing in a keynote speaker to talk about change at the event. Michael Rogers, a renowned technology author and futurist, most recently served as futurist-in-residence for The New York Times. He focuses on how companies can think about the future in useful ways.

“As their market share contracts, doing nothing is not an option for oilheat dealers,” Nazzaro said. “Bioheat is the first real opportunity for them to make a progressive shift in decades. Bioheat is a more desirable product to their customers, offering enhanced energy security, benefits to health and the environment, and American jobs.”

Virdia Opens New Pilot Facility

A new cellulosic demonstration facility has opened in Danville, Virginia. Virdia, a company focused on developing cellulosic sugars,  located the facility on the campus for the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR). The facility will prove out Virdia’s CASE process in pilot scale and the resulting  cellulosic sugars and lignin will be designed for use in commercial applications.

Philippe Lavielle, Virdia CEO said, “Siting our technology center and our demonstration facility in Virginia is the next key step towards commercial production for us. Virdia’s products are cost-competitive, and are setting new standards for industrial uses of cellulosic sugars and lignin.”

Lavielle also said that the company looks forward to demonstrating the technology on a larger scale, and when they are ready, plan on locating the larger facility near sustainable sources of biomass.  The CASE process converts biomass to fermentable sugars and lignin. The resulting sugars can be used to produce renewable chemicals, materials, nutritional additives for the feed industry and renewable fuels. The company is currently working with Virent who is using the sugars to produce drop-in jet fuels.

The company held a ribbon cutting ceremony on April 25th.  “Virdia is making huge strides in the emerging bioeconomy, and I am pleased the company has decided to site its new technology center in Virginia,” said Bob McDonnell, the Governor of Virginia. “The development of sustainable and clean sources of energy is a necessary component of our all the above energy strategy, and Virginia is proud to welcome Virdia to the state in pursuance of cleaner energy, scientific innovation and economic stimulus.”

USDA Explores Alternative Energy at Airports

There have been a few companies that are exploring growing bioenergy crops on land owned by airports. Now the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is in the game. The division of Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is looking at the potential for alternative energy production at airports in a published article, “Airports Offer Unrealized Potential for Alternative Energy Production.” The article, published in Environmental Management, states that airports may want to consider converting land to alternative fuels where it is economically and environmentally beneficial.

Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack, an avid supporter of alternative energy said of the findings, “Some available grasslands at airports have the potential to spur the type of innovation we need to build American-made, homegrown biofuels and biobased products that will help break our dependence on foreign oil and move our nation toward a clean energy economy.”

Vilsack also said converting grasslands at airports to alternative energy, whether it be biofuel, wind or solar production, not only provides more environmentally sound energy sources for the county, but “may also increase revenue for airports and reduce the local abundance of potentially hazardous wildlife to aircraft.”

Many of us remember the plane that went down in the Hudson due to birds hitting the plane (i.e. getting into the engines), sparking a conversation about environmental responsibility versus air safety. Researchers at the National Wildlife Research Center (NWRC) note that many airport properties are already managed to reduce wildlife abundance and habitat quality as part of efforts to avoid wildlife collisions with aircraft.

Yet not all energy crops will prove to be equal on managing wildlife. NWA says that once biofuel crops are identified for airport use demonstrating low wildlife-strike risks compared to existing airport landcovers, converting grasslands could become a revenue generator.

Federally obligated airports have restrictions on how land may be used but the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has said it will work with airports interested in pursuing alternative energy.

Novozymes CEO Named BIO 2012 George Washington Carver Award Winner

The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) has named Novozymes President and CEO Steen Riisgaard as the recipient of its 2012 George Washington Carver Award for innovation in industrial biotechnology.

A panel selected Riisgaard as this year’s winner “to recognize his significant contributions to the industrial biotechnology field.”

Under Riisgaard’s leadership, Novozymes is creating tomorrow’s industrial biotechnology solutions and improving the use of our planet’s resources, while reducing reliance on fossil fuels. Riisgaard will receive the award and also deliver a short address during a May 1, 2012 plenary lunch session at the BIO World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology & Bioprocessing. The conference is being held at the Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center in Orlando April 29-May 2.
Washington Carver Award Recipient

“I am honored to receive the 2012 George Washington Carver Award,” Riisgaard said. “At Novozymes, we see biotechnology as a way to reshape the world’s economy and create balance between better business, a cleaner environment and better lives. This award is a mandate to continue innovating with our customers, moving towards a world where everyday products are made with organic materials instead of oil.”

The award honors the original vision of George Washington Carver, an originator of the “chemurgy” movement who, more than a century ago, achieved world renown by combining agriculture and science to produce everyday biobased products, changing the nature of farm economics and sustainability. Industrial biotechnology is the modern-day equivalent, combining biotech innovations with renewable biomass to create solutions that can revitalize manufacturing and energy.

New Funding For Biomass Research & Development

Yesterday in conjunction with Presidenta Obama’s visit to Ohio State University to discuss the administration’s strategy for American energy, he announced $35 million in new federal funding over the next three years for biomass research and development. The project is funded by the Biomass Research and Development Initiative (BRDI) and will focus on the development of advanced biofuels, bioenergy and high-value biobased products. The effort, aimed at reducing America’s use of oil while at the same time embracing a more environmental friendly fuel source, is joint initiative between the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Energy Department (DOE).

In support of the program, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said, “USDA’s partnership with the Department of Energy aims to improve our country’s energy security and provide sustainable jobs in communities across the country.” Vilsack is a large supporter of homegrown renewable energy and biobased products that can be developed and produced by rural Americans.

The renewable energy industry advocates that green energy will bring green jobs to America and save Americans money. Secretary Chu said that these advanced technologies will both help reduce our dependence on foreign oil and save money for American consumers. He also stated, “Investing in next-generation biofuels helps boost the competitiveness of the U.S. biofuels industry, supports economic development in rural communities, and creates skilled jobs for American workers.”

The funding is allocated For fiscal year 2012 and applicants seeking BRDI funds must propose projects that integrate science and engineering research. Three technical areas will be considered and all projects must demonstrate technological advances in at least one category: feedstock development, biofuels and biobased products development and biofuels development analysis.

Subject to annual appropriations, the USDA and DOE have allocated $35 million over three years for the BRDI project. It is anticipated that the funding will support five to seven projects over the timeframe. Applications are being taken now and are due April 23, 2012 and must be submitted electronically. Winning projects will be announced by June 15, 2012. A description of the requirements, instructions and the application is available at www.fedconnect.net or  www.grants.gov under Reference Number DE-FOA-0000657.

Miscanthus Genetic Map Completed

The first comprehensive genetic mapping of miscanthus has been completed. Researchers have been studying the feedstock as a possible source for bioenergy. The goal of the project is to accelerate product development. The results were published in the online journal PLoS One and the project is a collaboration between Ceres and the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) at Aberystwyth University in Wales.

The project entailed creating a collection of genetically related plants and then sequencing and analyzing DNA. Researchers mapped all 19 chromosomes of mischanthus and over several years have analyzed more than 400 million DNA sequences. The benefit of this research is that by isolating positive genes, for example a marker that would yield more biomass per plant, researchers can then focus on that gene, along with others, to create bioenergy superior feedstocks.

Today, miscanthus is primarily grown in Europe and used for electricity generation. It is not commercially viable as a bioenergy feedstock due to high production costs and few miscanthus producers. Ceres Chief Scientific Officer Richard Flavell, PhD, FRS, CBE said that the company will be able to more rapidly introduce important crop traits. The company is currently evaluating various varieties in several locations and anticipates that its varieties of miscanthus will require less time, effort and money to be bred for different environments.

In the past the majority of miscanthus research focused on field trials and this is the first large-scale project of its kind to focus on its genetics. Iain Donnison, PhD and head of the bioenergy team at IBERS added that, “The joint miscanthus development programme with Ceres has provided new insight into the evolution of the species as well as the similarities and differences in populations across different countries and environments.”

Sustainable Biofuels Awards Presented

biofuelsThe Sustainable Biofuels Awards were presented this week at the World Biofuels Markets 2012 Congress in Rotterdam, Netherlands.

The awards include biofuels leadership, technology, adoption, bioethanol, biodiesel, feedstock innovation, innovation in aviation, biopower generation and bio-based chemicals and are determined based on judging by an elite panel of independent industry experts, with final voting by individuals in the general biofuels industry.

2012 Sustainable Biofuels Awards Winners:

Biofuels Leadership Award – Novozymes
Sustainable Biofuels Technology Award – LS9
Biofuels Adoption Award – City of Stockholm
Sustainable Bioethanol Award – Abengoa
Sustainable Biodiesel Award – Vale
Sustainable Feedstock Innovation – DuPont Cellulosic Ethanol
Innovation in Aviation – Boeing
Sustainable Biopower Generation Facility – Envergent Technologies
Leader in Bio-based Chemical Industry – Kiverdi

Bioenergy Interests Invited to Attend Capitol Hill Day

A diverse group of bioenergy stakeholders is holding a Capitol Hill Day for Bioenergy in Washington, DC on March 21.

The event is being sponsored by a number of organizations including the 25x’25 Alliance, American Farm Bureau Federation, Advance Biofuels Organization, Algal Biomass Organization, American Council on Renewable Energy, Biomass Power Association, Energy Future Coalition, National Alliance of Forest Owners, National Farmers Union, and SAFER Alliance.

The groups are holding the event to draw attention to the fact that renewables make up nearly 12 percent of all energy produced in the U.S., such as fuels, electricity and thermal energy from biomass, and that bioenergy reduces the nation’s risks from dependence on foreign oil, strengthens our economy and ensures the continued, sustainable management of our natural resources.

The day will include a morning briefing with congressional members and trade group association leaders on bioenergy issues, small group visits to educate Congressional leaders and their staffs, an evening reception on Capitol Hill to network with other industry stakeholders, Congressional staff, and association partners.

Anyone in the bioenergy sector is welcome to take part in the event – registration and other information is available on-line.