It 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
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.
“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.
“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.
More 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.
California-based ethanol producer Trestle Energy gets the green light to produce its advanced biofuel in British Columbia, Canada. Trestle, with production facilities in Iowa, can now start producing and selling its low-emissions biofuel in the province, as BC recognized the company as the lowest emissions ethanol producer in America.
Trestle Energy will now begin partnering with existing ethanol plants in Iowa, Minnesota, and across the Midwest to ramp up production of its low carbon biofuels and make the fuel available to BC consumers. Trestle’s method of production will strengthen export markets for American companies and help them effectively compete with overseas biofuel producers, while also helping advance important climate and energy security objectives.
“We are thrilled that British Columbia has moved quickly to approve our fuel pathways, so that we can begin to get our advanced biofuels to market,” said James Rhodes, co-founder and president of Trestle Energy. “We look forward to partnering with ethanol plants to supply Canada with low carbon biofuels, and we hope to bring them to the United States as soon as possible so that we can provide Americans with clean, affordable, low carbon energy.”
Trestle Energy also has petitions currently pending with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)—filed in November 2013—and with the California Air Resources Board (CARB)—filed in May 2014.
A group representing ethanol interests is calling on Oregon to treat ethanol the same as other clean fuels in the state. The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) sent in comments to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) detailing a number of requested changes to the proposed rule for Phase 2 of the Oregon Clean Fuels Program (CFP), including the recommendation that indirect effects be withheld from the program’s lifecycle carbon intensity analyses for various fuel pathways.
Phase 1 of the Oregon CFP, which is structured similarly to California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS), included carbon intensity scores for ethanol and all other fuel pathways that were based strictly on verifiable direct emissions. However, for Phase 2 of the program, Oregon DEQ is proposing to introduce subjective and uncertain penalty factors for hypothetical indirect land use changes (ILUC) for select biofuels, but no indirect effect penalty factors for any other fuel types. RFA’s comments underscore the fact that “Inclusion of highly uncertain and prescriptive ILUC factors creates an asymmetrical and discriminatory framework for the CFP.”
RFA urged that DEQ remove ILUC from the proposed rule “…until such time as there is broad scientific agreement on the best methodology for estimating the indirect effects for all fuels” and that “If DEQ includes ILUC for biofuels, it must also include indirect emissions associated with all other regulated fuels (including baseline petroleum).”
Even if DEQ’s proposal to include ILUC was justified, the letter points out that “…DEQ is proposing to use factors that have been shown to be grossly exaggerated and based on outdated information and data.” In fact, DEQ is planning to adopt ILUC penalties developed by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) in 2009 for that state’s LCFS. Even CARB has recognized that its 2009 ILUC factors are flawed and is planning to propose revisions to those values.
RFA added that it will support “performance-based low carbon fuel programs that are grounded in the principles of fairness, sound science, and consistent analytical boundaries.” The group continued that introducing into the regulatory framework concepts without scientific integrity and balance “only creates stakeholder division and controversy.”
The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) and several other agricultural sent a letter to President Obama this week asking him to intervene with the Environmental Protection Agency regarding its proposed cuts in the 2014 volume obligations for the Renewable Fuel Standard.
“The blending targets and the methodology in your administration’s proposed rule are already causing significant harm to the biofuel sector,” the letter states. “These impacts are reverberating throughout the U.S. agriculture economy, and we expect this trend to continue if the targets and the methodology in the rule are not corrected.”
The letter discusses how the ag sector has met its responsibility in growing sufficient feedstock for biofuels, but is also working with the ethanol industry on infrastructure and advanced fuels. The letter concludes: “The EPA’s proposed policy decision is driving one of our key economic engines – the biofuel sector -¬‐ overseas. We have invested in response to the signals in the RFS and are poised to deliver the very low carbon fuels you have sought for so long. Instead of reaping the economic benefits of this investment with a build-¬‐out of a domestic biofuel industry, the methodology proposed by EPA is offshoring the industry – and our market. This is a decision we cannot afford in America’s heartland.”
In addition to NCGA, organizations sending the letter included the Agricultural Retailers Association, American Farm Bureau Federation, Association of Equipment Manufacturers, National Association of Wheat Growers, the National Farmers Union and National Sorghum Producers.
A new study from the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) has called the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) E15 emission testing “flawed”. Others agree with the findings including the Urban Air Initiative (UAI) and the Energy Future Coalition (EFC). The SAE reviewed EPA models that are used to determine emissions from various fuel blends, known as “match blending”. The procedures were found by the SAE to show skewed results and the authors state has produced emission increases that are “incorrectly attributed to ethanol”.
The paper focuses on the fact that modification of gasoline blendstock composition in preparing ethanol-gasoline blends has a significant impact on vehicle exhaust emissions. In “splash” blending the blendstock is fixed, ethanol-gasoline blend compositions are clearly defined, and effects on emissions are relatively straightforward to interpret. In “match” blending the blendstock composition is modified for each ethanol-gasoline blend to match one or more fuel properties. The effects on emissions depend on which fuel properties are matched and what modifications are made, making trends difficult to interpret.
According to Steven VanderGriend, Urban Air Initiative Technical Director, the SAE paper helps make the argument UAI has made that splash blending higher volumes of ethanol on to finished E10 not only fails to raise any emissions but serves to improve emissions by diluting sulfur and aromatics, along with reducing the current non-regulated ultrafine particulates emissions. Also, by using ethanol’s octane potential, the greatest CO2 and mileage benefits can be achieved by the auto industry.
“This paper can serve as an important tool to correct the MOVES (Motor Vehicle Emissions Simulator) model that EPA requires states to use when estimating air quality impacts of motor fuels,” said VanderGriend. “As an independent source, the auto industry experts who were involved in this study are validating the concerns we have had for quite some time now.”
“In fact,” VanderGriend continued, “we are very excited with regard to the conclusion they reached that studies to evaluate the effects of ethanol should be conducted by adjusting the blendstock only as necessary to satisfy ASTM requirements. Blending ethanol at up to 30% volume with an E10 blendstock should generally require no change in composition to meet ASTM D4814.”
Registration is now open for the 9th annual Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit and Trade Show. The event will take place January 27, 2015 at The Meadows Conference Center located at Prairie Meadows in Altoona, Iowa and is free and open to the public. Click here for registration and sponsorship information.
With ongoing discussion over renewable fuels policy, the 2015 Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit will discuss state and national issues impacting the renewable fuels industry, including the future of the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), the impacts of the mid-term elections on U.S. energy policy, and emerging opportunities for cellulosic ethanol, E15, and biodiesel. Featured speakers will be announced leading up to the Summit.
“The Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit provides a great opportunity to listen to experts address state and national issues impacting the future of renewable fuels, as well as network with biofuels professionals and business leaders from throughout the Midwest,” said Iowa Renewable Fuels Association Executive Director Monte Shaw. “Taking into account the unclear impacts of mid-term elections and the uncertain future of the RFS, there’s a no shortage of interest in the 2015 Summit that will bring together industry leaders, decision makers and the general public to shape Iowa’s energy future.”
Solenis has received a U.S. patent (Patent No. US 8,841,469 B2) for the use of chemical additives to improve the separation of corn oil. In addition to yielding more corn oil, the company says its corn oil extraction aids, which are marketed as Dimension corn oil extraction aids, also reduce solids in the oil, resulting in a cleaner, higher-quality oil. The extraction aids, which are easily introduced into the process, also have been shown to reduce system deposition, resulting in less downtime for system cleaning and maintenance according to Solenis.
“Our goal is always to drive the profitability of the companies we do business with – and our extraction aids do just that,” said Allen Ziegler, global marketing director of biorefining at Solenis. “We’re not a one-trick product company. We have a full line of products that can benefit our customers – from reducing costs to increasing productivity. On top of that, our process experts are always looking for innovative ways to further build efficiencies. It’s inherent in everything we do.”
Previously known as Ashland Water Technologies, Solenis was part of Ashland Inc. until earlier this year when it became a stand-alone company. In addition to its corn oil extraction technologies, the company’s product portfolio includes a broad array of process, functional and water treatment chemistries as well as monitoring and control systems.
“The reality is that we were first to market with this technology and we have hard data to demonstrate its value, whereas with competitor products there can be significant variances in product performance,” said Ziegler. “Whether customers have a specially blended product or want validation that our technology works the same or better than what they’re currently using, we’ll work with them to get the product they need and the performance they expect.”
“We’re seeking to bring greater value to fuel ethanol plants with our patented and proven technology. But just as important, we want to establish good relationships with those companies,” Zeigler added.
In a recent blog post authored by Geoff Cooper, senior vice president of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), the American Petroleum Institute (API) recently released a study that argues that the fracking boom has led to dramatically lower prices for crude oil and refined products between 2008-2013. Cooper wrote that the study suggests that increased domestic production of crude oil, natural gas liquids (NGLs) and lease condensate from fracking has already extended U.S. supplies and helped to lower gas prices.
The study finds that every 1 million barrels/day of new supply reduces consumer prices for petroleum products between $0.06-0.20 per gallon. Cooper writes that according to economics more supply generally results in lower prices, in this case there are two problems with API’s rationale.
- Problem 1: Global demand for petroleum products continues to grow faster than global supply. EIA data show global production of crude oil, NGLs and condensate grew by 4.1 million barrels/day between 2008 and 2013. But global consumption of those products ramped up by 5.4 million barrels/day over the same period. Thus, demand gains outstripped supply gains by more than 30%.
- Problem 2: When energy economist Phil Verleger and researchers at Louisiana State University, Iowa State University, University of Wisconsin, the Department of Energy, and others separately showed that extending the U.S. gasoline supply with ethanol leads to lower pump prices, Big Oil defiantly screamed “NOT SO!” Verleger found that consumer paid $0.50-$1.50 per gallon less for gasoline in 2013 because of ethanol’s extension of the fuel supply. His conclusion corroborated results from Iowa State/University of Wisconsin that showed consumers saved up to $1.09 in 2012 due to ethanol’s aggregate effect on gasoline supplies.
Cooper ends his article by asking the question, “So, which is it API? Does adding volume to the fuel supply reduce prices, or doesn’t it?”
Today the Chicago City Finance Committee is considering an amended ordinance that according to Alderman Ameya Pawar, one of the bill’s co-sponsor, will ensure Chicago motorists will have a choice at the pump. The “Chicago Clean Air Choice” ordinance would enable retailers to offer drivers E15 fuel.
“Through the ordinance the City of Chicago will once again help lead the way in cleaning up the environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other toxic carcinogens in the air,” said Alderman Pawar. In his remarks he was referring to the Chicago City Council’s actions in 1984 that banned leaded gasoline in the city and its 2000 action where the Council banned various toxic additives.
Co-sponsor Alderman Anthony Beale, added that the ordinance has economic and security implications. “By reducing our dependence on fossil fuels by increasing ethanol usage, this ordinance is supporting a renewable fuel that is grown in America, keeping American dollars and troops at home, instead of sending them overseas.”
The original ordinance was introduced last summer. The enhanced ordinance includes an exemption of all filling stations selling less than 850,000 gallons of fuel per year and a 360 day phase in.
The Illinois biofuels industry will be reading about its history in a book. Assistant Professor Jeffery T. Manuel, who teaches at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE), is teaming up with NCERC at SIUE to write the book. He works in the Department of Historical Studies and his biofuels history project was selected for a faculty fellowship award. The Center’s faculty fellowship program is sponsored by the Illinois Corn Marketing Board to foster collaborative research between the NCERC and the University community.
“Farmers, researchers, business leaders, politicians, and many others have been working to build Illinois’ biofuels industry for decades,” said Manuel. “This is an important but overlooked aspect of the state’s agricultural and business history. Fuel alcohol has been suggested as a promising alternative to oil and gas for over a century. My research asks why Americans have repeatedly turned to alcohol fuel as an alternative energy source and why earlier efforts to promote alcohol fuels were unsuccessful.”
Manuel said his work will include recorded, in-depth interviews of key players in the biofuels industry. The interviews will be archived at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield as part of the Agriculture in Illinois oral history collection.
“We truly appreciate the Illinois Corn Growers’ support of this collaborative relationship, and we are excited to partner with Dr. Manuel on his project,” said NCERC Director John Caupert. “The biofuels industry has a long and fascinating history, with deep roots in Illinois. Dr. Manuel’s work will shed light on the industry’s evolution, and demonstrate the resilience and innovation of the industry’s past and present pioneers.”
Manuel added, “I believe my research will add a valuable historical perspective to SIUE’s existing strengths in biofuels research. I hope that SIUE can become a world leader in a multidisciplinary study of biofuels as we work to create this valuable record for the general public and future researchers.”
“EIA has adjusted its estimates of the energy content of retail motor gasoline in the Monthly Energy Review (MER) to reflect its changing composition. Ethanol and other oxygenates, which have lower energy content than petroleum-based gasoline components, have seen their share of total gasoline volumes increase from 2% in 1993 to nearly 10% in 2013. As a result, EIA’s estimate of motor gasoline’s average energy content per gallon has declined by about 3% over this 20-year period,” writes the Energy Information Administration (EIA) in its latest Monthly Energy Review.
To better understand the changes, a recent “Today in Energy” looked at how higher U.S. ethanol use has cut the average energy content of a gallon of gasoline.
The EIA explains that the adjustment of the average energy content per gallon of motor gasoline reflects changes in response to 1990 Clean Air Act (CAA) regulations that split the U.S. gasoline market into three segments: conventional, oxygenated, and reformulated. Oxygenated and reformulated gasoline was required to be blended with compounds that contained oxygen, such as MTBE (methyl tert-butyl ether) or ethanol. This Act was designed to reduce toxic air emissions in cities and it was successful. However, EIA states that while these additives reduced air pollution, they also resulted in lower heating value compared with conventional gasoline, translating to fewer miles per gallon, because they have lower energy density.
In response to these regulations, EIA began collecting separate data on the production of conventional, oxygenated, and reformulated gasoline in 1994. The gasoline heating value was estimated based on the relative volumes of conventional, oxygenated, and reformulated gasoline in the total motor gasoline product supplied to the United States. Continue reading
The first African Sustainable Transport Forum is taking place this week in Nairobi, Kenya and the Global Renewable Fuels Alliance (GRFA) called on forum attendees to adopt biofuel friendly policies and regulations that would kick-start the increased use of sustainable biofuels in Africa’s transport sector.
“This Forum is an opportunity that should be grasped by Africa to take a vital step towards more sustainable transportation options. The potential of sustainable biofuels should be at the centre of these talks because they are the best sustainable transport option, both in environmental and economic terms,” said Bliss Baker, spokesperson for the GRFA.
Earlier this year the GRFA forecasted that 2014 global ethanol production would reach 90.38 billion litres and its use worldwide would reduce GHG emissions by over 106 million tonnes globally. “106 million tonnes or 21 million cars in GHG reductions is massive, it’s the same as removing all the cars registered in Malaysia off the road, but much more can be achieved if African leaders choose a path towards a more sustainable future for African transport,” said Baker.
While biofuel production in Africa has remained relatively low when compared to other regions, it has grown year on year with ethanol production alone now forecasted to reach 260 million litres in 2014. The domestic use of this ethanol fuel could reduce Africa’s GHG emissions by 325,000 tonnes.
“In addition to the important opportunity to reduce GHG emissions in transport, biofuels also offer African countries a fantastic opportunity to spark much-needed investment in agriculture, and, by creating jobs and boosting household incomes, poverty can be alleviated and food security improved. Sustainable biofuels are an important tool to help enable the revival of Africa’s rural communities, Africa’s political leaders need to promote them,” added Baker.
Baker said that African Sustainable Transport Forum attendees should note that the country’s biofuels opportunity was identified in 2010 by the World Bank when it released “Biofuels in Africa: Opportunities, Prospects and Challenges.” The report found that “a new economic opportunity for sub-Saharan Africa is looming large: biofuel production…Africa is uniquely positioned to produce these new cash crops for both domestic use and export. The region has abundant land resources and preferential access to protected markets with higher-than-world-market prices. The rapid growth in the demand for transport fuels in Africa and high fuel prices create domestic markets for biofuels.
A group that represents the producers and supporters of ethanol who feed the world and fuel America is showing its commitment to the future of agriculture. Growth Energy announced a multi-year commitment and new partnership with the National FFA Organization to build on critical projects that prepare today’s students to become tomorrow’s leaders in American agriculture, starting with teacher and student workshops presented by Growth Energy this week at the 87th National FFA Convention & Expo in Louisville, Kentucky.
“Growth Energy is thrilled to help sponsor several important programs for FFA, including expanded opportunities to continue to educate FFA’s members on critical issues such as the important role that biofuels and energy play in American agriculture. Additionally, together, we will continue to build a robust networking system to attract new agricultural teachers and highlight the opportunities FFA members have as they enter the workforce. Ultimately, this comes down to investing in our most valuable resource —tomorrow’s leaders of American agriculture,” stated Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy.
Specifically, the Growth Energy partnership will focus on assistance in supporting the Curriculum for Ag Science Education (CASE), as well as a personalized career exploration and development resource called “My Journey.” Furthermore, Growth Energy will also support the TeachAg program in efforts to attract more teachers for the enhanced education of FFA members. Additionally, Growth Energy will be leading select National FFA Convention sessions and providing support for FFA during their Washington, D.C. leadership conference.
“FFA is critical to the future of American agriculture. As our nation’s farmers become more productive and efficient, it is important that the next generation learns the best ways to provide both food and fuel while understanding the significance of being a true steward of the land and ensuring sustainable farming for generations to come,” added Buis.
Buis added that he was an FFA member, as was Jeff Broin, the co-chairman of Growth Energy’s Board of Directors. They called the programs and services FFA provides “immeasurable” and a preparation for students “for the challenges of tomorrow,” while also fostering leadership, innovation and stewardship of the land.