NCGA Highlights NASCAR Program at ACE Event

During the American Coalition for Ethanol Conference this past week in Des Moines, Iowa, the attendees were treated to a presentation on green NASCAR initiatives including their use of ethanol, by Bart Schott, the president of the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA). During the session, Schott highlighted the media attention that has been focused on the Series’ use of E15 as as well as how its American Ethanol alliance partners have used the sponsorship as a springboard to communicate the benefits of domestically produced corn-based ethanol.

American ethanol became a NASCAR sponsor in order to reach its 80 million plus fans. As such, the league switched the fuel used by all three series to Sunoco Green E15 during the 2011 season. Scott said this has become a platform for both the ethanol industry as well as NASCAR to highlight the environmental benefits of ethanol, as well as its performance and security benefits. In addition its an opportunity to promote the role American farmers play in the movement toward biofuels.

“An average size ethanol plant adds $275 million dollars to the state economy annually,” said Schott. “Furthermore, it creates 1,540 jobs, both directly and indirectly, in rural America at a time when increasing employment opportunities in our heartland is critical. With ethanol we avoid sending oil dollars overseas and actually create job opportunities for hard working Americans.”

Scott said that through the end of June, positive messages about ethanol were delivered to nearly 6 million NASCAR fans through the televised races. This exposure equates to more than $7.5 million. This is important audience because NASCAR fans are three times more likely to purchase products and services from sponsors than non-fans.

“In addition to more traditional advertisements aired by NASCAR to promote ethanol, television coverage of races has emphasized the importance of ethanol in a multitude of ways,” said Schott. “From in-car cameras and mention by announcers to the placement of the American Ethanol logo on the fuel port of every car, this initiative generated an additional $2.8 million dollars in broadcast exposure media by the end of June, when the season was only half over.”

He concluded by stressing that the need for ethanol is too great and the opportunities too boundless for the nation to maintain the status quo.

New Biodiesel Terminal Opens in St. Paul

A new large biofuel blending terminal is now open in St. Paul. Opened by Rosemont Clean Energies, they believe the facility is the only one of its kind and scale in the Upper Midwest. The “green” built, non waste generating terminal offers biofuel injection blending, is located next to a large-scale rail spur and has nearly a half million barrels of storage capacity. It can receive and ship products by rail, cars, trucks, tanks, and pipeline.

“Biofuels are here to stay,” said Tim Yocum, one of the principles and chief manager of Rosemount Clean Energies. “Canada just announced a 2 percent biodiesel requirement. Minnesota is going to 10 percent next spring. This new terminal will allow greater distribution of biofuels right where crops are grown and biofuels are produced.”

“Combine this with our refineries’ ability to produce ultra-low sulfur diesel from North Dakota and Canadian crude, and we have opened a huge channel for energy independence through local supply,” he added.

Rosemount says another advantage they offer is the efficient mechanism to actually test biodiesel in the marketplace.

“Initially, the industry struggled with the roll-out of biodiesel.The ability of this terminal to customize products through injection blending ensures greater accuracy and a consistent product that takes the reliability question of fuel out of the equation,” said Yocum.

“Now,” assures Yocum, “we can perfect biodiesel and additive blending in a highly efficient manner, collaborate with all parties to find an efficient medium to deliver new products to the marketplace, and offer marketers and energy users a range of high-performance products specific to their applications and market demands.”

Green Scissors 2011 Released

Remember the Green Scissors report from last year that suggest to save money cut ethanol subsidies? Well, the latest version is now available. Green Scissors 2011 says that ending a half trillion in environmentally harmful subsidies will go a long way to solving our budget woes. The report, sponsored by Friends of the Earth, The Heartland Institute, Public Citizen, and Taxpayers for Commonsense, provides a roadmap for savings up to $380 billion over five years. The group says this equals the amount the congressional Super Committee has been charged with cutting in half the time.

The authors write in the report, “While all four groups have different missions, histories, goals and ideas about the role of government, we all agree that we can begin to overcome our nation’s budgetary and environmental woes by tackling spending that is not only wasteful but environmentally harmful.”

So what do they want to cut? Fossil fuel, nuclear, alternative energy, and crop subsidies to name a few. They also want to cut land and water projects and kill road projects along with some Army Corps of Engineers water projects.

According to the report the federal government could end the following programs and save the United States:

  • $72,000,000,000 for general revenue transfers to the Highway Trust Fund
  • $30,000,000,000 for crop insurance
  • $4,820,000,000 for Oil and Gas Royalty relief

Several lawmakers reacted to the report and Rep. Earl Blumeanauer (D-OR) said, “The 2011 Green Scissors Report is a reminder that it’s time for Congress to have a serious, rational discussion about cutting the budget. With painful budget cuts already under discussion that will require American families to make sacrifices, it is only fair, for example, that we also stop the handouts to our richest oil companies.”

Hey, I’m all for cutting budgets and its good to see that the report recommends cutting energy subsidies across the board, but I must ask what would happen to our energy bills if poof, over night they’re all gone? Will we we lose our innovation in alternative energy technologies and be stuck with the status quo? Now how environmentally friendly is that?

TESSA – A Car That Heats Your Home

I came across this story today and thought it was kinda cool. TESSA is a car that uses stored heat from the engine to produce heat energy that can be used in homes for hot water and central heating. This “new age” car will be showcased for the first time at Nextgen, a free environmental trade show taking place October 5-6 in Warwickshire, UK. Nextgen is co-located with two other events that focus on renewable energy technologies such as solar, wind, bioenergy, and hydro power generation.

TESSA stands for Thermal Energy Storage and Saving Automobile and the prototype is a Land Rover Freelander. Atmos Heating Systems fitted the SUV with a thermal energy storage and transfer system.

“We are delighted to be able to demonstrate the energy and carbon saving benefits TESSA offers at Nextgen. We have developed and patented a means of storing waste heat on board the vehicle, and a practical means of transferring the stored heat into a building for use as hot water and/or space heating,” said John Thomason, General Manager of Atmos Heating Systems.

Today an internal combustion enegine only manages a mechanical power efficiency averaging around 30 percent. The remaining 70 percent is dissipated as heat, through the radiator coolant system and the exhaust. Although some of the coolant system energy is used to heat the interior of the vehicle, the rest is simply lost.

“In other industries such horrendous waste would not be tolerated, and with the transport sector responsible for 40% of carbon emissions, this must not be left to continue. Whilst our technology does not reduce CO2 emissions from the vehicle, it utilizes heat that is otherwise wasted, resulting in lower fossil fuel consumption in the home and thereby an overall net benefit to the environment,” said Thomason.

The thermal heat technology can be integrated with other renewable technologies in the home such as solar thermal and heat pumps. In addition, it can be retrofitted with vehicles using biofuels instead of gas and diesel fuels to ensure additional environmental benefits.

From Farm to Biorefinery

Today American farmers are producing twice as much corn on virtually the same amount of acres as a generation ago. This makes them the most productive and efficient of any farmers around the world. Similarly, productivity and efficiencies are being mirrored across domestic ethanol production.

The Renewable Fuels Association has begun a series on efficiency and as part of the dialogue, RFA Vice President Geoff Cooper takes on the critics who claim that both farming and ethanol production is simply too energy-intensive. Cooper says those critical of farmers and by extension ethanol producers, will tell you that the tremendous growth in corn production is due to increased fertilizer use.

Yet Cooper says these are not the facts. USDA data shows that 2010 application rates of three common macronutrient fertilizers (nitrogen, potassium and phosphate) were the same or below the application rates seen in the early 1980s. As such, nitrogen application per bushel of corn has decreased more than 30 percent since this time while potassium and phosphate usage per bushel is down nearly 40 percent.

Also reduced between 1987 – 2007 is water, energy and land usage required to produce a bushel of corn according to Keystone Alliance. For example, the energy requirement (as measured in British Thermal Units or BTUs) to produce one gallon of ethanol has dropped by 28 percent since 2001, to just shy of 26,000 BTUs. Cooper says that compares to 77,000 BTUs found in one gallon of ethanol. Electricity demand has fallen by 32 percent and water use has decreased by 47 percent.

“As the data clearly demonstrate, America’s ethanol producers are mirroring the efficiency gains of the American farmers upon whom they rely for feedstock,” said Cooper. “As existing processes evolve and new production technologies emerge, ethanol production in the U.S. will not only increase in volume, but also in efficiency. Without a doubt, today’s ethanol industry is high-tech and increasingly energy efficient.”

Elusieve Process Removes Fiber From Corn

A new way to remove fiber from corn has been discovered by a professor from Mississippi State University (MSU). He calls his process Elusieve and has filed for a patent. The process was invented by Dr. Radhakrishnan Srinivasan of the MSU Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering with some help from University of Illinois professor Dr. Vijay Singh who believe the process will improve both ethanol production efficiency as well as dried distillers grains (DDGS).

“Corn has mainly starch, fiber and protein. We are removing the fiber, so the starch is increased in concentration. Therefore, you can produce more ethanol,” Srinivasan said in an interview with Mississippi Business Journal.

Srinivasan explains that pigs and chickens cannot digest fiber well. By removing the fiber from its feed, which consists primarily of DDGS, ground corn flour and soybean meal, the energy content of the feed is improved and reduces the need for expensive ingredients such as fat and enzymes. He believes the Elusieve process will be adopted by feed mills to separate fiber downstream of the bins where the feed is stored.

Today, there is one pilot plant using the Elusieve technology at MSU and its using a combination of sieving and air classification, called elutriation, to separate out the fiber. From there, the feed is sieved into four sizes and air is blown through the three biggest to carry away the fiber. Ultimately this process increases protein of feeds like DDGS and also increases starch content.

Other researchers are working on technologies to remove fiber from corn but Srinivasan said his is less expensive and less complicated. His has already received the patent for DDGS via Elusieve.

Private Investments for Alt Energy At Four-Year Low

According to new research from Lux Research, investments in the alternative fuels sector have reached a four-year low of $930 million for alternative fuel start-ups in 2010. However, 2010 was also a record-breaking year for investments to companies with flexible technologies that can use a variety of feedstocks to produce a variety of products at $698 million. Lux says that if this trend continues, then start-ups with less flexible technologies will be forced out of the industry.

Hedging Bets with Flexibility in Alternative Fuels,” has shown that since 2004 more than $6.4 billion in investments have been made in the alternative energy industry but in recent years, investors are giving more to less. The winners follow one simple principle: flexibility in feedstock or end product. Lux Research analyzed 333 investments in 170 unique start‐ups since 2004, breaking down investments by technology, fuel, geography, and investment stage.

“The recent successful IPOs of Amyris, Solazyme, and Gevo all reflect the larger industry trend of investing in more flexible end‐product technologies,” said Andrew Soare, a Lux Analyst and lead author of the report. “A handful of fuels‐focused start‐ups continue to draw investors, including waste‐to‐fuels companies Enerkem and LanzaTech, and cellulosic ethanol companies Qteros and Mascoma. But flexibility is part of their DNA as well, in that they derive fuels from multiple feedstocks.”

Several key conclusions include:

• Synthetic biology’s inherent flexibility is a wise investment, but not the only one. Synthetic biology has attracted the most funding since 2004: $1.84 billion or 28.4% of the total. But investors shouldn’t ignore other flexible technologies.

• Investments will favor fewer companies in later stage funding. Most alternative fuel technologies today are past the point of initial seed funding, and are seeking capital to scale up manufacturing. Those closest to scale will continue to raise large Series C and Series D rounds, while less advanced companies will struggle to land moderate earlier rounds, resulting in more failed start‐ups over the next few years.

• Expect new corporate investors to enter the space. Expect forward‐looking corporations to bring additional industries into the fray, such as pulp and paper, food and beverage, and non‐obvious downstream brand owners such as UPS.

Biofuels Truth Express

I finally made it to the Iowa State Fair last weekend and while I was walking around getting my eat on I spotted this biofuels truck. It was the “Biofuels Truth Express,” and was parked along the road across from the main grand stand, where I was headed to go hear the Maroon Five and Train concert (and yes they both rocked!).

As I took a few photos several people stopped to take a quick look. Ironically, though, I never spotted any website or name of an organization who owned the truck. I’m sure if I spent more time checking out the fair I would have solved my little mystery, but alas I still haven’t. So I’m asking our readers – can you tell us more about this truck and the campaign?

I’m always excited to see biofuels promoted in a positive way so regardless of not having all the pertinent info for a story, I still wanted to take the opportunity to showcase some homegrown fuels – ethanol and biodiesel.

Biofuel Offering to Expand in Western U.S.

The network of biofuels stations in the west will be expanding with a new partnership between Propel Fuels and Pacific Convenience and Fuels (PC&F). The program will co-locate Propel “Clean Fuel Points” with PC&F gas stations and convenience stores throughout the west. So far, 80 potential locations for the program have been identified in California, Washington, Oregon, and Colorado. The plan is to offer consumers more access to renewable fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel and enable both companies to accelerate expansion plans.

“This first of its kind agreement allows us to quickly scale our business, opening the door to renewable fuel access across the Western U.S., America’s most underserved market for renewable fuels,” said Matt Horton, CEO of Propel. “And with U.S. automakers significantly increasing production of Flex Fuel and diesel vehicles, we will give customers true choice at the pump, making progress towards reducing our nation’s dependence on foreign oil and lowering carbon emissions.”

Clean Fuel Points are self-serve filling stations that dispense ethanol and/or biodiesel. They are located at existing gas stations (such as PC&F stations) but Propel still owns and operates the equipment and provides programs to drive sales and educate consumers about alternative fuels.

Chris Wilson, general manager of PC&F added, “Pacific Convenience and Fuels is redefining the customer experience at convenience stores. Providing access to renewable fuels aligns with this mission while satisfying the growing demand for these products. We are pleased to partner with Propel, the leader in alternative fuels, to bring this option to our customers.”

Abengoa Gets DOE Loan Guarantee for US Biomass Plant

AbengoaAbengoa Bioenergy has been selected by the US Department of Energy for a $133.9 million federal loan guarantee to build a new generation commercial scale biorefinery facility to produce renewable liquid fuel from plant fiber, or cellulosic biomass.

With the offer of a conditional commitment now received, Abengoa Bioenergy has announced that they intend to start construction shortly on the site, which is located near Hugoton, in Stephens County Kansas.

“Abengoa has been developing this technology for 10 years, and the project itself has been in the development stages for over 5 years,” said Manuel Sánchez, CEO of Abengoa. “In preparation for construction of the Hugoton project, the company has developed and perfected its proprietary technologies and produced cellulosic ethanol for thousands of hours from laboratory scale, to a biomass pilot plant facility in York, Nebraska, and ultimately from a demonstration scale facility in Salamanca, Spain. As a result, we are very pleased to finally achieve this financing milestone, and we thank the Department of Energy’s Loan Programs Office for their offer of a conditional commitment, that if realized will allow us to construct one of the first commercial scale biomass conversion plants in the world.”

Read more from Abengoa here.

Sobering Cost of Oil Addiction

A CNN Money report this week offered some sobering statistics on the true cost of our addiction to oil.

According to the report, about 3,000 of the Army casualties reported in Iraq between 2003 and 2007 were protecting fuel convoys. That is one out of eight killed or wounded during that time period. The report notes, “Among the many incentives pushing the military to use less oil, reducing the number of casualties it takes to protect vulnerable fuel convoys is one of the most important.” The military used 5.5 billion gallons of fuel in 2010, or 3,555 for each active military member. That compares to less than 1,000 gallons for U.S. civilians. The military uses a full 80% of the energy consumed by the federal government.

That’s why initiatives like the one announced this week by the U.S. Departments of the Navy, Energy and Agriculture to develop more aviation and marine biofuels are so important. Thanks to Stephanie Dreyer of Growth Energy for the tip on the CNN Money report. Check out her blog post on “Measuring our oil addiction by more than just Dollars and Cents”, about our nation’s risky dependence on Middle East oil and the dangerous impact it has on the lives of our military.

President Talks Ethanol in Illinois

The 11-year-old grandson of a corn farmer and ethanol plant investor got to ask President Obama a question during a town hall meeting at the Wyffels Hybrids corn seed production plant in Atkinson, Illinois on Wednesday.

“My grandpa is a farmer, and he owns part of the local ethanol plant,” young Alex McAvoy said to the POTUS. “I was wondering, what are you going to do to keep the ethanol plant running?”

The president stressed his strong support for biofuels and told Alex that he is interested in diversification. “I will say that the more we see the science, the more we want to find ways to diversify our biofuels so that we’re not just reliant on corn-based ethanol,” said Obama. “Now, we can do more to make corn-based ethanol more efficient than it is, and that’s where the research comes in. And there are some wonderful research facilities in our own University of Illinois system that have done a lot to advance the science on this.”

Obama continued:

But the key going forward is going to be, can we create biofuels out of switchgrass and wood chips and other materials that right now are considered waste materials? And part of the reason that’s important is because, as I think most farmers here know, particularly if you’re in livestock farming, right now the costs of feed keep on going up and the costs of food as a consequence are also going up. Only about 4 percent of that is accounted for by corn being diverted into ethanol, but as you see more and more demand placed on our food supplies around the world — as folks in China and folks in India start wanting to eat more meat and commodity prices start going up, it’s going to be important for us to figure out how can we make biofuels out of things that don’t involve our food chain.

And so hopefully your grandfather, with his ethanol plant, is starting to work with our Department of Agriculture to find new approaches to the biofuel industry. But this is a huge area of support. This is another example of where we’ve got to make sure that our budget continues to invest in basic research, and that costs money. And if all we’re doing is cutting and we’re not thinking about investments, then over time we’re going to fall behind to countries like Brazil, where they’ve already got a third, I think, of their auto fleet operates on biofuels. Well, that’s — there’s no reason why we should fall behind a country like Brazil when it comes to developing alternative energy. I want to be number one in alternative energy, and that’s good for the farm economy.

Alex’s grandfather, by the way, is a farmer investor in Patriot Renewable Fuels, a 100 million gallon ethanol facility in Annawan, IL.

Navy, Energy and USDA Partner for Advanced Biofuels

The Obama Administration today announced a partnership between the private sector and the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Energy and Navy to produce advanced drop-in aviation and marine biofuels to power military and commercial transportation.

President Obama made the announcement during a stop in Iowa, at the same time the three department secretaries held a telephone conference call with the press. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, and Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced that they have developed a plan to jointly construct or retrofit several drop-in biofuel plants and refineries.

“America’s long-term national security depends upon a commercially viable domestic biofuels market that will benefit taxpayers while simultaneously giving Sailors and Marines tactical and strategic advantages,” said Navy Secretary Ray Mabus. “Today’s announcement not only leverages our home grown fuel sources to support our national security, but it also helps advance the biofuels market, which ultimately brings down the cost of biofuels for everyone.”

“By building a national biofuels industry, we are creating construction jobs, refinery jobs and economic opportunity in rural communities throughout the country,” said Agriculture Secretary Vilsack. “As importantly, every gallon of biofuel consumed near where it is produced cuts transportation costs and, for the military, improves energy security.”

“These pioneer plants will demonstrate advanced technologies to produce infrastructure-compatible, drop-in renewable fuels from America’s abundant biomass resources,” said Energy Secretary Chu. “It will support development of a new, rural-focused industry that will replace imported crude oil with secure, renewable fuels made here in the U.S.”

The joint plan calls for the three Departments to invest a total of up to $510 million with at least a one to one match from private industry in an effort to reduce U.S. reliance on foreign oil and create jobs while positioning American companies and farmers to be global leaders in advanced biofuels production.

Listen to the entire press conference here: Navy, DOE, USDA Press Conference

Speeding Up Butanol Production

Last week, several researchers from Rice University unveiled a new method for converting simple glucose (sugar) into biofuels and petrochemicals 10 times faster than any method previously reported. The research was published in Nature online and details how the team reversed one of the most efficient of all metabolic pathway, the beta oxidation cycle, to engineer bacteria that quickly produce biofuels.

“That’s really not even a fair comparison because the other organisms used an expensive, enriched feedstock, and we used the cheapest thing you can imagine, just glucose and mineral salts,” said Ramon Gonzalez, associate professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at Rice and lead co-author of the Nature study.

The bacteria actually create butanol, a fuel that many believe has greater hope than ethanol because of its higher energy content, ability to be transported with current infrastructure and butanol can be used in current vehicles with no modifications.

“We call these ‘drop-in’ fuels and chemicals, because their structure and properties are very similar, sometimes identical, to petroleum-based products,” Gonzalez continued. “That means they can be ‘dropped in,’ or substituted, for products that are produced today by the petrochemical industry.” Continue reading

Level the Playing Field for Biofuels

Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) announced this week his intent to introduce bipartisan legislation in the U.S. Senate that would help level the playing field for advanced biofuels such as algae. He wants to accomplish this by reforming the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) to make it technology agnostic. Of the 36 billion gallons required by the RFS, up to 15 billion gallons can come from corn-based ethanol while the remaining gallons are a mix of biodiesel and advanced biofuels but cellulosic fuels (ethanol) are heavily favored.

Udall’s decision came after he toured New Mexico State University’s (NMSU) Energy Research Laboratory where he spent time discussing the state’s growth in the biofuels sector with NMSU President Barbara Couture. He also met with researchers in the Algal Bioenergy Program. It should come as no surprise that Udall found the algae research interesting because NMSU is one of 16 other research institutions that are part of a consortium with Los Alamos National Laboratory that received a $49 million DOE grant to study the commercialization of algae-based fuels.

The bill will be supported by Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID) and the the two intend on introducing it after the Senate returns from its August break. One goal of the proposed bill is to remove the cellulosic biofuel carve-out and replace it with a feedstock neutral category that includes all advanced biofuels including algae, cellulosic and other next-gen fuels. Similar legislation has been introduced in the U.S. House by Reps. Brian Bilbray (R-CA) and Jay Inslee (D-WA).

“Congress shouldn’t be in the business of picking winners and losers when it comes to the use of emerging technologies,” said Udall. “This bill simply puts all advanced biofuels on a level playing field and lets the market determine which emerging technologies prove most useful.”

Udall is a long-time supporter of the “Do It All” energy approach and is a strong advocate of a national energy policy that includes all forms of energy such as wind, solar, biofuels, natural gas, enhanced oil recovery, clean coal technology and nuclear power.

“The West and my home state of New Mexico are rich in renewable energy opportunities like wind and solar and advanced biofuels. This legislation is an important step in making sure we’re taking full advantage of all the energy technologies our country has to offer,” added Udall.