Ethanol Pump Promo for Sebring

The Ethanol Promotion and Information Council helped the American LeMans Series kick off the 56th running of the Mobile 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring this weekend with a pump promotion offering E10 for $2.56. A total of 2566 gallons of the fuel were sold at the local Gate Petroleum station in Sebring, Florida.

EPIC Sebring Pump PromoSeveral race car drivers were on hand to pump gas and sign autographs including Joel Feinberg and Chris Hall both of Primetime Race Group racing the GT2 Team Dodge Viper Competition Coupe.

The American Le Mans Series has chosen E10 as an “official ethanol-enriched fuel” of the series, the first time a street legal renewable fuel has been used in any endurance format. Also approved by the series is cellulosic E85, which will run in some of the cars this season.

Meanwhile, Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Charles Bronson this week announced new fuel quality standards for gasoline blended with ethanol.

These changes specifically target selected fuel quality standards for gasoline blended with 10 percent or less ethanol. This will allow even more stations in Florida to sell ethanol-blended fuel.

“Sugar Eater” Holds Biofuel Promise

Two University of Maryland scientists believe a strain of bacteria that decomposes everything from algae to newspapers to crab shells could help produce cheaper fuel. Found on marsh grass in the Chesapeake Bay, this organism could soon be used to generate ethanol from cellulosic sources such as waste paper, brewing byproducts, leftover agriculture products, including straw, corncobs and husks, and energy crops such as switchgrass..

ZymetisA process using the bacteria, developed by University of Maryland professors Steve Hutcheson and Ron Weiner, is the foundation of their incubator company Zymetis. When fully operational, the Zymetis process could potentially lead to the production of 75 billion gallons a year of carbon-neutral ethanol.

The bacterium is called Saccarophagus degradans, which translates as “sugar eater,” because it has the largest known concentration of enzymes that eat carbohydrates.

USDA Energy Grant Announcements

WIREC 08At last week’s Washington International Renewable Energy Conference (WIREC) 2008, Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer announced that USDA will accept almost $221 million in loan and grant applications within USDA’s Renewable Energy Systems and Energy Efficiency Improvements Program.

“As demand for energy rises, these renewable energy loans and grants help farms and rural small businesses increase their investment in renewable energy initiatives,” said Schafer.

WIREC 08Eligible applicants may seek loan guarantees to cover up to 50 percent of a project’s cost up $10 million and grants are available for up to 25 percent of a project’s cost, not to exceed $250,000 for energy efficiency improvements and $500,000 for renewable energy systems. USDA Rural Development has invested $674 million in more than 1,763 renewable energy and energy efficiency projects since 2001 including ethanol, biodiesel, wind, solar, geothermal, methane gas recovery systems and biomass.

Schafer also announced the award of $4 million to help 17 small businesses and community groups find more innovative uses of woody biomass from national forests in new products and renewable energy. The grants will help create markets for small-diameter woody material, damaged and other low-valued trees removed to reduce the risk of fire hazard, insect infestation or disease.

25 x ’25 Energy Summit This Week

25x'25Coming up this week in Omaha is the National 25x’25 Renewable Energy Summit.

The conference will feature leading renewable energy experts from across the nation. More than two dozen pre-eminent authorities on biofuels, biomass, wind, solar and other land-based renewable energy sources will address the summit.

Presenters will include Dr. Steven Chu, Nobel laureate and director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; Dr. Lowell Catlett, a Regents Professor at New Mexico State University and renowned futurist; Charles Zimmerman, Wal-Mart Vice President; Doug Berven, Director of Corporate Affairs for POET; Susan Sloan, communications specialist with the American Wind Energy Association; Melinda Kimble, Senior Vice President, United Nations Foundation; Former Rep. Charlie Stenholm, 26-year veteran of the House of Representatives; Jay Wolf, past president of Nebraska Cattlemen and a current member of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association board, and Terry Francl, senior economist with the American Farm Bureau Federation.

The conference will be held March 11-13.

WIREC 2008 Wraps Up

WIRECThe Washington International Energy Conference wrapped up Thursday after three days of discussions, presentations and networking between more than 7,000 representatives from over 100 countries.

The United States pledged to continue its leadership in renewable energy through efforts coordinated by multiple agencies. For example, USDA will work on the development and cultivation of switchgrass for the production of cellulosic ethanol, and drive up markets and demand for woody biomass and biobased products.

“Renewable energy presents a promising opportunity for the farm economy,” said Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer. “Coupled with a strong commitment from USDA, our goal sets renewable fuels on the pathway as a regular and reliable source in the energy mix,” Schafer said.

Ministers and representatives from other countries also shared their pledges with the conference, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Cape Verde, Denmark, Germany, Jordan, New Zealand, and Norway.

Bush Urges US to “Get Off Oil”

As crude oil jumped to new record highs on the New York mercantile exchange due to falling oil inventories, trading over $104 a barrel, President Bush renewed his support for ethanol as a means toward energy independence.

Speaking at the Washington International Renewable Energy Conference 2008 (WIREC) Wednesday, Bush said, “America has got to change its habits. We’ve got to get off oil.”

WIREC BushTo do that, he mentioned just about every alternative, domestic energy source possible – from ethanol and biodiesel to wind and solar, hydrogen and nuclear. He discussed the need for vehicles that run on alternative fuels, including plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, and he visited with manufacturers of those types of vehicles at the WIREC trade show.

He also stressed the administration’s commitment to research and development of cellulosic ethanol.

“I look forward to the day when Texas ranchers can grow switchgrass on their country, and then have that switchgrass be converted to fuel,” he said. “I look forward to the day when people in the parts of our country that have got a lot of forests are able to convert wood chips into fuel. And those days are coming.”

The president called biodiesel “the most promising” of the renewable fuels. “Biodiesel refineries can produce fuel from soybeans, and vegetable oils, and recycled cooking grease, from waste materials,” Bush noted. “All you out there with waste, you may be in business before you know it as this new technology kicks in. Most Americans — or, more Americans are beginning to realize the benefits of biodiesel every year.”

Read the president’s entire address to WIREC here.

Deere Provides Look at Ethanol in 2015

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

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

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

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

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

Biomass Grants Announced at WIREC

WIREC SchaferThe federal government will invest a total of $18.4 million over three years for 21 new biomass research and development and demonstration projects.

Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer and Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman made that announcement today at the Washington International Renewable Energy Conference 2008 (WIREC).

“These grants help fund the innovative research needed to develop technologies and systems that lead to the production of bio-based products and biofuels,” Schafer said. “Funding new technologies will help make biofuels competitive with fossil fuels in the commercial market, putting America on the path of reducing its dependence on foreign oil.”

A full list of grant recipients can be found here.

Deere Running on Biofuels

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

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

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

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

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

Listen to an interview with Borgman here:

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

Chevron, Weyerhaeuser Team Up for Biofuels

chevronweyer.jpgOil giant Chevron and timber giant Weyerhaeuser are teaming up to make biofuels.

This story in the Seattle Times says the new company formed from the partnership, Catchlight Energy, will be looking to get the green fuel from cellulose and lignin:

Catchlight will initially have offices at Weyerhaeuser’s Federal Way headquarters and at Chevron’s San Ramon, Ca. homebase. Chevron executive Michael Burnside will be the new venture’s chief executive, and W. Densmore Hunter of Weyerhaeuser is chief technology officer.

Both firms will contribute technology and personnel. Catchlight may employ 30 to 40 people over time in its research and development effort, said Weyerhaeuser president Dan Fulton.

The venture will study “not only the technology, but also the commercial implications of creating a viable business there,” Fulton said.

The creation of Catchlight formalizes a partnership Chevron and Weyerhaeuser entered in April 2007. At the time, many energy and agricultural companies began seeking to leverage their expertise into the fast-growing biofuel business.

This is not the first time unlikely partners have teamed up to make biofuels. You might remember that “Big Oil” and “Big Chicken” (ConocoPhilips and Tyson, respectively) teamed up last year to turn chicken fat into biodiesel.

Industry Optimism

The chairman of the Renewable Fuels Association is excited about the developments in cellulose technology for the future of the ethanol industry.

Chris Standlee“And we fully believe that many of these technologies will in fact be proven to be economically viable on a commercial scale,” said Chris Standlee, who is executive vice president of Abengoa Bioenergy in St. Louis.

He says support from the US Department of Energy through research grants is definitely helping to speed the process along. “We are fortunate enough to be the recipient of a grant to prove our cellulose technology on a commercial scale in a facility that we are building in southwestern Kansas,” one of six grant-funded plant that are scheduled to be in operation by 2010.

Standlee says the recent article in Science challenges the ethanol industry to step up its efforts to make sure the public gets the whole truth about ethanol, not just part of the story. “Even the study itself acknowledges the greenhouse gas emissions benefits of the use of ethanol,” he says. It just makes assumptions about land use for biofuels production that “just simply are not true.”

As chairman of the RFA, Standlee is looking forward to the upcoming National Ethanol Conference in Orlando February 25-27, to celebrate success and look forward to the future. “We have record attendance this year as we’ve had virtually every year since the start of the conference,” he said. “We expect somewhere in the neighborhood of 2500 people to be attending the conference. It really is an exciting opportunity.”

More information about the National Ethanol Conference can be found on the RFA website.

Listen to RFA’s “The Ethanol Report” podcast with Chris here, or subscribe to it on “The Ethanol Report” blog.

Waste to Fuels Conference

Waste to FuelsThe Southern Waste Information eXchange and the Florida BioFuels Association are sponsoring the 1st Annual Waste-to-Fuels Conference & Trade Show in Orlando, Florida on April 6-8, 2008.

Florida BioFuelsThe conference will provide a forum for informing the public and private sectors of the economic and environmental benefits of converting waste materials to alternative fuels such as biodiesel and ethanol as well as energy recovery. Registration information is on-line and those who register also receive a free one-year membership in the Florida BioFuels Association.

25x’25 Refutes Science Article

The National 25x’25 Steering Committee has responded to widespread media coverage of studies published by Science Magazine last week, saying they failed to report that there are ways to insure that future biofuels give us both a new renewable energy source and greatly reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

The journal Science reported last week that studies indicate clearing land for the production of biofuels would produce twice as much greenhouse gas as the use of biofuels would reduce.

25x'25The statement from the 25x’25 Alliance says, “environmentally sensitive lands should not be exploited in pursuit of renewable fuels. In fact, we have long held that the growing increase in demand for energy, along with food, feed and fiber, can be met with a boost in production facilitated by advances in technology.”

The group also says that development of cellulosic ethanol will not only minimize land use changes but help the environment. They note a recent study of the use of switchgrass for ethanol by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln showed that it produced 540% more energy than it took to grow it. Switchgrass offers many environmental benefits such as preventing runoff, putting organic material back into the ground improving soil and requires no pesticides or fertilizer.

Financing Closed For PA Plant

BioEnergyBioEnergy International announced it has closed financing for Bionol Clearfield, enabling the 100 million gallon a year ethanol plant to begin construction in Clearfield, Pennsylvania.

“With the launch of the Clearfield Project, we have created a model of sustainability with partners Getty Petroleum Marketing Inc. and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” said Stephen J. Gatto, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of BioEnergy. “Near the birthplace of the modern petroleum refinery industry, this destination ethanol plant and our cellulosic pilot, will help usher in the next industrial revolution of biorefineries, that will provide Pennsylvanians with home grown fuels first from corn, then renewable cellulosic feedstocks such as wood chips and biomass.”

BioEnergy International, LLC is a science and technology leader developing biorefineries using proprietary biocatalysts to produce high value renewable fuels and biobased specialty chemicals.

Coskata Teams With ICM for First Plant

Next generation ethanol company Coskata on Wednesday announced an agreement with ICM Inc. to design and construct a commercial ethanol plant using Coskata’s biological fermentation technology.

CoskataLast month, the young company made a splash at the North American international Auto Show in Detroit where a strategic partnership with General Motors was announced.

Bill Roe, president and CEO of Coskata said, “Coskata and ICM will speed the commercialization of a process that will convert biomass into advanced biofuels from a number of renewable materials, at a production cost of less than $1 a gallon.”

ICMAccording to Dave Vander Griend, president and CEO of ICM Coskata’s thermal biomass conversion process offers promising technology.

“It has always been ICM’s mission to help sustain agriculture through innovation,” Vander Griend said. “Coskata’s production process makes them a valuable ally as we continue to pursue advancements in renewable technology towards the creation of advanced and cellulosic biofuels as directed by the recent Energy Bill.”

The location of the first Coskata plant will be announced at a later date, but officials say they expect the facility to open in 2010.