Cobalt Biofuels Named a Global Cleantech 100 Company

460x276-2Guardian News & Media recently announced their Global Cleantech 100 presented by the Guardian. Although this was the first year the list was created, more than 3,500 nominations were submitted. On this year’s list were 55 American based companies including Mountain View, California based Cobalt Biofuels. The list includes companies that are on the forefront of cleantech innovation. Cobalt Biofuels was recognized on the basis of its innovative technology for the production of biobutanol from non-food lignocellulosic material.

“It is a high honor to be included in the Global Cleantech 100 as it recognizes the rapid progress we have made toward our goal of commercializing biobutanol and the tremendous promise that biobutanol offers as a next generation biofuel,” said Rick Wilson, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer of Cobalt Biofuels.

The 2009 list represents the collective opinion of hundreds of experts from cleantech innovation and venture capital companies in EMEA, North America, India and China, combined with the specific input of an expert panel of 35.

“The first ever Global Cleantech 100 shines a spotlight on which companies and which technology areas the global innovation community is most excited about from a commercial standpoint,” said Richard Youngman, managing partner at Cleantech Group.

Florida Vetrans Denounce Big Oil Front Group

Big Oil is out astroturfing once again, this time under the guise of the group “Energy Citizens,” a front group set up by their Washington lobbying arm, the American Petroleum Institute. The goal of this effort is to stage rallies across the country in an attempt to kill the clean energy and climate plan now being considered by Congress.

temp-splashIt’s not only the biofuels industry that has had enough. Operation Free, a coalition of leading Veterans and national security organizations is fighting back and has denounced the claims of Energy Citizens and its ‘Oil Dependence Tour’ and cites that the groups efforts threaten our national security. Spokespersons for Operation Free note that they strongly support immediate Congressional action on clean energy and a climate plan that breaks the country’s addiction to oil, tackles global warming and enhances national security.

During a press conference held by the Florida Veterans, participants noted that you, “don’t often see veterans coming together to talk about national security,” as well as said that, “for us, there’s not a huge jump between energy and national security”.

Jason Whitaker, a 10 year Army veteran with multiple deployments, has seen first hand the devastation caused by climate change. He said, “There are few challenges facing America that are more urgent than climate change. Denial is no longer an acceptance response. The stakes are too high and the consequences are too serious.”

Seawater to Jet Fuel? The U.S. Navy Thinks So

dn17632-1_300The search for renewable energy sources is varied and sometimes strange and here is another one to add to the strange category: turning seawater into kerosene-based jet fuel. Who would research something like this? Look no further than our very own U.S. Navy. Navy chemists have processed seawater into unsaturated short-chain hydrocarbons that with further refining could be made into jet fuel. The catch? They will now have to discover a clean energy source to power the reaction if the end product is to be carbon neutral.

The process, according to a report from New Scientist, involves extracting CO2 dissolved in the water and then combining it with hydrogen. The hydrogen is produced by splitting water molecules using electricity (hopefully not coal based) to make a hydrocarbon fuel. For those scientists out there, you’ve probably already figured out that this is a variant of the Fischer-Tropsch process which is currently used to produce a gasoline-like hydrocarbon fuel for syngas.

The project is headed by Robert Dorner who is a chemist with the Naval Research Laboratory based in Washington, D.C. Dorner, along with several other researchers have published a paper on the project, “Catalytic CO2 hydrogenation to feedstock chemicals for jet fuel synthesis“.

Dorner notes that CO2 is not often used in the Fischer-Tropsch process due to its instability but due to its abundance and concerns about global climate change, it becomes a feedstock of interest.

Is Cash for Clunker’s Program A Clunker?

large_cash4clunkersThe Cash for Clunker’s program is in full swing yet keeps hitting potholes. Less than one week after it was launched, it ran out of money and the Senate/Congress passed another $2 billion for the program but to get the money, took it from current biofuels programs that were designated as part of the Recovery & Reinvestment Act. Now, the latest issue: researchers are saying that it is a very expensive way to cut carbon emissions.

A new UC Davis study, “The Implied Cost of Carbon Dioxide Under the Cash for Clunkers Program,” estimates that the Cash for Clunkers program is paying at least 10 times the ‘sticker price’ to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases including CO2. With carbon credit programs still under development, they are currently predicted to sell for about $28 per ton. However, in the best-case scenario, the calculated per ton cost of the rebate (either $3,500 or $4,500) would be around $237 per ton, this according to UC Davis transportation economist Christopher Knittel.

“When burned, a gallon of gasoline creates roughly 20 pounds of carbon dioxide. I combined that known value with an average rebate of $4,200 and a range of assumptions about the fuel economy of the new vehicles purchased and how long the clunkers would have been on the road if not for the program,” Knittel said. “I even assumed drivers didn’t change their habits, although some analysts have suggested that the owners of new vehicles will drive more than they would have with their old cars.”

Apparently, the researcher was being generous, as Knittel notes that more likely scenarios would produce a cost of more than $500 per ton. Ouch. Can we say not an economical way to reduce CO2? But hey – everyone knows that while the “public” agenda was to help the environment, we all know if was really to help the bankrupt auto industry move cars. I think the government needs to get a speeding ticket for this program.

Ethanol Industry Concerns About EPA Peer Review

The Environmental Protection Agency’s peer review of the renewable fuel standards lifecycle analysis released today is being characterized by corn and ethanol industry groups as biased, bizarre and puzzling.

EPAThe Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) says the EPA “stacked the deck against biofuels in its process to “peer review” the agency’s indirect land use change analysis (ILUC) conducted for the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS2) proposed rule” by including as reviewers “several noted anti-ethanol and anti-agriculture activists, including environmental lawyer Timothy Searchinger.”

“EPA has asked the foxes to guard the hen house on this issue,” said RFA President Bob Dinneen. “By adding lawyers and advocates to a scientific review panel, EPA bureaucrats have made a mockery of the Administration’s commitment to sound science.”

Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy, responded to the release of the study today by calling on Congress to repeal the ILUC provision in the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act.

“We need to stop this nonsense. This is the most bizarre concept I have ever seen. EPA’s peer review proves that too much uncertainty about the economic modeling, data and science exists to allow this to ever become regulation. Even the peer review committee could not agree,” Buis said.

National Corn Growers Association president Bob Dickey says they are disappointed in the lack of objectivity in the review.

“We are dismayed by EPA’s complete disregard for an approach that is fair and balanced. We are also puzzled as to why the United States Department of Agriculture, which has extensive knowledge related to this issue, was in no way included in the peer review process,” Dickey said. “We call upon the EPA to modify its approach to reflect the commitment of President Obama to adhere to policies based on sound science and a transparent process.”

According to EPA, the peer reviewers “are recognized as leading experts in their respective fields, which include: lifecycle assessment, economic modeling, remote sensing imagery, biofuel technologies, soil science, agricultural economics, and climate science.” EPA will consider the peer review results along with public comments received, and implement the reviewer’s technical recommendations to the greatest extent possible.

National Clean Energy Summit 2.0 to be Streamed Live

CLEAN-SKIES-NEWS-LOGOThe National Clean Energy Summit 2.0: Jobs and the New Economy is taking place in Las Vegas on August 10th. If you can’t participate in person, you’re not out of luck. The event will be streamed live via Clean Skies. The summit convenes top energy and environment newsmakers from across the country where they will be discussing ‘green’ jobs, energy efficiency, energy independence, and more. The event was created by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev) in conjunction with the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

Event speakers are a group of “who’s, who” including U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu, along with Van Jones, Special Adviser, White House Council on Environmental Quality; General Wesley Clark, Chairman, Growth Energy; Denise Bode, CEO, American Wind Energy Association, T. Boone Pickens, Pickens Capital Management, and U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis.

They will  participate in the roundtable session: “Building the Clean-Energy Economy”. The speakers will engage in discussions on the case for clean-energy investment, bringing energy-efficiency retrofits to scale and how to promote the market for renewable energy and energy infrastructure. Also on hand will be former Vice President Al Gore who will be participating in the “Clean-Energy Policy Community Town Hall,” also broadcast live.

The event starts at 1:00 p.m. EDT on Monday, August 10, 2009. You can register for the onsite event on the National Clean Energy Summit website. The event will be broadcast live at www.cleanskies.com.

Ethanol Minute to Focus on Flaws in California Carbon Strategy

galluftDr. Gal Luft, executive director of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security (IAGS) is this week’s guest commentator on the Ethanol Minute Radio program, which is a national radio show broadcasting interviews with experts from all walks of life including elected officials, celebrities, energy and environmental experts, and businessmen and women. The Ethanol Minute is sponsored by Ethanol Across America.

ethanol-across-americaDr. Luft is an internationally recognized authority on strategy, geopolitics, terrorism, Middle East and energy security. He has been a strong advocate for the increased production of domestic fuels like ethanol.The IAGS is a Washington based think tank focused on energy security and he is a co-founder of the Set America Free Coalition, an alliance of national security, environmental, labor and religious groups promoting ways to reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil. Newsweek Magazine called him a “tireless and independent advocate of energy security,” the business magazine Poder called him “one of the most recognizable figures in modern energy and security issues,” and Esquire Magazine included him in its 2007 list of America’s Best and Brightest.

In this week’s radio message, Dr. Luft challenges recent regulatory efforts by the state of California that blames deforestation on ethanol production while failing to account for the carbon emissions of petroleum production. Furthermore, Dr. Luft calls the failure to account for the military consumption of petroleum while speculating about land use impacts as “intellectually dishonest.”

“Lets not let defenders of the status quo derail us from the cause of achieving energy independence,” said Dr. Luft.

Is There a Link Between Climate Change and Poverty?

3659752199_8831062b10Oxfam International released an interesting report yesterday called, “Suffering the Science: Climate Change, People and Poverty”. The crutch of the report is to demonstrate how the effects of climate change are impacting people in poor communities much harder then in developed regions. Issues that are linked to poverty and development include access to food and water as well as health and security. The report warns, “without immediate action 50 years of development gains in poor countries will be permanently lost.”

The study was released in tandem with the G8 Summit being held in Italy beginning tomorrow. Climate change and poverty issues are expected to be high on the list for discussion.

“Climate change is the central poverty issue of our times,” said Jeremy Hobbs, Oxfam International Executive Director. “Climate change is happening today and the world’s poorest people, who already face a daily struggle to survive, are being hit hardest. The evidence is right in front of our eyes. The human cost of climate change is as real as any redundancy or repossession notice.”

Another issue the report focuses on is the impact of erratic weather on agriculture. Without the ability for poor farmers to rely on seasons, they are losing multiple crops due to sudden heat waves or heavy rains. The report also accusess “rich countries” of creating the climate crisis. Oxfam wants these countries to fund more aid programs as well as adopt tougher climate policies. It will be interesting to see what “calls to action” come from the G8 Summit relating to climate change and poverty.

5 Reasons Why the Climate Bill Will Ruin Your Life

This is the car you will drive if the Climate Bill passes the Senate.

This is the car you will drive if the Climate Bill passes the Senate.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that 42 percent of Americans oppose the climate bill that passed the House last week because respondents believe the bill will hurt the economy. Well, the more I dig into the nuances of the proposed climate bill, the more I realize that this bill will do more damage than good.

Here are five reasons why the climate bill will ruin your life:

1) You won’t be able to sell your house if it doesn’t pass an energy audit. If your house fails, you’ll have to reduce the price of the house or update the house until you can pass the audit. Here’s an incentive that’s sure to rejuvenate the housing market.

2) The bill would require that all buildings built in the U.S. conform to meet California Building Code Standards. Who needs an affordable house anyway?

3) Your energy bills and other expenses will be higher. The republicans are complaining that the bill would raise yearly electricity bills $175 per year by 2020 but some experts say that an average family’s expenses will go up between $1,200 to $3,000 per year. Break out the summer fans and winter sweaters and blankets.

4) CRAP and RAID – also known as cap and trade.  The legislation mandates a 17 percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 and an 83 percent cut by 2050. These cuts will be “enforced” in part through a cap and trade system which puts a price on CO2 emissions. With a program this well thought out, how could it not work?

5) The government will tell you what kind of car you can drive. No more gas guzzling SUVs people. Start peddling – you need the exercise anyway.

Now, I could be wrong. The Republican filibuster on CSPAN last Friday nearly put me in a coma, but seriously people, this bill needs an overhaul.

Ethanol Group Pleased with Passage of Climate Bill

The American Clean Energy and Security Act has passed the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 219 to 212, with 44 Democrats voting against the bill and eight Republicans voting in favor.

Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) spent an hour attempting to force his colleagues to read the 300 page amendment to the bill offered at 3 a.m. Friday morning. Republicans offered a simpler substitute to the massive piece of legislation, but it was defeated.

Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Bob Dinneen issued a statement praising the House for “taking the first important step toward a national policy to reduce carbon emissions.”

Dinneen also noted that the bill was improved by a compromise worked out this week between House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman regarding international indirect land use change and its application in penalizing ethanol production in the U.S. Dinneen says the compromise “will allow for the continued growth of America’s biofuels industry and achieve our environmental and energy goals.”

The Senate is now expected to come up with its version of a climate change bill, but some say that may not happen this year.

Climate Bill Compromise Better for Ethanol

Farm state lawmakers led by Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN) have reached a compromise with Democratic leadership in the House on the so-called climate change bill that makes it more palatable to agriculture and biofuels interests.

collin petersonPart of the agreement includes allowing USDA to have oversight for agricultural carbon offset programs instead of EPA. “The climate change bill will include a strong agriculture offset program run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that will allow farmers, ranchers, and forestland owners to participate fully in a market-based carbon offset program,” said Peterson. “This agreement also addresses concerns about international indirect land use provisions that unfairly restricted U.S. biofuels producers and exempts agriculture and forestry from the definition of a capped sector.”

The compromise over indirect land use issue was that bill sponsor Henry Waxman (D-CA) will ask the EPA to commission a study of indirect costs and that any method of counting those costs should be agreed to by both USDA and EPA.

Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy, was pleased that Peterson and Waxman were able to reach a compromise on the issue. “We believe that additional study of the issue of indirect land use change will further demonstrate that these provisions should never have been a part of the 2007 energy law to begin with,” Buis said in a statement. “This is a good first step in a longer process, including full review by the House and Senate.”

The American Clean Energy and Security Act is expected to come up for a vote on Friday and President Obama encouraged passage during his press conference yesterday. “It is legislation that will finally spark a clean energy transformation that will reduce our dependence on foreign oil and confront the carbon pollution that threatens our planet,” Obama said.

Energy Secretary on Ethanol in Iowa

During a visit to Des Moines Monday, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu gave some hope to ethanol supporters hoping that the federal government will approve a waiver that would allow up to 15 percent ethanol blends for standard vehicles.

iowa chu culver“I don’t want to prejudge what they’re going to find, but if the existing automobile fleet can handle 15 percent, I would say let’s make that a target and go to 15 percent,” Chu said. “This is very important for decreasing our oil independence.”

Chu was in Des Moines Monday to announce more than $16 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects in Iowa during a news conference with Governor Chet Culver.

“Energy independence is more than simply an Iowa initiative, it’s something of national importance,” said Culver. “We are well on our way to making Iowa the renewable energy capitol of the United States and the Silicon Valley of the Midwest.”

Secretary Chu also suggested that car manufacturers ought to make all new automobiles able to run on E85 ethanol-blended fuel. “I’ve been told it costs about $100 in gaskets and fuel lines to turn a car so that it can go all the way to E85,” Chu said. “But a new car , it would only cost $100 out of $15,000. Wouldn’t it be nice to put in those fuel lines and gaskets so that we can use any ratio we wanted. It’s just a thought, I don’t think you’re going to get any objections in this audience.” He said that requiring companies to make all vehicles flex-fuel is “beginning to be discussed” but first “we’ll see about whether the current fleet can take 15 percent or 13 percent ethanol.”

Chu spoke optimistically about making cellulosic ethanol commercially viable in the near future and said the agency is doing all it can to make that happen. “Department of Energy is funding three biofuels research institutes,” he said. Once it becomes a reality, Chu says agriculture could provide about half the transportation fuel needed for the nation. “The United States has incredible potential so we want to push this as hard as possible.”

However, Chu avoided direct comment about how EPA may choose to determine indirect land use changes that could be detrimental to biofuels when asked by a reporter about concerns that it could impact the future of corn ethanol. “It’s out for peer review and we’ll see how it plays out,” he said.

Listen to audio of Chu’s answers to some of the questions posed.

Five Steps to Becoming an EcoDriver

guide-for-discount-rental-carsSummer is officially here and with it summer driving season (and high gas price season). As people pack their bags and head to the gas station to fill up for summer vacation,  EcoDriving USA, a campaign from the Auto Alliance, is encouraging people to become “EcoDrivers.” EcoDrivingUSA claims that practicing “green driving” produces the highest miles per gallon, regardless of size or age of your car–and can reduce gas use and carbon emissions by as much as 15 percent or more.

You can be on your way to better fuel-efficiency and a smaller carbon footprint by following three simple steps from EcoDrivingUSA and two simple steps from me.

1.  Turn off the engine when waiting at a curb. This can save more than half a gallon of fuel for every hour that the car would otherwise have been idling.

2. Maintain proper tire pressure. Tire pressure changes an average of one PSI for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit change in temp. By keeping your tires properly inflated, you can improve gas mileage by approximately 3 percent earning drivers a “free” tank of gas every year.

3. Avoid rapid starts and stops. This can save more than $1 per gallon according to the EPA while improving fuel economy by up to 33 percent.

4. Use biofuels such as ethanol and biodiesel when available. Not only are biofuels less expensive at the pump and can save an average family up to $500 per year, but using a 10 percent ethanol blend (E10) can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 20 percent over traditional gasoline and it can increase to more than 80 percent reduction if you use an 85 percent ethanol blend (E85).

5. When your travels require renting a car, choose a vehicle from the rental company’s “green collection.” The green collection features flex-fuel vehicles, hybrid vehicles and in some locations electric cars. These technologies help reduce your carbon footprint and can help increase your fuel economy.

And remember, by following the driving green tips, you can save also save some green.

E85 Comes to Sacramento

e85-nozzleIn recent weeks, the city of Sacramento has added 25 E85 fueling locations. The city is now boasting as being the nation’s ethanol epicenter, at least west of the Mississippi.

California Air Resources Board Chairwoman Mary Nichols, recently unveiled the E85 fueling facility at a Valero on Madison Avenue. She said, “This is a test market for the state. We’re in the early stages of the revolution. Consumers will see a lot of new fuels coming onto the market.”

carbThe clean burning alternative is selling for $.66 less per gallon than regular unleaded at the Valero. Sasha Faught of Natomas, who owns a flex-fuel Chevy Tahoe, has been using E85. “I want to be green,” she said. “Let’s face it, we’re using up our resources. It’s smart to get on with it.”

The new E85 dispensers were funded mainly by a grant administered by the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District. The grant from the California Resources Board totaled $3.5 million.

There are currently 23,000 flexible fuel vehicles registered in Sacramento that can use E85.

New Reports Show Value of Ethanol

ethanol-across-americaAccording to the Clean Fuels Development Coalition, two timely publications addressing the environment were recently released at the Fuel Ethanol Workshop by the Ethanol Across America (EAA) education campaign.

The first publication is part of the highly successful Issue Brief series which to date has covered subjects such as Net Energy Balance; Economic Impacts of Ethanol; Food, Feed and Fuel; and other areas. The latest in the series released is the Environmental Impacts of Ethanol Production.

Ethanol Across America Director Douglas A. Durante said the focus on the environment and the urgency to go green makes this is a timely publication. “As ethanol production increases in response to the Renewable Fuel Standard, it is important that people understand the environmental impacts of ethanol, and this Issue Brief should serve that purpose very well. With reduced emissions, low energy use, minimal water consumption, increasingly efficient farming practices, and a resulting low impact on land use, we have a good story to tell.”

The direct and indirect land use issue has been particularly visible of late due to proposed Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations and Durante said the new White Paper also released here this week is a complimentary piece to the brief. The White Paper series is an editorial-like forum for ideas, proposals, concepts, and “think pieces” according to Durante and has featured numerous guest authors.

“Rethinking the Value of Corn Ethanol Co-Products in Lifecycle Assessments: Producing More Food and Fuel with Less Carbon” is written by Dave Vander Griend, President and CEO of ICM, Inc., one of the nation’s leading ethanol process design and engineering firms. Mr. Vander Griend makes a compelling case in the White Paper for totally rethinking the land use issue in consideration of several critical factors that EPA models and others are not considering.

“It is important we look at the net impact of corn usage for ethanol, and that net is considerably lower than what the numbers might indicate on the surface. We return 1/3 of the volume of corn back to the animal feed supply, but we are returning nearly 1/2 of the nutritional, or feeding value. The end result is that for every two bushels of feed corn we use for ethanol we are returning one back into the supply.”

Vander Griend goes on to explain in the White Paper that along with the feed value, the increased yields of corn grown per acre means that meeting the first 15 billion gallons of ethanol demand of the RFS from corn will have no land use impact in that essentially no new land is being used — and over time there will be a reduction in land use. “All of this leads to less carbon emissions, which is a fundamental objective of our energy strategy,” he said.