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.

Ethanol and Biodiesel Testimony Presented at EPA Hearing

EPAThe Environmental Protection Agency’s public hearing on the proposed rule for the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) is now underway in Washington, DC.

The first testimony presented was from Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Bob Dinneen, who expressed the ethanol industry’s major concerns about the agnecy’s attempt to measure greenhouse gas lifecycle analysis including international indirect land use changes. “There is so much uncertainty in trying to account for international impacts that it renders the regulatory process incapable of determining a specific number,” said Dinneen. “We have concerns about some assumptions EPA has made. We think they have greatly underestimated increases in yields, underestimated impact of distillers grains, underestimated or used very conservative assumptions with regard to bushels of grain per acre – all of which will have a significant impact on this analysis.”

Listen to Dinneen’s testimony here: epa-hearing-dinneen.mp3

Manning Feraci of the National Biodiesel Board presented testimony at the hearing on behalf of the biodiesel industry. “We recognize that statute requires EPA to consider significant indirect emissions when calculating a renewable fuels emission profile,” said Feraci. “This does not require the EPA to rely on faulty data and unrealistic scenarios that punish the U.S. biodiesel industry for wholly unrelated land use decisions in South America.”

Listen to Feraci’s testimony here: epa-hearing-feraci.mp3

The EPA hearing will continue all day today and then the agency will be holding a workshop on the RFS on Wednesday and Thursday.

Ethanol Industry Looking Forward to RFS Hearing

RFAThe ethanol industry is looking forward to a public hearing and workshops this week in Washington, DC to address the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rulemaking for the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS2).

Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Bob Dinneen will be testifying at the public hearing on Tuesday. “While we generally applaud EPA’s efforts to get the rule out, we do have some very serious concerns with the proposal, which we will be laying out tomorrow during the hearing and in the workshops,” said Dinneen during a media conference call Monday morning.

Dinneen says their most serious concerns revolve around EPA’s lifecycle greenhouse gas analysis, especially the inclusion of international indirect land use changes. “We don’t believe that the statute requires it, we don’t believe that Congress believes the analysis should include international impacts, and we certainly don’t believe that the science supports evaluating international impacts of a farmer’s decision someplace else in the world related to biofuels production.”

The EPA public hearing will be held June 9 from 10 am to 5 pm and the workshop on details of EPA’s lifecycle GHG analysis will be June 10-11, both at the Dupont Hotel in Washington, DC. More information is available here on the EPA website.

“Funky Fresh Flex Fuel” Wins Online Ethanol Contest

Thousands of people across the country defined “What is renewable to you?” when they selected the video, “Funky Fresh Flex Fuel” created by Chip McAfee from Arizona as the winner of the E85 Flex-Fuel Challenge. The contest was launched by the Renewable Fuels Association in early March to get a new generation of Americans, mainly college students, engaged in the promotion and support of ethanol. Promotion of the contest was done primarily through social media networks such as Facebook.

Submissions for the contest ended on April 3 and then peer voting took place between April 4-May 29, 2009. From there, a panel of judges selected the final winner, based on creativity, quality and relevance. McAfee won a Macbook Air computer for his winning entry.

173449690374156_mediumA people’s choice award was also given to the entry that received the highest number of total votes through the duration of the contest. The photo submission, “University of Wisconsin-Platteville,” won this award and the photographer received a Passport hard drive.

The Fuel-Flex Challenge was sponsored by the Kansas Corn Commission, the Kentucky Corn Growers Association, the United Sorghum Checkoff Program and the Renewable Fuels Association. The fun will continue this summer with the launch of a new photo contest. Stay tuned for more details.

Clinton at Ethanol Summit 2009: Save the Trees

ethanolsummit09The Ethanol Summit 2009 is in full swing in Sao Paulo, Brazil with President Bill Clinton kicking off the festivities yesterday. His main message was that while biofuels are an important element in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, it cannot happen at the continued destruction of rainforests.

In an article published by Reuters yesterday, Clinton was quoted as saying, “What people are worried about Brazil is not (whether) you have the most efficient biofuel in the world… everybody knows that is true.”

billclintonethanolsummit2009“(But) the world would say if we let Brazil help us solve our problem at the price of more rainforest destruction, have we really gained anything? That’s what you have to answer.”

This statement was given to a group of international businessmen, the majority of which are in the biofuels industry, who may have noted a discrepancy in Clinton’s observation. According to UNICA (The Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association) “…biofuels are typically not grown on rainforest land or land used to grow fuel.”

It could be argued that the bigger issue of linking rainforest destruction to biofuels production is the ongoing heated debate on indirect land use which calculates the impact of the “land” used when calculating the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. I have no doubt that the issue of indirect land use change will take center state at some point during this year’s Ethanol Summit and we’ll cover that dicussion here on DomesticFuel.

The Great Gatsby Goes Green

Hollywood had a green makeover last week when the first all-solar community, The Gatsby Hollywood, was unveiled. This community of 34 brownstones is the largest all green, all -solar, smart home community in the country and not only features renewable energy but was built using renewable materials.

According to Dan Thompson, the CEO of MasterCraft Homes Group, who designed and built the eco-friendly community, each home will see an energy savings of 50 percent and a water savings of 60 percent.

The community was built as “adaptive use” project. This means a site is found that has abandoned buildings which are torn down and the new buildings, in this case, homes, are erected on the site. MasterCraft Homes is planning on building additional green communities in urban infill areas in LA and will never build on virgin land. This property was also unique in that it is the home of the fabled Orchard Gables Cottage which dates back to Abe Lincoln’s time. The company is working with a restoration expert to refurbish the cottage and it will be re-dedicated as a museum later this year. Thompson noted that having an urban infill area with a historic building is rare and will probably never happen again.

One of the criticisms of green building is that the average person can’t afford to purchase a green home. But in the case of a Gatsby house, this is not the case. Thompson explained that by building the entire community with solar energy and green technologies, they can keep the costs competitive. They are not charging a premium for their homes because they want their communities to be affordable. A Gatsby brownstone can be purchased starting at $750,000. This is actually less expensive then the price of a typical Hollywood bungalow. For those of us who don’t live in Cali, this price equates to about $250,000 in the Midwest.

At this time, Thompson said they don’t plan on building outside of California but with the growing need for green building expertise, he just may be expanding sooner rather than never.