CARB Receives Eye on Biodiesel Award

Richard CoreyReceiving the National Biodiesel Board’s Eye on Biodiesel Impact Award for the California Clean Air Resources Board was Richard Corey, Executive Officer.

The State of California continues to serve as a national and world leader in regulations related to environmental sustainability, and the California Air Resources Board is at the heart of those efforts. In January of 2010, Air Resources Board staff successfully implemented the first ever market-oriented carbon reduction policy for transportation fuels, a policy known as the Low Carbon Fuel Standard. Since that time, use and production of biodiesel and other renewable fuels has increased significantly. Californians have since enjoyed the benefits of cleaner air, growth in green jobs, and increased fuel diversity.

You can listen to Richard’s remarks here: Richard Corey Remarks

2014 National Biodiesel Conference Photo Album

New Study: Corn Ethanol Reduces GHG Emissions

According to a new study, that compared the greenhouse gas emission reductions of corn ethanol and those of crude oil production and fracking, corn ethanol’s carbon intensity is declining while the carbon intensity of petroleum is increasing. The study was conducted by Life Cycle Associates and found that the carbon impacts associated with Canadian_tar_sandscrude oil production continue to worsen as more marginal sources of fuel are introduced into the fuel supply.

According to the report, “As the average carbon intensity of petroleum is gradually increasing, the carbon intensity of corn ethanol is declining. Corn ethanol producers are motivated by economics to reduce the energy inputs and improve product yields.”

The study, commissioned by the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), found that average corn ethanol reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 32 percent compared to average petroleum in 2012. This estimate includes prospective emissions from indirect land use change (ILUC) for corn ethanol. When compared to marginal petroleum sources like tight oil from fracking and oil sands, average corn ethanol reduces GHG emissions by 37-40 percent.

As more unconventional crude oil sources enter the U.S. oil supply, and as corn ethanol production processes become even more efficient, the carbon impacts of ethanol and crude oil will continue to diverge. The study predicts that by 2022, average corn ethanol reduces GHG emissions by 43-60 percent compared to petroleum.

“The majority of unconventional fuel sources emit significantly more GHG emissions than both biofuels and conventional fossil fuel sources,” according to the study. “The biggest future impacts on the U.S. oil slate are expected to come from oil sands and fracking production.” In the absence of biofuels, “…significant quantities of marginal oil would be fed into U.S. refineries, generating corresponding emissions penalties that would be further aggravated in the absence of renewable fuel alternatives.”

The study also reveals several fundamental flaws with the GHG analysis conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for the expanded Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS2) regulations. Continue reading

Radio Disney Dumps Dirty Energy Road Show

Climate Parents has announced that after more than 100,000 people signed petitions the organization began, Radio Disney announced it will withdraw from a controversial program that promotes fossil fuel extraction to school-age children in Ohio. Climate Parents is a national organization comprised of parents taking action on climate change.

“We are pleased that Disney responded to our request to stop promoting oil and gas extraction to kids in Ohio,” said Lisa Hoyos, Founder and Director of Climate Parents. OOGEEP_FB1However, Disney engages schools all over the country on energy education, and we remain deeply concerned that the company has no policy in place prevent this from happening again.”

Climate Parents worked closely with their partners at CREDO Action, who helped gather more than 80,000 petition signatures on Credo Mobilize.com. In addition to working with CREDO Mobilize, Climate Parents also hosted petitions on MoveOn.org and Change.org to gather more than 100,000 signatures and generate hundreds of social media posts.

“There’s no place for fracking in the Magic Kingdom,” said said Zack Malitz, CREDO’s Campaign Manager. “Disney has done the right thing by refusing to use its brand to promote dirty energy, and it needs to go further say it will never again partner with oil and gas industry groups to produce Disney-themed dirty energy propaganda for children.”

The program Climate Parents was opposed to was called “Rocking in Ohio,” a road show the Ohio Oil and Gas Association created in partnership with Radio Disney. The program engaged school kids in a “game show” type activities that celebrated oil and gas extraction.

“The response has been overwhelming,” said Hoyos. “People from all over the country have spoken out against Radio Disney’s promotion of dirty energy in Ohio. But until Disney takes that commitment nationwide, we will continue to mobilize parents and families to ensure that Disney only promotes kid-safe, climate-safe energy.”

Book Review: How Are You Mother Earth?

Calling people of all ages. I’ve finally found a truly entertaining and educational book about climate change and the environment. “How are you Mother Earth?” written by Gordon Hunter, a scientist, takes the reader on the journey with Katie, her boyfriend Mike and her father when they take Mother Earth to the doctor for a check-up.

Well, it turns out that Mother Earth can’t fit in the door and she doesn’t have the same structure as us humans so they work with Nurse Re Corder and a host of other scientists and How Are You Mother Earth?doctors to develop a check-up just for Mother Earth. While the team hunts down the experts, Mother Earth takes a rest on the lawn outside of the doctors office.

During her physical, they test her age and weight, pressure, respiration and air quailty, dermatology and temperature. Along the way not only are you learning about science in a fun way, but you are also learning about humans’ relationship with Mother Earth.

The health report: Mother Earth is very sick.

The cure? “…a cure would be turning away from fossil fuels and turning to alternate sources of energy such as solar and wind.”

The prescription. Each and every one of us.

How Are You Mother Earth? Is cleverly written, the science is easily understood and the illustrations nicely done. This is definitely a book to read to better understand climate change and the health of Mother Earth.

Listen to my interview with Gordon Hunter here: How Are You Mother Earth?

Win a free copy of How Are You Mother Earth? Send me an email or a tweet with the title “How Are You Mother Earth?” and you contact info. The winner will be announced in next week’s DomesticFuel newsletter.

Senator Max Baucus Unveils Tax Reform Proposal

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) have launched a process for the committee to begin developing a proposal to reform America’s tax code. Over the next several months, the committee will convene weekly to discuss a series of topics and collect feedback from members on a wide range of options for taking on tax reform. The revised incentives are designed to be more technology neutral.

Senator Max Baucus“It is time to bring our energy tax policy into the 21st century,” Baucus said. “Our current set of energy tax incentives is overly complex and picks winners and losers with no clear policy rationale. We need a system of energy incentives that is more predictable, rational, and technology-neutral to increase our energy security and ensure a clean and healthy environment for future generations.”

Ethanol Today reports that information released by Baucus finds that current law contains 42 different energy tax incentives, including more than a dozen for fossil fuels. An additional 10 tax incentives exist for renewable fuels and alternative vehicles, along with six credits for clean electricity. Of these, 25 are set to expire every year to two years and if they are extended, could cost taxpayers nearly $150 billion over the next decade.

The proposal aims to neutralize clean energy technologies, i.e. not play “favorites” as the federal government is often accused of doing. Based on several criteria, tax incentives for all forms of energy would be based on a “cleanliness credit” or determined by a ratio of the greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) of a facility divided by its electricity production.

The incentive would be available as either a production tax credit of up to 2.3 cents per kilowatt hour or an investment tax credit of up to 20 percent. The production tax credit would be indexed for inflation and could be claimed on a single facility for a maximum of 10 years.

orrin-hatchA second incentive outline by the proposal is the clean transportation incentive and would be available for fuels that are 25 percent cleaner than conventional gasoline. The percent of “cleanliness” would be determined by the production process’s lifecycle emissions basis as determined by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The max credit would be $1 per gallon.

Senator Baucus has invited members of Congress, key stakeholders and the general public to provide feedback on the draft. Comments must be submitted by January 31, 2014 (the same time comments for the EPA’s proposed renewable fuel volumes for the 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Click here for information about the proposal as well as information on how to submit comments.

Abengoa Announces Sustainable Business Prize

International renewable energy company Abengoa has launched the second edition of the Focus-Abengoa Sustainable Business Prize that seeks to recognize suppliers that have demonstrated their commitment and made a contribution to sustainable development.

abengoa-logoThe company presents this award to highlight outstanding actions by its suppliers. It is open to all companies that have been suppliers to Abengoa, or any of its subsidiaries in any country during the last 24 months, and that are implementing or have completed initiatives in the last two years that have contributed to social development and reducing environmental impact. The prize will be awarded in two categories – one for small and medium size companies with less than 50 employees, and another for large companies with 50 or more employees.

The jury for the Focus-Abengoa Sustainable Business Prize will be comprised of Jose Borrell Fontelles, vice-chairman of the Focus-Abengoa Foundation and Abengoa’s International Board, and chairman of the jury; Cristina Garcia Orcoyen, managing director of the Entorno Foundation; German Granda, general manager of Foretica; Jose Luis Blasco, managing partner for climate change and sustainability services at KPMG; and Maria Mendiluce, director of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD).

The committee is looking for projects or initiatives that promote responsible business management and stand out for their originality, innovative nature, impact and leadership.

Companies that wish to participate should complete the form on the competition website (http://sustainability.abengoa.com) and return it before December 11, 2013 to the e-mail address rsc@abengoa.com. When returning the form, please include in the subject line of the email “2nd edition of the Focus-Abengoa Sustainable Business Prize”.

In the 1st edition of the Prize, the jury chose Novozymes in the large company category for its “Life Cycle Studies (ACV)” project, while in the small and medium sized company category no first prize was awarded, although the jury decided to present a runners-up prize to Aislamientos Desmontables S.L. for its initiative, “Environmental control, quality, health and safety in the workplace”.

AP Story Causing Stir Before Release

The ethanol industry has gone on the offensive to defend itself against an Associated Press “investigative report” that has yet to be released for publication.

fuels-americaFuels America held a conference call today about the article which is embargoed until after midnight but was circulated last week on the internet. The call included Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) Vice President of Research and Analysis Geoff Cooper and Leroy Perkins, an Iowa farmer who was quoted in the AP story.

Perkins says he was contacted by AP reporters in July to talk about “the county fair, along with absentee, out-of-state state landlords and of course, water quality.” During the course of the interview, one of the reporters asked him what he thought about ethanol. “I told them I was for ethanol, I believe in it and we use it in our vehicles and equipment all the time … because it’s a product of the land,” he said. He never expected his interview would be for a “story to put down ethanol.”

Cooper and the RFA have put together a Counterpoint Fact Sheet on AP story which refutes at least 16 direct quotes from the draft article and he says industry representatives have been in touch with the news agency. “There has been some effort to get these factual inaccuracies corrected,” said Cooper. “If the story we saw that was posted last week is the same story that gets rolled out tomorrow morning, that tells us the AP just isn’t concerned about running a factual story.”

The Associated Press supplies content to thousands of print, internet, radio and television outlets around the world.

Listen to a conference call on the AP article here:AP ethanol story fact check press call

Denmark Awarded for Climate Achievements

Denmark has received the “Gift to the Earth” from WWF, for their climate achievements and its commitment to achieve 100 percent renewable energy across the economy by 2050. Jim Leape, WWF International Director General, will present the report to the Prime Minister of Denmark, Ms. Helle Thorning-Schmidt on October 21, 2013.

“Denmark shows that it is possible to develop a sustainable society and at the same time secure economic growth and welfare. It is the lighthouse we need to show that change is possible. Hopefully other countries will look toward Denmark for inspiration to rise to the urgent challenge of protecting the Earth’s climate. As a global conservation organization, WWF recognizes Danish leadership on this important matter,” said Leape.

WWF The Energy Report coverWWF says in The Energy Report, 100% Renewable Energy by 2050, that the world must develop an equitable low carbon economy by 2050, an achievable goal. However, WWF says the world is not reacting quickly enough.

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has just re-confirmed in their latest report that the Earth is warming at an alarming rate. The report shows these temperature changes are already having serious consequences for people and nature and recommends more than two thirds of presently existing fossil fuel reserves must stay in the ground to address climate change. In addition, major investors – including governments – must shift their focus to enabling renewable energy and phasing out investment in fossil fuels, especially coal.

“We know that the world’s current economic growth model is no longer sustainable. Denmark is demonstrating strong leadership by showing the potential for long-term sustainable growth through the development of renewable energy and energy efficient solutions,” added Leape.

Gitte Seeberg, WWF-Denmark CEO, is proud to promote Denmark as a global example of how the climate challenge can be addressed. “Since the oil crisis in the 1970s the Danish Parliament has had a strong and long tradition of cooperating on renewable energy and energy efficiency policies. We are thrilled that the present government and Parliament has taken even further ambitious steps to bring Denmark on the safe road towards a 100% renewable society in 2050.”

Proponents Wonder Why Can’t Biodiesel Fulfill RFS

epa-logoA hat tip to my friend Jessica Robinson over at the National Biodiesel Board for pointing out this great article from Biofuels Digest. As the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed lower targets for the 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard, proponents of biodiesel are wondering why their green fuel is targeted a 20 percent reduction.

Let’s review the background on biodiesel and renewable diesel. There’s no blend wall in sight, production volumes have been growing fast, prices have been relatively stable, and because it provides a market for soybean oil, it reduces prices for ranchers and poultry farmers who use the soybean meal as animal feed.

Here are answers to your questions regarding biomass-based diesel and the proposed 2014 and 2015 standards.

Q: What is EPA’s stated method and target?

A: In the draft EPA document that is floating around the industry — which the Digest has reviewed — the EPA writes that it aims to “Base advanced volume on availability of advanced biofuels but considering the blendwall” by [setting} the advanced volume at the sum of the cellulosic standard, the BBD standard and all available volumes of non-ethanol advanced.” EPA adds that it intends to “Maintain biomass-based diesel std at 1.28 Bgal; since BBD is nested within the advanced biofuel standard, any excess volumes above 1.28 bill gal can compete with other advanced biofuels. There is limited availability of other advanced biofuels, which generates opportunities for biodiesel production above 1.28 bill gal to help meet the advanced biofuel standard.” Continue reading

Study Refutes Land Use Change Myth

A recent report released from researchers in the Netherlands shows that current models assessing the impact of crops grown for biofuel production on land use (indirect land use change /ILUC) do not accurately reflect current production and land use realities. Given the impact of these models on bioenergy policy, the paper, “Biomass Research,” makes a strong case for updating the way in which the true benefits of biofuels are assessed. This Corn crop August 2013would help insure policy decisions and made with the understanding and consideration of the ethanol’s environmental benefits.

National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) Ethanol Committee Chair Chad Willis said, “Ethanol advocates have long understood the major impact that relying upon outdated data or inaccurate models can have on our nation’s biofuels policy and, at NCGA we work to correct the information and models. This study provides an academically rigorous examination of the specific areas in which ethanol modeling and data are currently lacking on a large scope.”

Farmers have made amazing strides to increase efficiency and sustainability in the past few decades,” continued Willis, and the models and information used to assess the impact of biofuel production should reflect these gains. American ethanol benefits our environment as well as our economy and our energy security. It only makes sense that our energy policy should take these incredible benefits into account thus maximizing them for the good of all Americans.”

Looking at land use and biomass production balances in 34 major biofuel-producing nations, the report concludes that increases in acreage devoted to biofuel feedstock production were more than offset by productivity gains on acreage devoted to food production between 2000 and 2010. These productivity gains were the result of the use of double cropping practices, yield gains and other increased efficiencies.

Additionally, the study also notes that during the same period, urbanization and other causes were responsible for the loss of much more agricultural land than biofuel feedstock production. Continue reading

Environmental Impacts of Biofuel Feedstocks Studied

corn_stover03 Photo: USDOE-NRELA two-year study has examined the environmental impacts of feedstocks used for biofuels. Minnesota Daily reports researchers from the University of Minnesota found that there are some fundamental differences between how the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy and the Department of Agriculture, look at biofuel production.

All three agencies differed in crop location, which Hill said is an important clarification for researchers, policymakers and biofuel investors. If the researchers had not figured out there was this difference, other scientists might only use one agency’s predictions and their conclusions would be misled.

“Our group is looking at the environmental impacts of biofuels,” [bioproducts and biosystems engineering assistant professor Jason] Hill said. “We need to understand the future of what that’s going to look at.”

“It helps us tease out the benefits and negatives,” BBE graduate student Brian Krohn said. “Some of those … lead to a U.S. landscape that’s better for the environment, and some of that leads to landscapes that have a very high negative impact.”

The biggest concern in the study is the use of corn stover for biofuels. While it is possible to take just enough of the material off the fields to get a good amount of feedstock and leave enough for soil health, the researchers did worry too much would be removed.

“If corn stover becomes a significant player in ethanol,” BBE PhD student Tom Nickerson said, “Minnesota will have a pretty big role in producing ethanol for America.”

Balance is the key, with the researchers concluding that no pathway is perfect.

Ethanol to Save World 100 Mil Tons of GHGs in 2013

GRFA1The expected 20 billion gallons (85 billion liters) of ethanol production this year will keep 100 million tonnes of green house gas (GHG) emissions out of the environment. That’s the forecast from the Global Renewable Fuels Alliance (GRFA).

“This years forecast shows that even in the face of a difficult global economy, demand for biofuels is growing. This is excellent news but demand and production need to continue to grow to further reduce our reliance on crude oil,” said Bliss Baker, spokesperson for the Global Renewable Fuels Alliance.

More positive news from this global growth is that ethanol production in all parts of the world, including the Americas, Africa, Asia and Europe are forecasted to increase, with the United States and Brazil continuing to be the largest producers.

“Perhaps the best news of all is that Europe is forecasted to increase ethanol output by over 3% in 2013 as biofuels continue to be in demand and the industry continues to grow in the face of political wrangling and economic hardship,” stated Baker.

Removing 100 million tonnes of GHGs is the equivalent of taking 20 million cars off the road… as many as all the registered cars in Portugal and The Netherlands.

Study: Algae-based Biofuels Cut CO2 by 50-70%

ABOA new study shows that biofuels made from algae can reduce life cycle carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 50 to 70 percent compared to petroleum fuels. And according to the Algae Biomass Organization, citing the study in the journal Bioresource Technology, algae biofuels are approaching the Energy Return on Investment (EROI) values that conventional petroleum has.

“This study affirms that algae-based fuels provide results without compromise,” said Mary Rosenthal, ABO’s executive director. “With significant emissions reductions, a positive energy balance, nutrient recycling and CO2 reuse, algae-based fuels will be a long-term, sustainable source of fuels for our nation.”

The study, “Pilot-scale data provide enhanced estimates of the life cycle energy and emissions profile of algae biofuels produced via hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL),” is a life cycle analysis of an algae cultivation and fuel production process currently employed at pre-commercial scales. The authors examined field data from two facilities operated by Sapphire Energy in Las Cruces and Columbus, New Mexico that grow and process algae into Green Crude oil. Sapphire Energy’s Green Crude can be refined into drop-in fuels such as gasoline, diesel and jet fuel.

The study found that when produced at commercial scales, algae technologies can be expected to be better than first generation biofuels when considering greenhouse emissions and on par with the return on energy investment when compared to those first generation biofuels. This is the first study to analyze real-world data from an existing algae-to-energy demonstration scale farm.

“These real-world data from demonstration scale facilities gave us new insight and allowed us to understand how scale will impact the benefits and costs of algae-to-energy deployment.” said lead author Andres F. Clarens, Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville. “These results suggest that algae-based fuels made using HTL have an environmental profile that is comparable to conventional biofuels.”

DF Cast: Ethanol Battles for Info & Against the Gov’t

Understanding what the auto industry wants and needs… and how ethanol can meet that… all while battling Big Oil and even the government… that’s the daunting task the ethanol industry has been facing for some time.

ACE13-uniteandignite-vandergriendIn this edition of the Domestic Fuel Cast, we talk with Dave Vander Griend, the co-founder and president of one of the world’s largest ethanol plant engineering and construction firms, ICM. He talks about how first the ethanol industry needed to identify what the auto industry needed and then what the refineries were producing, a first on both counts for the ethanol industry. He says once his industry was able to see what the car makers wanted, it was easier to figure out how to counter some of the arguments Big Oil has been making against ethanol.

Meanwhile, the Urban Air Initiative, a group that looks to reduce the threat to public health posed by petroleum-based fuels, issued a white paper, dispelling Big Oil’s myths and countering what the group characterizes as an erroneous report from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that would hurt ethanol.

It’s a fascinating conversation, and you can hear more of it in this Domestic Fuel Cast: Domestic Fuel Cast - Dave Vander Griend, ICM and Urban Air Initiative

You can also subscribe to the DomesticFuel Cast here.

Climate Hearing Sparks Frenzied Debate

This week the Energy and Power subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee heard testimony from Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy about the President’s climate plan. This past June, President Obama unveiled his new action plan for climate change. Many of the opponents of the plan are criticizing the proposed regulations from EPA for new and existing power plants, which they argue will increase costs for consumers and send jobs overseas but haven’t put forth alternative solutions.

Mark Reynolds, executive director of Citizens Climate Lobby said the time dedicated to the hearing would be better spend talking about effective alternatives to Obama’s plan. “We April in DCunderstand that conservatives object to the use of EPA regulations to curb greenhouse gases,” he said. “If that’s the case, and given the rapidly closing window for action on climate change, they should be talking about a market-based alternative, such as a revenue-neutral carbon tax.”

Citizens Climate Lobby proposes a steadily-rising carbon tax and returning proceeds to the public to offset increased energy costs. A number of conservatives have expressed support for this approach and Reynolds said they should be called to testify at the next hearing.

“I’m grateful that Chairman Ed Whitfield convened today’s hearing, and I hope there are more to come in the near future,” continued Reynolds. “Having held a hearing to critique the President’s plan, the next hearing should focus on solutions.”

Among them, Art Laffer, former Reagan economic adviser said, “Reduce taxes on something we want more of–income–and tax something we arguably want less of–carbon pollution. It’s a win-win.”

While Greg Mankiw, economic advisor to George W. Bush and Mitt Romney commented, “A proposed carbon fee — or carbon tax, if you prefer — is more effective and less invasive than the regulatory approach that the federal government has traditionally pursued.”

Reynolds concluded, “It’s easy to sit and complain that the President is trying to circumvent Congress. Congress, however, has failed to protect our nation from the risk of climate change. It’s time to stop complaining and take action.”