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.”

Paper Challenges EPA Modeling of Ethanol Emissions

A new white paper released by the Ethanol Across America Campaign finds that mid-Level ethanol blends can provide significantly greater emission and health benefits than U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) models indicate. “Understanding the Emissions Benefits of Higher Ethanol Blends: EPA Modeling Fails to Tell the Whole Story,” was authored by Steve Vander Griend of the Urban Air Initiative and released during the 26th Annual Ethanol Conference.

Tier 3 Emissions paper“Adding ethanol to gasoline improves it in every way. It lowers carbon, reduces common air pollutants for smog formation, lessens CO2 emissions, reduces sulfer content, and provides clean octane as a replacement for toxic aromatics. In short, it makes gasoline significantly better than what would otherwise go into your tank. EPA’s modeling does not show that to be the case, but it should.” This begins the white paper debunking the research that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) commissioned to show that gasoline blended with E30 (30% ethanol, 70% gasoline) is dirtier than gasoline not blended with ethanol.

Vander Griend writes that ethanol’s chemical property has a beneficial distillation point that makes it almost impossible for it to cause the kinds of increases EPA claims. In fact, he argues, it is the highly toxic aromatics added to gasoline in the EPA testing procedures that cause significant increases in criteria emissions. He makes the case that ethanol is a superior blending agent that can replace toxic components of gasoline used for octane. Ethanol provides clean octane that, when properly blended, would create value for blends well beyond 10 percent volume.

The EPA findings relate to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and a specific model developed by the EPA required in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.

Click here to read the whitepaper. Visit the ACE 26th Annual Ethanol Conference photo album.

Caltech Announces New Energy Awards

The Resnick Sustainability Institute at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) has established an award, called RESONATE, that will honor cutting-edge work that addresses some of the hardest resonate2014problems in energy and sustainability. The award winners will be announced in the Spring of 2014. The RESONATE Awards will focus on innovative, paradigm-shifting work from individuals at an early stage in their careers, whose ideas are worthy of significant, widespread recognition. This work can be from many fields including science, technology, economics, public policy, or others.

The intent of the awards is to draw attention to the innovators making significant strides in some of the grand challenges facing humanity, within the context of achieving global sustainability. These include meeting the world’s energy needs sustainably, providing water and food for a growing world population, cleaning the environment, improving people’s access to the natural resources they need to live a productive life, and others.

“The big issues in sustainability demand a perspective that is creative, global, and untethered by prior conventional wisdom,” said Dr. Harry Atwater, Director of the Resnick Sustainability Institute, and Howard Hughes Professor and Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science Caltech. “These awards have been created to encourage and honor people who are rethinking solutions to conquer these challenges.”

The RESONATE judging panel will be comprised of a team of individuals appointed by Resnick Sustainability Institute leadership. Judges will be selected based on their track records of outstanding achievement in academia, industry, government, journalism, and society.

20 Climate Change Steps for DOE

Peer-Reviewed-Articles-Dr-James-L-Powell-756-by-506The Bicameral Task Force on Climate Change recently released a white paper recommending 20 steps the Department of Energy (DOE) should take in carrying out the President’s Climate Action Plan. The recommendations include strengthening specific energy efficiency standards, accelerating the development and deployment of low-carbon energy technologies, expanding the use of energy savings performance contracts to save energy at federal facilities, encouraging reforms in state building codes and utility rate structures, maximizing the contribution of power marketing administrations, and analyzing the climate change impacts of liquefied natural gas exports.

“This report provides a roadmap for the Department of Energy as it implements President Obama’s climate change plan,” said Senator Sheldon Whitehouse. “The steps we outline would accelerate the development of clean, renewable energy; improve energy efficiency; and reduce dangerous carbon pollution. I look forward to working with Secretary Moniz as DOE ramps up its work to address this serious threat.”

The report is based on feedback by more than 200 groups ranging from efficiency advocates to Fortune 500 companies to environmental organizations to electric utilities. In addition, DOE officials and academics also provided input.

Keeping in mind the “financial” crisis of the federal government, page 11 of the report notes that while Congress seems unlikely to act to support additional loan guarantees, DOE currently has $2.3 billion for energy efficiency and renewable energy loan guarantees as well as $4 billion in loan guarantee authority that it can use for projects of any type.

“Congress should act to support additional loan guarantees, but there is little
prospect that Congress will do so in the near term . . . “We recommend that DOE support innovative energy efficiency and renewable energy projects to the full extent of DOE’s remaining authority. Providing loan guarantees for worthy projects of these types would be a concrete step towards reaching the President’s goal of once again doubling renewable electricity generation from wind, solar, and geothermal resources by 2020.”

Are Electric Cars Really Green?

IMAGITRENDSAccording to two recent articles published in IEEE Spectrum, electric vehicles (EVs) may not be so “green”. The first report, Unclean at Any Speed, describes how the subsidies for electric cars may cause more harm than good after considering full electric vehicle lifecycles. It advocates directing EV subsidies toward initiatives such as emissions testing, bicycle infrastructure, public transit and land-use changes.

The second article, coined by Ozzie Zehner, is a response to electric car proponents published in the same journal, and describes how the high cost of electric cars and solar cells exposes the substantial amount of fossil fuels that their manufacturing employs.

Zehner, is a visiting scholar at the University of California – Berkeley and the author of Green Illusions. He once built an electric hybrid car of his own, but is now more cautious about promoting costly high-tech strategies. “Stating that an electric car is clean is like saying that a light bulb is clean. Light bulbs don’t produce exhaust, but it doesn’t mean we IMAGITRENDScan use them with zero emissions. The same holds true for electric cars,” said Zehner in an NPR interview Monday.

In his article, Zehner identifies a price tag predicament. “The cost of manufactured goods ultimately boils down to two things: natural resource extraction, and profit,” explains Zehner. “Extraction is largely based on fossil-fuel inputs. Generally speaking, if a supposedly green machine costs more than its conventional rival, then more resources had to be claimed to make it possible.”

He indicates that pricey green technologies, including solar cells and electric cars, likely require more fossil fuel and produce more carbon dioxide than their conventional counterparts. Zehner warns that even if electric car costs come down, “we will have invested billions of dollars to maintain an otherwise unsustainable transportation infrastructure.”

Zehner remarks that researchers could instead “measure the virtues of electric cars against those of walkable neighborhoods, and the costs of generating more energy against the savings from using less.” He admits these may not seem comparable at first but that “in a world of 7 billion people living in increasingly precarious times, these are the tough questions that matter.”

The Real Reason Government’s Plug EV’s

According to a new study by researchers at the Indiana University Bloomington School of Public and Environmental Affairs and the University of Kansas, contrary to common belief, many country’s promote the manufacture and sale of electric vehicles (EVs) for reasons of economic development, notably job creation, not because of their environmental benefits. 4798The study looked at policies related to EVs in California, China, the European Union (EU), France, Germany and the United States, political jurisdictions with significant automotive industries and markets for EVs.

“Billions of dollars are being invested despite doubts that some express about the viability of electricity as a propulsion system,” said John D. Graham, SPEA dean and co-author of the study. “The objective of many of these national and sub-national governments is to establish a significant position — or even dominance — in the global marketplace for these emerging, innovative new technologies.”

Examining each jurisdiction’s use of risk-management policies (e.g., those designed to reduce environmental and security risks due to oil dependence) or industrial policies (e.g., designed to boost fortunes of a specific technology or sector and increase market competitiveness) indicated the entire lifecycle of making and using EVs is viewed by policy makers mainly as an economic development opportunity. Specific findings include:

  • China: No carbon price has been established in China, where electricity is generated by high-carbon sources and fuel prices are relatively low; thus, its EV policies are geared toward establishing a competitive position in an emerging global EV industry.
  • Germany: The least committed to EVs of the jurisdictions studied, Germany is nonetheless engaging in an industrial policy of hedging to protect the market share and viability of its premium car industry should electric propulsion gain a foothold in the worldwide premium car market.
  • The European Union: The only entity studied that acts as a supranational regulatory state, the EU is also the only one where pure risk management related to EVs occurs. The EU appears to have a technology-neutral approach and has made some investments in research and development support for industry innovation.
  • California and France: California is the largest market for motor vehicles in North America. In addition, its considerable pollution problems, created largely from the automobiles in the 1960s and ’70s and particularly acute relative to other U.S. locations, make it an ideal market for EVs. Thus, it is motivated to promote EVs by a substantial blend of industrial policy and risk management — the same approach taken by France. Both California and France have made significant advancements in risk management policies, having the strongest voices among their peers for mitigating the effects of economic and industrial development that lead to urban air pollution, congestion and climate change. Continue reading

Vital Signs: Volume 20 Released

The Worldwatch Institute has released Vital Signs: Volume 20, the latest compilation from the Vital Signs project. The report finds that in 2012, global oil consumption reached an all-time high and physical water scarcity affected nearly 1.2 billion people. The Vital Signs report provides insight on many of the most critical global concern and provides data and analysis on significant global trends such as fossil fuel subsidies, agricultural commodities and rapid urbanization in the developing world.

Worldwatch Institute Logo,jpg“Our recent economic systems and theories are programmed to squeeze ever more resources from a planet in distress,” said Michael Renner, Worldwatch senior researcher and director of the Vital Signs project. “A mixture of population growth, consumerism, greed and short-term thinking by policymakers and business people seems to be inexorably driving human civilization toward a showdown with the planet’s limits.”

Some of the trends are positive. For example, within the agriculture sector, efficient irrigation methods have increased more than sixfold over the last two decades. In addition, socially sustainable ways of doing business continue to emerge.

“There is no shortage of alternatives to change the destructive trajectory that humanity finds itself on,” continued Renner. “Renewables and efficient irrigation are two practical options among many others. But we need to get serious about these tasks instead of consigning them largely to the margins.”