Ethanol Pioneer Responds to Recent Article

The president of a company responsible for designing half the corn ethanol plants in the country is responding to comments attributed to him in the on-line publication of the Minnesota 2020, which describes itself as a “progressive, non-partisan think tank.”

rfa fagens awardThe opinion article was written by a college student from an interview done with Ron Fagen, president and CEO of Fagen, Inc., at the National Ethanol Conference in February. That’s where Ron and his wife Diane were recognized with the first ever Membership Award from the Renewable Fuels Association for their dedication of time, energy, resources and ideas in making the ethanol industry what it is today.

Editorial author Natalie Camplair notes Fagen’s contributions to the ethanol industry in the first paragraph, and then infers that Fagen has abandoned the industry he has helped to build over the last 20 years. “But the ethanol boom is over now,” she writes. “In an interview at the 2010 National Ethanol Convention on February 16 in Orlando, Florida, Mr. Fagen announced that, in 2010 and beyond, he plans to “put ethanol [projects] on hold” and instead to invest in biomass and wind energy projects.”

Back in the days when print only went as far as the paper on which it was published, this editorial would probably have only been read by a handful of people and Ron himself might never have even seen it. But, thanks to the internet, the story was re-published and linked around so it created enough waves that Mr. Fagen has circulated his own response:

A recent op-ed alleging that “the ethanol boom is over” and that “policies to further the corn ethanol industry should not be supported” demands a response, both because it is patently untrue and because my words were twisted and taken out of context to justify the editorialist’s opinion about corn ethanol. I respect that everyone is entitled to their own opinions. But, in the case of the op-ed titled “Beyond Corn Ethanol” published on April 28, 2010 by Minnesota 2020, neither the opinions nor the so-called facts expressed were accurate.

It’s true that Fagen Inc. has partnered with farmers to build more than half of all the ethanol plants in the U.S. It’s also true that technology innovations have enabled corn farmers and ethanol producers to become incredibly efficient stewards of resources. Today, corn farmers use fewer inputs and less energy on fewer acres of land to produce more bushels of corn than ever before. Case in point: in 2009, U.S. farmers planted 7 million fewer acres of corn than in 2007, but they produced more corn than in the previous record year of 2007 thanks to technology and yield increases. At the same time, ethanol plants have reduced energy and water use to become more sustainable and efficient. University studies indicate that one gallon of ethanol contains more than two times the amount of energy used to make it.

So it is not accurate – in fact, it is downright misleading – to suggest corn ethanol has no future. Today, ethanol-blended fuel is the most affordable and clean-burning alternative to gasoline. And more importantly, unlike some other promising alternative fuels, we don’t have to wait for more ethanol because it is here now as the only commercially viable substitute to fossil fuels. In fact, this year U.S. ethanol producers will rank as our nation’s third largest supplier of fuel on a gasoline-equivalent basis, behind only Canada and Saudi Arabia, and ahead of Venezuela. Continue reading

Alternative Fuel Vehicle Institute Awards

afviThe Alternative Fuel Vehicle Institute (AFVi) recognized outstanding leadership in the alternative fuels and vehicles industry as part of the 16th Alternative Fuels & Vehicles Conference + Expo 2010 today in Las Vegas.

afvi robert white rfa awardAmong this year’s honorees is Robert White, Director of Market Development for the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), who was awarded the 24/7 Blend Award for “his leadership in industry-wide education about social media.” Under his leadership, RFA and other fuel advocacy groups were awarded a $1.6 million U.S. Department of Energy grant to provide training that includes social media for national Clean Cities Coalitions and their stakeholders.

The EV-angelism Award was presented to President and COO Rick Kasper for his early and lasting success in manufacturing electric vehicles. The Golden Bullet Award was presented to National Clean Cities Director Dennis Smith for his leadership in overseeing the process that will add 9,000 vehicles and more than 500 refueling stations under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The Green Fleet Award was presented to Jerome Webber, Vice President of Fleet Operations for AT&T’s replacement of 15,000 vehicles over the next ten years with alternatively fueled and powered models. Director of Government Affairs for NGV America, Paul Kerkhoven received the Lifetime Achievement Award for his tireless advocacy of natural gas and Napa Valley Unified School District Transportation Director Ralph Knight received the Magic School Bus Award for replacing diesel buses with electric.

Ethanol Co-Product Has Human Nutrition Benefits

The ethanol co-product known as DDGs or dried distillers grain is mostly used as livestock feed, but a food grade version could help improve human nutrition.

South Dakota State University research shows a traditional Asian flatbread called chapathi (or chapati) gets a big boost in protein and fiber when fortified with food-grade distillers grains.

SDSU food scientist Padu Krishnan said it is one example of the ways DDGS could help improve human nutrition worldwide – and provide a new market for the ethanol co-product. Krishnan, a cereal chemist, has been studying and writing about the possibility of using DDGS in human diets since the early 1990s. Especially now with new state-of-the-art ethanol plants coming online in recent years, Krishnan said, the ethanol industry is well poised to make food-grade DDGS.

In lab studies, Krishnan and his colleagues found that using DDGS to make up 10 percent of the dough in chapathi, an Asian whole wheat unleavened bread eaten in South Asia and East Africa, boosted the fiber from 2.9 percent to 7.8 percent, while using 20 percent DDGS in the dough increased the fiber to 10.3 percent. Protein content also increased by using DDGS in the dough, up to 15.3 percent by adding 20 percent to the dough.

DDGS is ideal for including in human diets because it contains 40 percent dietary fiber and nearly 37 percent protein.

Ethanol Terminal Opens in Shreveport

A terminal to provide the ethanol needs of northwest Louisiana and the surrounding area has opened in Shreveport.

Eco-Energy, Inc. of Franklin, Tennessee recently started operations at the ethanol distribution terminal, which is a joint project with Red River Terminals and is expected to serve the bulk ethanol needs of the Shreveport area as ethanol blending increases over the next several months. The facility is located close to the area’s gasoline terminals to provide customers with a logistically advantaged outlet to receive ethanol via rail into the metropolitan area. The terminal is equipped with a railcar manifold system and dual truck loading rack that will allow for the simultaneous offloading of up to 10 rail cars per day. Eco-Energy will be responsible for the day-to-day logistics, throughput, and accounting activities for this terminal.

Eco-Energy is an alternative energy company focused on the marketing, trading, transportation, and distribution of biofuels. The Distribution Services division of Eco-Energy locates, develops and manages sites for transloading and distribution in strategic locations where it is difficult to bring biofuels to market.

Novozymes, Nedalco Partner on Ethanol Production

Today Novozymes, a leader in the development and production of enzymes used in the ethanol process, and Royal Nedalco, a leading developer of yeast as well as an ethanol producer, have announced a collaborative project to develop a new fermentation process that can efficiently ferment C5 and C6 sugars. Fermentation of both of these types of sugars is essential for the commercialization of cellulosic ethanol.

“Novozymes is first and foremost an enzyme provider, but we wish to be a valuable partner for the biofuel industry,” said Claus Fuglsang, Senior Director for Bioenergy R&D at Novozymes. ”By contributing our fermentation insight to this partnership we help producers of cellulosic biofuel increase their yields. This will benefit the entire industry and eventually also Novozymes.”

Biofuels made from agricultural waste such as wheat straw and corn stover is quickly approaching commercialization, but improvements in the production steps are still needed to more efficiently and cost competitively bring the fuel to market. As explained by Novozymes, when producing cellulosic ethanol, enzymes convert cellulose and hemicellulose in agricultural waste to sugars which are then fermented into ethanol. To achieve optimal yields, it is essential to ferment not only the easily fermentable C6 sugars (glucose) but also the more difficult sugars (xylose and arabinose). Consequently, Novozymes and Royal Nedalco are working together to develop this more efficient process.

In a company statement, Ger Bemer, CEO of Royal Nedalco, stated, “Nedalco has successfully addressed the challenges of C5 sugar fermentation. This partnership will aim to widen and speed up the commercial availability of C5 fermentation technology to cellulosic biofuel producers all over the world.”

Under the terms of a Joint Development Agreement, Royal Nedalco will develop different strains of C5 yeast which will then be tested by the partners. After final development, Royal Nedalco will market the most efficient yeast strain to producers of cellulosic ethanol.

Biofuels Digest Names Top Twitterati

Biofuels Digest has named the top 20 “biofuels observers who are shaping opinion via Twitter.”

Some of the top names in the industry are on this list that Biofuels Digest calls “the leading practitioners of the art – the Twitterati that are shaping the biofuels landscape with their bursts of 140-character or less messages – sometimes as many as 50 or more per day to hundreds , thousands, or tens of thousands of followers.”

Here’s the list:

1. Vinod Khosla – writing as vkhosla – 31454 followers – 65 tweets
2. Solazyme – writing as SOlazyme – 8968 followers – 785 tweets
3. Robert White (RFA) – writing as fuelinggood – 4490 followers – 5421 tweets
4. Green Portland Info – writing as Green Posting – 4170 followers – 972 tweets
5. Renewable Energy World – writing as REWorld – 3619 followers – 2355 tweets
6. Missy Ruff – writing as renewablefuel – 2,839 followers – 4,063 tweets
7. Chuck Zimerman & AgWired – writing as AgriBlogger – 2,135 followers – 6,847 tweets
8. Sean O’Hanlon (ABC executive director) writing as Sean_OHanlon – 1244 followers – 1761 tweets
9. Ashley Morrison – writing as EthanolFuel from Omaha, NE – 1,034 followers
10. RFA – 1,134 followers – 1709 tweets
11. AlgaeBiofuels – 863 followers – 16,374 tweets
12. Peter Went – writing as Energy_Risk – 719 followers – 11,855 tweets
13. Todd Neeley – writing as ethreporter – 688 followers 1129 tweets
14. Domestic Fuel – writing as DomesticFuel – 500 followers – 2078 tweets
15. Bob Dinneen (RFA) writing as ethanolbob – 421 followers -571 tweets
16. ACE – writing as blend_ethanol from Sioux Falls, SD 388 followers
17. Meghan Sapp – writing as SugarcaneBlog – 379 followers – 1150 tweets
18. POET Ethanol – Writing as ethanolbyPOET – 336 followers – 487 tweets
19. Matt Hartwig (RFA) – writing as matthartwig – 246 followers – 401 tweets
20. Todd Taylor – writing as cleamtechczar – 216 followers – 624 tweets

Big Oil / Big Auto E15 Study ‘Biased’ & ‘Inconclusive’

The ethanol industry is responding today to a recent study designed to test vehicle compatibility with E15 and higher blends of ethanol. The study, “Mid-Level Ethanol Blends Catalyst Durability Study Screening,” was conducted by the Coordinating Research Council (CRC), a non-profit organization funded by the auto and oil industry. According to Growth Energy, the research is “inconclusive” because it failed to complete sufficient vehicle testing and it ignored a ‘pile of data’ from academic, government and third-party research that has shown that E15 does not harm engine and emission systems or affect durability or drivability.

As disclosed in the CRC report, the organization’s aim was to show higher temperatures in certain vehicles using various blends of ethanol. They did in fact accomplish this goal but the average temperature change in the 4 cylinder vehicles was only a 2.0- 2.7 degree increase from E10 to E15 but there was a degree variance of 200 degrees among some of the vehicles. The reason for this could be that some of the vehicles were not designed to run on ethanol blends so the computer systems were not programmed to adjust to the alternative fuels. This said, these computer systems could be re-programmed to run on mid-level ethanol blends with no negative effects.

In addition, CRC did not disclose that of the 25 makes and models chosen for testing, several of them are more prone to catalysis failure than others regardless of the intermediate blend in the tank – meaning that particular car’s design is a bad design and will fail even if using straight gasoline.  Continue reading

Plant Makes Fuel from Waste and Fiber

An Iowa corn ethanol plant has been converted to produce commercial cellulosic biofuels from fiber and municipal waste.

fiberightClean technology company Fiberight announced today that it has started “commenced production at the nation’s first commercial cellulosic ethanol plant using enzymatic conversion technology and industrial / municipal solid waste (MSW) as feedstock.” According to a company release, Fiberight converted a former first generation corn ethanol plant in Blairstown, Iowa to cellulosic biofuel production. Following a total $24 million investment, the facility will be scaled to final commercial production capacity of approximately 6 million gallons of biofuel per year in 2011.

fiberightFiberight provides a new paradigm for environmentally sustainable waste management by offering a strong economic solution for over 60% of the trash stream, by turning it into valuable biofuel as a commercially viable alternative to traditional landfill disposal or incineration. In addition to solving a major trash disposal problem, Fiberight’s biorefineries will fulfill the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s mandates under the National Renewable Fuel Standard program (known as RFS2) that provides statutory requirements for the incorporation of renewable biofuel, including cellulosic ethanol, as part of the nation’s transportation fuel. For 2011, the cellulosic standard has been set for 250 million gallons (mg) increasing to 16 billion gallons (bg) by 2022. Fiberight is well positioned to support this renewable biofuel goal as reaffirmed by the Obama Administration under 40 CFR part 80 this past February.

The Blairstown facility will use initial feedstock from paper pulp wastes from a paper plant in Cedar Rapids, IA followed by integration of other industrial wastes and processed MSW from Fiberight’s operations in Lawrenceville, VA. By mid-summer, operations are projected to begin use of MSW from the Benton County municipality and other Iowa landfills. At targeted full production, the Blairstown plant will be processing over 350 tons of wastes per day into valuable biofuel, at a cost of less than $1.65 per gallon.

Courts Consolidate Corn Oil Extraction Lawsuits

In February, DomesticFuel brought you a story regarding GreenShift Corporation’s lawsuit against Big River Resources Galva, Big River Resources West Burlington and Cardinal Ethanol. GreenShift claims that the plants, using ICM’s corn extraction technology, are infringing upon their U.S. patent covering its corn oil extraction technology. In a companion matter, ICM filed a lawsuit against CleanTech, the affiliate of GreenShift Corporation, in federal court in Kansas last October requesting that the court declare CleanTech’s patent invalid. In addition, ICM filed motions on behalf of their plants to stay the proceedings and consolidate them with the Kansas case.

During the past several weeks, courts in Indiana and Illinois has ruled in favor of the ethanol plants and all cases will be tried in the Kansas court alongside the request to invalidate CleanTech’s patent.

Brian Burris, ICM’s General Counsel, stated, “ICM is pleased with the recent rulings by the U.S. District Courts in Indiana and Illinois regarding the litigation proceedings with GS CleanTech. As we have previously stated, ICM strongly believes that GS CleanTech’s alleged patent claims are and will be proved to be invalid. Since our inception in 1995, ICM remains committed to our industry and our customers – whether through creating revenue-enhancing products and services, or assuming their defense in cases such as this.”

Ethanol Demand a Topic at Clean Energy Forum

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and other administration officials joined rural stakeholders for a clean energy economy forum at the White House on Wednesday, which was the one year anniversary of President Obama’s Biofuels Directive.

clean energy forum“Renewable energy production is a key to sustainable economic development in rural America,” Vilsack said. “We must rapidly escalate the production of biofuels to meet the 2022 Federal Renewable Fuels standard goal, and much of this biofuel will come from feedstocks produced by America’s farmers and ranchers. This will be an increasing source of income for rural America and it represents an opportunity to increase the number of green jobs available not only to farm families, but to residents of rural communities.”

Two panels moderated by the Secretary consisted of administration, academic and science professionals discussing efforts to help rural America build a clean energy economy that creates jobs, reduces our dependence on foreign oil and enhances our competitive position in the global economy.

USDA Chief Economist Joe Glauber discussed the current situation for ethanol, with production outpacing use. “We are producing a lot of ethanol,” said Glauber. “It doesn’t mean we’re necessarily at the blend wall, but there is a lot of production out there for the supply.”

He noted that ethanol stocks have grown. “In February, stock numbers were close to 800 million gallons. That’s a record, that’s about 25 or so days of inventory,” Glauber said.

While the ethanol industry is hopeful that EPA will grant a waiver to allow up to 15 percent ethanol to be blended in regular gasoline, Glauber is doubtful that will be a quick fix. “I don’t think that a change to E15 will transform the situation overnight,” Glauber said, since he believes the transition at the pump level will take some time. If the EPA only grants a partial waiver for E15 in newer vehicle, Glauber says the transition will be even more complicated. “Then there will have to be E10 available for those older cars and E15 potentially available for younger cars, so it’s not a silver bullet for the constraints that we see ethanol production under right now.”

EPA continues to wait on data from the Department of Energy on vehicle testing before they make a final decision on the waiver request.

Ethanol Report on Oil Spill Response

Ethanol Report PodcastAddressing the tragedy hitting the Gulf of Mexico and coastal areas requires both an aggressive short term response and an equally aggressive long term energy and environmental strategy. Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Bob Dinneen is asking the Obama administration to take action to help increase the use of ethanol, starting with immediately allowing up to 12 percent ethanol in gasoline. This edition of “The Ethanol Report” features Dinneen’s comments on actions to promote increased ethanol production and use that could be taken in response to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

You can subscribe to this twice monthly podcast by following this link.

Listen to or download the podcast here:

Ford Will Meet It’s FFV Goal for 2010

In 2006, Ford, DaimlerChrysler and General Motors all promised to double annual FFV production to 2 million vehicles by 2010. Ford has announced that by the end of 2010, they will fulfill that promise.

In a letter that was addressed to Members of Congress on June 28, 2006, the automobile manufacturers stated:
When we met with leaders in Washington last month, we were encouraged to find deep, bipartisan determination to address the far reaching impact of our nation’s growing dependence on foreign oil. As we reiterated last month, we believe renewable fuels can play an important role in addressing this national problem. The good news is that ethanol and other biofuels are well known to our country and to the U.S. auto industry. For decades, farmers in the heartland have been turning corn into fuel, and, likewise, we at DaimlerChrysler, Ford, and General Motors have been building flexible vehicles that run on ethanol.

Today, there are more than 5 million flexible fuel vehicles on the road, and the three domestic automotive companies will add an additional million cars and trucks this year alone. If all of these vehicles were running on E85, they would displace more than 3.5 billion gallons of gasoline a year, or a full year of gas consumption in a state such as Missouri or Tennessee.

But we are prepared to do more. We are proud to announce that we will double our production of vehicles that are capable of running on renewable fuels by 2010. That’s more than two million E85 and biodiesel capable vehicles a year by the end of the decade – the single largest commitment to renewable fuels in our nation’s history.

Ford’s announcement was made today by Sue Cischke, Ford’s group vice president, Sustainability, Environment and Safety Engineering, at the 2010 BIO International Convention in Chicago. “Flexible-fuel vehicles are a great alternative for our customers because they provide owners with the option to choose between using E85 and gasoline when filling up a car,” Cischke said. “Ethanol and other biofuels also help reduce the county’s dependence on imported oil.”

Ford along with DaimlerChrysler and General Motors plans to expand its fleet of flexible-fuel vehicles to 50 percent of vehicle production by 2012.

Ford currently offers 11 FFV models within the U.S.

2011 Buick Regals to Be FFVs

The 2011 Buick Regals will soon join the line as being E85 compatible. Starting in the fall months, Buick retailers will have on their lots the Regal and the Lucerne as being able to use the clean burning product.

According to, the E85 capable 2.0-liter direct injected turbo four will begin arriving on lots in late August, along with the 2.4-liter. The turbo will be GM’s first production E85-capable turbocharged and direct injected engine. The engine was originally developed for the new Saab 9-5, which rides on the same Epsilon II platform as the Regal, and GM decided to install it in the U.S.-spec Buick as well. The new Regal has been available in China since late 2008.

According Jim Federico, vehicle line executive for the global midsize platform, combining direct injection and turbocharging will allow the new engine to get much closer to the volumetric fuel efficiency of gasoline while running on ethanol. Until now, normally aspirated flex-fuel engines typically have gotten about 15 percent worse fuel efficiency on ethanol. The Regal engine should cut that deficit to the mid-single digits and future versions should be just about even.

General Motors now offers a large selection of E85 compatible vehicles for purchase including the Chevrolet HHR, Malibu, Taho, Avalanche, Express, Impala and Suburban along with the GMC Yukon, Sierra, and Savana among others.

ND to Hold Ethanol Workshop

American Lung Association in North Dakota will be hosting an ethanol workshop at the National Energy Center of Excellence at Bismarck State College from 1-4:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 27.

The workshop is one of many that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is leading to inform industry, public and private fleet personnel, government employees, fuel retailers and providers, vehicle manufacturers and students on biodiesel, ethanol, natural gas, propane, fuel economy and idle reduction. The workshops are part of the Clean Transportation Education Project (CTEP) — a 2 year initiative funded by the U.S. Department of Energy to provide 48 alternative fuel and advanced transportation technology workshops across the U.S.

The workshops are also sponsored by the North Dakota Department of Commerce Office of Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency, Great Plains Energy Corridor and North Dakota Corn Council.

The state of North Dakota is offering $2 million for ethanol blender pump infrastructure. They are offering $5,000 per pump with a cap of $40,000 per station. For more information on this grant opportunity, click here.

For more information on the free workshop, contact Don Kaiser at (701) 225-4143.

NASCAR Eyes Ethanol Blends for 2011

NASCAR teams are testing 15 percent ethanol blended fuel for use in the 2011 Sprint Cup series.

farmer nascarFoxSports reports that Hendrick Motorsports is already testing the fuel and Roush Yates engines will start development with E15 in the next few weeks. The Fox story also indicates that POET could be under consideration as a possible supplier for the fuel.

According to, Sprint Cup Series Director John Darby says the work is still “a research project” and that officials are considering a variety of fuels with different percentages of ethanol.

“Once we had an actual blended ethanol fuel,” Darby said, “you have to have a fair amount of time for the teams to test and work whatever concerns they may have. … Is six months a fair guess? Yeah, but it’s a guess at best.”

Last month, NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton was quoted as saying about ethanol in the series, “We’re still looking at the fuel and what ratio percentage that we will use when we get there. Our goal when we set out… was to happen in 2011.”

In the meantime, Furniture Row Racing is introducing a Heartland agriculture-themed car pictured above in a few races starting this summer. The concept car was developed to promote American farmers and ranchers. The car is scheduled to run in three races later this year.