Grand Opening Brings Wall Street to the Heartland

US Bioenergy US BioEnergy Corporation (NASDAQ: USBE) is celebrating the grand opening Wednesday of the company’s newest ethanol production facility by ringing the closing bell on the NASDAQ from the plant in Albert City, Iowa. The feat will be accomplished remotely via satellite from the 100 mgy plant which actually started operations in December.

NASDAQ“Most companies go to New York in order to do this type of ceremony,” said US BioEnergy CEO Gordon Ommen. “Since we are a midwest company, really founded on the American farmer and those relationships, we thought we’d have New York come to rural America and meet us on our ground.”

OmmenUS BioEnergy is the largest “pure play” ethanol producer in the country. “The largest producer of ethanol in the U.S. is ADM,” said Ommen. “We are the second largest producer of ethanol and the largest ‘pure play’ producer, which means ethanol is our primary product.”

U.S. BioEnergy partners include Fagen, Inc. and Cenex Harvest States. The company currently owns and operates three ethanol plants and has five additional ethanol plants under construction. They just announced the beginning of construction on a 100 million gallon per year facility near Grinnell, Iowa which is co-owned by Big River Resources, LLC.

Listen to an interview with Ommen here. Listen To MP3 Ommen Interview (5:00 min MP3)

Ag Outlook Forum Focuses on Energy

Outlook Forum The theme for USDA’s 83rd annual Agricultural Outlook Forum next month is “Agriculture at the Crossroads: Energy, Farm and Rural Policy.”

“USDA’s 2007 Agricultural Outlook Forum explores renewable energy’s future in biofuels, cellulosic, methane, and wind,” said Johanns. “The Forum’s national conversation about agriculture centers on the fascinating opportunities and challenges of renewable energy in the next farm bill and beyond.”

“Renewable Energy – Inroads to Agriculture,” the Forum’s plenary panel, includes Archer Daniels Midland President and CEO Patricia Woertz; Cargill Chairman and CEO Warren R. Staley; American Petroleum Institute President and Chairman Red Cavaney; and CHS, Inc. President and CEO John Johnson.

The forum will also address the “U.S. Potential for Biofuels,” featuring Renewable Fuels Association Bob Dinneen, and William Frey, DuPont’s Global Business Director for Biofuels, will explore the marketplace for biobutanol.

The forum will be held March 1 and 2 at the Crystal Gateway Marriott Hotel in Arlington, Virginia.

Michigan Gov to Call for Massive Alt Fuels Initiative

Michigan Governor Jennifer M. Granholm The Detroit Free Press is reporting today that in tonight’s State of the State address Michigan Governor Jennifer M. Granholm will call for $100 million in state spending over the next three years on alternative energy in Michigan.

Here’s some of the anticipated highlights:

• Investing about $50 million over three years in public and private sector money to pay for the research and pilot programs of alternative energy companies in Michigan.

• A loan fund of about $12 million that would help the state’s alternative energy entrepreneurs reduce their debt and lower costs of capital access for renewable resources.

• Spending about $7 million to install about 1,000 biodiesel and ethanol pumps across the state by the end of 2008.

• Targeting $20 million of state money and at least $11 million from private resources toward the Venture Michigan Fund to help the commercialization of alternative energy companies across the state.

In addition, Granholm is expected to call for legislation that would require utilities to produce at least 10% of their energy from alternative sources such as wind and biofuels.

Explorer, Environmentalist, Educator and Ethanol Evangelist

Will and Bear The dogs may be pulling the sled when world-renowned arctic explorer Will Steger departs on his latest expedition February 14, but the trip will be powered by ethanol.

When Steger was looking for sponsors to support his Global Warming 101 expedition, he decided that the ethanol industry would be a natural choice.

“I’ve been talking up the benefits of ethanol for 18 years,” Steger said. “I wrote a book in 1988 and in that book I talked about ethanol as being one of the solutions.”

So, Steger approached Ron Fagen, president of Fagen, Inc. in Granite Falls, Minnesota, about the idea last year and Ron not only jumped at the opportunity, he brought the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council (EPIC) on board as well.

Fagens Will and Jeff“The world has become acutely aware that the use of fossil fuels is warming our planet at an alarming rate,” said Fagen. “We are honored to support his efforts to document these effects and inspire changes that will halt this trend.”

Steger says he really believes that if Americans use more ethanol it will make a positive difference in the global climate situation and it has other benefits as well. “It’s best for our economy and our national security and above all supporting our people in the rural areas,” he said. Steger is pictured here with Ron and Diane Fagen and Team Ethanol Indy Car driver Jeff Simmons.

Listen to a brief interview with Will done at the Mukluk Ball this past weekend in Ely, Minnesota. Listen To MP3 Steger Interview (1:30 min MP3)

To help support the Global Warming 101 expedition, EPIC is selling cute little polar bears in ethanol t-shirts, like the one Will is holding in the top picture. Go to www.drivingethanol.org and click on the e-mart link on the right side of the home page, then choose “polar expedition” under merchandise categories. They also have t-shirts.

Download Freedom Fuels for Free

Freedom Fuels The documentary “Freedom Fuels” is now available for free download.

“Freedom Fuels” takes an in-depth look at renewable fuel sources, such as bio-diesel, ethanol and vegetable oil. It explores the interaction of the petroleum industry and alternative fuels over the last 150 years, and examines the global impact that bio-fuels can have on our future.

Visit www.mofilms.org to download the documentary. Download instructions are on the web page. Quicktime 7 is required to view the movie, and is also available for free download on the site.

Saudi Alabama?

This story in the e-zine Tuscaloosanews.com (a weekly on-line publication produced by the students and faculty of the University of Alabama’s College of Communications) says that the raw products in Alabama have the state poised to be the next Saudi Arabia… at least in the alternative fuels world. Using a combination of fuels produced from chicken poop, cellulose from the massive amount of wood products in the state, switchgrass, and a growing biodiesel industry in Alabama (made from locally grown soybeans), experts believe the state could be on the verge of something big:

David Bransby, Auburn U. “I often say we are the Saudi Arabia of biomass,” said David Bransby, professor of energy and fiber crops forage-livestock management at Auburn University. “I think those two resources: wood and broiler litter. If we had the technologies to produce the energy from them — to make the liquid fuels from them commercially competitive — we could start tomorrow because they’re all sitting there waiting. That material is all there.

Must be pretty big for Alabama students promoting the thoughts of someone from Auburn! The story goes on to say the state already has one biodiesel plant, another one coming on-line in March, and seven more in the works.

The state legislature has been a little slow to act, but now there is at least one tax incentive proposed, and Gov. Bob Riley has put together an alternative energies advisory panel.

Global Warming at 28 Below

A quick Google news search for “global warming” today turns up nearly 2,000 articles in the first heading, thanks to a new study that says global warming is “underway right now, humans caused it, and it will continue for centuries, no matter what we do.”

The study was released in Paris by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

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BodmanAt a press conference in Washington, U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said, “Human activity is contributing to changes in the Earth’s climate. That issue is no longer up for debate.”

Bodman said the Bush administration’s energy policies “go hand in hand with our efforts to address climate change,” with an emphasis on more research for hydrogen, solar power and ethanol production technologies.

That echoes the views expressed just last month by arctic explorer Will Steger in a press release announcing that the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council will be sponsoring his Global Warming 101 expedition this year. “There’s never been a more critical time to act. The debate is over,” said Steger. “Ethanol is available now to consumers. A renewable fuel, it’s a critical part of the solution.”

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Ely MNSteger’s expedition is scheduled to head off to the Great White North on Valentine’s Day, but this weekend he will be celebrating with a send-off party in his home town of Ely, Minnesota. The event will be held at the Mukluk Ball, part of the Ely Winter Festival.

This Domestic Fuel reporter will be there, decked out in faux mukluks and a brand-new down coat, hoping to survive the frigid festivities. The AccuWeather forecast calls for a low of 28 degrees below zero Saturday night.

Secretary of Agriculture Asked About Feed Prices

Mike JohannsSecretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns gave a speech during this morning’s general session here at the Cattle Industry Convention and afterward he held a press conference.

He was asked about ethanol and the effect that increased production has had on livestock feed prices and offers some administration thoughts on the subject which include the promotion and development of cellulosic ethanol. He also was asked about using sugar to make ethanol with. Both answers are in this sound bite.

Download and listen to Sec. Johanns here: Mike Johanns Press Conference (2 min. MP3 File)

A Cattleman’s Perspective

Mike John & John QueenThis week I’ve been attending the Cattle Industry Convention and like last week at the International Poultry Expo the buzz word is ethanol. I’ve heard it in the hallways and I’ve heard it in presentations. This morning I interviewed Mike John on the left and John Queen on the right. Mike’s the outgoing president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and John is the incoming. The changeover takes place tomorrow.

I asked them about the challenges they faced and will face in the cattle business and asked them about ethanol and the price impact to their industry for feed. They know that in the short time it’s creating some challenges and make it clear that whatever policy action NCBA takes on this issue, it will come from the grass roots membership.

Download and listen to my interview with them here: John-John Interview (4 min. MP3 File)

Senate Energy Committee Holds Biofuels Conference

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Senate SealAn all-day conference on biofuels was held Thursday by the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

The conference featured six panels and 33 witnesses from industry, agriculture, infrastructure, research and development. Much of the testimony focused on the need for increased funding to develop cellulosic technology.

National Commission on Energy Policy Counsel David Conover told the committee they should restructure renewable energy subsidies to put more emphasis on cellulosic ethanol and less on corn-based ethanol, reports Dow Jones newswire.

“We certainly don’t want to demonize corn ethanol, because it’s certainly better than gasoline,” Conover told the senators, referring to ethanol’s air quality and energy independence benefits. “But federal subsidies really ought to be targeted to…the valley of death.”

Cellulosic ethanol, a motor fuel that can be produced from biomass like wood chips, switchgrass and corn stover, is one of those technologies in the so-called valley of death, he said. Conover pointed out that cellulosic ethanol plants are expensive and can’t compete with corn ethanol. Thus, subsidies would help boost the technology, he said.

DuPontOn the Emerging Biofuels panel, DuPont Vice President of Bio-Based Technology Dr. John Pierce provided an overview of the company’s strategy to accelerate biofuels production.

Pierce told the committee that DuPont’s three-part strategy entails: (1) improving existing ethanol production through differentiated agricultural seed products and crop protection chemicals; (2) developing and supplying new technologies to allow conversion of cellulose to biofuels; and (3) developing and supplying next generation biofuels with improved performance.

Earth BiofuelsImperiumEarth Biofuels Inc. of Texas and Imperium Renewables of Seattle were among the witnesses who discussed the infrastructue situation mainly from a biodiesel perspective. Earth Biofuels is the exclusive distributor for Bio-Willie and Imperium is largest producer of biodiesel on the West Coast.

Tennessee Wants to Become Biofuels Leader

Tennessee Governor It seems like just about every state lately is getting into the biofuels race wanting to become a leader.

The latest is Tennessee, where Governor Phil Bredensen announced that his “proposed 2007-2008 budget will include $61 million for a comprehensive alternative fuels strategy to position Tennessee to be a national leader in the production of biomass ethanol and related research.”

Bredesen’s proposed budget includes $40 million to build a pilot biomass ethanol plant that will operate at a capacity of five million gallons per year.

“We know we can make ethanol from grassy and woody materials,” Bredesen said. “The challenge is producing it in large volumes and at a price that is competitive with gasoline, and in proving we can be the ones to take the discovery from the laboratory to the marketplace.”

Ethanol Continues to Fuel ADM Profits

ADMShares for Archer Daniels Midland Co. took their biggest leap in over eight years as the world’s biggest corn and oilseed processor announced a second-quarter profit increase of 20 percent.

ADM’s net income rose to $441.3 million, or 67 cents a share, in the last three months of 2006, compared to $367.7 million, or 56 cents, a year earlier. Sales were up 18 percent to $11 billion, mainly due to increased prices for ethanol and corn sweeteners.

ADM CEO Patricia Woertz says the country’s biggest ethanol producer plans to get even bigger, with plans to increase production by 50 percent by the end of next year. The company currently produces 1.1 million gallons a year – about 20 percent of total US production.

Woertz said in a conference call Thursday that she expects commercial use of cellulosic ethanol to happen before the end of the decade, with some commercialization maybe as early as just two years down the road.

A webcast of the conference call is available on-line.

Farm Bill Proposals Stress Cellulosic Ethanol

Farm Bill A word that few people even knew just five years ago when the last farm bill was written is all over the Bush administration’s 2007 farm bill proposals released Wednesday. That word is “cellulosic.”

As announced last week
, the proposals include $1.6 billion in new funding for renewable energy research, development and production, targeted for cellulosic ethanol, which will support $2.1 billion in guaranteed loans for cellulosic projects and includes $500 million for a bio-energy and bio-based product research initiative.

In addition, the conservation proposal includes incentives for production of biomass on land in the Conservation Reserve Program. Natural Resources Conservation Service Chief Arlen Lancaster said, “We would prioritize those lands that would be used for growing cellulosic crops like perennial grasses that continue to provide a soil benefit and a wildlife benefit.”

Cellulosic is also a part of the forestry proposal. “We’re proposing to initiate a new $150 million wood-to-energy program as part of the president’s mission to expand the use of renewable and alternative fuels,” said Johanns. “To accelerate development of new technologies to use low-value woody biomass to produce energy. We have an abundance of this around the country.”

In an interview with Secretary Johanns after the announcement, he said the emphasis on moving toward cellulosic ethanol will help address the concerns that have been raised about increased demand for corn. “I think the livestock industry was very concerned that what we would be proposing is promoting more corn-based ethanol. Our proposals are targeted at cellulosic ethanol. We believe this is the next step.”

Listen to the ethanol portion of my interview with Johanns: Listen To MP3 Johanns Interview (2:45 min MP3)

Details of the administration farm bill proposals can be found at www.usda.gov/farmbill.

Ethanol Representatives Witness First Indy Open Test

Indy Car SeriesThe IndyCar® Series held its first Open Test of the season Wednesday at Daytona International Speedway where for the first time all IndyCar Series cars ran on 100 percent fuel-grade ethanol.

Ethanol Promotion and Information Council Executive Director Tom Slunecka said the IndyCar® drivers he talked to in Daytona are proud to be a part of the change to a fuel that is better for the environment and the economy, as well as being happy with its performance in their cars. Plus, the fumes of the farm-based fuel are less harmful and smell better.

“Methanol is a very gaseous-type smell – makes your eyes water and your throat tighten up. But, today as these engines cranked up for the very first time, the sweet smell of ethanol wafted over the paddock,” Slunecka said. “And all of these drivers and mechanics are so appreciative of the fact that these fumes that they are breathing today are non-toxic and their jobs just got a whole lot healthier.”

RenovaAlso in Daytona to watch the test was Dan Schwartzkopf, senior vice president of Renova Energy in Torrington, Wyo., the facility which was contracted by EPIC to supply approximately 120,000 gallons of ethanol to the IndyCar Series this season.

“In the conversations that I have had with the crews, everybody seems to like the ethanol. No bad remarks whatsoever. So, I think it’s going to be promising from this point on to see it not only here in Indy but in a number of other motor sports venues,” Schwartzkopf said.

The 17 race IndyCar® Series opens March 24, 2007 with the Homestead-Miami 300.

Listen to an interview with Tom Slunecka from the track in Daytona: Listen To MP3 Slunecka Interview (4 min MP3)