The National Ethanol Conference is underway in Tucson, AZ. Today is golf tournament day and RFA President and CEO, Bob Dinneen, welcomed everyone before they headed out on the course.
I interviewed Bob right before the start to get an overview of what takes place at the annual Conference. One of the things he says that I think is interesting is that that sales are made here for up to 70 percent of the ethanol sold during the summer months.
You can listen to my interview with Bob here: Interview with Bob Dinneen. (4 min MP3)
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In this edition of “Fill Up, Feel Good” we explore an explorer’s efforts to educate people about global climate change and how ethanol is helping.
Artic explorer Will Steger is leading a 1200-mile, four-month-long dogsled expedition across the Canadian Arctic’s Baffin Island. Ethanol plant builder Fagen, Inc., and the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council are the primary sponsors of Global Warming 101. More information, regular updates, and educational information from the expedition can be found at www.globalwarming101.com.
The “Fill up, Feel Good” podcast is available to download by subscription (see our sidebar link) or you can listen to it by clicking here. (5:00 MP3 File)
The Fill Up, Feel Good theme music is “Tribute to Joe Satriani” by Alan Renkl, thanks to the Podsafe Music Network.
“Fill up, Feel Good” is sponsored by the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council.
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Making ethanol from wood could help prevent forest fires.
The Wisconsin State Journal did an interview with Chris Risbrudt, director of the U.S. Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, about that potential. Risbrudt says ethanol is a possible solution to thinning the smaller trees that lead to forest fires.
Q: So U.S. forests need to be thinned?
A: Yes. That’s one reason we spent $1.3 billion fighting forest fires (last) year in the Forest Service; because nature is trying to remove that biomass and get back to the amount it should have. If we thin it to prevent or reduce the impacts of wild fire, it costs us $1,000 per acre because we’re not making many products out of that stuff. We’re trying to figure out how to make products out of that so we can reduce the cost of thinning national forests down to zero.
Q: What products are you working on that would come from that surplus biomass?
A: Ethanol is the big one we’re working on right now. It’s got huge potential. But trees are made up of three major components: lignan, which is the glue, hemicellulose and cellulose. And they’re just sugar molecules strung together.
But (with) the way the tree puts them together, it’s very hard to take it back apart efficiently, so we’re working on that. In fact, the Department of Energy is also working on it, funding projects. They call it the recalcitrant cellulose problem. It just doesn’t want to break down back into sugar very easily.
Q: How close are you to a solution?
A: We’ve patented a strain of yeast called pichia stipitis and licensed it to a company called Xethanol Corp. and they’re building plants right now to make cellulosic ethanol.
Risbrudt says it’s not commerically profitable yet, but they are working on it.
Ethanol is still the king of biofuels in the U.S., but biodiesel is making, and will continue to make, big gains… that’s according to a USDA long-term projection reported on CattleNetwork.com:
Biodiesel production capacity and output have increased rapidly in the past 2 years and are projected to rise rapidly again in 2007/08. Slower growth is then projected for several years, with biodiesel output leveling off beyond 2010/11 as higher soybean oil prices reduce profitability. At its projected high of 700 million gallons, biodiesel uses about 23 percent of soybean oil production, but accounts for less than 2 percent of highway diesel fuel use in the United States.
The story goes on to say that most of the U.S. biofuel expansion over the next few years will be dominated by ethanol produced from corn.
When cellulosic ethanol will become commercially viable is a big question that has many answers.
There are those, for instance, who believe the challenges to making cellulosic commerically viable are too great to be overcome in less than a decade, maybe even two decades.
Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns says, “You get some difference of opinion, but I really do think it’s fair to say that somewhere near the end of this decade, the first part of the next decade, you’ll see it as viable.” Johanns believes that is actually a conservative estimate – he is optimistic that commercial viability will happen sooner.
The question will be a topic at the National Ethanol Conference this week in Tucson, AZ. The answers will be explored during the final panel discussion of the conference on Wednesday by Nathanael Greene, Senior Policy Analyst with the Natural Resources Defense Council; Dr. Daniel De La Torre Ugarte, Associate Professor at the University of Tennessee; and Corey Radtke, Idaho National Laboratory scientist.
Follow the proceedings of the conference, which starts Monday, on the National Ethanol Conference blog.
The Ethanol Promotion and Information Council (EPIC) has elected several new industry leaders to its Board of Directors.
They are James Redding of Nebraska Energy, LLC; Melissa Ullerich of VeraSun Energy, Aurora; Gary Pestorious, EXOL; Alan Jentz, Amaizing Energy; Revis Stephenson, Advanced BioEnergy; and Kristi Lee, U.S. BioEnergy, Platte Valley. All newly elected board members will serve three-year terms.
Tom Branhan of Glacial Lakes Energy was re-elected as President of the board. “We’ve made tremendous strides in the last year in educating the public about ethanol. We’ll continue those efforts while moving forward with states on our voluntary branding initiatives at the pumps,” said Branhan. “Building demand for ethanol is a focus of our efforts.”
Other officers are James Redding, newly elected as Vice President, and Greg Krissek of Prairie Horizon Agri Energy, re-elected as Secretary/Treasurer. The remainder of the board includes Walter Kittrell of Fagen, Inc.; Dave Vander Griend, Lifeline Foods; and Larry Ward, Broin Companies.
Formed in May of 2005, EPIC now represents nearly half of the nation’s ethanol production facilities in addition to a growing number of companies and organizations that supply and support the ethanol industry.
Here is a great editorial by Mark Bennett of the Terre Haute (Ind) Tribune-Star.
Basically, he summarizes all of the criticisms being thrown at ethanol and says that, as a matter of national security, he’d still rather pay for a home-grown fuel than subsidize Middle Eastern countries.
If self-serving interests in farm states such as Iowa, Nebraska and Indiana drive up the price of corn and, thus, ethanol, we’re not likely to end up in an armed conflict. No amount of economic inefficiency offsets that price.
Bennett also points out the “hidden costs” of sticking with oil because it is “cheaper.”
Americans pay beyond the pump price for gasoline. Those added costs include the human and financial toll from military conflicts, as well as the expense of having to guard international shipping routes, not to mention directly and indirectly subsidizing unsavory governments controlling oil-producing countries.
Many more good points in his op-ed piece – a very good read.
Some Domestic Fuel readers may criticize us for not being more “balanced” in our coverage of mainly ethanol news – in other words, not reporting all the negative stuff. There’s plenty of that out there. We believe strongly that ethanol is part of the solution – not all, just part – and we are not going to criticize it or any other potential solutions to making our country more energy independent.
A cellulosic ethanol demonstration plant broke ground Friday in Jennings, Louisiana – the first of its kind in the United States.
Massachusettes-based Celunol Corporation also celebrated the grand opening of the nation’s first cellulosic ethanol pilot facility. Celunol officials were joined in the celebrations by dignitaries from federal, state and local government, including Louisiana Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco.
“These two milestones mark a significant step forward for Louisiana and our nation,” said Governor Blanco in a news release. “Cellulosic ethanol represents a new way to pursue the goals of increased energy security and economic development for our rural economy, while protecting the quality of our environment. We congratulate Celunol and its partners on these milestones, and look forward to the growth of this promising new industry here in Louisiana.”
Renewable Fuels Association president Bob Dinneen also congratulated the company on the accomplishment.
“To achieve the goals for renewable fuel use put forth by President Bush and Members of Congress, it will take the commercialization of cellulosic ethanol technology,” said Dinneen. “That commercialization took a big step forward today.”
When completed, the combined facilities will have the capacity to produce nearly 1.5 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol a year.
With a nominal production of 50,000 gallons per year, the pilot facility will further refine technology to convert biomass such as sugarcane bagasse, wood chips and other abundant biomass sources into ethanol. The demonstration facility will use locally-grown energy cane and sugarcane bagasse in ethanol production.
It’s official – the 12th Annual National Ethanol Conference has a new blog.
The Renewable Fuels Association made the announcement in a press release:
The RFA is pleased to bring you complete coverage of the NEC in real time at the National Ethanol Conference Blog (www.ethanolrfa.org/industry/conference/blog/). The NEC Blog will feature recaps, photos and text of speakers’ remarks, as well as providing a feel for the atmosphere inside the conference.
“As the premiere policy conference for the ethanol industry, the NEC has seen interest in the event grow nearly as quickly as the industry itself,” said RFA President Bob Dinneen. “As such, the RFA is pleased to offer an up-to-the minute accounting of conference events to those unable to attend. The use of new media is critical to providing policy makers, business leaders, media and other interested parties with current and accurate information. Following the conference, the RFA will continue to maintain the blog as a resource for those interested in the latest news from Washington impacting the U.S. ethanol industry.”
This year’s blog is being operated by Chuck Zimmerman of ZimmComm New Media. In addition to operating blogs for renewable fuel events, ZimmComm is also the publisher of DomesticFuel.com.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s latest projections, ethanol will dominate the farm economy for the next decade.
USDA’s Interagency Agricultural Projections Committee, headed by the World Agricultural Outlook Board, this week released “USDA Agricultural Projections to 2016.” According to the report, “strong expansion of corn-based ethanol production in the projections affects virtually every aspect of the field crops sector, ranging from domestic demand and exports to prices and the allocation of acreage among crops.”
USDA analyst David Stallings says by the year 2009, ethanol will consume 30 percent of US corn production, compared to last year’s 20 percent. He expects acreage to increase to as much as 90 million acres by that year and prices to level off after that.
“We see a fairly rapid increase in corn prices for 2007-08 and 2008-09, and then peaking in 2009-10 at an average farm price of $3.75 per bushel,” said Stallings. They don’t expect corn prices to drop below $3.00 a bushel for the next decade.
Saab plans to unveil a 100 percent bioethanol-powered engine in Geneva next month.
According to a news release:
GM Powertrain CEO Kjell ac Bergstrom said: ‘Bioethanol is a potent, high-quality fuel which opens up exciting possibilities in helping to meet the environmental challenges that face us. As the need to reduce energy consumption increases, we are exploring ways to run smaller engines that give relatively high power, with and without hybrid technology. This concept car shows that bioethanol can play a key role in this “right-sizing” process, while also minimizing fossil fuel emissions.’
International commodity trading company Louis Dreyfus is buying an addition four sugar ethanol mills in Brazil to become the second-biggest sugarcane processor in the country.
According to a Bloomberg.com report, Paris-based Louis Dreyfus, which already owns four sugar and ethanol mills in Brazil, expects the acquisition to boost sugarcane processing to 18.5 million metric tons by 2009, from 11.8 million tons this year, the company said in a statement. Financial terms of the acquisition weren’t disclosed.
Colorado motorists will soon have 40 more pumps to fill up with 85 percent ethanol.
According to a press release from Colorado Governor Bill Ritter’s office, 40 new E85 fuel pumps will open at 22 gas stations around this state this year, thanks to an effort by General Motors to expand the availability of the ethanol blend.
In addition to General Motors’ national effort, the Colorado expansion has been spearheaded by the Colorado E85 Coalition, a group of private companies, non-profit organizations, and government agencies dedicated to increasing Colorado’s use of renewable fuels. Two Colorado retailers, Pester Marketing and Western Convenience, will be installing E85 pumps in a total of 22 stations statewide with assistance from the Colorado E85 Coalition.
Arizona-based Diversified Energy, has announced a “breakthrough biofuels technology” that they say “offers a “100% green” biofuel product containing no fossil fuel components.”
According to a company release, the patent-pending process, termed Centia™, “provides several key advantages when compared with other biofuel processes like biodiesel, ethanol and others.”
Centia™, a name derived from Crudus Potentia (meaning “green power” in Latin), can utilize feedstock oils from edible and inedible animal fats, waste oils, agriculture crops like soybean, algae, newly proposed energy crops, or any other lipid-based feedstock.
Diversified is developing Centia through an exclusive worldwide licensing agreement with North Carolina State University.
Deere & Company announced worldwide net income of $238.7 million, or $1.04 per share, for the first quarter ended January 31, compared with $235.9 million, or $0.99 per share, for the same period last year, according to a company release.
Strong operating performance and a positive customer response to the company’s advanced products and services contributed to the quarter’s results, noted Robert W. Lane, chairman and chief executive officer. “This success puts the company in a stronger position to serve a growing customer base worldwide. In conjunction with increasing demand for renewable fuels and other positive global economic factors, it also strengthens our ability to deliver strong financial results,” said Lane.
According to an AP report, “analysts credited Deere’s rosier forecast and stock surge to rising production of corn-based ethanol, which has yielded high grain prices that give farmers more money to invest in equipment.”