Bacterium, Nitrogen Gas to Partner for Ethanol

nitrogenbacteria1Researchers at the University of Indiana might have come upon a way to partner bacterium with nitrogen gas to make more ethanol. This news release from the school says biologists there have found a faster, cheaper and cleaner way to increase ethanol production by using nitrogen gas, the most abundant gas in Earth’s atmosphere. The discovery could help make cellulosic ethanol more competitive with corn-based ethanol.

The raw materials for cellulosic ethanol are low in nitrogen, a nutrient required for ethanol-producing microbes to grow, so cellulosic ethanol producers are estimated to spend millions of dollars annually on nitrogen fertilizers like corn steep liquor and diammonium phosphate. But an IU team led by biologist James B. McKinlay has found that the bioethanol-producing bacterium Zymomonas mobilis can use nitrogen gas (N2) as a nitrogen source, something that the more traditional ethanol-producer, baker’s yeast, cannot do.

“When we discovered that Z. mobilis could use N2 we expected that it would make less ethanol. N2 utilization and ethanol production demand similar resources within the bacterial cell so we expected resources to be pulled away from ethanol production to allow the bacteria to grow with N2,” McKinlay said. “To our surprise the ethanol yield was unchanged when the bacteria used N2. In fact, under certain conditions, the bacteria converted sugars to ethanol much faster when they were fed N2.”

Knowing the bacterium could use N2 without hindering ethanol production, the team reasoned that N2 gas could serve as an inexpensive substitute for nitrogen fertilizers during cellulosic ethanol production.

“Until recently, ethanol has been produced almost entirely from food crops, but last year there was a surge in cellulosic ethanol production as several commercial facilities opened,” McKinlay said. “Cellulosic ethanol offers more favorable land use and lower carbon emissions than conventional ethanol production. Even so, cellulosic ethanol is struggling to be cost-competitive against corn ethanol and gasoline.”

The researchers believe N2 gas, which can be produced on-site at production facilities, could save an ethanol production facility more than $1 million dollars a year. They have filed for a provisional patent on the idea.

Book Review: Fractured Land

When is the last time you filled up your tank with a gallon of gas that was less than $2? For me, today. As oil prices have plummeted with gas prices falling suit, many people are attributing all the extra oil to fracking. But what is the cost, financially and environmentally speaking, of oil drilled in this manner?

Fractured Land by Lisa Westberg PetersA new book by Lisa Westberg Peters, Fractured Land: The Price of Inheriting Oil,” takes a look at these very issues. Interestingly, Peter is a self-proclaimed environmentalist who inherited land in North Dakota that is part of the state’s “fracking” oil boom. She acknowledges her discomfort with fracking technology, but attempted to keep an open mind during her educational journey to learn more.

When Peters father passes away and she is going through his things, she comes across all the documents related to his oil/fracking royalties that she will eventual inherit. The book follows her as she learns more about her family’s oil history, her research about fracking, which she is theoretically opposed to, and the family’s trip to North Dakota, where they have oil contracts, and spread her father’s ashes. The prose flows nicely as she weaves in and out between her family history and the information she learns about fracking.

From an energy perspective, despite being from the Midwest and current residing in Minnesota, she is opposed to the use of biofuels. She writes, “We don’t have petrochemicals in Minnesota, so we grow corn for ethanol. Homegrown alternative energy! I should be enthused about ethanol, but the production plants are water and energy hogs.”

Peters does address the chemicals and water used in fracking, albeit briefly and I feel she could have done a better job of addressing her environmental concerns over some of the issues brought on by fracking (potential for contaminated water, excessive water use that is much worse than other forms of alternative energy, mining of the frac sand, etc.).

Ultimately she chooses to keep her mineral rights when they come to her but she decides to donate a portion of them back to North Dakota to aid those who are struggling with high rents or the natural areas threatened by oil development. She concludes that while she will benefit financially from oil drilling, it brings her little joy.

Click here to purchase the book.

POET Fights Pollution in Haiti with Ethanol Stoves

ethanolstove1An American ethanol company is fighting fighting pollution and deforestation in Haiti with ethanol-fueled cook stoves. This news release from POET says the company has partnered with with Project Gaia to replace wood-burning stoves with the clean-burning, ethanol-fueled ones.

Today, most Haitians rely on charcoal and firewood to cook their daily meals. Consequentially, the nation has experienced extreme deforestation over the years, and now less than 2 percent of Haiti’s forest cover remains. Additionally, the United Nations estimates that the average lifespan in Haiti is shortened by 6.6 years due to illnesses caused by household air pollution, which results from burning wood and charcoal indoors.

To help remedy this problem, POET is teaming up with Project Gaia to supply the ethanol needed to power clean-burning stoves. Dometic, another partner in the project, is supplying the stoves, which will eventually be made locally, and Novogaz is organizing local distribution in Haiti. POET has selected POET Biorefining – Jewell to produce the ethanol needed to fuel the cook stoves. Project partners gathered in Haiti this past April to develop and discuss a plan to bring U.S. ethanol to Haiti for home cooking.

“The vision for this project is clear: to bring clean-burning ethanol fuel to the homes in third-world countries in order to improve the standard of living and drive positive socio-economic change,” said [POET Founder and Executive Chairman of the Board Jeff ]Broin. “For decades, we’ve known ethanol to be a clean, renewable fuel for our automobiles, and I look forward to bringing this same clean, renewable fuel to homes across the globe. With the help of our partners at Project Gaia, Dometic and Novogaz, I know we will be successful in our journey to bring clean cookstoves and clean energy to the world.”

POET is donating about 12,000 gallons of ethanol to jumpstart the project.

Project Gaia officials say that if every home in Africa, Developing Asia, Latin America and the Middle East currently using traditional solid fuels (charcoal, wood and other biomass substrates) would switch to ethanol fuel for cooking, it would save between 250 and 550 million forest acres per year.

Greenbelt to Capture Ethanol from Wine Making

greenbelt_logoA California company will make a new system to capture the ethanol from wine production to sell the gas for commercial purposes. This news release from sustainable energy company Greenbelt Resources says the company will make the system for EcoPAS, engineering company for the California wine industry, that keeps the gaseous ethanol from the fermentation process from becoming an environmental emission.

“After a rigorous bidding process and extensive consideration, we chose Greenbelt Resources. With their cutting-edge ethanol technology and expertise we see a long-term relationship with Greenbelt as our partner,” said Marci Norkin-Schoepel, co-founder of EcoPAS. “By selecting Greenbelt Resources, we benefit not only from their innovative, green manufacturing capabilities, but also their experience in ethanol condensation, which allows the potential for future collaboration beyond contract manufacturing.”

EcoPAS selected Greenbelt Resources as a manufacturing partner to fabricate the initial full-scale PAS units based on Greenbelt’s technology accolades, extensive industry experience and reputation for delivering performance outcomes that exceed customer expectations. A portion of the product produced by the PAS may serve as an excellent feedstock for Greenbelt’s traditional modular distillation and dehydration systems.

“The invention of the PAS by EcoPAS is significant because of its ability to passively perform ethanol vapor-capture without the need for complex controls or major energy inputs – making it a truly environmentally friendly pollution control system,” said Darren Eng, CEO of Greenbelt Resources Corporation. “The EcoPAS management and design team share our vision and have created a growth industry simply by producing a much needed passive, pollution-control solution. Once a critical mass of Passive Alcohol Systems is deployed, the resulting volume of ethanol-containing product can generate demand for distillation and dehydration systems built by Greenbelt Resources from wineries and other fermentation processers in the US and internationally.”

Completion of this full-scale system is expected by the middle of this year.

Corn and Ethanol Groups Blast Report

A report critical of corn-based ethanol is being blasted by groups representing the corn and ethanol industries as being the same old arguments that have been roundly rejected and criticized by the scientific community and disproven by the empirical data, as well as smacking of Big Oil’s efforts to discredit an American success story. The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) and Growth Energy all released statements critical of “new” research from the World Resources Institute, where Tim Searchinger and Ralph Heimlich re-hash their already disproven theories of “food vs. fuel” and “Indirect Land Use Change.”

ace14-dc-alversonSouth Dakota corn grower and a member of the Corn Board Keith Alverson said:

“This ‘new’ study is just more of the same, tired arguments Big Oil have been using for years. They simply are not true. In fact, numerous studies by independent, unbiased third parties have come to vastly different conclusions.

The fact is, ethanol is a very efficient energy source. When calculating the amount of energy used to produce ethanol, from farm to pump, ethanol represents a 40 percent net energy gain. No other energy source comes close. Ethanol is also better for the environment: reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 110 million metric tons, the equivalent of taking 20 million vehicles off the road.

There is more than enough corn to meet all demands: food, fuel, feed, and fiber.”

nafb-14-dinneenBob Dinneen, the Renewable Fuels Association’s president and CEO, said:

“Providing a cursory update of a failed theory is not science and does nothing to enlighten the debate about biofuels. For the better part of a decade, lawyer-activist Tim Searchinger has been promoting the flawed notion that increased biofuel use places unnecessary constraints on finite agricultural land resources. But, the “land use change” and “food vs. fuel” arguments are as wrong today as they were seven years ago when Searchinger first gained notoriety with his doomsday predictions…. In fact, Iowa State University’s Center for Agricultural and Rural Development put this issue to bed last November, finding that ‘…the primary land use change response of the world’s farmers in the last 10 years has been to use available land resources more efficiently rather than to expand the amount of land brought into production.’”

fps12-buisTom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy, released the following statement:

“The World Resources Institute’s latest report repackages old, previously debunked food and fuel, as well as Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC) myths in attempts to discredit an American success story, one that is producing both food and fuel, while also improving our environment. Slapping a new title on this previously discredited research won’t change the facts—the American farmer is more than capable of producing an abundant amount of food, feed and fuel, and the air we breathe and our environment, as a whole, is better off for it.”

Buis added that without biofuels, the U.S. actually “might be producing less, not more food, in order to control the expansion of surplus stocks and assistance payments to farmers.” In addition, WRI fails to mention the last two record corn crops, falling corn prices, and co-products such as distiller’s grains that displace the need for other livestock feed crops and reduce the net acreage used to produce ethanol.

Ethanol Report on 20th Ethanol Conference

rfa-nec-15The Renewable Fuels Association’s 20th Annual National Ethanol Conference (NEC) with the theme of “Going Global” is just around the corner now, coming up February 18-20, 2015 at the Gaylord Texan Resort and Convention Center in Grapevine, Texas.

The theme will hone in on how important export markets are to the future growth and financial health of the ethanol industry, particularly in light of the challenges being faced to fully implement the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and grow the domestic industry.

ethanol-report-adIn this edition of “The Ethanol Report,” Renewable Fuels Association president and CEO Bob Dinneen talks about the upcoming 20th NEC and how the industry has changed in 20 years.

Ethanol Report on 20th Ethanol Conference

Protec Opens E15 Station in Georgia

protectlogoProtec Fuel has joined with Mountain Express to make E15 available to drivers in the greater Atlanta region. Mountain Express-Quick Stop is located in Marietta, GA and the Mountain-Express Food Mart in Greensboro, GA.

With the new E15 addition, the state now has 16 E15 locations.

“We are thrilled to see E15 continue to expand on America’s eastern seaboard,” said Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association. “E15’s expansion continues — reaching 16 states today — despite the misinformation being spread by Big Oil and its friends. We expect additional stations in more states to follow Georgia’s example and offer drivers low-cost, environmentally-friendly E15.”

Protec has been a country leader in bringing E15 to drivers. The ethanol blend is approved for vehicles manufactured after 2001. The ethanol industry stresses that when consumers are given choice, they choose ethanol blends, such as E15 at the pump.

“I would like to extend congratulations on behalf of Growth Energy and its members to Protec Fuel and to Mountain Express for their efforts to offer consumers a choice of homegrown, renewable fuels that help reduce harmful emissions and provide consumers with a choice and savings at the pump,” said Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy.

Buis added, “Protec and Mountain Express are helping pave the way in Georgia for consumer choice and savings. By offering a higher octane fuel for less, they are not only gaining a competitive edge, but they are serving their consumers who want to support cleaner burning, homegrown fuels.”

Students Recognized for Biodiesel, Ethanol Videos

Students from Iowa have been recognized for their efforts to promote biodiesel and ethanol. The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) awarded prizes in its “Fuel the Future” Iowa High School Video Contest.

Anna Steenson of Des Moines won first place in the contest for Iowa high school students. The IRFA awarded the senior from Central Campus a $1,000 grand prize for her creative and informative video titled “E15: Powering the Future.”

Karly Lent of Bettendorf, Iowa won the $600 second place prize for her video entitled, “Let’s Fuel the Future.” Karly is a junior at Bettendorf High School.

Jacquelyn Huynh, Dakota Karthan, Maria Babcock and Jordan Bacon won the $400 third place prize for their video entitled, “Good for Your Car, Better for Iowa.” This group of girls is a collection of juniors and seniors from Ankeny High School.

“First, I want to thank all of the Iowa high school students who took on the challenge of entering this year’s contest and learning about the benefits of using renewable fuels,” stated IRFA Communications Director T.J. Page. “This year’s video contest winners all created highly imaginative, entertaining, and informative videos that do a great job of explaining the benefits of using cleaner-burning biofuels like ethanol and biodiesel.”

The top three videos were featured at the 9th Annual Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit.

Iowa RFA “Ready to Roll” in 2015

Iowa’s renewable fuels industry is “ready to roll” in 2015 if Tuesday’s 9th Annual Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit is any indication.

iarfa-15-nixonSpeakers at the summit included Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, who represented the Governors’ Biofuels Coalition, former North Dakota Senator Byron Dorgan, and General Wesley Clark (Ret.), Chairman of Growth Energy.

iarfa-15-santorumAlso speaking was former Pennsylvania Senator and potential presidential candidate Rick Santorum who appeared over the weekend at the Iowa Freedom Summit. Santorum’s most tweeted quote from the summit was that the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) is “Pro competition, pro environment & pro American jobs.”

Addressing the state of the industry, Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) Executive Director Monte Shaw was very optimistic. “Today, I can say with absolute confidence that Iowa’s renewable fuels industry is ready to roll!,” said Shaw. “We’ve never been in a better position for the availability and diversity of feedstocks; the industry is coming off a profitable year; new markets are being developed; and new technologies are out of the lab and producing on a commercial scale. There is simply no question that this industry is ready to roll. The question is whether the President and Congress are going to allow the renewable fuels industry to “hit it,” or leave us stuck in neutral.”

The IRFA also released a study conducted by ABF Economics economist John Urbanchuk that found 2014 was a record-breaking year for the renewable fuels industry despite significant challenges. “Ethanol and biodiesel producers are part of a manufacturing sector that adds substantial value to agricultural commodities produced in Iowa,” said Urbanchuk. “The first and second-generation feedstocks used to produce renewable fuels are produced primarily by Iowa farmers, and the R&D expenditures for renewable fuels provide important support for Iowa’s universities. Combined, these activities make a significant contribution to the Iowa economy.”

The study found that the renewable fuels industry in Iowa accounts for more than $4.9 billion, or about 3.5 percent, of Iowa GDP, generates $2.5 billion of income for Iowa households; and supports more than 46,700 jobs throughout the economy.

Former USTR to Keynote Ethanol Conference

kirkFormer U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk will be the keynote speaker at the upcoming National Ethanol Conference (NEC) in Grapevine, Texas.

Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) president and CEO Bob Dinneen says it’s appropriate for Ambassador Kirk to speak at the conference with the theme of Going Global. “As we look to new horizons and expand into new markets, Mr. Kirk gives us a peek behind the curtain of world markets and trade relations,” said Dinneen. “His valuable insight will help shine a spotlight on new opportunities for American-made biofuels and co-products all across the globe.”

rfa-nec-15Ambassador Kirk was appointed by President Barack Obama as the United States Trade Representative and served from 2009 to 2013. Born and raised in Austin, Texas, Kirk has close ties to the state as he gained his undergraduate and law degrees at Austin College and the University of Texas School of Law respectively. He joined Sen. Lloyd Bentsen’s staff before rising to the position of Texas Secretary of State and eventually becoming the Mayor of Dallas.

The 20th annual NEC will take place Feb. 18–20 and Kirk is scheduled to speak at 2:45 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 19. Also at the conference, RFA’s General Counsel Ed Hubbard will moderate a panel titled “Going Global: Building Ethanol Demand Internationally.” The panel will feature Eco-Energy’s Pedro Paranhos, Lakeview Energy’s Jim Galvin, Henrique Pacini of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service’s Mike Dwyer, and ePURE’s Robert Wright.

Registration and other information about the National Ethanol Conference can be found here.

First RFS Education Ad in Des Moines

AmRenewFuture adAfter kicking off the new America’s Renewable Future campaign on Thursday last week, the first ads starting appearing in the Des Moines Register on Friday as potential Republican presidential candidates began to gather for the Iowa Freedom Summit.

“We want to send an unmistakable message to both parties about the remarkable, bipartisan success story of the Renewable Fuel Standard in creating jobs and making America more energy independent,” said Eric Branstad, Executive Director for America’s Renewable Future. “Iowa’s renewable fuel production has more than doubled under the RFS, and now supports more jobs and families than ever before. Candidates who support the RFS has always done well in Iowa, but it will be an even bigger issue in 2015 and 2016.”

The Des Moines Register ad noted the RFS supports 73,000 Iowa jobs, more than 50 ethanol biodiesel refineries across Iowa and has helped put foreign oil imports at a 20-year low. It’s call to action is a pretty straightforward message to candidates and caucus goers alike: “Don’t put Iowa out of business. Support the Renewable Fuel Stand… Take a stand.”

RFS a No-Show at Freedom Summit

freedom-summitJust days after Iowa Governor Terry Brandstad kicked off a campaign to promote the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) as a “candidate” in the 2016 presidential race, it was basically a no-show at the conservative Freedom Summit featuring many presidential hopefuls.

Asked about the RFS in an interview with the Des Moines Register on Friday, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas said he would continue his opposition to the law as “a matter of principle.”

One of the potential candidates who received some positive reviews at the summit was Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who was recently criticized by biofuels producers in his state for not joining the ranks of other Midwestern governors in support of the RFS. According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal, Walker says “he’s keeping a campaign pledge to not take a position in the debate that has pitted ethanol producers against Wisconsin’s small-engine industry, which opposes increased use of the fuel additive.”

Also attending the summit was former Texas governor Rick Perry, a long time opponent of the RFS who advocated a waiver of the law when he was governor.

Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush both skipped out on the summit which was organized by Iowa Republican Congressman Steve King. Speaking to members of the media on Saturday, Gov. Branstad said Iowa is still an important state for a presidential candidate. “This is one of the battleground states that’s going to, I think, determine who’s going to be the next president of the United States,” said Branstad. “I don’t think it’s wise to skip Iowa.” The governor also advised, “I think it would be a disadvantage in Iowa to not support the Renewable Fuel Standard,” Branstad said.

One friend of biofuels who can be counted among the potential candidates who attended the Freedom Summit is Rick Santorum, former Senator from Pennsylvania and candidate in the 2012 Republican primary. Santorum will be making a few other appearances in Iowa this week, including at the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association conference on Tuesday. He spoke at that same event in 2011.

Corn Growers: Not the Time to Cut RFS

ncga-logo-newTwo record corn crops and low prices for the grain – that’s not the time the U.S. should be cutting the amount of ethanol to be mixed into the nation’s fuel supply. That’s the message coming from the National Corn Growers Association, as the group laments the fact that altering the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) couldn’t come at a worse time.

“Corn ending stocks – the amount above and beyond current demand – are estimated at nearly 2 billion bushels this year, thanks to two back-to-back record harvests,” said NCGA President Chip Bowling, a corn farmer in Maryland. “And with corn selling at low prices, any legislative attempt to cut one of our key markets will drive prices even further below cost of production. We have a policy that works well not just for the environment and energy security – but for the rural economy. We need to support farmers, not bankrupt them.”

NCGA also shot back at an attempt in the U.S. Senate to attach an anti-ethanol amendment to the Keystone XL pipeline legislation, pointing out the many benefits ethanol brings and why it’s an important part of the fuel supply.

“Corn ethanol is better for the environment than fossil fuels and has historically lowered the cost of filling our tanks by nearly a dollar,” said NCGA Director of Public Policy Beth Elliott. “It has been proven that ethanol does not have an impact on the price of food. The Renewable Fuel Standard is working – creating clean, renewable, American-grown energy and good American jobs.”

NCGA says it wants to work with the new Congress to support the RFS.

First E15 Station Opens in South Florida

caraf-oilCaraf Oil in North Miami this week became the first retail fuel station in South Florida to offer 15% ethanol blended gasoline.

“We wanted to be the first in South Florida to offer E15 since we have had success with customers with E85,” said Edwin Flores, owner of Caraf Oil, who says they actually offer E85 at two locations in North Miami. “For drivers, it’s seamless – you can use E15 or gas if you’re driving a 2001 or newer model.”

The grand opening celebration for the new E15 pump on Wednesday featured officials from both Caraf Oil and Florida-based ProtecFuel, which managed the pump installation, as well as local dignitaries and representatives from Southeast Florida Clean Cities.

“We are excited to help introduce American-made ethanol into the fuel pool through E15 in our home state and city,” said Todd Garner, CEO of Protec. “With its higher performance at 88-octane, and environmental benefits, it just makes sense.”

“Clean Cities is all about reducing our country’s dependence on foreign oil and we’re proud that our region is one of the first in Florida to offer E15,” said Christine Heshmati, Southeast Florida Clean Cities Coordinator.

Currently, E15 is available at more than 100 stations across the nation in 15 states: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

Iowa Coalition to Promote RFS as Candidate

americas-futureIowa Governor Terry Branstad today announced a major new bi-partisan campaign called America’s Renewable Future that will promote the Renewable Fuel Standard in the 2016 Iowa Presidential caucuses.

“I’m very passionate about the Renewable Fuel Standard,” said Governor Branstad during a conference call to announce the effort. “It’s made a real difference for farm income and good jobs, reducing our dependency on foreign oil, improving the environment – so I’m really excited to see this strong, bi-partisan effort being made to educate people that come to Iowa and presidential candidates.”

America’s Renewable Future will be co-chaired by former Iowa State Representative Annette Sweeney, a Republican, and former state Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge, a Democrat, as well as Iowa renewable fuels industry leader Bill Couser.

Sweeney, who is a corn, soybean and cattle producer, says it’s important to educate lawmakers and the public about the RFS. “Once it’s explained, (they see) what a great thing renewable fuels are for this country,” she said.

Coordinating the effort will be Governor Branstad’s son Eric, a public affairs specialist and campaign operative. “We have partners coming in from all over the country and those partners have committed millions to fund this effort,” said Eric Branstad. “We are designing it to look like a presidential campaign and the RFS is our candidate.”

From now until the Iowa Caucuses, America’s Renewable Future “will wage a mulitimillion dollar, multi-platform effort” to educate presidential candidates about the benefits of the RFS and ask them to take a stand.

“It’s such a privilege to be able to be part of this grassroots organization and being able to bring these candidates to our farms and our feedlots,” said Couser, who is a livestock and crop producer and ethanol plant co-founder. “We’re very excited about meeting these candidates on a bi-partisan partnership, bringing them here and educating them.”

The group also intends to build a statewide campaign organization to educate Iowa caucus-goers in both parties about which candidates support the RFS. The campaign will include advertising, earned media, public opinion research, stakeholder engagement, digital and social media outreach.

Listen to the conference call announcing the effort here: America's Renewable Future campaign announced