Ethanol Industry Supports Farm Bill Changes

Farm BillA tentative agreement reached by conference committee members on funding for a new farm bill would reduce the tax incentive for blenders to use ethanol from 51 cents a gallon to 45 cents. The president of the Renewable Fuels Association says they can support that.

RFA“We do understand that they are looking at that in order to pay for cellulosic tax credits and some other important programs,” said Bob Dinneen in an interview Monday. “While we wish they could find other means of paying for those important priorities, we understand the budget constraints that Congress is under.”

The ethanol blenders credit reduction would go into effect once the Environmental Protection Agency administrator certifies that the 7.5 billion gallon mandate has been reached. The ethanol import tariff would also be extended until Dec. 31, 2010, which would be in line with the ethanol tax credit.

Meanwhile, a new subsidy of up to $1.01 per gallon would be created for ethanol made from biomass sources other than corn.

The reduction in the existing blenders tax credit would reportedly save over $1 billion, while the blenders credit for celllulosic ethanol would cost approximately $400 million.

Tax credits for biodiesel were also stripped from the bill.

Congress is currently working to complete a new farm bill under the fifth extension of current law. Congress passed and President Bush signed the latest extension until May 2 but it will likely be May 8 before they can actually get a bill finished and on the president’s desk. The current law expired in September.

Gen. Colin Powell to Speak at Biotechnology Summer Conference

The state of sustainable agriculture in developing countries will be one of the main issues addressed at the BIO International Convention this summer. The Biotechnology Industry Organization is hosting the convention in San Diego from Tuesday, June 17 through Friday, June 20.

Biotechnology leaders from around the globe will be descending upon San Diego, one of the leading biotech hubs in the world, to discuss the most pressing issues and share their unique perspectives. In addition, there will be a total of 36 regional and country pavilions within the BIO Exhibition with several new pavilions, including Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Dubai, and South Africa.

This year’s convention will focus on the promise of biotech innovation to heal, fuel and feed the world. International case studies on biofuels, biomanufacturing, research funding, and international collaborations will focus on examples from Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Japan, Korea, North America, Singapore, and Sweden. Two additional breakout session tracks will focus on doing business globally and global health. A session entitled, “The Dynamics of a Globalized World and the Future of the Biotechnology Industry,” will feature international public officials sharing insights on the evolving business landscape.

This year’s keynote speakers include Gen. Colin Powell, J. Craig Venter, Ph.D., and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Continue reading

EBB, NBB Get Into Biodiesel Fight

ebbnbb.gifMembers of the European Biodiesel Board have asked the European Union to impose punitive tariffs on American biodiesel over complaints that U.S. subsidies on the green fuel are unfair. But their American counterparts at the National Biodiesel Board aren’t taking the threats lightly as they promise to hit back on what the NBB says are unfair trade barriers by the Europeans.

This Reuters story says at the heart of the dispute are the U.S. subsidies for “B99″ biodiesel. It’s blended with a small amount of mineral diesel, and the Europeans say that breaks World Trade Organization rules. In addition, U.S. exports qualify for EU subsidies as well:

The head of a U.S. biodiesel group accused the EU sector of trying to use litigation for protectionist ends and said his group would “aggressively challenge” EU trade obstacles.

“It is hypocritical for the European Biodiesel Board to cry foul while they benefit from a blatant trade barrier,” said Manning Feraci, vice president of federal affairs at the National Biodiesel Board.

He called EU biodiesel fuel specifications discriminatory.

“Our industry will aggressively challenge existing EU trade barriers — such as the EU’s discriminatory biodiesel fuel specification — and other EU biofuel policies that are inconsistent with WTO rules and provide preferential treatment to European fuel producers,” Feraci said in a statement.

U.S. trade representatives remind the Europeans that everyone benefits from a dynamic biofuel industry, worldwide.

EU officials now have 45 days to decide to start an investigation into the complaint, and then they would have nine months to impose tariffs.

Georgia Looks to Renewables to Reduce Energy Usage

Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue this week announced a commitment that Georgia’s state government will reduce its energy usage 15 percent by 2020 over the 2007 energy use levels through energy efficiency or in combination with renewable energy.

To support further development of alternative energy in Georgia, Governor Perdue is creating an Energy Innovation Center that will enhance the economic development of Georgia by leading the commercialization of bioenergy with feedstocks grown or available within the state, furthering the generation of alternative energy and promoting energy sector manufacturing.

Sonny Perdue“The state of Georgia is quickly becoming a recognized leader in alternative energy and fuel,” said Governor Perdue. “Our goal is to develop a bioenergy industry that provides substantial economic benefit to Georgia and produces 15 percent of the state’s transportation fuels by 2020 from locally produced biofuels.”

In addition, Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority Executive Director Chris Clark announced that $282,968 in E85 Retail Infrastructure Grants have been awarded to 21 fuel stations throughout the state.

“The E85 grant program will help expand the availability of E85 fuel across the state of Georgia, said Chris Clark. “When these projects are complete, E85 will be available to thousands of Georgians with flex fuel vehicles who didn’t previously have a station offering E85 near where they live and work.”

Ohio Energy Bill Uses Renewables to Cut Usage, Rates

An energy bill that will use a mix of regulated and market-based electricity rates starting in 2009 to prevent spikes in power bills and encourage a 22 percent reduction in power usage by 2025 has made it through the Ohio State Senate.

This article from Reuters says the state’s governor has promised to sign the measure that uses renewable energy to help meet those goals:

Ohio has also taken a mixed approach to renewable energy targets. By 2025, at least 25 percent of electricity delivered in Ohio must be generated from “advanced energy” sources. Of that 25 percent goal, at least half has to come from renewable sources like wind and solar, and no more than half from “clean coal” and improved nuclear plants.

The measure also looks to rein in rates charged to consumers.

Click & Clack Search for Ideal Hybrid

clickandclack.jpgI don’t recommend a lot of TV shows on this blog (you’re too busy reading Domestic Fuel, right?), but I did catch an episode of Nova on PBS tonight that I thought would be of interest here. In honor of Earth Day today, the show, “Car of the Future,” looked at the various alternative energy vehicles out there.

Leading the search for the ideal hybrid were the irrepressible Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers of National Public Radio’s famed Car Talk. While Tom and Ray Magliozzi (their real names) went from an overpowered rollerskate of a car that ran on gasoline (which they asked if the alternative was safety) to a high-powered sports car called the Tesla which drives like a REAL sports car… only on electricity.

Tom and Ray were their crazy, funny selves as they looked at ethanol, biodiesel, hydrogen power and electric-powered cars and how those technologies are used. Funny… and informative.

If you missed the episode, you can catch it online by clicking here. There’s also lots of information to read at PBS.org. Check it out! I think it is worth a look.

Kentucky Ethanol Plant Grant

The Bluegrass State will soon be using switchgrass to produce ethanol at a new cellulosic facility to be built by Alltech of Lexington.

Governor Steve BeshearKentucky Governor Steve Beshear visited the headquarters of Alltech this weekend for the ribbon cutting of the company’s new Nutrigenomics Center. Alltech is an international company involved in a variety of enterprises from animal nutrition and biotechnology to horse racing and malt whiskey. The governor says everyone is very excited about Alltech’s new venture into biofuels.

“We put together an incentive package at the state level of about $8 million to assist the company in doing that and now with this up to $30 million that the federal government has stepped up and provided, it’s going to be a great thing for the Commonwealth,” Beshear said in an interview with Domestic Fuel. “We want to be a leader in the development of alternative fuels and the cellulosic approach is where we are heading long term on that. I think it’s going to be a win-win for everybody.”

Alltech Pearse LyonsAlltech president Dr. Pearse Lyons says he was humbled to receive one of the three new DOE grants announced last week and he is confident about the project, which will cost an estimated $70 million. “In 15-18 months, we will be using what we call solid state fermentation to go forward cracking cellulose to ethanol,” said Lyons. “And we will use 30 percent corn stover or switchgrass.”

Lyons says the plant will be built by a new Alltech subsidiary called Ecofin, under the management of his son, Dr. Mark Lyons.

Listen to an interview with Governor Beshear here:

Listen to Dr. Lyons’ comments about the project here:

DOE Awards New Biorefinery Grants

The U.S. Department of Energy awarded grants for three small-scale biorefinery projects this week in Maine, Tennessee and Kentucky.

In announcing the grants, Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said, “These projects will help pioneer the next generation of non-food based biofuels that will power our cars and trucks and help meet President Bush’s goal to stop greenhouse gas emissions growth by 2025.”

AlltechAmong the projects is a grant of up to $30 million to help pay for a $70 million cellulosic ethanol plant to be built in Springfield, Kentucky.

The plant will be built by Ecofin LLC, a subsidiary of Alltech, an international company headquartered in Lexington that is primarily focused on animal nutrition. The plant will utilize cellulose, such as switch grass, corn cobs and corn stover, at raw material levels of up to 30 percent to be converted to ethanol and other value-added products. The facility will also have the capability to produce algae for biodiesel production.

Dr. Pearse Lyons, president and founder of Alltech, said in a statement, “With commodity prices reaching an all time high and with ethanol production forecast to account for 30 percent of the U.S. corn harvest by 2010 we must focus our attention on a sustainable path to alternative energies.”

MascomaMascoma Corporation of Massachusetts received a grant of up to $26 million for a proposed plant to be located in Monroe County, Tennessee. The facility is scheduled to come online in 2009 and will utilize Tennessee grown switchgrass as a primary feedstock.

The third funded project is up to $30 million for RSE Pulp & Chemical of Old Town, Maine to produce cellulosic ethanol from wood.

NBB Applauds Bush’s Greenhouse Gas Plan

nbb-logo.jpgThe National Biodiesel Board is applauding President Bush’s plan to stop the growth of U.S. greenhouse gases by 2025.

In this release from the NBB, the group says biodiesel will be a key part of the plan:

joe-jobethumbnail.jpg“Biodiesel not only reduces our dependence on foreign oil, it is a valuable tool in the fight to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said National Biodiesel Board CEO Joe Jobe. “Biodiesel significantly reduces carbon emissions when compared to conventional diesel fuel, and the biodiesel industry looks forward to constructively working with policymakers from both sides of the aisle to meet our shared goal of addressing climate change.”

The overwhelming body of data demonstrates the environmental benefits of biodiesel. For every unit of energy it takes to make domestic biodiesel, 3.5 units are gained. The fuel also reduces lifecycle carbon dioxide emissions by 78%. In 2007 alone, biodiesel’s contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions was the equivalent of removing 700,000 passenger vehicles from America’s roadways. Lastly, the biodiesel industry fully expects to meet the 50% greenhouse gas reduction requirement for biomass-based diesel under the federal Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS).

The group points out that hundreds of government and private diesel fleets are already employing the green fuel, while consumers are finding more and more places to buy biodiesel every day… up to more than 1,300 retail outlets today.

Bush: Stop Greenhouse Gas Growth by 2025, Biofuels Part of Plan

bushclimate.jpgPresident George W. Bush announced today his initiative to curb greenhouse growth in the United States. And according to this White House press release, ethanol and biodiesel are part of the plan:

[T]he United States has launched — and the G8 has embraced — a new process that brings together the countries responsible for most of the world’s emissions. We’re working toward a climate agreement that includes the meaningful participation of every major economy — and gives none a free ride.

In support of this process, and based on technology advances and strong new policy, it is now time for the U.S. to look beyond 2012 and to take the next step. We’ve shown that we can slow emissions growth. Today, I’m announcing a new national goal: to stop the growth of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2025.

To reach this goal, we will pursue an economy-wide strategy that builds on the solid foundation that we have in place. As part of this strategy, we worked with Congress to pass energy legislation that specifies a new fuel economy standard of 35 miles per gallon by 2020, and requires fuel producers to supply at least 36 billion gallons of renewable fuel by 2022. This should provide an incentive for shifting to a new generation of fuels like cellulosic ethanol that will reduce concerns about food prices and the environment.

Bush added that in partnership with the private sector, the United States has invested billions of dollars in research and development for commercially viable renewable fuels, hydrogen fuel cells, advanced batteries, and other technologies for the next generation of renewable energy-powered vehicles. He says new incentives will be needed to sustain that growth in renewable energy technologies in order to meet that goal of stopping the growth of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2025.

PA Officials Get Behind-the-Scenes Look at Lake Erie Biofuels

lakeerielogo.gifLocal and state officials in Pennsylvania have received a first-hand, behind-the-scenes tour of the new Lake Erie Biofuels plant at the site of the former International Paper plant near Erie, PA.

This story in the Erie (PA) Times-News says they were impressed with what they saw at the 45-million-gallon-a-year facility:

“I must have read a million things about this place, but until you see it, you don’t get a full understanding of it,” said Dennis Yablonsky, secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development.

Yablonsky led a delegation of local and state officials on a tour of the biodiesel plant, which has grown over the past two years at the East Lake Road site that once held the International Paper plant.

In November, state, federal and local government officials joined Erie Management Group to cut the ribbon on the $60 million facility that has the capacity to produce 45 million gallons of biodiesel a year.

Now, five months later, Erie Management Group founder Samuel P. “Pat” Black said he is happy with the progress of the $60 million plant. And government development officials said the $15 million that government programs pumped into the former IP site and its infrastructure is also paying off.

“Absolutely we are happy with it,” said Monica Brower, chief executive of the Economic Development Corp. of Erie County. “We have had almost $85½ million of (private and public) investment in this site, and it has only been two years. To be able to do this in just two years … it’s amazing.”

The story also has the following link with video so you can see it, too. Check it out!

lakeerievideo.jpg

SC Bills Fostering Renewable Energy

A trio of bills before the South Carolina legislature are designed to promote renewable energy in the state, as well as conservation by consumers.

mcconnell.jpgSenate President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell’s (R-Charleston) three bills were presented to a state Senate Finance Committee this week. This story from television station WFMY says the first bill dealt with tax breaks for making home improvements for energy savings. And that’s just the beginning:

A second bill would give a sales tax break to companies buying machinery, tools or parts to produce electricity from alternative sources, including solar, wind, tides and biomass.

That kind of break and other energy production incentives have been a huge benefit for companies like Ecogy Biomass, a company that began turning soy oil into biodiesel in Estill in January.

Hal Wrigley, president of Ecogy Biomass and Knightbridge Biofuel said the soy oil for his biodiesel cost $1.75 a gallon last year and was $5.25 a gallon last month.

“Right now, the only lucrative place to sell it is over in Europe,” Wrigley said.

Wrigley wants to see more incentives that encourage companies to mix biodiesel with regular diesel and tax breaks for truckers and other consumers buying biodiesel.

Other bills being considered address existing incentives for people installing solar water heaters or panels to generate electricity.

State and federal income tax breaks for installing those devices have helped Bruce Wood’s Sunstore Solar in Greer. South Carolina had lagged North Carolina and Georgia for years in state tax breaks, Wood said. That meant that he was doing 70 percent of his business out of state. But now 75 percent of his business is in South Carolina and his payroll has tripled to nine people.

“There’s a green movement that’s afoot,” Wood said.

The tax break makes the cost of putting in solar panels more reasonable while shortening the time it takes for the systems to pay for themselves with reduced energy bills. A solar hot water system that costs $6,000 comes with an $1,800 federal tax credit and $1,500 from the state. That means the system will be paying for itself in less than six years, instead of the 12 years it would take without the break, Wood said.

For those who argue that this is just another government handout, officials point out the economic benefit of programs like these. They say the state is poised to add more than 22,000 jobs in the renewable energy sector… if the right incentives are there.

Canada Turning Plastic Into Biodiesel

minasbasin.jpgA project north of the border could turn waste plastic into biodiesel.

This story from CanPlastics.com says Nova Scotia is investing $20 million in government money in the Minas Basin Pulp and Power Company’s expansion project for a biodiesel plastics processing plant for plastic waste.

“We are committed to investing in innovative and resourceful companies that contribute to job growth, a green environment, and a strong economy for Nova Scotia,” said [Nova Scotia Premier Rodney MacDonald] in a statement. “Minas Basin is taking a leadership role by helping to ensure environmental sustainability for this province.”

According to Minas Basin, the new plant will divert 4,000 tons of plastic waste. The governmental investment will allow the company to commit to more than $27 million in capital expenditures.

Company officials say the money will help them move into “the next phase of sustainable restructuring for Minas Basin,” as well as creating a renewable energy supply for the province.

WI Soy Crush Facility Gets $4 Mil Grant

doyle.jpgWisconsin’s first soybean crushing facility is being built… thanks to a $4 million grant from the state.

Gov. Jim Doyle handed out the money to farmer-owned Landmark Services Cooperative, which has plans to process 20 million bushels of soybeans each year at the plant:

“The soybeans Wisconsin grows so well will stay here in the state, get processed in Evansville and may end up fueling the tractors along these roads,” Governor Doyle said. “This facility offers us a way to create jobs, free us from big oil companies and advance our commitment to renewable energy.”

A soybean crushing facility separates soybean oil from the rest of the bean, which can then be processed into bio-diesel. Currently, most of the state’s soybean crop is processed in other states and sold back to Wisconsin farmers for feed. Last year the state’s first large-scale commercial biodiesel plant opened in DeForest with the capacity of producing 20 million gallons of biodiesel annually from a variety of feedstock sources, including soybean oil.

Despite Wisconsin being one of the nation’s leader in soybean and renewable fuel production, it did not have a soybean crushing facility.

State Grant Helps PA School Buy Biodiesel

A $40,000 grant is helping a Pennsylvania school district go green. The Alternative Fuels Incentive Grant will help the Radnor Township School District purchase nearly 94,000 gallons of B20 biodiesel, as well as helping cover two storage tanks for the green fuel.

The district received praise from Pennsylvania Environmental Protection Secretary Kathleen McGinty through her agency’s press release:

mcginty.jpg“Schools, truck drivers, small businesses and families across the commonwealth are feeling the pressure of higher fuel bills on their budgets and wallets,” said McGinty. “Switching from conventional fuels to homegrown biofuels will help break our addiction to foreign oil, bring down costs, strengthen national security, and grow our economy.

“The Radnor Township School District is leading by example on this front. Rather than sending all of its diesel fuel dollars out of state, it’s making an investment in Pennsylvania.”

The move is also touted for its benefit to the environment and district’s students:

Biodiesel provides significant environmental improvements compared to traditional diesel fuels. Running the district’s diesel-powered vehicles on the renewable fuel will result in the following emissions reductions each year, according to district calculations:

• Particulate matter, linked to asthma and respiratory ailments, 12 percent,

• Unburned hydrocarbons, 20 percent,

• Carbon monoxide, 12 percent,

• Sulfur dioxide, linked to smog and acid rain, 20 percent, and

• Carbon dioxide, the leading greenhouse gas, 16 percent.

Ninety-four thousand gallons of biodiesel might not seem like a lot, but it is a start that one school district was able to make toward a greener future… with just a little help.