Chrysler Fuel Cell Technology in California

Chrysler LLCChrysler LLC has joined the California Fuel Cell Partnership, becoming the 34th member of the organization. Chrysler says the CaFCP is valuable colloboration that encourages engineers to develop solutions for hydrogen technology at an accelerated rate.

“We are pleased to welcome Chrysler as the California Fuel Cell Partnership’s ninth automotive member,” said Catherine Dunwoody, CaFCP’s executive director. “We’re looking forward to the new perspectives and ideas Chrysler will bring to the table as we all work together to commercialize this important transportation solution.”

California Fuel Cell PartnershipChrysler pioneered fuel cell vehicle technology more than 10 years ago. Fuel cells release energy from the reaction of hydrogen with a catalyst and oxygen. This clean technology operates at a high level of efficiency and is true zero-emission. Hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles emit only pure water vapor as exhaust. Fuel cell systems are part of Chrysler’s advanced- propulsion technology umbrella, which includes efficient gasoline engines, advanced diesels and hybrid powertrain systems.

Founded in 1999, CaFCP members have placed 188 fuel cell passenger vehicles and transit buses on California’s roads. In addition, CaFCP members have built 27 hydrogen stations, with 11 more planned, forming the largest hydrogen infrastructure in the world.

CaFCP describes itself as an organization of auto manufacturers, energy providers, fuel cell technology companies and government agencies, where members work together to promote the commercialization of hydrogen powered fuel cell vehicles.

Win 30,000 Euro for Energy Efficiency

The German EnergyThe Germany Energy Agency wants to promote energy efficiency around the world, so it´s sponoring an international competition for the Energy Efficiency Award 2008.

The award, in its second year, recognizes outstanding projects to increase energy efficiency in trade and industry. A total of 30,000 euros in prizes is available.

The international competition is particularly aimed at small and medium-sized enterprises. If you have invested in innovative, exemplary measures to increase energy efficiency in your company and implemented these measures successfully, then organizers want to recognize you. The deadline to enter is January 31, 2008.

A prize of 15,000 euros will go to the first-place winner, 10,000 euros to the second-place winner and 5,000 euros to third place. The winners of the competition will be announced during the World Energy Dialogue at the Hannover Messe on April 22, 2008.

Energy Bill Passes with Expanded RFS

The U.S. House has passed the Energy Independence and Security Act (H.R. 6) by a vote of 235 to 181. The measure expands the Renewable Fuel Standard by seven times to 36 billion gallons a year by 2022… with 21 billion gallons of ethanol coming from cellulosic feedstocks, such as wood scraps… and requiring that 500 million gallons of biodiesel and biomass-based diesel fuel be blended into the diesel pool in 2009, gradually ramping up to one billion gallons by 2012.

The bill also extends the biodiesel tax incentive through the end of 2010. The incentive helps make biodiesel competitive with petroleum diesel fuel. It will also close the “splash and dash” loophole, ensuring that foreign-produced biodiesel cannot be transshipped through the U.S. just to claim the biodiesel tax incentive.

The news is welcomed by the National Biodiesel Board and the Renewable Fuels Association:

nbb-logo.jpg“This legislation is an all-around win for achieving America’s energy and environmental goals,” said Joe Jobe, NBB CEO. “We appreciate the House’s willingness to support the U.S. biodiesel industry and the important role biodiesel will play in reducing our dependence on foreign oil and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

rfa-logo.gifCommending those supporting this shift in energy policy direction in this country, Renewable Fuels Association President Bob Dinneen issued the following statement:

“The House of Representatives took an important step forward today in ensuring a stronger and more sustainable energy and environmental future for this country. This bill recognizes the critical importance of diversifying our nation’s motor fuel supply by increasing the use of renewable fuels like ethanol.

“Importantly, the renewable fuels provisions of this bill take a pragmatic approach to ensuring that the promise of advanced biofuels like cellulosic ethanol is realized. By requiring that nearly two-thirds of the new 36 billion gallon goal must come from advanced biofuels, House leaders have provided the necessary market to foster the continued investment and development of the cellulosic arm of the U.S. ethanol industry.

The measure is paid for by $21 billion in new taxes, mostly on oil companies… which, according to this story in the International Herald Tribune, could cause trouble in the U.S. Senate:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he will try to bring it up Friday. Senate Republicans said they will try to strip out the new oil taxes and a requirement that utilities generate more electricity from windmills, solar panels and other renewable sources.

“I don’t think anybody can predict what will happen in the Senate,” (Speaker of the House Nancy) Pelosi conceded after the vote, but added confidently — and with a hint of possible further compromise: “We will have a bill.”

The White House has promised to veto the bill if the House version passes the Senate.

RFS Supporters Rally

Collin PetersonMembers of Congress and representatives from a variety of organizations held a media event Wednesday morning in support of an increased Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) in the Energy Bill.

House Ag Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-MN) says House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is in full support of the RFS.

“The speaker understands that this is critical for this industry,” Peterson said. “She gets it and she understands what the problem is and she understands why this needs to be done.”

EngleCongressman Eliot Engel (D-NY) described his conversion to being an ethanol supporter. “As a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee for many years I voted against the ethanol mandate,” Engel said. “I changed my position 180 degrees, and I changed my position because it’s good for America.”

Herseth SandlinAll of the speakers noted the importance of the RFS to cellulosic ethanol development, which is still in its infancy. In the meantime, Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-SD) said, “Conventional corn ethanol is the bridge we need to move forward.”

It was a long press conference, which got underway late, and the lawmakers had to leave by the time the supporting organizations got to give their statements – which meant many of the media who were there also left. But, those who did stick around heard first from the unusual suspects in the lineup of those supporting the RFS. They were the AMVETS, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and the Truman National Security Project.

FTC Reports on Ethanol Market Concentration

FTCA new report from the Federal Trade Commission says U.S. ethanol industry become more competitive in 2007.

According to the report, “The ethanol production industry is not concentrated, and has become even more unconcentrated over the last year.”

The FTC utilizes the Herfindahl-Hirschman Indices (HHIs) to determine concentration. As outlined by the FTC and the Justice Department, HHIs with values below 1000 are deemed not concentrated and competitive. Based on actual production volumes of ethanol (as compared to total capacity that includes gallons under construction), the FTC gives the U.S. ethanol industry a score of 465, down from 736 in 2006.

Since 2005, the number of ethanol production facilities operating across the country has increased from 95 to 134 as of December 2007. Similarly, the number of firms producing ethanol has also increased. “As of September 2007, 103 firms produced ethanol in the United States, a one-year increase of 13 firms, and a two-year increase of roughly 28 firms,” the FTC reports. While the number of firms producing ethanol has risen, the market share of the nation’s largest producer has decreased to approximately 16 percent, down from 21 percent in 2006.

Read the FTC report here.

Ohio is Getting Windier

Ohio Business Development CoalitionOhio is embracing wind energy. The Ohio Business Development Coalition says wind energy is a prominent option for meeting the needs of a growing renewable energy industry. The OBDC is a nonprofit organization that recruits opportunities for capital investment in the state and it says the development of wind power is one opportunity the state is poised to take on.

Ohio manufacturing companies are well positioned to meet the needs of the developing wind energy industry within the state, according to the Ohio Business Development Coalition (OBDC). Traditional manufacturing companies are investing in the production of components for wind turbines, further demonstrating the state’s commitment to renewable energy advancements.

Advance Manufacturing Corp., located in Cleveland, Ohio, has its roots in traditional manufacturing but realizes the opportunities in renewable energy. In the last two years, it has invested $6 million to upgrade its facility and produce 22,000-pound components for gearboxes used in large electricity generating wind turbines.

There are 37 companies in Ohio associated with the wind energy industry and 34 more interested in getting involved. Large companies committed to manufacturing wind technology components include Canton-based bearings maker Timken Co. and industrial manufacturer Parker Hannifin Corp. of Mayfield Heights.

Biden Calls for Energy’s “Apollo Project”

biden.jpgDemocratic presidential candidate Sen. Joe Biden (D-Delaware) has unveiled a five-year, $50 billion energy plan akin to the Apollo project that put men on the moon during a campaign stop in Iowa.

This story in the Des Moines Register says Biden’s plan will use a combination of alternative energy production and conservation:

“The innovative capacity of the United States of America is so awesome that, I predict in the next 10 years we will once again be in circles where you’ll have no less light, no less heat, no less comfort in automobiles, but we’re going to see technology bloom in my administration,” he said.

Here are some key points to Biden’s plan:

• Increase fuel efficiency and use of alternative fuels Biden proposes raising fuel economy standards by one mile per gallon each year and investing in new technology such as lithium ion batteries which fuel many plug-in hybrid vehicles. He proposes requiring new vehicles to be flex-fuel capable and requiring gas station chains to sell alternative fuels.

• Invest in new energy technology

• Expand use of renewable energy

• Mandating that federal government buildings be more energy efficient and requiring the government to purchase 10 percent renewable electricity by 2010.

• Encourage Amercans to use energy efficiently

• Create “green jobs” in areas of developing alternative energy

Biofuel Makers Want Changes to Farm Credit Rules

Leaders in Iowa’s renewable energy field are asking Congressional leaders to change federal law so Farm Credit would be allowed to make loans to build ethanol and biodiesel plants that do not have a majority of farmer-stockholders as owners.

harkin.jpgThis story in Wallaces Farmer says they’ve sent a letter to both of Iowa’s U.S. Senators, Chuck Grassley and Tom Harkin, and to other senators asking for support of the change to Farm Credit’s lending authority because of the problems expanding the renewable fuels industry and maintaining its profitability. The new farm bill, currently under debate, has an amendment with the change:grassley.jpg

The current economic climate is challenging, to say the least,” says Sam Cogdill, president of Amaizing Energy LLC, an ethanol plant at Denison in western Iowa. He is one of eight people representing ethanol and biodiesel plants across the state who signed the letter.

“We understand the struggles of expanding the ethanol and biodiesel industry and trying to keep it profitable in changing economic times,” he adds. “Rising input costs and other factors are creating increasingly smaller margins for ethanol and biodiesel producers.”

But bankers are balking at the idea:

The Farm Credit System was created under a federal charter years ago and operates as a cooperative. “As a government-sponsored lender, they have certain advantages we don’t have,” says Jim Schipper, president of American State Bank at Osceola and current chairman of the Iowa Bankers Association.

The Farm Credit System has preferential tax treatment and access to funding at interest rates a commercial bank is not eligible to get. “That’s fine as long as Farm Credit lenders are within their mission–providing credit to farmers,” says Schipper. “But this expanded horizons idea goes way beyond that. If they want to finance enterprises that are not farmer-owned projects, then they should have to discontinue their federal support.”

Schipper goes on to point out that guys such as Bill Gates, who owns one-fourth of Pacific Ethanol, would be eligible for the Farm Credit loans if the change happens.

Candidates Vye for Iowa Biodiesel Vote

clinton.jpgPresidential candidates Sens. Hillary Clinton (D-New York) and John McCain (R-Arizona) made separate stops at two Renewable Energy Group biodiesel facilities during their campaigns in Iowa today.

mccain-bus.jpgClinton toured the 30-million gallon REG network biodiesel production facility in Newton, while McCain attended the ribbon-cutting of the new REG headquarters in Ames. The fact that two national candidates are pushing biodiesel is a welcome sight to the National Biodiesel Board:

“These two visits in the same day exemplify the bipartisan recognition of biodiesel’s many benefits, ranging from economic development to energy security to climate change,” said Darryl Brinkmann, who serves as Chairman of the National Biodiesel Board (NBB) and spoke at the event. “The NBB applauds efforts to increase public awareness of the many benefits associated with expanded biodiesel production and use.”

Keep in mind, though, that neither one has been a great advocate of biofuels when it really counted: during their votes in the U.S. Senate. Back on June 5th, I told you about McCain’s flip-flopping ways when it comes to alternative energy with this from a UPI article:

During the 2000 presidential campaign, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., skipped the Iowa caucuses, perhaps sensing that, among other things, his opposition to ethanol subsidies would not go over well in a corn-growing state like Iowa.

Seven years later, he is crisscrossing the country again to win support for his bid to become the Republican presidential nominee, and this time his route includes stops in Iowa.

The article points out that in a speech in Virginia in April McCain said that while he would encourage the growth of ethanol infrastructure, he still won’t sign off on government subsidies.

Clinton is a bit of a fair-weathered friend of biofuels as well, as I pointed out in a July 24th post from this Newsday article:

At one time, Clinton stood squarely with ethanol’s opponents, and voted several times against ethanol bills.

When the Senate last took up ethanol-related legislation in 2005, the former first lady unsuccessfully opposed requiring refiners to boost their use of renewable fuels and the 51-cent tax credit.

Previously, she had warned that requiring added ethanol would bring higher gasoline prices and environmental risks.

“We are providing a single industry with a guaranteed market for its products — subsidies on top of subsidies on top of subsidies and, on top of that, protection from liability,” she said during an April 2002 Senate energy bill debate. “What a sweetheart deal.”

So let’s see where both these candidates REALLY stand when the Iowa Caucuses are over.

Legislation Would Increase RFS Without Energy Bill

Concerns about a languishing energy bill in Congress are motivating Senators to take action that would increase the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) even without it.

U.S. Senators Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and Richard Lugar (R-IN) have introduced legislation called the Renewable Fuels Strategy Act of 2007 that contains several provisions including a larger Renewable Fuels Standard of 36 billion gallons of annual renewable fuel use by 2022.

ACEThe 20th annual American Coalition for Ethanol praised the act, according to Executive Vice President Brian Jennings, “A comprehensive approach to the production, distribution, and consumption of ethanol is absolutely crucial to advancing this country’s energy situation from its current state to a more positive, diversified future.”

The bill also calls for increased production of Flexible Fuel Vehicles and expanded renewable fuels infrastructure, including an increase in the tax credit from 30% to 50%. The infrastructure provisions apply to E85 pumps, but also to Blender Pumps, which dispense mid-level ethanol blends between 10% and 85%.

The Renewable Fuels Strategy Act is co-sponsored by Senators Lugar (R-IN), Cantwell (D-WA), Craig (R-ID), Johnson (D-SD), McCaskill (D-MO), and Klobuchar (D-MN).

In addition, Senators Domenici (R-NM), Nelson (D-NE), Grassley (R-IA) and Thune (R-SD), introduced a Renewable Fuels Standard amendment to the 2007 Farm Bill that specifically calls for the production of 21 billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol by the year 2022.

Senators Urge Consideration of Higher Ethanol Blends

ThuneSenator John Thune (R-SD) and Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) led a bi-partisan group of Senators in writing a letter to the President last week urging him to direct the Environmental Protection Agency to approve higher blends of ethanol in commercial gasoline. The current maximum blend for non-flex fuel vehicles is 10% ethanol.

“The current 10% standard, or blend wall, will soon impact production capacity and could be very harmful to the ethanol industry in South Dakota and across the country,” said Thune. “By increasing the percentage of ethanol in gasoline, we can reduce our dependence on foreign sources of energy and make renewable fuels a key component of our nation’s energy policy.”

GrassleyGrassley said, “With consideration of a new farm bill as well as a new energy bill well underway, ethanol and renewable fuels are at the forefront of the discussion. And, while we’ve seen a tremendous jump in knowledge, promotion and usage of renewable fuels, there remain very real barriers. In the absence of widespread E85 use at this time, it’s important to ensure a market for today’s ethanol production.”

The Senate version of the 2007 Farm Bill is scheduled for floor debate this week. Senator Thune successfully inserted into the Senate 2007 Farm Bill a study of the E10 blend wall and a “Sense of the Senate” resolution directing the federal government to approve higher blends of ethanol after the successful completion of the appropriate studies.

Arming the Military with E85

EPIC educational forum on E85 Ft. Leavenworth in Kansas has a vested interest in E85 and flex-fuel vehicles. The Combined Arms Center will soon have to be operating its fleet of more than 200 vehicles on E85. That’s in compliance with the executive order President Bush signed in January of this year. John Tirpak, Traffic Manager at Ft. Leavenworth, came to the Ethanol and Promotion Information Council’s educational event on E85 in Kansas City to learn how the military facility can fuel up with E85.

You can listen to my interview with John here:

Georgia Considers Ethanol Blend Changes

Tommy IrvinGeorgia Commissioner of Agriculture Tommy Irvin is holding a couple of town hall meetings later this month to listen to comments regarding updating Georgia’s fuel standards for ethanol blends.

A recent article in Florida Today noted that state officials in Georgia and other Southeastern states, including Florida, are moving to alter fuel-quality standards that have discouraged refiners from adding ethanol to gasoline sold in the region.

Agriculture departments typically set the gasoline rules, and most of them in the Southeast — including in Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee — are taking steps to ease their rules.

Standards can be relaxed without harming engine performance, officials say, and adding ethanol to gasoline could save motorists money.

A gallon of ethanol is about 40 to 45 cents cheaper than a gallon of gasoline in the region, which translates to several pennies cheaper at the pump for a typical gasoline-ethanol blend.

“That’s our goal. Give them a quality product, save a few dollars and be patriotic,” said Tommy Irvin, Georgia’s agriculture commissioner.

Georgia’s town hall meetings on the issue are scheduled for November 27 in Atlanta and November 29 in Tifton.

Ag Secretary Nominee Has Biofuels Credentials

Schafer BushIn his nomination of former North Dakota governor Ed Schafer as Secretary of Agriculture on Wednesday, President Bush noted his support of domestic fuel.

“Ed Schafer is the right choice to fill this post. He was a leader on agricultural issues during his eight years as the governor of North Dakota,” Bush said. “He oversaw the development of the state’s agricultural biofuels industry. He helped families recover from natural disasters — including drought, fires and floods. And he pioneered innovative programs to increase economic opportunity in rural communities.”

Schafer served as Governor of North Dakota from 1992 to 2000. He is nominated to replace Mike Johanns who resigned from the position last month to run for the U.S. Senate in Nebraska.

Wisconsin Budget Gains Biodiesel Group’s Praise

wba_field1thumbnail.jpgIt took a lot longer than anticipated, but lawmakers in Wisconsin have finally reached agreement on that state’s budget… and the Wisconsin Biodiesel Association (WBA) says its $26 million renewable energy package will help make the state competitive in the biodiesel business.

This story in Wisconsin Ag Connection says the WBA is applauding the approval of the biodiesel measures in the bill, including biodiesel distribution incentives, a $4 million grant to develop a soybean crushing facility, and a biodiesel producers’ state income tax credit:

“We are thrilled that the Legislature has made such a significant commitment to the biodiesel industry in Wisconsin,” said John Blaska, president of the Landmark Services Cooperative Board of Directors. “Thanks to the dedication of Governor Doyle and the efforts of State Sen. Jon Erpenbach, State Rep. Brett Davis, and State Sen. Bob Jauch, we are now one significant step closer to bringing Wisconsin’s first soybean crushing facility to Evansville.”

Landmark recently announced it will match any investment made by the state toward a soybean crushing facility in Evansville, up to $4 million. The addition of a soybean crushing plant will add substantial value to the state’s agricultural endeavors by cutting transportation costs and increasing soybean production, potentially bringing Wisconsin an additional $235 million in revenue and savings.

WSA Director Bob Karls says Wisconsin soybean farmers have been working for 15 years to bring a soybean processing facility to the state. While Wisconsin is the 13th largest soybean producer in the country, it is the only one of these states without its own soybean processing facility.

“It is difficult to envision a more concrete example of the way in which Governor Doyle’s pursuit of a renewable energy bio-industry could create more positive economic impact for the state,” said Jeff Pieterick, president of the Wisconsin Biodiesel Association. “The passage of this renewable energy package provides substantial infrastructure that supports the bottom line for agricultural producers throughout Wisconsin.”