Government Dispels Biofuels Myths

doe.jpgA new paper from the U.S. Department of Energy tries to put to rest some of the myths that still swirl around biofuels.

The document, posted on the DOE web site, takes on some of the most-often repeated arguments against renewable energy with solid facts:

doereport1.jpgMYTH: In terms of emissions, biofuels emit the same amount as gasoline or more.
FACT: Biofuels burn cleaner than gasoline, resulting in fewer greenhouse gas emissions, and are fully biodegradable, unlike some fuel additives.

MYTH: Ethanol cannot be produced from corn in large enough quantities to make a real difference without disrupting food and feed supplies.
FACT: Corn-based ethanol is only one source of biofuel. As we address the technical hurdles associated with the efficient and cost-effective production of biofuels, ethanol will increasingly play a more significant role.

doereport2.jpgMYTH: Ethanol gasoline blends can lower fuel economy and may harm your engine.
FACT: Ethanol blends in use today have little impact on fuel economy or vehicle performance.

MYTH: More energy goes into producing ethanol than it delivers as a fuel.
FACT: Each gallon of corn ethanol today delivers as much as 67% more energy than is used to produce it.

Although the document is just a couple of pages long, it should be must reading for anyone in the biofuels industry so they can dispel the myths with the facts.

Farm Foundation to Host Carbon Footprint Forum

carbonfootprint.JPGFarm Foundation, a non-profit group that works as a catalyst for farm policy discussion, is holding a forum on the lifecycle carbon footprint analysis of biofuels, this coming Tuesday, April 8 from 9 am to 11 am in the First Amendment Lounge of the National Press Club in Washington D.C.

Speakers providing opening comments will be:

* Bruce McCarl of Texas A&M University, discussing lifecycle analysis.
* Brooke Coleman of the Renewable Energy Action Project, presenting the renewable fuels perspective.
* Laurent Javaudin, Delegation of the European Commission to the United States, addressing European Commission proposals on biofuels sustainability and GHG methodology.

This discussion will be opened up to the floor with Charlie Stenholm moderating.

The forum is free, but you are asked to RSVP by 10 a.m. CDT, this coming Friday, April 4, to Mary Thompson, Farm Foundation Director of Communication, mary@farmfoundation.org.

Senator Pushes for Higher Ethanol Blends

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) is continuing to push for the use of higher ethanol blends in regular car engines.

Chuck GrassleyLast fall, Grassley and several other senators wrote the Environmental Protection Agency requesting testing of blends of ethanol above 10% for non-flexible fuel vehicles. Now Grassley is asking car makers what they are doing in the area of research and testing on higher ethanol blends.

“It is becoming even more important as we see the maximum market demand for E-10 blends quickly approaching,” Grassley told reporters Tuesday. “It is believed that the E-10 market will be saturated by 2012 or 2013 at about 12 or 14 billion gallons a year. That’s about twice what we producer right now. It is critical that timely approvals be made for intermediate blends of ethanol-blended gasoline for non-flexible fuel vehicles.”

Grassley cites a year-long study by the state of Minnesota and the Renewable Fuels Association showing no problems with ethanol blends of up to 20 percent.

“When I was in Brazil in 2006 I saw first hand, non-Flex Fuel vehicles capable on running on blends of 20 percent to 25 percent ethanol,” he said.

Grassley says movement to higher ethanol blends requires cooperation between the public and private sectors.

Partnership for Cellulosic Technology

ConocoISUThe U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has entered into partnership with ConocoPhillips and Iowa State University to identify promising cellulosic biomass conversion technologies for the future. The collaboration will bring three independently established programs together to help identify the most efficient and cost-effective methods for making liquid transportation fuels from plants.

NREL“Research cooperation among government, industry and academia is needed to efficiently address the many questions about how to find the best ways to convert biomass to liquid transportation fuels,” said Tom Foust, technology manager for NREL’s National Bioenergy Center.

Each party is providing its own time and resources and the collaboration is expected to produce an initial report by January 2009.

Introducing Domestic Fuel Cast

Domestic Fuel CastBecause we do lots of interviews and generate quite a bit of audio here at Domestic Fuel and because we are broadcasters by training, we thought it was about time we started our own podcast.

The Domestic Fuel Cast will feature people and news of interest in the alternative fuels industry. Expect it to run about 5-10 minutes in length and be produced every two weeks, starting now. You can subscribe to the podcast using the following url/feed link: http://www.zimmcomm.biz/domesticfuel/domestic-fuel-cast.xml. You can use your browser (IE, Firefox, Safari, etc.) to subscribe or if you’d like to get it into your iPod or Zune then we recommend using iTunes or the Zune software. Of course we’ll always post a link like the following one that will let you listen immediately here. We’re also archiving the programs.

Robert ZubrinOur first podcast features aerospace engineer and author Robert Zubrin, who has been getting some media attention lately for his book, “Energy Victory,” in which he outlines a simple plan for “winning the war on terror by breaking free of oil.”

Here is the Domestic Fuel Cast #1:

Corn Planting Prediction Lower

NASSUSDA’s highly anticipated prospective plantings report is predicting that farmers will plant eight percent less corn and 18 percent more soybeans. Growers intend to plant 86.0 million acres of corn and 74.8 million acres of soybeans in 2008.

Expected acreage is down from last year in most states as favorable prices for other crops, high input costs for corn, and crop rotation considerations are motivating some farmers to plant fewer acres to corn.

Despite the decrease, the report says, “corn acreage is expected to remain at historically high levels as the corn price outlook remains strong due in part to the continued expansion in ethanol production.”

Missouri Senate Approves Biodiesel Mandate

senstouffer11.GIFA requirement that all diesel sold in Missouri contain at least 5 percent biodiesel has passed the State Senate.

Radio station KWMU (St. Louis) reports the measure, set to go into effect in 2010 if it becomes law, passed by a wide 20-11 margin:

The bill’s sponsor, State Senator Bill Stouffer (R, Napton), says B-5 will cause less pollution and reduce wear and tear on commercial trucks.

“It gives us an opportunity to raise fuel in Missouri and keep those dollars inside the state, instead of going to Texas, or the Mid-East or Venezuela,” Stouffer said.

The measure now goes on to the Missouri House. If it passes there, Governor Matt Blunt has indicated he will sign the bill. Blunt called for the mandate in his State of the State address in January.

Biodiesel from Tropical Paradise

Abundant Biofuels CorporationAmericans might soon be fueling up with biodiesel from the Phillipines. Abundant Biofuels Corporation has received the green light for developing 300 million gallons of biodiesel fuel from the island of Mindanao each year.

The Supreme Council of Datus Alimaong has reached agreement with Monterey, CA-based Abundant Biofuels Corporation to develop more than 1.2 million acres of ancestral domain for production of biodiesel from Jatropha curcas in underused Lumad lands on the island of Mindanao.

Dr. Rene Q. Lacsina, president of Abundant Biofuels Philippines, Inc. and an agronomist-scientist, sees this jatropha or tubatuba global venture as a golden opportunity for indigenous Filipinos to show the rest of the nation ” … the way to be productive citizens contributing to genuine freedom essential for restoring the nation into justice, righteousness and peace while participating in the lucrative global biofuel industry.”

Abundant Biofuels CEO Dr. Charles Fishel stated, “Jatropha is the only biodiesel feedstock that does not divert agricultural land from food production. It has the added advantage of producing 20 times more energy than the energy required to produce it.” Fishel adds that, “Most other feedstock consumes almost as much energy in production as the energy it is supposed to supply as fuel.”

Under its groundbreaking agreement, Abundant Biofuels will deploy part of its profits for infrastructure development on the island of Mindanao, including improved housing, medical care programs, better schoolroom facilities and resources for people to affirm cultural identities such as music, dance, food, attire and drama.

Transitional Ethanol

On Saturday in Indiana, Presidential candidate Barack Obama echoed what a Nobel laureate in physics said Wednesday in Nebraska – corn-based ethanol is a transitional technology.

Obama IndianaDuring a campaign stop in corn country over the weekend, the Terre Haute News reports that Senator Obama was asked what he thought about corn-based ethanol.

Obama answered, “We spend a billion dollars a day sending money to foreign nations because of our addiction to foreign oil. Oil prices are at the highest level in history, and they’re not going down anytime soon.

“China and India need fuel for growth — there are a million Chinese who don’t have a car who want a car,” he said.

After saying that alternative fuels and energy sources will be the necessary next step for breaking America’s dependence on foreign oil, Obama said, “Corn-based ethanol is not optimal. I’ve been a big supporter of corn-based ethanol. I come from a corn state — Illinois — and it’s a good transitional technology, but the truth is, it is not as efficient as what the Brazilians are doing with sugar cane.”

Obama continued, saying that more money needs to be devoted to researching and developing additional forms of alternative energy.

ChuDr. Steven Chu, director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, said much the same at the 25x’25 Renewable Energy Summit last week in Omaha, according to Truth About Trade & Technology.

“Corn is not the right crop for biofuels,” said Chu, who won the Nobel Prize in physics in 1997 and is co-chairman of a study on sustainable energy by an international scientific council.

Chu and his California team of researchers are trying to develop new fuels that will be dramatically more efficient to make than either corn-based ethanol or soybean-based biodiesel.

Currently, corn is the least costly feedstock for making ethanol. The ethanol demand has more than doubled corn prices in the last two years, raising concerns about its effects on food prices.

But within five to 10 years, Chu said, scientific discoveries and refining processes could improve enough to move grasses, woody substances and waste to the head of the line for making fuels. Some grasses could provide five times the amount of fuel from an acre as corn.

Unlike corn, many of the feedstocks can be grown on marginal land not normally used for food crops.

“We should look at corn as a transitional crop,” Chu said.

That’s what supporters of ethanol have been trying to tell the critics all along, that corn is a stepping stone to newer, more efficient biofuels. It’s nice to hear someone else say it.

Missouri-Kansas Becoming Green Rivals

moksflags.jpgWhen you live in this part of the country, you KNOW how big of rivals Kansas and Missouri are. This hatred goes all the way back to before the Civil War! I’ve even known people who would actually spit after they spoke the other state’s name. Officials at MU and KU have tried to tone down the rhetoric by calling it a border “showdown” instead of border “war” (which most diehard fans still call a war). Pretty fascinating for an Iowa boy who didn’t grow up with this rivalry that has moved to the football fields and basketball courts of the two states.

Now, it seems Missouri and Kansas have become rivals about how green they want to be. This story from the Kansas City (MO) Star says there is lots of legislation on both sides of the border, including more than 20 green bills before the Missouri legislature this session:

In Missouri, the bills showing movement this year rely on tax policy as a prod to change consumer habits and business operations.

The House last week gave first-round approval to a bill granting a $2,000 income tax deduction for the purchase of hybrid vehicles manufactured in the United States.

In the Senate, language recently added to a large agriculture bill also addresses alternative-fuel vehicles. The bill includes not only a tax deduction for hybrid purchases, but also incentives for consumers who purchase 85-percent ethanol gasoline and gas-station owners who install alternative fuel facilities.

Plus, a 5 percent biodiesel mandate is making its way through the halls of the Capitol in Jefferson City.

Kansas lawmakers have put forward several green bills, but all are overshadowed by the key issue of the year: a coal-burning power plant expansion in western Kansas.

Both the Senate and the House have passed legislation designed to clear the way for Sunflower Electric Power Corp. to build two new coal plants at its existing Holcomb, Kan., plant…

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius has vowed to veto the bill, saying it doesn’t do enough to encourage renewable energy or protect the environment. Continue reading

Minnesota Looks to Increase Biodiesel Mandate

Hoping to mimic the success its ethanol mandate has brought to that industry in Minnesota, the state is looking at bumping up its 2 percent biodiesel mandate.

This story from Minnesota Public Radio says a bill before the state legislature would increase that requirement by 10-fold:

juhnke.JPG“What this does is actually give a signal to industry that they should move ahead, and develop more infrastructure for this product,” [bill sponsor Rep. Al Juhnke, DFL-Willmar] says.

Right now, trucks in Minnesota burn a blend that contains two-percent biodiesel. Juhnke’s bill would increase that to 20-percent by 2015. In the winter months, the requirement drops back to five-percent, until problems with cold weather are worked out. At least half of the biodiesel would be produced in Minnesota.

Juhnke says if biodiesel follows in ethanol’s footsteps, it will be good for rural Minnesota.

“You know, there are 17 ethanol plants right now, each of them averaging probably 35 or 40 really-good paying jobs in these communities, and so that money spins and turns in the local economies out here.”

Juhnke’s bill would also come up with $500,000 to fund algae biodiesel research in Minnesota.

Achieving a Sustainable Energy Future

Dr. Steve ChuOne of today’s presenters at the 25x’25 Renewable Energy Summit was Dr. Steve Chu, Director, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. His topic was “Achieving a Sustainable Energy Future” in which he provided an examination of how 25x’25 can be reached through means that conserve and
protect natural resources.

I walked in to his presentation first thing upon arriving this afternoon and it was fascinating. The research that’s being done not only in his lab but around the country should give everyone hope that we’ll find solutions for our energy concerns much quicker than we might think.

I spoke to him after his presentation and asked him about what his message was to this diverse group of leaders looking at how we can create a bright energy future. He says that existing technologies won’t get us to where we want to go which is replacing a huge percentage of our transportation fuel. However, he says that we have sufficient land and resources to not only take care of this need but also provide for our food needs as well. He says we’re just going to have to do it differently.

For example, it will take making better plants and using marginal land and making more efficient processes to convert them into energy and doing so in an economical way. This is the type of research his lab is working on.

He also talked about how many young people are moving into this type of research with enthusiasm but they’ll need support at the research facilities in order to conduct the research, something that has been lacking from the government for example in recent years. That sounds like something that 25x’25 can work on in Washington, DC.

You can listen to my interview with Dr. Chu here:

SD Gov Signs Biodiesel Tax Incentive

South Dakota consumers choosing to fill up with biodiesel will great a break on their gas bill.

This story in the Rapid City (SD) Journal says Gov. Mike Rounds has signed into law a measure that will give a 2-cent per gallon tax break for every gallon of diesel sold with 5 percent biodiesel:

rounds1.jpg“As diesel costs continue to skyrocket, this tax break will help ease the pain at the pump for consumers while helping to develop our state’s biodiesel industry,” Rounds said in a news release. “Biodiesel is an ideal alternative to petroleum-based fuel. It will not reduce mileage, and because of its increased lubricity, it is better for the engine.”

This incentive is a little different than other states’ programs that don’t kick in until there’s a minimum of alternative fuel available. This one will end when 35 million gallons of taxed biodiesel and biodiesel blended fuel are sold after the effective date.

Missouri Biodiesel Standard Moves Forward

senstouffer1.GIFThe Missouri State Senate has passed a biodiesel standard that would require all diesel sold in the state to contain at least 5 percent biodiesel.

This story in the St. Louis Post Dispatch says if it passes the Missouri House and gains the governor’s signature (which he has indicated he will sign it), it will be the highest biodiesel requirement in the country:

“It gets biodiesel into the fuel distribution system,” said Sen. Bill Stouffer, the bill’s sponsor. “I’m not a mandate guy, but when the competition owns the system, the only way to get it into the system is to force it.”

mosoy.jpgThe move has gained the praise of the Missouri Soybean Association:

dale-ludwig.jpg“A B5 Standard is the next step in advancing Missouri’s growing biofuels industry and we are grateful for the leadership that Senator Stouffer has provided on this important issue,” said Dale R. Ludwig, Missouri Soybean Association (MSA) Executive Director/CEO. “It is refreshing to have people who realize the important role biodiesel can play in reducing our dependency on foreign oil. Missourians can take pride in knowing that homegrown, renewable fuels, such as biodiesel, keep more dollars in the state when we spend less on petroleum-based fuels.”

If it passes, Missouri would become the sixth state to put in a biodiesel standard. Minnesota was the first, enacting a two percent standard. Louisiana, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington also have passed biodiesel standards, but those states’ requirements have nit yet kicked in.

PA Biodiesel Producers Barely Hanging On

pastatecapitol.jpgBiodiesel producers in Pennsylvania are in a tough spot these days, and unless the state steps in to help them, their industry could go bust by the end of the month.

This story in the Central Penn Business Journal says lawmakers are still sparring over subsidies that could help make the industry competitive again:

There are two proposals that would help the industry. One would increase subsidies and the other would mandate the blending of biodiesel into petroleum-based diesel. Both are part of Gov. Ed Rendell’s energy strategy to reduce the state’s dependence on foreign oil.

The Republican-controlled state Senate passed a subsidy bill in December. Special Session Senate Bill 22 would give biodiesel producers 75 cents per gallon. The Democrat-controlled House wanted a bill that raised subsidies to $1 per gallon. All biofuels producers, including ethanol producers, are eligible for a 5-cent-per-gallon subsidy.

Biodiesel producers last year asked for $1 per gallon so Pennsylvania producers could be competitive with Midwest producers that already receive subsidies ranging from $1 to $1.50 per gallon, said John Cole, founding partner of United Biofuels in Manchester Township, York County.

Meanwhile, biodiesel producers say they’re down to running on fumes and loans.