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.

USDA Energy Grant Announcements

WIREC 08At last week’s Washington International Renewable Energy Conference (WIREC) 2008, Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer announced that USDA will accept almost $221 million in loan and grant applications within USDA’s Renewable Energy Systems and Energy Efficiency Improvements Program.

“As demand for energy rises, these renewable energy loans and grants help farms and rural small businesses increase their investment in renewable energy initiatives,” said Schafer.

WIREC 08Eligible applicants may seek loan guarantees to cover up to 50 percent of a project’s cost up $10 million and grants are available for up to 25 percent of a project’s cost, not to exceed $250,000 for energy efficiency improvements and $500,000 for renewable energy systems. USDA Rural Development has invested $674 million in more than 1,763 renewable energy and energy efficiency projects since 2001 including ethanol, biodiesel, wind, solar, geothermal, methane gas recovery systems and biomass.

Schafer also announced the award of $4 million to help 17 small businesses and community groups find more innovative uses of woody biomass from national forests in new products and renewable energy. The grants will help create markets for small-diameter woody material, damaged and other low-valued trees removed to reduce the risk of fire hazard, insect infestation or disease.

WIREC 2008 Wraps Up

WIRECThe Washington International Energy Conference wrapped up Thursday after three days of discussions, presentations and networking between more than 7,000 representatives from over 100 countries.

The United States pledged to continue its leadership in renewable energy through efforts coordinated by multiple agencies. For example, USDA will work on the development and cultivation of switchgrass for the production of cellulosic ethanol, and drive up markets and demand for woody biomass and biobased products.

“Renewable energy presents a promising opportunity for the farm economy,” said Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer. “Coupled with a strong commitment from USDA, our goal sets renewable fuels on the pathway as a regular and reliable source in the energy mix,” Schafer said.

Ministers and representatives from other countries also shared their pledges with the conference, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Cape Verde, Denmark, Germany, Jordan, New Zealand, and Norway.

Bush Urges US to “Get Off Oil”

As crude oil jumped to new record highs on the New York mercantile exchange due to falling oil inventories, trading over $104 a barrel, President Bush renewed his support for ethanol as a means toward energy independence.

Speaking at the Washington International Renewable Energy Conference 2008 (WIREC) Wednesday, Bush said, “America has got to change its habits. We’ve got to get off oil.”

WIREC BushTo do that, he mentioned just about every alternative, domestic energy source possible – from ethanol and biodiesel to wind and solar, hydrogen and nuclear. He discussed the need for vehicles that run on alternative fuels, including plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, and he visited with manufacturers of those types of vehicles at the WIREC trade show.

He also stressed the administration’s commitment to research and development of cellulosic ethanol.

“I look forward to the day when Texas ranchers can grow switchgrass on their country, and then have that switchgrass be converted to fuel,” he said. “I look forward to the day when people in the parts of our country that have got a lot of forests are able to convert wood chips into fuel. And those days are coming.”

The president called biodiesel “the most promising” of the renewable fuels. “Biodiesel refineries can produce fuel from soybeans, and vegetable oils, and recycled cooking grease, from waste materials,” Bush noted. “All you out there with waste, you may be in business before you know it as this new technology kicks in. Most Americans — or, more Americans are beginning to realize the benefits of biodiesel every year.”

Read the president’s entire address to WIREC here.

Biomass Grants Announced at WIREC

WIREC SchaferThe federal government will invest a total of $18.4 million over three years for 21 new biomass research and development and demonstration projects.

Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer and Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman made that announcement today at the Washington International Renewable Energy Conference 2008 (WIREC).

“These grants help fund the innovative research needed to develop technologies and systems that lead to the production of bio-based products and biofuels,” Schafer said. “Funding new technologies will help make biofuels competitive with fossil fuels in the commercial market, putting America on the path of reducing its dependence on foreign oil.”

A full list of grant recipients can be found here.

SD Biodiesel Tax Break Moves to Governor’s Desk

sdcapitol.gifThe South Dakota State House and Senate has voted unanimously to approve a bill that would cut state taxes on diesel mixed with biodiesel.

This story in Land Line Magazine says if the governor signs the bill as expected, it could take a little time before the effects kick in:

At the request of Gov. Mike Rounds, the House and Senate unanimously approved a bill that would reduce the fuel tax on diesel that contains at least 5 percent biodiesel by 2 cents per gallon. The fuel tax applied to regular gasoline and diesel now is 22 cents per gallon. The bill – SB148 – would trim the per-gallon tax on biodiesel to 20 cents.

The per-gallon tax on ethanol already is 20 cents.

Rounds said he wants to provide the same incentive for ethanol use to truckers and other consumers of diesel. Offering the discounted tax rate for biodiesel would encourage production of the fuel made mostly from soybeans, he said.

Tax breaks would not start until biodiesel production capacity in the state reaches 20 million gallons annually. The tax break would end once production reached about 40 million gallons annually.

Getting More Washington Perspective

Tom DorrOur Undersecretary for Rural Development, Tom Dorr, was first up on the program here this morning at the National Ethanol Conference to speak about the farm bill and focus on renewable fuel policies and provisions.

He says the ethanol industry is going through some growing pains, or put another way, transitional challenges. He’s convinced these will be overcome. Like many of the speakers here he talked about the attacks on ethanol, especially of late, in terms of sustainability. He said that some of the same regulatory rhetoric being discussed in Europe in regards to biofuels is creeping up in the debate in Washington, DC. He pointed out that farmers have long been working on sustainability and the facts show that they’re increasing yields while reducing inputs.

You can hear most of Dorr’s speech here (I missed the very beginning):

National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

Andy Karsner Speech

Andy KarsnerBob Dinneen, RFA President, isn’t the only one to preach a powerful sermon here at the National Ethanol Conference. I was very surprised and pleased to hear Andy Karsner, Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, U.S. Department of Energy, speak at today’s luncheon. He gave a very passionate speech that you would really enjoy listening to. That’s why I decided to post a link to the full speech below for you. I know it’s a little long but you can listen to as little or as much as you’d like this way.

I think he went to great lengths to talk about the mis-information filtering out to the public about renewable fuel sources. In fact, as so many of you know, it’s hard to believe how much of it is out there. So he addressed those problems head on with good scientific information.

He tells a very moving story about how much he travels for his present position and how that has affected his family and young children. He says that even though it’s difficult, it’s minor compared to what our military men and women are doing to fight the war on terror overseas. He says it’s the least we can do to do our part here at home which includes developing sources of energy that make us more independent of those countries that would do us harm.

Another message that came through loud and clear was his idea that the solutions to our energy needs are something that will be done by not just the government but by private industry and government working together.

You can listen to Andy Karsner’s speech here:

National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

NFU Gets Behind Renewable Energy Bill

nfu.pngThe National Farmers Union is pledging its support to an energy bill seen as friendly to biofuels, while praising Democrat leaders who back the bill.

This story on CattleNetwork.com says National Farmers Union President Tom Buis lauded Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charlie Rangel for backing the bill designed to spark wind and biomass energy that will bring billions of dollars to rural areas. And the NFU is urging Congress to pass the legislation:

In a letter to Pelosi and Rangel, Buis stated NFU’s strong support for the Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation Tax Act of 2008.

buis.jpg“Not only does fostering renewable energy provide the opportunity for energy independence, it also provides a source for rural economic development that will significantly jump-start rural economies,” Buis said. “Two provisions of this bill, extending the Production Tax Credit and authorizing funds for the Clean Renewable Energy Bonds, are essential.”

The legislation would extend the Production Tax Credit (PTC) for three years. “The PTC provides the most critical federal incentive to continue developing wind projects in rural communities,” Buis said.

The NFU has been a longtime backer of ethanol, biodiesel, and other ag-based fuels.

International Cleantech Forum

Cleantech Group LLCSan Francisco will play host to more than 800 investors, entrepreneurs and leading renewable energy experts at the international Cleantech Forum XVI convening next week. This year’s forum is highlighting 2008 as ‘The Defining Year for Cleantech Globalization.’

Investors, entrepreneurs, industry influencers and corporate leaders at the forefront of the rapidly developing cleantech investment and business category from North American, Europe, the Gulf States and Asia will convene in San Francisco for Cleantech Forum(R) XVI, to be held at the San Francisco Fairmont Hotel from February 25-27, 2008.

Cleantech Forum XVI is hosted by the Cleantech Group, LLC, founders of the cleantech investment category. The annual flagship meeting of the world’s cleantech leaders, representing over $8 trillion in assets, will define investment trends for 2008 and focus capital on the emerging opportunities and solutions to natural resource constraints and global climate change issues.

Dr. Sultan Ahmed al Jaber, CEO of the Masdar Initiative and Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company, will deliver the keynote address at the Cleantech Forum XVI Gala Dinner on Tuesday February 26. With a $15 billion commitment announced in January, Dr. Sultan al Jaber is leading the largest government-supported cleantech initiative in the world.

U.S. Department of Energy Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Andy Karsner will highlight the Department’s transformational public-private sector work intended to accelerate the development, deployment and commercialization of cutting-edge, clean energy technologies from the Agency’s national laboratories into the global marketplace. Continue reading

AZ Bill Would Help Pay for Adding Biofuels

boone.gifA bill introduced in the Arizona legislature would help pay the costs of gas stations adding biofuels to their lineups.

The Tucson Citizen reports HB 2620, offered by Arizona House majority leader Tom Boone (R-Peoria), will help stations meet the growing numbers of vehicles that can run the green fuels:

“We need to make sure Arizonans have cleaner fuel choices available to them,” Boone said.
He added that because of the state budget crunch, the bill would not allocate any funds toward the program, but it would “create a conduit through which to distribute and gather monies for the program.”

There are 7,127,966 vehicles on the roads in Arizona, said Cydney DeModica, spokesperson for the Arizona Department of Transportation. Bill Schaeffer, executive director of the Valley of the Sun Clean Cities Coalition, said of these vehicles, an estimated 150,000 are capable of running on E-85 and 230,855 could run on biodiesel.

There are 13 E-85 stations and nine biodiesel stations in Arizona.

The money to pay for the conversions would come from gifts, grants, donations or other state, federal or private sources and go into a central fund. The conversion costs, particularly to hold E85, are expected to be between $50,000 and $100,000. If a station already carries diesel, there’s no conversion to carry biodiesel.

Secretary of Agriculture Biofuels Message To Livestock Producers

Me and Sec. EdOur Secretary of Agriculture, Ed Schafer, made his first major public policy speech today at the Cattle Industry Convention in Reno, NV. I had the pleasure of meeting him and talked someone into snapping a photo too. I thought you might be interested in hearing an audio clip from his speech here this morning since he hit the subject of high feed prices and renewable energy head on.

Basically, he said that with the growth of cellulosic ethanol production there should be an easing of feed price pressure within a short time as the technology and non-food stocks form of ethanol production continues to rapidly develop.

Sec. SchaferHe says there’s no way we can get away from the reality of the need to become more energy independent here in America.

He does admit that there will be higher feed prices in the short term but he stressed that the President’s energy bill provides an outline toward the future which is cellulosic.

You can listen to Secretary Schafer’s comments here: