Abengoa Announcement Official

abengoa announcementAbengoa Bioenergy was given a key to the city of Hugoton, Kansas last week after formally announcing plans to build a 300-million dollar cellulose ethanol plant near there.

The plant is expected to be the first commercial cellulosic ethanol facility and will eventually produce 30 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol and 85 million gallons of traditional corn-based ethanol per year.

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius was among the dignitaries at the event on Thursday. She told representatives from the local community that they should be proud of this “cutting-edge project” that will be home “for our new fuel supply” that the rest of the nation and world will be watching.

Abengoa‘s Kansas plant was one of six projects selected nationwide by the Department of Energy to create and develop the cellulosic ethanol industry.

Read more from the Garden City Telegram.

Johanns Meets the Press Club

Johanns Press ClubWhen Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns spoke at the National Press Club on July 27, the inevitable question about ethanol was asked.

“Corn-based ethanol may help the nation reduce its dependence on foreign oil, but critics say that ethanol costs almost as much as the energy it produces. Isn’t corn-based ethanol a wasteful way to produce energy, and won’t it increase the cost of food?”

Johanns first response was brief and to the point, “No, and it isn’t.”

After the laughter died down, he elaborated on the issue.

“Every year we have some inflation relative to food, 2 percent, 3 percent, somewhere in that vicinity, some years maybe a little bit more, a little bit less. This year with all of this debate raging we anticipate that food prices across the board will be impacted 2 to 4 percent, about average, maybe a little bit higher. Then when you look at that, many articles I read see that and then they go right to the conclusion, it’s because of ethanol, it’s because the price of corn got high and that’s the reason.

“They leave out a whole big piece of the analysis. What’s the big piece of the analysis? The farmer doesn’t get all of that. I’m sure they wish they did. But they get about 20 cents of the retail dollar. Actually the increase in the price of energy to ship that food can have as much or more of a profound impact on the price of that food than the corn you feed to the animal.”

Read the press club transcript here.

Energy Title of House Farm Bill

The US House passed its version of the 2007 Farm Bill Friday by a vote of 231 to 191 – a vote largely along party lines on a bill that came out of the House agriculture committee as a bipartisan piece of legislation. Republican members of the committee withdrew their support for the bill when a tax increase on foreign owned businesses was added to pay for nutrition programs. House ag minority leader Bob Goodlatte led an unsuccessful attempt to have the bill sent back to committee to find more offsets for funding.

Farm BillDuring a press conference last week, the chairman of the House Agriculture subcommittee on Conservation, Credit, Energy and Research said he the energy title of the bill includes a loan guarantee program of about $2 billion.

“Everyone says we’re too dependent on foreign energy in this country,” said Congressman Tim Holden (D-PA). “This bill allows us to take a giant step forward to take advantage of our agriculture and natural resources for cellulosic ethanol and biodiesel with this loan guarantee program.”

However, Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns says all the money for cellulosic ethanol research in the House bill is discretionary funding, “which around here means you’ll never see that funding.” Johanns claims that the majority of the funding in the House bill energy title is set aside to buy sugar for ethanol production. “So taxpayers will be buying sugar at twice the world price and then selling it for ethanol.” Johanns says the administration is prepared to veto the farm bill if the final version turns out like the House bill.

The farm bill process is only just beginning. The Senate now must pass its own version of the bill, which is expected to be significantly different than the House version and then it will be on to a conference committee. The current bill expires at the end of September, but since the Senate will not even start work on it until after the August recess, a continuing resolution is likely to be passed to give Congress a few more months.

RFAMeanwhile, the Renewable Fuels Association welcomed House passage of the H.R. 2419, the “Farm, Nutrtion, and Bioenergy Act of 2007.” RFA President Bob Dinneen said in a statement, “We are at a crossroads in this country with respect to our energy future. We can continue on with the status quo and become more vulnerable to the whims of oil cartels around the world. Or, we can invest in American imagination and hard work and move down the path of a more stable, secure energy future. This farm bill clearly takes a step down the latter.” Most major ag organizations have also come out in support of the House bill.

RFA Supports House Ag Farm Bill

RFAThe Renewable Fuels Association is pleased with support for biofuels in the 2007 Farm Bill passed by the House Agriculture Committee last week.

RFA President Bob Dinneen says the programs included in the Energy Title of H.R. 2419 will greatly contribute to ensuring America’s future energy security.

“The programs included in the Energy Title will promote Federal procurement of biobased products, provide loan guarantees for biorefineries and biofuels production facilities, expand research to better utilize ethanol co-products such as distillers grains, study the feasibility of a dedicated ethanol pipeline, and continue the Bioenergy Program to incentivize cellulosic and biomass feedstocks for ethanol production and energy production of ethanol plants,” said Dinneen.

“The RFA thanks the Committee for recognizing the potential of biofuels and providing the agriculture community, through H.R. 2419’s Energy Title, a pathway that will provide a more stable and sustainable energy future for all Americans. The RFA applauds the Committee for their work on this carefully balanced legislation, and we look forward to working with you as H.R. 2419 comes to the floor of the House of Representatives later this week.”

NBB Calls for Passage of Farm Bill

NBB logoThe National Biodiesel Board today called for passage of the U.S. House’s version of the Farm Bill – H.R. 2419, the Farm, Nutrition, and Bioenergy Act of 2007 – especially the parts referring to biodiesel.

NBB officials say the energy title portion of the bill includes an expansion of the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) Bioenergy Program and the Biodiesel Education Program. According to an NBB release, the CCC would support production of biodiesel and other bio-based renewable fuels using domestic feedstocks by providing subsidies to help biodiesel producers in this country offset rising feedstock costs. Those costs make up about 80 percent of their overall production expansions.

Funding for the Biodiesel Education Program increases from $5 million to $10 million over five years. NBB officials say the program has been a major reason why consumer awareness and support of biodiesel continues to rise:

Joe Jobe“The NBB believes these energy initiatives are critical in continuing to make biodiesel an important part of a diverse energy portfolio,” said Joe Jobe, NBB CEO. “As the bill moves forward, we will continue to work with our partners in Congress to ensure that necessary funding is provided for these programs, and that the Bioenergy Program is ultimately structured in a manner that will best help the U.S. biodiesel industry reduce America’s reliance on foreign oil.”

The biodiesel industry cranked out 250 million gallons of the green fuel in 2006 and is on track to produce 300 to 350 million gallons this year.

The Future of Biofuels

ErinA middle school student from Merritt Island was in the spotlight at the 2007 Florida Farm to Fuel Summit last week in St. Petersburg for her work in making biofuels.

Yep, you read that right. Erin McCaskey, 12, attends Thomas Jefferson Middle School and her seventh grade science project last year was making biodiesel from a variety of sources.

“I got five different types of oil – used peanut oil, peanut oil, vegetable oil, corn oil and Wendy’s oil (leftover from a local restaurant),” said Erin. “And I made biodiesel and I tested that and E-85 and B-20 in a calorimeter for their energy content.” Used peanut oil was declared the energy winner by Erin.

For her eighth grade project, Erin will be making ethanol from different sources. She sees a bright future for biofuels. “There’s so many ways you can make biodiesel and ethanol – it’s amazing.”

Erin received recognition for her work from Florida Governor Charlie Crist and Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson.

Here’s an interview I did with Erin at the Summit:

And here’s a great post about Erin on the BIOStock Blog by C. Scott Miller.

Follow up:
I found out that young Erin got more than just recognition from the governor at the Summit – she also received a free ride to the college of her choice, courtesy of Florida state representative Marty Bowen, Haines City. Read more from the Miami Herald.

Bill Expands Biodiesel Education Program

Introduction of bipartisan legislation by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Mike Crapo (R-ID) could expand the federal biodiesel education program.

According to this National Biodiesel Board release, the Biodiesel Education and Expansion Act of 2007 would extend the program started in 2003 for another five years and double the resources allocated for biodiesel education efforts:

Sen. Amy Klobuchar“When it comes to renewable fuels like ethanol and biodiesel, it’s one thing for the government to give incentives to produce the fuel, but it’s another thing altogether to make sure the public knows what the fuel is, what it’s made from, and that it works in their car,” said Senator Klobuchar. “That’s why I support these crucial education programs.”

Sen. Mike CrapoSenator Crapo said, “In the face of rising gasoline prices and increasing calls for energy independence, people are looking for alternatives to conventional petroleum. The value of the Biodiesel Education Grant Program is that it helps people understand–from seed to gas tank–the benefits of biodiesel, including production practices, standards and fuel quality, and basic economics, so that they can make educated decisions about their fuel purchases.”

The legislation gained the praise of the National Biodiesel Board:

NBB logo“Biodiesel is in position to make a significant contribution to our nation’s energy security, but education remains one of our last great hurdles,” said Joe Jobe, NBB CEO. “While we’ve made substantial progress, we have much more work to do before biodiesel becomes a household word. We commend Senators Klobuchar and Crapo for recognizing the significance of this in ensuring a versatile, domestically supplied energy market.”

Ethanol and Energy Security

e-podcast Weather-related problems that have caused damage to refineries in the Midwest have highlighted the need to diversify our nation’s transportation fuel needs. This issue is not only important for consumers who are feeling the pinch at the gas pump, but also for our country’s overall energy security.

This edition of “Fill up, Feel Good” discusses ethanol’s benefits in terms of energy security and the environment, featuring comments from a Midwest fuel supplier, the organizer of a national summit on energy security and climate change, and a world-renowned explorer and environmentalist.

The “Fill up, Feel Good” podcast is available to download by subscription (see our sidebar link)
or you can listen to it by clicking here (5:30 MP3 File):

The Fill Up, Feel Good theme music is “Tribute to Joe Satriani” by Alan Renkl, thanks to the Podsafe Music Network.

“Fill up, Feel Good” is sponsored by the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council.

Midwest Facing Fuel Shortages

CulverIn an effort to address low gasoline and diesel supplies caused by recent refinery outages, Iowa Governor Chet Culver has signed a proclamation to temporarily lift regulatory provisions that limit the number of hours gasoline and diesel truck drivers can be on the road, according to the governor’s office. Ethanol and biodiesel are also eligible for hauling subject to the emergency declaration.

“This was a necessary step,” said Governor Culver. “Supplies were tight to begin with, and then after the Coffeyville, Kansas refinery was flooded last week, supplies became very tight.

“Now is as good of a time as any to point out the need for our state and our country to focus on energy conservation, fuel efficiency and researching and developing new, innovative alternative fuels. I look forward to a day where gasoline refinery outages will not impact Iowa’s energy supply. Simply put, we must work to wean ourselves off foreign oil. I am committed to doing everything I can as Governor to ensure that Iowa remains a leader developing new, clean forms of alternative energy for future generations.”

Minnesota, Nebraska, North and South Dakota, and Kansas have also issued waivers.

Florida Follows California Energy Lead

CristFlorida Governor Charlie Crist signed three Executive Orders Friday initiating Florida’s energy policy. The signing ceremony concluded the Serve to Preserve Florida Summit on Global Climate Change held in Miami this week.

According to the governor’s press office, the Executive Orders carry out Governor Crist’s commitment to reducing Florida’s greenhouse gases and increasing energy efficiency. As a result, Florida will pursue renewable energy sources such as solar and wind energy, as well as alternative energy such as ethanol and hydrogen.

Governor Crist said, “During the next few months, Florida’s Action Team on Energy and Climate Change will develop further recommendations for our state’s long-term climate-friendly efforts.”

Among the provisions in the orders, any purchased state vehicles should be fuel efficient and use ethanol and biodiesel fuels when available. Florida will also adopt the California motor vehicle emission standards, pending approval of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency waiver.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger joined Crist at the Summit in hosting a roundtable discussion among chief executive officers of business corporations and non-government organizations and also as the luncheon keynote speaker.

Summit on Energy Security

LugarThe 2nd Annual National Summit on Energy Security is taking place today at the National Press Club in Washington DC, presented by 2020 Vision.

This year’s summit has the theme of “National Security and America’s Addiction to Carbon: Solutions to Oil Dependence and Climate Change” and features Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN), Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), among many other distinguished speakers.

The event kicked off this morning with a presentation of the first annual Energy Security Leadership Award to Sen. Richard Lugar.

StegerThe day will wrap up with a reception for and presentation by Arctic explorer Will Steger. Mr. Steger has recently finished a four month journey across the Canadian Arctic’s Baffin Island to experience and document how the Inuit culture is coping with global warming. He will present photos and information about this trip, as well as three upcoming trips, at a special VIP reception.

The event has been organized by 2020 Vision, which was formed in 1986 to promote global security and protect the environment. I spoke with executive director Tom Collina about the summit.

Listen to that interview here:

U.S. House Allows Sugar as Ethanol Stock

Cong. Collin PetersonThe U.S. House Agriculture Committee is considering a measure that would allow U.S. growers to sell cane and beet sugar for making ethanol. It’s part of an 111-page proposal updating U.S. agriculture subsidies.

This Reuters story says the proposal was written by Ag Committee chair Cong. Collin Peterson of Minnesota:

Support rates for sugar would rise under the proposal, to 18.5 cents per lb of raw cane sugar and 23.5 cents per lb of beet sugar. They now are 18 cents per lb for cane and 22.9 cents a lb for beet sugar.

By law, the government must run the sugar program at no net cost. The program relies on domestic marketing allotments, when needed, to balance the supply of domestic and imported sugar with U.S. consumption. Tariff-rate quotas control imports.

Under the Agriculture Committee text, the Agriculture Department would set marketing allotments “for domestic human consumption” of sugar for the 2008-12 crop years. Sugar sold “for uses other than domestic human consumption” would be excluded from the limits.

One part of the proposal says if the federal Ag Department awards surplus sugar as a reward to growers who agree to reduce production of sugarcane and beets that are already planted, the sugar from those fields can only be used as a bioenergy feedstock.

Another related measure lets the USDA buy raw, refined, or in-process sugar from growers and sell it to bioenergy producers.

The proposals are part of the new farm bill.

Oregon Gets Ethanol, Biodiesel Mandates

kulongoski.jpgOregon Governor Ted Kulongoski has signed into law two mandates for biofuel blending in his state.

This story in the Oregonian says the package also includes tax incentives for producers and consumers:

Gasoline sold in Oregon must be 10 percent ethanol after the state’s production of ethanol reaches 40 million gallons a year. Diesel fuel sold in Oregon must be blended with two percent biodiesel when the Pacific Northwest’s production of biodiesel reaches 5 million gallons per year; the blending requirement then increases to 5 percent when annual biodiesel production reaches 15 million gallons a year.

At 50 cents per gallon of biofuel purchased, Oregonians can receive up to $200 a year in tax credits for using a gasoline blend that is at least 85 percent ethanol or biodiesel blended with a 99 percent concentration. Tax incentives also will go to producers or collectors of biofuels feedstock, including forest or agriculture-based biomass, oil seed crops, grain crops other than corn, and grass or wheat straw.

Oregon joins a growing number of states that require a blend of biofuel be sold.

Ethanol Co-Products Use

NASSRoughly half of the cattle and hog operations in a 12-state region either fed ethanol co-products or considered feeding them to their livestock last year, according to a new report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) with the support and funding of the Nebraska Corn Board.

NE CornAccording to Dan Kerestes, chief of the USDA NASS Livestock Branch, USDA contacted some 94-hundred dairy cattle, cattle on feed, beef cattle and hog operations in 12 states. Kerestes says USDA didn’t have too many expectations going into the report – but he says the percentage of operations already feeding co-products was a surprise.

Among dairy operations, 38 percent indicated that they fed co-products during 2006 and another 22 percent considered doing so. Among cattle on feed operations, 36 percent fed co-products and 34 percent more considered it. Among beef cattle operations, 13 percent reported that they fed co-products and 30 percent considered it. For hog operations, 12 percent fed co-products and 35 percent considered it.

Read the USDA-NASS release on the report.

Read full report.

Listen to NASS broadcast report.

Speaker Declares “Energy Independence Day”

Speaker Nancy PelosiDemocrats in the U.S. House of Representatives have rolled out an energy plan during what they tout as America’s “Energy Independence Day.”

The Houston Chronicle reports Speaker Nancy Pelosi outlined a broad array of “green energy” proposals her party hopes to get through Congress before leaving for the August recess:

“When it comes to energy, we must think big,” Pelosi said.

The product of 11 separate House committees, the package would set new efficiency standards for dishwashers, refrigerators and other appliances; require installation of more energy efficient lighting; prod gas stations to install E-85 pumps for cars that can run on fuel containing up to 15 percent ethanol; and provide tax incentives for consumers to buy more fuel-efficient, plug-in hybrid cars.