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.

EPA at FEW

FEW EPAThe administrator for Region 7 of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency told participants at the 2007 Fuel Ethanol Workshop in St. Louis this week that the partnership between EPA and agriculture is helping to find solutions to environmental challenges.

“We’ve had a major role in dealing with one of America’s top priorities – reducing dependency on foreign oil,” said John Askew, whose region includes Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas. “We’re addressing our nation’s growing energy demand in a way that supports farmers, rural America, our goal for a clean environment and greater energy security.”

Askew also talked about the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS). “Under this program the annual amount of renewable fuel use will increase every year, so by the year 2012 over 7 and a half billion gallons of fuel being pumped in gas tanks across this country will be made from home grown crops and renewable resources,” he said. “But you’ve gone way beyond that and we expect you to keep working hard on that aspect.”

Askew concluded his remarks by presenting EPA’s Energy Star awards to Macon Municipal Utilities in Macon, Missouri and Adkins Energy, LLC in Lena, Illinois.

Listen to Askew’s remarks here:

RFAThanks to the Renewable Fuels Association for sponsoring coverage on Domestic Fuel of the 2007 Fuel Ethanol Workshop.

Lack of Funding for Biofuels Research Concerns Ag Secretary

Johanns Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns is disappointed with the 2007 Farm Bill he sees developing in the House Agriculture Committee for a number of reasons. One of them is lack of funding for cellulosic ethanol research.

Johanns says the farm bill proposal put forth by the administration boosted cellulosic ethanol research funding by $1.6 billion and had over $2 billion in loan guarantees. In the bill being considered by the House Agriculture Committee, Johanns says that would either not be funded or would be under discretionary spending.

“At a time when our nation is really trying to move toward independence from foreign oil, I believe we have to put some real money behind this effort,” said Johanns in a recent interview. “It’s also good for farmers all across the country because it takes ethanol across the corn belt and creates the opportunity to produce ethanol in any part of the United States.”

Listen to the secretary’s comments here:

Biofuels Focus of Farm Improvement Act

Mahoney Encouraging development of cellulosic ethanol is one of the main goals of the bi-partisan American Farm Improvement Act of 2007 introduced by Florida Congressmen Tim Mahoney and Adam Putnam.

The bill seeks to jumpstart the alternative energy market by eliminating multiple, conflicting definitions of “biomass,” “cellulosic ethanol,” and other terms relating to the emerging biofuels market. The American Farm Improvement Act also creates and improves loan guarantee programs within USDA that focus on building facilities to produce liquid fuels, power and other commercial products from cellulosic feedstocks.

PutnamCongressman Putnam said, “By jumpstarting the research and development on cellulosic ethanol, we think it can play a tremendous role in adding value to existing agricultural commodities.”

Putnam believes Florida could play a key role in producing cellulosic ethanol “with a year-round growing season and tremendous acres of formally mined phosphate lands that offer potential for energy crops.” Adding value to agricultural lands for the production of energy crops could also help slow the loss of land to urban development in the state.

Listen to an interview with Congressman Putnam about the proposed legislation here:

Thune Warns of Ethanol Fight

Sen. John ThuneSouth Dakota Senator John Thune says Senate leaders want to pass an energy bill by the Fourth of July… but warned a group of about 100 people this week at the Ethanol Public Policy Summit in Sioux Falls that conflict looms on the horizon.

This story in the Argus (SD) Leader says some powerful opponents are against some key provisions in this year’s bill:

Some lawmakers oppose extending the tariff on foreign ethanol and allowing fuel blends with more ethanol, both of which Thune supports.

Perhaps the greatest risk is that more controversial provisions will sink the overall bill.

Thune said the auto industry is the major opponent to 20 percent ethanol and other blends, which are necessary to ensure market growth.

“They’re kind of clinging to a past in terms of energy and fuels, and the ones that are smart, in my view, are going to start looking toward the future,” he said.

Thune admits some of his fellow Republicans are also some his biggest opponents. But he says this country will have to step it up to bring our renewable energy output up to the 36-billion-gallon-a-year level by 2022.

Doyle Calls for Biofuels Backing

Gov. Jim DoyleWisconsin Governor Jim Doyle is calling on Republicans in his state’s legislature to back his plan to spend $30 million on renewable energy.

TV station WKBT in La Crosse posted this AP story on its web site and said Doyle made the call in front of a biodiesel plant in De Forest:

Doyle is still smarting from Republicans on the budget-writing committee removing his proposal to spend $30 million over the next two years to pay for grants and loans to further develop renewable energy resources.

He says energy policy should not be partisan. But he accuses Republicans of lacking foresight on the issue.

Republicans on the budget committee objected to Doyle’s proposal to take the money out of the state’s recycling fund to pay for it.

Closing the “Splash and Dash” Loophole

Lawmakers on the U.S. Senate’s Finance Committee will take up a bill that’s supposed to close a loophole that has allowed importers to get millions of dollars in biodiesel subsidies designed to help U.S producers but for biodiesel that doesn’t end up helping American drivers.

This article from TheHill.com has more:

Known as “splash and dash,” the loophole allows 100 percent biodiesel made from soybeans and other commodities and imported from a third country, such as Brazil or Malaysia, to be carried to a U.S. port, where a “splash” of petroleum diesel is added. This allows the importer to qualify for tax credits intended to promote the production and use of U.S. biodiesel.

The ship then quickly leaves the U.S. port to “dash” to another port, usually in Europe, where the subsidized biofuel is unloaded and sold. Tax incentives have created a hugely profitable market for biofuels in Europe, so the companies pocketing the U.S. tax breaks are again rewarded in Europe.

Estimates are that the practice is costing U.S. taxpayers $30 million a year… and that’s supposed to get even worse as it becomes more widespread.

The Europeans aren’t too happy about the loophole, either, and they have even lobbied to change the law as well.

The loophole closure is in the Energy Advancement and Investment Act of 2007, which made its debut in the Finance Committee last week.

RFA Praises Proposed Energy Bill

As I reported earlier, there’s a lot of contention over the current energy bill being debated in the U.S. Senate as different factions try to get federal dollars, incentives, and requirements that will help their renewable (and, of course, non-renewable) energy industries.

RFA logoBut one group that is pleased is the Renewable Fuels Association. In a statement e-mailed to DomesticFuel.com, the group’s President Bob Dinneen praises the legislation, especially the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) of 36 billion gallons of renewable fuels, the majority of which must be the next generation such as cellulosic ethanol:

RFA President Bob Dinneen“Low carbon renewable fuels like ethanol are providing our nation a way forward to decreasing our dependence on foreign oil, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and creating new jobs and real economic opportunity. The bill Majority Leader Reid has brought to the floor of the Senate strikes the right balance between building on the progress the U.S. ethanol industry has achieved and providing the incentives necessary to realize the full potential of the industry in the future.

“This bill could be to next generation cellulosic ethanol production what the 2005 energy bill was to grain-based ethanol. To achieve the ambitious goals the American people are calling for, it will require the production of ethanol from all available feedstocks, including corn, corn stover, switchgrass, wood chips and other cellulosic materials. This bill strikes the right chord by requiring that 21 billion of the 36 billion gallon requirement be met by cellulosic ethanol production.

“Such an investment in our nation’s energy future promises to spur the creation of new, good paying jobs all across the country as new capital – and more importantly intellectual capital – is invested in renewable fuels production. In 2006 alone, the U.S. ethanol industry supported the creation of 160,000 new jobs while producing just 5 billion gallons of ethanol. At levels seven times that volume, ethanol production offers real economic opportunity fueled by American hard work and ingenuity, that will provide much-needed economic vitality to town and cities all across the country.

“The Renewable Fuels Association and U.S. ethanol industry believe this bill takes the right steps toward a more stable, more sustainable energy future for the generations to come.”

Contentious Energy Bill Stalls in U.S. Senate

The U.S. Senate has hit an impasse over a proposed energy bill that makes larger allowances for alternative energy, in particular, wind power, than previous energy bills.

This AP story from Forbes.com says Democrats had hopes for an early vote on the measure, but Republicans were against many of the measures in the omnibus bill:

The impasse over renewable fuels came as Democrats said they would seek nearly $13.7 billion in tax breaks to promote clean energy, biofuels, more fuel efficient vehicles and conservation.

Sen. Max BaucusThe Senate Finance Committee intends to discuss the tax plan on Tuesday, according to the committee chairman, Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont. The proposal would extend dozens of tax breaks, such the one for building wind turbines. It also would create incentives such as tax credits for technology to capture carbon dioxide – the leading greenhouse gas – from power plants.

But some senators argued the wind requirement in the bill would not be feasible in their areas:

Senators from the South said utilities in their states could not meet the 15 percent requirement because they lack the wind power and other renewable resources prominent elsewhere, especially the West.

Sen. Pete Domenici“I’m not impressed with wind being the national energy source for America,” said Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., who led the opposition to the renewable fuels standard.

However, Sen. Jeff Bingaman, a New Mexico Democrat, argued southern states could make use of wood and other local resources to produce biofuels.

As you can see, it will most likely be a long, drawn-out fight.

Riders on Udall Bus Tour Give Thoughts

Udall Bus
The other day, I told you about about how the Morris K. Udall Foundation was making its annual cross-country trip promoting environmental and Native American issues and how this year it is doing under biodiesel power (see my post from June 12th).

The Philadelphia Enquirer caught up with the group at one of its first stops after leaving Washington, DC:

The group arrived Tuesday in Philadelphia from Washington and spent the night in a dormitory at Temple University.
Bret Strogen
“Here in Philadelphia, we’re looking at water quality and biofuels,” said Bret Strogen, 25, a Udall scholar from Berwyn and a graduate of the University of Delaware.

(Eli Zigas, a graduate of Grinnell College in Iowa and a spokesman for the group said) the yellow and green bus with blackened windows draws second looks from the curious.
Eli Zigas
“People stare at the big, shiny bus,” Zigas said. “It’s grabbing attention.”

Savanna Ferguson, 23, a graduate of Whitman College, in Walla Walla, Wash., viewed the trip as an adventure.
Savanna Ferguson
“I’m looking forward to spreading our message, writing for the blog and meeting new people and seeing new places,” she said.

You can view the bus trip blog at http://blogs.udall.gov.

Hydrogen-Powered BMW to London Deputy Mayor

BMW Hydrogen 7A BMW Hydrogen 7 car… which, of course, runs on hydrogen with its only exhaust being water… was given to Deputy Mayor of London and London Hydrogen Partnership Chair, Nicky Gavron, to raise awareness to what a great alternative energy source hydrogen is.

This article (and the picture shown above) are from a web site called Fuel Cell Works.com. The story says it’s part of BMW’s initiative to promote the role of hydrogen in the economy. UK business leaders and opinion leaders will get similar vehicles to evaluate their performances:

(BMW’s Head of Government and Industrial Affairs,) John Hollis said: “BMW is a pioneer in the development and use of hydrogen as a fuel source and shares the vision of the Mayor and Deputy Mayor that London should be one of the world centres for Hydrogen. In recognition of the work the Mayor’s Office has done in this field, BMW would like it to be the first public organisation in the country to have the use of a Hydrogen 7 car.”

Deputy London Mayor, Nicky Gavron, said: “I am committed to improving the health and quality of life of Londoners through the use of cleaner technologies such as hydrogen vehicles which reduce harmful emissions into the atmosphere. I am pleased to have this opportunity to try out the BMW Hydrogen 7 car. As the Chair of the London Hydrogen Partnership, I want to encourage the use of hydrogen vehicles that emit only water vapour and no harmful emissions, but I also want to be able to talk with first hand experience about these vehicles. I am pleased that BMW has given me this opportunity.”

The BMW Hydrogen 7 has a 260 hp, 12-cylinder engine under the hood and accelerates from zero to 62mph in 9.5 seconds. The only thing holding this modern muscle car back is the electronic governor that limits it to a 143-mph top speed.

County on Long Island Going to Biodiesel

Suffolk County, New York is switching all of its 439 public works trucks to run on biodiesel. The move comes as neighboring Nassau, switched its 270 trucks to the biofuel as of the first of this year.

According to this story in Newsday, officials unanimously approved the move for the end of next year. The switch comes after both counties did their own pilot projects for the last couple of years:

“The beauty of biodiesel is that it burns cleaner and you can use the same infrastructure,” said sponsor Legis. Daniel Losquadro (R-Shoreham). The only difficulty in switching to the new fuel — made up of low-sulfur diesel fuel and 20 percent soybean or waste vegetable oil — is that it initially acts as a detergent when placed into diesel tanks, creating the need to change filters more frequently at first to prevent clogging.

Losquadro said Suffolk was using about 100,000 gallons a year during the biodiesel pilot project and will increase fuel use to 400,000 gallons when the switch is complete.

A spokeswoman for the National Biodiesel Board says the county joins more than 100 cities switching to biodiesel. San Francisco, California, which switched all of its trucks to biodiesel, and Arlington County, Virginia, which is using it in its truck fleet and school buses, afre the two biggest ones to make the change.