Letter from Ethanol Crusader

I received this letter yesterday from a self-proclaimed “ethanol crusader” in Florida. It was pretty long, but here is an edited version with her key points:

Hi Cindy, keep up the good work.

I’ve recently join the Movement “Florida Needs Ethanol”.com.

Florida Needs EthanolToday (Memorial Day) I drove around to distribute fliers to several gas stations. Mostly the small ones like Race Track, Red Rabbit, Valero, Marathon, 7/11 Citgo and some BPs.

It was amazing and somewhat disconcerting how little they know about Ethanol. Out of the dozens station attendants I’ve talked to, only one had heard of Ethanol.

The only way I got them interested was telling them that the government was offering tax incentives to fuel retailers. I told them to visit the website to find out about it, but I can’t find the link for retailers info. Could you please make that link more obvious?

Also, I was very disappointed by the great opportunity lost by Ethanol producers, GM and Ford by not advertising their products during the Super Bowl of racing (the Indy 500).

Why didn’t they run it during this classic race making history about the three women and all the cars running on Ethanol?

Don Endres’ VeraSun has a video commercial on their website that bring tears to one’s eyes with an once of patriotism. If the Ethanol Big Guys don’t care that much to promote their product on TV during IRL races, why should I spend my gasoline money and my time to promote it?

This thing about the EPA not approving a retro-fit kit to transition to E-85 is VERY disheartening. Unfortunately, most of us that want to do the right thing cannot afford to buy a new car, let alone a hybrid or FFV.

In parting, I’d like to ask you to please forward my email to anybody and everybody involved in bringing Ethanol to the public, especially here in Florida. My friends and co-workers are eager to help save our beautiful planet.

Best Regards,
Lynda Gagnon
Ethanol Crusader

First of all, Lynda – thanks for the grassroots work you are doing to help bring ethanol to the Sunshine State. You are doing more with your campaign than you might believe. If retailers think people will buy a new product, they are more likely to begin offering it.

Secondly, the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council was a major sponsor of the Indy 500, which featured spots that aired multiple times during the race. To view the ethanol spots, go to this page on the EPIC website. The television spots have run during all of the races so far this year, starting with Homestead in Florida.

EPIC also sponsored a major public and media event at the Indy 500 called the Ethanol Summit to educate people about ethanol’s benefits as a performance fuel. They have gotten major publicity from events held earlier this month at the National Press Club and Chicago Board of Trade.

Finally, you make a good point about the need for more information for retailers about incentives to offer ethanol-enhanced fuel and I have passed that along to EPIC. A good place for that information right now is the National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition site, which has a page devoted to retailer information.

Thanks again, Ethanol Crusader. Just curious, do you have some kind of cool super hero costume to wear when you are out crusading??

Introducing Laura McNamara

Laura McNamaraI’d like to introduce you to Laura McNamara. She’s the newest contributing editor to Domestic Fuel and other ZimmComm New Media news blogs. Laura is with me here in Indianapolis this week helping with our coverage of the Indy 500 and all events related to ethanol.

Laura spent the last nine months covering Missouri state poltics for a statewide radio network, The Missourinet. Before working at The Missourinet, Laura spent last summer working in Rome, where she mostly covered news from the Vatican. Her work at the television news agency, RomeReports, also included coverage of a Roman fashion show and up-and-coming European soccer stars. Laura earned her broadcast journalism degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia. While a student, Laura also worked as a television reporter and fill-in anchor for KOMU NewsChannel 8 in Columbia and as a radio reporter for Missouri Digital News out of the Capitol in Jefferson City. Laura wants to expand her reporting experience by covering events all over the world and we’re happy to be working with her. I think you’ll find reports from her here on Domestic Fuel from a variety of locations in coming months.

Indiana Solar Project Opens

Indiana’s first privately-owned building with an integrated commercial solar tile project will soon open, helped by a grant from the state’s energy program.

According to this story posted on Sys-con.com, the building is in Connersville:

Green EnergyThe project, a state of the art dental center located in the city of Connersville, Indiana — The Christie Family Dentistry — featuring some of the most technologically advanced dental equipment, will now be the first in the state to be powered by solar energy with this newly installed 20-kilowatt solar roof. This 20-kilowatt system will be one of the largest photovoltaic projects in Indiana and will provide up to one-half of the facility’s power requirements. This will be the first solar installation in Indiana to utilize solar roof tiles instead of standard panels.

A group called Life Quality Systems, LLC, a member of the Green Energy Collaborative, built the photovoltaic system. You can check out more about them by clicking here.

Biodiesel Beats Lamborghini

Impala on Pimp My Ride
Recently, I told you about an upcoming episode of MTV’s “Pimp My Ride” where a 1965 Chevy Impala is souped up with a biodiesel engine and blows away a Lamborghini in the quarter mile.

Now, I’ve had a chance to talk to the man behind that Impala, Johnathan Goodwin, co-partner of SAE Energy… a company that specializes in converting gas-guzzlers into lean, green, fuel-efficient biodiesel burners.

When Goodwin met with the producers of Pimp My Ride, they didn’t think the conversion could be done. “I ensured them that I didn’t have any problems whatsoever, and they were kind of taken aback.”

More of a shock would come when Goodwin’s converted 850 horsepower hot rod would face off with a Lamborghini in a quarter-mile race. “Actually, we had to kind of let off the throttle half track, and wait for (the Lamborghini) to catch up so it wouldn’t look bad for TV,” says Goodwin.

And the surprises would continue with how clean the Impala ran. Goodwin says, “at this kind of horsepower level, you’d expect a lot of black smoke out of a diesel engine, but it was very clean. The only black smoke was from the tires.”
Flex-fuel Hummer
Goodwin builds more than just classic muscle cars. He’s also converted a Hummer (pictured above) to run on biodiesel, ethanol, propane, or hydrogen. He’s even working on converting a Jeep for The Terminator himself, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The MTV Pimp My Ride special featuring the biodiesel Impala-Lamborghini will air on Earth Day, April 22nd.

Listen to the entire Johnathan Goodwin interview here: Listen to MP3 File

New Hybrid Racecar Competition

Dartmouth racing
Students at Dartmouth College’s Thayer School of Engineering have invited students at other colleges to design, build, and then race their vehicles with gas-electric hybrid drive trains.

According to a Dartmouth news release, the inaugural Formula Hybrid Competition will be held May 1-3, 2007, at New Hampshire International Speedway, Loudon, NH. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University of Daytona Beach, FL, Illinois Institute of Technology, Colorado State University, Florida Institute of Technology, Yale University, McGill University, and Drexel University will join the Dartmouth students:

Along with inspiring students to pursue careers in hybrid-engine technology, the competition could lead to innovations in the field, said Formula Hybrid Director and Thayer School Research Engineer Douglas Fraser. “Students are notoriously able to come up with novel solutions. They don’t go in with preconceived notions. They sometimes launch off in directions that you think, ‘My God, that won’t work,’ and, lo and behold, it does.”

Thayer students have nbeen participating in the Formula SAE® program, sponsored by the Society of Automotive Engineers, which challenges collegiate teams to design, build, and compete with formula racecars. Teams from Thayer have taken part every year since 1995 and will enter an ethanol-fueled car in the competition, May 16th-20th at the Ford Michigan Proving Grounds in Romeo, MI. Thayer had hoped to enter their first hybrid racecar in 2003, but changing rules disallowed hybrids. So, the students came up with a competition of their own… and both the SAE and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers are sponsors of the new program.

Happy April Fools’ Day!

Couple of ethanol-related April Fool stories on-line:

Rutabagas for biofuels
Research by the biofuels industry has turned up a feedstock that does not compete with the food supply: rutabagas.
“Nobody likes rutabagas,” says Toby Marston, CEO of biofuels startup Rutaba-Gas LLC. “American farmers grow tons of rutabagas, but nobody really eats them. They’re perfect for making fuel.” Marston says people buy the distasteful, turnip-like vegetables with the best of intentions, but they sit in the refrigerator and end up being thrown out

Ethanol not Kosher
It seems some Orthodox Jews, especially those of the ultra-conservative Ashkenazi breed, supposedly have challenged the use of ethanol-tainted fuel in the cars of their fellow temple members.
Ethanol is made from corn, which is forbidden for Ashkenazis to eat during Passover–meaning the next few days. But the operator of a gas station selling “Kosher” gasoline, a Mr. Yanev Ben-Zaken, is reported to claim the religious laws also ban any benefit to Ashkenazi Jews from corn.

Oilseed Summit to Focus on Food and Fuel

The rise in popularity in biodiesel has caused some concerns that foodstuffs might be syphoned off to produce energy sources. To talk about those concerns, Soyatech… publisher of the Soya & Oilseed Bluebook… is sponsoring a summit November 11-13th in Chicago to discuss how to balance the needs for food and fuel with available oilseeds.

From the Soyatech web site:

Soya & Oilseed Summit 2007 At Soya & Oilseed Summit 2007: Nourishing Innovations in Food & Energy, industry thought leaders will discuss the dynamics that drive the industry today and into a future fraught with competing policies, technologies and needs, in a discussion and exploration of sound, rational solutions to the industry’s largest questions.

This summit builds on a similar discussion last year. Click here for more information and registration.

Oil Giant Looks to the Sun for Energy

Officials with the government of Abu Dhabi say they will build a $350 million solar power plant… a first for the oil-producing region. ArabianBusiness.com reports the 500 megawatt plant is expected to be up and running by 2009 in an attempt by the United Arab Emirate member to cut its own dependence on, ironically enough, oil:

“We … do not want to be 100 per cent dependent on (hydrocarbon power), [Sultan al-Jaber, chief executive of state-owned Abu Dhabi Future Energy Co.] said.

“We have an economic development programme dedicated to establishing an entirely new economic sector focused on alternative energy and sustainable technologies,” he said.

Minnesota Company Harvesting Power from the Sea

INR logo Officials with Independent Natural Resources, Inc., a company based in the Minneapolis suburb of Eden Prairie, say they have successfuly tested a wave-powered pumping system that will move ocean water to a hydroelectric plant and desalination facility. The Star Tribune reports the company has been working on the project for five years and has tested in off the coast of Freeport, Texas:

Mark Thomas, CEO of Independent Natural Resources Inc., said Friday from Texas that he views the test as a big step forward in the search for what has been an elusive form of alternative energy that one day could generate lots of cheap, clean power for coastal cities.

An engineering team from Texas A&M University at Galveston, which also has done laboratory testing of early stages of the wave-powered “Seadog” pump, plans to visit the Gulf of Mexico site off Freeport to review the project.

INR, Inc Officials
The company believes a one-square-mile field of Seadog pumps (see a demo of it here) could produce up to 1,500 megawatts of hydroelectricity.

Another Seadog test site is planned off the coast of California.

E85 Promo Items

NEVC stuff The National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition has a number of great promo items to show your support for domestically-produced ethanol, including five brand new additions.

Among them are two bumper stickers with the statements “This vehicle is CornFed, E85” and “Ethanol Guzzler,” available in small and large sizes.

NEVC stuffThe round “I Drive E85, the future of Clean Air” magent is big enough to make a statement, yet small enough to fit tastefully over the outside of a vehicle’s fuel door.

NEVC stuffThere are also coffee mugs, hats, clings, key rings and more available to order on-line here.

But my personal favorite has to be the Calvin decal. That just says it all.

Freezing to Report on Global Warming

Ely MeBeing a Floridian at heart, if not by birth, I can honestly say I have never been in weather as cold as last weekend in Ely, Minnesota when I had the opportunity to attend Ely’s Winter Festival and visit with the community’s favorite son, arctic exporer Will Steger.

Fortunately I did dress for the part, but I still had to wear fairly thin gloves to take pictures and there was one point that my hands went numb and it took 15 minutes of warming over a pot-bellied stove to get them to stop hurting.

It is a little difficult to operate a camera in sub-zero temperatures. Each of my two digital cameras froze up once on me during the picture taking at the Steger homestead.

Ely Col The official low Saturday night was 32 below zero, but it had warmed up to a balmy 25 below when we left Ely on Sunday morning to catch a plane out of Duluth.

It was a beautiful place and an interesting experience. Maybe I can go back there in the summertime!

Darryl Brinkmann Interview

Darryl Brinkmann, Larry Hagman, Daryl HannahI think that I’ve mentioned that many of my interviews and some other audio files like general session presentations are available as a podcast. It’s the National Biodiesel Conference Podcast in fact. You can find the link and instructions on how to subscribe here.

One of the interviews in the podcast series is one I did today with the chairman of the National Biodiesel Board, Darryl Brinkmann, seen here on the left during a rehearsal session yesterday with Larry Hagman and Daryl Hannah.

I spoke with Darryl today about how this conference is growing and what he sees as challenges facing the biodiesel business even in light of all the growth that’s taking place. Darryl says that there are two things to consider, one is quality and the other is public policy.

Listen to my interview with Darryl here: Listen To MP3 Darryl Brinkmann Interview (4 min MP3)

Domestic Fuel coverage of the
National Biodiesel Conference is sponsored by John Deere

Daryl Hannah Promotes Biodiesel

Jenna and DarylI started out wandering around and getting my bearings here at the Biodiesel Conference and just like last year, one of the first persons I ran into was Daryl Hannah. Daryl has been to every National Biodiesel Conference and can’t believe how much it has grown. She’s pictured here with Jenna Higgins, Communications Director for the National Biodiesel Board during rehearsals for tomorrow’s opening general session.

I spoke with Daryl about the conference and what she thinks about the work the National Biodiesel Board is doing. Daryl says that we need to make sure that what we’re using as a renewable fuel is sustainable and that we need to get off our dependence on fossil fuels.

You can listen to my interview with Daryl here: Listen To MP3 Daryl Hannah Interview (4 min MP3)

Domestic Fuel coverage of the National Biodiesel Conference
sponsored by John Deere.

Farmergy Acquires Missouri Valley Renewable Energy

FarmergySt. Louis-based Farmergy… a provider of technology to help farmers and ranchers “get off the grid”… has bought Missouri Valley Renewable Energy, a company touted as a leader in Missouri for renewable energy sources. MOVRE was founded in 2000 by Henry Rentz, after an extended power outage left his farm and home without the capability to pump water or provide refrigeration. According to a Farmergy press release, Rentz, the former CEO of MOVRE, now will join Farmergy as a part of its management team:

“A critical component of our success at Farmergy will be our ability to effectively install a vast array of clean energy solutions for farmers and ranchers across the country,” says Mark Green, Farmergy president and chief executive officer. “Henry’s intimate knowledge of both agriculture and the renewable energy industry will be invaluable to us as he designs and implements our national certified installer program.”

The release goes on to say that Farmergy-certified installers will make sure that customers get the best installation for whatever energy source they choose.