The America’s Renewable Future campaign is challenging the two confirmed Republican presidential candidates to take a stand for renewable fuels.
In a letter to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who has been forthcoming about his opposition to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), ARF questioned his recent reported comment that the oil industry “doesn’t get subsidized.” The letter, with the message that “Oil Subsidies Are Real,” details $165 billion in subsidies and tax breaks the oil industry is poised to receive over the next ten years.
With Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) officially declaring his candidacy this week, ARF recognized his introduction of the Fuel Choice and Deregulation Act as “a step in the right direction” but urged him to commit to supporting the Renewable Fuel Standard. “Sen. Paul has an opportunity to stand up for a commonsense, bipartisan policy that provides access to the marketplace for a clean, domestic alternative to foreign oil and we hope that he will,” said the campaign in a statement.
Another potential presidential candidate, Donald Trump, was in Iowa on Wednesday and took the time to meet with ARF co-chair Annette Sweeney “to discuss the importance of the #RFS to America and our rural communities.”
America’s Renewable Future is an Iowa-based coalition formed with the goal of educating presidential candidates about the RFS and urging their support.
Lawmakers in Iowa got the chance to experience the power of biodiesel for themselves. The Iowa Biodiesel Board (IBB) held its its first ever Ride-and-Drive event at the capitol in Des Moines as part of the group’s annual “Biodiesel Day on the Hill” event, whose riders included Governor Terry Branstad and Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds.
“As a nation, we should continue to prioritize both a diverse fuel supply and clean, fuel efficient vehicles,” said Grant Kimberley, IBB executive director. “With diesel vehicles running on biodiesel blends, you get both.”
Biodiesel is an advanced biofuel made from agricultural byproducts and co-products, such as soybean oil.
Vehicles on hand included a diesel Chevy Cruze, the only small domestic diesel car; a Ford F-250 Superduty pickup; a Ram 3.0L EcoDiesel pickup; and a diesel Jeep Grand Cherokee. All ran on biodiesel blends during the event. The new 2015 models are approved for 20 percent biodiesel (B20).
Iowa biodiesel producers and supporters were also able to thank Iowa legislators for their support. Earlier this year, the state raised the fuel tax while providing a partial exemption for diesel blended with at least 11 percent biodiesel (B11).
A California company has received a $4.9 million grant to build one of the first forest-sourced biomass gasification plants. Phoenix Energy‘s joint venture, North Fork Community Power’s project, received the money from the California Energy Commission to build the plant, as well as funding research into the emerging field of forest biomass use.
The plant will utilize local forest biomass sustainably sourced from restoration and fuel reduction activities on local forest lands, including the Sierra National Forest. The biomass will be used to make electricity, heat and biochar – a solid carbon byproduct that is used as a soil conditioner and filter media. The project will also be one of the first projects to use forest-based fuel under California’s new SB 1122 bioenergy law.
“This project is a fantastic community story and an example of what can be accomplished with a robust a public/private partnership,” said Phoenix Energy CEO, Gregory Stangl. “In the North Fork community, a sawmill was the main employer for years, and local jobs evaporated when it closed down in the 1990’s. This facility will not only make an impact on reducing fire danger and stopping wasteful ‘pile and burn’ disposal of excess forest material, but will bring back permanent jobs to a town where the forest economy used to provide them. California is littered with communities up and down the Sierra foothills with a similar story,” continued Stangl.
The plant will be built in phases with an initial 1 MW financed mainly by the California Energy Commission grant and private and community investors.
Scientists at Virginia Tech have found a way to get hydrogen from corn husks. This article from Yahoo says the husks and stalks are not only a plentiful feedstock for the potential car fuel, but they’re cheap, too.
“We have demonstrated the most important step toward a hydrogen economy — producing distributed and affordable green hydrogen from local biomass resources,” said study co-author Percival Zhang, a professor in the Department of Biological Systems Engineering at Virginia Tech.
The study was led by Joe Rollin, a former doctoral student of Zhang’s at Virginia Tech. Together they co-founded a start-up company called Cell-free Bioinnovations.
The process builds on previous research using xylose, “the most abundant simple plant pentose sugar, to produce hydrogen yields that previously were attainable only in theory,” said the PNAS report.
Other hydrogen fuel production methods rely on highly processed sugars, but the Virginia Tech team used corn husks and stalks, which are known as dirty biomass, to cut costs and make the fuel easier to produce locally.
The findings are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul officially threw his hat in the ring for the Republican presidential nomination Tuesday, just a week after co-sponsoring the Fuel Choice and Deregulation Act of 2015 with Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley. The legislation would allow 15% ethanol blends to be sold year round by requiring EPA to grant a Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) volatility waiver for E15 in the summer months.
“The EPA’s onerous regulation of fuels is artificially limiting options for consumers and producers and preventing the adoption of new fuel options that could benefit our environment, our economy, and our energy security,” said Sen. Paul in a press release about the Act. “Through competition and consumer choice, my bill will free fuel producers and automobile manufacturers to innovate and bring new products to market that can lower costs to consumers, increase domestic energy production, and benefit the environment.”
The official candidate’s new campaign website says nothing specific about biofuels in the Energy section beyond “encouraging energy freedom, new technologies, and discoveries” but does mention support for the Keystone XL pipeline.
Sen. Paul did not participate in the recent Iowa Ag Summit where potential candidates were asked specifically about their stance on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) but an aide last week confirmed that he is opposed to “the government telling consumers or businesses what type of fuel they must use or sell.”
“Sen. Paul supports removing regulatory barriers to the use of ethanol and other renewable fuels, which would likely have the effect of growing the use of these environmentally friendly fuels,” said the aide quoted in the National Journal.
Ethanol industry leaders have applauded Sen. Paul for his co-sponsorship of the E15 bill, but all say that support of the RFS is what they really want to see in a presidential candidate.
A clean-tech company in Canada is looking to build a $13-million commercial plant to turn biomass into pellets. This article from Halifax’s Chronicle Herald says Sustane Technologies Inc. will make the biomass pellets from landfill waste.
The demonstration plant, which would be at Chester’s Kaizer Meadow landfill, is slated to be operational in mid-2016.
Warden Allen Webber said Tuesday that Sustane CEO Peter Vinall approached the municipality about six months ago about helping to commercialize the technology.
“At that point in time, he was really looking to attract our waste to a facility he intended to build in another municipal unit,” Webber said in an interview.
“We met with him on several occasions and convinced him that the most appropriate location would be Chester because we owned a landfill and did control 30,000 tonnes of waste, both of which he needed.”
The plant would take about 40 percent of the waste in the landfill and convert it into the fuel pellets, and the technology is hoped to save municipalities 20 percent in the landfill and disposal costs.
Damage to the Renewable Energy Group (REG) Geismar, Louisiana biorefinery from an April 2 fire will take 2-4 months to repair, according to the company.
“While preliminary damage assessments are still ongoing, the damage appears to be contained to a limited area of the production facility,” REG reports in an update this week. “The Company plans to incorporate a one-month maintenance shutdown that was previously scheduled for this summer to bring filtration and other upgrades online during the restoration time period.”
Our highest concern is the continuing recovery of the two employees who were injured last Thursday. We also appreciate the cooperation and understanding of our customers, vendors and service providers during this time.
REG expects to be able to resume loadout operations for Renewable Hydrocarbon Diesel in inventory later this week.
Researchers at the University of Houston have discovered a polymer made from biomass that could end up being a key ingredient in a new organic material battery. This article from the school says the discovery promises a low-cost, environmentally friendly energy source.
The discovery relies upon a “conjugated redox polymer” design with a naphthalene-bithiophene polymer, which has traditionally been used for applications including transistors and solar cells. With the use of lithium ions as dopant, researchers found it offered significant electronic conductivity and remained stable and reversible through thousands of cycles of charging and discharging energy.
The breakthrough, described in the Journal of the American Chemical Society and featured as ACS Editors’ Choice for open access, addresses a decades-long challenge for electron-transport conducting polymers, said Yan Yao, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at the UH Cullen College of Engineering and lead author of the paper.
Researchers have long recognized the promise of functional organic polymers, but until now have not been successful in developing an efficient electron-transport conducting polymer to pair with the established hole-transporting polymers. The lithium-doped naphthalene-bithiophene polymer proved both to exhibit significant electronic conductivity and to be stable through 3,000 cycles of charging and discharging energy, Yao said.
The researchers say the discovery opens the door for cheaper alternatives to traditional inorganic-based energy devices, including lithium batteries, and could make for cheaper electric cars one day.
A northeast Nebraska ethanol producer has been working with retailers in that area to provide additional fuel choice for consumers.
According to the Nebraska Ethanol Board, Husker Ag LLC in Plainview has provided grant money and ethanol for several retail locations in northeast Nebraska including Creighton, Crofton, Hartington, Osmond, Pierce at two locations, and Valentine.
“Many Nebraska ethanol producers work directly with retailers to expand availability of American Ethanol blends like E15 and E85,” said Todd Sneller, Nebraska Ethanol Board administrator. “This strategic partnership provides consumers with additional choices at the pump, and makes clear to consumers the value of choosing fuels produced locally from renewable sources.”
“We are very excited to see the works of many coming together to expand ethanol usage in Nebraska – the second largest producer of ethanol,” said Seth Harder, Husker Ag general manager. “Partnerships are key to moving the needle on ethanol fuel usage.”
The flex fuel pumps were also paid for in part by the Nebraska Corn Board’s flex fuel infrastructure grant program on behalf of Nebraska’s 23,000 corn producers through their checkoff program.
The California Air Resources Board (ARB) held a public workshop on Friday to discuss updates to the recently modified Greenhouse Gases, Regulated Emissions, and Energy Use in Transportation (CA-GREET 2.0) Model under the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS). Stakeholder input was received at the workshop on the new model which made some changes to the Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC) component.
Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) Vice President Geoff Cooper said that while they are pleased that CARB made some updates to the CA-GREET model that were recommended by stakeholders, certain elements remain problematic, such as the model’s handling of emissions related to denaturant. “Our larger concern, however, continues to be CARB’s gross overestimation of indirect land use change (ILUC) emissions,” said Cooper. “While CARB is proposing to lower ILUC emissions somewhat, the Agency’s newest estimates are still far above the estimates coming from the rest of the scientific community. Further, CARB continues to rely on speculative and hypothetical scenarios to derive ILUC penalties, rather than using real-world land use data to inform the program. Empirical data from the past 10 years clearly show that farmers have responded to higher crop prices by using existing cropland more efficiently, not by converting non-agricultural lands to cropland. We will continue to encourage CARB to consider the most recent data and best available science on ILUC.”
On the other hand, the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (UNICA) is pleased with the ILUC changes but has other concerns. “CARB’s revision of indirect land-use change (ILUC) modeling resulted in reduced penalties for Brazilian sugarcane ethanol and the lowest overall number in the LCFS, confirming it as the lowest-carbon biofuel available at commercial scale today,” said UNICA’s North American Representative Leticia Phillips.
However, Phillips says the environmental benefits of sugarcane ethanol in the LCFS would be even more significant if CARB included the emissions benefits of electricity co-generation in sugarcane mills using leftover plant material. “We are disappointed CARB has chosen to apply a U.S.-style average electricity mix to Brazil rather than crediting sugarcane biofuel producers for this marginal displacement of fossil energy.”
CARB will be considering re-adoption of the California LCFS at its July 2015 hearing,
The Renewable Fuels Association reports that U.S. ethanol exports reached a new record in February, based on an analysis of the latest government data.
According to RFA Research Analyst Ann Lewis, U.S. exports of denatured and undenatured ethanol in February totaled 85.2 million gallons, up 24% from January, the highest February export volume on record. Year-to-date exports at 153.9 million gallons are in line with exports during the same period last year.
The biggest customer for U.S. ethanol remains Brazil, which received about one quarter (28%) of total U.S. ethanol exports in February, followed by India (20%), Canada (17%), and the United Arab Emirates (12%). The Philippines, South Korea, the Netherlands and Peru were other key destinations in February.
In addition, exports of the ethanol co-product distillers dried grains with solubles (DDGS) rose 13% to the highest monthly level in 5 months, as the Chinese market continues to recover. “However, exports to China remain at about half the level enjoyed prior to the market collapse,” said Lewis.
Nebraska-based renewable energy company Tenaska has bought an Iowa biodiesel refinery. This article from the Omaha World Herald says the company acquired the Clinton County Bio Energy refinery in Clinton, Iowa, from a local group of investors, although Tenaska officials are being tight-lipped about the deal.
Terms weren’t disclosed. The centerpiece of the deal is the biodiesel plant on the Mississippi River with an annual capacity of 10 million gallons…
The acquisition marks Tenaska’s third renewables investment this year, after the February purchase of a stake in a California-based installer of residential rooftop solar panels and the purchase last month of a stake in a New Jersey company that specializes in commercial solar projects.
Tenaska had nearly $10 billion in sales in 2013, earning a spot on the Forbes magazine list of the biggest private firms.
A Geismer, Louisiana renewable hydrocarbon diesel (RHD) refinery owned by Iowa-based Renewable Energy Group (REG) is closed after a fire on April 2 which injured two people, according to the company.
REG reports that the fire was contained within a few hours and the two injured employees were in fair condition. “An assessment and investigation into the cause of the fire and the damage to the facility is ongoing,” said a company statement. “The biorefinery will remain shut down until such assessment is complete and repairs can be made.”
REG just held a ribbon cutting in November for the facility which produces RHD using a process which converts a wide range of feedstocks, such as animal fat, inedible corn oil, used cooking oil and vegetable oils, into renewable fuel.
In Utah on Friday, President Obama announced new growth efforts for the solar industry and support for veterans.
At Hill Air Force Base, Obama announced several actions, including a “Solar Ready Vets Program” to be launched by the Department of Energy in partnership with the Department of Defense (DOD), at 10 military bases across the country, including at Hill Air Force Base in Utah, which has already taken leadership by installing solar panels onsite.
The Solar Ready Vets program will train transitioning military service personnel to enter the solar workforce by joining with SunShot’s Solar Instructor Training Network and leveraging the DOD’s Skillbridge transition authority authorized by Congress in 2012.
In addition, the Department of Veterans Affairs is committing to working with DOE and State Approving Agencies to achieve approval for GI Bill funding for DOE’s Solar Ready Vets initiative. And the Department of Labor (DOL), will work with DOD to ensure that transitioning service members are made aware of solar workforce training programs available to them in their last months of military service.
Read more from the White House.
In observance of Good Friday ZimmComm New Media offices are closed today. The team wishes everyone a very happy Easter and Easter season. We’ll be back in action on Monday.
“Christ of Saint John of the Cross” is a painting by Salvador Dalí made in 1951 based on a drawing by the 16th-century Spanish friar John of the Cross.