More Biodiesel Producers Meet Quality Standard

Two more biodiesel producers have been added to the roster of those companies meeting an important quality assurance standard.
nbb-logo3
This press release from the National Biodiesel Board
congratulates Nova Biofuels’ 60-million-gallon capacity operation in Seneca, Illinois and the 30-million-gallon Prairie Pride, Inc. soybean-crushing and biodiesel refinery in Nevada, Missouri for meeting the NBB’s quality assurance program, BQ-9000:

“BQ-9000 certification confirms the commitment to the quality standards we began with at the onset of production last spring,” said Dave Adams, Nova Biofuels-Seneca Quality Manager. “Participating in BQ-9000 provides additional assurance to our customer base that we produce high quality biodiesel and the product they buy from us is produced through a certified process. We recognize that the consistent production of quality biodiesel is critical to our success and to our customers.”

BQ-9000 is a voluntary fuel quality assurance program, overseen by the National Biodiesel Accreditation Commission (NBAC) and adopted by the National Biodiesel Board and the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association. BQ-9000 couples the foundations of universally accepted quality management systems with the product specification ASTM D 6751, and has become the premier quality designation in the industry. The program covers storage, sampling, testing, blending, shipping, distribution and fuel management practices. Any biodiesel producer or marketer is eligible to become either a BQ-9000 Producer or BQ-9000 Marketer.

Thirty-two biodiesel production facilities have been certified under the BQ-9000 program as producers with another 14 certified as marketers.

New Nebraska Ethanol Board Officers

The Nebraska Ethanol Board elected new officers for the new year at the organization’s recent board meeting.

Mike ThedeMike Thede of Palmer was elected Chairman of the board. Thede represents general farming interests on the board and also serves as president of the Howard County Farm Bureau and sits on the United Soybean Board.

Thede said that he is optimistic about the future of ethanol in light of sales figures and the recently renewed mandate for biofuels. “2008 was a record setting year for ethanol sales in Nebraska,” Thede said. “In September, 81% of all motor fuels sold in Nebraska contained ethanol. E10 blends were selling from four to ten cents less per gallon than regular gasoline, which saved Nebraska drivers almost $36 million.”

The other officers include Steve Hanson of Elsie as Vice Chairman and Tim Else of Belvidere as secretary. Hanson is the wheat representative on the board while Else represents sorghum producers.

Alternative Energy in Inaugural Address

ObamaAmong the challenges outlined by President Barack Obama in his inaugural address today was a nod to the need for alternative energy sources in our nation.

“We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories,” the new president said as part of his paragraph on “work that needs to be done” in America.

President Obama also noted that “each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet,” which highlights two reasons to continue on the road to domestic fuel – energy independence and the environment.

Last week, Obama outlined his American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan, which includes doubling the production of renewable energy over three years, creating jobs in the development of new energy technologies and increasing the energy efficiency of millions of American homes. Now that he is in office, the challenge will be to implement that plan.

Book Review – A Declaration of Energy Independence by Jay Hakes

I was recently visiting the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles, a museum focused on one of the largest dinosaur finds in California. And I couldn’t help but think of where oil comes from.

Dinosaurs = oil.
No more dinosaurs = no more oil

La Brea Tar Pits

Not exactly. As pointed out in the article “20 Things You Didn’t Know About Oil” (Discover magazine July 2008), “If you are a creationist, crude oil was formed by thousands of years of heat and pressure applied to the carcasses of plants and animals that died in the Great Flood. If you’re not, you think oil comes from dinosaurs, right?”

Okay, so regardless of where oil comes from we’re not getting more. So let’s get a grip and learn about how we can reduce our nonrenewable fossil fuel use.

A Declaration of Energy IndependenceEnter A Declaration of Energy Independence written by Jay Hakes. Throughout the book, Hakes identifies seven solutions that can “help reduce dependence on foreign oil, strengthen the economy, and reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.”

This was a good read. Hakes set his book apart from others by not giving a history lesson on the Middle East but giving us a much needed history lesson on America’s energy security efforts –the good the bad and the ugly.

It’s interesting to note that Hakes has been criticized for including global climate change in a book about energy security. However, Hakes points out rather convincingly (as does Thomas Friedman in Hot, Flat and Crowded) that energy independence and global climate change go hand-in-hand. It is irresponsible to develop an energy plan that remains dependent on fossil fuels especially when fossil fuels are the largest contributor to global climate change.   Continue reading

Feds Give Cape Cod Wind Project Thumbs Up

offshore_wind_turbineA 130 giant wind turbine project planned for off the shore of Cape Cod, Massachusetts has received the green light from a key federal agency, but it still faces some opposition from one of its powerful neighbors.

This story from the Boston Herald says the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Minerals Management Service has given a preliminary approval to the $1 billion Cape Wind project calling it a “milestone” for offshore wind energy:

The decision was expected because a draft MMS report last year had already signaled the agency’s favorable view toward the project, which calls for 130 giant wind turbines in Nantucket Sound, costing more than $1 billion.

But there was some doubt that the MMS’s final report could be issued before President George Bush left office and before opponents, including some Massachusetts congressional members, could possibly torpedo the project.

Now MMS has release its long-awaited final draft – and it will go through a 30-day review.

Cape Wind still needs to get other government permits. But MMS’s OK is considered crucial.

Critics have bitterly denounced the Cape Wind project as spoiling one of the most scenic off-shore sites in America. They’ve also said it’s an unnecessary blight just a few miles off the coast, considering new technology is emerging that could locate wind farms farther out to sea.

Ironically, one of the biggest opponents of the project is Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Massachusetts), who is a close ally of President-elect Barack Obama… who recently said that wind energy and other renewables are key to the nation’s economic recovery (see my post from January 16, 2009). Maybe those two should talk.

Iowa’s E85 Sales Hold Steady in 3rd Quarter 2008

irfaThe Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) has announced that E85 sales in Iowa remained strong during the third quarter of 2008 despite rapidly falling gasoline prices. According to the Iowa Department of Revenue, sales of E85 by Iowa retailers reached 2,208,837 gallons during July, August, and September of 2008 – more than double the 1,270,587 gallons sold during the same period in 2007.

“Despite a narrower gap between E85 and regular gasoline prices at the end of last year, E85 sales remained strong,” said IRFA Executive Director Monte Shaw. “I talked with several retailers that had seen some customers switch from E85 to E10, but they stated that many preferred the home-grown, renewable fuel. E85 is a premier product that many consumers seek out because of their concerns over energy security and global climate change. As gasoline prices head back toward $2 a gallon, E85 remains a great choice for consumers – not just for energy security and the environment, but for the pocketbook as well.”

Iowa currently has 116 public and private E85 outlets. A list of all the E85 stations can be found at www.e85refueling.com. Retailers interested in installing an E85 pump can apply for a grant from the Iowa Department of Economic Development. Information and a grant application may be found at: www.iowalifechanging.com/business/renewablefuels.html.

Ethanol Plants to be Auctioned

Less than one year after the merger of VeraSun Energy and US BioEnergy, seven of the ethanol plants acquired in the merger are scheduled to be sold at auction.

VeraSunThe auction will take place between March 16 and March 31. The merger of the two companies was final on April 1, 2008.

US BioenergyPlants to be auctioned include two in Nebraska, two in Iowa and one each in North Dakota, Minnesota and Michigan – all were originally owned by U.S. BioEnergy. The only former U.S. BioEnergy plant not included in the auction is the Marion, South Dakota facility because it is backed by a different lender, but it is currently idle. In fact, only four of VeraSun’s 17 plants are still producing ethanol at this point.

Potential buyers for the plants are staying confidential, but all eyes are on POET. Last week, POET CEO Jeff Broin said they were “in talks with several companies” when he was asked about future acquisitions. “POET today is considering all its options,” Broin said during the press conference to announce the start-up of their pilot cellulosic facility. “We have been looking at acquisitions of many facilities over the past six months.”

The VeraSun plants are being auctioned as as part of a bankruptcy financing agreement with lender AgStar Financial Services to provide an additional $30 million in debtor-in-possession financing to VeraSun.

Boulder Goes For 90% Ethanol, Biodiesel Vehicles

boulderThe vast majority of city government vehicles in Boulder, Colorado will run on biodiesel or ethanol within the next few years, if city planners have their way.

This story from the Boulder Daily Camera says that the city hopes to raise last year’s goal of 60 percent of new vehicles purchased running on alternatives to 90 percent this year:

Given that the fleet’s average vehicle age is seven years, that means that within just a few years, the overwhelming majority of the vehicles the city owns will either be hybrids or capable of getting by on biodiesel or ethanol.

Just a couple of years ago, [Joe Castro, who manages Boulder’s fleet] said, finding alternative-fuel versions of some cars was tough. When gas prices hit their peak over the last year, he said, that started to change.

“Now that more manufacturers are providing alternative fuel vehicles, we can cover a lot more of our needs,” he said. “Prior to 2009 we had a hard time finding light-duty trucks with alternative fuel options. In 2009, you’re seeing a lot more light-duty trucks with E85 ethanol” — that is, gasoline that’s 85 percent ethanol.

The city’s fleet includes cars and trucks that are hybrids or vehicles that burn ethanol or biodiesel — a version of diesel that’s generated from organic sources such as vegetable oil.

The article goes on to say that while some critics have tried to knock ethanol, the city officials have analyzed the benefits and found that it’s the best alternative to non-renewable petroleum.

Ethanol Plant Offers Barley Bonuses

A Virginia-based ethanol plant is offering incentives for regional farmers to produce barley for biofuel.

Osage Bio EnergyOsage Bio Energy will award $1,000 to the farmers in each of seven states with the highest barley yield per acre. The top producer of the Barley Bin Builder Yield Contest will receive the grand prize of a GM FlexFuel pickup truck.

Barley“Osage Bio Energy’s barley feedstock approach provides a substantial opportunity for local farmers and viable sources of ethanol in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic,” said Joel Stone, Chief Operating Officer of Osage Bio Energy. “And GM’s dedication to the flex-fuel vehicle market makes it an ideal partner for the yield contest.”

Farmers in the states of Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina are eligible to participate in the competition. Perdue AgriBusiness and the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation are cosponsoring the contest with Osage Bio Energy. To get information out to farmers, Osage Bio Energy is sponsoring a farmer survey on its website, as well as attending grower meetings throughout the region.

Biodiesel Not to Blame for MN Bus Problems

Officials in Minnesota say that biodiesel is not to blame for stalling school buses in the bitter, bitter cold of Minneapolis. After temperatures… without the wind chill… dropped to -20 to -30 degrees F, the Bloomington School District had to cancel classes, in part, because a dozen buses wouldn’t start.

frozenbiodieselThe bus company was quick to blame biodiesel, required by the state to be run in the buses. But this story from Minneapolis TV station KSTP says the cold is the real culprit:

State officials say all diesel fuel gels up in cold temperatures.

Bill Walsh with the Minnesota Department of Commerce said, “It really has nothing to do with the biodiesel. It’s a diesel fuel issue in the winter and cold weather.”

Officials add condensation getting into storage tanks or a bad blend of biodiesel could have also contributed to the problems.

Obama Makes Case for Wind & Other Renewables

obama31An Ohio wind-turbine parts factory was the backdrop today as President-elect Barack Obama made his case to include renewable energy in his economic-stimulus package.

The Wall Street Journal reports Obama made his push at the Cardinal Fastener & Specialty Co. in a Cleveland suburb:

Mr. Obama has pledged to double over three years the amount of U.S. wind, solar and geothermal generating capacity, which is currently around 25,000 megawatts. In a down payment on that effort, House Democrats unveiled an economic-stimulus package Thursday that calls for $20 billion of tax cuts for renewable-energy production and an additional $54 billion of spending to modernize the country’s aging electricity grid, and to make homes, vehicles and buildings more energy efficient. For wind power, the bill would extend by three years a production tax credit currently set to expire at the end of 2009.

On Friday, Mr. Obama tried to connect spending on energy with American jobs, noting that his hosts, Cardinal Fastener & Specialty Co., hired two people this week. Mr. Obama said passage of the stimulus plan is critical to helping companies that don’t have access to financing because of frozen credit markets. He said that half the wind projects planned for the U.S. this year could be abandoned without federal aid, and that other countries, including Spain, Germany and Japan, are investing in renewable energy and “surging ahead of us.”

“A renewable-energy economy isn’t something pie-in-the-sky, it’s not part of a far-off future,” Mr. Obama said. “It’s happening all across America right now. It’s providing alternatives to foreign oil now. It can create millions of additional jobs and entire new industries if we act right now.”

A recent survey shows that Americans strongly support the stimulus plan. While some skeptics point out that there’s not enough manufacturing capacity to build all the wind turbines needed for Obama’s goal, it seems to me that a boost from the government would change that… and the goal would be met.

USDA Provides Loan for Cellulosic Ethanol Plant

In one of his last official acts as Secretary of Agriculture, Ed Schafer announced today that USDA Rural Development has approved the first ever loan guarantee to a commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant.

Range FuelsUnder the Biorefinery Assistance Program authorized by the 2008 Farm Bill, USDA will provide an $80 million loan to Range Fuels of Soperton, Georgia. When fully operational in 2010, the plant is expected to produce approximately 20 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol per year from wood and dedicated energy crops.

“The investment in this facility – which will make cellulosic ethanol from wood chips – has the potential to significantly advance the timetable for second generation ethanol production in this country,” Schafer said. “I visited the pilot plant last October and was excited to see how well the technology works. The funding announced today helps the Bush administration fulfill its commitment to reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil by developing alternative, renewable energy sources.”

The Biorefinery Assistance Program promotes the development of new and emerging technologies for the production of advanced biofuels – defined as fuels that are not produced from food sources. The program provides loan guarantees to develop, construct and retrofit viable commercial-scale biorefineries producing advanced biofuels. The maximum loan guarantee is $250 million per project.

New Year Brings Requirement for Labeling New Cars

caepa_stickerAccording to the California Air Resource Board (CARB), a division of the California Environmental Protection Agency, beginning Jan. 1, every 2009 model year and newer car built for sale in California is be required to carry a label that clearly ranks the vehicle’s environmental impact (see example left).

The label will show the simple ranking system that provides consumers practical information that can help them choose the most environmentally friendly vehicle that still meets their transportation needs.

“This label will arm consumers with the information they need to choose a vehicle that saves gas, reduces greenhouse gas emissions and helps fight smog all at once,” said ARB Chairman Mary Nichols. “Consumer choice is an especially powerful tool in our fight against climate change.”

The environmental performance label will have two scores on a scale of 1-10, a Smog Score and a Global Warming Score. The average new car will score five on both scales. The higher the score the more environmentally friendly the car is . The California Air Resources Board also hosts a consumer web site, www.DriveClean.ca.gov, that provides information on the cleanest, most efficient cars on the market.

Biodiesel Leads ASA’s Priorities to Obama

asa_logo1Less than a week before the inauguration, the American Soybean Association (ASA) has given President-elect Barack Obama a list of its 2009 policy priorities… and biodiesel tops that list.

This press release from the soybean advocacy group has details:

“ASA looks forward to working closely with the Obama Administration to achieve these policy priorities, which not only make sense for soybean farmers, but also benefit our entire country through reduced dependence on foreign oil, job creation, increased U.S. exports and a modernized infrastructure system,” said ASA President Johnny Dodson, a soybean producer from Halls, Tenn.

Highlights of ASA’s priorities as submitted to the Obama Administration are as follows:

● Biodiesel: ASA’s top policy priority for 2009 is long-term enactment of the biodiesel tax credit before it expires on December 31, 2009. The biodiesel tax incentive and Bioenergy Program payments make U.S. biodiesel producers more competitive with petroleum-based diesel and with biodiesel imports, which benefit from foreign government subsidies. Biodiesel production reduces U.S. dependence on foreign oil while creating jobs and demand for homegrown renewable soybean oil.

The group is also supporting regulations for biodiesel that pay on all gallons, not just incremental production, under the Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels.

Iowa Firm Wins Biodiesel Marketing Award

keckenergy2A Des Moines, Iowa-based distributor of biodiesel has won that state’s Secretary of Agriculture award for biodiesel marketing.

This press release from Secretary Bill Northey
says Keck Energy is the biodiesel winner of 2009 of the Secretary’s Biodiesel and Ethanol Marketing Awards (see Michelle’s post for the ethanol winner):

Mark Meyer of Keck Energy of Des Moines is the 2009 Secretary’s Biodiesel Marketing Award winner for their efforts to expand the availability of biodiesel and promote it’s usage by their customers. Meyer is President of Keck Energy and has worked to promote biodiesel usage at both the wholesale and retail level.

In particular, Meyer and Keck Energy have been involved on the ground level in preparing for and responding to the issues facing biodiesel and other biofuels.

Iowa is the nation’s leader in biodiesel production with 14 refineries cranking out nearly 318 million gallons of biodiesel each year.