E85 with a Ford Mustang

A 1999 Ford Mustang GT has been converted to run on the alternative fuel bend of 85 percent ethanol. The engine was changed by the owner, Steve Shrader of Mount Holly, NC.

“The Mustang ran great for more than a year,” noted Shrader. “In the quest for more horsepower, we pulled the engine out of the car to see just how far we could push the horsepower level out of a 4.6L Mustang engine which is street legal and still has a cold A/C. The most recent results were staggering. Running on summer blend E85, the car made 640 horsepower, measured at the rear wheels. With a typical 15 percent driveline loss, that is about 750 hp, if measured at the engine, compared to Ford’s dismal factory output of 260 hp.”

Although this car is not a daily driver nor built to be a commuter car, Shrader said it makes a nice weekend cruising toy and it still makes trips to the dragstrip for fun runs.

Shrader added, “The great results are largely contributed to E85’s 105 octane and cooler-burning characteristics, which allow us to really push the engine beyond what a gasoline engine can safely handle.”

Automobile manufacturers do not recommend converting a gasoline powered vehicle to run on E85.

15 Percent Ethanol Solution

The American Coalition for Ethanol is proposing a solution to gasoline disruptions and higher prices caused by recent hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico – a 15 percent solution of ethanol.

ACE logoIn a posting on the ACE blog this week, they note that Hurricanes Gustav and Ike have caused nearly a quarter of U.S. fuel production to be shut down, and about 20% of U.S. refining capacity could be lost for months.


In response, states are seeking and the government is granting temporary waivers for certain requirements for gasoline, essentially providing more flexibility to blenders in an attempt to help supply keep up with demand.

While officials wring their hands trying to tinker around the edges to free up more gasoline, a largely overlooked source of meaningful relief comes in the form of ethanol – more of it, to be exact.

State and federal officials should look at increasing the percentage of ethanol allowed in gasoline from 10% up to 15% or even 20%. Even if it’s a temporary measure, this would be an immediate solution to increase the availability of fuel.

ACE is encouraging people to ask their state and federal lawmakers to consider E15 an option to deal with the fuel shortages caused by the hurricanes.

Food and Fuel Forum in KC

The Agricultural Business Council of Kansas City is holding a forum on Food and Fuel next month to examine the challenges and opportunities of meeting food and fuel demands.

Kansas City Agricultural Business CouncilThe forum will feature both agricultural and food business leaders, including representatives from the National Corn Growers Association, Missouri Farm Bureau, the American Bakers Association, and the Food and Agricultural Organization.

The forum will be held Thursday, October 23, from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm at the American Royal court in Kansas City. Registration and further information can be found here on the ABC of KC website.

Five States Form Wind Energy Transmission Group

Five Midwestern states have joined together to develop an electric transmission system that should help promote wind energy in the region.

This AP story from the St. Paul (MN) Pioneer Press says Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North and South Dakota have formed the Upper Midwest Transmission Development Initiative:

The coalition of governors will study the costs of developing more wind energy and delivering it on power lines. The states also plan to propose some form of financing new transmission lines.

Lack of adequate power lines is a major impediment to wind energy development in the region.

The initiative will identify the region’s wind energy resources and the transmission infrastructure needed to develop them in the most cost-effective manner.

State officials also will seek solutions to a number of current barriers to additional transmission investment, such as how costs of new power lines should be allocated.

The group will meet for the first time in October and hopes to have results of a study of regional electrical transmission capacity next year.

Rebuilding with Biodiesel

Officials in Parkersburg, Iowa recently received a check for $10,520 to help them rebuild their town destroyed by an F5 tornado back on May 25, 2008.

This story from Biodiesel Magazine says the money is from donors from all over the state:

The initial idea of the fundraiser was for donors to pledge five dollar amounts, signifying the approximate cost of a gallon of biodiesel. Iowans across the state, including biodiesel producers, marketers, and railroad companies all contributed to the effort.

Julie Vyskocil, a biofuels specialist with the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, said the support received from the biodiesel industry and Iowans, demonstrating their concern for a fellow Iowa community in need, was overwhelming. “Donating biodiesel was a unique and practical way that we could help Parkersburg,” Vyskocil said. “Iowa is the leader in renewable fuels production and it seemed fitting to donate fuel produced in the state of Iowa that would be necessary in the rebuilding process.”

The money will go toward buying biodiesel that runs the equipment that continues to cleanup and rebuild the town. If you remember the photo on the left from right after the storm happened at the end of May, the town doesn’t look like that anymore. But there’s still plenty of work to do. It’s nice to know that biodiesel will be part of that effort.

Biodiesel Fueling Cross-Country Trip

Following the route of the famous Cannonball Run of the 1970s (made even more famous by the movie in 1981), a pair of advertising copywriters will attempt to go from the East Coast to the West Coast… entirely non-stop and entirely on biodiesel.

This press release from the Willie Run ’08 web site has more information:

Scheduled for departure from Midtown Manhattan on September 22, Nik Bristow and Brian Pierce from Atlanta’s Fitzgerald+CO will embark on “Willie Run ‘08”, the first-ever non-stop, cross-country trek powered entirely by Willie Nelson’s own BioWillie® biodiesel. The two-man team will follow the route of the infamous Cannonball Run and arrive less than 40 hours later in Los Angeles on September 24. They won’t stop for fuel. They won’t stop to go to the bathroom. In fact, excluding driver changes, they won’t stop for anything for almost 3000 miles.

Their vehicle of choice? The “Willie One,” a diesel Volkswagen Jetta with an additional 60 gallons of fuel capacity that, along with the diesel car’s superior fuel economy of approximately 45-50 mpg, will allow it to travel coast-to-coast without a single fuel stop.

Bristow and Pierce have been biodiesel supporters for years and are ardent fans of Willie Nelson. After discovering the BioWillie® brand and linking those two passions, they began developing a relationship with BioWillie® and creating print ads and other marketing concepts on a pro bono basis.

“We’d been working on the BioWillie brand for a while and we were doing some pretty cool stuff. But it occurred to us that we were working with Willie Nelson, the original outlaw of the music industry, so we needed to be doing something outlaw. So we came up with Willie Run ’08,” said Pierce.

There are plenty of questions that come to mind, especially “what about going to the bathroom?” Well, you can find out the answer to that and more in some pretty hilarious videos the guys have posted on their web site: willierun.com.

Sapphire Closer to Green Crude Production

Sapphire Energy is another step closer to bringing algae-based Green Crude Production to commercial scale with additional financing from existing and new investors, including an investment holding company owned by Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates.

Sapphire EnergyThe latest investments bring the company’s total funding to substantially more than $100 million, and Sapphire is now financed to scale up its production facilities to full commercial feasibility.

Sapphire Energy uses sunlight, CO2, industrial microorganisms, non-arable land and non-potable water to produce alternatives to common products made from petroleum. Sapphire’s Green Crude is similar to light sweet crude and can be refined into chemically identical fuel products such as gasoline, jet fuel and diesel products entirely compatible with the current energy infrastructure—from pipelines and refineries to cars and airplanes.

Sapphire hopes to achieve initial commercial production capability of 10,000 barrels per day of algae-based oil.

First Step for Ethanol-Producing Microbes

A team of researchers from Dartmouth’s Thayer School of Engineering and Mascoma Corporation say they have found a way to produce genetically engineered bacteria that ferment cellulose to produce ethanol more efficiently.

The group reported last week that, tor the first time, they have been able to genetically engineer a thermophilic bacterium, capable of growing at high temperatures, and this new microorganism makes ethanol as the only product of its fermentation.

Lee Lynd“Our discovery is one potential avenue for research to facilitate turning inedible cellulosic biomass, including wood, grass, and various waste materials, into ethanol,” said Dartmouth engineering professor Lee Lynd. “In the near term, the thermophilic bacterium we have developed is advantageous, because costly cellulase enzymes typically used for ethanol production can be augmented with the less expensive, genetically engineered new organism.”

Lynd explains that this discovery is only the first step for future development of ethanol-producing microbes that can make ethanol from cellulosic biomass without adding enzymes. Lynd is the corresponding author on the study and the chief scientific officer and co-founder of Mascoma Corporation, a company working to develop processes to make cellulosic ethanol.

Updated Biomass Energy Website

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy recently updated the website for its Biomass Program and is seeking feedback from those interested in biofuels.

DOE Biofuels graphicThe Biomass Program works with industry, academia and national laboratory partners on a portfolio of research in biomass feedstocks and conversion technologies. Through research, development, and demonstration efforts geared at the development of integrated biorefineries, the Biomass Program helps transform the nation’s renewable and abundant biomass resources into cost competitive, high performance biofuels, bioproducts, and biopower. Among its goals is focusing research and development efforts to ensure that cellulosic ethanol is cost competitive by 2012.

Corn Growers Promote Mid-Level Ethanol Blends

Corn growers are supporting the promotion of mid-level ethanol blends to provide consumers who drive flex-fuel vehicles with more options.

“True fuel flexibility means that drivers should have more of a say,” said Steve Ruh, chairman of the National Corn Growers Association’s ethanol committee. “Mid-level blends allow consumers to customize the fuel they use so they can save money, boost mileage and help reduce air pollution.”

EPIC Fueling LogoCorn grower associations in South Dakota and Kansas have joined with the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council (EPIC) in offering incentive programs to encourage gas stations to install blender pumps and the response is reported to be overwhelming in both states. Blender pumps adjust the mixture of fuel at the gas pump, drawing ethanol (either 100 percent denatured or E85) and unleaded gasoline from separate underground tanks and mixing them according to the driver’s selection at the pump.

EPIC is hosting an online webinar for anyone interested in learning more about the Kansas Blender Pump Program on October 1 from 10:00 to 11:00 a.m. central time. The webinar is free and open to the public and features information on availability of financial assistance, promotion and marketing efforts, equipment requirements and how to increase sales. For more information or to register, go to www.DrivingEthanol.org.

State Provides Boost for Cellulosic Ethanol Project

POETA $14.7 million grant from the state of Iowa was welcome news last week to the company working on a commercial cellulosic ethanol project in the state.

The grant was approved last week by the Iowa Power Fund Board for POET’s Project Liberty in Emmetsburg. The funding will help with research, development and demonstration costs for the integrated biorefinery. POET is expanding an existing ethanol production facility to include the production of cellulosic ethanol from corn cobs.

Iowa EnergyIn addition to the $14.7 million that was approved Wednesday, the State of Iowa has awarded another $5.2 million in Economic Development funds. The total amount of funds from the State of Iowa is $20 million. Iowa Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge said the funding insures that Iowa will continue to be a leader in renewable fuels innovation. “The new POET facility in Emmetsburg will be one of the first in the nation to produce cellulosic ethanol.” Judge said. “This represents the next generation in biofuels, and another step towards energy independence.”

POET CEO Jeff Broin said they were “humbled and honored to have the state of Iowa invest alongside us in the development of cellulosic ethanol production.”

Project LIBERTY is jointly funded by POET and the United States Department of Energy.

Iowa Blender Pumps More than 1,335 Gallons for Promotion

Approximately 200 people attended a grand opening event to dedicate Iowa’s first blender pump in Galva on September 17, 2008. In addition to receiving lunch, co‐sponsored by Galva Holstein Ag and Ida County Farm Bureau, drivers who fueled up with ethanol blends saved $.30 per gallon from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Over 1,335 gallons of ethanol was sold during the promotion.

Special guests at the celebration included Karey Claghorn (Iowa Deputy Secretary of Agriculture), Maureen Wilson (Senator Harkin), Monte Shaw (Iowa Renewable Fuels Association), Dave Ehlers and Wayne Brinks (Congressman Steve King), Jessica Zopf (American Lung Association), Kristin Nowak (Clean Air Choice Team), Westmor Industries, CENEX, representatives from Ida County and Buena Vista County Farm Bureau, organizations and business partners, as well as many other distinguished guests.

“We are delighted to be the first company in Iowa to offer E30 and E85 to FFV drivers”, said Gary Brosamle, energy department manager at Galva Holstein Ag. “Galva Holstein Ag is an avid supporter of renewable fuels, and we encourage all Iowan’s to use ethanol-blended fuels, which are made right here in our backyards.”.

The state-of-the-art blender pump is located south of Galva at 1583 Market Avenue, near the Highway 20 interchange. Galva Holstein Ag is proud to offer E85, E30, E10 and unleaded gasoline to motorists 24 hours a day at this cardtrol facility.

Growing His Own Fuel

Mark ThomasThis week I’ve had the opportunity to visit the Ohio State University’s annual Farm Science Review show. It’s all about midwest farming and that includes corn.

While I was visiting the Ohio Corn Growers exhibit I found 5 time IHRA Funny Car Champion Mark Thomas. Here he is explaining his car, which runs on ethanol, to an FFA student.

Mark is not only a professional drag racer but a farmer himself. He has 500 Holstein cows and farms 2,200 acres of corn, soybeans, wheat, and alfalfa. You’d think that would be enough to keep him busy!

One of his passions is ethanol. He basically grows his own fuel and has had a mission to help educate the public about this renewable energy source. So that’s part of his message here at the show. He says the question he gets asked most often standing by his funny car is, “How much horse power?” It’s got 3,000 HP and goes from zero to 250 mph in 5.7 seconds! Of course he runs on ethanol and he says the car uses just over a gallon of ethanol per second.

You can listen to my interview with Mark here:

Oilseed Production to Hit Record

While American farmers might have a smaller soybean crop this year, that feedstock and other oilseeds for biodiesel production is expected to be at record levels on the global market.

The latest USDA World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates report says the U.S. soybean crop will be down to 2.93 billion bushels… 39 million bushels lower than previous estimates. But this story from Biodiesel Magazine says the rest of the world is taking up the slack:

The lowered prospects for U.S. production is due primarily to lower yield projections in the eastern Corn Belt. The soybean crush was reduced 30 million bushels due to sharply lower projected domestic soybean meal use and meal exports…

Soybean oil stocks for 2007-’08 are reduced, reflecting lower production…

Global soybean production is projected at a record 238 million tons, up 9 percent from 2007-‘08. Argentina soybean production was raised to a record 50.5 million tons based on higher expected area. China soybean production was raised 500,000 tons to 16.5 million based on increased yields. Global rapeseed production was raised 1.2 million tons to 53.4 million, an 11 percent increase over 2007-‘08. Rapeseed crops are projected higher for Canada, EU-27, and Belarus. Other changes include increased global oilseed stocks, which were raised 3 million tons to 60.4 million for 2008-’09 – primarily due to increased rapeseed stocks in Canada and increased soybean stocks in South America and China.

Biodiesel, Ethanol & Wind Facing Uphill Battle on the Hill

The latest version of the energy bill, which includes an extension of the $1-a-gallon biodiesel tax credit and federal incentives for wind and solar energy (which were all set to expire at the end of this year), has passed the U.S. House, but its future is most assuredly less assured as it moves on to the U.S. Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is holding votes on four separate energy bills, possibly starting as early as tomorrow (Thursday, Sept. 18th), as lawmakers hit the final week before they go on their fall recess starting Sept. 26. This story from the Washington, D.C.-based newspaper The Hill says it might be too much with too little room and time for compromise to get a bill that will pass:

Few senators expressed optimism that the two parties could resolve deep disagreements in such a compressed, politically charged atmosphere, especially with 60-vote thresholds likely necessary. Reid himself suggested a lame-duck session after the Nov. 4 elections might be necessary if the issue cannot be resolved.

“It would definitely be the triumph of hope over experience,” said Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the GOP’s chief deputy whip. “The Democrats will run their bill, the Republicans will run our bill, none of them will reach 60, and my guess is that’s where everything stops.”

Still, there is some reason for hope. Both Democrats and Republicans say the energy debate will be simplified by passing alternative energy tax incentives in a separate tax package, leaving only the sticky problem of expanding offshore oil drilling.

So it looks like the incentives for renewable energy could get extended even if the energy bill as a whole is doomed. As I said yesterday, stay tuned… this story is far from over.