Pennsylvania Looks to Stimulus Money to Help Biofuels

rendellPennsylvania’s governor is looking to the federal government to help along his state’s biodiesel and alternative fuel vehicle industries.

Governor Ed Rendell is asking the U.S. Department of Energy for $15 million in federal stimulus bucks for Alternative Fuel and Advanced Technology Vehicles Pilot Grants:

“As part of Pennsylvania’s Energy Independence Strategy, the PennSecurity Fuels Initiative mandates the production and use of renewable fuels to grow the state’s economy and reduce our dependence on foreign fuels,” said Governor Rendell. “The federal recovery money can assist us in our efforts to reach the required goal of one billion gallons of home-grown biofuels be produced and consumed in Pennsylvania by 2017 – an amount equal to what the state will import from the Persian Gulf by that time.”

The Department of Environmental Protection will partner with the Pittsburgh Regional and the Greater Philadelphia Clean Cities programs, the National Biodiesel Board and eight other industry partners to install fueling infrastructure, retail sites, procure vehicles, promote the use of alternative fuels and educate the public. The eight industry partners included in the project are: Buckeye Partners LP, Centre Area Transportation Authority, Gulf Oil LP, Guttman Oil Co., Lower Merion School District, Lycoming County Resource Management Services, Pennsylvania Energy Co., and Sunoco Logistics Partners LP.

“The primary objective of this grant is to displace petroleum-based diesel fuel with domestically produced biodiesel and natural gas to fulfill the state’s and federal government’s goals to establish long-term alternative fuel use,” said Governor Rendell. “Adding these alternative fuel facilities and vehicles will enable greater access to biodiesel and CNG within the petroleum supply chain and improve fuel quality.”

The hope is to have 23 biofuel terminals and four retail stations throughout the state, plus two natural gas refueling facilities and compressed natural gas equipment on 36 existing vehicles and 57 new natural gas vehicles for public transit agencies.

Rendell says the only thing hampering biodiesel growth is the lack of availability.

Clinton at Ethanol Summit 2009: Save the Trees

ethanolsummit09The Ethanol Summit 2009 is in full swing in Sao Paulo, Brazil with President Bill Clinton kicking off the festivities yesterday. His main message was that while biofuels are an important element in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, it cannot happen at the continued destruction of rainforests.

In an article published by Reuters yesterday, Clinton was quoted as saying, “What people are worried about Brazil is not (whether) you have the most efficient biofuel in the world… everybody knows that is true.”

billclintonethanolsummit2009“(But) the world would say if we let Brazil help us solve our problem at the price of more rainforest destruction, have we really gained anything? That’s what you have to answer.”

This statement was given to a group of international businessmen, the majority of which are in the biofuels industry, who may have noted a discrepancy in Clinton’s observation. According to UNICA (The Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association) “…biofuels are typically not grown on rainforest land or land used to grow fuel.”

It could be argued that the bigger issue of linking rainforest destruction to biofuels production is the ongoing heated debate on indirect land use which calculates the impact of the “land” used when calculating the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. I have no doubt that the issue of indirect land use change will take center state at some point during this year’s Ethanol Summit and we’ll cover that dicussion here on DomesticFuel.

Boeing: Biofuels Just Fine For Aircraft

boeing1One of the world’s biggest makers of aircraft says that in initial tests, biofuels don’t affect performance and present no technical or safety problems, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions by more than 50 percent.

This story from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch
says that word comes from the top people at Boeing:

“It meets all jet fuel requirements and then some,” said Billy Glover, who heads Boeing’s environmental strategy group.

Glover said a full report on the test flights would be released next month and aviation biofuel could be approved for use as early as next year. Despite its promise, however, Glover said the real problem is how quickly growers can start producing and refiners processing enough biofuel to make it an alternative to the Jet A fuel used today.

Aircraft account for about 3 percent of the nation’s carbon dioxide emissions, the principal greenhouse gas, according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency. Though Boeing doesn’t expect much growth in aircraft carbon dioxide emissions, some have estimated they could triple by 2050.

Boeing, Virgin Atlantic, New Zealand Air, Continental Airlines and Japan Airlines, along with GE Aircraft Engines, have conducted four tests using a mixture of biofuel and regular jet fuel over the past 15 months. The planes involved included wide-body 747s and single-aisle 737s. The biofuels included blends of babassu, oil from sustainably grown coconuts, jatropha, algae and camelina.

Boeing officials say that camelina, with its ability to grow on poor soils and to produce high amounts of oil, holds the most promise for sustainability.

WI Businessman Plans to Open Biofuels Stations

A Milwaukee businessman has big plans to bring biofuels to southern Wisconsin.

This story in the the Business Journal of Milwaukee says Peter Grimes is opening a biodiesel and ethanol station in the southeast Wisconsin town of Cudahy next month… and there’s plans to open up at least six more over the next two years:

Grimes, a managing partner of AUR Energy Partners LLC, Milwaukee, is overseeing the conversion of a former Shell station, 5080 S. Pennsylvania Ave., into a biofuel station called Good To Go that will begin selling biodiesel fuel in June. In the future, Grimes’ Good To Go station will offer E-85, a gasoline and ethanol mix that’s 85 percent ethanol, and plug-in bays where electric cars can recharge their batteries.

Grimes and a handful of partners have a second Good To Go alternative fuel station in Little Chute in the Fox Valley that sells E-85 and will sell biodiesel soon.

Grimes says there’s a growing business climate for alternative fuels.

Missouri Biodiesel Plant Holds Open House

producerschoiceAbout 300 investors, workers and local officials toured the new Producers’ Choice Soy Energy biodiesel plant near the north-central Missouri town of Moberly over the weekend.

After a ceremonial ribbon cutting, officials said the 5-million-gallon-a-year refinery should be cranking out biodiesel sometime this summer:

David Zielke, the CEO for Producers’ Choice said “This project has created jobs, stimulated the economy, and provided a new market for area soybean producers.” He also recognized the efforts of the Board and the investors. “Biodiesel production is just one component of this operation. This facility combines state-of-the art technology. It’s a showplace for how to create renewable fuels and add value to our agricultural economy.”

Mark Johnston, the president of Process Concepts which designed and built the plant was also on hand for the ceremony. “Our company has built a number of biodiesel projects in the Midwest, but this one is easily the best combination of technology and planning. The PCSE Board deserves a lot of credit for its vision and efforts.”

The $17.5 million plant will make biodiesel out of soybeans and animal fat and produce 65,000 tons of bean meal annually.

NC Alt Fuel Bill Could Give Additional Incentives

biofuels-pumpA bill that would provide a state tax credit for installing alternative fuels into retail facilities will be up for discussion in the North Carolina state capitol building on Wednesday. House Bill 906 will be in discussion by the North Carolina House Energy Committee that could provide a tax credit of 30% for infrastructure of biodiesel, E85, natural gas, propane and electric refueling infrastructure and a $2,000 tax credit for vehicles that operate on natural gas, propane and electricity.

“It is very important for the State to send a signal to fuel and technology providers as well as consumers that North Carolina thinks clean transportation technologies will benefit our economy and our environment. Supporting vehicle and refueling infrastructure tax credits does just that,” said Anne Tazewell, Triangle Clean Cities policy chair and Transportation Program Manager/NC Solar Center/NCSU.

The Federal Government now offers a tax credit for B20, E85, compressed natural gas and propane fueling stations and electric vehicle charging infrastructure equaling 50% of the cost of the refueling equipment. Federal incentives are also available for dedicated compressed natural gas and propane vehicles.

E85 Displayed on WI Highway Signs

ala-wiThe American Lung Association of the Upper Midwest has announced the first of Wisconsin’s E85 highway signs installed along Interstate 90 near Wisconsin Dells. The signs will alert flexible fuel vehicle owners of E85 available along exits.

e85 highway signThe American Lung Association in Wisconsin’s highway sign program pays for the production and installation of the signs, plus one year of rent under the state’s Specific Information Sign program. “The blue highway signs do a great job alerting those passing through the area that E85 is available,” explains Jackie Blackburn, clean fuels coordinator for the American Lung Association in Wisconsin. “Now, flex fuel vehicle drivers can more easily incorporate E85 into their road trips.”

In 1986, Wisconsin joined the Federal Highway Administration’s SIS program. This program allows for nearly 3,000 miles of the state’s blue “Gas,” “Food,” and “Lodging” signs posted near Interstate and major roadway exits allow travelers to plan their stops based on what retailers are available.

Currently, there are 122 E85 fueling stations in the state of Wisconsin.

Posted in E85

Study Examines Ethanol Policy Options

A new study done by the University of Missouri’s Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute (FAPRI) looked at the impact of eleven different policy scenarios for ethanol on the market, food and ethanol prices, and overall farm income.

FAPRIAmong the options considered was increasing the allowable blend of ethanol in gasoline to 15 percent, which the study found would result in slightly higher corn and ethanol prices and an overall increase in net farm income. “Allowing 15% ethanol blends increases ethanol use and average corn prices, but the effects are modest,” the report states. “Such intermediate blends expand the potential ethanol market and raise corn prices by an average of 1.1%.”

The study also found that allowing the ethanol tax credit or ethanol tariff to expire would likely reduce domestic ethanol production and corn prices, as would reducing the Renewable Fuels Standard.

Possibly the most important conclusion of the study is that basically any model that predicts price and production behavior based on policy is dependent on other factors that cannot be controlled. “The relative importance of different ethanol support policies depends on the price of oil, the weather, and other market circumstances,” it states.

The Great Gatsby Goes Green

Hollywood had a green makeover last week when the first all-solar community, The Gatsby Hollywood, was unveiled. This community of 34 brownstones is the largest all green, all -solar, smart home community in the country and not only features renewable energy but was built using renewable materials.

According to Dan Thompson, the CEO of MasterCraft Homes Group, who designed and built the eco-friendly community, each home will see an energy savings of 50 percent and a water savings of 60 percent.

The community was built as “adaptive use” project. This means a site is found that has abandoned buildings which are torn down and the new buildings, in this case, homes, are erected on the site. MasterCraft Homes is planning on building additional green communities in urban infill areas in LA and will never build on virgin land. This property was also unique in that it is the home of the fabled Orchard Gables Cottage which dates back to Abe Lincoln’s time. The company is working with a restoration expert to refurbish the cottage and it will be re-dedicated as a museum later this year. Thompson noted that having an urban infill area with a historic building is rare and will probably never happen again.

One of the criticisms of green building is that the average person can’t afford to purchase a green home. But in the case of a Gatsby house, this is not the case. Thompson explained that by building the entire community with solar energy and green technologies, they can keep the costs competitive. They are not charging a premium for their homes because they want their communities to be affordable. A Gatsby brownstone can be purchased starting at $750,000. This is actually less expensive then the price of a typical Hollywood bungalow. For those of us who don’t live in Cali, this price equates to about $250,000 in the Midwest.

At this time, Thompson said they don’t plan on building outside of California but with the growing need for green building expertise, he just may be expanding sooner rather than never.

Two Resources to Learn About New Wind Technologies

logo1Infocast is offering two ways to learn more about the advancements in wind technology. The Wind Power Development Tutorial will be held July 8-10, 2009 in San Diego. It will offer independent developers, utilities, munis, co-ops, and land owners the essential tools and strategic insights for success.

In addition, the Tutorial will help existing developers fine tune their plans and projects, while investors, partners and financiers will gain insight into the inner dynamics of wind business models. This will enable them to improve their due diligence, underwriting and valuation analysis. Learn more by visiting www.infocastinc.com/winddev09

The second opportunity to learn more about the wind power technology is through the Midwestern Wind Power Development & Finance Summit on July 27-29, 2009 in Chicago, Illinois. This event is geared to regulators, utility renewable energy policy and planning executives, developers and financiers where they will discuss how to develop and finance renewable energy sources effectively, efficiently, and quickly. In particular, participants will not only learn how to clear local permitting and transmission interconnection hurdles, but also how to structure projects to take advantage of renewable energy provisions in the stimulus bill. Learn more by visiting www.infocastinc.com/mwrenewables09

Ethanol: Where is the Industry Heading?

logo_02What is the ethanol industry’s financial future? This question will be asked and answered by three of the most influential ethanol organizations including Growth Energy, ACE and RFA, during the 5th Annual Biofuels Financial Conference. The conference, sponsored by Christianson & Associates, PLLP,  will focus on the financial challenges and opportunities for the biofuels industry. The conference is being held in Minneapolis, Minn. on June 24 – 25, 2009.

“This is a challenging time for the ethanol industry and we must all learn how to manage during periods of volatility,” said John Christianson, Partner, Christianson & Associates, PLLP. “This conference will educate participants about the current financial challenges and opportunities facing our industry, as well as teach them how to more effectively manage their businesses during financially challenging times.”

Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy, Brian Jennings, Executive Director of the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) and Jim Redding, Vice President Industry Relations for the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) will all take the stage and discuss how the current financial landscape is affecting the ethanol industry today and tomorrow. Participants will also learn about commodity risk management, leadership best practices and hear technical and industry updates.

Here are the three reasons why you cannot miss the 5th Annual Biofuels Financial Conference.
1) Obtaining a lender’s perspective including the importance of key financial ratings of liquidity, profitability and leverage.
2) Designing an appropriate internal control- integrated framework-to best govern and mange your company.
3) Developing the risk management tools to implement effective plans to minimize profit exposure from the volatility of commodity prices.

To see the full agenda and to register, visit www.christiansoncpa.com/biofuelsconference.com.

Ethanol Bob in Brazil

Ethanol BobRenewable Fuels Association president and CEO Bob Dinneen is in Brazil for the Ethanol Summit 2009 in Sao Paulo and is providing an up-to-the-minute account of his visit via Twitter.

Among Dinneen’s comments so far since he arrived in Brazil early this morning: “Just passed a fuel station. Alcohol (ethanol) was 1.09, gasoline was 2.29. Units are litres and Rials, but you get the picture!” and “I find myself looking for flex fuel labels on the cars. They’re all over. A Honda Civic flex, a Toyota Corolla flex. Huh. Why not in the US?”

Ethanol SummitFormer President Bill Clinton is among the speakers today at the summit, which is organized by the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (UNICA) and is one of the most important gatherings focused on biofuels in the world. More than 90 speakers from all continents are confirmed for the Summit, which will feature 25 panels in five theme-specific venues, three publication launches and six plenary sessions. Dinneen will be among the panelists during a Wednesday session on Ethanol: Global vs. Domestic Market. A panel today on second generation ethanol includes representatives from POET, Novozymes, Monsanto and BP and a Food Versus Fuel panel on Wednesday will feature National Corn Growers Association chairman Ron Litterer.

Minnesota On Target to Meet Biodiesel Mandate Goals

Earlier this week, we told you how Washington state was going to fall short on its goal using 20 percent biofuels in all state vehicles. But there’s better news from the Midwest.

mn_map1According to the Redwood Falls (MN) Gazette, Minnesota is on target of meeting its own lofty goal of having all diesel sold in the state to be a 20 percent blend by the year 2015. At the beginning of this month, the state jumped from a 2 percent to a 5 percent biodiesel blend. And the biodiesel industry in the state seems to be ready for the next two steps: a 10 percent blend in 2012 and 20 percent in 2015:

“We will easily be able to meet the demands on the in-creased production for this step up to five percent,” said Chuck Neece of Farmers Union Industries. “In 2012, that will increase to 10 percent biodiesel, which means there will need to be about 80 million gallons of bio-diesel to blend.

“Half of that, 40 million gallons, would have to come from in-state production.”

Between the biodiesel plant in Brewster and the plant near Redwood Falls operated via Farmers Union Industries, state production is currently at 33-35 million gallons.

So, the need would only have to increase another five million gallons to ensure the demands for 2012, ex-plained Neece.

There are some “safety valves” built into the targets, such as a flexible approval process, involving the legislature, biodiesel producers and other stakeholders, for each step along the way to make sure the state is not committed to something it can’t meet due to unforeseen circumstances down the road. But, for now, it looks likes everything so far is so good.

Exxon CEO: Alt Fuels Help Satisfy Global Energy Need

While the chief of Exxon Mobil believes the U.S. demand for gasoline has peaked, he thinks the global demand for gasoline will continue to grow. And Rex Tillerson thinks that alternative fuels will help meet that growing demand.

This story in the Dallas Morning News says Tillerson made the pitch for investing more in renewable energy during the company’s annual shareholder meeting this week in Dallas:

“Half a billion people have moved out of abject poverty to a minimum acceptable standard of existence, and that’s due to energy,” Tillerson said to the crowd of investors gathered at the Meyerson Symphony Center, adding that the world will continue to rely on fossil fuels for decades to come.

“Our approach to alternative energy in the near term is alternative ways to consume fossil fuels” more efficiently, he said.

The Irving oil giant projects that demand for gasoline in the U.S. will decline, as it has in Europe. Demand in China, on the other hand, is likely to triple by 2030, according to Exxon. Tillerson said demand in India and the rest of Asia will also grow.

“That’s where the real rapid growth in fuels is,” he said.

A shareholder proposal to invest in renewable energy failed to win this time, but it does show that some in the oil business are starting to see the end of burning hydrocarbons and want to make sure they’re on the train for the next energy development… and indicators point to that being in renewable fuels.

Interior Funds Efforts to Turn Fallen Trees into Biofuels

interiorBurning deadfalls and brush in your stove or in your car might be a better option than having that same forest waste burn down your home.

One of the issues that the national forests and park lands run into each year is what to do with the fallen trees and underbrush that contribute to forest fires that threaten surrounding communities and the forest itself. While a certain amount of that material is needed to replenish the soil in the forests, too much of it leads to devastating forest fires (although I’m sure there’s another line of debate on how devastating or for whom).

Biomass Magazine reports the U.S. Department of Interior is investing $15 million of the stimulus bill into 55 projects in 12 states to reduce those hazardous fuels on federal lands that will protect at-risk communities while supporting local efforts to produce fuel (and jobs) from the biomass gathered:

The final selection criteria ensured project planning and environmental compliance work was complete or substantially complete and that projects have the potential to provide additional economic benefits to support local or regional employment through post-treatment use of biomass in wood products or power generation.

California and its large amount of trees is getting the biggest amount of funding at $3.3 million. Not surprisingly, Montana and Arizona, states with large forests as well, picked up the next biggest amounts at $2 million and $1.3 million, respectively.

You can see the complete list of projects and awards by state at this Interior Web site.