Senators Introduce Fuel Choice Bill

Both houses of Congress have now introduced a bill that would give consumers more choices at the pump.

U.S. Senators Sam Brownback (R-KS) Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), and John Thune (R-SD) are all co-sponsoring the Open Fuel Standards Act, introduced this week in the Senate. A similar bill was introduced in the House last month. Versions of the Open Fuel Standard Act introduced in the 110th Congress drew substantial bipartisan support.

“The Open Fuel Standards Act is an important step toward making our nation energy independent,” said Sen. Brownback in introducing the legislation. “Giving drivers more choices at the gas pump will ultimately increase the supply of available transportation fuels, while at the same time lowering the overall cost to consumers.”

Starting in 2012, the OFS Act will require 50 percent of new automobiles be flex fuel vehicles able to operate on gasoline, ethanol, and methanol or diesel or biodiesel. Starting in 2015, that number will be raised to 80 percent.

Final Day for Comments on CARB Plan

Earth Day 2009 is ironically the final day for filing written comments with the California Air Resources Board (CARB) on a proposed low-carbon fuel standard, or LCFS, that threatens to undermine the role of renewable fuels in helping the environment.

CA ARBAn increasing number of university professors, scientists, researchers, and industry trade organizations have registered their opposition to the controversial proposal because they say incomplete and unproven modeling is being used to penalize renewable fuels.

Among the flaws in the proposal pointed out by the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) in formal comments submitted to CARB this week is that it ignores the great growth in corn production per acre, or yield, that is expected to take place in the coming decade.

“Using yield data updated only through last year, the proposal’s analysis through 2015 assumes no growth in yield,” NCGA President Bob Dickey said. “This is like assuming we will all use the same computer and same technology in 2015 that we’re now using.” With the use of new technologies which allow desirable traits and genes to be identified and deployed much more quickly, annual yield increases may average 2.5 percent or greater into the future.

“America’s corn growers are eager to play a central role in the decarbonization of transportation fuel,” Dickey concluded in the written comments. “However, if adopted as currently proposed, the standard will uniformly dissuade the production and use of all forms of biofuels that utilize land and undercut what is a tremendous opportunity to spur economic growth in agricultural communities and reduce carbon emissions with American farming.”

Written comments may still be submitted until noon pacific time today by going to the CARB website. The formal public hearing will be Thursday and Friday of this week after which a vote will be held and a ruling made.

Biodiesel Big Part of Earth Day

earthday2009Happy Earth Day, everybody!!

“Biodiesel makes sense on Earth Day and every day.” Those words from our friend Joe Jobe, CEO at the National Biodiesel Board, sum up how the green fuel plays an important part in our lives… not just on days like this when we recognize eco-friendly actions, but every day. Burning the 700 million gallons of biodiesel produced in this country last year is the equivalent of taking nearly one million vehicles off the road… truly a friendly fuel to our beloved Earth.

That’s why the NBB is recognizing some of the cities around the country that are using biodiesel to make a difference:

“Denver has a strong environmental and sustainability program, so we are always looking to reduce our carbon footprint,” said Carlos Guerra, Denver Public Works Facility Manager. “You add that to the escalation of oil costs and biodiesel seemed like the only responsible thing to do.”

The city operates 60 heavy-duty vehicles on B20 (a blend of 80 petroleum diesel and 20 percent biodiesel) year round and has been using a biodiesel blend for more than five years. Even in cold Denver winters the biodiesel blend offers both performance and environmental benefits…

Albuquerque – All of Albuquerque’s approximately 750 diesel vehicles began using biodiesel blends in 2004. About 45 percent of the city’s fleet boasts alternative fuel, including biodiesel. Continue reading

Biodiesel, Solar Play Prominent Roles in Tinsel Town

hollywoodSure, they might not be cast opposite stunning starlets such as Angelina Jolie or call for their closeup after jumping off a 30-story building in a spectacular stunt, but renewable energy sources, especially biodiesel and solar, are playing a starring role in Hollywood these days.

Even the entertainment magazine Variety recognized the renewables’ walk out on the red carpet of green living:

” ‘Green’ business is good business,” according to Warner Bros. chairman and CEO Barry Meyer, who maintains that the studio’s green initiatives “are not only good for the environment, but they are beneficial to our bottom line.”

The studio said it saves about $1.3 million annually from energy conservation measures adopted in recent years.

Warner finished construction earlier this year on a “green” soundstage and has installed a 500-kilowatt solar electrical system with more than 2,700 solar panels. It is the largest in the industry, as well as in the city of Burbank, according to Warner Bros.

NBC Universal introduced its “Green Is Universal” campaign several years ago. Beth Colleton, veep of the initiative for the conglom, said is an attempt to “green the way we do business 365 days a year.”

According to the studio, the use of biodiesel fuel on the upcoming Focus Features pic “Away We Go” resulted in a reduction of harmful carbon emissions.

Even Hollywood staple William Morris Agency has invested in 15 hybrid vehicles for its fleet. Let’s just hope they don’t want an agent’s cut. But, then, maybe they could get a percent of biodiesel or ethanol… just like we do in our vehicles’ fuels!.

Biodiesel Chief Honored by Alternative Fuel Industry

thomasonjobeWhile my friend Michelle mentioned the National Biodiesel Board’s CEO Joe Jobe winning the Alternative Fuel Vehicle Institute’s Golden Bullet Award during the group’s conference and expo going on in Orlando, Florida, I wanted to pass along this picture of Joe picking up the honor and what the NBB had to say about it:

“Biodiesel is just one key part of the solution to reduce our nation’s dependence on foreign oil, preserve our natural resources, reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions and provide sustainable energy,” said Jobe. “I am honored to be recognized, but thank the members of the biodiesel community, who are dedicated and persevering when it comes to ensuring America can produce its own fuel.”

The Alternative Fuel Vehicle Institute recognizes outstanding leadership in the alternative fuels and vehicles industry. The Golden Bullet was among awards presented at the 15th national Alternative Fuels & Vehicles Conference and Expo 2009 in Orlando to honor leaders and organizations that further advanced technologies resulting in clean alternatives to petroleum.

“Joe Jobe’s leadership has been a tour de force unifier behind the national effort to bring the biodiesel industry together and advance the use of biodiesel in our nation’s fleets,” said Alternative Fuel Vehicle Institute’s Director of Education and Business Programs, Kimberly Taylor. “A rising tide lifts all boats, and biodiesel’s successful growth has a ripple effect in demonstrating that alternative fuels can power the nation.”

The release goes on to point out just how rapidly the popularity of biodiesel has grown over the past decade with production jumping from just 500,000 gallons nationwide 10 years ago to 7 million gallons last year. Pretty impressive! It’s no wonder our friends at the AFVI chose to honor Joe and the entire NBB. Congratulations!

DF Cast: Advanced Biofuels Need More Funding

df-logo2With Wall Street still not recovered from the economic downturn and banks keeping a tight hold of the credit purses’ drawstrings, the next generation of biofuels producers could have a rough time getting going and staying going.

Recently, the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO)… a group that represents more than 1,200 biotechnology companies, academic institutions, state biotechnology centers and related organizations across the United States and more than 30 other nations… gave some of its ideas on how to loosen the credit crunch. BIO’s vice president of its Industrial and Environmental Section, Brent Erickson, said that will come through the federal government’s leadership to coordinate and fund biofuel-friendly programs and help the development of the new feedstocks, transportation and delivery of products, alternative fuel distribution networks and vehicles. Joining him in this call were several of the nation’s leading biofuels companies.

During a news conference, the companies, such as Verenium, Aurora Biofuels, Abengoa Bioenergy, and Gevo, Inc… just to name a few… gave an update on how they’re doing. There was some good news and some not-so-good news with the overall tone upbeat… although most of them agreed that the tough economic times will make it impossible for the cellulosic ethanol industry to meet the government’s goal of 100 million gallons next year. But after that, they remain optimistic. In addition, many on the conference call pointed out that with a finite amount of non-renewable petroleum out there, growing demand and a growing desire to eliminate the fuels that contribute to global warming, there’s really no other choice but to develop these clean, renewable energy sources.

It was a pretty interesting conversation, and you can either go to BIO’s Web site and look up the information so you can listen to the hour-plus of the conference call… OR you can listen to our own Domestic Fuel Cast (just about 7 1/2 minutes of your busy day) where we have condensed it down to its most important points here:

The choice is yours. Me… I’m a busy guy. I know which one I’d choose.

You can also subscribe to the DomesticFuel Cast here.

AFVI Announce Industry Excellence Awards

As the third day of the 15th national AF&V Conference and Expo in Orlando moves in, industry excellence awards were announced. Alternative Fuel Vehicle Institute (AFVI) recognized outstanding leadership in the alternative fuels and vehicles industry. The awardees shown superiority in advancing the use of alternative fuels, vehicles and advanced technologies thus furthering a clean air initiative.

According to a press release from AFVI, eight awards were announced:

The 20/20 Vision Award which acknowledged cooperative leadership, strength of purpose, and a powerful vision went to Mario Cordero, immediate Past President of the Port of Long Beach, CA, and S. David Freeman, President, of the Port of Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners. Under their plan, the fifth largest seaport complex in the world is now working with drayage truck owners to replace old trucks that can cut truck related air pollution by 80% by 2012.

The Golden Bullet Award went to Joe Jobe who brought together a national effort to bring the biodiesel industry together to advance the use of biodiesel in our nation’s fleets.

ttsiThe Green Fleet Award went to Victor La Rosa, President of Total Transportation Services, Inc. (TTSI), was the first in line with alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs) to operate in full-time drayage service at the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles.

The Invention and Innovation Award (Heavy-Duty) was given Michael Gallagher, president and COO for Bechtel Group and Fluor Corporation. Dr. Gallagher showed commitment to the development of alternative energy and environmental cleanup by working tirelessly with customers, industry partners and policy makers on natural gas.

The Invention and Innovation Award (Light-Duty) was presented to Toyota Prius as it changed the makeup of the world’s fleet of vehicles. In an evolving new vehicle market, Toyota has set the bar for eco-supremacy.

The Oxygen Award was given to Blue Bird VISION. The Vision is the first full-size, dedicated propane-powered school bus to be offered by a major manufacturer in the United States since 2002.

boone_pickensThe Green Giant Award went to T. Boone Pickens (right) who has pushed national attention on natural gas for transportation as a key tenet in lessening U.S. dependence on foreign oil.

The Prescient Pioneer Award was presented to Mike Scarpino of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Clean Cities Program. For twelve years Mike has been on hand to assist the national program and local coalitions as they’ve weathered budget threats, low gasoline prices, and erratic incentives.

The AF&V Conference concludes tomorrow.

Scientists to Speak on Biofuels in San Francisco

ca_symposiumA group of experts are slated to speak on the commercialization of biofuels at the 31st Symposium on Biotechnology for Fuels and Chemicals on May 3-6 in San Francisco. Speakers will include scientists from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), the Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI), the Department of Energy’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) and UC Berkeley, as well as private companies.

Sessions will focus on a variety of special topics: Biorefinery Deployment, highlighting recent progress in developing and operating demonstration-scale and commercial-scale integrated biorefineries; Biofuels Logistics and Sustainability, touching on the the potential of lignocellulosic biomass; International Commercialization of 2nd Generation Biofuels, presenting on recent international progress to accelerate deployment of advanced biofuels technologies; Development and Commercialization of Algal-based Biofuels, focusing on efforts underway to develop and commericalize algal-based biofuels; and Emerging Biofuels and Chemicals: highlighting on research and development of new fuels and chemicals from renewable feedstocks.

The meeting is organized by the Society for Industrial Microbiology, and hosted by NREL and ORNL, and sponsored by the Department of Energy’s Biomass Program. Cosponsors include EBI, NREL, ORNL, JBEI and other national laboratories and private companies.

More than 800 are expected to attend the event. For more information, go to http://www.simhq.org/meetings/sbfc2009/index.html.

Comments Open for Ethanol Blend Increase

On the eve of Earth Day 2009, the Environmental Protection Agency began accepting public comment on the waiver request to raise the amount of ethanol blended into gasoline from 10 percent to up to 15 percent.

Growth EnergyCiting the Earth Day connection, waiver petitioner Growth Energy urged Americans to support the increased use of clean, green ethanol by submitting comments supporting the request. According to Growth Energy, moving from the current ten percent blend up to a 15 percent blend could reduce an additional 20 million metric tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per year – a reduction equal to removing 3.5 million vehicles from the road.

“As citizens and policymakers alike work to green our planet, ethanol represents among the best solutions to fuel our country’s environmental sustainability, economic growth and energy independence,” said Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy. “Growth Energy encourages all Americans to stand with us in support of ethanol by making your voice heard to the EPA.”

Written comments, identified by Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2009-0211, must be received within 30 days of today’s publication date. More information can be found on-line from EPA.

RFA Submits Comments to California

California’s efforts to reduce the carbon intensity of the state’s transportation fuels are admirable, but the state’s goals, as outlined in the proposed Low Carbon Fuels Standard (LCFS), are unlikely to be achieved because of the policy’s inherent bias against low-carbon biofuels, says the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA).

RFAIn written comments to the California Air Resources Board (CARB) in advance of its April 23 hearing, the RFA outlined concerns about the LCFS that are particularly troubling to conventional and next generation ethanol producers.

Among RFA’s concerns are insufficient land use change analysis. According to RFA, the model CARB relies upon, known as GTAP, is not a mature model for estimating land use change because it does not sufficiently account for increased crop yields in the U.S. as a result of new technologies and includes insufficient feed co-product land use credits. RFA charges that the model also results in an overestimation of forest land being converted.

Read RFA’s entire comments here.

World’s Greenest Building to Run on Biodiesel

independencestationIt’s appropriately named Independence Station because it’s located in Independence, Oregon. But it could be named for the independence from foreign energy sources, as the “world’s greenest building” will be fueled with biodiesel.

Biodiesel Magazine reports that the $15 million building is halfway finished with completion scheduled early next year. The article says along with the power from biodiesel, the building will feature rainwater collection and reuse, use sunlight, and be built from recycled and reclaimed building materials:

The 57,000 square-foot building is also expected to be awarded the highest rating recorded by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Green Building Rating System, according to main project developer and owner Aldeia LLC.

The LEED rating system, which is developed by United States Green Building committees, is designed to guide and distinguish high-performance commercial and institutional projects, including office buildings, high-rise residential buildings, government buildings, recreational facilities, manufacturing plants and laboratories. Out of a possible 69 points,
Independence Station is expected to score at least 64.

Besides residential and business space, the building will also house facilities for biofuel production, education and research. Aldeia plans to collect yellow grease from local restaurants in order to produce biodiesel on site, which will fuel seven Cummins Inc. generators. “We have plans to work with the chemical engineering department at Oregon State
University, so our personnel plans are small,” said Steven Ribeiro, Aldeia principal developer. “I will be involved in the production personally, and have purchased a 3,000-gallon retired home heating oil delivery truck that has been logoed up as ‘Energy for Independence’.”

Arrangements have been made to collect local used cooking oil, and B99 will be purchased from SeQuential-Pacific Biofuels in Portland, Oregon.

Warm Wx Biodiesel Source Coming to Colder Climates

rudrabhatlaMany warmer parts of the world, including the American Southeast, have been cultivating the jatropha plant as a source material for biodiesel. But farmers in colder climates would like to look into the warm-loving, non-food feedstock, too. Well, if everything goes well with research at a Pennsylvania school, they might just get the chance.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports
that assistant biology professor Sairam Rudrabhatla at Penn State-Harrisburg has patented a cold-tolerant gene and will try to alter the jatropha plant to grow in northern fields:

“In the next nine months, we should be able to introduce the gene into the plant and probably in a year we can grow this in greenhouses,” he said. “ItÂ’s very exciting.”

The Milton Hershey School has agreed to provide space for the research, but the researchers hope to build and equip their own laboratory and greenhouse. They made a pitch for federal funding Friday to Rep. Tim Holden, D-Pa., who chairs a subcommittee looking into alternative energy sources.

Holden is also hoping for a federal biodiesel mandate starting next year.

Iowa Legislature Moves Forward Biodiesel Standard

iowacapitolState senators in Iowa have passed a standard that would require all diesel fuel sold in the state contain 5 percent biodiesel. The measure still needs to clear the State House and gain the governor’s signature to become law. If it does, the Hawkeye State would become the eighth state in the nation to have a biodiesel requirement, joining Minnesota, Washington, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, New Mexico and Massachusetts, which all have biodiesel mandates.

The news was welcomed by the National Biodiesel Board:

nbb-logo1“Iowa has been a leader in the helping to establish biodiesel as a reliable and renewable energy alternative,” said Joe Jobe, National Biodiesel Board CEO. “Biodiesel gives all Iowans an opportunity to use a renewable fuel made for, grown by, refined by, and distributed by Iowans. This is empowering the citizens of the state to choose to use less foreign oil.”

Officials say Iowa’s biodiesel requirement will drive demand for 45 million gallons of the green fuel in the state, as well as generating jobs in the local production of the feedstock, primarily soybeans in Iowa, and the biodiesel.

AF&V Conference Kicks Off in Orlando

afvi2009The 2009 Alternative Fuels & Vehicles (AF&V) Conference and Expo has kicked off in Orlando, Florida. The industry event represents all fuels, vehicles and technologies that provide an alternative to petroleum including: natural gas, ethanol, biodiesel, propane, electricity, and hydrogen, and their companion vehicles.

afvishowThe exhibit hall opened yesterday and showcases booths from a variety of alternative fuel industry groups and automakers. An important workshop was held this afternoon and focused on the untruths of the alternative fuel industry. The session, Eco-Smackdown: Industry Addresses Untruths About Alternative Fuels, included a panel of experts from industries representing propane, compressed natural gas, biodiesel, and ethanol. An overview was given of each fuel and the audience was allowed to ask how to dispel their untruths and negativity, mainly from the media.

c_donaldsonEthanol breakthroughs were discussed mentioning cellulosic, using corn cobs in pilot plants and the efforts to move from E10 to E15. Curtis Donaldson of CleanFUEL USA said, “How great would it be to combine all these alternative fuels and successfully displace 35 billion gallons of gasoline by the year 2025. The group agreed that it will take all the fuels to displace gasoline. Although there are myths and untruths, we are in a transition. This can be done.”

Another concurrent session held today was Declaration of Independence: The Domestically Produced Alternative Fuels Solution. An expert panel presented on biofuel options, cost advantages, job growth, environmental benefits and how fleets can begin today to wean the U.S. off of foreign oil.

The AF&V Conference is hosted by the Alternative Fuel & Vehicle Institute.

Oregon Legislature Join Anti-Ethanol Fight

The Oregon legislature now is considering five bills that would limit the use of ethanol in the state. The bills are in response to complaints about: the product raising food prices, ethanol mileage reduction vs. gasoline, and the wear of the ethanol on small engines.

oregon_govCurrently most fuel in Oregon contains ten percent ethanol. The Oregon State Marine Board cites caution for using ethanol blended fuel in boats. They say that ethanol can dissolve the inside of certain boat fuel tanks and ethanol absorbs more water.

Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski is a supporter of the renewable fuel who helped push biofuel tax breaks through the previous Legislature, along with a requirement that Oregon’s gasoline contain 10 percent ethanol. That requirement kicked in statewide Jan. 1.

In 2008, the Legislature created exemptions that allowed the sale of “clear” gasoline without ethanol for boats, power tools, aircraft and other uses. But opponents of the ethanol standard said too few stations provide ethanol-free gasoline to make the exemptions practical.