Biodiesel: It IS Rocket Science

biodieselrocketCarlsbad, California-based Flometrics, Inc., an engineering service for the aerospace, medical device and consumer products industries, has tested B100 biodiesel on a RocketDyne LR-101 rocket engine.

This story from Space-Travel.com says it performed very well:

The B-100 fuel was found to have performance within 4% of the RP-1 fuel which the engine was originally designed for.

BioDiesel is a renewable, low toxicity, low flammability fuel. The use of vegetable based rocket fuel opens up the possibility of growing oil-producing crops on the moon or mars for use as stock for rocket fuel, eliminating the need of lifting the fuel from the surface of the earth.

NASA is already working on extracting oxygen from the lunar soil, and some scientists at ESA and NASA have proposed growing plants on the moon.

So while the moon might not be made of green cheese, it could one day produce green fuel.

NREL: Biodiesel Keeps Getting Better

mccormick1The overall quality of biodiesel keeps getting better.

The National Renewable Energy Lab says that quality is key to the growing industry:

NREL Principal Engineer on Fuel Performance Robert McCormick says biodiesel quality is improving rapidly in the United States, with large producers consistently meeting specifications. However, some small producers still have trouble meeting national standards.

McCormick and Senior Engineer Teresa Alleman served as significant contributors to revised biofuels specifications recently published by ASTM International (formerly the American Society for Testing and Materials.) Research conducted by NREL provided the technical basis for setting the new standards. McCormick and other collaborators also have co-authored the 2008 edition of the Biodiesel Handling and Use Guide.

The rigorous ASTM process yielded stringent specifications to help ensure the availability of high quality biodiesel blends in the marketplace and bolster automaker support and consumer demand for biodiesel.

NREL officials say the standards apply to any biodiesel, regardless of the feedstock used. That consistency is needed to ensure that when consumers buy biodiesel, they can rest assured that it will perform the same every time.

Donors Build Alt Energy Institute at Stanford

precourtOne hundred million dollars has been donated to Stanford University for a new energy institute to find environmentally friendly energy sources.

This article from Reuters says half of the money is coming from an oil executive… interesting, since the intent of the institute is to make renewable energy cheaper than petroleum:

The new Precourt Institute for Energy is named after Jay Precourt, an oil executive who donated $50 million. Another $40 million came from Thomas Steyer and his wife Kat Taylor. Steyer is a Stanford trustee and managing partner of Farallon Capital Management.

The remaining $10 million was donated by Douglas Kimmelman, of Energy Capital Partners, Michael Ruffatto, the president of North American Power Group, Ltd, and Google (GOOG.O) Chief Executive Eric Schmidt, through the Schmidt Family Foundation.

The institute will create seven to eight new faculty positions, fellowships for graduate students and postdocs, and improve undergraduate and graduate energy curricula. The institute will also operate as a sort of venture capitalist, making seed money available for new ideas.

Precourt said in a statement he was concerned “we are importing energy from insecure, unreliable sources who are, in many cases, not friends of the United States.” The United States imports 70 percent of the oil it consumes.

Part of the problem is economics. Taylor said that alternative fuels would be more attractive if the “real price of gas were included in our market, for example environmental damage, foreign policy implications (and) foreign wars.”

This new institute will combine its efforts with the Stanford Global Climate and Energy project, a program that tries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Environmental and Clean Energy Inaugural Ball Announced

inaugural-ballAccording to the Clean Fuels Development Coalition (CFDC) President-elect Obama’s nominee for Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and his Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality will be among the participants representing a wide range of environmental and clean energy interests at the Environmental Inaugural Ball on January 20, 2009. This black-tie event, is the sixth consecutive Inaugural Ball focusing on these important issues.

“We have had an overwhelming response to this event from the environmental and clean energy communities. The level of excitement and interest in highlighting the importance of our message has never been greater. We will reinforce to the Obama Administration our spirit of cooperation and goodwill, to make America the Beautiful a reality for future generations,” said Ball Co-Chair Jan Hartke, representing the Clinton Climate Initiative.

Ball Co-Chair Douglas A. Durante of the CFDC said, “President-elect Obama has made it clear that energy and the environment will remain top priorities and this incredibly unique event brings the entire political, environmental, and energy communities together. Some of the legends of the environmental movement are working with us and it promises to be the best event in Washington.”

Durante noted that the broad appeal of the ball includes an Honorary Committee comprised of members of Congress. Major environmental leaders in the House and Senate are on the Honorary Committee such as Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee; Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee; Henry Waxman (D-CA), Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee; Ed Markey (D-MA), Chair of the new House Subcommittee on Energy and the Environment; Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Zach Wamp (R-TN), Co-Chairs of the House Renewable Energy Caucus; Senator Mark Udall, (D-CO), immediate past Chair of the Renewable Energy Caucus, and many others.

For more information, visit http://www.environmentalball.org.

Economic Stimulus Sought for Agriculture and Renewables

A diverse coalition of 34 business, agriculture and environmental groups is asking Congressional leaders to support an economic recovery package that provides strong funding for agriculture-based, clean energy development programs.

25x'25The National 25x’25 Steering Committee and other renewable energy advocacy groups outlined a three part recommendation in a letter to Congressional leaders this week. The letter recommends including at least $1.2 billion each year in mandatory supplemental appropriations for important Farm Bill Energy Title programs; restructuring and extending the federal Production Tax Credits (PTC) for renewable energy, cellulosic biofuels, and biomass for five years; and extending and expanding successful clean renewable energy and conservation bond programs which provide PTC-like incentives for electric cooperatives, public power, and municipalities to build new renewable energy facilities and invest in energy efficiency.

The coalition is largely made up of agricultural organizations, but also includes such groups as the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and the Environmental Law & Policy Center. NWF Director of Global Warming, Agriculture and Wildlife Julie Sibbing says their top priority is addressing global climate change and they believe addressing energy needs is a new way is the only way to get there. “Unfortunately this economy is very dependent on good credit and funding to start up these new industries and the economic crisis is really taking a toll,” she says. “If we don’t free up some money we could be putting the entire green tech future on hold for several years.”

Sibbing says USDA programs such as Rural Energy for America and the Biomass Crop Assistance that fund renewable energy have a big impact on rural economies and play an important role in moving the green tech industry forward. “We think now is the time to move the next generation of biofuels forward, but it relies extensively on the agricultural sector,” she said.

Ethanol Industry Leader Outlines Priorities

The chairman of the Renewable Fuels Association outlined the industry’s top priorities for 2009 during a telephone press conference Tuesday morning.

Chris StandleeChris Standlee with Abengoa Bioenergy says there are three main priorities for the industry – stimulating economic growth, increasing blend limits, and modeling life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions.

Standlee called on Congress and the Obama administration to recognize and continue to build upon the success of agriculture and the ethanol industry as they work to stimulate the economy and create green jobs. “Ethanol is one of the original green jobs,” said Standlee, and there are more than 325,000 jobs currently related to ethanol in the nation. They would like to see any stimulus package include provisions for ethanol producers to obtain credit and capitol necessary to build new biorefineries and deploy new technologies for next generation ethanol.

Standlee says modernizing the blend level for ethanol in vehicles is critical for the success of the Renewable Fuels Standard. RFA believes that all vehicles can immediately accommodate ethanol blends of 12-13 percent, which will help in the short term, but long term that needs to be increased to 15 or even 20 percent. “Preliminary data shows that such a move is possible and practical,” said Standlee.

Finally, RFA is actively involved in EPA’s development of life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions modeling and the issues related to indirect land use. “The scientific community is far from consensus on these issues,” said Standlee. “It’s imperative that EPA consider the litany of issues and variables surrounding this discussion, including appreciating the fact that the environmental footprint of petroleum is getting worse over time.”

Listen to Chris Standlee outlining the industry’s priorities here:

Verenium Back in Compliance

VereniumCellulosic ethanol company Verenium Corporation has regained compliance with the continued listing requirements of the NASDAQ Global Market. NASDAQ previously notified Verenium that it had fallen out of compliance with a rule requiring listed companies on the NASDAQ Global Market to maintain a minimum market capitalization of $50 million. NASDAQ has confirmed that Verenium now meets the requirements of this rule.

Obama, Congress Considering Alt Energy in Stimulus Bill

uscapitolAs leaders in Congress and President-elect Barack Obama look at another possible economic stimulus package, renewable energy sources, such as biodiesel, ethanol, solar and wind, look to get $25 billion in tax credits from the plan.

This story from the Washington Post says the credits could come in either a single bill or a series of legislative moves:

The main elements under consideration include a two-year, $8.6 billion extension of the production tax credit for renewable energy, an item that favors wind power projects. Obama advisers are considering a proposal from the wind and solar industry that would make those credits refundable or count them against past taxes because many financial firms that provided capital for those projects no longer have taxable income and can’t use the credits.

The bill could also include tax credits for service stations that install high-ethanol-content fuel pumps, a $7,500 tax credit for plug-in vehicles, an extension of the biodiesel credit, and one for coal-fired power plants that capture more than half of their carbon emissions or that could be retrofitted to do so later. There could also be clean-energy credits for rural cooperatives.

The stimulus package may also establish a federally funded National Clean Energy Lending Authority, an idea that has been promoted by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Rep. Zach Wamp (R-Tenn.). The agency would receive as much as $10 billion to $20 billion and would extend low-interest loans or loan guarantees to renewable energy projects in an effort to mobilize private capital. If successful, Van Hollen said, the agency could become self-sustaining.

The package could also include funds to help homeowners make energy-efficiency improvements.

Biodiesel, Ethanol to Ship Out of Milwaukee Port

innovationfuelsA New York City-based biodiesel maker Innovation Fuels has bought a 310,000-barrel terminal at the Port of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

This story from the Business Journal of Milwaukee says the facility will help move biodiesel and ethanol out of the region:

The terminal includes a 20,000-square-foot warehouse, executive offices and a garage. The site features existing truck and rail loading infrastructure with highway access, and is served by two Class I railways: the Union Pacific Railroad and the Canadian Pacific Railroad. In addition, the Port of Milwaukee has international shipping access via the St. Lawrence Seaway and can receive river barge cargo via the Mississippi. The facility also has an idled connection to the Westshore petroleum pipeline, which could be used to bring diesel and gasoline to the terminal for blending with renewable fuels, such as biodiesel and ethanol.

“This acquisition provides Innovation Fuels with direct, deep-water access to the lucrative Great Lakes and Northeast markets as well as to international ports making the Port of Milwaukee property one of the keys to our global strategy,” commented John Fox, CEO for Innovation Fuels. “We can now easily transport finished product from Midwestern biofuels producers to virtually anywhere on the East Coast of the United States as well as to our international customers.”

Innovation Fuels runs biodiesel refineries as various ports across the country.

US Produces Enough Corn for Food and Fuel

USDAThe final 2008 corn crop estimate from the U.S. Department of Agriculture released today confirmed that American farmers produced the second-largest crop on record with the second highest average yield per acre in history – despite adverse weather across the Corn Belt during the early part of the growing season and a late fall harvest.

Corn for grain production in 2008 is now estimated to be 12.1 billion bushels, up 1 percent from the November forecast but 7 percent below last year’s record high. The average U.S. grain yield is estimated at 153.9 bushels per acre, up 0.1 bushel from the November forecast and 3.2 bushels above 2007. The 2008 yield is the second highest on record, behind 2004, and production is second largest, behind last year.

RFARenewable Fuels Association President Bob Dinneen says the final numbers should dispel the misconception that ethanol is at the root of higher corn and food prices, especially given an expected surplus of nearly two billion bushels at the end of this marketing year. “This report also demonstrates the real size of the demand for corn by ethanol production,” said Dinneen. “At approximately 21 percent of the net total corn use, ethanol demand for corn is providing a much-needed value added market for farmers without having the market-distorting impacts many in the food processing and livestock production industries have claimed.”

USDA’s updated world corn supply and demand estimates this month show slightly reduced demand for corn use for ethanol, in addition to reductions in all corn demand. As a result USDA raised its projection of corn carry-out for the end of the 2008/09 marketing year to 1.8 billion bushels, one of the highest levels in the past decade.

Book Review – Storm World by Chris Mooney

“There are many reasons to shift away from fossil fuels, and we will do so in the next century without legislation, financial incentives, carbon-conservation programs, or the interminable yammering of fearmongers.”
Michael Crichton, author’s message at the end of State of Fear

book review 1In 2004, Michael Crichton wrote in his novel, State of Fear, “From the beginning, the movement had had to fight apathy in the broader society. Human beings didn’t think in the long term. They didn’t see the slow degradation of the environment. It had always been an uphill battle to rouse the public to do what was really in its own best interest…that fight was far from over. In fact, it was just beginning.” The book’s premise is that an organization fakes environmental disasters to raise awareness of global warming and ultimately money to “educate consumers.” It could be argued that it was ahead of its time. Or maybe not since the theory of global climate change is still under intense debate.

Which brings us to REAL environmental disasters — hurricanes — which science is arguing whether the increased number and intensity of hurricanes is in fact being caused by global climate change. Storm World, by Chris Mooney, sets out to debate this very issue. The book reminds me of college when during a graduate meteorology class we learned about the possible effects of a warming planet (which no one seemed to really buy into at the time) on the weather. Mooney points out that these predictions began as early as the 1900s. I find it interesting that Americans “rediscover” issues every few decades and then try to play it off as a new crisis. Anyway, I digress. Continue reading

Introducing the Domestic Fuel Media Reviewer

We are introducing a new regular feature here on Domestic Fuel that will take a look at some of the many books and movies out there that take on the topics of environment, energy and renewables.

Joanna SchroederOur Domestic Fuel book and movie reviewer is Joanna Schroeder, who has been the communications director for the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council (now Growth Energy) since September of 2005, and is now starting her own communications company focused on the renewable energy industry. Joanna has a strong background in both environmental science and technical communications, which makes her well qualified to provide in-depth analysis of current literature and film in the field of energy and the environment.

Joanna is an Accredited Public Relations (APR) professional who specializes in PR strategy, issues management, media training, media relations and environmental initiatives. She is in the process of planning a “Communicating Renewables” conference this spring in Minneapolis for communicators working in the alternative energy industry.

Expect to hear more about that in the coming weeks – in the meantime, enjoy her critiques.

NEVC to Hold 2008 Board and Membership Meeting in St. Louis

nevcThe National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition (NEVC) will be holding their 2008 Annual Board of Director and Membership Meeting at the Renaissance St. Louis Airport on January 26-27, 2009. The NEVC invites all to join automakers, marketers, commodity organizations, retailers, equipment manufacturers and MORE to discuss how to further the use of higher blends of ethanol throughout the country.

A schedule of events will be as follows:

Monday, January 26:
12 p.m. – 5 p.m.: Executive Session for NEVC Board Members
6 – 9 p.m.: Reception (ALL Welcome)

Tuesday, January 27:
8:30 a.m. – 12 p.m.: Executive Session for NEVC Board Members
1 – 5 p.m.: Continuation of business meeting (ALL Welcome)

Guest speakers expected to attend on the afternoon of January 27 include representatives from the Department of Energy, Underwriters Laboratory, Renewable Fuels Association, Flex Fuel U.S., American Coalition for Ethanol, and more. Cost to attend the meeting is $50 per person. Contact Rhonda Beul, rbeul@e85fuel.com, or the NEVC office, (573) 635-8445, to register by Wednesday, January 21, 2009.

Sponsors for the event are: Ohio Corn Grower Assn., Dresser Wayne, Siouxland Energy and Livestock, Kansas Corn Growers Assn, Missouri Corn Growers Assn., John Deere, and Minnesota Corn Growers Assn.

Biofuels Focus at Farm Bureau Meeting

Biofuels have been a major topic of discussion at the American Farm Bureau Federation 90th annual meeting in San Antonio this week.

Brooke ColemanA conference titled “The Growing Role of Biofuels for Today, Tomorrow and Beyond,” featured Brooke Coleman, executive director of the New Fuels Alliance and spokesperson for FoodPriceTruth.

“Agriculture is the key to the new energy economy,” Coleman said. “Biofuels are the key to agricultural revitalization.”

According to Coleman, the biofuels industry has survived a well-orchestrated smear campaign led by food makers and environmental groups and even though the economy has taken a serious downturn, renewable energy is poised for continued growth.

He said many ethanol and biodiesel companies have cash reserves to transition through the current tough times, the cost of breaking down their feedstocks is coming down and several new biofuel plants making advanced ethanol from non-grain feedstocks are coming online.

Ethanol Industry Outlook for 2009

Ethanol Report Podcast2008 was a year that for the most part everyone would like to forget – including those in the ethanol industry. Now that 2009 is underway, Renewable Fuels Association president and CEO Bob Dinneen says there are still challenges ahead for the industry – but opportunities as well. That is the subject of this edition of “The Ethanol Report” podcast – the first for 2009.

You can listen to “The Ethanol Report” on-line here:

Or you can subscribe to this podcast by following this link.