Governor’s Ethanol Challenge in Minnesota

The Minnesota Corn Growers are hosting the 4th annual Governor’s Ethanol Challenge this week at various venues around their state.

MN CornMinnesota Corn Growers treasurer Chad Willis says corn growers will be out at the events, talking to the fans and promoting ethanol. “For the past few years we’ve done an ethanol trivia contest with the t-shirts as a prize,” said Willis, who is a farmer from Willmar and one of the volunteer coordinators for the event. “It’s a great way to get our message across because it has the crowd listening carefully so they know the answer if they get called up. The best way to learn something is to learn it and repeat it.”

The races run on four consecutive nights at four different Wissota Auto Racing tracks in western Minnesota and will draw together a score of “Midwest Modified” class drivers and vehicles to compete for higher-than-usual purses. The vehicles will be running on E-98, a performance fuel with octane topping 105.

The races will be held July 8 at Viking Speedway in Alexandria; July 9 at Madison Speedway in Madison; July 10 at KRA Speedway in Willmar; and July 11 at Fiesta City Speedway, Montevideo.

Jayhawks Brew Up Biodiesel for a Buck

Researchers at the University of Kansas are making biodiesel… and it’s costing only $1-a-gallon to make the green fuel.

This story from the Lawrence (KS) Journal-World says Prof. Susan Williams is using the school’s leftovers with intentions of putting the biodiesel back into the university:

With her raw materials virtually cost-free — used cooking oil from campus dining facilities, leftover methanol from chemistry researchers and potassium hydroxide (lye) from the hardware store — the associate professor of chemical and petroleum engineering and her colleagues can brew up biodiesel for less than $1 a gallon.

And with their biggest customer poised to start burning the fuel, Williams’ team is looking beyond Mount Oread and into a market that could use some alternatives to Middle Eastern crude.

“It can make a huge difference,” she said. “People don’t really have a lot of confidence right now in biofuels, because they’re really not familiar with them. The more we can do to educate people and help them understand the impact they can have, it’s a good thing.”

The project is gaining attention outside Lawrence, among regulators, academics and even fuel marketers themselves. All are angling to find reliable, consistent data that can indicate which alternative fuels might offer the best economic value, mechanical efficiency and environmental benefits.

So far, Williams’ team has brewed up only about 700 gallons of biodiesel… certainly not enough to make a huge impact on any energy market. But it’s a good start. And the next move is to start testing the clean, cheap fuel in some university equipment, such as lawnmowers.

Biodiesel Helping Ohio Schools

It’s the middle of summer, and the last thing on students’ minds is how they’ll get to school. But those rides to classes this fall might be a bit cleaner as more schools across the country switch their buses over to biodiesel.

In Ohio, schools are getting incentives to run their diesel buses on the cleaner-burning biodiesel. This story from the Marion (OH) Star says the money is to help make up any difference in the cost between petroleum-based and plant-based fuels:

The Ohio Department of Development started taking applications in January for grant funding up to $25,000 for schools that commit to using B20 fuel, which is a blend of 20 percent biodiesel and 80 percent petroleum diesel.

Since the grant’s introduction, more than 20 Ohio schools have been approved for reimbursement in the difference between using biodiesel and petroleum diesel. Engines do not need any modifications to make the switch from petroleum to biodiesel. Soy biodiesel costs anywhere from the same as petroleum diesel to 10 cents more per gallon, according to CleanFuelsOhio.org. [Shelby Brammell, an educational consultant representing Clean Air for Kids] said it can cost up to 20 cents more.

Brammell is making the circuit around county fairs this summer to see how much interest there is in biodiesel for school buses. And after she tells parents that the green fuel is as biodegradable as sugar and 10 times less toxic than table salt, that interest increases dramatically.

Now, if only we can increase the students’ interests in scholarly activities that much.

PA Trying to Keep Up in Biodiesel Incentives, Mandates

Pennsylvania lawmakers have passed a bill that would significantly increase that state’s incentive to biodiesel makers and another that would mandate that every gallon of diesel be blended with biodiesel.

This story in the York (PA) Daily Record says the bill from Sen. Robert Tomlinson (R-Bucks) would up the incentive to 75 cents for each gallon and is expected to help the green energy industry while helping local farmers:

The incentive program would be capped at $5.25 million per year. No company could receive more than $2 million per year. Mark O’Neill, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, said an existing 5-cent incentive in Pennsylvania pales in comparison to incentives that top $1 per gallon in other states.

He said increasing the subsidy will create greater demand for soybeans, indirectly benefiting local farmers as the state’s six biodiesel companies increase production.

Pennsylvania producers say robust incentives in states such as Iowa and Indiana have allowed out-of-state companies to undercut their prices. Twenty-four states offer a production incentive of some kind, said Ben Wootton, president of Keystone BioFuels in Cumberland County.

“It’s killing all the producers in Pennsylvania,” Wootton said.

Rep. Eugene DePasquale, D-West Manchester Township, who backs the plan, said he believes spurring domestic biodiesel production is a “national security issue.”

“I strongly believe that we have to reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” he said. Continue reading

E85 Available at Florida Turnpike

Florida SealFlorida’s Turnpike Turkey Lake Service Plaza fueling facility has become the first station in Central Florida to offer E85 to the motoring public. Prior to this station, the only sites to offer the clean, domestic fuel to the over 500,000 flexible fuel vehicles are in the cities of Tallahassee and Miami.

Governor Charlie Crist recently made an announcement regarding the new station. The Governor’s office issued a press release which noted below.

“The rising cost of gasoline is affecting Floridians’ driving decisions, so it makes sense for us to offer a viable alternative. It makes even more sense to offer travelers the opportunity to choose ethanol and reduce their greenhouse-gas emissions.”

The addition of the E85 pumps heralds a $1.5 million Turnpike cooperative initiative with Martin Petroleum Corp. to offer ethanol as an alternative fuel choice at three of the most-heavily visited service plazas located along the 312-mile Turnpike.

Recognizing that more alternative fuel vehicles are appearing on Florida’s highways, the Governor lauded the addition of ethanol as a responsible, renewable fuel choice for both commuters and the millions of visitors who travel the Turnpike to reach their vacation destinations.

The Turnpike service plazas at Port St. Lucie/Ft. Pierce and Pompano will add ethanol later this summer.

Governor Crist also applaud the FDOT its role in helping state government lead by example. About one-third of the Turnpike’s motor vehicle pool is comprised of flex fuel vehicles.

World Ethanol Leaders Address G8

Canadian RFAOfficials from Canadian Renewable Fuels Association, the European Bioethanol Fuel Association, Brazil’s Sugar Cane Industry Association (UNICA), and the US Renewable Fuels Association have written a letter to the leaders of the G8 nations underscoring the critical importance biofuels play in reducing the growing demand for oil and the corresponding escalation in prices around the world.

EBioThe letter reads in part, “Were it not for the increasing production of world biofuels producers, oil consumption would expand by 1 million barrels per day. As the leaders of the world’s most industrialized nations, you can imagine what would happen to oil prices in the absence of biofuel production.”

UNICAThe biofuel industry leaders also cautioned against the unfounded assumptions being made regarding biofuels’ role in rising food prices, noting that stronger commodity prices provide the necessary incentives to spur increased grain production worldwide.

RFA
“As is always the case, context is critical. Biofuel production consumes just 3% of world coarse grain supply. With the incentives a strong global grain market provides agricultural producers, increases in efficiency and productivity by farmers the world will advance far more rapidly than they have in the past, plagued by years of neglect…For developing nations, biofuels offer tremendous opportunity for job creation and economic opportunity, as well as an avenue to avoid repeating the fossil fueled mistakes many industrialized nations have made.”

The groups cautioned world leaders against taking any renewable energy resource off the table, particularly one that is already helping to meet the growing demand for liquid motor fuels in many nations.

The letter concludes by pointing out, “If one of the goals of G8 leaders is to help ensure the long-term economic health and energy security, biofuels must be part of your strategy.”

Read the letter here.

First Victory for Team Ethanol

Team Ethanol scored its first IndyCar Series win Sunday at the Camping World Grand Prix in Watkins Glen, NY.

Team Ethanol VictoryAppropriately on Independence Day weekend, it was an all-American win for the Rahal Letterman team, which is sponsored by the ethanol industry – including ICM, POET and Fagen – with driver Ryan Hunter-Reay at the wheel.

“It’s a dream come true,” Hunter-Reay said after the race. “American kid winning with ethanol on the side of the car. It’s an American team – Bobby Rahal gave me the job and now we’re in Victory Circle.”

Hunter-Reay is the third driver for Team Ethanol, which was initiated by Paul Dana in 2005. Dana was killed in a pre-race wreck at the start of the 2006 season in Homestead. Jeff Simmons took over for him the rest of that season and most of 2007 before he was replaced mid-season by Hunter-Reay who went on to become Rookie of the Year.

This is the second year the IndyCar Series has been fueled with 100 percent ethanol, so the victory is especially sweet for corn growers and the ethanol industry.

Florida Gov Signs Alt Energy Bill

Florida Governor Charlie Crist has signed a comprehensive alternative energy bill that is being touted as putting his state on the right foot for beginning true energy independence, while being realistic.

This story from the Walton Sun says the new law will encourage investments in alternative and renewable energy technology and will help reduce greenhouse gases:

This follows a year after the governor issued three executive orders with the intent of reducing greenhouse gases, increasing energy efficiency and removing market barriers for renewable energy technologies such as solar and wind energy.

However, Lynn Erickson, corporate communications for Gulf Power, said “We know that wind isn’t a viable option in Florida since only a couple of places can be used. It’s the same thing with solar.”

Last year’s proposed emissions standards were as stringent as California’s, said Erickson.

The newly passed energy bill puts a “more realistic tone” on it, but by issuing those executive orders he has kick started the whole process for alternative energy in Florida, said Erickson.

The article says Crist has also recommended for the 2008-2009 fiscal year a $200 million energy and climate change package, that includes $50 million for solar, wind and other renewable energies; $42.5 million to promote and develop biodiesel and ethanol in the state; and $107.5 million to encourage and develop green industries.

New Biodiesel Feedstock Brings Promise and Problems

Camelina is growing in popularity as a feedstock for biodiesel for its high oil content, hardy nature and short growing season… especially popular in the Northern Plains, such as Montana, where conditions can be a bit tough.

But this story from The Prairie Star, a Great Falls-based publication serving Montana and parts of Wyoming, says researchers are offering some advice to overcome some of the oilseed’s shortcomings:

“What I see is it’s a rotational crop to improve wheat production,” said Kent McVay, cropping systems specialist at the Montana State University’s Southern Agricultural Recearch Center (SARC) in Huntley, Mont.

Weed control, however, can be a major limitation to camelina production, McVay said. Therefore, it is critical to select fields where prior management has led to limited weed pressure and weed seed production.

Camelina is resistant to flea beetles which are an economic pest of canola in Montana environments.

McVay said MSU is studying camelina used in rotation and in long-term rotations. The university is also researching camelina variety trials and water use of the oilseed.

McVay said the oilseed has also been studied at both Huntley and in Wyoming. “It will take a couple of years to really know if you get a yield boost using this type of rotation.

The article points out that, right now, there are no herbicides for camelina. McVay advises growers to cut down the broadleaf leaves if they’re going to rotate this crop.

Biodiesel Helping Aim for Energy Independence Day

July is the time to celebrate Independence Day, but, unfortunately, the United States is still a long way from declaring energy independence.

Home-grown, renewable fuels are one part of the answer when it comes to meeting America’s fuel needs, and soybean farmers and their soybean checkoff have been working to develop, test and prove the value of soy biodiesel for nearly two decades now. The results of that work have proven the value and effectiveness of soy biodiesel and its benefits as a cleaner burning “green” choice.

Recently, a complete “green” fuel station opened in Lawrence, Kansas. Harold Kraus, a National Biodiesel Board Director and Kansas soybean farmer Harold Kraus was there.

“This brings all the fuels together at one pump: B2, B10, B20, B30 and B100,” says Kraus, talking about the Zarco 66 Earth Friendly Fuels Station. It’s the state’s first blender pump where the mixing of the biodiesel and the pricing is done right at the pump. “You’ve got an easy way to select the blend you want for biodiesel.”

Making soy biodiesel more accessible to truckers, farmers and other users has been a primary goal of soybean checkoff investments. A biodiesel user on his own farm, Kraus says he believes strongly that soybeans can be efficiently and effectively used as both a food crop and a fuel crop to the benefit of all.

“We’re only taking the oil out of the soybeans. We’re not taking anything out of the food system,” says Kraus. He points out that the soybean meal still goes into the animal feed industry, and nothing is being taken from consumers… only value being added at the farm gate.

The production of the cleaner, greener soy biodiesel fuel has been growing at a rapid pace. Last year in the U.S., about 450 million gallons of biodiesel were produced.

Corn Growers Defend Missouri Ethanol Standard

The Missouri Corn Crowers Association (MCGA) is citing ‘political schemes’ are the root of talk that may remove the statewide ethanol standard. This removal, they say, “will sharply increase prices to consumers, drain dollars from already tight household budgets and play directly into the hands of foreign oil cartels.”

Missouri Corn“By utilizing corn-based ethanol in gas pumps throughout the state, Missouri consumers have earned bragging rights for having the cheapest gas in the nation,” states MCGA CEO Gary Marshall. “By design, the use of ethanol as required by the Missouri Renewable Fuel Standard works only to lower the cost to consumers. The law is written with a price trigger that if ethanol is ever priced higher than gasoline, marketers are not required to use the high performance fuel.”

Missouri state farmer owned cooperatives are now selling ethanol at more than a dollar under regular unleaded gasoline. Marshall noted that it is the only cost-effective substitute in today’s tight market, and that removing the ethanol requirement in Missouri would only increase prices at the pump for already hurting consumers.

At the national level, corn-based ethanol production represents 7 percent of the gasoline supply. A recent analysis by Merrill Lynch shows that gasoline prices would be 10 to 15 percent higher without the ethanol supply in the marketplace. That translates into ethanol helping hold down gasoline costs to American drivers by 60 to 70 cents per gallon.

Currently, with the ethanol standard, Missouri has the lowest cost of gasoline at the pump than any other state.

Investment in Biodiesel, Ethanol, Solar & Wind Up 60%

The world’s investment in clean energies – solar, wind and biofuels – jumped an amazing 60 percent from 2006 to 2007… thanks to rising oil prices and changing climate rules.

This story from Bloomberg.com says the information came from a United Nations Environment Program report:

Wind power attracted the most financing at $50 billion, according to a report today from the Nairobi-based UNEP. Overall, investment in clean-energy and energy-efficiency industries rose 60 percent from 2006.

Carbon dioxide, the byproduct of burning coal, oil and natural gas, is the main pollutant blamed for global warming. Fossil-fuel burning power plants are the world’s biggest source of CO2, according to the Paris-based International Energy Agency.

“We have a significant economic signal here that goes well beyond what even 10 years ago some of the mainstream energy think tanks or international finance institutions thought would happen,” Achim Steiner, the director general of UNEP, said on a conference call. “It reflects a clear understanding in the marketplace that environmental change scenarios are indeed driving public policy.”

Solar power attracted $28.6 billion in new capital in 2007, and the industry has more than tripled each year, on average, since 2004, according to the UNEP report. Investment in energy efficiency reached a record $1.8 billion, a 78 percent increase from 2006.

Biodiesel Co. Prez: Push Back Against Myths

The president of a New York City biodiesel company is encouraging his industry to “push back” against the myths put out about the green fuel.

Biodiesel Magazine reports Brent Baker, president of Tri-State Biodiesel got tired of dispelling misinformation about biodiesel: Isn’t it the reason people are starving? Doesn’t it take more energy to make than it creates? What about greenhouse gas emissions and the rainforests?:

Baker became so frustrated about having to constantly defend biodiesel to people who were being misled by incorrect information that he decided to do something about it on a larger level. A few months ago, he began writing statements to potential clients and other interested parties setting the facts straight about biodiesel. Now, he’s heading a national “grassroots” movement for others to do the same. “I like to call it a ‘push back’,” Baker said.

One of the things he’s frustrated about is that all biofuels are constantly lumped into one group by the mainstream media and biodiesel is often referred to as being the same as corn ethanol. “We’re going to try to do what we can here in New York and with our circle of colleagues in the biodiesel industry to push back on that,” Baker said. “I think our society is sophisticated enough now that we can say “biodiesel” when we’re talking about biodiesel and “ethanol” when we’re talking about ethanol.” Continue reading

Biofuels Workshops to Be Held in Alabama

Alabama Clean FuelsThree biofuels workshops will be held in the cities of Decatur, Birmingham and Montgomery the week of July 15 in Alabama. These workshops will focus on the advantages of quality biofuel usage and the importance of lessening America’s and Alabama’s dependency on foreign Oil.

Following is the schedule and location for each workshop:

Tuesday, July 15 in Decatur: 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Calhoun Community College

Wednesday, July 16 in Birmingham: 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Hoover Public Safety Center

Thursday, July 17 in Montgomery: 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Alabama Department of Agriculture & Industries

Speakers will offer insight on: State & National and perspectives on biodiesel and ethanol; Alabama’s current and potential biofuel feed-stocks; Marketplace experiences from folks producing, selling and using biofuels and alternative fuels; Importance of fuel quality; Potential incentives & financial benefits available; The Facts vs. Myths about alternative fuels and more.

For more information, visit http://www.alabamacleanfuels.org/Workshops/.

United for Energy Independence

A coalition of biofuels, agricultural and environmental organizations is calling for a united effort toward making July 4th Energy Independence Day by extending America’s domestic fuel supply through increased biofuels use and simple conservation strategies.

oil energy graphicCurrently, America’s domestic gasoline and ethanol production combined is enough to supply the country’s gasoline needs for 149 days. But through the increased use of biofuels and simple conservation strategies, America could extend its supply by another 27 days – or theoretically until July 4 – before needing to rely on imported oil.

According to the coalition, America currently produces 49 billion gallons of gasoline domestically, which equates to 128 days of energy independence. Nine billion gallons of ethanol adds another 21 days. Assuming no change in domestic gasoline production, the groups believe the additional savings in imports can be made up by another five billion gallons of ethanol – yielding 37 days of energy independence – and 19 days of conservation achieved by drivers limiting their usage by just 21 gallons per year.

The groups are calling for unity to achieve this goal. “To find true and long-lasting sustainable solutions, corporate self interests, political polarization, and agendas must be set aside,” they said in a press release from the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council. “We must band together in the fight for Energy Independence here in the United States and around the globe.”

In addition to the major ethanol and corn grower organizations, other groups supporting the effort include the American Lung Association of the Upper Midwest, Biotechnology Industry Organization, Environmental and Energy Study Institute, National Farmers Union, National Sorghum Producers
National Wheat Growers Association and Set America Free.