Ag Secretary on Ethanol Incentives

Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer says that ethanol is an important part of the nation’s plan for energy security, but he expects that ethanol incentives such as the blenders tax credit will eventually be phased out.

Florida Farm to Fuel Ed SchaferDuring an appearance this week in Kansas City, Schafer said ethanol producers need to prepare for an eventual end to these kinds of incentives. “Because they have been built in today, I think we can’t just shut them off,” Schafer said. “I think it’s important to say here’s the target, we are going to gradually reduce them so that you can adjust your operations to operate without them.”

He says that should start happening when the ethanol industry becomes profitable enough to operate on its own and when production begins to approach 34 billion gallons per year – which could be 13-14 years down the road.

Schafer also defended the Renewable Fuels Standard and noted that ethanol blended gasoline actually saves consumers between 20 cents and 35 cents a gallon. And he said that there continue to be promising developments in cellulosic ethanol.

New Ethanol Plant Openings

POETThe world’s largest ethanol producer is opening two new 65 million gallon per year ethanol production plants this month.

POET will host a grand opening event for POET Biorefining – North Manchester, Indiana on Thursday, September 11. The $105 million ethanol production facility will be the 24th POET production facility.

On September 30, POET will host a grand opening event for POET Biorefining – Fostoria, Ohio. The $130 million plant will be the 25th POET production facility and the second in the state of Ohio, making POET the largest ethanol producer in the state of Ohio, in addition to being the largest producer in the world.

Both events will feature the Vanguard Squadron – the world’s only 100 percent ethanol-powered aerobatic fleet, as well as speakers and plant tours open to the public.

Feds Approve First Offshore Wind Projects

The federal government has granted leases for America’s first offshore wind projects.

This story from CNNMoney.com says officials with the U.S. Mineral Management Service (MMS) have moved ahead with plans to lease the outer continental shelf to several companies:

Maureen Bornholdt, program manager of the MMS offshore alternative energy program, said the Interior Department remains on track to complete drafting the rules by the end of the year, wrapping up a three-year process.

There is a “very strong level of interest,” she said. “We received a lot of substantial, constructive comments after workshops around the nation. We’ll hunker down for the next several weeks.”

Bornholdt declined to offer a specific dollar value on the leases that the government will be awarding, but she pointed out that the Energy Policy Act requires the federal government to receive a “fair return” through rents and operating fees, and competitive lease auctions.

“It’s not free,” she said of the leases. “We need to get a return there.”

The article goes on to point out the increased interest in offshore wind energy projects, exhibited by the large turnout at an American Wind Energy Association offshore wind conference in Delaware this week.

The first off-shore wind farms are expected to go up in the ocean just off the coasts of Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and California.

Algae Biodiesel Could Fuel the Friendly Skies

Biodiesel maker Solazyme, which uses algae as its feedstock for the truly green fuel, has announced that its variety of biodiesel is good enough for the airline industry.

Back on June 11th, I told you how Solazyme’s algae-based biodiesel now meets the strict American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) D-975 specifications… the first algal-biodiesel to meet the same standard set for all regular diesel. Now, according to this story from greentechmedia.com, Solazyme has developed an algal-based jet fuel that passed another rigorous standard that will help the company enter the jet-fuel market:

The announcement marked the first time Solazyme discussed the jet-fuel market publicly, which has attracted a slew of companies developing fuels using a variety of plants, from jatropha to soybeans. Solazyme previously talked about selling its algal oils to biodiesel, food and cosmetic makers…

The jet-fuel market presents a lucrative opportunity as rising crude-oil prices pressure airlines to look for alternatives. Fuel costs account for about 40 percent of the airline industry’s expenses, according to John Heimlich, vice president and chief economist at the Air Transport Association of America.

Solazyme sent samples to the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas, where the lab found it met the ASTM D1655 standard for aviation turbine fuel.

Company officials believe they can produce the fuel for $40-80 a barrel… quite a savings considering the current cost of petroleum oil.

Now You See It… Now You Don’t

It appears that someone might have jumped the gun a bit when General Motors released the first pictures of the production version of its much-anticipated electric car, the Chevrolet Volt, earlier today.

According to this article in the Detroit News, the pictures of the Volt (seen on the right here, thanks to a quick blogger at TheCarConnection.com who was smart enough and in the right place at the right time to save the pictures before they could be taken off GM’s web site) were supposed to go out next week:

Ten photos were briefly posted on GM’s media Web site, and an external site, and promptly picked up by auto bloggers around the world.

“Those were put up in error and taken down quickly thereafter,” Chevrolet spokesman Terry Rhadigan said. “It was not intentional.”

The release comes a week ahead of the automaker’s 100th anniversary celebration, during which the Volt is expected to be unveiled officially.

But how much the posting was an accident remains to be seen:

The blogger who found the photos Monday before they were taken down suspects the release was a publicity move by the automaker.

“I think they’re getting very good at playing the game of public relations,” said Marty Padgett, editor of thecarconnection.com. “Everyone is interested (in the Volt), so why not let some teases float out there?”

It looks like TheCarConnection.com is getting a lot of feedback on the new pictures… some good, some bad. You can see more of the photos and read the comments by clicking here.

Colorado Station Reports Higher E85 Sales

According to the Glenwood Springs Post Independent, the owner of the Basalt Center Fuel site at 122 Midland Ave. in Basalt, Colorado, stated that E85 sales are up from last year. Bruce Ross said that E85 sales grew with some initial publicity, settled down a bit and then grew steadily.

Ross noted that about eight percent of total sales last year after the center began selling E85 in March. E85 sales made up about 12 percent of sales last month at 6,000 gallons. Additional figures weren’t immediately available.

One of the reasons Ross purchased the fueling facility in October 2006 was to sell E85. “We thought it was a really good thing that needed to be in the valley,” he said. “I thought it was important. I thought that this valley would support it being the kind of place that we are. To the extent that people who can use it do use it, I think I was right.”

E85 is being sold for nearly a dollar less than regular unleaded gasoline at Basalt Center Fuel.

The Little Engine That Could… on Biodiesel!

For nearly 140 years, the Mount Washington Cog Railway has chugged its way to the top of the highest peak in the Northeastern United States… belching out tons of thick, black smoke as it used a unique cog system to make the incredible climb up the treacherous incline.

But now, thanks to biodiesel, that smoke will be a bit cleaner. This story on the WBZ-TV web site says New Hampshire Governor John Lynch presided over the dedication of the cleaner engines:

For 139 years, the Railway has chugged to the top of Mount Washington by burning wood and coal. Coal replaced wood around 1910, and each trip required more than one ton of coal and 1,000 gallons of water to move the 18-ton engine.

With the dedication of the new locomotive, the Railway signaled that it will supplement the coal-fired trains with several biodiesel engines, cutting emissions and the use of fossil fuels.

Lynch broke a bottle of water from the Ammonoosuc River on the engine’s cab and an American flag was removed to reveal the locomotive’s name: Wajo Nanatasis. The name, pronounced ”Wadzo Nanna-tassis” is Abenaki for ”Mountain Hummingbird” and was selected from entries in a ”Name That Train” contest.

The railway is a National Historic Engineering Landmark, as it was the world’s first mountain climbing railroad using a toothed cogwheel to engage the track between the rails. Now, it has biodiesel to add to part of its rich history.

Fed Grant Gives Biodiesel Plant Second Life

A year ago, the owner of a recycling plant in Talmo, Georgia could only watch as a pond of waste grease behind his facility burned for a day and a half.

But this story from the Athens (GA) Banner-Herald says Agri-Cycle owner Richard Harville has received a $500 thousand check from the US Department of Agriculture to start a new biodiesel plant, Zurix Biodiesel, somewhere in Georgia… but not in the same location where Agri-Cycle was located:

Harville is in the process of removing 10 million gallons of grease and water from detention ponds behind Agri-Cycle, which the state Environmental Protection Division ordered closed a few weeks before the grease in one of the ponds caught fire.

A million gallons of the recovered grease will go to the new plant for use as fuel for Harville’s newest venture, he said.

Agri-Cycle recycled restaurant grease and poultry processing waste in large outdoor ponds. The residue was sprayed onto plants grown and sold to the public on site.

The article goes on to say that Zurix will use restaurant grease and chicken fat to make the biodesel… readily available in Georgia.

Biodiesel Fueling Fast Ride Around SF Bay

Rocketboat… the “Blast on the Bay” as it is dubbed by its owners… promises to give riders an exciting 30-minute around San Francisco Bay, and they’ll enjoy that trip on clean-burning biodiesel.

This press release from Blue & Gold Fleet, Rocketboat’s parent company, posted on MarketWatch.com says the biodiesel-powered vessel will “zoom past the sea lions to the Bay Bridge, zip by AT&T Park, round Treasure Island and then pass Alcatraz, returning back to PIER 39 within 30 minutes”:

The open-air RocketBoat will carry 135 passengers on a windswept ride, departing eight times daily. To give riders a chance to catch their breath and take photos, the craft will make three sightseeing stops along the route, including AT&T Park, Treasure Island and Alcatraz. While rocketing around the Bay, passengers will be treated to an appropriately rock ‘n’ roll soundtrack, combined with live narration from an experienced Blue & Gold Fleet captain.

RocketBoat was built by Sunsplash Marina LLC in New Jersey, where it was loaded up with a twin 16VM70 engines rated at 1410 horsepower each (2820 total hp). The all-aluminum vessel uses water jets to achieve its top speed of 36 knots (41 mph). RocketBoat is powered with a mixture of biodiesel fuel, complementing Blue & Gold Fleet’s status as the largest fleet of biodiesel ferries and tour boats on the San Francisco Bay.

Now there’s a San Francisco treat!

Nebraska to Celebrate Ethanol

Governor HeinemanTo celebrate ethanol and all renewable fuels, Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman will declare September Renewable Fuels Month at Husker Harvest Days on Wednesday, September 10.

Todd Sneller, administrator of the Nebraska Ethanol Board, says the economic impact of ethanol on rural communities in Nebraska and many other areas of the nation has been significant.

“Ethanol has brought thousands of jobs to mostly rural Nebraska, which creates wealth that flows into rural communities,” Sneller said. “Nebraska ethanol production is more than a $4 billion industry – and it’s getting bigger each year.”

Sneller estimated that by the end of next year, four expansion projects at existing plants and five new projects under construction will add 816 million gallons of capacity, bringing the state’s total ethanol capacity to some 2.4 billion gallons.

A 2008 study by LECG LLC reported that an average 100 million gallon ethanol plant directly employs 50 people and supports hundreds of additional jobs locally and across the country. The plant also buys more than $100 million in goods and services, mostly from the local area, and increases household income some $77 million.

At the Husker Harvest Days event on Wednesday, Governor Heineman will make a few remarks, as will members of Nebraska commodity organizations, including the Nebraska Corn Board and Nebraska Soybean Board.

Alliance Targets Lawmakers for Education Efforts

Alliance For Abundant Food and EnergyThe Alliance for Abundant Food and Energy is out to inform the nation’s policy makers that American agriculture is fully capable of producing both food and fuel with no trade off.

The alliance was formed in July and includes Archer Daniels Midland, DuPont, John Deere, Monsanto, and the Renewable Fuels Association. ADM Vice President for Government Relations Greg Webb says because government formulates food and energy policy, it is important that they be well informed. “We think that the alliance will help educate and draw attention to agriculture’s capability to produce and meet increasing demands,” Webb said. “A lot of folks are seeing the increased demand for food, feed, fiber and fuel and they kind of freeze the production capability in time and think that we’ll never produce another pound more than what we do now.”

Alliance representatives attended both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions and ads from the alliance were featured in publications at both conventions.

The alliance is trying to make it known through advertising and lobbying efforts that by growing more crops and developing more efficient ways of processing them, we can produce enough to meet the world’s needs for both food and energy. All of the agribusinesses involved are working in that direction by improving seed varieties, crop protection methods, harvesting and processing equipment and techniques.

Farm Bill Renewable Energy Provisions Open for Comment

Consumers, farmers and agribusiness people are all offering up suggestions on ways to create renewable energy as part of the 2008 Farm Bill.

Tom DorrUSDA Under Secretary for Rural Development Thomas Dorr, who held a public meeting last week to work on implementing renewable energy programs authorized under the farm bill, says the rapid commercialization of renewable energy is a high priority.

“These things are now clearly within our reach, we are far beyond the basic research stage in this effort,” Dorr said. “Renewable energy is clearly of age. More has been accomplished on renewable energy in the last eight years than in the previous 40.”

The 12 sections regarding renewable energy under Title 9 of the farm bill are open for public comment. The sections include such broad topics as assistance in biorefineries, bioenergy, rural energy and biomass. USDA plans to implement the farm bill’s energy provisions in consultation with the Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency and other federal agencies.

E85 Grand Openings in Colorado

Two grand opening events will celebrate the introduction of E85 at two retail fueling facilities in the state of Colorado. The events will take place at the Eagle Travel Stop in Sterling and Western Convenience in Montrose this month.

On September 16, the Colorado Corn Growers Association, the Governor’s Biofuels Coalition, and Colorado Retail Venture Services will celebrate the Eagle Travel Stop’s introduction of E85 with a live remote, hot dogs, refreshments and a fuel promotion. The event will take place from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. at 20974 US Highway 6 in Sterling.

On September 23, the Colorado Corn Growers Association, the Governor’s Biofuels Coalition, Southern Colorado Clean Cities and Western Convenience will hold their promotion from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. This event at 938 South Townsend Avenue in Montrose will feature a live remote, hot dogs, refreshments and a fuel promotion of E85 for 85 cents per gallon.

The addition of these two E85 facilities will bring the total of E85 stations in the state to 70.

VeraSun Opens 14th Ethanol Plant

VeraSunVeraSun Energy has announced the start up of its 110 million gallon per year ethanol biorefinery located near Dyersville, Iowa. The Dyersville production facility marks the 14th VeraSun biorefinery in operation and the fifth in Iowa, increasing the company’s annual production capacity to more than 1.4 billion gallons.

“We are pleased to bring another large-scale, environmentally friendly ethanol production facility on-line in the state of Iowa,” VeraSun CEO Don Endres said. “The state continues to be a leader in renewable fuels production, helping our nation to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. We commend the Dyersville community, its leadership, and the local corn producers for making this day a reality.”

According to the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, VeraSun Dyersville is the 32nd operating biorefinery in Iowa, increasing overall annual production capacity in the state to almost 2.5 billion gallons.

Ethanol Tailgate Party

Edgar the E-Man will be partying with Albert and Sebastian this weekend in Gainesville, Florida when the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council kicks off its sponsorship with the Fox Tailgate Tour at the Florida vs. Miami football game.

Visitors at the tailgate tour will have the chance to compete in the Ultimate Ethanol Challenge, where competitors face off to test their ethanol knowledge. The winner of each contest gets a free fuel card. Edgar E-Man will be passing out scratch off cards giving people a code to enter online for a chance to win free fuel for a year. Tailgaters can also register by texting a code or dropping their name in a registration box.