Alternative Energy Incentives Hit Snag in Senate

A bill that would have extended and boosted the producer-incentive tax breaks on a host of alternative energy sources, including wind, solar, biodiesel, clean-coal and other projects to help spur alternative energy development, has been stopped in the U.S. Senate… for the time being.

The measure, sponsored by Sen. Max Baucus (D-Montana), would have extended the $1-a-gallon producer tax incentive for biodiesel but failed when Senate Democrats failed to garner the 60 votes needed to invoke cloture… cutting off debate and allowing a majority vote on the bill. Senate Republicans opposed the measure largely because of some of the tax hikes attached to the bill. But this story from the National Journal says it’s not dead yet:

The measure is in limbo, although Senate Majority Leader Reid can call the bill back up for a vote. Aiding the GOP cause were Democratic absences, including Senate Appropriations Chairman Robert Byrd and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York. Those two may be back for votes soon, however, giving Democrats a better chance on a revote as well as giving affected industries more time to lobby. Speaking earlier today at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Baucus said he thought cloture could be invoked within a week to 10 days. One lobbyist predicted Republicans would eventually back the bill or risk blame for expiration of the tax breaks, particularly vulnerable incumbents like GOP Sens. John Sununu of New Hampshire and Norm Coleman of Minnesota.

Algae-ethanol Coming Soon

Well, just as soon as I posted the previous story about Solazyme making the world’s first algae-based biodiesel to meet American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) D-975 specifications, I found a story about a producer that plans to make ethanol out of algae.

This story from Reuters says Algenol Biofuels has big plans for making the green fuel south of the border:

The company has signed an $850 million deal with a Mexican company BioFields to grow algae, one of the planet’s first life forms, that has been trained to convert water, sunlight, and the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide into motor fuel.

Paul Woods, Algenol’s chief executive, said he’s known the technology for decades but that today’s record oil prices and rising alarm about global warming make it time to produce the fuel.

“It really is a one-two combination that no other company can deliver,” Woods told Reuters in an interview this week.

Woods says it was back in the 1980s when he came up with the process that allows the algae cells to produce ethanol directly… as opposed to biodiesel’s method of having the algae produce oil to be made into biodiesel.

Algenol plans to produce 100 million gallons of ethanol at its plant in the Mexican Sonoran Desert by the end of next year. And by 2012, company officials say they’ll be cranking out a BILLION gallons a year.

Solazyme Algae-Biodiesel Meets Standard

As we told you yesterday, 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 standard set for all regular diesel.

Today, the San Francisco-based synthetic biology company put out its own press release:

In a 100% blend, SoladieselRDTM has been road tested in a factory standard 2005 Jeep Liberty diesel. The fuel’s chemical composition is identical to that of standard petroleum based diesel, and SoladieselRDTM is fully compatible with the existing transportation fuel infrastructure. Having fewer particulate emissions, SoladieselRDTM also has a more desirable environmental footprint than standard petro-diesel. In addition, it meets the new ASTM ultra low sulfur diesel (ULSD) standards.

“This now marks the production of our second fuel that meets current U.S. fuel specifications and is an important validation of our proprietary process using microalgae to produce renewable fuels,” said Jonathan Wolfson, chief executive officer of Solazyme. “Solazyme’s leadership in the green fuels space will continue to grow as we now execute on our strategy for commercial launch.”

The standard is considered important as it helps secure Solazyme’s place as a maker of renewable fuel from a truly non-food source.

Pearson Fuels Adds Two More E85 Stations in California

Pearson FuelsThe state of California now is the home of 10 E85 fueling locations. Pearson Fuels is the owner of three of the facilities, two which has been recently opened.

“We are proud to announce that our second and third E85 dispensers are now open and distributing fuel in Carlsbad, California,” said Mike Lewis with Pearson.

In 2003, Pearson Fuels opened the first E85 fueling location in the state. They centered the location in San Diego, California and also added biodiesel, compressed natural gas, electric vehicle charging, and propane.

The company was a major grant recipient in May 2007 by the California Air Resources Board. The groups worked together to bring E85 to the two new stations.

For more information regarding these facilities, go to http://www.pearsonfuels.com/e85/.

Indiana Police Department Only to Use E85

West Lafayette PoliceThe West Lafayette, Indiana Police Department is trying to help their budget by using E85 in their seven new FFV squad cards. The department reportedly spends between $11K and $12k a month for fuel.

“The price is right now to give it a try,” said Police Chief Jason Dombkowski. “Looks like a dollar savings per gallon. We think we can save up to $1,000 a month on fuel consumption costs.”

Although the department realizes there is less energy in E85 than gasoline (equating to less miles per gallon when using the alternative fuel), they receive a significant discount in the price making it adventageous to purchase E85.

The FFV Ford Crown Victorias will use E85 for 60 days and if they see a cost savings, will consider converting much of their fleet to E85 compatible.

“We are going to try to go straight E85 flex fuel for now and analyze and see how cars are doing for our needs,” said Dombkowski. “At the end of the summer if gas prices are still what they are and we’re getting the results we need we may do some conversion.”

Ag and Energy Chiefs Say Ethanol is Moderating Gas Prices

The U.S. Secretaries of Agriculture and Energy sent a letter to Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) answering questions about biofuels production and food prices.

Sam BodmanIn the joint letter, Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman and Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer noted the complexity of the food and fuel pricing issues and cautioned the senator “against hasty judgments driven by highly questionable, agenda-driven calculations, some of which have been featured prominently in the popular press.”

“It is clear, however, that biofuels are already moderating gasoline prices,” they state in the letter. “That impact is likely to grow substantially as more biofuels come to market.”

Ed SchaferThe secretaries answered six specific questions related to the production of ethanol and biodiesel and the price of both food and fuel. Regarding food, they responded that biofuels accounted for approximately 3-4 percent of the overall rise in retail food prices domestically and as much as five percent globally. They note the many other factors contributing to higher commodity prices, including increased demand for food; lowered production and reduced stocks due to weather; export restrictions and – record prices for gasoline and diesel fuel that have increased “the costs of producing, transporting, and processing food products.”

As for fuel prices, the secretaries said, “We estimate that, if we had not been blending ethanol into gasoline, gasoline prices would be between 20 cents per gallon to 35 cents per gallon higher.”

Corn Growers Confident Despite Lowered Forecast

NCGAOfficials with the National Corn Growers Association say while they are concerned about the potential impact of weather on this year’s corn crop, growers are confident they can meet the demand.

“Thanks to a very successful 2007, we started this year off with a significant level of beginning stocks that can help see us through a season of reduced production,” said NCGA President Ron Litterer, a grower from Greene, Iowa.

In its latest supply/demand report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture this week lowered expected yields for this year’s corn crop by five bushels per acre and are now projecting the 2008 corn crop to be 11.7 billion bushels, down 390 million from last month. The yield was reduced by 5 bushels an acre due to “slow planting progress, slow crop emergence, and persistent, heavy rainfall across the Corn Belt.”

In its report, the USDA also increased its projection of carry-out from the current crop marketing year to 1.433 billion bushels, based on slightly reduced projections for exports this year. The latest projection for corn to produce ethanol in the current year remained unchanged at four billion bushels.

Cellulosic Focus at Ethanol Workshop

2008 Fuel Ethanol WorkshopMoving to second generation ethanol production is obviously a priority for the nation’s ethanol producers.

A significant number of the workshops scheduled for the 2008 Fuel Ethanol Workshop next week in Nashville focus on different aspects of cellulosic ethanol production development.

Workshops titles include “Cellulose Technology Update,” “Alternative Feedstocks,” “Cellulose Technology Components,” “Enzyme Technology: Cellulose,” and “Cellulose Biorefining.”

This is the 24th year for FEW, which is the premier networking and educational conference for the ethanol industry. It will be held June 16-19 at Opryland Resort in Nashville.

High Fuel Prices Drive Support for Ethanol

EPIC Fueling LogoAmerican motorists are rethinking their driving habits. That is, according to a new survey commissioned by the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council. The survey shows that consumers think skyrocketing gas prices means the nation should start moving away from oil.

The EPIC survey found 47 percent of those polled stated that a fuel price below $5 a gallon should be the point where fossil fuels are no longer our primary fuel sources. An additional 27 percent of those polled reported that the critical price point lies between $5 and $5.99. America is getting close to the break-point as Sunday, the national average of a gallon of gasoline rose to $4.005, 90 cents higher than a year ago, according to AAA.

“Motorists are frustrated and angry about high gas prices. Everyone is feeling the pinch at the pump, which really underscores our need for biofuels,” said Toni Nuernberg, executive director of EPIC. “As gas prices continue to skyrocket, we must continue the push for the only current transportation energy option we have today-biofuels.”

Even in the face of heavy criticism from anti-ethanol groups and misplaced blame for rising food prices, the ethanol fuel industry continues to help keep fuel prices below the even-more exorbitant prices consumers would pay without the availability of ethanol fuel. Continue reading

Ethanol Buzz at the 2008 Iowa Corn Indy 250

Iowa Corn IndyThe 8th race of the 2008 IndyCar racing season is less than two weeks away. IndyCar Drivers hit the track for the 2008 Iowa Corn Indy 250 Sunday June 22nd. The track buzz isn’t just about racing though. The Ethanol Promotion and Information Council has a handful of activities set up for race weekend.

On Thursday, June 19th, EPIC and the Iowa Corn Growers Association are hosting a pump promotion. Consumers will be able to fill up on reduced E10 and E85 fuel at the Kum & Go on 1910 SW White Birch in Ankeny, Iowa from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

EPIC Fueling LogoIndyCar Driver Ryan Hunter-Reay will be available at the track to talk bout ethanol’s performance on the track on Friday, June 20th.

Representatives from EPIC, LifeLine Foods, Monsanto and the Iowa Corn Growers Association are participating in an ethanol panel discussion on Saturday June, 21st. The panel discussion is scheduled for 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. in the Driver Meeting Room at the Iowa Speedway Media Center.

Media representatives can then jump at the chance to take a high-speed spin around the track during the Media Hot Lap Rides presented by EPIC just after the panel discussion at 12:15 p.m. EPIC will also be providing lunch during the hot lap activity.

Of course, the performance of ethanol fuel will be showcased during the Iowa Corn Indy 250, which begins at noon.

Solazyme Algae-Biodiesel About to Meet Standard

Solazyme is about to make history as the first algae-biodiesel maker to meet stringent standards that diesel fuel must meet.

This post from the Wall Street Journal’s Environmental Capital blog has details:

Closely held Solazyme Inc. is set to announce shortly that its algae-derived biodiesel meets the American Society for Testing and Materials specification for diesel fuel. This means it can go into existing diesel engines without modifications.

Solazyme says it is the first diesel derived from algae to meet these standards.

Vegetable oil from single-celled algae has shown some promise as a source of renewable, alternative fuel. Several companies are pursuing growing it in lined pits or plastic tubes. Solazyme uses steel tanks and a microbial fermentation to get algae into the mood to reproduce and create oil.

I had the chance to talk to Solazyme CEO Jonathan Wolfson back in February at the National Biodiesel Conference & Expo in Orlando. Ever since, we’ve been following the progress of the little pond-scum-to-biodiesel maker. As you might remember from my April 17th, 2008 post, Solazyme’s biodiesel is able to stand up to cold weather… key for wider acceptance. This latest news of ASTM acceptance of Solazyme’s product is just another feather in its growing cap.

Ethanol and Biodiesel Groups React to Anti-Biofuels Coalition

The leaders from the two biggest biofuels groups in the country are countering what they term as a smear campaign against the benefits of biodiesel and ethanol by the nation’s grocers.

The National Biodiesel Board and the Renewable Fuels Association (which represents ethanol production in the U.S.) both issued statements today to counter the anti-biofuels campaign launched by the Grocery Manufacturers Association, which is trying to blame biodiesel and ethanol for the spike in food prices:

NBB’s Chief Executive Officer Joe Jobe:

“With oil prices up more than 100 percent in the last 12 months, it is wrongheaded for groups to attack biofuels which represent one of the few components of US energy policy that is actually working. Biofuels are currently contributing over 8 billion gallons of fuel to our fuel supply, without which fuel prices, and consequently food prices, would be even higher than they already are.”

And the RFA’s President Bob Dineen:

“It’s time for some truth in advertising from the world’s largest food processors. Instead of smearing American farmers and the only fuel that is backing out foreign oil, why aren’t GMA and its allies pointing to the skyrocketing price of oil as the main cause of increasing food prices and the main reason American’s have less to spend.

Dineen also points out that every dollar spent on biofuels… which adds up to billions every year… is a dollar kept in American pockets… out of the reach of OPEC. Both groups also make the point that they are working to find more non-food sources for their green fuels.

UPI Energy LP Opens Third E85 Station in Canada

UPI UPI Energy LP in Ontario recently opened the third E85 station in Canada. The station is located at 685558 Highway #2/Oxford Road #2 in Woodstock, Ontario.

General Motors (GM) is the country’s largest manufacturer of E85 compatible vehicles in Canada. “GM welcomes the news of UPI’s E85 Launch in Woodstock and commends the fuel retailer for expanding the availability of this green fuel in Ontario,” said David Paterson, Vice President Corporate and Environmental Activities for General Motors of Canada. “In order to significantly reduce vehicle greenhouse gases in Canada, it is imperative to not only offer motorists greener vehicle technologies, but also make available green energy alternatives, such as E85 fuel.”

UPI Energy was referred to as “stewards of the environment” by the city’s mayor for their leadership in environmentally safe fuels.

“UPI continuously strives to bring innovative products to the market and to position itself as a leader in the advancement of renewable fuels. We believe the addition of E85 biofuel accomplishes that and paves the way for a greener tomorrow involving the expansion of environmentally friendlier energy products and a future less dependent on non-renewable oil,” said Robert Sicard, UPI’s President and Chief Executive Officer. “In the next six to twelve months, UPI plans to further expand the availability of E85 by offering it at two more of its sites in Ontario.”

Other E85 fueling locations in Canada include Chatham EnviroStation in Chatham and Topia GreenStop in Ottawa, Ontario.

Wind to Power Dems’ & GOP’s Conventions

After a long primary season, the presumptive Democratic and Republican nominees for president continue to expend plenty of hot air… and probably will continue to do so through Election Day in November. Now, maybe some of that wind will actually power their conventions.

This year, XCel Energy is donating wind power to help run both the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis, MN and the Democratic National Convention in Denver, CO. This story from the Rocky Mountain News says it will help both parties meet their campaign pledges of reducing CO2 emissions while using domestically-produced, clean energy:

“We are pleased to provide clean, renewable power to the conventions because we want to display for the nation’s elected leaders and delegates what a 21st Century utility can look like,” Dick Kelly, Xcel Energy chairman, said in a statement Monday.

Xcel said the two, week-long conventions combined would use about 3,000-megawatt hours of power. The donated wind power is worth about $30,000, a utility spokesman said.

That much coal-generated power would produce about 1,800 to 2,000 tons of CO2. Replacing it with clean wind power would be as beneficial as taking 300 to 330 cars off the road annually, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

The power will come from wind farms along the Colorado-Wyoming border and in Southwestern Minnesota.

Biodiesel Boat Back in the Water

As we last left the Earthrace, a boat powered by 100 percent biodiesel trying to set a world record for circumnavigating the globe, she was limping into Singapore after hitting some debris near Palau and damaging a prop.

Today, the Earthrace is back in the water, racing across the India Ocean, still on pace to set the world record:

Despite the delays for repairs, the boat is still 1,556 miles ahead of the world record pace, set by the British Cable and Wireless team in 1998, despite sustaining significant damage in Palau and having to complete the last leg of the journey on one engine.

The crew has relied on the generosity of a number of companies that stepped forward to offer Earthrace support for speedy repair upon arrival to Singapore, particularly POSH SEMCO, an offshore marine service contractor, Assetton asset management, and J B Global, project sponsor. Repair work was successfully carried out in three days, after the ground crew spent the whole of last week sourcing components and shipyard space.

The next stop for the Earthrace is Cochin, India this coming Friday, June 13th. Let’s hope it’s actually a lucky day for the racers.

You can track Earthrace’s progress at www.earthrace.net.