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.

Poultry Company Behind Ethanol Waiver Request

Governor Rick PerryAn article in the Houston Chronicle this week traces Texas Governor Rick Perry’s request for a waiver of the Renewable Fuels Standard back to a March 25 meeting with Lonnie “Bo” Pilgrim, owner of Pilgrim’s Pride, the country’s largest chicken producer.

Pilgrims PrideAccording to the article, Pilgrim gave $100,000 to the Republican Governors Association chaired by Perry shortly after that meeting.

In the following weeks, Pilgrim’s Pride lobbyists and public relations firm Public Strategies helped Perry’s staff work out the details of waiver request, which was submitted on April 25.

Getting More From Biodiesel By-products

Researchers at Rice University are finding more uses for the glut of glycerin brought about by the rise in popularity of biodiesel.

A story from the school says the researchers have found a way to use E. coli and other bacteria to turn glycerin into chemicals formate, succinate and other valuable organic acids. The article says the work is being featured in the journal Metabolic Engineering:

“Biodiesel producers used to sell their leftover glycerin, but the rapid increase in biodiesel production has left them paying to get rid of it,” said lead researcher Ramon Gonzalez, Rice’s William W. Akers Assistant Professor in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. “The new metabolic pathways we have uncovered paved the way for the development of new technologies for converting this waste product into high-value chemicals.”

About one pound of glycerin, also known as glycerol, is created for every 10 pounds of biodiesel produced. According to the National Biodiesel Board, U.S. companies produced about 450 million gallons of biodiesel in 2007, and about 60 new plants with a production capacity of 1.2 billion gallons are slated to open by 2010.

A year ago, this same team of Rice researchers found a way to convert glycerin into ethanol… at a cost of only about 40 percent of getting the green fuel from corn. This latest discovery is expected to help the bottom line of biodiesel producers.

REG Finishes Buy of US Biodiesel

Regulators have given Iowa-based Renewable Energy Group (REG) the green light for finalizing its buy of a U.S. Biodiesel plant in Houston, Texas.

This article from the Central Valley Business Times says REG will start producing biodiesel on July 7th:

The REG Houston facility could produce 35 million gallons per year it it runs at, or near, full capacity, the company says.

Under the contract, REG will manage production operations and ensure the finished biodiesel exceeds ASTM quality specifications. Soybean oil is expected to be the primary feedstock under the agreement.

The facility includes an on-site laboratory, raw material and finished product storage as well as truck, rail, deepwater and pipeline access.

All former U.S. Biodiesel Group employees at the Houston facility will remain on the job as REG staff.

First Blender Pump to Open in Kansas

Zarco 66The first blender pump in Kansas offering ethanol blended fuels of E20, E30 and E85 held a celebratory opening. Zarco 66 Earth Friendly Fuels Station at 2005 W. 9th Street (corner of 9th and Iowa streets) has been designed and built with a number of environmentally-friendly aspects.

“Blender pumps allow gas stations, like Zarco 66, to sell more blends of ethanol-enriched fuel to consumers driving flex-fuel vehicles giving them a choice for cleaner air,” said Ethanol Promotion and Information Council (EPIC) Deputy Director, Robert White. “We are excited to partner with Zarco 66 to help with the opening of the state’s first blender pump, and I encourage other gas stations to research blender pump installation in their local markets.”

The ethanol dispensing unit was provided by DresserWayne. “‘We are pleased to be working with innovative retailers like Scott with Zarco who are truly pioneers for bringing renewable fuels to the marketplace. His use of our leading forecourt technology to not only improve his customers experience at the pump but to educate them about renewable fuels is a model for others to follow,” said Director, North America Product Management for Dresser Wayne, Scott Negley.

Including Zarco 66, there are 39 E85 fueling stations throughout the state of Kansas.

More Biodiesel Facts to Dispute Food-vs.-Fuel

An interesting piece was posted on the AgWeb.com web site that I thought made a pretty good argument in the food-versus-fuel debate.

Greg Anderson, a family farmer who grows soybeans near Newman Grove, Nebraska (and serves as an ex-officio member of the United Soybean Board Executive Committee) makes some pretty strong arguments that there is not a great food shortage brought on by the rise in popularity of biodiesel:

Historically, surplus soybean oil supplies dragged down the overall price of soybeans. There was, and still is, plenty of soybean oil for meeting the demands of food production. But the surplus needed to be utilized. That’s why the soybean checkoff helped develop the U.S. biodiesel industry through research funding to find new uses for soybean oil. One of those uses was soy biodiesel. Over time, the industry grew and provided great new opportunities for U.S. soybean farmers, not to mention increased energy security and environmental benefits for us all. This helped boost demand for soybeans, but not at the risk of sacrificing food use.

So where is the soybean oil going? Continue reading

Used Cooking Oil Powering Jacksonville’s Fleet

City vehicles in Jacksonville, Florida’s will be running more and more on biodiesel… and the green fuel will help clean up the city’s waste.

This story from the Jacksonville Business Journal says the city is making 100 percent biodiesel at its fuel depot and mixing it to B20 to run in its diesel-powered vehicles:

Fleet management picks up used cooking oil from Naval Station Mayport, The Avenues and Orange Park malls and two Hooter’s restaurants in Jacksonville. The Avenues mall operations manager, Jim Leitner, said the free exchange is working well. The city provided stainless steel tanks about a year ago and has a weekly collection service.

When the division can accurately gauge its weekly B100 production capacity, it can begin signing on other restaurants for the service. Division Chief Sam Houston said the program will be “big business — important, steady business” for the city.

The city has invested about $68,000 in the plant, mostly on equipment, since it opened a year ago. Erik Preacher, who’s in charge of inventory control and financial administration for fleet management, estimates that the plant will pay for itself within the first few months of full operation.

The money the city could save is substantial. B100 costs about $4 a gallon on the market but only about $1.50 a gallon to make. Considering that Jacksonville was already purchasing about 80,000 gallons a year in biodiesel and the city uses two million gallons of diesel a year (which could be replaced by the cheaper, home-brewed fuel), you could see how the savings would add up. Now while I’m not sure that there is enough used cooking oil to make up the two million gallons of petroleum diesel, this project is certainly a step in the right direction.

14 Stations to Receive Funding for E85 Infrastructure in Michigan

MI Dept. LaborA recent announcement was made by Michigan Governor Jennifer M. Granholm and Michigan Department of Labor & Economic Growth Director Keith W. Cooley that will allow funding for E85 infrastructure at fourteen retail facilities throughout Michigan. This endeavor is part of an initiative that will bring more renewable fuels to the state.

“Investing in alternative energy infrastructure and promoting the use of ethanol is an important element of our effort to diversity Michigan’s economy,” Granholm said. “This program will help deliver the 267 million gallons of ethanol per year Michigan already produces and will deliver advanced cellulosic ethanol as it comes online.”

Stations will receive up to $70,000 to install their E85 infrastrucure. All have agreed to begin selling the alternative fuel by November 15 of this year. The awardees and cities they will be selling the fuel are:

Corrigan Oil Corp., (Brighton)
Coyne Oil Corp., (Mount Pleasant)
Downtown Wixom Development, (Wixom)
Haggerty Joy Mobil, (Canton)
Jawad Marathon, (Southfield)
Ten & Greenfield Sunoco, (Oak Park)
274 Gratiot Corp., (New Haven)
Speedway SuperAmerica LLC, (Cheboygan)
Speedway SuperAmerica LLC, (Davison)
Speedway SuperAmerica LLC, (Jackson)
Speedway SuperAmerica LLC, (Lansing)
Speedway SuperAmerica LLC, (Lansing)
Speedway SuperAmerica LLC, (Livonia)
Speedway SuperAmerica LLC, (Ypsilanti)

Stations can also use the Federal income tax credit that will allow 30 percent of the cost of their project up to $30,000.

There are currently 70 E85 fueling facilties across the state of Michigan.