G8 Leaders Support Non-Edible Biofuels Development

G8 leaders meeting in Japan this week pledged to promote clean energy and carbon trading to curb greenhouse gas emissions and recognized the importance of sustainable biofuel production.

G8-2008The heads of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the U.K., and the U.S. said they will work to develop science-based benchmarks and indicators for biofuel production and use. The leaders also said they are committed to “continuing research and development of second generation biofuels made from non-food plant materials and inedible biomass.”

Renewable Fuels Association
president Bob Dinneen was pleased with the position taken by the world leaders. “The leaders of the G8 nations clearly understand the need of world’s nations and peoples to develop, produce and use renewable fuels like ethanol,” Dinneen said in a statement. “On behalf of America’s burgeoning ethanol industry and the farmers upon which it relies, we welcome the challenge to increase the sustainable production and use of biofuels. The G8 statement clearly recognizes the goal of biofuels policy which is to build upon the existing industry while moving aggressively to second generation production from wood chips, switchgrass, garbage and other cellulosic materials.”

From Ethanol Plants to Potted Plants

A team of Agriculture Department researchers may have found a new use for a by-product of ethanol production – controlling weeds in potted plants.

potted plantsRick Boydston and his team with USDA’s Agriculture Research Service recently completed a study on the use of dried distillers grains, or DDGS, as a weed deterrent in container-grown ornamentals. The study was published in the February 2008 issue of HortScience.

According to Dr. Boydston, they found that when applied to the soil surface, “Weed control was not perfect, but could reduce the amount of hand-weeding typically required.”

When mixed into the potting media, however, dried distillers grains were toxic to transplanted rose, coreopsis, and phlox plants. The researchers concluded that DDGS may be useful for reducing weed emergence and growth in container-grown ornamentals when applied to the soil surface at transplanting.

Dr. Boydston sees the results of this and similar ARS studies as a win/win for ethanol producers and the agriculture industry, noting, “identifying new uses for byproducts likes distillers grains could increase the profitability of ethanol production”.

USDA Not Horning in on Livestock Feed

A federal ag department researcher says the U.S. Department of Agriculture is not trying to take the by-products of biofuels out of the livestock feed system… just trying to find more uses for what’s leftover after biodiesel and ethanol are produced.

This story from redOrbit.com says Kurt Rosentrater wants to assure livestock producers that his studies on using dried distillers’ grains (DDGs) to make plastics are not intended to divert feed from the livestock industry… something he has been doing at the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service North Central Agricultural Research Laboratory in Brookings, S.D., since 2004:

“The thing that was on everyone’s mind back then was the 10 million-ton question: What are we going to do with all this distiller’s grain?” he says. “This was back when it was 5 (million) or 6 million tons a year production. And now it’s 16 (million), 17 (million), 18 million tons, so people are asking me, ‘Why are you taking this valuable feed and putting it in plastic?’ ”

Rosentrater says he’s not. He wants to take the remains after the feed components are extracted and use that for bio-plastics.

“We’ve only taken a couple steps down that path right now, but that’s ultimately where I’d like to see this go,” he says. “So can you provide the animals their livestock feed and biodiesel, if you pulled the oil out, and other things, and then what can you do with what’s left?”

DDG production this year reached 17 million tons, the vast majority of which went to animal feeds in the cattle, swine and poultry industries.

Because of this, Rosentrater does not see a need right now to find new things to do with DDGs.

“But five years from now, 10 years from now, when we have the large-scale bio-refineries working on corn, ligno-cellulosic materials and other biofuels, there will be a need potentially at some point to say, ‘What can we do with this if it has no animal feed value?’ ” he says.

A key point of Rosentrater’s research is to find something better than oil for products we use every day… a point that ethanol and biodiesel producers are also trying to do.

Pickens Picks Wind for US Energy Plan

Billionaire oilman T. Boone Pickens is choosing a decidely non-petroleum source as the solution for America’s energy woes: wind power.

As you might remember from my post on May 20th, Pickens has invested $2 billion in a 667 turbine wind farm in Texas. Now, he wants to translate that passion for wind to the rest of the country. This story from CNN says he held a press conference today to unveil “The Pickens Plan,” which calls for investing in domestic renewable resources such as wind:

In a news conference outlining his proposal, Pickens said his impetus for the plan is the country’s dangerous reliance on foreign oil.

“Our dependence on imported oil is killing our economy. It is the single biggest problem facing America today,” he said. Video Watch Pickens discuss plan for wind power »

“Wind power is … clean, it’s renewable. It’s everything you want. And it’s a stable supply of energy,” Pickens told CNN in May. “It’s unbelievable that we have not done more with wind.”

Pickens says a wind corridor, stretching from Texas to Canada across the breezy Great Plains, could be filled with thousands of wind power generators, providing 20 percent or more of the nation’s energy needs. He adds the plan could be implemented withing 10 years and promises to work with whoever becomes president:

“We are going to have to do something different in America,” Pickens told CNN. “You can’t keep paying out $600 billion a year for oil.”

World Bank Report Not Secret, Not Anti-Biofuels

An article that ran in the British newspaper, the Guardian, claimed that the World Bank had kept secret a report that said biofuels were responsible for 75 percent of the rise in food prices. But now it turns out that the report was not secret and the number was not nearly that high.

This story in the Wall Street Journal says the World Bank is making it known that the Guardian just didn’t get it right:

Bob Davis of the WSJ spoke with Donald Mitchell, the author of the draft report—which wasn’t secret at all, but a working paper. And like all working papers, it doesn’t reflect the official position of the World Bank.

The report was meant to contribute to a World Bank position paper on rising food prices, which was released at the Bank’s spring meeting in mid-April.

The final April report didn’t include his specific calculation. But, Mr. Mitchell says, “I never saw that as political.” Instead, he says he believes the changes were made because of “editing.” He said that he has been encouraged by World Bank management to explore the issue of biofuels and the overall rise in food prices. “I had input” into the final report that was released at the spring meeting, he said.

Now, because of the misinformation put out by the Guardian, the World Bank is trying to finish up the report by the end of this week to set the record straight. A draft of that report indicates that higher energy prices are the real culprit for any rise… something that biofuels backers, such as National Biodiesel Board CEO Joe Jobe, has been saying all along and reiterated that point today:

“The U.S. Secretaries of Agriculture and Energy say that biofuels-related feedstock demand plays only a small role in global food supply and pricing. Worldwide, the estimated increase in the price of soybeans and soybean oil would increase the global food commodity price index by 1-2 percent. In the U.S., according to the Department of Energy and USDA, food prices have increased by about 4.8 percent. Of that increase, ethanol and biodiesel consumption accounted for only 4 or 5 percent while other factors accounted for 95-96 percent of the increase.

Iowa Reaches 85 Corn Based E85 Stations

Iowa CornThe Iowa Corn Growers Association recently announced that the number of E85 stations in Iowa has grown to 85 facilites. This number is growing to meet the demand of over 81,000 flexible fuel vehicles in the state.

“Iowa Corn has been promoting ethanol for 30 years, starting with the first E85 pumps in the early 1990s. Today, we’re working with partners like the Clean Air Choice Coalition to build the market for E85 in Iowa,” says Shannon Textor, market development director for Iowa Corn. “With rising regular fuel prices you may have noticed a considerable price advantage to filling up with E85 made right here in Iowa. Ultimately, it is better for our economy, our environment, and reduces our dependence on foreign oil.”

Iowa Corn states many E85 and ethanol facts relevant to the state:

Sixty cents of every dollar spent on E85 stays in Iowa.

Ethanol-blended fuel is actually saving an average of 45 cents per gallon at the pump.

Corn use for ethanol has little (literally pennies) to do with the rising cost of food prices.

The 85th E85 station in the state of Iowa is Cenex Pum 24 at 306 Highway 69 North in Forest City.

Annoying Weed Could Make Ethanol

KudzuMaking ethanol from a nuisance weed could be an idea whose time has come.

A Tennessee entrepreneur claims to have found a way to make ethanol out of kudzu – into a product he calls “Kudzunol.”

Doug MizellDoug Mizell is a co-founder of Agro*Gas Industries, LLC, which he promotes on his MySpace page. He and partner Tom Monahan are looking for funding to build a demonstration plant to prove that their technology will work.

Kudzu is an invasive species that grows vine-like throughout the southeast. “There’s 7.2 million acres of kudzu in the south that’s absolutely good to no one,” said Mizell. “It grows a foot a day, 60 feet a season and can be harvested twice a year and not even hurt the stand.”

Agro*Gas plans to break ground on a demonstration plant somewhere in Tennessee by end of the year and hopefully begin production in 2009.

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.

“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.