Central Florida Buses Go Biodiesel

Farm to Fuel buses Florida biodieselThe Central Florida Regional Transit Authority LYNX system will become the nation’s first transit agency to build its own biodiesel blending facility at Rosen Shingle Creek in southeast Orange County.

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist joined LYNX CEO Linda S. Watson, Orange County Mayor Richard T. Crotty, State Senator Lee Constantine and Jeremy Susac, executive director of the Florida Energy & Climate Commission, to officially sign the contract awarding $2.5 million for the project.

The project will enable LYNX to reduce its use of fossil fuel by 1.2 million gallons and lower its carbon dioxide emissions by approximately 26 million pounds each year. LYNX will be the first transit agency in the nation to own, operate and produce “on demand” blending to fully convert its fleet. It will also be the first to distribute custom blending to a partnership of other local governmental agencies such as the Orange County Convention Center and Orlando Utility Commission.

The conversion should take place by next July. Ground breaking for the facility should be in October 2008.

Florida Farm to Fuel Summit Underway

Sec. Ed SchaferThis morning the Florida Farm to Fuel Summit got underway. I think this is the third one. We missed our old friend Charlie Bronson, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture, although he’ll be here later this afternoon. We did see him on video though.

Right now our U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Ed Schafer, is speaking. I’ll add a link to some audio after his remarks and press availability. The Secretary is here to speak on Food, Conservation and the Energy Act of 2008.

Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Charles H. Bronson believes that Florida can be a leader in the effort of producing energy from crops and timber because of the vast amount of farm acreage in the state and its mild climate, which permits crops to be grown virtually year round.

New QC System for U.S.’s Largest Biodiesel Refinery

The nation’s biggest biodiesel refinery has installed a quality control system that promises to cut testing times from hours to minutes.

This press release from Cognis Corporations’ QTA (Quality Trait Analysis) says GreenHunter BioFuels in Houston, Texas, which produces 105 million gallons of biodiesel a year, has put in QTA’s new biodiesel testing system:

“Biodiesel quality testing traditionally requires gas chromatographs and a trained chemist” said Kerry Staller, Corporate Engineer with GreenHunter. “As such. quality control is difficult to integrate with operations because testing needs to be done in a separate lab by a chemist with the results coming up to an hour after a sample was taken. But with Cognis’ QTA System, our operators are able to conduct the quality tests right in the control room and see easy-to-understand results that they can act upon–all in less than 2 minutes after the sample is taken.”

Barbara Stefl, Cognis’ Global Business Director, said, “One of the benefits of our fast biodiesel testing process is that quality testing and general operations can now be more tightly linked. Efficiencies improve due to reduced handoffs between chemists and operators and quality increases due to the ease of doing more frequent testing.”

Cognis’ QTA patented Biodiesel Analysis starts by digitizing the light spectra of a fresh biodiesel sample using proven infrared technology. Those spectra are then sent, via the internet, to Cognis’ central database where algorithms convert the spectra, in real-time, into highly accurate standard quality measurements that are viewed online by plant personnel. All this occurs in less than two minutes.

QTA says the service is subscription-based and does not require capital investment.

Soybean Growers Help Dispel Ethanol, Biodiesel Myths

Battling the myths and misinformation that swirl around both ethanol and biodiesel seems to be a fulltime job these days. While some groups, such as the American Soybean Association and the Renewable Fuels Association, fight these battles daily, they could use a little help from the novices and those interested in the success of biofuels. That’s why the ASA is giving them the tools to beat back those naysayers against the green fuels.

The ASA has created the document called “Myths and Realities Behind Rising Food Prices“:

Anyone who buys groceries or eats in a restaurant knows that food prices have increased, but few people truly understand the global factors that are driving the present situation…

All things considered, the demand for biofuels has played a relatively small role in rising food prices. According to U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, the primary reasons underlying the escalation in food prices are an explosion in energy costs driven largely by the price of petroleum, the surging demand for food and livestock feed from a growing and increasingly prosperous middle class in countries like China and India, drought and other weather patterns that reduced yields in numerous regions of the world, the declining value of the U.S. dollar, and export restrictions imposed by some countries.

Higher energy prices have greatly added to the costs of transporting, processing, manufacturing, storing and distributing the food we eat. Higher energy prices also have dramatically increased the prices U.S. farmers are paying for the inputs they need to plant, grow and harvest their crops. Compared to just two years ago, farmers today are paying twice as much for the diesel fuel they need to run their tractors, combines and grain trucks. Fertilizer, which requires a great deal of energy to produce, has quadrupled in price.

The fact sheet goes on to point out how, worldwide, ethanol and biodiesel have cut the amount of non-renewable petroleum crude oil by a million barrels a day… saving the world $43 billion in savings each year.

My suggestion is to print out the fact sheet and have it ready the next time some loud-mouthed, Big-Oil backer starts bashing biofuels. Then, you can bash back with FACTS!

Rock n’ Roll Farmer Supports Cellulosic Ethanol

Chuck LeavellTrue rock and roll fans will recognize the name Chuck Leavell as keyboardist for the Rolling Stones – in addition to many other well-known rock legends such as The Allman Brothers and Eric Clapton.

He is also a Georgia tree farmer and an environmentalist who actively supports the development of ethanol production from woody biomass. “I think it’s one of the most important things we can do right now,” Leavell says. “And we are doing it. There’s a number of pilot programs out there getting off the ground. It’s not perfected yet, but that’s the great thing about this country is that we put our minds to it and we can make it happen.”

Leavell points out that trees are organic, natural and renewable. “And we will be using parts of the trees that are normally not used – the slash, the twigs, the limbs, and so forth.” He advocates harvesting forest waste to make biofuel, which at the same time helps to protect against wildfires. “If we take care of the forests, they’ll take care of us,” he said.

Leavell has taken an active interest in the development of Range Fuels, a cellulosic pilot project in his home state of Georgia using woody biomass, and he thinks the southeast is becoming very aware of the potential for this technology in the future.

You can listen to an interview with Chuck Leavell here:

Mass. Gov Signs Ethanol, Biodiesel Measure

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick has signed into law a measure that is hoped to make his state a leader in biofuels by exempting cellulosic biofuels (ethanol) from state taxes and creating a mandate for biodiesel in home heating oil.

The Boston Globe was there when Patrick signed the bill:

“It’s law,” he said, seated at a table at the Allston office of Mascoma Corp., flanked by state legislators, his energy secretary, and US Representative William D. Delahunt. Mascoma is one of a number of Massachusetts companies pursuing so-called advanced, or cellulosic, biofuels, which are made from agricultural wastes and forest products, rather than corn.

The Clean Energy Biofuels Act will make Massachusetts the first state to exempt cellulosic biofuels from state gas taxes, creating economic incentives for companies while requiring that the fuels meet strict greenhouse gas reduction standards. One major concern with biofuels such as corn-based ethanol is that they raise food prices and, in their growing and processing, cause more environmental harm than gasoline does.

The law also requires all diesel and home heating fuel to be 2 percent biofuels by 2010 and 5 percent by 2013.

The new law also contains a provision that will require the development of a low-carbon fuel standard for vehicles so greenhouse gases would be reduced by 10 percent.

Missouri Lawmakers Study Ethanol Standard

MOIn 2006, Missouri state lawmakers passed legislation to require all fueling facilities to sell E10 (10% ethanol and 90 percent gasoline) whenever the price is no more than traditional gasoline. This summer, with recent debates over the renewable product, lawmakers are looking to see if the mandate should be kept as Missouri law.

The Missouri Corn Growers Association fully supported the ethanol fuel requirement. They say agriculture should focus on food, but it should also have a place in the state to contribute to energy. They say that the standard has assisted in reducing the price of fuel at the pump. This is due to the tax credit that is received when blending the product with gasoline.

“Ethanol and food are topics that touch everyone, and I’m encouraged that our public policy makers are focusing on this,” Ashley McCarty, Missouri Corn’s director of public policy.

Several lawmakers who voted for the ethanol requirement sponsored a bill earlier this year to repeal the biofuels mandate, but the bill did not pass.

USDA: Food and Fuel Crops Not Hurting As Much As Feared

Last month’s floods in the Midwest might not have put the corn and soybean crops, which are vital to ethanol and biodiesel production, in as much peril as originally feared.

In a news conference in Washington, DC today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief said that the Midwest corn and soybean crops have not been hurt as badly as first thought from last month’s flooding in the region. And Secretary Ed Schafer says that the number of farmers who want to take their Conservation Reserve Program acres because it is more financially advantageous is adequate enough his agency won’t be allowing any penalty-free releases of CRP acres this year:

Despite the damage and disruption caused by the very severe floods that hit the Midwest last month, the indications so far are that the impact on this year’s corn and soybean crops will be less than what was originally feared. The markets have been reacting favorably to the good growing weather we have been experiencing in recent weeks and encouraging reports on crop conditions. Cash prices for corn are down 25 percent and for soybeans 14 percent from their record highs just last month.

Even with the damage and delays in planting caused by the floods, this year’s corn crop is on track to be the second largest on record with an anticipated harvest of almost 79 million acres. The strength of the commitment America’s farmers have made to meeting the nation’s need for corn for food, feed and fuel has reassured the markets that there will be an adequate supply available this year.

The recent easing in prices is helpful to the livestock industry and will allow current CRP contract holders to make informed decisions about whether they want to make an early exit from the program. Continue reading

Poll: Public Not Buying Knock on Biodiesel

A nationwide survey from the United Soybean Board shows that a vast majority of the people in the United States believe American farmers and biodiesel are the solution… not the problem… in the issues of high fuel and food prices.

This story from CattleNetwork.com says that the National Agriculture Image Survey says more than 80 percent of consumers see foreign oil-producing countries and the high cost of fuel as the real culprits for food price spikes:

Other key findings show:

77 percent of consumers favor the use of biodiesel as a source of energy that can meet our needs in the next 5 to 10 years.

74 percent of consumers were more favorable toward biodiesel after hearing it benefits the environment.

70 percent of consumers were more favorable toward biodiesel after hearing it’s a new green industry that creates jobs.

“In a time when we all are feeling the pinch of high energy and food costs, it’s encouraging to know the American public realizes the benefits of soy biodiesel as a clean-burning, renewable, homegrown fuel,” says USB Vice Chairman and Nebraska soybean farmer Chuck Myers. “The soybean checkoff believes it’s important that consumers understand the rising cost of petroleum represents the major reason for higher consumer food prices and that biodiesel represents a viable, useful and beneficial alternative to imported oil.”

Myers also point out that demand for soy biodiesel is having very little impact on food prices because 98 percent of the soymeal is not lost in the biodiesel process and goes on to feed livestock. That means biodiesel and its by-product soymeal can fuel and feed the nation and the world.

Minnesota to Study Cold Flow Biodiesel Issue

As Minnesota gets set to implement the nation’s biggest biodiesel mandate (as we reported back in May), that by the year 2015 could see 20 percent of all diesel sold in the state come from biodiesel, officials are tackling an issue that literally gums up the works: the flow of biodiesel in the cold.

This article from Biodiesel Magazine says the Minnesota Biodiesel Task Force is putting together a committee to look at how to solve the flow of biodiesel problem in the state’s bone-chilling winters:

The Minnesota legislature instructed the task force to create a technical committee to discuss cold weather issues related to biodiesel. Plans are for the committee to start meeting in late July or early August and have recommendations for the NextGen board by January 2009. “That group will be made up of technical folks who will be able to discuss what problems we can anticipate and what can be done about those,” [Ralph Groschen, an agriculture marketing specialist for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture] said.

The article goes on to say that officials are trying to head off some of the problems of a couple of years ago when off-spec biodiesel and cold weather clogged a lot of diesel engines:

The technical committee will create recommendations to make sure that the cold weather problems with biodiesel won’t reoccur in future years. According to Groschen, the industry has already taken a proactive approach to preventing future cold flow problems. “We don’t expect a lot of big changes to be made at this point,” he said.

The percentage of biodiesel in Minnesota’s mandate, as well as the success, is dependent on availability of the green fuel and its quality control.

General Motors Awards Clean Cities Coalitions

DOEGeneral Motors (GM) awarded a total of $84,000 to 56 Clean Cities Coalitions throughout the country. This funding was based on: E85 vehicle sales and infrastructure installation, participation in GM-sponsored functions, and involvement in GM-certified alternative fuel vehicle dealers.

The top award honors went to Clean Fuels Ohio with a $10,000 award. Chicago Area Clean Cities received $5,000 for the second year in a row and New York City and Lower Hudson Valley, Pittsburgh Region, and Central Indiana Clean Cities each were funded $3,000.

To view a complete listing of all 56 GM awardees, click here.

Clean Cities is a government-industry partnership sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Vehicle Technologies Program. With almost 90 local coalitions and more than 5,400 stakeholders, Clean Cities’ mission is to reduce petroleum consumption in the transportation sector.

U.S. & China Become Wind Power Leaders

The world’s superpowers… the current reigning one and the up-and-comer… are also super when it comes to wind power.

This story from CNN says the U.S. and China are leading the world in wind energy development. And as we’ve reported before, the American charge is being led in Texas, which produces more wind energy than any other state:

Several Texan transmission companies announced Monday they were forming a consortium to invest in the $5 billion cost of building new power lines to take advantage of the state’s vast wind power.

The consortium, comprised of existing transmission operators, includes Dallas-based Oncor, the state’s largest power delivery company, Electric Transmission Texas (ETT) and units of American Electric Power Co. among others.

Those new lines, dubbed by Oncor as a “renewable energy superhighway,” will accommodate about 18,500 megawatts of wind generation by 2012– enough energy to power 4 million homes.

And America’s biggest rival is also rivaling it in wind energy development: Continue reading

Dynamic Fuels Refinery on Track

A planned biodiesel refinery in Louisiana that will make the green fuel from low-grade, inedible fats and greases is on schedule to open at the end of next year.

This press release from WebWire.com says Dynamic Fuels, a joint venture of Tyson Foods and Syntroleum Corporation, has gotten final approval from its parent companies to build its first renewable synthetic fuels facility at Geismar, Louisiana:

In conjunction with plant approval, Tyson and Syntroleum have approved the project budget of $138 million. Capital funding includes $100 million in GO Zone Bonds previously approved by the Louisiana State Bond Commission. The balance of $38 million will be funded through equity contributions in the form of cash commitments of $19 million per owner, $13.25 million of which each owner delivered to Dynamic Fuels on July 11.

Construction of Dynamic Fuels initial refinery remains on schedule. Construction is expected to begin in October, and mechanical completion of the plant is expected by year end 2009. Prior to plant sanction, Dynamic Fuels placed orders for long lead time equipment, thereby locking in pricing and securing delivery times consistent with the overall project schedule.

“Approval to construct and fund the Geismar plant is a huge milestone for Dynamic Fuels, reflecting an outstanding effort by the Dynamic Fuels team to complete basic engineering and advance the project,” said Jeff Bigger, senior vice president of business development for Syntroleum. “With this approval we maintain our original project schedule and budget for the Geismar facility.”

The plant is expected to be produce about 75 million gallons of biodiesel a year when it is complete.

E85 for 85 Cents in Glenville, NY

E85 nozzleE85 sold for 85 cents per gallon as part of a promotion to celebrate the opening of an E85 fueling faclity in Glenville, NY. General Motors and the state of NY sponsored the promotion at the Glenville Mobil Mart at 245 Saratoga Road for 85 minutes on Saturday, July 26.

“With the generous help of General Motors today, we were able to run a promotion E85 for 85 cents for 85 minutes. E85 flex fuel generally sells for a dollar less than gasoline. You get a little less mileage but it is a win win all the way around,” said Glenville Mobil Mart owner Steve Weekes.

The station currently sells regular unleaded gasoline as E10 and diesel. They are open 24 hours and offer a full convenience store and 24 hour Dunkin Donuts. The 5,000 gallon E85 tank supplies four E85 nozzles.

The Glenville Mobil Mart is the 22nd E85 location in the state of New York.

My Capital News 9 video of Glenville Mobil Mart promotion

Farm Foundation Report Finds Three Reasons for High Food Prices

Domestic Fuel CastThere seems to be no end to the rhetoric bouncing around between agricultural experts, critics and media about what’s driving food costs. Biofuels are still one of the most common scapegoats for why we’re paying more for our food than ever before. But the Farm Foundation wants to get to the root of it all. That’s why it sought out three academics from Purdue University to research more than a dozen studies and determine the “truth” behind what the organization calls “one of the most important issues facing agriculture today.” The Farm Foundation hopes the findings of their report will offer policy makers an objective source to refer to when facing the challenges of today’s food system.

Wally Tyner is one of the professors who was a part of the three-man team that conducted the study. The agricultural economics guru says his team found three major driving factors in high food prices:

“The first is global trends in production and consumption of agricultural commodities. The second is has to do with sort of macro economic factors, the depreciation of the dollar. And the third has to do with biofuels. And these are linked in some ways but in some ways its like a perfect storm of all these things coming together at the same time that has led to the huge run-up in prices.”

In this DomesticFuel Cast, we hear from Neal Conklin, President of Farm Foundation and Wally Tyner, Professor of Agricultural Economics at Purdue University. Here is the Domestic Fuel Cast #7:

You can also subscribe to the DomesticFuel Cast using the following url/feed link: http://www.zimmcomm.biz/domesticfuel/domestic-fuel-cast.xml.