Grassley Promises Push for Biodiesel Tax Incentive

Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) renewed his commitment to Congress renewing the biodiesel tax incentive… while he took a shot at the Grocery Manufacturers Association for what he says is a smear campaign by the group against biofuels. Grassley’s comments come on the heels of Tuesday’s vote, when the U.S. Senate came up just eight votes short of cloture to end debate on extending the $1-a-gallon biodiesel tax credit.

Speaking to National Biodiesel Board members at their meeting in Washington, DC today, Grassley stressed just how important biodiesel is for America’s environment, economy and energy security.

“We ought to keep the dollars in the United States rather than send them over to the Arabs to shoot back at us.” In his capacity as the Ranking Member on the Senate Finance Committee, he reiterated his desire to work in a bipartisan manner to pass an extender package that includes the biodiesel tax incentive.

Senator Grassley was also critical of the anti-biofuels public relations campaign that is being waged by the GMA. He noted that only one chief executive officer from the grocery industry, out of 15 invited, has accepted the invitation to meet with him and Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer to discuss the GMA’s multi-million dollar campaign to discredit biofuels.

“The biggest culprit behind the rising food cost is $135 barrel oil,” he said. “This campaign is led by an organization that should be a loyal member of the food chain. Instead, they are making biofuels the scapegoat to defend their own bottom line. The truth is that America’s family farmers are producing more food, and fuel, than ever before.”

“Lifting the biofuels incentives won’t ease food prices,” Grassley said. “By using less biofuel, we will in fact lift food prices. Who are they trying to kid?”

Biofuels from Algae in Isreal

Algae is becoming a growing source for biofuel development in Israel. Inventure Chemical is the latest company to invest in algae biofuel technology.

Inventure Chemical has announced that it has entered into a joint venture with Seambiotic Ltd. (based in Tel Aviv, Israel) to construct a pilot commercial biofuel plant in Israel, using algae created from CO2 emissions as feedstock. The plant will utilize high-yield oil-rich algae strains that Seambiotic has developed and grown in its open pond system coupled with Inventure’s patent-pending conversion processes to produce ethanol, biodiesel and other value-added chemicals.

“We reviewed many potential processes for converting our algae strains to biofuel,” said Prof. Ami Ben-Amotz, chief scientific adviser to Seambiotic. “In numerous tests we’ve conducted with Inventure at their Seattle plant, we’ve been consistently pleased with the quality of the biofuel resulting from their process. Inventure’s technology will enable us to maximize the biofuel yield from our algae.”

“Our joint venture with Inventure will illustrate not only the technological capabilities of our combined processes, but also the validity of the CO2 to algae to biofuel model as a means for coal-fired power generators to meet CO2 reduction mandates,” said Amnon Bechar, Seambiotic’s chief executive officer. “The biofuel that’s created from algae can be used in the power generator’s operations, or sold on the open market to create a new revenue stream. Either way, this model can pay for the infrastructure necessary to put in place.”

Seambiotic grows and processes marine microalgae for biofuel and Omega 3 oil production.

Inventure Chemical dvelops and commercializes feedstock conversion technologies for biofuel producers.

Just Say “Yes” to Ethanol

FEW 08 Ethanol buttonsButtons of many colors can be seen on hundreds of name badges walking around the 2008 Fuel Ethanol Workshop creating a positive mantra for the ethanol industry.

FEW 08 Ethanol buttons LanserThe “Yes Ethanol” buttons are the creation of Lanser Public Affairs, an agency in New Berlin, Wisconsin that specializes in helping ethanol plants with site approval and community relations.

The husband and wife team of Mary Claire Lanser and Al Ogorzalek were handing the buttons out and promoting their services at the expo and trade show.

So far, Lanser has helped about a dozen ethanol plants in Wisconsin, Illinois, Virginia and Pennsylvania. Appropriate public affairs strategies have assured approvals, prevented costly delays, and improved the public image for their clients.

2008 Fuel Ethanol Workshop Photo Album

Team Ethanol at the FEW

Visitors to the International Fuel Ethanol Workshop this week in Nashville had a chance to meet Indy car champion and Team Ethanol car owner Bobby Rahal of Rahal Letterman Racing in an appearance sponsored by ICM, Inc.

FEW 08 Bobby RahalWith a model of the Number 17 Team Ethanol car behind him, Rahal chatted with ethanol industry representatives about the season so far and the talent of driver Ryan Hunter-Reay.

“This year he’s been very strong,” said Rahal. “I’m very enthusiastic about our chances and I couldn’t be happier with the kind of work he’s doing for us.”

Rahal is looking forward to the Iowa Corn 250 this weekend and thinks they have a good shot. “It’s going to be an interesting race but with each race Ryan’s getting more confident and so I expect we’ll be competitive.”

Rahal says ethanol has been great for the Indy Racing League and he thinks there is a lot of misinformation out there about the fuel. “Hopefully we are helping to dispel many of the myths and misinformation exists,” he says. “Ethanol is a credible solution to a large part of the problem that we face and the truth will reign out in the end.”

Listen to an interview with Rahal from the 2008 FEW here:

2008 Fuel Ethanol Workshop Photo Album

Ethanol Racing Again at Iowa Corn Indy 250

Iowa Corn Indy 250It looks like the flooding in Iowa has not affected things at the Iowa Speedway where I’m headed this afternoon for pre-race activities for this weekend’s Iowa Corn Indy 250.

Iowa’s flooding disaster is not directly affecting scheduled events for the IndyCar Series weekend, June 20-22, at Iowa Speedway. The facility has immediate access to I-80 and is located on elevated ground near an adjacent airport. Racing fans who plan to attend the Iowa Corn Indy 250, especially those out-of-state, are encouraged to proceed with plans to attend the event.

There are a number of activities planned from various pump promotions to press conferences. I’ll be attending them all and providing pictures and interviews whenever I can. Our coverage of the activities is once again sponsored by the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council.

New Ethanol Products

Carl LiraWhile Cindy and thousands of people involved in ethanol production are attending the FEW in Nashville, I thought I’d share an interview I did at the recent Corn Utilization and Technology Conference. While we’re focused on ethanol as a fuel and that seems to be its primary use, some research is being done on other products ethanol can be used to produce.

Carl Lira, Michigan State University, spoke on “Reactive Distillations for Chemical Products from Ethanol.” Carl says he’s looking at methods to diversify the ethanol production platform. For example, he’s looking at new products that can be made from ethanol so that producers can diversify and react to the market in different ways. He’s trying to get them to think with more of a bio refinery philosophy. From a product standpoint, he’s using ethanol as a reagent to produce high quality chemicals. He says they’ve done some economic analysis which is available from the National Corn Growers Association and that it looks very attractive.

You can listen to my interview with Carl here:

Biodiesel Helping Fuel “Dump the Pump Day”

This coming Thursday is national “Dump the Pump Day,” a day when drivers are encouraged to use public transportation instead of their own vehicles to save money and fuel. Some of those folks will be running on biodiesel, as many communities use the green fuel to run their buses.

One such community is Springfield, Missouri, which runs 1.2 million miles of bus routes a year on biodiesel. And this story from the Springfield News-Leader says the city’s utilities Transit Service will give free rides on its buses on Thursday:

“By participating in the national ‘Dump the Pump Day,’ we hope people who have never used our services will give us a try instead of driving their car,” CU Transit Director Carol Cruise said. “We will welcome new riders and thank our regular riders.”

Public transportation is seeing an increased number of riders across the country. In 2007, CU Transit Services provided 2 million rides. CU’s biodiesel fueled buses drove 1.2 million miles and operated over 85,000 hours to provide transportation services to the Springfield community.

Moving Beyond 10 Percent Ethanol

Moving beyond ten percent ethanol offers both opportunities and challenges for the industry.

FEW 08 Robert WhiteOn a panel addressing the issue at the 2008 Fuel Ethanol Workshop Tuesday was Robert White with the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council (EPIC). White has spearheaded the nationwide pump branding and E85 program for EPIC and he talked about some of the success stories they have seen just recently.

“An E85 station recently opened in metro Atlanta,” said White. “The station has been opened about five weeks and as of Saturday they were selling 1800 gallons of E85 a day, compared to 1750 gallons of regular unleaded a day.”

EPIC helped to open the station, made sure it was branded, held a pump promotion and grand opening event with state officials, and send notifications out to fleets in the area. “One station that has been opened five weeks has the potential of selling 650,000 gallons of E85 a year,” White said. “That’s amazing.”

He also talked about the importance of moving toward blender pumps, which can offer a variety of blends between 10 and 85 percent ethanol. “Our recent research found that 45 percent of Americans are seeking out alternatives, they want choices, and specifically they’re looking for ethanol,” said White.

He noted that E85 and mid-level blends give consumers choices, help retail fuel stations offer customers something new, and help ethanol plants sell more product.

Listen to Robert’s address to the 2008 FEW here:

2008 Fuel Ethanol Workshop Photo Album

Biodiesel Cleared for Case Construction Equipment

Heavy equipment manufacturer Case has approved the use of B20 biodiesel for more than 85 percent of its products.

This company press release says this follows Case’s move two years ago to give B5 the OK, the first construction equipment maker to do so:

“Case is proudly leading the construction industry to help lower customers’ fuel costs and make a positive impact on the environment,” said Jim Hasler, vice president, Case Construction Equipment, North America. “Using biodiesel to power Case equipment reduces our dependence on foreign oil and increases our U.S.-based energy production. Plus, biodiesel has the potential to save customers money.”

“Biodiesel adds lubricity to the fuel, which is beneficial in many circumstances, particularly as sulfur and aromatics are removed from the fuel,” said Ray Good, engine application manager, Case Construction Equipment. “Biodiesel has a higher Cetane number and burns cleaner with less particulates and smoke emissions. It is also fully biodegradable and nontoxic.”

Case officials remind customers that they need to use ASTM approved biodiesel in their products.

Ethanol High Octane and Excellence Awards

The ethanol industry honored two of its own Tuesday for excellence in research and promotion during the 24th annual Fuel Ethanol Workshop in Nashville.

FEW 08 Octane AwardThe annual “High Octane Award” was presented to David Kolsrud, president and CEO of DAK Renewable Energy in Brandon, SD.

“He is an advocate for this industry,” said BBI International president Mike Bryan in presenting the award. “He was doing ethanol before ethanol was cool.”

“I am extremely honored,” said Kolsrud. “One of the greatest pleasures I have had is meeting thousands of farmers across the United States and our passion is trying to get farmers to invest in their own futures in ethanol plants and letting them take control over their own destiny.”

FEW 08 Excellence AwardThe Award of Excellence for ethanol research was presented by Dr. Kevin Hicks with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service eastern research center. This year the award went to Dr. Jay Shetty, senior director of global applications and grain processing for Genencor, a division of Danisco.

The Award of Excellence recognizes an individual who has made significant research, technical advisory and development contributions in the industry.

2008 Fuel Ethanol Workshop Photo Album

Biodiesel On Its Way to Standard Approval

Biodiesel has cleared an important hurdle as it passed a vote that will establish standards for the green fuel.

The Subcommittee E of ASTM International, a group that establishes standards for a variety of things including fuels, has voted to recommend the passage of finished specifications for biodiesel blends. This press release from the National Biodiesel Board (NBB) says this paves the way for an expected positive vote before the full ASTM D02 Main Committee later this week:

* Finished specifications to include up to 5% biodiesel (B5) in the conventional petrodiesel specification (ASTM D975)
* Changes to the existing B100 biodiesel blend stock specification (ASTM D6751)
* A new specification for blends of between 6 percent biodiesel (B6) to 20 percent biodiesel (B20) for on and off road diesel.

In particular, automakers and engine manufacturers have highly anticipated the B6-to-B20 specification for more than five years. All three proposals were balloted to the D02 Main Committee for consideration at the semi-annual ASTM International (formerly the American Society for Testing and Materials) meeting being held in Vancouver this week. The Main Committee members will render their final votes this Thursday evening, June 19th.

“While it’s not over until the last vote is cast at the main committee Thursday, passage of these ballots is a sort of ‘rite of passage’ that the auto and petroleum industries have said they need in order to more fully support and endorse B20 and lower blends,” said Steve Howell, Chairman of the ASTM Biodiesel Task Force. “It is quite remarkable that the big oil companies and engine makers on the committee have now joined forces with the biodiesel industry to help approve these standards.”

“We addressed the issues and concerns with solid, scientific research,” said Joe Jobe, CEO of the National Biodiesel Board. “Without the tremendous amount of scientific data provided by independent organizations like Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the Coordinating Research Council (CRC) and others, and the cooperation of the petroleum and engine communities, this would not have been possible.”

Celebrate Bioenergy Awareness

The U.S. Agriculture Department is celebrating Bioenergy Awareness this week. The even will feature exhibits on agriculture and natural resource-based renewable energy research, energy efficiency and education programs in Washington on June 19, 20, 21 and 22 as part of Bioenergy Awareness Days. The USDA, in partnership with 25×25, will also announce Grand Challenge essay winners on agriculture and natural resource based renewable energy and energy conservation and efficiency.

USDA agencies, private sector organizations, and universities from across the country will travel to Washington to exhibit in front of the Whitten Building and at the National Arboretum. 55 exhibits will be at the Whitten Building and 35 will be at the Arboretum, including a special Power Plant display of 21 plants that offer bio-energy options.

Government and private sector spokespeople, researchers, and university representatives will respond to questions about important renewable energy issues making today’s headlines.

Exhibits open at 10 a.m. and close at 5 p.m. on Thursday and Friday. The Whitten exhibits close on Friday. The Arboretum exhibits open at 8 a.m. and are also open on Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Sunday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Ethanol Industry Winners

Two ethanol plants were honored by the Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday with the Energy Star Combined Heat & Power Award. POET Biorefining in Ashton, Iowa, and East Kansas Agri-Energy, LLC in Garnett, Kan., were recognized with the award for reducing energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

FEW 08 Energy Award POETIn April 2004, POET began full production at an ethanol plant in Ashton. Electricity is generated by a natural gas-fired turbine, which requires approximately 16 percent less fuel than typical on-site thermal generation and purchased electricity. Based on this comparison, the system reduces carbon dioxide emissions by an estimated 18,900 tons per year, which is equivalent to removing the annual emissions from 3,100 cars or planting 3,900 acres of forest.

FEW 08 Energy AwardThe East Kansas Agri-Energy dry mill ethanol plant in Garnett, Kan., began production in 2005. The steam turbine system generates approximately one-third of the facility’s electrical demands. It requires approximately 23 percent less fuel than typical on-site thermal generation and purchased electricity. Based on this comparison, the plant reduces carbon dioxide emissions by an estimated 14,500 tons per year, which is equivalent to removing the annual emissions from 2,400 cars or planting 3,000 acres of forest.

The ENERGY STAR award recognizes projects that reduce emissions and use at least five percent less fuel than state-of-the-art comparable separate heat and power generation.

2008 Fuel Ethanol Workshop Photo Album

Achieving Energy Victory with Ethanol Choice

Ethanol is now the fuel of choice in Brazil, while gasoline is the alternative, and one advocate believes that with one simple law passed by Congress the same thing could happen in the United States.

FEW 08 Robert ZubrinAccording to Dr. Robert Zubrin, author of “Energy Victory,” who was the keynote speaker at the opening session of the 2008 Fuel Ethanol Workshop Tuesday in Nashville, mandating that all new vehicles sold in the U.S. be flex fuel would effectively break the economic stranglehold the oil cartel has on the country and the world.

Zubrin made his point by using the analogy of a card game where there is a trump suit that defeats all others and the strategy is for your side to hold most the cards in that trump suit. “It’s the same way in energy,” Zubrin said. “There’s four suits, there’s oil, coal, natural gas and biomass. And right now oil is the trump suit.”

That’s because right now there is mainly one way to power vehicles and that is petroleum products. The key is to change that trump suit, he says, and biomass is the best alternative. The question is how to change the trump suit and Zubrin contends that the answer is to mandate the sale of flex fuel vehicles, which would cost at most $100 per vehicle. “If we had a standard that all new cars sold in this country had to be flex fuel, within three years we’d have 50 million cars on the road in the United States capable of running on alternate fuels,” and Zubrin says that would ultimately result in flex fuel vehicles being sold all over the world.

The reason Zubrin is so passionate about this simple idea is because he believes, and can back up with facts, that we are being held hostage by OPEC countries and are funding terrorism by our daily habit of foreign oil. “We have to win,” he says. “Let’s knock ‘em flat!”

To find out more about Zubrin’s book “Energy Victory,” go to energyvictory.net.

Listen to Zubrin’s address to the 2008 FEW here – it’s 45 minutes long but guaranteed to fire you up!:

2008 Fuel Ethanol Workshop Photo Album

Hoosier Ag Spotlights Team Ethanol

Hoosier Ag Today has featured Team Ethanol IndyCar Driver Ryan Hunter-Reay in its HAT Podcast Channel this month. It’s the first podcast in a series HAT will produce that will be focused on Team Ethanol. The “Eye on the Ethanol Car” will feature weekly updates with Ryan, which will be available online each Thursday.

In last week’s podcast, Ryan describes sitting on the track in a mangled car that had been contending for a Texas Motor Speedway win. Ryan also shares his thoughts on Marco Andretti.

Click here to listen.