Legislation Would Increase RFS Without Energy Bill

Concerns about a languishing energy bill in Congress are motivating Senators to take action that would increase the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) even without it.

U.S. Senators Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and Richard Lugar (R-IN) have introduced legislation called the Renewable Fuels Strategy Act of 2007 that contains several provisions including a larger Renewable Fuels Standard of 36 billion gallons of annual renewable fuel use by 2022.

ACEThe 20th annual American Coalition for Ethanol praised the act, according to Executive Vice President Brian Jennings, “A comprehensive approach to the production, distribution, and consumption of ethanol is absolutely crucial to advancing this country’s energy situation from its current state to a more positive, diversified future.”

The bill also calls for increased production of Flexible Fuel Vehicles and expanded renewable fuels infrastructure, including an increase in the tax credit from 30% to 50%. The infrastructure provisions apply to E85 pumps, but also to Blender Pumps, which dispense mid-level ethanol blends between 10% and 85%.

The Renewable Fuels Strategy Act is co-sponsored by Senators Lugar (R-IN), Cantwell (D-WA), Craig (R-ID), Johnson (D-SD), McCaskill (D-MO), and Klobuchar (D-MN).

In addition, Senators Domenici (R-NM), Nelson (D-NE), Grassley (R-IA) and Thune (R-SD), introduced a Renewable Fuels Standard amendment to the 2007 Farm Bill that specifically calls for the production of 21 billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol by the year 2022.

Massachusetts Bill Proposes Biofuels Targets

masslawmakers.jpgMassachusetts lawmakers will consider a proposal designed to increase that state’s use of biofuels. State Senate President Therese Murray and House Speaker Sal DiMasi, working with Governor Deval Patrick, filed a bill today that sets usage standards and creates a state Biofuels Task Force, responsible for addressing issues, such as energy crop incentives, tax credits for advanced biofuels research and development, fuel performance standards, and requirements to produce flex-fuel vehicles.

This story in the Mass High Tech version of the Bizjournals.com has more:

Specifically, the bill would require the use of biodiesel in all blends of transportation and heating fuels, starting at 2 percent biodiesel in 2010 and increasing to 5 percent in 2013. The state would also eliminate the gasoline excise tax on cellulosic ethanol.

The Task Force will design and submit recommendations for a more comprehensive biofuels program by the end of March, according to officials.

School’s Grassroots Biodiesel Now Fueling Buses

gaston.gifWhat started as a project to brew biodiesel in some old pots from the school cafeteria has turned into a 100,000-gallon-a-year production line that saves the school an estimated $125,000 a year in fuel costs.

This story in the Charlotte (NC) Observer says two years ago, the Gaston County Schools started making their own biodiesel from leftover grease from a local cracker factory, school cafeterias, and local restaurants and is the first school district in the state to make its own fuel:

“Grady [Truett, the schools' assistant transportation director] came to us and said, `I can make diesel,’ ” said Transportation Director Baxter Starr. Starr smiled in disbelief, but he listened. And he supported the idea.

Starr and schools’ Superintendent Reeves McGlohon are proud of the program — especially because their biodiesel is easier on the lungs of the children who ride Gaston buses, they say.

That was Truett’s original inspiration.

“People might not know this, but school-bus emissions are worse inside the bus than outside,” Truett said. “That small particulate soot goes deep in your lungs. It doesn’t stop at your nose.”

Gaston uses a mix of biodiesel and regular diesel. Running the buses with straight biodiesel requires a lot of filter-changing, and the straight biodiesel thickens at cold temperatures.

The department has taken on the fuel-making without adding extra employees, Starr said. Next year, Starr may ask the administration for another person to run a second production shift.

The article goes on to say that Truett was able to find the biodiesel brewing equipment for cheap on the Internet and through old military surplus and other equipment… saving the district even more.

Now that’s what I call a quality education!

Georgia Cellulosic Plant Groundbreaking

Range FuelsA cellulosic ethanol company funded by California-based Khosla Ventures is holding a groundbreaking this week for its first planned facility in Georgia.

The Tuesday event at Range Fuels in Soperton, Georgia will include remarks from Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, Range Fuels CEO Mitch Mandich and Khosla Ventures founder Vinod Khosla.

The facility has a goal of producing 100 million gallons per year of cellulosic ethanol from wood residues and wood-based energy crops, with a first phase of producing 20 million gallons annually sometime in 2008. Range Fuels is receiving a $76 million grant from the US Department of Energy to help fund the project.

Pacer Named Georgia Biofuels Pioneer

PacerPacer Fuels of Austell, GA., has been named a “Pioneer in Biofuels” by Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Tommy Irvin. Pacer Fuels, the sole provider of alternative fuels to the fleet of vehicles operated by Peachtree City (PC), was honored for its development and marketing of biofuels.

Here, in a ceremonial fueling of a PC Fire Truck, are; Charise Stephens, Georgia Clean Cities Coalition; Steve Atkins, PC fire fighter; Jill Stuckey, GA Environmental Facilities Authority; PC Mayor Harold Logsdon; Agriculture Commissioner Tommy Irvin; Paul Tomaszewski, co-owner, Pacer Fuels; Janice Furguson, co-owner, Pacer Fuels; and Millie Lowenthal, Pacer Fuels, alternative fuels coordinator.

Biodiesel Documentary Maker Screening Film

revolutiongreendvd.gifJessica Kelly, maker of the documentary “Revolution Green: A True Story of Biodiesel in America,” returned to her alma mater, the University of Colorado, for a screening this past weekend of her movie.

jessicakelly.jpgIn a story from Boulder’s (CO) Daily Camera, Kelly explains that a year ago on Thanksgiving she was at Willie Nelson’s home, and the oil used to fry the turkeys was turned into fuel for her ride home. Her film introduces biodiesel maker Bob King:

bobking.jpgA decade ago, King chose to solve a grease overflow problem at Maui’s landfill. He now has turned that grease waste into biodiesel fuel and built 10 biodiesel plants across the country.

After the free-screening on the Colorado campus, Kelly held a biodiesel question-and-answer session.

“Really, our main focus is we want people to learn about biodiesel after watching the film and realize that one person can make a difference,” Kelly said.

Senators Urge Consideration of Higher Ethanol Blends

ThuneSenator John Thune (R-SD) and Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) led a bi-partisan group of Senators in writing a letter to the President last week urging him to direct the Environmental Protection Agency to approve higher blends of ethanol in commercial gasoline. The current maximum blend for non-flex fuel vehicles is 10% ethanol.

“The current 10% standard, or blend wall, will soon impact production capacity and could be very harmful to the ethanol industry in South Dakota and across the country,” said Thune. “By increasing the percentage of ethanol in gasoline, we can reduce our dependence on foreign sources of energy and make renewable fuels a key component of our nation’s energy policy.”

GrassleyGrassley said, “With consideration of a new farm bill as well as a new energy bill well underway, ethanol and renewable fuels are at the forefront of the discussion. And, while we’ve seen a tremendous jump in knowledge, promotion and usage of renewable fuels, there remain very real barriers. In the absence of widespread E85 use at this time, it’s important to ensure a market for today’s ethanol production.”

The Senate version of the 2007 Farm Bill is scheduled for floor debate this week. Senator Thune successfully inserted into the Senate 2007 Farm Bill a study of the E10 blend wall and a “Sense of the Senate” resolution directing the federal government to approve higher blends of ethanol after the successful completion of the appropriate studies.

New Mexico Biodiesel Plant Project Gets Green Light

arfuelslogo.jpgA plan to build a 75-million-gallon-a-year biodiesel plant has received approval from the Clovis, New Mexico City Commission.

This AP story from television station KOB says the plant will make biodiesel from animal fat:

arfuelspic.jpgThe agreement is with an Australian company that plans to build a biodiesel plant near the eastern New Mexico community.

The agreement lets American Renewable Fuels move ahead with the 80 million dollar plant.

The firm expects to begin construction in March on the facility in the park south of Clovis.

DC to Host International Energy Efficiency Forum

eeglobal1.jpg
Those concerned about the climate, national security, and what could happen economically because of increasing global energy demands will meet with leaders from the energy efficiency industry in a four-day forum in the nation’s capital.

The Energy Efficiency Global Forum and Exposition (EE Global) will take place November 11th-14th at the Washington, DC Convention Center:

EE Global will serve as the premier gathering and showcase for the energy-efficiency industry, attracting industry professionals, academics and policy makers from around the world, not only to exchange the latest technical, commercial and policy information, but to forge partnerships and develop “best practices” policies and strategies for global implementation.

The conference program will consist of plenary and executive dialogue sessions featuring 175 executive-level speakers representing all end-use sectors and regions of the world and addressing energy efficiency, climate and economic issues. And, the exhibition floor will feature over 75 organizations highlighting the latest products and initiatives for creating a sustainable energy future. I encourage you to check out all of the details, including the array of unique networking events which are capped with an exclusive evening gala at the National Air and Space Museum!

You can find out more by clicking on this link for EE Global.

Arming the Military with E85

EPIC educational forum on E85 Ft. Leavenworth in Kansas has a vested interest in E85 and flex-fuel vehicles. The Combined Arms Center will soon have to be operating its fleet of more than 200 vehicles on E85. That’s in compliance with the executive order President Bush signed in January of this year. John Tirpak, Traffic Manager at Ft. Leavenworth, came to the Ethanol and Promotion Information Council’s educational event on E85 in Kansas City to learn how the military facility can fuel up with E85.

You can listen to my interview with John here:

Tirpak_John.mp3

Branding E85

EPIC Director of Operations Robert White explaining the market for E85 There are a lot of pluses about operating vehicles with a blend of E85 fuel and the Director of Operations with the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council mapped out just as many ways to promote consumer use of the renewable fuel. That’s precisely what today’s educational forum at the Holiday Inn in Overland Park was all about: how to boost the marketing landscape for E85 in the Kansas City area. Robert White says the best strategy basically boils down to getting more flex-fuel vehicles out on the road and getting more E85 in their tanks. For Robert, it’s up to the automakers, local fuel retailers and local auto dealerships to make that happen through a united effort to brand ethanol.

I spoke with Robert about some of the many ideas EPIC shares with the ethanol industry nationwide. You can listen to my interview with Robert here:

White_Robert.mp3

Mid-Missouri MFA Oil Trucks and Pumps E85 throughout the Midwest

David Perkins, Manager of Special Projects for MFA Oil talking with EPIC Alternative Blends Coordinator Michelle GibiliscoE85 “just makes sense” for the Manager of Special Projects at MFA Oil. David Perkins was one of two MFA Oil representatives at today’s educational forum on E85 fuel. The forum was sponsored by the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council. David says MFA Oil is the company responsible for introducing ethanol to the mid-Missouri region when the company invested in a small ethanol plant in Marshal, MO in 1973 and first began selling an E10 blend of ethanol in 1980. MFA offered E85 fuel blends at one of its Missouri filling stations for the first time in November of 2003. The oil company now has 44 retail locations that offer ethanol fuel blends at the pump. E85 sales for MFA amount to more than 3 million gallons per year. For David, just offering a blend of ethanol fuel at the pumps will ultimately help drive E85 sales. David also stressed the importance of ethanol producers, retailers and car dealers working together to promote E85.

David and I discussed the importance of generating a dialogue about ethanol and E85. You can listen to my interview with David here:

Perkins_David.mp3

Growing E85 in Kansas

Sue Schulte, Director of Communications for the Kansas Corn and Grain Sorghum Associations Good news if you’re a fuel retailer in Kansas. The state offers a 40 percent tax credit to retailers who invest in E85 fuel. Couple that with the 30 percent tax credit the federal government offers, and fuel retailers in Kansas can take advantage of a 70 percent return on their E85 investments. That’s one of the key points Sue Schulte, the Director of Communications of the Kansas Corn and Grain Sorghum Associations, drove home to attendees at today’s educational forum on E85 fuel. The forum was hosted by the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council to help direct local members of the ethanol industry in Kansas City on how to get online with E85.

Sue clued participants in on where the ethanol industry stands in Kansas, so producers and retailers could get a feel for what the state already has to offer and determine where and how the local industry can grow. Sue says there are 10 dry mill ethanol plants in operation in Kansas. These plants have a capacity to produce over 329 mill gallons of ethanol. Sue says that current Kansas production creates a market for over 116 million bushels of sorghum and corn. She adds that more expansion is on the way, with ethanol plants that are either under construction or nearing construction having projected production capabilities of about 330 more million gallons of ethanol each year. The state’s fuel industry is beginning to respond. Sue says just five filling stations offered ethanol in 2005. Now, there are 24 stations throughout the state that pump the alternative fuel.

I caught up with Sue and asked her about her thoughts on what today’s educational forum on E85 offered local industry members. You can listen to my interview with Sue here:

Schulte_Sue.mp3

Getting the facts on E85

Ethan Taylor, E85 Coordinator for the Missouri Corn Growers Association talking with EPIC Alternative Blends Coordinator Michelle Gibilisco Missouri can boast 93 E85 filling stations that are either up and running or soon to open. Ethan Taylor, the E85 Coordinator for the Missouri Corn Growers Association says that each E85 filling station pumps about 300 gallons a day. That equates to 27,900 gallons of E85 fuel being sold each day in Missouri, or more than 10 million gallons sold each year. The Show-Me-State certainly has a jump start on the ethanol industry, but there’s obviously room for more growth.

That’s one of the reason’s why the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council sponsored an educational forum in Kansas City today to allow local ethanol industry members, or those interested in becoming involved in the industry, learn more about how they can grow ethanol, and, more specifically, how they can ramp up the production and sale of E85 fuel. During the forum, Ethan stressed that the biggest necessity for industry producers and retailers is to educate consumers on the truth about ethanol. He says much of the public is misinformed about how and when to run their vehicles on E85 fuel blends, how much mileage they’re getting compared to gasoline and how much money they’re spending to get from A to B.

Ethan reminds industry members that virtually any vehicle manufactured since 1980 can use an E10 blend of fuel. He says consumers do need a flex-fuel vehicle in order to use E85 fuel or any other fuel blend greater than 10 percent ethanol. When it comes to energy efficiency, Ethan explains that a gallon of ethanol has an energy content of about 72,000 BTU. When compared to gasoline’s energy content of about 115,000 BTU, that means consumers get about 28 percent less energy from burning E85. Ethan says that equates to about a 10 to 20 percent mileage loss when using E85. But, he says when you factor in the cost of E85 fuel – which typically runs 20 percent lower than the going rate for gasoline – at worst, consumers are spending the same amount of money. At best, they’re saving 10 percent on fuel.

For Ethan, spending the same amount of cash, or less, on a renewable fuel that’s domestically produced, that reduces emissions and that results in cleaner engines is a smart idea.

I spoke with Ethan about the importance of today’s educational forum on E85 and about how the Missouri Corn Growers Association is getting involved in the ethanol industry. You can listen to my interview with Ethan here:

Taylor_Ethan.mp3