Minnesota Looks to Increase Biodiesel Mandate

Hoping to mimic the success its ethanol mandate has brought to that industry in Minnesota, the state is looking at bumping up its 2 percent biodiesel mandate.

This story from Minnesota Public Radio says a bill before the state legislature would increase that requirement by 10-fold:

juhnke.JPG“What this does is actually give a signal to industry that they should move ahead, and develop more infrastructure for this product,” [bill sponsor Rep. Al Juhnke, DFL-Willmar] says.

Right now, trucks in Minnesota burn a blend that contains two-percent biodiesel. Juhnke’s bill would increase that to 20-percent by 2015. In the winter months, the requirement drops back to five-percent, until problems with cold weather are worked out. At least half of the biodiesel would be produced in Minnesota.

Juhnke says if biodiesel follows in ethanol’s footsteps, it will be good for rural Minnesota.

“You know, there are 17 ethanol plants right now, each of them averaging probably 35 or 40 really-good paying jobs in these communities, and so that money spins and turns in the local economies out here.”

Juhnke’s bill would also come up with $500,000 to fund algae biodiesel research in Minnesota.

NBB Names Sustainability Task Force Members

nbb-logo.jpgAfter announcing the formation of its Sustainability Task Force at the National Biodiesel Conference & Expo in Orlando, Florida last month, the group has filled out the nine-member panel.

According to this NBB press release, the group, led by Emily Bockian Landsburg of Philadelphia Fry-O-Diesel, will work to ensure the biodiesel industry will continue to protect the environment, while producing jobs and reducing dependence on foreign oil:

landsburg.jpg“In order to develop best practices that will be adopted throughout our industry, we selected a task force that represents the various segments of the industry and regions of the country,” said Landsburg. “Recognizing the need for input from critical stakeholders who are not members of the NBB, such as environmental organizations, government entities, and sustainability advocates, we are forming an Advisory Committee that will be heavily involved in this process.”

The members of the task force are Kumar Plocher, Yokayo Biofuels, Ukiah, Calif., a small producer making and distributing biodiesel from waste kitchen greases the company collects; Victoria Carver, Iowa Soybean Association, Urbandale, Iowa – ISA has developed environmental management practices that address soil and energy conservation, run-off and pest and nutrient management; Rachel Burton, Piedmont Biofuels, Pittsboro, N.C., a small producer that grew out of a grassroots cooperative; Dennis Fisher, ADM, Decatur, Ill., Director of the Office of Compliance and Ethics and member of ADM’s Sustainability Steering Committee; Doug Hanson, South Dakota Soybean Research & Promotion Council, Elk Point, S.D., a grain and livestock farmer; Tim Maneely, U.S. Biodiesel Group, St. Paul, Minn., a production plant engineering and design expert with experience in soy, palm, and coconut oil supply chains, representing a large producer; Doug Smith, Baker Commodities, Minneapolis – has over 20 years in the rendering and oleochemicals industry, specializing in quality control and safety management; Jeff Trucksess, Green Earth Fuels, Houston, Texas, a regulatory and legislative expert with a background in international development; and Landsburg, Philadelphia Fry-O-Diesel, Philadelphia, an organizer of the Sustainable Biodiesel Summit from a company that developed technology to convert the waste material of sewer trap grease into biodiesel.

You can also hear some of Landsburg’s comments on this post from the NBB Conference blog.

Long Term Lending Support Needed

Dave Vander GriendAt today’s Ethanol 2008: Emerging Issues Forum one of the speakers was Dave Vander Griend, President/CEO ICM, Inc. Dave spoke about financing new technologies and the move toward a market based incentive system. I spoke with him afterward.

He says that he continues to believe that the ethanol industry is solid and that there are opportunities. Right now he says the industry is experiencing a bump in the road with the higher corn prices and depressed ethanol prices. However, that’s something he says you see every 4 to 5 years in the grain markets.

According to Dave, one of the challenges right now is a lack of support in the lending community since they’re a reactionary group. They see something that’s not highly profitable today and as he puts it “they run and do something else.” But he says that although there are tight margins right now, in 2 years they’ll be great just like they were 2 years ago. So he says that a little more long term thinking on the part of lenders would be very helpful.

One of the things he’d most like to see happen is a long term strategy in Washington. It’s one thing he says to set a goal but there needs to be a plan in place to make it happen.

You can listen to my interview with Dave here:

Ethanol Industry Counters Attacks

The Renewable Fuels Association countered attacks from the food processing and petroleum industries this week with fact checks.

RFAReferencing news stories about statements made by officials with Valero Energy and Pilgrim’s Pride, RFA President Bob Dinneen said, “To put the blame for rising commodity, food and energy prices solely at the feet of the American ethanol industry is misleading and diversionary. This kind of overheated, chicken little rhetoric is meant to distort the truth and deliberately misinform the American public.”

In news stories this week, Pilgrim’s Pride Chief Executive Clint Rivers in a statement blamed high feed costs causing plant closings and layoffs on “the U.S. government’s ill-advised policy of providing generous federal subsidies to corn-based ethanol blenders.”

RFA says, “What is not included in Mr. Rivers statement is that a host of factors, ranging from record global demand to poor weather conditions around the globe, are driving commodity prices. Moreover, Mr. Rivers conveniently ignores the processing, packaging, and transportation costs associated with oil prices climbing to record highs near $110 a barrel. In addition, no mention is made of the calculations by Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University that estimate the broiler chicken industry specifically was able to save more than $11 billion between 1997-2005 by purchasing corn and feed well below the market cost of production.” (Re: “Feeding at the Trough: Industrial Livestock Firms Saved $35 billion From Low Feed Prices.”)

Citing studies by Argonne National Laboratories and Environmental Defence, RFA also responded to a Reuters story this week in which Valero Energy Chief Executive Bill Kleese made the claim that, “Corn and ethanol production and the resulting high prices will impact the world in a much more acute negative way than greenhouse gas emissions and climate change ever will.”

Fact Check: Compared to gasoline, ethanol is reducing global warming gas emissions by more than 20 percent. As the world continues to irresponsibly deplete its reserves of traditional petroleum, new sources like tar sands in Canada must be developed. The conversion of the tar sands into a usable petroleum products produce 300 percent more greenhouse gases than traditional oil production.

25x’25 Emphasizes Alliance, Advocacy and Administration

Allen RiderClosing out the 25x’25 Renewable Energy Summit was Allen Rider, member of the organization’s steering committee. He’s also a past president of New Holland North America.

Allen’s job here was to summarize what we’ve learned at the Summit. To start with he says that he’s heard a real affirmation of the goal of 25x’25 and that it’s the right goal. He learned a lot about the economic benefit of realizing that goal in terms of what it will mean for revitalizing rural America. Finally, he says the environmental impact is huge and ties right in with the other two.

He left everyone with the 3 A’s – Alliance, Advocacy and Administration. He says the strength of the organization comes from the alliances and grass roots efforts. He says there’s such a big need to advocate and get the facts out to the public. Everyone in the room raised their hand when he asked if they had seen a story in the media in the last week about renewable energy that had fact errors. And finally, he said they will need to educate and assist the new administration in Washington, DC.

You can listen to Allen’s closing remarks here:

Wal-Mart Developing Sustainable Facilities

Charles ZimmermanThe luncheon speaker here at the 25x’25 Renewable Energy Summit is Charles Zimmerman, VP, Prototype and New Format Development for Wal-Mart. I’ve been looking forward to meeting him since he’s got such a great name.

He’s speaking right now to the group about the evolution of sustainable facilities at the retail chain. Now most of his experience is with the facilities but he says they’re also testing biodiesel in a segment of their truck fleet and with the fuel outlet facilities they own he says their very keen on what’s happening with other renewable fuels. He says their truck fleet drives about 900 million miles a year so it’s important what they’re doing . He says that utilities is their second highest line item expense so they’re doing things to be more energy efficient which is good for the environment while also helping their bottom line.

I interviewed him prior to his presentation since he’s leaving immediately when done.

You can listen to my interview with Charles here:

Raleigh Upgrades Buses to Biodiesel

raleghbuses.jpgRaleigh, North Carolina has improved its bus system with some new buses that are roomier, more accessible, and possibly most importantly, run on biodiesel.

This story from NBC-17′s web site says the 15 Capital Area Transit system buses join a growing biodiesel-powered fleet of vehicles in Raleigh:

The new CAT buses operate on biodiesel fuel (B20). City officials say, B20 is a domestically produced renewable fuel derived from vegetable oil that significantly reduces harmful elements of diesel exhaust, such as carbon monoxide. At least 75 percent of Raleigh’s diesel fleet – or 186 trash collection trucks, recycling trucks and street dump trucks — have operated on B20 since 2002.

“The new buses reflect CAT’s ongoing effort to enhancing customer service and being environmentally friendly,” said Stacey Carless, CAT’s marketing specialist.

The new buses cost $5.5 million, but a grant from the Federal Transit Administration took care of 80 percent of the cost with the last 20 percent split by the city and the state.

With gas prices set to go above $4 a gallon this summer, officials expect ridership to increase, so these new buses are just in time.

It’s More Than Rain That Greens Seattle

The area around Seattle, Washington is known for its beautiful green surroundings, prompted by plentiful rain and moderate temperatures. But while the city itself might covered in lots of gray concrete, it is green when it comes to caring for the environment.

nickels.jpgPart of that commitment is the city’s dedication to biofuels and alternative forms of energy. This post on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer “Strange Bedfellows” blog was prompted by Mayor Greg Nickel’s announcement that he wanted all taxis in the city to get 30 miles per gallon. That prompted the authors to ask if the city is practicing the green ways it preaches, particularly in the use of biofuels:

A city spokeswoman, Katherine Schubert-Knapp, responded, in part:

“In addition to the diesel, (compressed natural gas), electric and hybrid vehicles cited below, we have 2,180 that run on gas. Many are subcompacts and I would expect those have high mileage ratings. Some are trucks and I expect those have low mileage ratings. The point is we buy vehicles that meet our business needs, such as police cars, utility trucks, fire engines, etc. When we can buy green versions of these, we do.”

So far, she said the city has:

– 384 hybrids and 95 cars that run on compressed natural gas.
– 47 electric off-road vehicles (22 scooters, 22 Segways, 2 electric bicycles and 1 neighborhood electric vehicle).
– 699 diesel-powered vehicles and “most run on biodiesel.” (The exceptions are things like fire engines and vehicles at remote locations, such as the Skagit, which cannot obtain the fuel). We use B20 (a fuel blend of 80% diesel and 20% biodiesel). We’re testing a B40 blend.
– 58 vehicles in our general-use motor pool and 45 are hybrid or natural gas vehicles. The Motorpool also features five Segways, three bicycles and two electric bicycles.

“We’re also looking for ways to make our specialty fleet green by replacing those vehicles, e.g., heavy-duty trucks, with more fuel-efficient vehicles. The challenge is the industry hasn’t produced a lot of those yet. We are starting to see some heavy-duty hybrid trucks come on the market and we purchased four last year.

In the long run, Seattle officials want 100 percent of their fleet to be clean and green, defined as using clean fuels and fuel-efficient, low-emission vehicles that still meet the city’s needs.

So, is Seattle truly a green city? Depends on what your standards are, but I would have to say the city is trying… more than many others can say.

Achieving a Sustainable Energy Future

Dr. Steve ChuOne of today’s presenters at the 25x’25 Renewable Energy Summit was Dr. Steve Chu, Director, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. His topic was “Achieving a Sustainable Energy Future” in which he provided an examination of how 25x’25 can be reached through means that conserve and
protect natural resources.

I walked in to his presentation first thing upon arriving this afternoon and it was fascinating. The research that’s being done not only in his lab but around the country should give everyone hope that we’ll find solutions for our energy concerns much quicker than we might think.

I spoke to him after his presentation and asked him about what his message was to this diverse group of leaders looking at how we can create a bright energy future. He says that existing technologies won’t get us to where we want to go which is replacing a huge percentage of our transportation fuel. However, he says that we have sufficient land and resources to not only take care of this need but also provide for our food needs as well. He says we’re just going to have to do it differently.

For example, it will take making better plants and using marginal land and making more efficient processes to convert them into energy and doing so in an economical way. This is the type of research his lab is working on.

He also talked about how many young people are moving into this type of research with enthusiasm but they’ll need support at the research facilities in order to conduct the research, something that has been lacking from the government for example in recent years. That sounds like something that 25x’25 can work on in Washington, DC.

You can listen to my interview with Dr. Chu here:

25x’25 Vision of America’s Energy Future

25x'25The 4th Annual 25x’25 Renewable Energy Summit is taking place in Omaha, NE. The theme is “Bringing the Vision to Life – Win-Win Solutions for America’s Energy Future.”

I got it late this afternoon but will be here tomorrow. Yesterday Summit attendees got to take a tour of the University of Nebraska – Lincoln’s Agricultural Research and Development Center. They’re doing extensive research on carbon sequestration of dry land and irrigated crops as well as research on the utilization of dried distiller’s grains.

Today there have been a number of presentations looking at the future of the organization and the future of energy. I wish I could have made it in time for Dr. Lowell Catlett’s presentation.

25x’25 is made up of a number of state alliances which are getting together to talk about areas of cooperation and collaboration here this afternoon and evening.

Helio in Iowa

Helio in IowaTwo-time Indy 500 winner and “Dancing with the Stars” champion Helio Castroneves was in Iowa Wednesday to promote the Iowa Corn Indy 250 on June 22. Castroneves drives for Team Penske in the IndyCar Series.

This will be the second year for the ethanol-fueled race at the Iowa Speedway in Newton. The premier Iowa Corn Indy 250 last year was the second-most watched IndyCar Series race after the Indianapolis 500.

This is also the second year that the IndyCar Series will run on 100 percent fuel grade ethanol.

Ethanol is Helping Cut US Petroleum Demand

The latest report from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) concludes that ethanol will reduce U.S. petroleum demand by 130,000 barrels per day this year.

Energy Information AdministrationAccording to the EIA’s Short-Term Energy Outlook, “The slowing economy combined with high petroleum prices is expected to constrain growth in U.S. consumption of liquid fuels and other petroleum products to just 40,000 barrels per day (bbl/d) in 2008. After accounting for increased ethanol use, U.S. petroleum consumption falls by 90,000 bbl/d.”

The projected higher costs for crude oil in 2008 are likely to be passed on to all petroleum products. Retail prices for motor gasoline are expected to average $3.21 per gallon or 40 cents above the 2007 price. The monthly average gasoline price is projected to peak near $3.50 per gallon this spring. It is important to note, however, that even if the national average monthly gasoline price peaks near that level, there is a significant possibility that prices during some shorter time period, or in some region or sub-region, will cross the $4 per gallon threshold.

“America’s ethanol industry is living up to its end of the bargain by helping reduce petroleum use and moderate prices for Americans at the pump,” said Renewable Fuels Association President Bob Dinneen. “The nearly 8 billion gallons of ethanol being produced on an annual basis today is a vital component of our nation’s gasoline supply, adding volume and helping to mitigate the price increases that will occur as oil continues its meteoric rise.”

Snowmobiles Running on Green Fuels

cleansnowmobile.jpgThis year has been an exceptionally snowy one for much of the U.S., and some students in Michigan are making use of all the snow… while learning about the benefits of biofuels.

The SAE Clean Snowmobile Challenge is going on now through Saturday at Michigan Technological University’s Keweenaw Research Center at Houghton County Memorial Airport. The Daily Mining Gazette reports that 17 teams of university students have brought their machines to compete in quietest and cleanest competitions:

A new challenge is in the mix this year. More accurately, it’s in the fuel mix.

“This year we have made each team use bio-fuel and that can be either E85 or B10, which is a biodiesel fuel,” event coordinator Jay Meldrum said.

He said the bio-fuel requirement is a precursor to next year, when snowmobiles will have to run on flex-fuel — different fuel types that will change from day to day.

Last year, the University of McGill took 1st place in the Zero Emissions Class and the University of Idaho won top honors in the Internal Combustion Class.

The first competition was held in 2000 at Yellowstone National Park after a controversy over snowmobiles in the park prompted organizers to look for cleaner, quieter snowmobiles.

SD Gov Signs Biodiesel Tax Incentive

South Dakota consumers choosing to fill up with biodiesel will great a break on their gas bill.

This story in the Rapid City (SD) Journal says Gov. Mike Rounds has signed into law a measure that will give a 2-cent per gallon tax break for every gallon of diesel sold with 5 percent biodiesel:

rounds1.jpg“As diesel costs continue to skyrocket, this tax break will help ease the pain at the pump for consumers while helping to develop our state’s biodiesel industry,” Rounds said in a news release. “Biodiesel is an ideal alternative to petroleum-based fuel. It will not reduce mileage, and because of its increased lubricity, it is better for the engine.”

This incentive is a little different than other states’ programs that don’t kick in until there’s a minimum of alternative fuel available. This one will end when 35 million gallons of taxed biodiesel and biodiesel blended fuel are sold after the effective date.

Missouri Biodiesel Standard Moves Forward

senstouffer1.GIFThe Missouri State Senate has passed a biodiesel standard that would require all diesel sold in the state to contain at least 5 percent biodiesel.

This story in the St. Louis Post Dispatch says if it passes the Missouri House and gains the governor’s signature (which he has indicated he will sign it), it will be the highest biodiesel requirement in the country:

“It gets biodiesel into the fuel distribution system,” said Sen. Bill Stouffer, the bill’s sponsor. “I’m not a mandate guy, but when the competition owns the system, the only way to get it into the system is to force it.”

mosoy.jpgThe move has gained the praise of the Missouri Soybean Association:

dale-ludwig.jpg“A B5 Standard is the next step in advancing Missouri’s growing biofuels industry and we are grateful for the leadership that Senator Stouffer has provided on this important issue,” said Dale R. Ludwig, Missouri Soybean Association (MSA) Executive Director/CEO. “It is refreshing to have people who realize the important role biodiesel can play in reducing our dependency on foreign oil. Missourians can take pride in knowing that homegrown, renewable fuels, such as biodiesel, keep more dollars in the state when we spend less on petroleum-based fuels.”

If it passes, Missouri would become the sixth state to put in a biodiesel standard. Minnesota was the first, enacting a two percent standard. Louisiana, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington also have passed biodiesel standards, but those states’ requirements have nit yet kicked in.