Farm Foundation to Release Report on Feeding and Fueling the World

Our friends at Farm Foundation are set to release a report next week on the challenges agriculture and the food system face in providing food, fiber and energy to a growing world over the next 30 years.

The report will come out next Thursday, Dec. 4th as part of Farm Foundation’s Food and Agriculture Policy Summit, Dec. 2-4th at the Westin Washington D.C. City Center, in the nation’s capital.

Developed with input from a diverse set of agriculture and agribusiness leaders, government agency representatives and academics, the new Farm Foundation report identifies six major challenges that may impact agriculture’s ability to provide feed, fiber and fuel to a growing world. Conference speakers will address issues within each of the six challenges.

Those conference speakers will include: former Texas Congressman Charles Stenholm; Jonathan Bryant of BASF North America; Bob Wagner of American Farmland Trust; Wallace Tyner of Purdue University; James McDonald of Bread for the World; and William Hallman, Rutgers University Food Policy Institute; Gene Griffin, Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute; and Paul Ellinger of the University of Illinois.

The summit will also feature “A Conversation with the Secretaries” on Dec. 3, when seven former U.S. Secretaries of Agriculture will spend 90 minutes discussing the challenges and opportunities facing agriculture today. Participating will be John Block, Mike Espy, Clayton Yeutter, Dan Glickman, Ann Veneman and Mike Johannes. Robert Bergland will participate through a video.

I plan to be there as well, and I’ll be blogging from the event. See you then!

E85 Available in Fulton, NY

Fastrac Market on Route 481 in Fulton, NY now has E85. This is Oswego County’s first E85 fueling pump. The fuel is manufactured by Northeast Biofuels in the Town of Volney.

“Over the summer, Fastrac Markets was proud to purchase the first ethanol produced at Northeast Biofuels to blend as E10 for sale at our stations throughout upstate,” said Fastrac President Thomas Waddle. “And now, we are just as proud to sell Northeast Biofuels ethanol as part of an E85 blend at our newly expanded service station in Fulton.”

According to the Valley News, Northeast Biofuels General Manager Brian Roach said the E85 pump is another step in the continuation of the state’s biofuels industry. He also emphasized the importance of marketing ethanol through local retailers.

“Northeast Biofuels had made a commitment to do business with local supplies, and having a forward-looking retailer like Fastrac as a customer and partner will help us to do just that,” said Roach. “For Northeast Biofuels to be a success, we need to be able to market our ethanol as close to home as possible.”

There are now 32 E85 locations in the state of New York.

Thailand Introduces First E85 Vehicle

Although the fuel has been available at a couple locations already, Thailand has had no vehicles that could use E85. Now, however, Volvo Thailand has launched the first flexible fuel vehicle.

According to the Nation, the S80 2.5 FT is the first car available in Thailand, made locally, can use any fuel ranging from 91- and 95-octane fuel to E10, E20 and E85. The vehicle is expected to attract those who would like to not only ‘go-green’ but also lower their fuel costs. The C30 1.8 from Volvo is also E85 compatible but is fully imported. The C30 will be a cheaper option for those willing to go green.

It is anticipated that about 15 E85 stations will be open in Bangchak by next year. “Although having more E85 pumps will allow the user to take full advantage of the vehicle, it is important to remember that a flex-fuel vehicle can run on any blend of petrol and ethanol or even pure petrol, which makes it very versatile. The Volvo S80 2.5 FT is an option for companies that want to acknowledge their environmental responsibility, as E85 produces 60 to 70 per cent less greenhouse gas than petrol,” said Paul Stokes, president of Volvo Cars Thailand.

On Turkey Day, Biodiesel Board Gives Food (vs. Fuel) for Thought

On the day that you sit down and have probably the biggest meal of the year, some of you might be thinking about how much higher your grocery bill is this year. While you really need to focus on the family and friends around you and how thankful you are for the blessings you enjoy, the National Biodiesel Board is making the point about how biodiesel and ethanol are not responsible for the hit to your pocketbook on Thanksgiving Day.

This op-ed piece from NBB CEO Joe Jobe says while some have blamed the rising cost of groceries on rising commodity prices (which they erroneously have blamed on biofuel production), that argument just doesn’t add up anymore:

The prices of corn, wheat and soybeans have dropped dramatically – about fifty percent from their prices this spring. However, Americans have continued to see their food prices rise, which contradicts the excuse. In fact, when adjusted for inflation, the price of soybeans – the oil portion of which is used to produce biodiesel – is at its lowest level since the Great Depression.

So did the price of the grain commodities fall because of decreased biofuels production? No. Biodiesel production has increased by more than 100 million gallons compared to last year. And Congress, in recent months, has taken extraordinary steps to encourage higher production of homegrown biofuels, recognizing their value to energy security as well as their proven environmental benefits. With agriculture commodities halved and American families hurting more financially than they have in decades, the prices of our groceries have not budged. Not five, not ten and certainly not fifty percent.

As an example, the piece goes on to point out that bread prices have actually increased over the past year, despite the fact that wheat prices have been cut to less than half of what they were last February. And farmers see only twelve cents of a typical $2.99 loaf of bread.

Jobe says the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) has spent millions to promote the smokescreen of the empty “food vs. fuel” debate for its own greedy ends and concludes the op-ed saying, “The excuses just do not give us much to chew on.”

Well said. You can read the entire piece by clicking here.

Hemp Could Be Next Biofuel Feedstock

Farmers in the U.S could be growing hemp as a biomass crop, if a federal court rules in favor of two farmers trying to get a ban on the marijuana-related plant lifted.

This story from Biomass Magazine says the new president could also have a hand in lifting that ban:

The U.S. Appeals Court in St. Paul, Minn., heard arguments Nov. 12 by two North Dakota farmers trying to get a lower court’s dismissal of their suit against a federal agency overturned. David Monson, Osnabrock, N.D., and Wayne Hauge, Ray, N.D., have state approval to grow industrial hemp in North Dakota, but are suing the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to get a federal permit to grow industrial hemp. Hemp is related to the illegal drug marijuana and under federal law some of the industrial hemp plant is considered a controlled substance. The three-judge appeals panel will issue a written decision, but that isn’t expected to be available for several months…

[Jim Pillsbury of Framingham, Mass., who is developing hemp for heating pellets and had a Canadian prototype biomass research facility] predicts President-elect’s Barack Obama’s administration will lift the ban on growing hemp in the United States, and pointed out that it’s being grown in many other countries. “The new administration has a solid commitment to bring new and old ideas to the table for renewable energy,” he said. Industrial hemp is an ideal bioenergy, Pillsbury said, citing figures from Canada that show straw yields of 6 tons per hectare (2.47 acres) and 1.5 tons of fiber, in addition to 200 liters (50 gallons) of oil pressed from the seed.

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving From ZimmComm New MediaIt’s time to take a break in the action from all the news and information in the alternative fuels business. In case you haven’t seen it, you might want to check out the History Channels, Modern Marvels – The Turkey, since it features a segment on turning turkey waste into fuel!

Have a Happy Thanksgiving from ZimmComm New Media.

And just in case you want to know more, here’s what Wikipedia says about it:

Thanksgiving, or Thanksgiving Day, is a harvest festival. Traditionally, it’s a time to give thanks for the harvest and express gratitude in general. Thanksgiving is a North American holiday with the dates and whereabouts of the first Thanksgiving celebration a topic of modest contention. It has generally become a national secular holiday with religious origins. Though the earliest attested Thanksgiving celebration was on September 8, 1565 in what is now Saint Augustine, Florida[1][2], the traditional “first Thanksgiving” is venerated as having occurred at the site of Plymouth Plantation, in 1621.

Today, Thanksgiving is celebrated on the second Monday of October in Canada and on the fourth Thursday of November in the United States. Thanksgiving dinner is held on this day, usually as a gathering of family members.

Biodiesel Refinery Idled by Ike Back On Line

Back in early September, Hurricane Ike roared ashore on the Texas Gulf Coast as the third most destructive hurricane ever to strike the U.S. A biodiesel refinery in the Houston area that was part of the destruction (see my post from Sep. 29, 2008) has finally recovered and is back on line.

GreenHunter Biofuels has announced in this press release that biodiesel production has started once again:

Located along the Shipping Channel in Houston, Texas, the Company’s biodiesel refinery, one of the country’s largest, sustained a direct hit from Hurricane Ike in mid-September of 2008. Plant debugging had just been completed and the facility was beginning to ramp up production after its original startup in mid-June, prior to the damages caused by the hurricane. Prior to Hurricane Ike, the Company had announced achieving processing rate mileposts of 50% and subsequently 65% of nameplate capacity.

The Company expects to continue its use of 100 percent animal fats (poultry fat and beef talloy) as its primary feedstock, although the GreenHunter BioFuels Refinery is “feedstock neutral” and has used five different varieties of feedstock (vegetable oils and animal fats) to date.

As you might remember from this photo (on right), the plant had 12 feet of water roll through but Bruce Baughman, Senior Vice President of Engineering and Technology, stated, “The approximate 12 feet of floodwater from Hurricane Ike took out a significant amount of electrical equipment, electronic instruments and control devices that have now been replaced and repaired over the last eight weeks. In the same period we have repaired process piping, pumps, intermediate tanks and bulk storage tanks that were damaged by flood waters.”

There’s still plenty of work to do at the plant, and officials anticipate some more bugs along the way, but they expect to be up to 50 percent capacity in the net month.

Biofuels to Provide Houston Green Power

A Texas-based renewable energy company is taking over an abandoned electrical plant with plans to run the generators on green energy sources.

This press release posted on MarketWatch.com says Biofuels Power Corporation will purchase the site, infrastructure and equipment of the decommissioned H.O. Clarke Electric Generating Station in central Houston:

The operational infrastructure on the H.O. Clarke site includes 65,000 barrels of above ground storage tanks and a high-pressure natural gas pipeline that is connected to the distribution system. The H.O. Clarke property is adjacent to a 500 MW switchyard operated by Centerpoint and has ready access to the ERCOT grid through a 12 kV transmission line.

“Our long-term goal is to redevelop the H.O. Clarke site as a clean energy industrial park that will use biofuels, biomass, natural gas, biogas and solar energy to provide green electricity and combined heat, power and refrigeration services for industrial and commercial tenants that need ready access to central Houston, the Houston Ship Channel and the Interstate Highway system,” said Fred O’Connor, President and CEO of Biofuels Power.

Biofuels Power already has two plants in the same area that run on 100 percent biodiesel that generate 15 megawatts of electricity that is sold to local companies. Officials hope the Houston Clean Energy Park will become a model for clean industrial redevelopment nationwide.

Grant will Assist in Opening 29 E85 Stations in California

Twenty-nine E85 fueling stations will open in the Sacramento, California area by May 2009, thanks to a grant by the California Air Resource Board. The Sacramento air district received $3.5 million to assist in opening these facilities.

“There are not a tremendous amount of vehicles that can handle E85,” said Walt Dwelle, managing general partner of Nella Oil Co. who plans on adding E85 to his stations in North Highlands and Newcastle. “If there’s not a lot of demand, you don’t want to spend that kind of money and have just a few gallons going through.” There are about 388,000 registered FFVs in the state of California.

Pearson Fuels Inc. in San Diego opened the first E85 fueling station in the state in 2003. They also sell the alternative fuel in Concord, Hayward, Carlsbad, and Oceanside and plans to add additional facilities in the near future.

“The market for E85 depends on the price of gasoline,” said Michael Lewis, general manager of Pearson Fuels. “In June at our station down in San Diego, we were selling 1,000 gallons per day or better. But it was $1 per gallon less than gasoline.”

There are currently 13 E85 stations within the state of California.

Corn Growers Unhappy With VeraSun Contracts

Thousands of corn growers from across the Midwest could potentially have their contracts with ethanol producer VeraSun rejected, including the chairman of the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA).

NCGANCGA chairman Ron Litterer of Iowa and others have filed a formal objection with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware regarding the proposed disposition of corn contracts by VeraSun Energy Corporation, which filed Chapter 11 at the end of October.

VeraSun announced recently that they are continuing to work with suppliers while pursuing long-term financing.

“Unfortunately, the Company will need to reject some corn contracts for delivery through Dec. 31, 2008 at our Janesville and Welcome, Minn., facilities due to the delayed startups. Other contracts may need to be rejected or renegotiated as we continue to work through them on an individual basis.”

The objection filed by the corn growers indicates specific concerns with VeraSun’s proposed procedures under bankruptcy, which may allow VeraSun to wait until 10 days before contracted delivery date to notify growers of their rejection of the contract. This would essentially leave corn suppliers in a state of limbo while VeraSun is free to determine the market price for corn before deciding whether to accept deliveries under a contract or summarily reject the contract. Litterer believes this would be fundamentally unfair to corn growers and other corn suppliers.

POET Could Be Interested in VeraSun

POETThe world’s largest ethanol producer could be getting even bigger soon.

VeraSunSpeculation is that POET is behind a potential buyout of VeraSun Energy Corporation, which filed Chapter 11 less than a month ago. VeraSun announced this week that it received a “non-binding unsolicited indication of interest with respect to the purchase of substantially all of its assets.”

Both POET and VeraSun are citing confidentiality considerations for not naming names, but POET CEO Jeff Broin said in a statement that they are “in serious discussions with a couple of ethanol producers regarding possible acquisitions.”

“POET remains profitable despite the current economic challenges facing the ethanol industry thanks to careful risk management and proprietary technology that makes our process for producing ethanol extremely efficient,” said Broin. “These potential acquisitions have met our initial criteria, and we will continue discussions to determine whether the plants are the right fit for our company.”

KU* EcoHawks Aim for 500 MPG Car

Some University of Kansas* engineering students are working on a car they hope will get 500 miles per gallon… and ethanol and biodiesel look to figure in as some of the fuels it would run on.

This story from the KU* School of Engineering web site says the students are working on a 1974 Volkswagen Super Beetle to turn it into the epitome of hybrid auto efficiency:

“That’s the fun. By the time we’re done, it’s going to be totally different, and it’s going to be great,” says Lou McKown, a University of Kansas senior in mechanical engineering.The EcoHawks hard at work on a 1974 Volkswagen Super Beetle

For his senior project, McKown is part of a team called the EcoHawks, that is taking the iconic round vehicle and transforming it from a motionless heap to a fully integrated hybrid vehicle by the end of the school year.

“We’re just the first year of this, too,” McKown says. “We hope that the work we do this year will provide the basis for the next year and so on.

“Our long-term goal is to make a car that can get efficient fuel anywhere in the country, whether it be electric, ethanol, biodiesel, whatever.”

The students’ advisor hopes they’ll be able to change the car culture in this country by teaching people how to turn their classic into classically efficient.

You can read more about the Kansas* EcoHawks at www.ecohawks.org.

*(Editor’s note: since it is Border War Week between Missouri and Kansas, I am required by Missouri law to spit every time I write or say the word “Kansas.” [ptooey]. And I’m an Iowa Hawkeye fan! But rules are rules.)

Dems Ready to Introduce Biofuels Bills

For the first time in 16 years, Democrats control the U.S. House, Senate and the White House. And for some of the Democratic leaders in the Senate, they see this as the best opportunity to get some of their pet biofuels legislation passed and signed.

This story from CBS News says Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, will offer a couple of bills that will boost the green fuels and help the environment:

One measure would allocate $15 billion a year in grants for advanced biofuel development, and the other would aim to implement an economy-wide cap on emissions.

While the bills are far from drafted, Boxer said both would be designed as economic stimulus packages to create more green jobs and jump-start Barack Obama’s challenge to reverse global warming.

“I believe strongly that we have a recipe for economic recovery,” Boxer told reporters at the Capitol. “The time to start is now, and that’s why my colleagues and I are here to step up to President-Elect Obama’s call to action to address global warming and create millions of green jobs in America.”

Boxer’s bills would most likely meet President-elect Barack Obama’s recent call for legislation to address climate change by reducing emissions.

Grants Boosting CT’s Biodiesel Industry

Seven Connecticut biodiesel distribution firms have received a total of $350,000 in grants.

This press release from Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell says the money was handed out under the state’s Distribution Facilities Grant Program to companies that undertake projects to develop biodiesel distribution equipment and facilities:

“Support for biodiesel production is not only an economic development issue but also an environmental issue,” Governor Rell said. “By creating more opportunities for renewable energy sources we can assist individual businesses, reduce energy costs, improve air quality and reduce our dependence on foreign sources of oil. Programs such as this are a key component of my agenda to make Connecticut a leader in sustainability.” Continue reading

Fed Fleet Not Fueling Vehicles with Alternative Fuels

The Federal Government’s plan of building their fleet as alternative fuel may be in jeopardy. According to the Washington Post, for the past 16 years they’ve acquired about 112,000 vehicles that can burn something other than fossil fuels. The vehicles are purchased, however, the fuel is difficult for them to find.

“I call it the ‘Field of Dreams’ plan. If you buy them, they will come,” said Wayne Corey, vehicle operations manager with the U.S. Postal Service. “It hasn’t happened.”

Congress has mandated that Federal agencies increase their number of alternative fuel vehicles. Many of the vehicles which have been purchased are E85 compatible, but many of the vehicles were sent to locations in which the fuel is not available. By law, the vehicles must use the alternative fuel should the fuel be available within five miles or 15 minutes from the pump. At this time, 92 percent of the vehicles are not using these such fuels.

The National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition (NEVC) assists in locating the appropriate location for E85 fueling stations. NEVC Executive Director Phil Lampert added, “While the preceding article is factually correct, the NEVC has successfully worked with a number of regional offices of the USPS, Dept. of Defense, and General Services Administration to locate FFVs in areas where fueling infrastructure exists. Certainly much can be done to increase the use of E85 in FFVs, but it should be noted that some federal agencies, (particularly regional offices) have been successful in placement of FFVs in areas with fuel.”