Executive Director Leaves EPIC on Solid Ground

e-podcastIt seems ethanol is on the lips of just about every politician both nationwide and at the state level. The fuel has broken into two major motorsports arenas. Environmentalists are touting ethanol as a major player in the development of renewable fuels. Much of the credit for the industrial, political and consumer awareness of ethanol belongs to the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council, and to the man who has lead the organization since it’s beginning. Executive Director Tom Slunecka says the first three years of EPIC’s operation has marked a tremendous start, and he’s confident the organization will move full steam ahead with exciting projects for 2008… just, with a new leader at the helm. Tom has announced his departure from the organization, after directing it for it’s first three years. He says he’s the kind of guy who likes step in, get things off the ground and then leave a successful opportunity open for someone else. The go-getter isn’t straying too far though. Tom will be moving into a new opportunity with one of EPIC’s members: The KL Process Design Group.

This edition features comments from interviews conducted at the Cellulosic Ethanol Summit in Washington, DC.

The “Fill up, Feel Good” podcast is available to download by subscription (see our sidebar link) or you can listen to it by clicking here (5:30 MP3 File): epic-podcast-10-30-07.mp3

The Fill Up, Feel Good theme music is “Tribute to Joe Satriani” by Alan Renkl, thanks to the Podsafe Music Network.

“Fill up, Feel Good” is sponsored by the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council.

Wisconsin Budget Gains Biodiesel Group’s Praise

wba_field1thumbnail.jpgIt took a lot longer than anticipated, but lawmakers in Wisconsin have finally reached agreement on that state’s budget… and the Wisconsin Biodiesel Association (WBA) says its $26 million renewable energy package will help make the state competitive in the biodiesel business.

This story in Wisconsin Ag Connection says the WBA is applauding the approval of the biodiesel measures in the bill, including biodiesel distribution incentives, a $4 million grant to develop a soybean crushing facility, and a biodiesel producers’ state income tax credit:

“We are thrilled that the Legislature has made such a significant commitment to the biodiesel industry in Wisconsin,” said John Blaska, president of the Landmark Services Cooperative Board of Directors. “Thanks to the dedication of Governor Doyle and the efforts of State Sen. Jon Erpenbach, State Rep. Brett Davis, and State Sen. Bob Jauch, we are now one significant step closer to bringing Wisconsin’s first soybean crushing facility to Evansville.”

Landmark recently announced it will match any investment made by the state toward a soybean crushing facility in Evansville, up to $4 million. The addition of a soybean crushing plant will add substantial value to the state’s agricultural endeavors by cutting transportation costs and increasing soybean production, potentially bringing Wisconsin an additional $235 million in revenue and savings.

WSA Director Bob Karls says Wisconsin soybean farmers have been working for 15 years to bring a soybean processing facility to the state. While Wisconsin is the 13th largest soybean producer in the country, it is the only one of these states without its own soybean processing facility.

“It is difficult to envision a more concrete example of the way in which Governor Doyle’s pursuit of a renewable energy bio-industry could create more positive economic impact for the state,” said Jeff Pieterick, president of the Wisconsin Biodiesel Association. “The passage of this renewable energy package provides substantial infrastructure that supports the bottom line for agricultural producers throughout Wisconsin.”

Corn Powered Museum Exhibit

Corn MuseumThe Indiana State Museum will have a new exhibit in 2009 titled, “Corn: Powering the World.”

The exhibit will showcase all things corn — demonstrating how this versatile crop feeds and fuels the world’s population. Opening at the Indianapolis museum in August 2009, the exhibit will continue through January 2010 before traveling to other venues nationwide.

Visitors will be able to view archeological artifacts, discover how popcorn pops and calculate how much corn it takes to power an Indy racecar. A modern lab built into the exhibit will allow visitors to experience genetic engineering first-hand.

Barry Dressel, museum president & CEO, made the announcement last week in conjunction with the annual National FFA Convention in Indianapolis.

The exhibit is presented by Dow AgroSciences through the Dow Chemical Company Foundation and Ford Motor Company, with contributing national support from Case IH and National Starch Food Innovation.

U.S. Army Takes a Look at Hydrogen

Chevron Technology VenturesThe Tank and Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center, a department of the U.S. Army, is working with executives from Chevron Technology Ventures and the Hyundai-Kia America Technical Center to see how the military could use hydrogen fuel technology and how the technology operates in a real-world setting. The joint-project will take place at the Selfridge Air National Guard (SANG) Base in Michigan, which is home to a state-of-the-art hydrogen energy station evaluation and demonstration program.

Through Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADA), the U.S. Army, CTV and Hyundai-Kia America Technical Center collaborated to implement this cold weather test site for the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Controlled Hydrogen Fleet and Infrastructure Demonstration and Validation Program.

Hyundai-Kia America Technical CenterLocated on the SANG Base, the hydrogen station will power a fleet of five Hyundai Tucson fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) that will be used by the Army and National Guard for mission-related purposes.

“Collaborating with the military on this project will enhance our research into hydrogen as a transportation fuel. Their significant experience in advanced technology makes them a superb partner,” said Dana Flanders, president of Chevron Technology Ventures.

The U.S. Army The Tank and Automotive Research, Development and Engineering CenterThe hydrogen station uses Chevron’s proprietary advanced steam methane reforming technology to produce about 40 kilograms of hydrogen per day, enough to supply up to 10 fuel cell vehicles.

This is the fifth hydrogen demonstration station commissioned by Chevron Technology Ventures. Other stations are located in California and Florida, and fuel buses and automobiles used in real-world applications. Each Chevron Hydrogen energy station features a different production technology so that project participants can assess and determine the benefits of various production systems.

New VeraSun Plant

VeraSunVeraSun Energy Corporation has announced the startup of its fifth production facility located near Albion, Neb.

According to a company release, the Albion facility is expected to produce approximately 110 million-gallons-per-year and is one of three biorefineries VeraSun purchased from ASAlliances Biofuels, LLC in August.

Along with sister facilities in Aurora, S.D., Fort Dodge and Charles City, Iowa, and Linden, Ind., the Albion facility is the third VeraSun plant to come on-line in 2007, bringing the company’s total operating capacity to approximately 560MMGY. Charles City began operations in April of this year followed by the Linden facility in late July. VeraSun also has three additional production facilities under construction in Hartley, Iowa; Welcome, Minn., and Bloomingburg, Ohio, and one under development in Reynolds, Ind.

Biofuels for the Mid-level Consumer

Pacific Natural Energy's BioBoxThe biofuels boom is leaving out a big piece of the consumer pie: mid-level consumers. Well, that’s what Pacific Natural Energy believes. PNE also believes it has the perfect “pie filling.” The energy company has introduced it’s BioBox Mobile Processor as the perfect, viable biodiesel solution for the middle men.

Everyone’s heard of the avid garage-based hobbyist brewing a biodiesel concoction to fuel his car. And it’s old news that oil conglomerates are investing in big biodiesel factories. Yet both approaches forget the largest segment for rapid expansion of biodiesel production and usage, the mid-market producer/user. That’s why most national restaurant chains haven’t jumped aboard the renewable-energy bandwagon and embraced biodiesel technologies – until now.

Recognizing a need for a more manageable and realistic approach to biodiesel production, the Los Angeles-based Pacific Natural Energy (PNE) has created the BioBox, a mobile processing plant that turns waste vegetable oil into high-quality biodiesel. Able to be located at or near the source of waste, the BioBox is the most efficient, functional mobile biodiesel processing unit made in America. Pacific Natural Energy is the only company offering a total turn-key solution that comes installed in cargo containers for the storage of methanol, waste vegetable oil and refined biodiesel. With the BioBox, those affiliated with waste, recycling and the restaurant industry finally have a way to make biodiesel.
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PG&E Commits to Long-Term Wind Power

Pacific Gas and Electric CompanyPacific Gas and Electric Company is embracing wind power with mucho gusto. The electric company has committed to a long-term power purchase agreement with enXco, purchasing 150 megawatts of wind energy through enXco’s Shiloh II project. This latest agreement bumps up PG&E’s contracted and delivered wind energy to 1,061 MW and will deliver about 510 GWh of wind energy to customers in northern and central California each year.

“Wind energy is one of many renewable sources PG&E is seeking as we increase the amount of clean energy provided to our customers,” said Fong Wan, vice president of Energy Procurement for PG&E. “Our 150 MW agreement with enXco is an important step towards PG&E exceeding 20 percent renewable electric power under contract or delivered by 2010.”

Located in Solano County, California, Shiloh II will be developed, constructed and operated by enXco, an affiliate of EdF Energies Nouvelles. Shiloh II will begin delivering renewable energy in December 2008.

Currently, 12 percent of the energy PG&E supplies qualifies as energy from renewable resources under California’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) program. The electric company says it’s on track to exceed 20 percent of renewable electric power resources under contract or delivered by 2010.

America Wants Renewable Fuels Now

A new coalition that supports increased use of domestically produced renewable fuels says nearly three out of four Americans want renewable fuels.

RFNAccording to a new national poll released today by the Renewable Fuels Now Coalition, 74 percent of Americans believe we should increase our use of domestically produced renewable fuels like ethanol.

In addition, 87 percent of Americans maintain the federal government should actively support the development of a renewable fuels industry in this country, and 77 percent think Congress should encourage oil refiners to blend more ethanol into their gasoline products.

Renewable Fuels Now is a coalition representing the ethanol, biodiesel, agriculture and other industries that support increased use of domestically produced renewable fuels as part of a balanced energy policy for America. The Coalition’s members include the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE), the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council (EPIC), National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), 20/20 Vision, Wisconsin BioIndustry Alliance, Ethanol Producers and Consumers (EPAC), Kansas Association of Ethanol, Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, IndyCar Series, Buckeye Renewable Fuels Association, Ohio Corn Growers Association, Clean Fuels Development Coalition, and Northwest Renewable Fuels Association.

Soybean Growers Tout Dual Use Beans

Growers of soybeans are pointing out that the process used to extract oil to make into biodiesel does not change the feed quality of soybean meal.

mosoy.jpgThe Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council is reminding livestock producers they don’t have to cut out soybean meal just because the demand for soybeans has increased:

Crushing soybeans for biodiesel does not change the meal consistency. When soybeans are processed for biofuels, they go through the same extraction process as they do when they’re crushed to extract oil for other purposes. Extracting the oil from a soybean leaves the soybean meal as a high protein feedstock. This soybean meal remains relatively consistent for livestock and poultry producers whose operations consume more than 98 percent of the domestic soybean meal used in the United States.

“As a soybean farmer, the boost in biodiesel production is really exciting,” says Todd Gibson from Norborne, Mo., who serves as chairman of the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council (MSMC). “The soybean checkoff has been working hard to make biodiesel a viable fuel source. We also realize the concerns of our animal production neighbors about what biofuels may do to the cost and quality of their feed supplies. For us, biodiesel represents a win-win situation. We have a greater demand for soybean oil, and we have a large amount of high-quality, consistent soybean meal to supply to the feed industry, our number one customer of soybean meal.”

Smiling Earth Lawsuit

terrase.jpgSmiling Earth Energy, the company that is proposing to build a 320-million-gallon biodiesel plant along the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia, is being sued by an Oregon biodiesel company for failing to provide the promised $310 million in financing for a West Coast biodiesel plant… and then refusing to return a $100,000 deposit to the Oregon company.

This story in the Virginian-Pilot says TerraFuels Inc. is claiming Smiling Earth reneged on an agreement to provide a loan for 85 percent of the capital costs needed to build a plant in Oregon and did not secure an agreement for the palm Oil TerraFuels was suppose to use as the biodiesel feedstock:

livingston.jpgTracy Livingston, TerraFuels’ president, said Thursday he has repeatedly tried to recover the $100,000 given to Smiling Earth, but the company wouldn’t give him the names of the suppliers that were allegedly paid.

“I’m out $100,000,” Livingston said. “That makes me very unhappy. I’d like to get my money back.”

Bernie Mock, Smiling Earth’s top executive, did not return a reporter’s phone call Thursday, but he sent an e-mail about the $100,000 early Friday.

“TerraFuels signed a contract and made a deposit for SE-Energy to build them a plant,” Mock wrote. “The deposit became nonrefundable past a certain date. That date has passed.”

The news comes as the only Smiling Earth official who has experience running a biodiesel plant for an undisclosed reason. The Chesapeake City Council recently voted to let the project go forward, despite some misgivings about Smiling Earth’s background. The latest revelation prompted the mayor to call the lawsuit serious but would not comment until he got more information.

Poll Cites Several Causes for Higher Food Prices

A new poll indicates that Americans are better informed about the various factors affecting food price increases than one might think.

RFAThe poll, commissioned by the Renewable Fuels Association, found that 46 percent of Americans believe rising oil prices is the number one cause of increasing food costs, followed by 15 percent citing increasing global demand. By contrast, just 7 percent of respondents believe increased ethanol production is the most important cause.

The poll, which was conducted by The Mellman Group, asked respondents to choose which factor had the greatest and the second greatest impact on food prices from a menu of choices. Among those choices were higher oil prices, increased global demand for food, poor weather conditions affecting crop production, food companies raising prices to increase profits, and increased ethanol production.

Only 16 percent of those polled cited ethanol production as either first or second in order of importance when it came to impacting the price of food. In contrast, an Internet poll released today and sponsored by food processing giant Hormel claims that “when prompted,” 60 percent of Americans blame ethanol for the increase in consumer food prices.

Renewable Fuels Association President Bob Dinneen said, “Considering that 81 percent of every food dollar spent pays for the processing, packaging, transporting and marketing of food items, it’s painfully clear these energy-intensive activities are the root cause of higher food prices.”

The Mellman poll, conducted October 23-25, surveyed 1000 adults with a margin of error of +/- 3.1%.

Yellowstone Bacteria Could Be Hot for Ethanol

A heat-loving bacteria discovered in Yellowstone Park has potential for the ethanol industry.

YellowstoneAccording to an article in the Jackson Hole News, Scientists found the bacteria, called Candidatus Chloracidobacterium termophilum, in Octopus and Mushroom springs and the Green Finger Pool, not far from Old Faithful. The bacterium grows best in temperatures between 120 and 150 degrees Fahrenheit and could help researchers drastically increase production of biofuels, according to Don Bryant, a professor of biotechnology, biochemistry and molecular biology at Penn State University.

Since his initial discovery, Bryant has gathered evidence that suggests Chloracidobacterium termophilum is aerobic, or breathes oxygen (another anomaly for a photosynthetic bacteria), and doesn’t take carbon from the atmosphere to increase its cell size and reproduce. Instead, Chloracidobacterium termophilum likely gets its carbon from the waste of other bacteria.

By removing waste products, Chloracidobacterium termophilum probably helps other bacteria grow much faster, a prospect that could lead to practical applications. Scientists are currently growing bacterial mats that they ferment to make ethanol. A bacteria that could double the production of biomass for ethanol production could be commercially valuable, Bryant said.

GM Still Pushing NASCAR to Go Green

NASCARA note in the Winston-Salem Journal’s “NASCAR Notebook” this week once again brings up the GM push to get ethanol in the race.

Brent Dewar, GM vice president in charge of racing, said “We are guests at this party. But we’re also a partner, and we think this would be the right signal to send to America. We have to reduce our (foreign) dependency.

“We know they have a fuel partner (Sunoco), and we’re respectful of that. We’re hoping that when the time comes for a discussion of the fuel we can talk about that. What we have to do now is show them some of the technical learnings we’ve had with ethanol in other series.”

PA County Farm Bureau Invests in Ethanol Plant

A second ethanol plant is in the planning stages for Pennsylvania.

According to the Times-Tribune, the Wayne/Pike County Farm Bureau has secured an option on 90 acres in Texas Township for a $161 million ethanol plant.

Still in its formative stages, the locally-based Indian Orchard Energy Corp. would be the facility’s shareholders, likely giving 20 to 30 percent of the shares to the nonprofit Wayne County Farmers’ Foundation, which will be the plant’s board management.

This would be the area’s second ethanol plant. Northeast Ethanol and Renewable Resources Ltd. has proposed a $150 million facility, to be located on a brownfield site on Lackawanna Avenue in Mayfield.

SD Democrat Calls Ethanol Critics “Misguided”

Herseth SandlinA South Dakota congressional representative supports increasing the Renewable Fuels Standard in the energy bill and fires back at critics of ethanol.

According to an article in the Daily Republic, U.S. Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin says opponents of the biofuel industry are using “misguided and inaccurate” claims in an attempt to derail the growth of renewable fuels.

While discussing her hopes for the pending energy bill, Herseth Sandlin, D-S.D., this week said “traditional opponents of biofuels have once again set their sights on the renewable fuels industry.”

“… They are using misguided and inaccurate arguments in an attempt to derail aggressive provisions for the future of home-grown renewable fuels like ethanol,” Herseth Sandlin said.

Herseth Sandlin supports raising the RFS to 36 billion gallons by 2022.