AT&T Green Fleet

More than 100 new alternative-fuel vehicles will be on the road for AT&T. The nationwide communications company is launching a new fleet of Compressed Natural Gas vans, 65 electric hybrid cars and 15 electric hybrid conversion work trucks in 30 cities across the U.S. Start looking for them in June.

The vehicles will be embedded into AT&T’s workforce as operational components of its fleet. AT&T will measure and track fuel efficiency, greenhouse gas emissions, operating costs, performance and driver satisfaction of each vehicle.

The vehicles, which will be deployed in cities in California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio and Texas, join four Ford Escape hybrids that were deployed in California in late 2007. A Green Technology insignia will make the vehicles easy to identify on the road.

AT&T estimates that its use of these alternative-fueled and more fuel-efficient vehicles will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 124 metric tons and conserve nearly 34,395 gallons of fuel annually.

UT Galveston Applauds Ocean Wave Energy Technology

Renewable energy doesn’t stop with earth, sun and wind. Now water is becoming a viable source for alternative power. Texas A&M has put Renewable Energy Oceanwave Technology from Indpendent Natural Resources to the test for three months in the Gulf of Mexico. The university says the SEADOG Pump is a preliminary success.

Researchers praised the pump’s design features for good mechanical efficiency that absorbs most of the potential energy and a significant amount of the kinetic energy content in the wave. This report further validates findings from a 21-day sea trial conducted in January of 2007 which compares the amount of energy SEADOG Pump can extract per square mile of deployment compared to other ocean, wind and solar renewable technologies. Because the pumps can be deployed in close proximity to each other, INRI(TM) estimates that they will produce five to 20 times more power per square mile than other technologies.

Generally speaking, wave energy is captured by engineered devices or components attached to stationary or floating structures that are set in motion by waves or swells on the surface of the ocean. Most wave energy technologies grow in cost because the specified equipment is sensitive to corrosive seawater and has intermittency issues similar to wind and solar energy. SEADOG Pump on the other hand, separates itself from other technologies on the market by using a simple pump design with few moving parts and no electronics. Multiple pumps are deployed in fields depending on how much power or water is desired. In addition, the SEADOG Pump moves large volumes of water to shore where it can be stored until needed for energy production or desalination. This ability to store energy removes the intermittency issues associated with other renewable energy technologies. Continue reading

Texas May Get Next Cellulosic Ethanol Plant

VereniumA cellulosic ethanol demonstration plant in Louisiana is just the first planned for Verenium.

The Houston Chronicle reports that the 1.4 million gallon per year demonstration plant which opened today “could help usher in a new era for ethanol.” The plant is making ethanol from sugar bagasse and is also partnering with local farmers to grow “energy cane.”

“The issue isn’t, ‘is there going to be ethanol,'” said Verenium Chief Executive Carlos Riva. “But how can we do it right?”

Verenium plans to begin building a 30 million gallon per year cellulosic plant next year in Houston or Beaumont, Texas and is also considering other sites in Louisiana and Florida.

Verenium’s Matthew Musial describes the process of creating ethanol from the bagasse in this video from the Houston Chronicle:

DTE Challenges Michagan Students to Bring Clean Tech from Lab to Consumer

DTE Energy and the University of Michigan are sponsoring an annual entrepreneurship competition. The DTE Clean Energy Prize is meant to encourage teams form Michigan colleges and universities to develop the best way for offering new clean-energy technologies commercially.

“Our goal is to drive promising clean energy ideas and technologies from the research lab to commercialization,” Earley said. “To do that, we are making a 5-year, $450,000 commitment to fund the DTE Clean Energy Prize, a new competition open to the best and brightest students and faculty at Michigan’s colleges and universities.”

The prize pool for the 2009 competition will be $100,000, which will be divided among the winning teams. For subsequent years, it is expected that the prize pool will be $200,000.

The prize competition will be hosted by the University of Michigan, but will be open to students and faculty from all Michigan colleges and universities. For the first year, each team must have at least one University of Michigan student or faculty member.

Competing teams will be required to develop business ideas that support renewable energy, energy efficiency and demand response, greenhouse gas and environmental control technologies and energy storage. The first competition will be held this fall. Prizes will be awarded next spring.

Good Fuels Offers Good News About Ethanol

GoodFuelsA new website has been launched to focus on the positive impacts of biofuels on the economy, the environment and America in general.

GoodFuels.org is “for” clean energy, domestic energy production, fair reporting and balanced research. What they are against is unbalanced reporting, misleading research, relying on imported fuel and vilifying the American farmer.

GoodFuels.org seeks to provide a thoughtful and comprehensive discussion of all the issues surrounding biofuels and their important role in our energy future, as well as be a resource for information, news and research pertaining to developments in biofuels.

The website was launched by the Renewable Fuels Association as a way to publicize good news about biofuels and try and combat some of the negative and misleading information circulating in the general media and on-line.

Cramer Mad About Wind Stocks

Jim Cramer, that wild man who vociferously picks or pans stocks on CNBC’s “Mad Money with Jim Cramer,” says wind energy is a winner in his book of stocks.

This posting on TheStreet.com says the Mad Man calls wind power “the cheapest form of renewable energy out there”:

To help illustrate the many great companies involved in the wind power business, Cramer built a windmill from scratch, piece by piece, to show which companies make each component.

First, Cramer featured the wind tower business that makes the support structures for windmills. Here, he reiterated past recommendations of both Trinity Industries and Otter as the best stocks to own.

Next, Cramer featured the windmill blades, and said that Owens Corning has the best composite materials business for this high-stress application.

Cramer then focused on the nacelle, the structure that houses a windmill’s turbine. Here, he identified Woodward Governor, Thomas & Betts and Kaydon as the companies to own for turbines, bearings and the other components found in the nacelle.

Finally, Cramer said both MasTec and Thomas & Betts are the best companies for the wind power infrastructure needed to bring power from the mill to the grid.

Cramer put all of these stocks into the “Mad Money Wind-ex,” his index of wind power stocks. He also expects the upcoming American Wind Energy Association’s annual conference in Houston next week to have a lot of buzz about these same companies.

Canadian House Passes Biofuels Standard

Members of the Canadian House of Commons have passed a nationwide biofuels standard that is expected to create demand for an estimated 500 million gallons of ethanol and 150 million gallons of biodiesel. The standard is noteworthy considering that Canada has oil reserves only second to Saudi Arabia and is the largest supplier of U.S. foreign energy sources (including oil, natural gas, uranium and electricity).

This story from Reuters has more details about the measure:

The bill, which also calls for diesel to contain 2 percent renewable fuels by 2012, won the support of the main opposition Liberal Party but was opposed by two smaller parties that had voiced concern about food-crop production being diverted to fuel.

However, the governing Conservatives and the Liberals have both backed the idea, arguing that only a small portion of food crops such as corn will be used to make the biofuel.

The bill must now be approved by the Senate, where passage is likely since it is dominated by the Liberal Party.

The article goes on to point on that the U.S. has mandated 9 billion gallons of biofuels be sold this year, increasing to 36 billion gallons by 2022.

“Thumbs” Up for Michigan Biodiesel Plant

A $65 million combination biodiesel-soybean crushing plant is being planned for the area of Michigan known as “the Thumb.”

Despite rising costs for soybean oil, Bill Moran thinks his Huron Biofuels plant proposed for near Elkton, MI can make a go of crushing soybeans and selling the feed to local dairy farmers while having the option of turning the oil into food or biodiesel. This story from the Bay City (MI) Times says it would be a one-of-a-kind facility for that area:

Right now, dairy and poultry producers in the Thumb get their high-protein animal feed, a byproduct of crushing soybeans, from a major processing facility in Zeeland, on the west side of the state.

A smaller soybean processor, Thumb Oilseed Producers Coooperative, is located in Ubly, but sells most of its soybean oil and meal for use in the food industry.

If the first phase of Moran’s biodiesel plant gets up and running, it could supply meal to the many large livestock farms in the Thumb, and sell the oil for use in food, depending on the market for biodiesel, [Keith Reinholt, field operations director for the Michigan Soybean Promotion Committee] said.

The article goes on to say that Moran hopes to break ground in the spring of 2009 with eventual biodiesel production of 20 million gallons a year, starting in either 2010 or 2011. The project is expected to add $100 million to the local economy and 60 new, full-time jobs. Currently, another company sells biodiesel locally but gets the green fuel from out-of-state sources.

Ethanol Across America Participates in Memorial Day Parade

CFDC GM AvalancheAccording to a press release issued by the Clean Fuels Development Coalition (CFDC), their flexible fuel GM Avalanche was featured as part of their Ethanol Across America campaign in a Memorial Day Parade held in Washington D.C. The procession was part of Volunteers of Underage Military Service (VUMS) which salutes veterans who are also known as America’s Youngest Warriors. The parade had more than 100,000 in attendance and also focused on the dangers of imported petroleum.

“The mission was not only to recognize VUMS’ service to America but to also highlight the importance of alternative fuel vehicles and non petroleum fuels,” said Col. Holmberg (USMC, ret.), a longtime consultant to the CFDC and a Director of the American Council on Renewable Energy. “We must break the stranglehold of OPEC oil that is threatening America’s national, energy, and economic security. The “Youngest Warriors” wanted to take advantage of this opportunity to convey the message of what must be done to deal with the greatest threat to America’s freedom since World War II.”

Another E85 compatible vehicle in the parade included a 1957 Cadillac El Dorado which reportedly was the first car to travel from coast to coast on the domestically grown fuel in 2005.

Ethanol Across America is a non-profit, non-partisan education campaign of the Clean Fuels Foundation and is sponsored by industry, government, and private interests. For more information, log on to www.ethanolacrossamerica.net.

Photo source: CFDC. Featured in photo: Linn Bumpers, Kimberly Durante, and Veronica Sherrard — the “Fueling Greener in DC Girls” — help spread the word.

Fungus Improves Corn Ethanol Process

A fungus that can be grown in ethanol production leftovers could help save energy, recycle more water and improve livestock feed ethanol co-products.

That is according to research done by a team from Iowa State University and published this week by Science Daily.

“The process could change ethanol production in dry-grind plants so much that energy costs can be reduced by as much as one-third,” said Hans van Leeuwen, an Iowa State professor of civil, construction and environmental engineering and the leader of the research project.

Hans van LeeuwenVan Leeuwen and his team recently won the 2008 Grand Prize for University Research from the American Academy of Environmental Engineers for their work on the project.

What they found was that a certain fungus added to the liquid leftover after ethanol processing, known as thin stillage, would feed and grow. The fungus removes about 80 percent of the organic material and all of the solids in the thin stillage, allowing the water and enzymes in the thin stillage to be recycled back into production.

The fungus can be harvested as a livestock feed supplement or it can be blended with distillers dried grains to boost its value as a livestock feed and make it more suitable for feeding hogs and chickens.

The researchers estimate that just eliminating the need to evaporate thin stillage would save ethanol plants up to $800 million a year in energy costs, while allowing more water recycling would reduce the industry’s water consumption by as much as 10 billion gallons per year.

Ag Leaders Challenge Ethanol Myths

Leaders of five major agricultural organizations and the head of the Renewable Fuels Association joined together Wednesday to try and dispel many of the accusations that have been levied against biofuels in recent months and emphasize the positive contributions of ethanol in particular.

AFBF“Instead of using ethanol as a scapegoat for increased food prices, we should be having a discussion about the business, economic and policy issues that are connected with the world of $130 plus per barrel oil,” said American Farm Bureau Federation president Bob Stallman. He said the country’s Renewable Fuels Standard passed by Congress in December was the “right thing to do and continues to be the right thing to do.”

NFUStallman was joined by Tom Buis of the National Farmers Union, in a rare show of unity for the two general farm organizations that are frequently at odds over policy issues. Buis listed his top six myths about higher prices being blamed on ethanol, including Mexican tortillas, pasta, rice, bagels, beer and movie theater tickets. “I’m tired of debating these myths,” said Buis. “The last thing we need to do on renewable energy is backslide again because 30 years from now we will be back talking again about our dependence on imported energy.”

Other farmer leaders from the National Corn Growers Association, National Association of Wheat Growers, and the National Sorghum Producers participated in the conference call with members of the news media, fielding questions from reporters at media outlets ranging from Reuters to the Capitol Press in Idaho.

Ribbon Cutting Planned for Ethanol Plant

VeraSun Energy will hold a ribbon cutting ceremony and open house Thursday for its 110 million-gallon-per year biorefinery in Albion, Nebraska.

VeraSunThe plant began operation in October 2007 and VeraSun announced it would acquire the facility from ASAlliances in July 2007. The plant is one of 11 VeraSun ethanol production facilities currently in operation.

According to VeraSun officials, the ribbon cutting, which will be held at the Boone County Fairgrounds, “will focus on the power of partnership™, recognizing those who contributed to the success of project and are leaving a legacy of creating energy diversity and economic benefits for the communities of Boone County.”

Among those who will be on hand for the event are Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman, VeraSun CEO Don Endres, Brian Jennings with the American Coalition for Ethanol, Todd Sneller of the Nebraska Ethanol Board and Randy Uhrmacher with the Nebraska Corn Growers Association.

Ethanol Focus of Corn Utilization Technology

The theme for the 6th Corn Utilization and Technology Conference (CUTC) is “Corn – New Horizons,” and ethanol is definitely a big part of that landscape.

CUTCOrganizers say the theme reflects the continued growing importance of corn as a keystone to a carbohydrate-based economy. The conference has been expanded to include new topics in wet milling, dry grind technologies, value-added products from corn and new uses for distillers dry grains (DDGs) that will be of value to ethanol producers and livestock interests.

Steve Lewis POETAmong the speakers will be POET Chief Science Officer, Steve Lewis, who will discuss POET’s patent-pending biorefining technologies.

Lewis’s presentation on “Cutting Edge Research in Dry Mill Ethanol Production” will focus on POET’s two innovative technologies, BPX™ and BFRAC™.

BPX is a patent-pending raw starch hydrolysis process converts starch to sugar, which then ferments to ethanol without heat. It reduces energy and water usage by up to 15 percent in comparison to conventional processes.

BFRAC separates the corn into three fractions including fiber, germ and endosperm. The endosperm is then fermented to create ethanol while the remaining fractions are converted into value-added co-products, including POET’s Dakota Gold HP™ (a high protein distillers grain feed product), Dakota Bran™ cake, corn germ meal and corn oil.

The Corn Utilization and Technology Conference hosted by the National Corn Growers Association will be held June 2-4 at the Kansas City Marriott Downtown in Kansas City, Mo.

Demo Cellulosic Ethanol Plant to be Dedicated

A dedication ceremony is planned this week for a new demonstration-scale cellulosic ethanol facility in Louisiana.

Verenium PlantOfficials with Verenium Corporation say the Thursday dedication begins the commissioning phase for the new facility located in Jennings.

“This is a major step forward and a transformational moment for Verenium and the next-generation ethanol industry as we seek commercially-viable alternatives to traditional fuel sources,” said Carlos A. Riva, President and Chief Executive Officer of Verenium. “This is a first for the U.S. and as we take the next step toward commercialization, we are breaking new ground and setting new standards for our industry.”

The demonstration-scale plant in Jennings is rated to produce 1.4 million-gallons-per-year of next-generation ethanol by using specialty enzymes and the Company’s proprietary technology to convert non-food biomass.

Analyst: High Oil Prices Good for Biofuels

While the rising price of crude oil might be taking a chunk out of your wallet, one analyst says it’s good news for ethanol and biodiesel.

In this story on Grainnet.com, University of Illinois Extension marketing specialist Darrell Good made the comments while reviewing factors supporting the price of corn and soybeans:

“Higher ethanol prices and strengthening prices of distillers grains have offset the higher prices of corn and natural gas,” he said.

“A continuation of relatively high crude oil and gasoline prices would be supportive of continued strong demand even with a lower blender tax credit and reduced mandates.

“The current wholesale price of unleaded gasoline along with a 45 cents per gallon blender’s tax credit, for example, would support ethanol prices 20 cents above current plant level prices.

“Higher fuel prices might also give a boost to soybean oil demand for biodiesel production.”

Good says the use of soybeans in the production of biodiesel has dropped sharply since the peak of August 2007, but refiners are using other feedstocks, such as animal fats, to keep biodiesel production increasing sharply.