Corn Utilization For Fuel, Food and Other Things

Wine Glass Made From CornI know that this wine cup of mine isn’t going to fuel a vehicle but it’s an example of one of the other uses of corn here at the Corn Utilization and Technology Conference in Kansas City, MO.

Getting back to fuel though, this afternoon I interviewed Rick Tolman, CEO of the NCGA and Richard Glass, VP of Research and Business Development for NCGA.

When I spoke to Rick Tolman he said that he’s always rejuvenated by the ideas, enthusiasm and energy expressed here. He says the exciting story is the productivity in corn production. Like me he also doesn’t see a food vs. fuel issue but one of food and fuel because the corn production pie is growing. But even beyond fuel we’re hearing about other types of new products being made from corn, like the cup above. Another example, he says is that the NCGA offices are being carpeted with a product made from corn.

Here’s my interview with Rick Tolman:

When I spoke to Richard Glass he said that he’s really impressed with this conference. He says there are people here representing 11 countries counting the United States and that we have 35 speakers in 10 sessions. He says this is perfect timing to have the conference because of all the things going on with ethanol and the push to relieve our dependence on petrochemicals.

Here’s my interview with Richard Glass:


CUTC Photo Album

Iowa E85 Sales Rise as Gasoline Prices Rise

American Lung Association of IowaAccording to a press release from the American Lung Association of Iowa, E85 sales are up sharply this quarter, and are on track to shatter old records for the sale of the domestically grown fuel. Below is more detailed information.

More than 450,000 gallons of E85 were sold in Iowa in the month of April alone. This compares with just over 800,000 gallons sold in the second quarter of 2007. While sales data on May and June are not yet available, a spokesperson for the ALA-IA said the amount of E85 being purchased by owners of flex-fuel vehicles in Iowa are unprecedented.

“There is little doubt that the nationwide rise in gasoline prices is a major factor,” said Jessica Zopf, program manager for the American Lung Association of Iowa, which leads the Clean Air Choice program. “Prices of E85 vary widely, but in April 2008, average statewide prices for E85 were 81 cents less than for regular unleaded. While we welcome bargain-hunters who are trying E85 for the first time for its lower price, we hope they will continue to buy the fuel because it emits considerably less pollution than gasoline. We estimate that the E85 sold in this one month in Iowa helped prevent more than1800 tons of lifecycle CO2 from entering our air.”

Zopf also credits the increase in sales to several well-publicized promotions and events for E85 across the state. The next major event will be the Iowa Corn Indy 250 at the Iowa Speedway in Newton, where Indy 500 winner Scott Dixon will be among the field of top-name open wheel racers competing at the June 22 race.

E85 for 85 Cents a Gallon in Colorado

Governors Biofuels CoalitionColorado Corn Growers Association, the Governor’s Biofuels Coalition and Western Convenience will be offering E85 for 85 cents per gallon from noon until 2 p.m. on Thursday, June 12. The promotion will celebrate the addition of the domestically grown, alternative fuel to the facility at 123 West Cranston in Fowler, Colorado.

A press conference will begin at the station at 11 a.m. and will include the following speakers: Mark Sponsler of Colorado Corn Growers Association; Bob Van Meter of Western Convenience; and Mayor of Fowler, Ray A. Wards (invited).

Colorado Corn Growers Assn. “We are glad to partner with the Governor’s Biofuels Coalition (GBC) and Western Convenience who are working to expand E85 throughout the state. By opening this refueling center, we provide Colorado’s agricultural producers and rural citizens an opportunity to buy this environmentally friendly and domestic-sourced fuel. Together, we are making a difference for Colorado’s air quality and for consumers who support renewable fuel,” says Mark Sponsler, CEO of Colorado Corn.

There are about fifty E85 fueling locations throughout the state of Colorado to fuel about 85,000 flexible fuel vehicles. To find a complete listing of these E85 fueling locations, visit the Alternative Fueling Station Locator.

US Ag Secretary Defends Ethanol

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer is defending the production of ethanol in Rome this week at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization High-Level Conference on World Food Security.

During a press conference with international media at the opening of the conference, Schafer answered a number of questions related to biofuels and stressed the minimal impact of production on food prices.

Ed Schafer“We at the United States Department of Agriculture have plotted the long-term trends of price, yield, availability and consumption; and as we’ve looked at those long-term trends we are anticipating this year an over 40 percent increase in food price inflation globally, 43 percent approximately,” Schafer said. “Of that, we can identify 2 to 3 percent of that price increase that is driven by biofuels. The majority of course is energy, and the second largest piece, or about equal piece, is the increase in consumption around the world which is using up the production stocks.”

The secretary also pointed out that production of biofuels is helping to alleviate some of the pressure from higher energy costs. “By biofuels, we are reducing the use of the high cost of oil today. It’s been estimated that we have, through biofuel production, reduced a million barrels a day of oil and oil record high prices,” he said.

In his address to the conference, Schafer stressed the United States commitment to feeding the world, while at the same time working toward greater energy security through sustainable production of biofuels.

“The use of sustainable biofuels can increase energy security, foster economic development especially in rural areas, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions without weighing heavily on food prices,” Schafer said in his prepared remarks. “A recently passed law requires that we minimize possible food security and environmental concerns, in part through significant investment in next-generation biofuel technologies that do not rely on grains and oilseeds used for food or feed.”

FAOEven the FAO admits that biofuels are only one factor in rising food costs. According to the FAO Biofuels Factsheet for the conference, “Demand from biofuel production is one cause of increasing food prices, but poor harvests in certain key exporting countries, low stock levels, high energy costs and increasing food demand due to rapid economic growth in some countries have also all contributed. It is the coincidence of all of these factors which has led to the dramatic increase in food prices, and which makes it difficult to estimate the precise impact of any single factor.

Florida Plans Third Farm to Fuel Summit

Florida is hosting the third annual “Farm to Fuel” summit July 30 to August 1 in Orlando.

FL Farm to FuelLast year’s conference in St. Petersburg attracted more than 450 participants and Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Charles Bronson believes this year’s conference will be even bigger and better.

“There has been a good deal of momentum recently in our drive to get this industry off the ground,” Bronson said. “We’re eager to share that with participants and provide them with the information they need to enter this industry.”

Bronson believes that Florida can lead the nation in the production of renewable energy as a result of its mild climate, abundant sunshine, ample rainfall and long growing season.

A month ago, the Florida Legislature passed a comprehensive energy bill that sets Florida on a course to become a national clean energy leader. The bill requires all gasoline sold in Florida to contain 10 percent ethanol by the end of 2010, requires the state’s electric utilities to produce a certain percentage of their power from renewable energy sources, and sets pollution limits for utilities and requires those companies to buy carbon credits when they exceed those limits.

Ethanol Industy Urges Balance at UN Conference

As talks are beginning in Rome about the factors behind and solutions to world food price inflation, Renewable Fuels Association President Bob Dinneen called on world leaders attending the summit to consider the issue in its entirety.

RFA“Addressing issues of food security is a matter of great importance that cannot be taken lightly. As world leaders meet in Rome this week to discuss the price and availability of food worldwide, it is critical they examine all factors impacting food equally and without prejudice,” Dinneen said in a statement. “They must agree on solutions that do not derail the one industry that has significantly reduced oil consumption, while having little overall impact on the price of food – biofuels.”

RFA PodcastDinneen says he believes representatives from the United States at the conference, including Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer, will do a good job in addressing the misinformation about biofuels that has been causing global concerns.

“Secretary Schafer and other USDA staff are going to be aggressively promoting the biofuels agenda and correcting a lot of the misinformation that is in the world press,” said Dinneen. “And we are confident that he will continue to point to the fact that it is other factors driving food price inflation, not biofuels.”

Dinneen says other world leaders will also stand by biofuels at the conference. “I am certain that Brazilian President Lula and other forward looking leaders of the world will see that this demonization of biofuels is misguided.”

The United Nations High-Level Conference on World Food Security: the Challenges of Climate Change and Bioenergy is being held in Rome June 3-5. Besides Schafer, other members of the US delegation include U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator and Director of U.S. Foreign Assistance Henrietta H. Fore and Agriculture Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Dr. Mark E. Keenum.

Listen to the Ethanol Report with Dinneen’s comments here:

Biodiesel Boat Breaks Prop; Limps Toward Record

A 100% biodiesel boat trying to break the world record for circumnavigation of the globe has run into a bit of trouble in the East Indies. The Earthrace hit some debris near Palau and is limping toward Singapore for more permanent repairs:

Here’s an update from the captain of the 78-foot racing boat:

Day 34 – 1st June

Having made a swift 3 hours 15 minutes turnaround in Palau, Earthrace encountered some sea debris, which has damaged the port prop. The boat returned to port where the prop was removed and the drive shaft tested. The shaft has been put out of line and will require repair in Singapore. Earthrace left Palau at 0400 local time and will journey to Singapore on one engine. Her reduced speed of 16 kn will still maintain her lead on the current record, and help mitigate any further damage from possible sea debris, which is a known problem in this stretch of water. Ground Crew will arrive in Singapore on Monday 2nd June as planned, and will prepare for the repairs. The weather forecast is good and the revised ETA for Earthrace in Singapore is Friday 6th June. An update will be posted later today.

The Earthrace was 15 days ahead of schedule to break the old record, but this latest setback is putting some doubt as to whether it will get the job done… never mind that the boat and crew is approaching pirate-infested waters.

Follow the Earthrace’s progress at www.earthrace.net.

More Than Slime is Green at Nickelodeon

Nickelodeon, the kids’ network known for dumping copious amounts of green slime on participants of its silly contests, is taking its show on the road. And while it won’t be green slime fueling the “Slime Across America” tour, there will be green fuel in the tank.

This press release from the network says that biodiesel will be helping its 18-wheeler make the 10-city tour across the country:

Nickelodeon’s revamped 18-wheel Slime Mobile has adopted more environmentally friendly practices like using biodiesel fuel and solar panels to power the Slime Mobile Virtual Slime Station. At each stop, recycling will be offered and Nickelodeon and attendees will plant a tree.

Check out Nick.com for a stop near you!

Green Host Urges Passage of Green Jobs Bill

A host of the Discovery Channel’s new “Planet Green” channel, which dedicates itself to earth-friendly causes, has written a pretty good opinion piece, urging the passage of a measure before Congress that will help create jobs in the renewable energy sector.

In the piece on ItsGettingHotinHere.org titled, “Green-Collar Jobs or Rust-Belt Future,” model and environmental scientist (I know, I almost couldn’t believe the title when I wrote it!) Summer Rayne asks people to call their senators and tell them to vote for the Investing in Climate Action and Protection Act (iCAP). She answers the question: how will the bill help create jobs?:

Simple, it would create the jobs of the future, new local jobs, jobs that cannot be outsourced—in other words, Green Jobs. And these jobs span the gamut, yet with one important thing in common. From installing solar panels and constructing transit lines to retrofitting buildings for energy-efficiency, reclaiming mine sites, and refining vegetable waste oil into biodiesel, all these jobs benefit the economy and improve our environment.

As a child, I learned first-hand what struggling families go through, growing up in a single-parent household in Northeastern Pennsylvania. For the latter part of my childhood, I was raised by my mom, who armed with no more than a high school degree had to take two jobs and maintain a 14-16 hour workday. We lived paycheck to paycheck and without a refrigerator, phone, or television for quite some time—not by choice, but by necessity. Finally, before I even turned 15, to find a better job that could sustain us and my dream of a college education, she had to make a choice—leave Pennsylvania for greener pastures.

It shouldn’t have to be that way. Pennsylvania and other struggling areas should be a land of opportunity. Much of the U.S. workforce is ideally suited to green-collar work—many are middle-skill jobs that are well within reach for low income workers if they have access to effective training programs and support. Whether it’s learning the new skills needed to become a renewable energy technician or retraining workers for a clean energy economy, i.e., fixing an electric engine, our universities, technical schools, businesses and governments need to lead the way.

Rayne goes on to point out that if the bill passes, there could be $125 million annually for green jobs training, providing 30,000-35,000 jobs that won’t be outsourced to some foreign shore.

Rural Development Secretary Speaks at CUTC

USDA Under Secretary for Rural Development Thomas DorrI really enjoyed getting to talk with our USDA Under Secretary for Rural Development, Tom Dorr, this evening. He was our keynote speaker at the CUTC.

He told corn growers and all the attendees that they’re doing a great job. He also said that there are challenges ahead like the recent Grocery Manufacturers Association attack on ethanol. He says that’s making it difficult to get the facts out to the media.

He points out that we’ve been through substantive increases in demand before like back in the early ’70’s with the Russian grain robbery that led to fears about escalating food prices. He said that no good deed goes unpunished and that we’ve had the good side of the cycle and now we’re going to have to suffer through the other side. He says it’s difficult to fight a well financed opponent that’s less inclined to deal with facts as opposed to dealing with emotion.

Here’s my interview with Sec. Dorr:

Here’s Sec. Dorr’s Keynote Address:

You can find photos from the CUTC here:
CUTC Photo Album

Getting Set Up at the CUTC

EPIC Mobile UnitThe fun and games are about to begin here at the Corn Utilization and Technology Conference. The event is being held at the Marriott in downtown Kansas City and I just got in and connected in the media room. There will be sessions tomorrow dealing with ethanol production so I should have some good stories to post.

In less than an hour we’ll kick things off with a Keynote Speech by USDA Under Secretary for Rural Development Tom Dorr. He’ll be introduced by NCGA First Vice President Bob Dickey. Afterward we’ll all head across the street for the opening reception.

On my way to the registration area I saw the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council’s mobile unit parked outside. I’m sure it’s getting ready to go on display since we do have booths and a poster session in a ballroom where the opening reception will be held.

North Amerian Wind Turbine Giant Increases Power

Annual energy production from Brad Foote Gear Works is more than doubling with the purchase of additional advanced gear manufacturing systems. Brad Foote’s purchase from Germany-based Hofler Company amounts to more than $30 million. The company now owns 29 Hofler machines.

With the new equipment, Brad Foote’s annual production will grow from the current equivalent of 2,000 MW of installed wind turbine capacity to more than 5,000 MW.

Brad Foote is the largest producer of wind turbine gears in North America. The new grinding/gashing machines, which are used in manufacturing wind turbine gear systems, will be installed in its two manufacturing facilities in Cicero, Ill. According to Hofler, Brad Foote now has the largest worldwide concentration of Hofler wind turbine gear manufacturing equipment at any one site.

Brad Foote also has purchased the largest Hofler 4-meter internal/external hobber/gasher that Hofler has ever produced.

Brad Foote is a subsidiary of Broadwind Energy.

Ethanol Goes for the Big Leagues On and Off the Track

The 92nd Indianapolis 500 is one for the record books for Team Ethanol. Driver Ryan Hunter-Reay pilots the IndyCar sponsored by the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council (EPIC) and just a couple weeks ago he piloted the car to a 6th place finish, the best ever Indy 500 for the team. At one point in the race, Ryan was cruising in 5th with just four of the League’s biggest names in car racing in front of him. Ryan says that’s when he thought, ‘We’re in it now.’ It being the big leagues.

e-podcastThat’s exactly where the ethanol industry’s leading executives consider themselves to be when it comes to fueling the nation. Oil and fossil fuels are big time competitors for ethanol, but a growing criticism of the renewable simply demonstrates the alternative fuel’s mounting success.

The best part? Both Ryan and the ethanol executives think they can take a win.

The podcast is available to download by subscription (see our sidebar link) or you can listen to it by clicking here (5:00 MP3 File):

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.

Ethanol Push in Paradise

Producers and politicians in Hawaii are promoting increased production of ethanol in the Aloha State.

KITV in Honolulu reports that state lawmakers are trying to encourage the production of sugarcane for ethanol on land that is currently not in production. Hawaii is one of only a handful of states that currently requires ethanol to be blended in all gasoline sold, but they have to import that ethanol from the mainland.

Gay Rob Sugar“In Hawaii, so much of our (agriculture) land is lying fallow, and it is not growing anything but weeds, and many people are eying it for other developments — mainly housing projects, and why would we want to encourage that over energy independence or food independence?” House Majority Leader Rep. Kirk Caldwell, D-Hawaii, said.

One company working towards producing ethanol from sugarcane on the islands is Gay and Robinson, which announced a partnership with Pacific West Energy last year to develop Hawaii’s first ethanol plant. Company officials say they still need more financing for the project but they hope to announce a deal soon.

Energy Abundance

This weekend I visited the RIT/NASA AstroZone exhibit in St. Louis. The free exhibit was offered in conjunction with the 212th meeting of the American Astronomical Society and it offered all kinds of fascinating scientific demonstrations: from seeing yourself in infrared to star-gazing in a portable planetarium to being enveloped in Cosmic Collisions while watching a video a portable dome. I’m not going to lie, the free exhibit was geared towards children but, that’s why I had my little brother and sister in tow.

So what’s all this have to do with domestic fuel? One of the videos that I watched in one of the cool, miniature, omnimax-type domes said that one solar flare releases the same amount of energy as millions of 100-megaton hydrogen bombs. That’s just too big of a number for me to even grasp. But, it did get me thinking. The U.S. is awaiting an apparent “energy crisis” as oil becomes more scarce and gas prices go up. Yet, just one little burst from the sun emits enough energy to… well, again… I can’t even fathom how much energy millions of 100-megaton hydrogen bombs means. So it looks like there’s plenty of energy coming from the sun and it doesn’t look like that energy source will “dry up” anytime soon.

My point is, developing alternative ways to harness energy from an abundance of energy out there, yes abundance, is exactly what we should be doing. Whether it be from the sun, from wind, water, or corn and crops. It just makes more sense to start relying on what nature already offers us in plenty instead of continuing to chase after this “oil scarcity.”