After today’s ethanol press conference the media were treated to rides out on the track in the Iowa Speedway Pace Car.
Our driver was Davey Hamilton.
For most of us it was our first time and even though we only went about 95 mph, the curves were tough to deal with. As hard as I was pressing up against the door I was very glad to have my seat belt on.
Monsanto was represented at this morning’s ethanol press conference at the Iowa Speedway by Troy Hobbs, Corn Biofuels Strategy Lead. He started his comments explaining that the company’s mission is to drive productivity in the agricultural sector. He spoke to how quickly they’ve been able to increase the per acre yield in corn with their research on seed and traits.
With their Processor Preferred program they’re working with ethanol plants to make sure they’re getting the corn that is best suited to their production. He also made a good point about how ethanol production is helping keep American dollars in America which is good for our economy.
Just a few minutes ago I got interviewed by one of the journalists here and he asked what I had heard from corn growers who are at the track. I told him they’re very proud to be growing the fuel that’s being used in the IndyCars out here and that they’ll recover from the flooding problems they’ve been having.
Representing the Iowa Corn Growers Association at this morning’s ethanol press conference was their CEO, Craig Floss. They’re one of the main sponsors of this weekend’s Iowa Corn Indy 250. Craig said he had a chance to fly over the state yesterday and he was not prepared to see how much water is still standing in fields. However, he also had to say that he saw a lot of corn growing in areas outside of the river bottoms. He thinks they’ve still got a good opportunity to produce a good crop this year.
One of the speakers at the ethanol industry press conference here at Iowa Speedway this morning was Mike Sobestski, Vice President/COO, LifeLine Foods. Besides talking about the company he also explained how they use various parts of a corn kernel to make food and fuel.
An interesting point he made was that the part they use to make ethanol is the undesirable part that’s not good for much else. He even brought along some jars of product to show reporters the different elements of corn they use. The company and their methods are a great example of how much is being done by ethanol producers today to make their operations more sustainable while helping meet our energy demands.
This morning at Iowa Speedway, representatives of the ethanol industry held an “inside look at ethanol” press conference. One of the speakers was Toni Nuernberg, Executive Director of the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council.
Toni started out talking about the mission of EPIC and talked about the types of promotional work they’ve been doing. She says that motor sports was the springboard that helped get the ethanol message out in the public. She says that working with the IRL has proven the performance capability of the fuel. I thought she made an interesting point in saying that the role of EPIC has evolved to one of defense of the industry due to the attack that has been launched against it.
We had a sunny day yesterday at Iowa Speedway until mid-afternoon when a thunderstorm popped up and absolutely drenched the track. It cut short practice plans although there’s going to be plenty of that today if the weather cooperates.
I found Team Ethanol driver, Ryan Hunter-Reay, seen walking to the first practice session yesterday, taking a break near the team garage. He seemed pretty pleased with the car’s performance and as of now is still 7th in practice speed.
An energy cooperative has successfully completed a test burn of 150 tons of biomass pellets to produce electricity at a power facility near Kansas City, Missouri… a first for biomass pellets in the U.S.
This story on redOrbit.com says the Show Me Energy Cooperative (SMEC) has produced the power at the Aquila power company’s generating facility at Sibley, Missouri from pellets made of non-grain bearing crops of cellulose, including switchgrass, cornstalks, cereal straws, fescue straw and other agricultural residues or energy crops that have no food value:
Steve Flick, Chairman of the Board, states, “This is our first pilot project of utilizing biomass pellets in Missouri for coal firing. On behalf of our Farmer Members and its Board Of Directors, we are proud to be a part of this historical event. We look forward to working with the State of Missouri regulatory groups, Aquila and Kansas City Power & Light to provide economic opportunity to local farmers while reducing our dependence on fossil fuels.”
SMEC’s goal is to produce thousands of tons of renewable energy pellets to displace non-renewable fuel. If adopted on a global scale, this has the potential to displace millions of tons of greenhouse gases, which are responsible for today’s climate change crisis. While others are relying on food crops to create energy, SMEC is demonstrating a sustainable, environmentally friendly way that doesn’t threaten the food supply or skew the market.
Not only does the process make power from renewable, non-food source natural feedstocks, it saves more than 250 tons of C02.
As you might remember from my post this past Tuesday (June 17th), biodiesel received preliminary approval from a subcommittee of ASTM International… an organization that sets standards for a variety of things, including fuels.
Now, biodiesel has cleared the next important hurdle as the full ASTM International D02 Main Committee voted to approve three long-awaited specifications for biodiesel blends. This National Biodiesel Board press release has more:
After more than five years of extensive research and subsequent balloting by the ASTM fuel experts in the blended fuel balloting process, ASTM has finally voted to approve three key sets of biodiesel specifications that should significantly bolster automaker support and consumer demand for biodiesel:
* Changes to the existing B100 biodiesel blend stock specification (ASTM D6751)
* Finished specifications to include up to 5% biodiesel (B5) in the conventional petrodiesel specification (ASTM D975)
* A new specification for blends of between 6 percent biodiesel (B6) to 20 percent biodiesel (B20) for on and off road diesel.
Automakers and engine manufacturers have been requesting a finished blend specification for B20 biodiesel blends for several years, with some citing the need for that spec as the single greatest hurdle preventing their full-scale acceptance of B20 use in their diesel vehicles.
Steve Howell, Chairman of the ASTM Biodiesel Task Force, said, “The new ASTM specifications for B6-B20 blends will aid engine manufacturers in their engine design and testing processes to optimize the performance of vehicles running on biodiesel. The new specifications will also help ensure that only the highest quality biodiesel blends are made available to consumers at the retail pump.”
The standards are expected to garner wider acceptance of the green fuel, especially among automakers and fleet managers.
The Family Express chain in Northern Indiana reports tripled sales of E85 since they began selling the product for $2.99 per gallon nearly a month ago. Customers are touting the alternative fuel blend as being less expensive than regular unleaded gasoline and that is why they claim to use it.
The National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition (NEVC) recommends to retailers to price the product at least 20 percent below unleaded to make up for the fuel economy loss that is evident. “It has less energy in it,” than petroleum, Executive Director of the NEVC Phil Lampert said. “But if it’s priced at 20 percent lower, most motorists will gain some value.”
Family Express President and CEO Gus Olympidis said he dropped the price of E85 to $2.99 a gallon at his northern Indiana stations not only because ethanol “is cheaper right now than gasoline,” but because U.S. grown corn goes into the blend. “We make it here,” Olympidis said.
Competing fuel retailers have also dropped the cost of their E85 to stay competitive and have noted that sales have also increased considerably.
The first practice session for the Iowa Corn Indy 250 is just about to conclude and Team Ethanol’s #17 car is doing very well.
Ryan Hunter-Reay clocked a practice lap at 181.676 mph and is currently 7th fastest. The track was heating up this afternoon as we have a sunny day, something people here in Iowa are very happy to see. There’s another practice session this afternoon and they’ll be back out tomorrow.
We’re hoping to see Ryan crossing that finish line first on Sunday!
I finally got to meet the Team Ethanol driver, Ryan Hunter-Reay. Ryan was on hand at the Kum & Go pump promotion and posed here with the Highway Patrolmen who helped us with security and traffic and other drivers. He’s the tall guy on the left.
Ryan says the Iowa race is very important, especially due to the connection to the corn growers here in the state. He says he’s learned so much from working with people in the ethanol industry, especially how it’s a real part of the solution to our energy crisis.
There were several IndyCar drivers on hand at the Kum & Go ethanol pump promotion in Ankeny, IA. One of them was Ed Carpenter, Vision Racing, seen here talking with one of the people who came out to fill up their tank.
Ed hopes that promotions like this help people learn more about ethanol. He says that he’s been racing on it for a while now and thinks it’s really positive that when the IRL switched fuel he didn’t notice any change in engine performance.
Ed says that the IndyCar Series and Iowa Speedway have created the Race to Recovery Program to help out flood victims here in Iowa. Basically, they’ll be donating $60,000 from the race proceeds to help the Red Cross and Salvation Army.
He says that the focus is on E85 and with the gas price challenges they wanted to help bring community awareness to the flex fuel vehicles that are on the road. He says it also recognizes the farmers who are helping grow the corn that’s being turned into fuel right now.
Pioneer Hi-Bred is sponsoring the Iowa Corn Indy 250 again this year and I spoke to Russ Sanders, Marketing Director, about how the company is involved. He’s pictured here (left) with Team Ethanol driver, Ryan Hunter-Reay and EPIC Director of Communications, Joanna Schroeder.
Russ says that the company sees a great opportunity in the biofuels arena and their participation in this race provides them with a great opportunity to get the message out about the positive benefits of a fuel like ethanol.
The Iowa Corn Promotion Board was one of the groups sponsoring a pump promotion at an Ankeny, IA Kum & Go as a way to help increase awareness of ethanol which was being sold for a reduced price. Julius Schaaf is the ICPB’s Chairman and a farmer himself. I spoke with him briefly prior to the activity to learn more about how and why they’re involved.
He also addresses the flooding situation and says not to count out Iowa farmers. We certainly won’t.