Raleigh Upgrades Buses to Biodiesel

raleghbuses.jpgRaleigh, North Carolina has improved its bus system with some new buses that are roomier, more accessible, and possibly most importantly, run on biodiesel.

This story from NBC-17′s web site says the 15 Capital Area Transit system buses join a growing biodiesel-powered fleet of vehicles in Raleigh:

The new CAT buses operate on biodiesel fuel (B20). City officials say, B20 is a domestically produced renewable fuel derived from vegetable oil that significantly reduces harmful elements of diesel exhaust, such as carbon monoxide. At least 75 percent of Raleigh’s diesel fleet – or 186 trash collection trucks, recycling trucks and street dump trucks — have operated on B20 since 2002.

“The new buses reflect CAT’s ongoing effort to enhancing customer service and being environmentally friendly,” said Stacey Carless, CAT’s marketing specialist.

The new buses cost $5.5 million, but a grant from the Federal Transit Administration took care of 80 percent of the cost with the last 20 percent split by the city and the state.

With gas prices set to go above $4 a gallon this summer, officials expect ridership to increase, so these new buses are just in time.

It’s More Than Rain That Greens Seattle

The area around Seattle, Washington is known for its beautiful green surroundings, prompted by plentiful rain and moderate temperatures. But while the city itself might covered in lots of gray concrete, it is green when it comes to caring for the environment.

nickels.jpgPart of that commitment is the city’s dedication to biofuels and alternative forms of energy. This post on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer “Strange Bedfellows” blog was prompted by Mayor Greg Nickel’s announcement that he wanted all taxis in the city to get 30 miles per gallon. That prompted the authors to ask if the city is practicing the green ways it preaches, particularly in the use of biofuels:

A city spokeswoman, Katherine Schubert-Knapp, responded, in part:

“In addition to the diesel, (compressed natural gas), electric and hybrid vehicles cited below, we have 2,180 that run on gas. Many are subcompacts and I would expect those have high mileage ratings. Some are trucks and I expect those have low mileage ratings. The point is we buy vehicles that meet our business needs, such as police cars, utility trucks, fire engines, etc. When we can buy green versions of these, we do.”

So far, she said the city has:

– 384 hybrids and 95 cars that run on compressed natural gas.
– 47 electric off-road vehicles (22 scooters, 22 Segways, 2 electric bicycles and 1 neighborhood electric vehicle).
– 699 diesel-powered vehicles and “most run on biodiesel.” (The exceptions are things like fire engines and vehicles at remote locations, such as the Skagit, which cannot obtain the fuel). We use B20 (a fuel blend of 80% diesel and 20% biodiesel). We’re testing a B40 blend.
– 58 vehicles in our general-use motor pool and 45 are hybrid or natural gas vehicles. The Motorpool also features five Segways, three bicycles and two electric bicycles.

“We’re also looking for ways to make our specialty fleet green by replacing those vehicles, e.g., heavy-duty trucks, with more fuel-efficient vehicles. The challenge is the industry hasn’t produced a lot of those yet. We are starting to see some heavy-duty hybrid trucks come on the market and we purchased four last year.

In the long run, Seattle officials want 100 percent of their fleet to be clean and green, defined as using clean fuels and fuel-efficient, low-emission vehicles that still meet the city’s needs.

So, is Seattle truly a green city? Depends on what your standards are, but I would have to say the city is trying… more than many others can say.

Achieving a Sustainable Energy Future

Dr. Steve ChuOne of today’s presenters at the 25x’25 Renewable Energy Summit was Dr. Steve Chu, Director, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. His topic was “Achieving a Sustainable Energy Future” in which he provided an examination of how 25x’25 can be reached through means that conserve and
protect natural resources.

I walked in to his presentation first thing upon arriving this afternoon and it was fascinating. The research that’s being done not only in his lab but around the country should give everyone hope that we’ll find solutions for our energy concerns much quicker than we might think.

I spoke to him after his presentation and asked him about what his message was to this diverse group of leaders looking at how we can create a bright energy future. He says that existing technologies won’t get us to where we want to go which is replacing a huge percentage of our transportation fuel. However, he says that we have sufficient land and resources to not only take care of this need but also provide for our food needs as well. He says we’re just going to have to do it differently.

For example, it will take making better plants and using marginal land and making more efficient processes to convert them into energy and doing so in an economical way. This is the type of research his lab is working on.

He also talked about how many young people are moving into this type of research with enthusiasm but they’ll need support at the research facilities in order to conduct the research, something that has been lacking from the government for example in recent years. That sounds like something that 25x’25 can work on in Washington, DC.

You can listen to my interview with Dr. Chu here:

25x’25 Vision of America’s Energy Future

25x'25The 4th Annual 25x’25 Renewable Energy Summit is taking place in Omaha, NE. The theme is “Bringing the Vision to Life – Win-Win Solutions for America’s Energy Future.”

I got it late this afternoon but will be here tomorrow. Yesterday Summit attendees got to take a tour of the University of Nebraska – Lincoln’s Agricultural Research and Development Center. They’re doing extensive research on carbon sequestration of dry land and irrigated crops as well as research on the utilization of dried distiller’s grains.

Today there have been a number of presentations looking at the future of the organization and the future of energy. I wish I could have made it in time for Dr. Lowell Catlett’s presentation.

25x’25 is made up of a number of state alliances which are getting together to talk about areas of cooperation and collaboration here this afternoon and evening.

Helio in Iowa

Helio in IowaTwo-time Indy 500 winner and “Dancing with the Stars” champion Helio Castroneves was in Iowa Wednesday to promote the Iowa Corn Indy 250 on June 22. Castroneves drives for Team Penske in the IndyCar Series.

This will be the second year for the ethanol-fueled race at the Iowa Speedway in Newton. The premier Iowa Corn Indy 250 last year was the second-most watched IndyCar Series race after the Indianapolis 500.

This is also the second year that the IndyCar Series will run on 100 percent fuel grade ethanol.

Ethanol is Helping Cut US Petroleum Demand

The latest report from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) concludes that ethanol will reduce U.S. petroleum demand by 130,000 barrels per day this year.

Energy Information AdministrationAccording to the EIA’s Short-Term Energy Outlook, “The slowing economy combined with high petroleum prices is expected to constrain growth in U.S. consumption of liquid fuels and other petroleum products to just 40,000 barrels per day (bbl/d) in 2008. After accounting for increased ethanol use, U.S. petroleum consumption falls by 90,000 bbl/d.”

The projected higher costs for crude oil in 2008 are likely to be passed on to all petroleum products. Retail prices for motor gasoline are expected to average $3.21 per gallon or 40 cents above the 2007 price. The monthly average gasoline price is projected to peak near $3.50 per gallon this spring. It is important to note, however, that even if the national average monthly gasoline price peaks near that level, there is a significant possibility that prices during some shorter time period, or in some region or sub-region, will cross the $4 per gallon threshold.

“America’s ethanol industry is living up to its end of the bargain by helping reduce petroleum use and moderate prices for Americans at the pump,” said Renewable Fuels Association President Bob Dinneen. “The nearly 8 billion gallons of ethanol being produced on an annual basis today is a vital component of our nation’s gasoline supply, adding volume and helping to mitigate the price increases that will occur as oil continues its meteoric rise.”

Snowmobiles Running on Green Fuels

cleansnowmobile.jpgThis year has been an exceptionally snowy one for much of the U.S., and some students in Michigan are making use of all the snow… while learning about the benefits of biofuels.

The SAE Clean Snowmobile Challenge is going on now through Saturday at Michigan Technological University’s Keweenaw Research Center at Houghton County Memorial Airport. The Daily Mining Gazette reports that 17 teams of university students have brought their machines to compete in quietest and cleanest competitions:

A new challenge is in the mix this year. More accurately, it’s in the fuel mix.

“This year we have made each team use bio-fuel and that can be either E85 or B10, which is a biodiesel fuel,” event coordinator Jay Meldrum said.

He said the bio-fuel requirement is a precursor to next year, when snowmobiles will have to run on flex-fuel — different fuel types that will change from day to day.

Last year, the University of McGill took 1st place in the Zero Emissions Class and the University of Idaho won top honors in the Internal Combustion Class.

The first competition was held in 2000 at Yellowstone National Park after a controversy over snowmobiles in the park prompted organizers to look for cleaner, quieter snowmobiles.

SD Gov Signs Biodiesel Tax Incentive

South Dakota consumers choosing to fill up with biodiesel will great a break on their gas bill.

This story in the Rapid City (SD) Journal says Gov. Mike Rounds has signed into law a measure that will give a 2-cent per gallon tax break for every gallon of diesel sold with 5 percent biodiesel:

rounds1.jpg“As diesel costs continue to skyrocket, this tax break will help ease the pain at the pump for consumers while helping to develop our state’s biodiesel industry,” Rounds said in a news release. “Biodiesel is an ideal alternative to petroleum-based fuel. It will not reduce mileage, and because of its increased lubricity, it is better for the engine.”

This incentive is a little different than other states’ programs that don’t kick in until there’s a minimum of alternative fuel available. This one will end when 35 million gallons of taxed biodiesel and biodiesel blended fuel are sold after the effective date.

Missouri Biodiesel Standard Moves Forward

senstouffer1.GIFThe Missouri State Senate has passed a biodiesel standard that would require all diesel sold in the state to contain at least 5 percent biodiesel.

This story in the St. Louis Post Dispatch says if it passes the Missouri House and gains the governor’s signature (which he has indicated he will sign it), it will be the highest biodiesel requirement in the country:

“It gets biodiesel into the fuel distribution system,” said Sen. Bill Stouffer, the bill’s sponsor. “I’m not a mandate guy, but when the competition owns the system, the only way to get it into the system is to force it.”

mosoy.jpgThe move has gained the praise of the Missouri Soybean Association:

dale-ludwig.jpg“A B5 Standard is the next step in advancing Missouri’s growing biofuels industry and we are grateful for the leadership that Senator Stouffer has provided on this important issue,” said Dale R. Ludwig, Missouri Soybean Association (MSA) Executive Director/CEO. “It is refreshing to have people who realize the important role biodiesel can play in reducing our dependency on foreign oil. Missourians can take pride in knowing that homegrown, renewable fuels, such as biodiesel, keep more dollars in the state when we spend less on petroleum-based fuels.”

If it passes, Missouri would become the sixth state to put in a biodiesel standard. Minnesota was the first, enacting a two percent standard. Louisiana, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington also have passed biodiesel standards, but those states’ requirements have nit yet kicked in.

Missouri Corn Growers Honor Governor

In honor of his commitment to renewable fuels, the Missouri Corn Growers Association has presented Missouri Governor Matt Blunt with this year’s President’s Award. This is the second year in a row that Governor Blunt received that award from the MCGA and the first time anyone has been a two-time recipient of the organization’s highest honor.

MCGA and Matt Blunt“With our support for renewable fuels and the leadership of the Missouri Corn Growers, our state has become a leader in ethanol production,” Blunt said.

In July 2006, Gov. Blunt signed legislation requiring gasoline sold in Missouri to contain 10 percent ethanol by Jan 1, 2008. Over the last three years, Gov. Blunt’s administration has worked to pay back the incentive payments that were promised to the Missouri farm families who invested in ethanol cooperatives, but were not made before he took office. He also signed an executive order and supported legislation requiring that at least 70 percent of vehicles purchased by the Office of Administration’s state fleet are flex fuel vehicles. The state fleet currently has 36 hybrid electric and 1,717 E85 vehicles.

Meanwhile, Blunt commended the Missouri Senate for its work on legislation to require all diesel fuel sold in Missouri to contain at least 5 percent biodiesel known as B-5.

“Adopting a B5 standard is good for Missouri consumers, farmers and our environment,” Gov. Blunt said. “It will improve our air. It will reduce our dependence on foreign oil. And it will help turn the soybean fields of Missouri into even greater engines of prosperity.”

Karsner Promotes Domestic Fuel

Andy Karsner at National Ethanol ConferenceI finally had the chance today to sit down and listen to the entire speech Assistant Energy Secretary Andy Karsner made at the National Ethanol Conference last month. He is quite the orator and he definitely got the crowd all fired up. If you can find 40 minutes to listen to it all, it is well worth the time.

But, here was my favorite part. “It’s a truism to call these things ‘domestic fuel,’” Karsner said, leading into a push for ethanol blends between E10 and E85. “For a long time, we thought that domestic fuel and ethanol meant E85. I love E85, but it is not the exclusive pathway,” and he says its the government’s role to certify mid-level blends to get biofuels into the marketplace “in an uninterrupted and continuous way.”

I just thought it was cool that he called it Domestic Fuel. If we were a radio station we could use that as a promo!

Here’s the sound bite:

Production Begins at US Bio Marion

US BioenergyUS BioEnergy‘s Marion, South Dakota ethanol plant has officially started production.

According to the company, US Bio Marion began production in February. The company acquired the 110 million gallon per year plant while under construction in August 2007.

This is the fifth ethanol plant for US BioEnergy. The others are located in Albert City, Iowa, Ord and Platte Valley, Neb., and Woodbury, Mich. Three additional ethanol plants are currently under construction in Hankinson, N.D., Dyersville, Iowa, and Janesville, Minn.

Survey Contest Winner

Domestic Fuel SurveyI’d like to thank all the people who completed our annual visitor survey and were entered into a drawing to win an iPod Nano. Your feedback and participation is very helpful.

The winner of the contest is Alen Cegelske, Plant Manager, Bluegrass Biofuels in the great state of Kentucky. Here’s a little bit of information about them from their website:

Currently under construction, Bluegrass BioEnergy, LLC will be a 55 million gallon per year (mgy) ethanol processing plant. Noble Americas will be the marketer for 100% of our ethanol. They are the world’s largest ethanol contractor. Land O’ Lakes will be the marketer for 100% of the Dried Distiller Grain (DDG). Bluegrass BioEnergy, LLC plans to also sell DDG locally, but, thru Land O’ Lakes. Bluegrass BioEnergy, LLC will be using approximately 20 million bushels of corn per year. Our plan is to buy a big percentage of the 20 million bushel of corn from local farmers, several of whom are investors in the project.

Now Arlen will be able to subscribe to the EPIC “Fill Up Feel Good” podcast and a new one we will be starting here on Domestic Fuel shortly.

Sunshine State Renewable Energy Expo

FREPAThe Sunshine State Renewable Energy Expo & Symposium is being held this week in Tallahassee.

Organized by the Florida Renewable Energy Producers Association, the event “will highlight Florida’s current and prospective renewable energy projects, provide recommendations that will spur the renewable energy industry in Florida, have an overview of financial and policy opportunities for the renewable energy industry in Florida and present networking opportunities with like-minded individuals and organizations.”

Earthrace Ready to Go Again

earthrace.JPGThe boat, Earthrace, is set to make another attempt at circumnavigating the globe fueled by biodiesel.

You might remember that Earthrace’s attempt fell short last year after it ran into problems, including hitting a Guatamalan fishing boat, killing one man. But this story in Motor Boat & Yachting says there’s another try to start on March 29th:

The international crew, led by New Zealander Pete Bethune, leave Sagunto, near Valencia, hoping to beat the 75-day mark set by British boat Cable and Wireless Adventurer in 1998.

They need to be back in Sagunto by 10 June.

The over-riding aim of the project is to raise awareness of the potential of biofuels and encourage people to lead more sustainable lives. The boat is run on biodiesel donated by SGC Energia in Portugal; the fuel is derived from waste cooking oil, as well as soya and canola oils.

To back up the sustainable message, the boat has been made using “environmentally friendly components”, such as hemp, and the project claims to maintain a carbon neutral status through the purchase of carbon offsets from www.downwithcarbon.org which uses the income to fund a sustainable biofuel project in Egypt.

The offsets account for any CO2 produced through transportation of the biofuel to the different fuel stops, the biofuel itself, and all travel undertaken by the ground crew, it is claimed.

You can follow the boat’s round-the-world progress at www.earthrace.net.