Producing biodiesel is proving to be a valuable tool in teaching students chemistry and how to be friendly to the environment.
For example, one small school in Northern Michigan has an FFA group that is producing biodiesel from leftover restaurant grease and oil. This story in the Huron (MI) Daily Tribune says FFA members at North Huron High School, along with their adviser and science teacher Clark Brock, have been using a biodiesel maker bought by the FFA at a convention:
Brock said his students are learning quite a bit from the hands-on experience of producing the fuel.
“They’re learning a lot of chemistry,” he said. “They’re learning the process of how to take used vegetable oil and separate the triesters from the glycerin.” Students also are learning how to determine the quality of the vegetable oil that goes into making the biodiesel.
“They test the oil for fatty free acids,” Brock said. “If the oil is used for too long, or if there’s too much fat in it, the oil isn’t useable.”
There are plans to test the biodiesel in several vehicles this summer.
Now there’s a class project worth its weight.
A consumer watchdog group is questioning the credibility of a widely reported Stanford University study warning that ethanol use could be harmful.
The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights says the school’s ties to ExxonMobil make the study’s findings “difficult to accept.”
ExxonMobil has given $100 million to fund Stanford’s Global Climate and Energy Program (GCEP). Though the ethanol study was not directly funded by that program, the author had a three-year grant from GCEP to study the impact of replacing fossil-fuel motor vehicles and electric power plants with hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and power plants.
The public cannot accept the results at face value when ExxonMobil has funded a major energy research program at the university and research results are in line with the giant oil firm’s corporate goals, FTCR said.
ExxonMobil Chairman Rex Tillerson is dismissive of ethanol’s prospects, recently telling Fortune Magazine, “I don’t have a lot of technology to add to moonshine.”
The study based on computer models has received widespread publicity, despite the fact that the model is controversial because it assumes complete conversion to ethanol use rather than partial.
Purdue University researchers are opening the pores of corn to try and increase ethanol yield.
According to a Purdue news release, researchers have discovered that particles from cornstalks undergo previously unknown structural changes when processed to produce ethanol, an insight they said will help establish a viable method for large-scale production of ethanol from plant matter.
Their research demonstrates that pretreating corn plant tissue with hot water – an accepted practice that increases ethanol yields 3 to 4 times – works by exposing minute pores of the plant’s cell walls, thus increasing surface area for additional reactions that help break down the cell wall.
Using high-resolution imaging and chemical analyses, the researchers determined that pretreatment opens reactive areas within the cells of the corn stover that were previously overlooked. In the next step of processing, these enlarged pores are more easily attacked by enzymes that convert cellulose into glucose, which is in turn fermented into ethanol by yeast.
It’s time for another Indy race. This time in Kansas City. It’ll be the Kansas Lottery Indy 300 this Sunday. This morning though the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council put on another pump promotion at the Snappy Store downtown. Pictured here are Snappy Stores owner, Ken Suter (left), and Jeff Simmons, Team Ethanol driver. They’re posing next to the new Team Ethanol show car which is looking pretty slick.
I’m putting all my photos through the weekend into an online photo album for you. Please feel free to visit: 2007 Kansas Lottery Indy 300 Photo Album
It was a cool, brisk day but the cars lined up to get gas at $2.14/gallon containing 10% ethanol. The price was set by the top qualifying speed at last year’s race. I had a conversation with Ken about the promotion he was running here at the store and what he thought about the work that EPIC is doing. He says that ethanol has been a big boost to his business.
Listen to my interview with Ken: Ken Suter Interview (3 min MP3)
Podcast: Play in new window
| Download (1.2MB)
The American Lung Association of the Upper Midwest is holding an “E85 Everywhere” rally in the Minnesota State Capitol Rotunda this Friday, April 27.
Governor Tim Pawlenty and a bipartisan gathering of legislators from both the Minnesota Senate and Minnesota House of Representatives will speak on the importance of maintaining the lead in E85 development and on their support for the E85 Everywhere push.
E85 Everywhere is a public-private partnership which seeks to achieve 1,800 E85 fueling outlets in Minnesota over the next few years. The purpose is to help achieve the state’s 20% ethanol-use goal, enacted by the 2005 legislature. The partnership is also supported by the National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition.
“We have proven E85 and flexible fuel vehicles are a viable alternative to gasoline; one of many choices we have that can combat global climate change and the ever-growing need for energy sources,” stated Tim Gerlach, Vice President of Clean Fuels and Vehicle Technologies at American Lung Association of the Upper Midwest.
Nebraska Congressman Lee Terry is calling on his fellow lawmakers to approve a package that would promote hydrogen as a viable alternative to fossil fuels.
According to this story in the Omaha World-Herald, Terry testified on Capitol Hill that his hometown zoo, Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo, is making good use of hydrogen:
Hydrogen fuel cell technology provides power and heats water at the jungle, Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb., said Tuesday at a congressional hearing.
The zoo’s hydrogen fuel cell is part of a pilot project by the Omaha Public Power District that started in 2001. The utility wants to learn from the experience and is looking at more widespread uses of the devices.
The article goes on to say that Terry wants the federal government do more to promote hydrogen fuel cell technology that produces power through a chemical process without the dangerous waste and emissions produced by nuclear reactions.
Terry’s proposal would extend existing tax credits for the purchase of hydrogen fuel cell equipment and would create new tax credits for using it.
The new tax credits would cover 30 percent of the cost of producing hydrogen, up to $1,500 a year. The measure also would push for the use of the technology in new federal buildings.
Tery adds the tax credits could be what gets the technology really going in this country.
OK, in full disclosure, I am a huge fan of the Discovery Channel’s “Dirty Jobs.” For those unfamiliar with the show, host Mike Rowe travels the country showing, and doing himself, some of the dirtiest jobs you can imagine… cleaning out septic tanks, gutting fish, you name it.
Apparently, in one episode (one I have to admit I have not seen… bad fan, bad fan) Rowe talks to a guy who makes his own biodiesel from leftover used cooking oil he gets from local restaurants. He’s even converted his vehicle to use a 100% biodiesel mix… and the truck gets 40 miles to the gallon!
Check out this video posted on YouTube and the web site Biodiesel Times:
I thought it was pretty cool.
The National Biodiesel Board is vowing to fight what it considers abuse of the biodiesel tax credit. According to a release from the NBB, the original intent of the credit was to help the biodiesel industry get off the ground, but big oil companies now are trying to take advantage of it:
The NBB has been advised of a potential abuse of this program and is determined to see that it is addressed in an expedient manner. Based on discussions with federal tax authorities, blenders and shippers, there is a suspicion that claims for the tax credit may have been submitted or are intended to be submitted in a way that we believe would constitute an improper use of the tax credit. Anecdotal evidence exists which suggests that foreign companies may be sending or planning to send tanker shipments of biodiesel into US ports, adding a small amount of diesel fuel, claiming the blenders credit on all biodiesel gallons in the shipment, and then exporting the shipment outside the United States.
This type of “re-exporting” activity was clearly not intended by the legislative policy and is an inappropriate use of the tax credit.
NBB officials promise to aggressively pursue legislation to close this loophole and keep the credit in the hands of those it was intended to help. They also encourage anyone who has information about questionable credits to contact the Internal Revenue Service at (213) 576-3837.
Ethanol and the Indy Racing League will be in the spotlight at the National Agricultural Center & Hall of Fame 2007 Annual Meeting Thursday in Bonner Springs, KS.
Featured speaker for the “Farm-Fueled” event is Tom Slunecka, executive director of the Ethanol Promotion & Information Council. The event will also set the stage for the Kansas Lottery 300 scheduled for this Sunday at the Kansas Speedway, which will be run for the first time on 100 percent fuel-grade ethanol.
Pioneer Hi-Bred, a subsidiary of DuPont, is teaming up with the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council (EPIC) in an effort to educate consumers on the benefits of ethanol-enriched fuel. The effort includes funding for ethanol promotion and education programs.
According to Pioneer officials, the investment from Pioneer includes a sponsorship of Team Ethanol in the IndyCar® Series for the 2007 season.
“Ethanol is a factor in the effort to reduce our nation’s reliance on petroleum,” says Dean Oestreich, Pioneer president and DuPont vice president and general manager. “EPIC has already helped to significantly raise awareness about the benefits of biofuels, and we are proud to be joining forces with them to continue their efforts to promote ethanol.
“EPIC’s efforts, combined with our commitment to develop traits and technologies that help increase harvestable yield and ethanol production per acre, are helping create a promising future for biofuels,” says Oestreich.
A New Zealand technology company has secured $3.5 million in private venture capital to develop ethanol from carbon monoxide.
LanzaTech is getting the funding from Khosla Ventures and two existing New Zealand-based investors.
According to a news release, this funding will support further technology development, establishing a pilot plant, engineering work to prepare for commercial-scale ethanol production and positions the company to raise significant capital in the near future.
This technology could produce 50 billion gallons of ethanol from the world’s steel mills alone, turning the liability of carbon emissions into valuable fuels worth over $50 billion per year at very low costs and adding substantial value to the steel industry.
International investment and advisory firm Babcock & Brown has finalized plans to acquire Iroquois Bio-Energy Company of Rensselaer, Indiana. This is the Australian firm’s fourth investment in the US ethanol industry.
In January 2006, Babcock & Brown Environmental Investments completed the acquisition of Diversified Energy Company, whose primary asset is a 25 mgpy facility in Morris, Minnesota. Babcock & Brown also has two plants under construction: a 100 mgpy facility in Hennepin, Illinois and a 50 mgpy facility in Necedah, Wisconsin.
If the Iowa Utilities Board approves it, an expansion by a major wind energy producer in Iowa will nearly double that state’s wind power generation capacity.
According to this story on RenewableEnergyAccess.com, MidAmerican Energy wants to add 540 megawatts of wind energy production.
“In addition to the environmental benefit of adding new wind energy production in Iowa, customers of MidAmerican Energy will continue to benefit from electric rate stability,” said Greg Abel, president of MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company.
MidAmerican currently runs 323 wind turbines at three sites in northwest, north central and west central Iowa, generating 459.5 MW of electricity. That’s enough power for about 144,000 homes.
“Iowa has become a national leader in wind energy not through mandates, but by offering incentives and utilizing a cooperative approach involving utilities, lawmakers, regulators, equipment manufacturers and even schools,” said Iowa Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs. “This is one more major voluntary project that will help Iowa maintain its leadership position on renewable energy.”
Iowa Governor Chet Culver wants to see the amount of wind energy in his state double again to more than 2000 MW.
New Mexico is the latest state to adopt a biodiesel standard as Governor Bill Richardson signed into law a measure that requires all diesel sold in the state to have at least a five percent blend by 2012. State vehicles would have to use 5% biodiesel by 2010.
According to this story in Land Line Magazine, several other states have similar bills pending:
Among the states where lawmakers have taken up similar standards is Missouri. The state Senate approved a bill that would require all diesel fuel sold at retail in the state to be a biodiesel blend.
Sponsored by Sen. Bill Stouffer, R-Napton, the bill – SB204 – would require at least 5-percent biodiesel at the pumps by April 2009.
The Oregon House also is on the biodiesel bandwagon. The chamber approved a bill that includes a requirement that at least a 2-percent biodiesel blend be offered as soon as state production of biodiesel reaches 5 million gallons per year. A 5-percent biodiesel blend would be required when production reaches 15 million gallons per year.
San Francisco becomes the largest city in the nation to switch to a 20% biodiesel blend for all of its city vehicles. This comes as the area’s first public biodiesel pumps open (see my post from April 19th). Check out this release from the National Biodiesel Board:
“Every city bears responsibility for taking local action to address our global climate crisis, and vehicle emissions are a major source of greenhouse gases,” said Mayor Newsom. “When it comes to the use of alternative fuels, renewable energy sources and greening our city fleet, San Francisco is demonstrating leadership and commitment on every front.”
“The city of San Francisco departments have announced various strategies using biodiesel to reduce air pollution and greenhouse gases, and to use local resources to produce biofuels,” said Randall von Wedel, a biochemist representing the National Biodiesel Board (NBB) in state regulatory affairs, based in the San Francisco area. “We are grateful to Mayor Newsom for his initiative,” said von Wedel, “and we hope that San Francisco will serve as a model for other large cities on how to make a difference in reducing air pollution, greenhouse gases and dependence on petroleum fuel.”
City officials also announced their “Biofuel Recycling Program,” today. Under the program, waste grease and cooking oil will be collected from area restaurants. Biodiesel plants in the area will turn the separated cooking oils into biodiesel, and the grease will be made into methane gas to power electric generators for San Francisco.