January 30, 2006

January 2006 Digest

Here is a Digest of articles posted on the BioConversion Blog during the month of January, 2006.

General Topics--------------
Scientists set sights on biomass to reduce fossil fuel dependence
FORTUNE says: Ethanol is the answer to the energy dilemma
High Noon – E85 Hybrids versus Hydrogen
Energy Impasse
Do Oil Executives Support Cellulosic Ethanol?
US Ethanol Production Will Diversify Nationwide

Book Reviews--------------
Energy Power Shift by Barry J. Hanson
The World is FLAT: A Brief History of the 21st Century by Thomas Friedman
The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

Vehicle Technology--------------
General Motors - Marketing Flex-Fuel Cars Nationwide
Ford Unveils Flex-Fuel Hybrid Research Vehicle

Around the Nation --------------

DIGEST - California AB 1090 Issues and Support
Californians Contentious Over CT Bill
L.A. Council visits BRI Energy
Greig Smith's Comprehensive CT Blueprint for LA
CA AB 1090 - Hearing and Vote to Take Place 1/9/06

Colorado Senators Call for a National Energy Independence Policy

New York
N.Y. Governor Unveils Comprehensive Plan to Cut New York's Dependence on Imported Energy

Environmental Groups Support Wisconsin Ethanol Bill
Wisconsin AB 15: Coalition Mounts Support Campaign

Scientists set sights on biomass to reduce fossil fuel dependence

This news release was posted 1/26/06 by Imperial College London. The alliance described includes the Oak Ridge National Laboratory which is clearly interested in the development of technology that can convert biomass into cellulosic ethanol. Efforts in this release refer to biomass feedstock involving the complete use of individual crops and a variety of different crops with the objective being the production of a variety of products including fuel, heat, and power using minimal amounts of non-renewable fuels.


Scientists set sights on biomass to reduce fossil fuel dependence
Using plants rather than oil or coal to produce fuels and chemicals could play an essential role in reducing the world's dependence on fossil fuels, according to a group of scientists from the UK and the USA writing today in the journal Science.

The scientists from Imperial College London, Georgia Tech and Oak Ridge National Laboratory have evaluated the scientific and technological potential of a future based on renewable plant matter and biological material such as trees, grasses, agricultural crops, known as biomass. Their conclusions form the basis of a strategic alliance between the three institutions, the AtlantIC Alliance.

Today's paper describes the scientific challenges of creating a facility to process all the components of biomass. Such a facility would make a range of fuels, foods, chemicals, animal feeds, materials, heat and power in proportions that would give maximum value with minimum waste.

The scientists believe that efficient refining of biomass will be vital for producing renewable products with reduced carbon emissions. Biofuels and biomaterials are derived from plants which take carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as they grow. Their net contribution to the addition of greenhouse gases can be very small if minimal non-renewable energy is used when processing them into useful material or energy products.

Dr Charlotte Williams , from Imperial's Department of Chemistry and one of the authors of the paper, said: "We're looking at a future for biomass where we use the entire plant and produce a range of different materials from it.

"Biomass has a completely different molecular structure compared with hydrocarbons from oil. That means we'll need to develop new techniques so that we can transform plant material into everything from specialty, high value products such as perfumes and plastics to higher volume products such as fuels."

Imperial hopes that the partnership with Georgia Tech and Oak Ridge will combine their complementary areas of expertise and examine the critical issues from alternative angles. The project has been given a major boost by the award of a UK Office of Science and Technology grant to develop the alliance, backed up by internal funding from each of the partners.

Professor Richard Templer , Head of Imperial's Department of Chemistry, said: " No one institution is going to cover all the aspects and issues in this transition from a fossil resource-based present to a bio-based future. This partnership will increase the range of our scientific capacity. It will also enable us to evaluate the scientific and technological possibilities for the bio-based future from different perspectives, and in respect to the different potential for applications in the UK, USA and more widely, for example in developing economies."

Environmental Groups Support Wisconsin Ethanol Bill

Wisconsin Representatives have authored a bill (AB 15 - The Ethanol Bill") that will increase the percentage of ethanol blended into gasoline. The amount, 9-10%, would operate without modification on all gasoline automobiles that use the blend. With the addition of an amendment that allows the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) to suspend the mandate if the use of 10% ethanol is demonstrated to cause or contribute to violations of federal air quality standards, the bill has now received support by significant environmental groups within the state including Clean Wisconsin, Sierra Club - John Muir Chapter, Environmental Law & Policy Center and Wisconsin Wildlife Federation.

Excerpts are listed below. The full text of the press release is available by clicking on the title.


Clean Air Protection Amendment Gains
Environmentalists’ Support for Ethanol Bill

Madison, WI----Statewide and regional environmental and conservation groups commend Rep. Stephen Freese for his willingness to strengthen air quality protections in AB 15, the bill he authored that would require all 87 octane gasoline sold in the state to contain 9-10% ethanol. The bill is currently in the Senate Agriculture and Insurance Committee.

Sponsors and supporters of the bill agreed to an amendment that allows the WDNR to suspend the mandate if the use of 10% ethanol is demonstrated to cause or contribute to violations of federal air quality standards. The amendment gives WDNR proper authority to prevent possible pollution problems that might result from the legislation.

With the addition of the Clean Air Protection Amendment, Clean Wisconsin, Sierra Club - John Muir Chapter, Environmental Law & Policy Center and Wisconsin Wildlife Federation are now supporting AB 15, the E-10 mandate.

“We are pleased that we were able to work with ethanol supporters, lead author Rep. Freese, and the Governor’s Office,” said Jim Steffens, Ridgeway, Sierra Club Conservation Chair. “As a constituent, I want to thank Representative Freese for listening to our air quality concerns and being willing to negotiate this protective amendment.”

“We are now confident that with the Clean Air Protection Amendment and delaying the startup date for E10 by a year that the state has the opportunity to require offsets for any increase in ozone precursors, such as NOx and VOCs, and visibility impairments, before they endanger the gains we have made in air quality protection,” said Caryl Terrell, Chapter Director of Sierra Club-Wisconsin. “We urge the Senate to adopt the Clean Air Protection Amendment.”

“In our discussions, we challenged Wisconsin ethanol producers to be leaders in their industry,” said Terrell. “Promoting fiber-based sources of ethanol demonstrates this leadership. We also appreciate the commitment by the Ethanol Producers to work with conservationists on ways to deal with community concerns, such as odors and water use at ethanol production facilities.”

“ELPC welcomes the air quality and cellulosic ethanol provisions in this innovative Wisconsin legislation. Renewable energy of all sorts, including biofuels, can bolster farm income, provide environmental protection and improve economic and national security,” said Andy Olsen, Policy Advocate for Environmental Law & Policy Center.

Conservation groups were encouraged by a recent amendment to AB 15 that creates a 20% goal for biomass ethanol from prairie grasses, wood waste and other biofuels by 2020, and a process to achieve that goal. This is a first in the nation.

January 29, 2006

BOOK: Energy Power Shift by Barry J. Hanson

This book is perfect for anyone who reads this blog. I would almost say it is mandatory reading for anyone seriously seeking to develop a reasoned opinion on renewable energy issues. And it is surprisingly easy to read in spite of the technical subject matter.

The author, "Barry Hanson brings to the renewable energy discussion a broad understanding of energy with a formal education in chemistry and work experieence as a project manager with several consulting mechanical engineering firms designing large commercial and industrial HVAC systems. Mr. Hanson was introduced to the political realities of energy issues as a citizen lobbyist and activist on behalf of environmental causes in Minnesota and Wisconsin." He wrote the book because he recognized that there was very little information in print on the latest emerging renewable energy technologies.

The scope of the book includes not only a discussion of basic energy concepts and breakthrough technologies (stay tuned for future updates), but also discussions about how energy is acquired, how much is wasted, how much do we really need, how much do we have, and the economic strategies necessary to get there.

He contends "The U.S. has five times more renewable energy than it needs and ten times as much available money from sources where it is already misallocated. In addition, a renewable energy economy would avoid $750 billion per year in waste and unnecessary expense such as the trade deficit for oil ($206 B) and subsidies to oil/gas nuclear corporations." His figures do not rely on a hydrogen energy solution. He believes that we have more than enough energy available in the U.S. to establish and maintain a renewable energy future at a significant savings economically, environmentally, and especially politically. He projects 6.5 million new jobs, a clean environment, energy independence, and true national security.

What I particularly like about the book:
• The simple graphic presentation of quantified data.
• The extensive footnoting and bibliography.
• The segmented URL listing of internet resources.
• The glossary of terms.

What is missing is a discussion of ethanol and ethanol production processes. He talks in depth about Thermal Conversion Process (TCP) as developed by Changing World Technologies, Inc. and "fast pyrolysis". But he gives no mention to syngas fermentation, enzymatic hydrolysis, or even sugar fermentation - for which there are over 85 production plants in the country producing 2% of U.S. liquid fuel requirements.

The author has promised me that new technologies, including syngas fermentation, will be included in a future edition. Meanwhile, get this book. It asks many of the right questions, provides a valuable perspective on renewable energy, and provides a wealth of information and references.

Ford Unveils Flex-Fuel Hybrid Research Vehicle

The push is on for more gas efficient, flexible-fuel vehicles. Below is a recent article from Green Car Congress about a car that sports not only hybrid level gas efficiency but also the multiplying benefits of running on E85 ethanol blended gasoline (85% ethanol multiplies by 5 the mpg of gasoline alone). Modifying existing car models (standard or hybrid) is not difficult or expensive so expect more manufacturers to follow suit.

Question: Where will the ethanol come from? Answer: I believe the it will come from locally produced biomass conversion of waste into cellulosic ethanol.

E85 availability will be a limiting sales factor (except in the Midwest), but there is no reason for cars not to be flex-fuel equipped. An estimated 2 million non-hybrid automobiles are already running the roads of the U.S. without their owners necessariy knowing it.

There is speculation that the next generation of hybrid, flex-fuel cars will include electrical plug-in adaptability which will enable even more mileage per fossil fuel gallon and lower emissions.

Excerpts from the article appear below...

Ford Unveils Flex-Fuel Hybrid Research Vehicle
25 January 2006

Escape Hybrid E85
At the Washington Auto Show, Ford unveiled the Ford Escape Hybrid E85, a version of its Escape hybrid with a flexible-fuel engine capable of running either gasoline or ethanol blends of up to 85% (E85).

The research vehicle is the first from a major car company to actually mate the two technologies (flexible-fuel engines and hybrid powertrains) together, although the potential of the combination is being increasingly mentioned by policymakers.

As a leader in both hybrid vehicles and in vehicles capable of operating on ethanol-based fuels, Ford is the ideal company to bring both technologies together for the first time.

This innovative research program could lead to breakthroughs to significantly reduce our nation’s dependence on imported oil while also helping to address global climate change.

—Anne Stevens, EVP, Ford Motor, and COO, The Americas

The Ford Escape Hybrid would produce about 25% less carbon dioxide if operated exclusively on E85 fuel instead of gasoline, according to the company.

Ford engineers working on the Escape Hybrid E85 research project are seeking not only to optimize the efficiency of the new powertrain, but also to resolve some emissions issues.

Ford researchers also hope to apply a number of proprietary engine technologies being developed for future application that could further increase the fuel economy performance of a hybrid FFV.

Ford has two full hybrid electric vehicle models on the road today—the Ford Escape Hybrid and the Mercury Mariner Hybrid—with more models on the way and a targeted increase in hybrid production capacity to 250,000 hybrid vehicles a year globally by the end of the decade.

The company will also produce up to 250,000 flexible-fuel vehicles (FFVs) this year, including the Ford F-150 pickup truck, as well as the Ford Crown Victoria , Mercury Grand Marquis and Lincoln Town Car large sedans.

January 25, 2006

FORTUNE says: Ethanol is the answer to the energy dilemma

Ethanol, and specifically cellulosic ethanol, is making the BIG MONEY time with an article in Fortune magazine. This lengthy, and yet breathless, article places the focus squarely on the benefits of an ethanol renewable future with background information about Brazil's bold and successful energy policy and the impact flex-fuel automobiles has made to secure low prices in the face of shortages of either petroleum or ethanol.

Below are some choice excerpts from the article.


How to Beat the High Cost of Gasoline. Forever!
Stop dreaming about hydrogen. Ethanol is the answer to the energy dilemma. It's clean and green and runs in today's cars. And in a generation, it could replace gas.

More than five million Tauruses, Explorers, Stratuses, Suburbans, and other vehicles are already equipped with engines that can run on an energy source that costs less than gasoline, produces almost none of the emissions that cause global warming, and comes from the Midwest, not the Middle East. These lucky drivers need never pay for gasoline again--if only they could find this elusive fuel, called ethanol.

Instead of coming exclusively from corn or sugar cane as it has up to now, thanks to biotech breakthroughs, the fuel (ethanol) can be made out of everything from prairie switchgrass and wood chips to corn husks and other agricultural waste. This biomass-derived fuel is known as cellulosic ethanol. Whatever the source, burning ethanol instead of gasoline reduces carbon emissions by more than 80% while eliminating entirely the release of acid-rain-causing sulfur dioxide. Even the cautious Department of Energy predicts that ethanol could put a 30% dent in America's gasoline consumption by 2030.

Energy visionaries like to dream about hydrogen as the ultimate replacement for fossil fuels, but switching to it would mean a trillion-dollar upheaval--for new production and distribution systems, new fuel stations, and new cars. Not so with ethanol--today's gas stations can handle the most common mixture of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline, called E85, with minimal retrofitting. It takes about 30% more ethanol than gasoline to drive a mile, and the stuff is more corrosive, but building a car that's E85-ready adds only about $200 to the cost. Ethanol has already transformed one major economy: In Brazil nearly three-quarters of new cars can burn either ethanol or gasoline, whichever happens to be cheaper at the pump, and the nation has weaned itself off imported oil.

And have you heard about GM's yellow gas caps? In the next few weeks the auto giant is set to unveil an unlikely marketing campaign drawing attention to E85 and its E85-ready cars and trucks like the Chevy Avalanche. They will sport special yellow gas caps, and if you already own such a vehicle, GM will send you a gas cap free. California governor and Hummer owner Arnold Schwarzenegger is backing a ballot initiative that would encourage service stations to offer ethanol at the pump.

January 17, 2006

Governor Unveils Comprehensive Plan to Cut New York's Dependence on Imported Energy

The political capital to be gained from promoting comprehensive energy programs is apparently not lost on some politicians. Governor Pataki of New York gets it, and while it might be a blatant political ploy, it is also a step in the right direction. The state that recognizes the opportunity first will have a leg up on other states to lead the nation through this important paradigm shift to renewable fuels. The section dealing directly with E85 promotion is listed below.

Governor Unveils Comprehensive Plan to Cut New York's Dependence on Imported Energy
January 16, 2006

Initiatives Will Boost Production and Use of Renewable Fuels, Promote Use of Energy-Efficient Vehicles, Position NY as World Leader in Renewable Energy Research and Job Creation, and Provide Relief from High Heating Bills

Governor George E. Pataki today unveiled a comprehensive, multi-faceted plan that will help reduce New York’s dependence on imported energy, position the State to become a center for renewable energy research and job creation, and provide help for soaring home heating bills to New Yorkers.

The plan, most of which will be included in the Governor’s Executive Budget that will be unveiled tomorrow, is designed to encourage the production and use of renewable fuels in New York, promote the expanded use of energy-efficient cars and vehicles, spur new renewable energy research and job creation, and provide relief to New Yorkers from rising energy bills...

Encouraging the Production and Use of Renewable Fuels in New York

Elimination of All State Taxes on Renewable Automotive Fuels: The budget will eliminate all New York State taxes on renewable automotive fuels such as E85 (85% ethanol, 15% gasoline) and B20 fuels (20% biodiesel, 80% petroleum, which currently total approximately 40 cents per gallon. This will lower the price of these renewable fuels so that they will be competitively priced, and possibly cheaper, than petroleum fuels.

Creation of New Renewable Fuel Stations Across the State: More than 180,000 cars and trucks registered in New York State are flexible fuel vehicles meaning they can run on gasoline or ethanol fuel. In addition, diesel vehicles are able to run on a mix of biodiesel and petroleum. A new $5 million program, administered by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), will provide competitive grants to gas stations to install or convert pumps so they can dispense E85 (85% ethanol, 15% gasoline) and B20 fuels (20% biodiesel, 80% petroleum). These grants of up to $50,000, along with existing tax incentives at the Federal level of up to $30,000, will help spur the creation of an infrastructure to accommodate vehicles that run on renewable fuels. In addition, the New York State Thruway Authority will install or convert pumps at all 27 of its Travel Plazas to make renewable fuels easily accessible to drivers across the State.

In addition, the State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will send direct mail advisories to all owners of alternative-fuel vehicles registered in the State, informing them of their ability to utilize renewable fuels in their vehicles. DMV also will develop a statewide map of renewable fueling locations and provide it to these vehicle owners so they can easily locate stations that provide alternative fuels.

$20M Program to Promote Development of “Cellulosic” Ethanol: The State Department of Agriculture and Markets will administer a new $20 million program that would lead to the development of a pilot cellulosic ethanol facility in New York. Cellulosic ethanol is made from plant materials abundant in New York State, including agricultural and forestry residues, pulp and paper mill wastes, and certain grasses and shrubs. This type of ethanol will further increase the “net energy balance” for ethanol.

Promotion of Advanced “Clean Coal” Power Plants: State agencies and authorities will collaborate over a five-year period to identify “shovel ready” sites for the development of Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle power plants – commonly referred to as “clean coal” plants. These plants utilize coal in a manner that is significantly more protective of air quality. Under this program, the New York Power Authority (NYPA) will provide $50 million to a private sector power generator(s) who agrees to host research and development of new technologies that would reduce carbon dioxide emissions, which contribute to climate change. NYPA will also buy power from this facility....

High Noon – E85 Hybrids versus Hydrogen

Chris Ellis, Chief Engineer of the PowerBeam Company Ltd, based in England, wrote an article that was picked up and distributed by the National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition. He explains the mileage and environmental benefits of E85 hybrids (especially when running on cellulosic ethanol) over fuel-cell vehicles and EVs. Below are some excerpts from his compelling arguments and crystal ball gazing.


High Noon – E85 Hybrids versus Hydrogen
by Chris Ellis

This paper indicates why neither battery electric nor fuel cell vehicles will take over the U.S. car and light truck fleet, for at least the next 20 years. The probability is increasing that, by 2015, most new cars and trucks bought in the U.S. will be hybrids capable of running on a liquid fuel similar to gasoline but derived mainly from material such as corn stover and switchgrass. Much earlier, certainly by 2008, the first production 'flexible fuel hybrids' will begin to demonstrate why biofuel hybrids will eventually dominate the U.S. vehicle fleet...

Let's now consider the decision process many of California's affluent 'early adopters' are likely to follow as they consider their options over the next ten years. This particular group is especially influential, because they have already made all the major car manufacturers take hybrids seriously, essentially by buying Toyota Priuses and Honda Civic Hybrids in much larger numbers than most marketers had expected...

Given the high proportion of 'early adopters' who bought hybrids for additional reasons beyond simple savings in fuel costs, many of them will probably use E85 if they can. One motive will be to help reduce CO2 emissions. For example, the official Swedish figure for the flexible fuel Ford Focus is only 32 g/km (51 grams per mile) running on E85. The Swedish figure for the current Prius is over three times as high (104 g/km). The conventional gasoline version of the Focus produces 161 g/km. Those governments already taking Climate Change seriously are beginning to put the appropriate tax and other incentives in place to encourage the accelerated purchase of flexible fuel vehicles...

Because a car running on E85 made with cellulosic ethanol produces much less CO2 than conventional vehicles and those consuming electricity from the grid, it makes excellent sense for federal and state authorities to offer cellulosic ethanol strong support...

According to the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Energy, America can meet all its future needs for biofuels without impacting food production, provided there is a radical improvement in the fuel consumption of the vehicle fleet. Hybridization will help make this happen; combined with E85 it sets a benchmark which calls into question the strategic case for fuel cell vehicles. From now on, we need to focus on this winning combination, because it is uniquely capable of rapidly freeing most of the world from the threat of over-dependence on imported oil, with all its economic and military consequences. ..

January 16, 2006

Californians Contentious Over CT Bill

This is a Los Angeles area local newspaper article that describes a bold, urban, conversion technology plan and the current struggle to get California state regulations passed to allow it to be implemented. The proponents are a determined coalition of waste policy professionals, environmentalists, politicians, scientists, utilities, and municipal organizations versus an entrenched but myopic group of recycling and landfill special interests. The stakes are high because AB 1090 could be the tipping point for a paradigm shift for Californians away from fossil fuel dependence, toward a clean cellulosic ethanol and green energy future based on pyrolysis and syngas fermentation waste conversion technologies.


R.E.N.E.W. L.A.: A Sound Plan for Renewable Energy
by C. Scott Miller

Los Angeles Councilmember Greig Smith is a man of vision, who talks with great conviction about “paradigm shifts”, “zero waste”, and “conversion technologies.” He is in a good position to initiate concrete action as a mover and shaker in Los Angeles politics (one of 15 L.A. City Councilmembers). And he is motivated—representing, as he does, an educated, demanding constituency in a L.A. bedroom community (District 12 - the northern rim of the San Fernando Valley) that is determined to see an end to its BFI-operated "Sunshine Canyon Landfill" and the attendant problems that go with it (noise, traffic, smog, odors, seepage, depressed real estate values). With the passage of simple regulatory changes in Sacramento, Smith can begin to implement the first phases of his comprehensive plan for Los Angeles trash.

The R.E.N.E.W. L.A. Plan

Smith and his staff have spent two years developing R.E.N.E.W. L.A. – a 20-year plan to revamp waste disposal in Los Angeles County. This would be accomplished by greatly extending the recycling of black trash bin waste (garbage for which no current recycling use exist). New emission-free conversion facilities, modeled after similar modern processing centers in Europe, would be built in multiple sites throughout the county creating new streams of employment income in each location.

With this plan it would be possible to divert the amount of waste currently going to landfills by up to 80% by the year 2025 (including allowances for growth). Using new emission-free technology witnessed by the entire L.A. City Council, converted trash could be processed into ethanol with heat from the gasification stage used to generate “green” electricity. About 75% of the waste not already being recycled could be used as feedstock for this advanced process.

Statewide these technologies could produce more than two billion gallons of low-cost ethanol and 2,700 MW of green power from the 40 million tons of post-recycled waste that are being put into landfills each year. Currently, in every tank full of gasoline purchased in California, there is about 1 gallon of ethanol which is blended in as an oxygenate – 99% of which is imported from the Midwest and nations like Brazil. This clean, renewable fuel can help us significantly reduce America’s dependence on fossil fuels, principally petroleum, while having a huge positive impact on our economy, environment, and quality of life.

California AB 1090 – The Conversion Technology Bill

So what is holding up implementation of this well-conceived plan? Current state law requires these new technologies to be permitted as if they were major waste treatment facilities (i.e., landfills) a process that could take years. A contentious battle is being waged over the passage of a seemingly mundane piece of legislation called “CA AB 1090”. This bill would define “conversion technologies” (CTs) in state law, bringing regulations up-to-date that were established as many as 15 years ago, before some of these technologies had even begun development. It would equate conversion with recycling because both processes turn trash into usable products.

The fight over AB 1090, sponsored by the BioEnergy Producers Association (led by former State Sen. David Roberti) has been surprisingly fierce. In support of the bill is a broad, bi-partisan cross-section of California communities, sanitation districts, labor, agriculture, waste haulers and others. Supporters of the bill include municipalities that will face fines if they are unable to comply with the state’s mandate to divert 50% of their waste from landfills. Labor groups forecast the creation of thousands of quality jobs throughout California. Utilities need these technologies in order to meet their state mandate for the production of renewable electricity, or “green power.” Agricultural associations are seeking alternatives to the open-field burning of their wastes and the spreading of sewage sludge on their lands. Progressive waste management companies realize that the era of landfills is over and that these new technologies can turn today’s wastes into tomorrow’s liquid and electric energy, increasing their profitability—even making it possible to “mine” and recover materials from existing landfills.

Studio City's resident environmentalist, Ed Begley, Jr., wrote a letter firmly in support of AB 1090: “The antiquated paradigm of treating solid waste as ‘trash’ – i.e., burying it in the ground creating pollution in the air, land and water – needs to change. That ‘trash’ is a resource, a valuable commodity completing the cycle of birth-to-birth/cradle-to-cradle.”

And who is leading the opposition to these innovative waste management solutions? A group named “Californians Against Waste” (CAW), the lobbying and advocacy association supported by many organizations in the traditional recycling industry and the operators of landfills.

CAW’s true objective is to prevent competition for California’s waste streams and force municipalities to use traditional recycling methods to meet their state mandate for 50% waste diversion from landfills. This was confirmed by Scott Smithline of CAW, who was quoted as saying, “We are concerned that demand, that hunger for feedstock, is going to pull materials from other traditional recycling uses.”

Proponents of the bill counter that those assurances are guaranteed in the plan. And, as Ed Begley, Jr. points out “When recyclers export materials to China, municipalities receive credit for diverting wastes from landfills. When green waste is used as alternate daily cover, these same agencies get credit; but if you use the same green waste to produce low-cost green electricity and liquid energy for California’s citizens, municipalities do not get a diversion credit. These inequities need correcting.”

Correcting these inequities is the responsibility of the California legislature. AB 1090 failed to get a scheduled hearing in the Assembly Natural Resources Committee in Sacramento January 9th. When it is re-filed, the chances are that, due to the political influence of CAW, there will be no diversion credit provision in it – no incentive for California municipalities to provide their wastes to the producers of electric energy, renewable liquid fuel, and other bio-based products.


C. Scott Miller is a Studio City resident and editor of the BioConversion Blog.

January 15, 2006

Colorado Senators Call for a National Energy Independence Policy

U.S. Senator Ken Salazar (R.CO.) and former U.S. Senator Tim Wirth co-authored an OpEd piece in the Denver Post calling for a national energy strategy centered on energy efficiency improvements in our vehicles, our homes and workplaces. Below are some excerpts...


Denver Post/perspective
A new energy policy

By Sen. Ken Salazar and Timothy E. Wirth

What if a single strategy could help boost rural Colorado, broaden our nation's economic base, bolster American security, reduce worldwide poverty and address global warming? New energy policies and technologies are that opportunity, and we must summon the political will to harness them in service of our state, national and global future.

A national energy independence policy that emphasizes renewable energy and energy efficiency is a win-win-win-win proposition: It will make us more secure by reducing our dangerous dependence on imported oil. It will enhance Colorado's reputation and economic base as a leader in developing biofuels, wind energy, solar power and other renewables. Because energy is the key to economic development in every nation, it will help alleviate poverty worldwide. And it will reduce the threat that global warming poses to God's creation, which we have a moral obligation to protect for our children and our grandchildren.

More than 30 years after the Arab oil embargo of 1973, we are more dependent than ever on imported oil:

U.S. oil imports have doubled in the past three decades, to almost 60 percent of the oil we use - increasing our vulnerability to price spikes and supply disruptions;

We can't produce our way to energy security - America consumes 25 percent of the world's oil but has just 3 percent of its reserves;

OPEC countries, particularly in the volatile Middle East, control most of the world's oil - with more than two-thirds of the world's proven reserves held by countries like Iraq, Iran and Saudi Arabia - while only 9 percent of the world's oil is found in reliably democratic, "free" countries;

The competition for available oil is increasing, especially from rapidly growing countries like India and China, ensuring continued price pressure. China's oil imports are up 30 percent in recent years, and that country is now the world's second leading oil consumer.

Whether measured in terms of national security or economic stability, America's energy policy is in worse shape today than in 1973.

Two responses are essential. First, we need an aggressive program to jump-start the production of biofuels (fuels that come from domestic agricultural products rather than from foreign oil). Second, we need to accelerate development of new, efficient technologies for our vehicles, homes and workplaces.

January 14, 2006

Energy Impasse

A recurrent theme in arguments for a massive government R&D project in support of developing renewable fuel technologies concerns national defense and global political security. A N.Y. Times editorial highlights the vulnerability the U.S. assumes by leaving the world dependent on limited foreign fossil fuel reserves and OPEC decisionmaking. Excerpts from this column are below:


Editorial in the New York Times
Energy Impasse
Published: January 15, 2006

Iran has signed deals to provide natural gas to two emerging economic powers: China and India. India embarked last year on a gas pipeline project with Iran; in 2004, China signed a $70 billion oil and natural gas deal with Tehran. Those alliances are just a sign of things to come; as their economies grow, the Indians and the Chinese will become ever more hungry for energy resources.

That makes it much less likely that the United Nations Security Council, with China a permanent member, is ever going to agree to sanctions against Iran for pushing ahead with its nuclear program. But what if, by some miracle, America and Europe were able to persuade the Security Council to impose sanctions?

Well, slapping Iran with sanctions could very likely prompt Mr. Ahmadinejad and company to cut oil production in retaliation. Once upon a time, a drop in production from one OPEC member could be absorbed by the rest of the cartel. But today's global oil market is so tight, there is little spare capacity left. Any drop in production from a supplier can quickly send the price of oil soaring.

"There's no shock absorber left," says Gal Luft, executive director of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security. "That leaves us with zero options when it comes to leverage against these oil producers. Why do you think Hugo Chávez is so emboldened? Why do you think Ahmadinejad is saying, 'Go ahead, make my day?' "

Clearly, becoming less dependent on foreign sources should be among the West's - and most especially America's - most urgent priorities. But not in the way that President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney seem to prefer, which is to try to drill our way out of dependency - an utterly impossible task for a country that uses one-fourth of the world's oil while possessing only 3 percent of its reserves, and whose once-abundant supplies of natural gas are now severely stressed. A much better answer would be a national commitment to more efficient vehicles and to the rapid deployment of new energy sources like biofuels.

America cannot win President Bush's much-vaunted war on terrorism as long as it is sending billions of dollars abroad for oil purchases every day. It cannot establish democracy in the Middle East because governments rich in oil revenue do not want democracy. And it will never have the geopolitical leverage it needs as long as it is dependent on unstable foreign sources for fuel.

The World is FLAT: A Brief History of the 21st Century

Thomas L. Friedman has written a book that provides insight into trends of globalization as they exist today. For anyone considering a technical career, or marketing overseas (particularly India or China), or performing corporate research, or, or, or... this is a must book to read. He is particularly eloquent on the need for a "Manhattan Project" approach to the development of alternative, renewable fuels (see previous article on this blog).

Below is a brief review from Amazon.com reviewer Tom Nissley.

The World is FLAT: A Brief History of the 21st Century by Thomas L. Friedman

Thomas L. Friedman is not so much a futurist, which he is sometimes called, as a presentist. His aim, in his new book, The World Is Flat, as in his earlier, influential Lexus and the Olive Tree, is not to give you a speculative preview of the wonders that are sure to come in your lifetime, but rather to get you caught up on the wonders that are already here. The world isn't going to be flat, it is flat, which gives Friedman's breathless narrative much of its urgency, and which also saves it from the Epcot-style polyester sheen that futurists--the optimistic ones at least--are inevitably prey to.

What Friedman means by "flat" is "connected": the lowering of trade and political barriers and the exponential technical advances of the digital revolution have made it possible to do business, or almost anything else, instantaneously with billions of other people across the planet. This in itself should not be news to anyone. But the news that Friedman has to deliver is that just when we stopped paying attention to these developments--when the dot-com bust turned interest away from the business and technology pages and when 9/11 and the Iraq War turned all eyes toward the Middle East--is when they actually began to accelerate. Globalization 3.0, as he calls it, is driven not by major corporations or giant trade organizations like the World Bank, but by individuals: desktop freelancers and innovative startups all over the world (but especially in India and China) who can compete--and win--not just for low-wage manufacturing and information labor but, increasingly, for the highest-end research and design work as well. (He doesn't forget the "mutant supply chains" like Al-Qaeda that let the small act big in more destructive ways.) Friedman tells his eye-opening story with the catchy slogans and globe-hopping anecdotes that readers of his earlier books and his New York Times columns will know well, and also with a stern sort of optimism. He wants to tell you how exciting this new world is, but he also wants you to know you're going to be trampled if you don't keep up with it. His book is an excellent place to begin. --Tom Nissley

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

Below is a review by Ron Hogan of Amazon.com about The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell, a staff writer for The New Yorker. This book is good to read if you are about to mount a campaign and you want some examples of how geometric "enrollment" in your cause can result from the actions of a relatively few individuals.


The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell

"The best way to understand the dramatic transformation of unknown books into bestsellers, or the rise of teenage smoking, or the phenomena of word of mouth or any number of the other mysterious changes that mark everyday life," writes Malcolm Gladwell, "is to think of them as epidemics. Ideas and products and messages and behaviors spread just like viruses do."

Although anyone familiar with the theory of memetics will recognize this concept, Gladwell's The Tipping Point has quite a few interesting twists on the subject.

For example, Paul Revere was able to galvanize the forces of resistance so effectively in part because he was what Gladwell calls a "Connector": he knew just about everybody, particularly the revolutionary leaders in each of the towns that he rode through. But Revere "wasn't just the man with the biggest Rolodex in colonial Boston," he was also a "Maven" who gathered extensive information about the British. He knew what was going on and he knew exactly whom to tell. The phenomenon continues to this day--think of how often you've received information in an e-mail message that had been forwarded at least half a dozen times before reaching you.

Gladwell develops these and other concepts (such as the "stickiness" of ideas or the effect of population size on information dispersal) through simple, clear explanations and entertainingly illustrative anecdotes, such as comparing the pedagogical methods of Sesame Street and Blue's Clues, or explaining why it would be even easier to play Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon with the actor Rod Steiger. Although some readers may find the transitional passages between chapters hold their hands a little too tightly, and Gladwell's closing invocation of the possibilities of social engineering sketchy, even chilling, The Tipping Point is one of the most effective books on science for a general audience in ages. It seems inevitable that "tipping point," like "future shock" or "chaos theory," will soon become one of those ideas that everybody knows--or at least knows by name. --Ron Hogan

Wisconsin AB 15: Coalition Mounts Support Campaign

Wisconsin has an ethanol bill AB 15 under consideration by their State Legislature. Their Wisconsin Ethanol Coalition has developed a website and a grass-roots campaign to solicit support for the bill. Below is an article from WisBusiness.com that describes the campaign.


Wisconsin Ethanol Coalition: Wisconsin Farm Bureau Launches Mailing

MADISON – The Wisconsin Farm Bureau is reaching out to members of its organization this week in the form of a mailing that asks members to contact their legislators and encourage them to support the ethanol bill. Assembly Bill 15 will spur new jobs, lower emissions, and lower gas prices.

“The general public has really begun to engage on this legislation,” said Tom Thieding, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau. “We have been hearing a lot from our members who support this legislation, and they want to know what they can do to help.”

The Farm Bureau targeted a number of specific State Senate districts to let those legislators know how much support the bill has in their districts. “We know what kind of support this legislation has. Now we’re asking our members to take it to the next level and tell their legislator how important it is,” Thieding said.

Some of the Senators whose constituents received mailers include Senators Rob Cowles, Scott Fitzgerald, Mark Miller, Carol Roessler, Julie Lassa, and Dave Hansen.

There are currently four ethanol plants on line in Wisconsin and two more under construction. The Wisconsin Farm Bureau is part of a long list of businesses and organizations that support renewable energy and the passage of legislation that promotes this initiative. For a list of additional supporters, to view a copy of the mailer, or to find out more about the ethanol industry, please visit www.wisconsinethanol.com.

“The buzz around the benefits of ethanol is really starting to pick up,” said Bill Oemichen, President & CEO of the Wisconsin Federation of Cooperatives, a lead partner in the Wisconsin Ethanol Coalition. “We’re excited to work in coordination with such a diverse coalition of members to support legislation that will grow Wisconsin’s economy and help lower gas prices.”

The Wisconsin Ethanol Coalition is a diverse group of businesses, environmental, statewide groups and local organizations that have come together to build both public and legislative awareness of ethanol issues in Wisconsin. The ethanol industry is proud to have the support of both Republican and Democratic legislators, as well as Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle.

Governor Doyle supports this legislation and has pledged to sign it into law once it reaches his desk.

January 6, 2006

Do Oil Executives Support Cellulosic Ethanol?

Lord Ron Oxburg, former chairman of Shell Trading and Transport demonstrates a growing awareness among oil executives of the importance that biofuels will have on liquid energy resources of the future. From their vantage point, cellulosic ethanol made from biomass waste has obvious economic advantages over ethanol made from crops. Iogen's enzymatic hydrolysis process is not as flexible as syngas fermentation processes but indications are that future contractual relationships betwen petroleum and emerging biofuel companies are not far off.


Former Shell Exec Recommends Waste, not Crops as Biofuel Feedstock
5 January 2006

Speaking to reporters at the Oxford Farming Conference, Lord Ron Oxburgh, former chairman of Shell Trading and Transport, said that biomass waste should be a preferred feedstock for biofuels rather than crops such as rapeseed and grain.

While using biomass waste also addresses the problem of waste disposal, the fertilizer and energy input required for growing crops reduces if not negates the benefits of a biofuel, he said.

“You really have got to think very hard about the amount the energy that goes into producing your biofuel,” he said.

“I think if they [British farmers] grow the same crops in the same way, it probably won’t work,” he told reporters.

Lord Oxburgh used Iogen’s production of cellulosic ethanol from waste straw in Canada (earlier post) as an example of an approach to biofuel production that is energy efficient and environmentally beneficial.

By contrast, he noted, the US uses the most energy-intensive method based on corn.

“You put in nearly as much energy into producing energy than you get out of it. It doesn’t actually make a lot of sense,” he said.

He also noted that importing palm-oil biodiesel in recently cleared rainforests in southeast Asia could cause adverse environmental impacts.

Lord Oxburgh was at the Oxford Conference to present a talk on “Farming’s role in the global energy crisis.”

Lord Oxburgh, who recently retired from Shell, has been outspoken about the dangers of climate change, the need for carbon sequestration and the need to move off of a fossil fuel platform. (Earlier post.)

At the UK’s Hay Festival in 2005, referring to the urgent need to develop alternatives to fossil fuels, he stated:

The boat is sinking, and we have to use everything that we possibly can.

Britain announced late last year plans to increase use of biofuels over the next few years and British farmers hope that domestic rapeseed oil will be used to produce biodiesel and surplus wheat to make bioethanol.

Lord Oxburgh said if Britain imported biofuels from palm oil produced in recently cleared rainforests in southeast Asia there could be adverse environmental impacts.

"There isn't one solution for the whole world," he said.

Trained as a geologist, he was head of the Department of Earth Sciences and President of Queens’ College, Cambridge. (As an interesting coincidence, Oxburgh was a graduate school classmate of Princeton Prof. Ken Deffeyes, author of Hubbert’s Peak.) He is a Fellow of the Royal Society, an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering and a Foreign of the U.S. Academy of Sciences.

He is also a crossbench life peer who sits on the House of Lords select committee on science and technology.

January 5, 2006

L.A. Council visits BRI Energy

As part of a learning expedition for Greig Smith's R.E.N.E.W. LA Plan, members of the L.A. City Council journeyed to Fayetteville, Arkansas to examine a pilot plant demonstration of a revolutionary technology for the conversion of waste-to-ethanol. BRI's process utilizes bacteria to convert gasified syngas into ethanol.

Excerpt from the report are below. Pictures of the facility are contained in the actual report.


Monday, November 21, 2005

Facility: BRI (Gasification-Fermentation) Pilot Plant.
Location/Site: The BRI pilot plant is located outside the City of Fayetteville, Arkansas, which is surrounded by farmland within a two-mile radius. The plant started operating the fermenter process unit in 1991 and the gasification unit in 2003. Each process unit is enclosed in separate buildings and the administration building houses the laboratory where further research continues to take place. The lot size is about 5 acres.
Feedstock: Wood, corn stover, tires, RDF (Refuse-Derived Fuel) and Material source-separated biodegradable waste (not municipal solids waste, MSW, although MSW has been successfully tested.)
Throughput: 1.5 tpd.
Conversion Technology: Thermal and Biological – Gasification-Fermentation.

Process Description: The organics in the source-separated biodegradable waste are converted to syngas via BRI’s two-stage thermal gasifier that raises the syngas temperature to over 2000°F in the second stage to enable cracking of any heavy hydrocarbons to carbon monoxide (CO) and hydrogen (H2) maximizing the ethanol yield. There are hundreds of these units in operation, worldwide with a demonstrated reliability of 95 percent. The hot syngas is then cooled to 100°F, in the process generating steam, and it is introduced into the fermenter containing a specialized microbial population that converts the syngas into ethanol and H2O. Nutrients are added to provide the cell growth and automatic regeneration of the biocatalyst. The resulting dilute aqueous stream of ethanol is continuously removed through a membrane that retains cells for recycle to maximize reaction rates. Anhydrous ethanol is produced by conventional distillation followed by a molecular sieve, using the waste heat from the process. Water, with nutrients, is recycled from the distillation bottoms back to the fermenter. Air emission control systems remove almost all air pollutants.

The BRI pilot unit can process a maximum of 1.5 tons per day of various feedstocks, which include pre-sorted MSW (after removal of plastics, metals, and glass) and shredded to a size of 2 inches and 5 to 10 percent moisture content. The entire process claimed by BRI from gasification to distillation is approximately seven minutes. Due to its maximum process feed rate of 2 lb/min, the pilot unit must be fed manually.

Greig Smith's Comprehensive CT Blueprint for L.A.

Greig Smith is a man with a vision - a man who talks about "paradigm shifts", "zero waste", and "conversion technologies." More important, he is in a position to initiate concrete action - a mover and shaker in Los Angeles politics (one of 15 City Councilmembers). He represents an educated, important constituency in a L.A. bedroom community that is determined to see an end to its "Sunshine Canyon Landfill" and the attendent problems that go with it.

He and his staff have spent 2 years developing R.E.N.E.W. LA - a comprehensive plan to revamp waste disposal in Los Angeles County by extending recycling of black trash bin waste (garbage for which no current recycling programs exist). This plan should be required reading for any municipal managers looking for a "blueprint" for recycling waste while creating new products and sources of energy.

Without passage of California AB 1090, R.E.N.E.W. LA faces an uncertain future.

Below is an excerpt from a brief overview of the plan. The following documents can be accessed from his website:
RENEW LA Synopsis
RENEW LA Executive Summary


TOGETHER WE CAN R.E.N.E.W. LA (click for full text)
by Councilman Greig Smith

R.E.N.E.W. LA stands for: Recovering Energy, Natural Resources and Economic Benefit from Waste for Los Angeles. This monumental plan creates the roadmap for Los Angeles to become the country’s leading innovator in dealing with its trash.
R.E.N.E.W LA is a 400+ page document that contains a policy package including fourteen legislative motions to accelerate its goals of maximum resource recovery, an end to landfilling and the creation of clean, renewable energy. The plan has been
two years in the making.

R.E.N.E.W. LA is a twenty-year action plan, created with the input of environmental, business and community leaders. It raises the bar from compliance with current 50% AB 939-mandated landfill diversion levels, to a goal of “Zero Waste” that emphasizes sustainability and environmental protection while creating economic benefits, including job creation. The plan comes with its own oversight committee to enact, guide and adapt the plan, long after my term in office.

The plan expands recycling programs, particularly in the business and multi-family sectors. There are proposals to offer tax incentives to businesses that locate in Los Angeles and use City-collected trash as a feedstock for a manufacturing process. Businesses could also benefit financially if they significantly reduce or eliminate their waste. R.E.N.E.W. LA also proposes a revised City procurement policy in which highest and best use, reduced toxicity and conservation of resources will be prioritized.

Conversion technologies figure prominently in R.E.N.E.W. LA because they convert waste into clean, renewable energy. The City has set a 20% goal for renewable energy by the year 2017 and R.E.N.E.W. LA proposes partnerships between the Bureau of Sanitation, the DWP and private industry to help meet these goals. Conversion technologies can also be used to create valuable chemicals, alternative fuels, soil amendments and other feedstocks for manufacturing, reducing the need for virgin resources. Use of alternative fuels reduces green house gasses and harmful emissions while decreasing our reliance on fossil fuels and foreign oil sources.

January 4, 2006

Digest - California AB 1090 Issues and Support

A broad range of Californian individuals, municipalities, and organizations have sent letters to the California Assembly Natural Resources Committee to support AB 1090 (Matthews) - the Solid waste: diversion: conversion bill. They have learned about the promise of waste conversion technologies to the state's environmental and economic future and wish the Assembly to vote to accept the language as drafted and recommend its passage to the full California legislature.

Members of the CA Natural Resources Committee include Chairperson Loni Hancock, Tom Harman, Rick Keene, Paul Koretz, John Laird, Doug La Malfa, Ted, Lieu, Lois Wolk, Pedro Nava, and Lori Saldaña. Most online supporters submit their email messages to Loni Hancock.

The issues of the bill have been covered extensively in this blog. Below is a linked reference list of supporters, several support letters, hearing testimony, and emission studies...


Californians Contentious Over Conversion Technology Bill

AB 1090 failed to get a scheduled hearing in the Assembly Natural Resources Committee in Sacramento January 9th. When it is re-filed, the chances are that, due to the political influence of CAW, there will be no diversion credit provision in it – no incentive for California municipalities to provide their wastes to the producers of electric energy, renewable liquid fuel, and other bio-based products.

Hearing and Vote to Take Place 1/9/06
In an article on the front page of the Los Angeles Daily News (1/3/06), writer Kerry Cavanaugh identifies the two parties on opposite sides of California Assembly Bill 1090. In opposition to changes to the existing statute that would ...

Californians Struggle Over Conversion Technology
At issue is AB 1090, the California Assembly Bill to update terminology, heirarchy status, and diversion credit for "conversion technologies" in California.

Support is Widespread
Below is a current list of municipalities, organizations, and associations that have either submitted letters of support for AB 1090 or appeared in support of the Bill at the April 22, 2005 hearing of the Assembly Natural Resources ...

VICA Supports Conversion Technology
On September 1, 2005, the Valley Industry and Commerce Association of the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles County wrote a position paper supporting AB 1090, a California state Bill concerning Solid Waste Diversion Credit for ...

Ed Begley, Jr. Supports Conversion Technology
California AB 1090 is crucially important state legislation in California to amend language in solid waste regulations (drafted in 1989). The current language impedes the development of conversion technologies in this state. ...

L.A. Hearing on 11/16/05 - Background for Conversion Technology Bill
A distinguished panel of speakers presented a series of arguments advocating the passage of AB 1090 - which would correct language in its predecessor (CA Bill AB 939 in 1989) and provide additional "diversion credits" for waste that is...

L.A. Hearing on 11/16/05 - Results of URS Conversion Technology Research
URS Corporation Vice President Daniel F. Predpall reports that mature technologies already in operation from Europe and Japan already meet all California permit requirements and that AB 1090 should be enacted to...

L.A. Hearing on 11/16/05 - RENEW LA’s Need for Regulatory Relief
In this presentation, Los Angeles Councilmember Greig Smith addresses the need for clarification of terms in current State regulations to enable his ambitious landfill diversion plan (see "RENEWLA - Jumpstarting Waste Reform in LA" ...

L.A. Hearing on 11/16/05 - Results of Independent Study of Emissions
A principal obstacle to the passage of AB 1090 has been the lack of emissions data for conversion technologies. To address this issue, the Center for Environmental Research and Technology of the Bourns College of Engineering of the ...

General Motors - Marketing Flex-Fuel Cars Nationwide

There are two articles that indicate that General Motors (GM) is getting serious about marketing Flex-Fuel Vehicles (FFV) in the U.S.

FFVs are cars that have been modified to run on both gasoline or ethanol. They feature stronger fuel lines (ethanol is more corrosive than gasoline) and a device that can differentiate the particular blend of ethanol/gasoline in the tank to adjust carburetion. The upgrade cost to GM to produce a FFV from a normal model is surprisingly cheap (a few hundred dollars), particularly when compared to the upgrade cost of hybrids or EVs. They have been manufacturing and marketing FFVs in Brazil for years (where all new cars will be FFVs beginning in 2007).

The first article from Treehugger Blog details a joint initiative made by GM, the State of California, Chevron, and an alternative fuel company called Pacific Ethanol (which Bill Gates has invested in through his personal investment company).

The second article comes from a press release (1/4/2006) by the National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition concerning GM's "First E85 National Ad Campaign". It is reprinted here in its entirety.


GM Serious About Ethanol And Flex-Fuel Vehicles?
January 5, 2006 06:07 PM - Michael G. Richard, near Ottawa

Excerpts from the GM press release...

General Motors will help lead a joint demonstration project along with the state of California, Chevron Technology Ventures, and Pacific Ethanol to learn more about consumer awareness and acceptance of E85 as a motor vehicle fuel by demonstrating its use in GM’s flexible-fuel vehicles. The announcement was made as a result of a non-binding understanding made public today at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

GM intends to offer between 50 to 100 of its E85-capable Chevrolet Impala passenger cars and Silverado pickup trucks for consideration in the state’s annual competitive bid process. Flexible-fuel vehicles will be used by the California Department of Transportation (CalTrans) at various operations in Northern California and the state’s Central Valley. Chevron Technology Ventures intends to work with CalTrans to provide E85 fuel and install the necessary refueling pumps in these locations. Pacific Ethanol, a California-based ethanol production and marketing company, intends to provide the ethanol to Chevron Technology Ventures for the project.

GM’s environmental consultant has assured us that GM is aware of the problems facing corn ethanol production and that, while the fuel may initially be made from corn, that cellulosic ethanol is a potential choice for the future. Apparently, GM does have a relationship with Iogen, a leading Canadian cellulosic technology manufacturer (see this press release). We'll have to wait and see where that goes, but the quicker the public stops to think that ethanol equals corn, the better.


First E85 National Ad Campaign

Jefferson City, MO – The first flexible fuel vehicle/E85 national advertising campaign has been kicked off by General Motors. Advertisements in the January 4, 2006 editions of the USA Today and Wall Street Journal describes the new GM 2007 E85 Chevy Tahoe.

The full page ads includes statements regarding the ability of the Tahoe to operate on the clean, renewable product. It also directs individuals to the NEVC website, www.E85Fuel.com, to locate availability of E85.

“To my knowledge, this is the first time that any automaker has included a reference to the FFV capability of a vehicle in a national advertisement,” stated Phil Lampert, Executive Director of the NEVC. “While I obviously only have access to regional versions of these two very large circulation papers, we are very pleased that GM has included information in these ads acknowledging the E85 capability of the new Tahoe!”

The 2007 Tahoe will be available January 10. Different from the 2006 Tahoe, the new model will offer a feature called Active Fuel Management™ where the engine will provide power to all eight cylinders when needed and only four when not needed.

General Motors has been a long time supporter of E85 and a member of the NEVC.

January 3, 2006

CA AB 1090 - Hearing and Vote to Take Place 1/9/06

In an article on the front page of the Los Angeles Daily News (1/3/06), writer Kerry Cavanaugh identifies the two parties on opposite sides of California Assembly Bill 1090. In opposition to changes to the existing statute that would encourage local development and installation of trash-to-energy technologies are "some environmental groups" who are concerned that "it would undermine recycling efforts."

There are tremendous benefits to the environment if this bill passes and investment in conversion technologies begins to have an impact on waste treatment in the state: reduced landfill demand, lower greenhouse gas emissions, net increase in the production of green electricity, achievement of landfill diversion goals, reduction of agricultural and forestry wastes, production of renewable fuel.

It seems ironic that groups like "Californians Against Waste" and "Natural Resources Defense Council" should take a position to discourage the development of clean solutions to advance environmental causes - as if these technologies would not be subject to strict enforcement of existing emission regulations. There is clear awareness of all parties that only black trash can waste - that which is not otherwise recycleable - would be the feedstock of these technologies. Yet the negotiating rages on.

Left unsaid in the article is the serious expectation that upwards of 2 billion gallons of ethanol could be produced from the conversion of California's 40 million tons of post-recycled waste. This could fill the demand for ethanol that comprises over 5% of all gasoline sold in the state - 99% of which is currently imported from surrounding states.

Below are excerpts taken from the article...


Refuse Future Hinges on Bill
Law would aid trash-to-energy
By Kerry Cavanaugh, Staff Writer

The future of Los Angeles' trash policy could be decided in Sacramento, where legislators are set this month to consider a bill that could make it easier to build trash-to-energy plants.

Los Angeles city and county officials are studying so-called conversion technologies that lessen dependence on landfills by turning trash into gas or electricity.

City Councilman Greig Smith has proposed building plants in Los Angeles by 2010 to alleviate the need for Sunshine Canyon Landfill - the Granada Hills dump that currently takes the city's residential trash - but said he needs a change in state law to allow it.

"Right now, they simply can't get permitted or sited," said David Roberti, a former state senator and current president of the BioEnergy Producers Association.

His group is pushing AB 1090, sponsored by Assemblywoman Barbara Matthews, D-Stockton, which would define conversion technologies in state law and equate conversion with recycling because both processes turn trash into usable products.

The proposed law also would encourage the development of conversion facilities because trash sent to trash-to-energy plants would be counted toward the state mandate that 50 percent of all trash be diverted from landfills.

But some environmental groups oppose the bill, saying it would undermine recycling efforts.

January 1, 2006

U.S. Ethanol Production Will Diversify Nationwide

One of the advantages of an liquid fuel energy paradigm based on ethanol production is that the feedstock resources (biomass and corn) are distributed nationwide. Below are maps that demonstrate that the distribution of biomass resources in the nation neatly dovetail the current installation of sugar fermentation ethanol plants in the nation's corn belt. This means that investment decisions can be made regionally based on the best combination of resources and existing infrastructure. It also means that each region and municipality could develop solutions independently.

Here are some excerpts from a document that was previously mentioned in our December 2005 archives - Win-Win-Win for the Environment, Farms, and the Nation


The New Harvest: Biofuels and Windpower for Rural Revitalization and National Energy Security by The Energy Foundation, funded by The McKnight Foundation.

Abundant, economical biomass resources are available across much of the U.S. (from the U.S. Department of Energy/NREL).

Ethanol plants so far are concentrated in the corn belt. With a shift to cellulosic feedstocks ethanol production will diversify to every corner of the nation. Credit: Renewable Fuels Association, January 2005

Biofuels made from grains and vegetable oils now supply around two percent of the nation’s light-duty vehicle fuel. Studies by leading national research institutions show that biofuels, when teamed with more efficient vehicles and smart growth, could virtually replace gasoline use in light duty vehicles by 2050. That would displace nearly eight million barrels of oil daily, more than three times our current Persian Gulf imports. This could be accomplished with only a modest increase in cropland as part of a system that also generates the food and fiber America needs.

Advanced biofuels made from cellulose, of which most of the plant world is constituted, will unlock this promise. Cellulose offers vastly larger and less expensive feedstocks than grains. With policies to commercialize the first billion gallons of capacity on the ground by 2015, a burgeoning cellulosic ethanol industry could add $5 billion to farmer profits by 2025.