May 30, 2006

May 2006 Digest

As May closed this year, construction of the 100th American ethanol refinery was completed with many more on the way. But how soon will the next generation of refineries use cellulosic biomass as their primary feedstock in place of corn kernels or sugar cane? Proliferating stories about wood, bagasse, switchgrass, and citrus offered a cornucopia of feedstock options - each appropriate to different regions of the world.

May also saw the hyping of alternative fuels in mainstream media. 60 Minutes, Dateline, and Larry King Live all carried stories on ethanol citing the advantages of cellulosic feedstock over corn. Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth about global warming and greenhouse gases also hit select theaters in New York and Los Angeles to enthusiastic openings.

Here is a Digest of articles posted on the BioConversion Blog during the month of May, 2006.
General Topics--------------
BRI Energy - Converting Blended Feedstock into Ethanol
IRS Publishes Tax Credit for E85 Pumps
Debunking Switchgrass "Rural Legends"
Renewable Electricity Standards Compared by State
NY Times: "Miles per Cob" - Redefining CAFE Standards
World Bank Uses Brazil as Funding Benchmark
Professor Kammen - The Future of Cellulosic Ethanol
Renewable Energy Programs & Tariffs - Regulator's Handbook
Biofuels: Think Outside the Barrel
Creating a Decentralized Energy Network
Converting Landfills to Energy - Landfill Gas
Microbiologists Engineer Bacteria to Produce Ethanol

Vehicle Technology---------------
CALIFORNIA: Greenhouse Gas Legislation for Vehicles
PHEVs storm Capitol Hill

Mass Media Reviews--------------
CBS 60 Minutes: The Ethanol Solution
MSNBC Dateline: Vinod Khosla on Cellulosic Ethanol
CNN Larry King Live: "Kick the Oil Habit"
MOVIE: Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth"

Around the Nation--------------
Renewable Electricity Standards Compared by State

CALIFORNIA: CEC Addresses Clean Cities Congress
CALIFORNIA: Greenhouse Gas Legislation for Vehicles
Californians for Clean Energy Campaign

FLORIDA: Citrus as Feedstock - a Farm-to-Fuel Update
FLORIDA: Commission Issues Mandate Supporting Renewable Generating Facilities

LOUISIANA: Cellulosic Feedstock Conversion Deployments

OREGON: Cellulose Inventory Report

New York
NEW YORK: Bio-Fuels Production Tax Credit

IOWA: Governor Signs E85 Bill

Around the World--------------
CHINA: The Food vs. Energy Feedstock Conundrum
FRANCE: Converting Woody Biomass into Ethanol
World Bank Uses Brazil as Funding Benchmark

Venture capitalist Vinod Khosla made a splash with an exclusive interview on Dateline, a keynote address at MIT, and a co-authored article in the NY Times. Expect to hear more from him as the Californians for Clean Energy Campaign initiative heats up this summer.

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IOWA: Governor Signs E85 Bill

Here is a reprint of a press release received from the National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition:


Iowa Governor Signs E85 bill

Jefferson City , MO - Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack signed a bill into law that is touted as being the most aggressive renewable fuels legislation in the country. The legislation is intended to boost availability of ethanol and biodiesel throughout the state. A 25% Iowa Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) is the centerpiece of the comprehensive renewable fuels bill.

“With the Governor’s signature, Iowa is on the path to be the number one renewable fuels consuming state,” stated Iowa Renewable Fuel Associaiton’s (IRFA) Executive Director Monte Shaw. “ Iowa is already the ethanol and biodiesel production leader. Now we have the most aggressive renewable fuels usage policy of any state as well. IRFA has already been contacted by several states who want to follow in Iowa’s footsteps.”

House Bill HF 2754 and its companion appropriation bill, HF 2759, intends to assist retailers with E85 infrastructure and could reduce the price of the alternative fuel at the pump. The bills also create:

• An aggressive, accountable renewable fuels standard (RFS) starting at 10% in 2009 and increasing to 25% by 2019.
• A new ethanol promotion tax credit for each gallon of ethanol blended into gasoline (replaces existing tax credit beginning in 2009).  This incentive is linked to a retailer dealer’s achievement of the RFS schedule.  The tax credit increases from 2.5 cents per gallon for retailers within 4% of the RFS schedule to 6.5 cents per gallonfor retailers meeting or exceeding the RFS schedule.
• A retail tax credit for E85 of 25 cents per gallon (phases out by 2020).
• $13 million over three years to expand an infrastructure program designed to help retailers and wholesalers offset the cost of bringing E85 and biodiesel blends to consumers.

Shaw indicated that consumers should see immediate relief of pricing at the E85 pump.

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Microbiologists Engineer Bacteria to Produce Ethanol

Could bacteria - biology's nanotechnological equivalent - be harnessed to help convert biomass into ethanol? Researchers from around the world gathered in Orlando, Florida to discuss different strategies for applying microbiology to produce energy. At least one presentation focused on R&D to genetically engineer bacteria that can ferment not only glucose sugar but also cellulosic feedstock directly into ethanol - bypassing the need for a separate enzyme pre-treatment step.


Research Highlights How Bacteria Produce Energy

ORLANDO – May 22, 2006 -- The world's smallest life forms could be the answer to one of today's biggest problems: providing sustainable, renewable energy for the future. Using a variety of natural food sources, bacteria can be used to create electricity, produce alternative fuels like ethanol and even boost the output of existing oil wells, according to research being presented this week at the 106th General Meeting of the (ASM) American Society for Microbiology in Orlando, Florida.

Researchers from the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico announce that they have genetically engineered the bacterium Bacillus subtilis to directly ferment glucose sugar to ethanol with a high (86%) yield. This is the first step in a quest to develop bacteria that can breakdown and ferment cellulose biomass directly to ethanol.

"Currently ethanol is produced primarily from sugarcane or cornstarch, but much more biomass in the whole plant, including stems and leaves, can be converted to ethanol using clean technology," says Aida-Romero Garcia, one of the researchers on the study. The next step is to engineer the bacteria to produce the enzymes, known as cellulases, to break the stems and leaves down into the simple carbohydrates for fermentation.

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May 27, 2006

MOVIE: Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth"

If you have heard about the just-released "An Inconvenient Truth" - Al Gore's movie about global warming - you may wonder if it is worth the time, money, and potential discomfort to see it.

The movie and book are "inconvenient" wake-up calls for a need to shift attitudes, behavior, legislation, and industry for the sake of the next generation. It focuses attention on Gore's physical evidence of global warming, the reduction of greenhouse gases, and the consequences of delayed action. It is a critically important issue.

If bird flu is a threatening pandemic, global warming is a potential pan-pandemic reaching into every ecological niche of the planet. It is a pressing, controversial subject with a direct relevance to the subject of this blog - the development of clean technologies to replace the polluting fossil fuel energy paradigm we now have.

Was Katrina the harbinger of colossal flooding to come or a meteorological anomaly? What parts of the planet are most vulnerable to flooding? What is the scientific basis upon which the Kyoto Protocol was crafted? What is the photographic evidence supporting the recession of glaciers and reduction of polar ice packs? What is the correlation between historic temperature patterns and CO2 levels? How fast could change take place? This movie provides a 90-minute, PG rated, Global Warming 101 introduction to these and other questions.

The structure of the movie is very straightforward - it records a speech Al Gore has given more than 1,000 times since the early 90's. It is refreshing to see the former "next President of the United States" providing an understated albeit alarming presentation of the facts without the wooden delivery and wonky distractions we are used to from his former political campaigns. Using handsome visuals and stagecraft, the message is well crafted and persuasive.

Is this an opening salvo for a future run for higher office? Possibly - and that suspicion makes him a less credible messenger. Footage of his family life lends heart to the story but also reads like a political bio at a political convention - Gore's "The Man from Hope." He resists the temptation to take pot shots at the current administration except to quote Upton Sinclair:

"It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his NOT understanding it." - Upton Sinclair

Sounds like a bipartisan accusation thirty years in the making to me. He had the opportunity as a Senator and Vice President to persuade Congress to act and he couldn't get it done. People are paying more attention now.

Counter arguments can be found online at Competitive Enterprise Institute.

What actions does Gore recommend? There aren't many offered in the movie except an invitation in the late credits to check out its website at The limited release dates for theaters throughout North America are also listed there.

Paramount's Classics has committed 5% of their domestic theatrical gross for their film, "AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH," with a minimum guarantee of $500,000 to be donated to a new bipartisan climate effort, Alliance for Climate Protection.

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May 26, 2006

NEW YORK: Bio-Fuels Production Tax Credit

As the song says, "if you can make it here you can make it anywhere." I don't think they were talking about ethanol but John Lincoln of the New York Farm Bureau seems ready to prove the point.

From an article on the ever informative Renewable Energy Access website, here are a few excerpts about New York's funding proposal to spark ethanol and cellulosic ethanol biorefinery construction in the state. New York joins the lengthening list of states that want to be seen as the national leader in biofuel production.


New York Farmers Applaud Biofuels Bill
May 26, 2006

New York Farm Bureau said that the finalization of the Bio-Fuels Production Tax Credit and a recently announced $20 million state funding proposal for cellulosic ethanol will position New York as a national leader in biofuel production.

"There is no doubt that the fast-growing industry of biofuel production will have a significant and beneficial impact on the farm families in New York State," said John Lincoln, president of New York Farm Bureau.

The Bio-Fuel Production Tax Credit makes companies eligible for a tax credit for each gallon of renewable fuel they produce. It was passed by the legislature this spring and recently signed by Governor Pataki , who announced this week a $20 million program in the state budget for the development of a cellulosic ethanol pilot facility.

The tax credits and the cellulosic program will provide critical incentives for production facilities to locate in New York State and send a clear signal to the investment community that the state is leading the charge on this front, Lincoln said.

At least one and possibly several large biofuels plants are slated to come into production in the state, supported by a partnership between New York Farm Bureau, Empire State Forest Products Association, New York Corn Growers Association and environmental organizations such as National Resources Defense Council.

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May 25, 2006

Converting Landfills to Energy - Landfill Gas

Extracting methane out of landfills is a laudable accomplishment, as far as it goes. After all, the methane secreted from landfills is 23 times more harmful a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Any process that sequesters the methane and puts it to use as a replacement for fossil fuels (in this case, natural gas) is a win. Unfortunately, the process is not completely clean - one byproduct is the emission of carbon dioxide.

The global fossil fuel dependency crisis forces us to seek alternatives that are both energy efficient and economical. The most elegant solutions will be those that help solve one problem by solving another - converting liabilities into assets.

For instance, corn is not a liability, it is a valuable asset that is being exploited to provide an alternative source of energy.

Corn stover, on the other hand, is a liability - the more kernals we use for conversion to ethanol, the more corn plant waste we need to contend with. Converting corn stover to ethanol should, in this light, be seen to be a more elegant solution with a much higher EROIE (Energy Return On Invested Energy) than converting the corn kernals themselves.

It would make sense to co-site feedstock waste bioconversion facilities with every corn ethanol biorefinery in America. These emerging technologies will provide the necessary alchemy to accomplish this feat in an economical way - while dramatically expanding the volume of biomass feedstock available to convert.

This goal shouldn't be finding something constructive to do with landfills. The goal should be to convert the waste to energy BEFORE what's left over gets dumped into the landfill. It is estimated by the California Integrated Waste Management Board that the volume of unrecyclable waste could be reduced by 85% through the use of conversion technologies.


Converting trash gas into energy gold
By Daniela Chen

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, every person in America produces an average of 4.5 pounds of garbage per day. Much of that trash goes into landfills, which are the largest human-related source of methane in the United States.

In 1994, the EPA formed the Landfill Methane Outreach Program (LMOP) under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. LMOP Team Leader Brian Guzzone said since methane is both a pollutant greenhouse gas and a source of energy, it offers a good opportunity to reduce greenhouse emissions and provide energy.

About 50 percent of all of the waste that we generate as a society today is put into municipal solid waste landfills, Guzzone said. The EPA encourages the capture of the resulting landfill gas and the energy produced from it.

The federal government has partnerships with more than 500 utilities, states, private businesses and communities. "The EPA's role is to work with communities that have landfills and help them realize the potential opportunity of their landfill," Guzzone said. That includes providing materials, technical services and community outreach.

Landfill Gas Interactive Tutorial

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May 24, 2006

PHEVs storm Capitol Hill

Kudos to CalCars on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. for upstaging the Big Three automakers while they met inside with congressmen to discuss the challenge before them.

My question remains - are there plans to make the hybrids flex-fuel compatible so that when they run on liquid fuel, that liquid fuel has as little gasoline in it as possible? That would quadruple their already high (100+) miles per gasoline gallon.

Check out the picture album at the link below. Many recognizable faces are seen photo-opting with the prototypes.


PHEVs on Capitol Hill
May 16-18, 2006

On May 18, CEOs of the Big Three automakers came to Washington DC to meet with Congressional leaders and discuss the industry's woes. We saw an opportunity to introduce Congress to a solution using existing technology that can make a big dent in our oil dependence and also help Detroit back to prosperity -- should it choose to take the opportunity. After a whirlwind fundraising campaign CalCars flew in one of its plug-in Priuses from California, and the journey began. This was the first time plug-in hybrids were seen in public in our nation's capitol.

Set America Free and CalCars partnered on a three-day series of events in and around Capitol Hilll, joined by co-sponsor, the Plug-In Hybrid Consortium. CalCars' white Prius (built by EnergyCS with lithium-ion batteries) was joined by Connecticut battery maker Electro Energy's silver bullet (built by EEEI and CalCars with nickel-metal hydride batteries). The two vehicles caused quite a stir on the Hill, as everyone including Senators, Representatives, staff, reporters, builders, tourists and, unforgettably, the Capitol police, took interest in what could be America's route to energy security.

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Californians for Clean Energy Campaign

Californians are once again resorting to the initiative process to garner grass roots support for programs that its legislators fail to enact. For a state that has so many assets to apply to solving problems - its vast and highly varied raw materials, its university system, formidable infrastructure, strong industrial base, communications systems, marketing outlets, and seasoned venture capitalists - it is incredible that its legislature fails to recognize the positive impact on the environment and state economy from a statewide pursuit of alternative energy technology development.


In the face of a desire to circumvent the logjam in the Sacramento, a group calling itself "Californians for Clean Energy" has drafted an initiative that would levy a tax on every barrel of oil that oil producers pump out of the ground - a fee that is levied in other states but not yet in California.

The Initiative will fund a $4 billion dollar effort to reduce California's dependence on gasoline and diesel by 25% over 10 years, through incentives to make alternative fuel vehicles and alternative fuels more widely available and affordable to consumers and by funding research to bring cleaner, cheaper, more reliable energy to the marketplace more quickly.

Its website includes a form for getting involved and another form for making donations. It provides links to major outlet news articles relevant to the issue and candidates' positions on the initiative. It features a long list of coalition members and links to more information on clean energy.

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May 21, 2006

Creating a Decentralized Energy Network

In July 2005 the London offices of Greenpeace published a report that argues for a decentralised energy (DE) system to replace the current centralized UK electrical grid. Instead of a centralized plant supplying all the power distributed one-way to the community, the DE system enables the user buildings to provide power (from solar panels, wind turbines or cogeneration units) back to a "smart" local energy network. To be sure, the local energy network would provide close to the user demand for energy, but the primary benefits would be better conservation of energy, less energy loss through transmission, and decentralized generation from new sources of energy.

Distributed energy generation concepts have been addressed by Barry J. Hanson in his book Energy Power Shift. It is my contention that these concepts apply to decentralized production of liquid fuels as well as electricity.

Excerpts from the Greenpeace report are below:


published by Greenpeace UK

To summarise, overhauling our outdated electricity infrastructure and pursuing a decentralised pathway would enable the UK to:
• slash CO2 emissions
• bring down energy consumption levels
• deliver enhanced energy security
• drive technological innovation and real competition in UK energy markets
• foster the inherent economic advantage of renewable technologies
• save consumers money in the longer term
• increase public involvement in tackling climate change
• increase opportunities for local political leadership in the energy sector
• reduce the influence of vested interests
• incubate and export technologies which are safe for global dissemination and urgently required for international development.

‘Transforming today’s centralised, dumb power grid into something closer to a smart distributed network will be necessary to provide a reliable power supply – and to make possible innovative new energy services.’
The Economist Technology Quarterly

‘DE presents a unique opportunity to help developing countries progress towards the provision of clean, affordable, reliable energy, towards economic growth and poverty alleviation.’
Dominique Lallement, World Bank, 2001

‘Distributed generation at many locations around the grid increases power reliability and quality while reducing the strain on the electricity system. It also makes our electricity infrastructure less vulnerable to terrorist attack, both by distributing the generation and by diversifying the generation fuels.’
David Garman, US Assistant Secretary of Energy

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May 20, 2006

Biofuels: Think Outside the Barrel

Green Car Congress spotlighted a MIT Energy Conference held May 13th by providing links to the video and presentation graphics of Vinod Khosla whose keynote address was titled Biofuels: Think Outside the Barrel.

Could someone please tell Mr. Khosla that synthesis gas fermentation achieves a more universal, efficient, and direct solution to biomass-to-ethanol conversion than enzymatic hydrolysis? It is the major technological link missing from his presentation.

Other than that, his position is very close to the position of this blog. See excerpted summary below (thanks to Green Car Congress:


MIT Energy Conference: Focus on Ethanol and Plug-ins
19 May 2006
by Joe Adiletta

Khosla argues that the US could rapidly and effectively transition its transportation infrastructure to an ethanol-based one, similar to Brazil’s rapid historic transition of a similar nature.

Khosla called upon lawmakers to provide three simple ”solutions“ to support this movement:

1. A requirement that 70% of new cars produced be Flex Fuel Vehicles (FFVs);
2. Mandate that 10% of all fueling stations carry E85; and
3. If oil falls below $40 per barrel, provide a “cheap oil” price support structure.

Moreover, Khosla made the pitch that based on the technology that he has personally seen in labs around the world, there is no reason to believe that substantial advances won’t be made in all of the following:

• Yield of biomass per acre
• Cost per ton of biomass
• Yield of ethanol per ton of biomass
• Cost per barrel of ethanol
• Productivity of cellulosic-based techniques

Given these expected advances, and an already proven ethanol economy in Brazil, Khosla made a compelling argument that the time for national transition is, in fact, now.

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May 18, 2006

"Kick the Oil Habit" on CNN Larry King Live

The Center for American Progress Action Fund has mounted a "grass roots" campaign to deluge the oil companies with emails in support of installing more E85 pumps throughout the country. Their website for the Kick the Oil Habit campaign features an automated email form for blasting your opinion to the oil companies:

Tell ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, Shell, Valero, and ConocoPhillips to double the number of E85 pumps over the next year and provide E85 at half of all gas stations within a decade.

Actor Robert Redford appeared on Larry King Live May 17th to draw attention to the campaign. In turn, Larry King hosted a panel exchange between the CEO of Chevron, David O'Reilly (see their Will You Join Us? Campaign), Richard Branson, and several key legislators.

The brief excerpt below from the lengthy transcript is by Sir Richard Branson, Chairman of the Virgin Group:


A Lively Discussion on Rising Oil Prices

LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Tonight, why are gas prices skyrocketing? How high will they go? We'll ask Robert Redford, the legendary actor and filmmaker, also an environmental activist who's advocated alternative energy for decades. Plus, a primetime exclusive, David O'Reilly, Chairman and CEO of energy giant Chevron, who enjoyed huge first quarter profits. He'll tell us how the price at the pump is set.

And then some heated debate over gas prices and America's energy future with Sir Richard Branson, and more.

BRANSON: What we need is something called cellulose ethanol, which is basically enzymes which will break down the waste products in the fields that currently gets burnt off. And there's enough waste product in the world to replace our energy needs completely.

The great thing about cellulose ethanol is that it's 100 percent environmental friendly. But what cellulose ethanol needs is government support, because at the moment it's more expensive to produce and it needs a lot of investment by government in getting the enzymes right so that it can be produced. If it can be produced, I think that is the exciting future and hopefully in the next handful of years, there will be big break throughs with the enzymes.

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FLORIDA: Commission Issues Mandate Supporting Renewable Generating Facilities

In a brief press release, the Florida Public Service Commission mandated that Florida utilities offer renewable energy options to its customers. Thanks to the Renewable Energy News for bird-dogging this announcement.


Florida Utilities Must Offer Renewable Energy Options

The Florida Public Service Commission boosted renewable energy suppliers by ordering investor-owned utilities to offer contract options that allow purchase of electricity from renewable generating facilities that burn solid waste, vegetable matter and other renewable sources.

"Offering renewable generators a menu of contract pricing options will encourage the development of renewable resources as an alternative energy source in Florida," said Chairman Lisa Polak Edgar.

The Commissioners also voted to initiate rulemaking proceedings, which will be open to the public for comment, to further discuss ways to encourage renewable generation.

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Renewable Energy Programs & Tariffs - Regulator's Handbook

If God is in the details, then this manual is the proving ground for angels. From the Center for Resource Solutions comes a comprehensive guide to regulations and best practices for renewable energy programs and tariffs. It is filled with comparison charts showing the state-by-state policy differences and case studies of specific programs around the United States.

Those interested in this subject might also be interested in a prior comparison article on Renewable Electricity Standards Compared by State.


Regulator's Handbook on
Renewable Energy Programs & Tariffs

This handbook is for regulators involved in the design of renewable energy programs, with a focus on tariffs. It suggests best practices for renewable energy program design and tariff setting and highlights successful renewable energy programs in a series of case studies. This handbook is divided into sections that can be read sequentially or referred to individually when particular issues arise.

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May 17, 2006

Professor Kammen - The Future of Cellulosic Ethanol

Viewers of the 60 Minutes broadcast The Ethanol Solution were introduced to Professor Daniel M. Kammen, founding director of U.C. Berkeley's Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory (RAEL).

Readers of the BioConversion Blog may recall an article he wrote in April called Achieving Energy Autonomy

Konrad Imielinski of GoG2G; Converting Green to Green Blog sent several questions to Professor Kammen this month. He treats us to a startling assessment of the potential speed of change between the oil and ethanol energy paradigms.

Konrad Imielinski: Which technology has the biggest chance to replace oil eventually? Some say, that ethanol is still a short term solution and that hydrogen has the true long term potential, what is your comment on this?

Professor Kammen: No! Corn-ethanol may be a short-term solution - i.e., a transitional mechanism to get us to ethanol - but since corn-based ethanol is not a winner on a greenhouse gas basis (while cellulosic ethanol is), that is where we want to end up. A cellulosic-ethanol industry could, we estimate, make up 1/3 – 1/2 of our total gasoline use over time, and more if plug-in hybrids running on ethanol are part of the mix. We have details on this online at: ERG Biofuel Analysis Meta-Model (EBAMM).

KI: What is your prediction in five years from now: would E85 have significant portion of the fuel market in US? How much?

PK: I’d say in 2-4 years E85 will be 15% of US transport fuels

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May 13, 2006

OREGON: Cellulose Inventory Report

While many may think that the subject of cellulosic conversion to ethanol is a recent phenomenon, here is a report that was conducted in 2000 to inventory the cellulose feedstock available in Oregon for conversion to ethanol. It includes a list of possible sites and recommended policy strategies.

Here is the report's summary:


Oregon Cellulose-Ethanol Study

The Oregon Cellulose-Ethanol Study was issued by the Oregon Department of Energy in June 2000. The Department commissioned the study to evaluate the near-term potential of a cellulose-based ethanol industry in the state.

The Oregon Cellulose-Ethanol Study contains an overview of cellulose feedstocks available in Oregon. It discusses the status of cellulose-ethanol technology and includes the results of an economic modeling analysis conducted by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

Oregon has an abundance cellulose feedstocks that could be used for ethanol production. The study includes a preliminary feedstock assessment with information about current market demand and uses, cost, collection potential, qualities and geographic concentrations.

A major objective of the study was to identify critical barriers and assess perceived risks to the development of commercial ethanol production in Oregon. The report addresses possible methods to overcome obstacles through the use of low-cost resources in Oregon. The report identifies market opportunities and suggests public policy initiatives.

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LOUISIANA: Cellulosic Feedstock Conversion Deployments

The process of converting sugar cane into either sugar or ethanol results in a biomass waste product called bagasse. Many research efforts have tried to find a renewable fuel use for bagasse. An obvious use is to burn it, as they do in Brazil, but the carbon dioxide emissions offsets the benefit of any heat or electricity that would be co-generated during the process.

Recently there have been two press releases for new biorefineries in Lousiana that intend to convert corn and sugar cane (using sugar fermentation) and the bagasse (using catalysts or enzymes) into ethanol and other renewable products.


Jennings Project using Celunol Technology

Celunol Corp. is developing a 55-million gallon ethanol production facility in Jennings, Louisiana.

By working with the University of Florida and acquiring other technology, Celunol has developed a unique technology to release the sugar potential of cellulosic biomass.

Celunol's landmark technology is based on the metabolic engineering of microorganisms. The key element of Celunol’s technology is genetically engineered strains of Escherichia coli bacteria that are capable of fermenting into ethanol essentially all of the sugars released from all types of cellulosic biomass. This enables Celunol to achieve the required efficiency to make the process commercially feasible.

Feedstocks That Can Be Used With Celunol Technology

Celunol expects that its technology will be able to convert almost any type of cellulosic biomass material to ethanol. Examples of these feedstocks are:

Agricultural Residues
Rice straw
Corn stover
Wheat straw

Agricultural Wastes
Sugarcane bagasse
Rice hulls
Corn fiber
Sugar beet pulp
Citrus pulp
Citrus peels

Forestry Wastes
Hardwood and softwood thinnings
Hardwood and softwood residues from timber operations

Wood Wastes
Saw mill waste
Pulp mill waste

Urban Wastes
Paper fraction of municipal solid waste
Urban wood waste
Urban green waste

Dedicated Crops
Hybrid poplar wood


BioEnergy International Commences Site Work on 108 Million Gallon Ethanol Project

BioEnergy International, LLC ("BioEnergy"), a company developing proprietary technologies to produce ethanol and specialty chemicals from traditional feedstocks as well as lignocellulosics, announced today that it has commenced site work on its first biorefinery, a 108 million gallon per year ethanol plant located on land leased from the Lake Providence Port Commission in East Carroll Parish, Louisiana.

Initially the plant will produce ethanol from corn using conventional technology designed by Delta-T Corporation, a leading, innovative designer of alcohol plants, systems and technology. BioEnergy intends to rapidly introduce its proprietary technology to produce fuels and specialty chemicals using organic wastes such as bagasse, rice hulls and wood in addition to corn. BioEnergy has a pipeline of projects in various stages of development representing over 400 million gallons of annual ethanol production.

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May 12, 2006

World Bank Uses Brazil as Funding Benchmark

The World Bank is being flooded with requests by developing nations for funding ethanol projects. According to this report from Reuters, Brazil's sugar cane ethanol economics is used as a benchmark for determining which international projects will get World Bank support.

International deployment of alternative fuel biorefineries will become increasingly important for reducing the economic impact of rising oil prices. The International Energy Agency estimates that, at best, ethanol could make up 10 percent of world gasoline by 2025.

Some excerpts from the report:


World Bank "flooded" with ethanol fund requests
Reuters, May 12, 2006

"We've been flooded with requests from lots of countries. There's some requests from Latin America, we've had several from Africa and one or two in East Asia," Marcelo Lessa of the International Finance Corp. (IFC) said from a cane-ethanol mill in Brazil's Sao Paulo state.

Since November, sugar cane project funding requests -- largely in the feasibility stage -- have come in from Mali, Guatemala, Honduras, the Philippines, Colombia, Saint Kitts & Nevis, Mozambique, Tanzania, Egypt and Turkey.

"We'll turn several (plans) down because we believe ethanol production has to be competitive with costs in Brazil; otherwise you might be hurting a country economically," Lessa said.

Projects that are more likely to be approved are in countries with a well-established sugar cane infrastructure such as Colombia, Peru, Mozambique, Angola, Thailand and Australia.

"India's a very large producer. They have efficient mills but they have very high costs because of problems on the agriculture side," such as small farms, he said.

Another benchmark is costs, using Brazilian output costs as the standard. That cost is about $227 per cubic meter, but an 11 percent rise in Brazil's real against the dollar from January to April has made some proposals uncompetitive.

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May 11, 2006

NY Times: "Miles per Cob" - Redefining CAFE Standards

Senator Tom Daschle and venture capitalist Vinod Khosla published an op-ed piece in the NY Times that seeks to improve CAFE standards. Raising a vehicle's MPG doesn't solve the problem of oil dependence - it only prolongs it. They proposed a new CAFE "Carbon Alternative Fuel Equivalent" which is explained in excerpts from the article below.

What is the point of driving 40mpg if those gallons consist of 100% gasoline? From an oil independence standpoint we would be better off driving 40mpg with E85 because we would only be using one gallon of gasoline for every 5 of ethanol. Stated another way, instead of going 400 miles on 10 gallons of gasoline - we would only consume 1.5 gallons - the rest would be ethanol.

Since configuring a new model car to be flex-fuel compatible does not cost anything, and cycling out the nation's cars could take 15 years, we should (like Brazil has) mandate that all new cars - including hybrids - be flex-fuel compatible. That, plus the hefty IRS tax credit for renewable fuel pumps, would encourage gas stations to begin supplying E85. A plug-in hybrid capable of 100mpg would be able to go roughly 450miles per gallon of gasoline if it was running on E85.

Either one of these two measures would drive the cost of gasoline down.


Miles per Cob
by Tom Daschle and Vinod Khosla
N.Y. Times - 5/8/06

Our national leadership must promote a market-based shift away from petroleum-based fuels toward renewable fuels produced in America with American technology.

The CAFE standard does nothing to encourage that change. It requires American automakers to build cars and trucks that meet a minimum standard of average mileage traveled per gallon of gasoline. But the current standard for minimum mileage traveled per gallon of gas consumed is both too low and focused on the wrong challenge.

We need to upgrade to a new CAFE: Carbon Alternative Fuel Equivalent. This new CAFE will measure "petroleum mileage" and give automakers incentives and credits for increasing ethanol consumption as a percentage of fuel use of their vehicles, not least by promoting flex-fuel vehicles, which can run on either gasoline or E85 fuel, a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline. This approach promises several significant benefits.

First, it could set America free from its dependence on foreign oil.

Second, switching from gasoline to ethanol produced from perennial energy crops like switch grass can slash our carbon dioxide emissions.

Third, it could build on a comparative advantage of American automakers.

And fourth, by encouraging the production of ethanol and new renewable fuel technologies, this new CAFE standard could invigorate rural communities in America's heartland and innovation and research centers along its coasts.

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MSNBC Dateline: Vinod Khosla on Cellulosic Ethanol

On the same evening as the 60 Minutes broadcast on The Ethanol Solution Dateline NBC was running their own story about ethanol from the point of view of Vinod Khosla - the billionaire venture capitalist who co-founded Sun Microsystems.

Below are some excerpts. For the complete interview and supporting videos, click on the linked title below.


A simple solution to pain at the pump?
Greener and cheaper, ethanol could fuel rural America — and won't feed Mideast terrorism
This report aired Dateline Sunday, May 7
Stone Phillips, Anchor

Pain at the pump is the price of this country’s addiction to oil. Americans are feeling it intensely—outraged over oil company profits, fearful that another hurricane in the gulf, or a terror attack in the Middle East is all it would take to send prices even higher.

But what if there was one solution to all of this? Something that could solve America’s energy crisis, strengthen our national security, and help save the planet at the same time?

Vinod Khosla: I looked, did my research and found this was brain dead simple to do.

He’s talking about a new generation of ethanol— the fuel made from plants. It’s one fuel he says is just around the corner and will deliver 4 to 10 times the energy of today’s corn ethanol. Khosla knows, because he’s talked to top scientists, visited labs and he’s a bio-medical engineer himself. He believes this new ethanol can replace gasoline and eliminate America’s dependence on foreign oil.

And that’s exactly Khosla’s vision for America— putting new generation ethanol plants next to paper mills, turning their leftovers into fuel. Or even next to orange juice factories, where he says ethanol from peels could replace petroleum.

But that’s only part of it. To really make America an ethanol nation, Khosla says billions of gallons will come from something as common as prairie grass. He says it’ll be much cheaper and deliver 10 times the energy it takes to make it.

As for the expense, Khosla estimates it would cost about $15 to 20 million to offer ethanol pumps at a thousand gas stations in California.

Khosla: We need to make sure that the major oil companies don’t manipulate the price of oil enough to drive ethanol out of business.

Phillips: Do you believe oil companies would deliberately drop the price of oil?

Khosla: Absolutely. A senior executive of a major oil company came up to me and said, “Be careful.” In a very warning tone he said, “Be careful, we can drop the price of gasoline.”

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May 10, 2006

CALIFORNIA: Greenhouse Gas Legislation for Vehicles

The chart above shows the percentage contributions of each major sector comprising California's global warming emissions. In this state, if you want to affect greenhouse gas emissions, you have to make changes to the exhaust of automobiles.

From the Union of Concerned Scientists:


California Regulates Global Warming Emissions from Motor Vehicles
California’s Vehicle Global Warming Law

On July 22, 2002 California Governor Gray Davis signed into law AB 1493 (commonly known as the "Pavley law")—precedent-setting legislation to reduce global warming pollution from motor vehicles.

This bill directs the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to develop and adopt regulations that achieve the maximum feasible and cost-effective reduction of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from passenger cars and light trucks sold in California.

Regulations were developed during 2004 through a series of public workshops and hearings, and were adopted by the California Air Resources Board on September 24, 2004. Regulations will apply only to 2009 and later model year vehicles and will require about a 30% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2016.

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Renewable Electricity Standards Compared by State

Recognizing the challenge that making a major renewable energy shift is, 20 states have adopted Renewable Electricity Standards (RES) for electricity. These are requirements for states to gradually increase the amount of electricity derived from renewable energy resources. They generally include specific percentage targets to be achieved by a specific date.


Clean Energy
from the Union of Concerned Scientists

State leadership has demonstrated that an RES can reduce market barriers and stimulate new markets for renewable energy. Because renewable energy can help meet critical national goals for fuel diversity, price stability, economic development, our environment, and energy security, an RES should play a vital role in America’s national energy policy.

Which States have an RES?

To date, 20 states and Washington D.C. have implemented minimum renewable energy standards.1 On Election Day 2004, Colorado voters passed the first-ever RES ballot initiative requiring the state’s utilities to generate 10 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2015. Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Montana, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Washington D.C. also enacted minimum renewable electricity standards since the beginning of 2004. Eight states enacted an RES as part of legislation that deregulated electricity generation, and 13 states enacted standards outside of utility restructuring. In August 2005, Texas created the second-largest new renewable energy market in the country, behind only California, when the state increased its requirement from 2,880 megawatts (MW) by 2009 to 5,880 MW by 2015. Several other states—including Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania—have also revisited and increased or accelerated their standards.


Some samples (excerpted from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) website):

On September 12, 2002, Governor Gray Davis signed a bill (SB 1078) requiring California to generate 20 percent of its electricity from renewable energy no later than 2017. The new law requires sellers of electricity at retail to increase their use of renewable energy by 1 percent per year. In 2005, state regulators expressed a desire to accelerate the timeline and meet the RPS by 2010. The Governor has endorsed this accelerated schedule and has set a goal of achieving a 33 percent RPS by 2020 for the state as a whole. More...

In July 2005, the Texas Legislature doubled their previous goal for the amount of wind power, solar power and other forms of renewable energy in the state's energy mix. The new portfolio standard calls for the state to obtain 5,880 MW, or about five percent of the state's electricity, from renewable energy by 2015. Of the total, 500 MW must come from renewable energy sources other than wind energy. More...

On June 8, 2001, Nevada enacted the country’s most aggressive renewable portfolio standard at the time. The law required that 15 percent of all electricity generated be derived from new renewables by the year 2013. Five percent of the RPS must be from solar energy projects. In June 2005, Nevada raised the requirements of the RPS to 20 percent of sales by 2015. The bill also allows certain energy efficiency measures to qualify for up to one-quarter of the total standard in any particular year. More...

New Mexico
In early March 2004, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson signed into law a measure (SB 43) that requires investor-owned electric utilities to produce or buy increasing amounts of renewable energy. Renewables must make up 5 percent of the utilities' sales by 2006, and 10 percent by the year 2011. The law leaves a tiny hole that would allow utilities to ignore the new law through a provision for a PRC-established "reasonable cost threshold" beyond which a utility would not be required to add renewable energy to its energy supply portfolio. More...

New York
In September 2004, The New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) adopted a renewable energy portfolio standard that requires 25 percent of the state's electricity to be supplied from renewable energy sources by 2013. The NY RPS will require about 3,700 megawatts (MW) of new renewable fueled electricity projects to come on-line between 2006 and 2013. The NY RPS also requires a portion of the renewables to come from customer-sited generation. More...

The Arizona Corporate Commission (ACC) adopted an Environmental Portfolio Standard in 2001 that required utilities to have 1.1 percent of sales from renewables by 2007. The program did not work. A new plan was announced in August 2005. The ACC’s new plan will require utilities to procure 15% of the state’s electricity from renewable resources by 2025. The ACC voted to require that 30% of the EPS requirement be met by local onsite renewables installed by homes and businesses.. More...

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Debunking Switchgrass "Rural Legends"

Ever since President Bush said the word "switchgrass" in the State of the Union address, people have been curious about the role this particular feedstock will play in solving the energy crisis. The theory goes that corn is almost a net energy loser because we put as much petroleum energy into plowing, seeding, fertilizing, harvesting, and distilling corn into ethanol as we get out of it. Switchgrass, which grows like a weed natively in parts of the country that are otherwise considered unarable, does not need nearly as much energy input to grow or cultivate with irrigation.

In an article posted on The Oil Drum blog, contributor named "Kyle" wrote a piece about what he considers the "rural legends" about switchgrass, to set the record straight. His main point is that it is NOT substantially cheaper as a feedstock than corn for producing ethanol.

That may be true but it doesn't mean that it shouldn't be considered a feedstock option for ethanol. Read the article to see his response to each "rural legend" - here are a few excerpts:


Life in a Grass House
by Kyle, contributor to The Oil Drum blog

Switchgrass is a perennial grass native to the great plains, suitable for marginal lands because it grows well with relatively moderate inputs and can effectively protect soil against erosion. So far so good - one of the major attractions to switchgrass is that it is more environmentally friendly than corn....

This is why so many folks are beating their drums over switchgrass - in theory, it can be grown on marginal lands with ethanol yields 3 times that of corn with "minimal inputs." From this description, one gets the sense of legends in the making. Let's take a critical look at some of them.

Legend 1: Switchgrass does not require fertilizer or irrigation (America's strategic imperative: a "Manhattan Project" for energy by Lt. Col. John Amidon).


Legend 2: It is estimated that 15 percent of the North American continent consists of land that is unsuitable for food farming but workable for switchgrass cultivation. If all that land was planted with switchgrass, we could replace every single gallon of gas consumed in the United States with ethanol. (Sam Jaffe, "Independence Way," The Washington Monthly (July/August 2004)).


Legend 3: Switchgrass yields a certain amount now, but in the future, with selective breeding, etc., it will yield much more.


Legend 4: Switchgrass is substantially cheaper as a feedstock than corn for producing ethanol.


What's the moral in all of this? If corn ethanol is marginal on an energy returned on energy invested (EROEI) basis, it is very difficult to argue that biomass grown to make ethanol will be any better. To be blunt, if there are concentrated stocks of waste biomass in place, such as at lumber mills, then biomass ethanol probably makes sense. Otherwise, it appears to be more or less equivalent to corn based ethanol - in other words, a wash.

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May 8, 2006

CALIFORNIA: CEC Addresses Clean Cities Congress

One of my favorite online "hangouts" is the Domestic Fuel Blog, operated by the husband/wife team of Cindy and Chuck Zimmerman. While Cindy writes and posts most of the daily entries, Chuck is traveling from conference to conference, mike in hand, grabbing speakers to give a synopsis of their current message for the attendees. He then publishes the recordings as podcasts on the blog.

This week Chuck is in Phoenix for the Clean Cities Congress and Expo. He caught up with James Boyd who is a member of the California Energy Commission. Mr. Boyd was there to talk about Schwarzenegger's Biofuels Executive Order and to raise expectations for an upcoming CEC action plan to, among other things, develop and deploy cellulosic conversion technologies to help solve fuel and power issues within the state.

You can listen to the podcast by clicking here.

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May 7, 2006

CBS 60 Minutes - The Ethanol Solution - A Review

When you learn that your favorite cause is about to be given a treatment by 60 Minutes you immediately wonder if you should order catering for a wedding - or a wake. After all, "ethanol" has generated a considerable amount of heat over the years. What America needs right now is more light regarding energy issues.

Looks like we'll need extra champagne bottles, the wedding is on. You can access the written transcript of The Ethanol Solution online.

The 60 Minutes broadcast was simple and educational. By highlighting Brazil's success, it provided the best evidence that a significant energy paradigm shift is possible in America. It explained that ethanol is being blended in gasoline and described what E85 is (85% ethanol mixed with 15% gasoline). It showed the personal story of the farming communities who invest their savings to provide employment and have a stake in what many farmers feel is the salvation of their way of life. It showed the ease with which American automobiles can be converted into flex fuel versions that can run on any mixture of gasoline and ethanol. It interviewed General Motors' head Rick Wagoner and reinforced General Motors' Live Green/Go Yellow commitment to aggressively expand the number of the nation's more than 5 million flex-fuel cars.

The only harsh light was cast on the oil industry whose representative, Red Caveney of the American Petroleum Institute, exaggerated the cost of building infrastructure to support E85 ($200,000 per gas station pump). In counterpoint, energy expert Professor Daniel M. Kammen of U.C. Berkeley's Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory (RAEL) contended that switching over to an ethanol infrastructure was far cheaper than Caveney said ($30-$40,000 per pump) and could take a matter of years, not decades.

There were angles that could have been covered.
- If flex-fuel cars don't cost any more than gasoline-only cars, why not legislate that all new cars, including hybrids, be flex-fuel compatible? Brazil did. As the American Petroleum Institute head, Red Cavaney, said "the market is exceptionally limited" because currently only 5 million of the country's 133 million cars can use E85.
- While it did mention the technological prospect of creating ethanol from agricultural waste, switchgrass, and woodchips, it did not give treatment to the emerging technology of converting urban waste to ethanol.
- The story did not mention that the IRS has just published the Alternative Fuel Vehicle Refueling Property Credit, a tax credit of $30,000 for stations installing ethanol pumps. That was announced last week.
- It could have highlighted the environmental benefits of ethanol compared to gasoline.

Overall, it was a very positive story on ethanol and should help legislators and lobbyists to press their legislative initiatives. The tag line, quoted from farmer Larry Meints, said it best:

"It's a win-win thing for the nation, and for our local economy here to create jobs locally, rather than sending the money overseas, and sometimes to people that really don’t like us very well."

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May 5, 2006

IRS Publishes Tax Credit for E85 Pumps

Nothing like a crisis to bring partisans together.

This is a good example of how the federal government can help stimulate the movement toward alternative energy - by granting a hefty tax credit for installing alternative fuel dispensing systems at gas stations. This is warranted because there is significant risk to the operators without the credit. States should follow suit.

Thanks to the National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition for applying the pressure needed to keep this provision on the front burner while the 2005 Energy Policy Act was being negotiated.


E85 Advocates Score Major Victory with IRS
from National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition

Jefferson City , MO - The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has recently published Form 8911 Alternative Fuel Vehicle Refueling Property Credit which provides the first ever federal income tax credit for the installation of E85 fueling systems.

The infrastructure development provision was part of the 2005 Energy Policy Act and provides a 30% federal income tax credit, up to $30,000 per property, to install alternative fuel dispensing systems.

Phil Lampert, Executive Director of the National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition stated, “The adoption of an infrastructure development credit in the Energy Bill has been the highest priority of the NEVC for the past four years. Additionally, we were concerned with the initial manner in which the IRS interrupted the law, but this final form clearly reflects the intent of the Congress that a vendor with multiple sites be able to utilize the credit at each property being upgraded to dispense E85.”

The new federal income tax credit can also be used by units of government. This can be done by allowing the taxpaying installer to take the credit and indicate to the tax exempt the amount of the credit being provided to offset the total cost of the improvements.

“We believe that this new incentive will provide a significant boost to E85 fueling stations across the country and ease operators’ concerns about the initial cost of the equipment,” added Lampert.

Curtis Donaldson, Chairman of the NEVC stated, “The alternative fuel infrastructure tax credit passed with strong bipartisian support in the Congress last year, but the initial co-sponsors were Senators Jim Talent and Barrak Obama. We are very appreciative of their leadership in promoting this tax credit.”

Donaldson added, “While this new infrastructure tax credit can be used to advance all forms of alternative fuels, we feel that the greatest impact will be to assist our efforts to establish E85 fueling sites.”

The National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition is the nation’s primary advocacy group advancing the use of 85% ethanol as a form of alternative transportation fuel. See for more information.

FRANCE: Converting Woody Biomass into Ethanol

Achieving the dual goals of waste minimization and ethanol production is the objective of a new pilot project collaboration being undertaken in France. Wherever there are forests, paper mills, and logging there will be ample supplies of waste woody biomass that needs to be dealt with. In this scenario, Genencor enzyme technology will be applied to the minimization of milling process residue.

Here are excerpts from a Renewable Energy Access report. A press release from Genecor is also available online.


This Week in the Ethanol Business
from Renewable Energy Access

Over in France this week it was announced that Genencor International, a subsidiary of Danisco A/S, will participate in a research consortium to develop economic ethanol production from paper pulp with help from the French forest products industry. The 1.2 million Euros [USD$1.5 million] project will deliver a baseline study of the technical and economic results of a small pilot plant installed at a pulp mill with a focus on waste minimization of the milling process.

"France is one of the leaders in the forest product industry and in related technical applications research," said Jean-Claude Pommier, Executive President of the Strategic Committee at the Institut du Pin -- Universite de Bordeaux. "We believe adding a biorefinery capacity to the paper pulp industry will be a sustainable innovation that will have broad impact."

Genencor will provide its advanced biomass cellulases and application expertise to optimize the enzymatic hydrolysis of various paper-pulp samples provided by Tembec and the Pine Institute. Tembec will analyze the economics to evaluate the system for commercial deployment by the pulp industry. INSA's Laboratory for Biotechnology and Bioprocessing will provide fermentation expertise The Pine Institute will share its expertise in pulping and handling, and in lignocellulose analysis and characterization.

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May 3, 2006

BRI Energy - Converting Blended Feedstock into Ethanol

Given a choice of three biomass conversion processes, which is the most promising for greatly expanding the nation's ethanol production?
1) sugar fermentation which only works on sugar crops (like corn kernels and sugar cane);
2) enzymatic hydrolysis which relies on the development of specific enzymes to convert a variety of unblended cellulosic feedstock (like corn stover and switchgrass) into sugars that can then be conventionally fermented into ethanol;
3) syngas fermentation which converts blended or unblended cellulosic feedstock (including all of the above and other crops, plus agricultural, forestry, and urban waste, and even fossil fuels) into ethanol while co-generating electricity.

Bill Bruce, President of BRI Energy, LLC, justifiably contends that the answer is syngas fermentation. Not only would the process' feedstock flexibility greatly increase the volume of biomass available to convert, but decentralized facilities could be used to solve both energy and waste disposal problems for a rural and urban communities alike. For instance, success of Los Angeles' comprehensive landfill diversion program, R.E.N.E.W. L.A., depends on the permitting of six plants using technology like BRI Energy's syngas fermentation process.

Testifying at a Congressional hearing this week, Bruce provided a glimpse of what the potential is for his company's patented processes. Not only that, but he revealed that BRI Energy is working on a developed plan to build two commercial-scale ethanol facilities at the vacant K-31 complex at the Oakridge National Laboratory (ORNL) near Knoxville, Tennessee.

As reported in the Green Car Congress blog May 1st (BRI Energy Seeking to Build Two Gasification-Fermentation Ethanol Plants) the company will begin construction as soon as Department of Energy federal loan guarantees are approved.

The first plant would use gasification to convert Western coal into ethanol. Since gasification operates in a closed environment, no toxic emissions would result from the process.The coal gasification facility would cost $25 million, and the company is seeking a $20-million federal loan guarantee.

The second plant would use blended municipal solid waste (MSW) from Knoxville as the feedstock and convert that as well into ethanol. The municipal waste facility would require $62.5 million in private investment and a $250-million federal loan guarantee.

Both facilities would use the heat in the gasification process to co-generate electricity which would be added to the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) grid.

The Knoxville News Sentinel also reported on the announcement in their story titled Company plans big ethanol plant in Oak Ridge. Anticipation of 500 new high quality jobs in a clean, breakthrough technology is good news to their readership.

These innovative commercial-scale deployment projects provide the federal government a crucial role to play toward reduction of our fossil fuel addiction - while reducing landfills, greenhouse gases, and unemployment.

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May 1, 2006

CHINA: The Food vs. Energy Feedstock Conundrum

Asia's growing affluence virtually guarantees that the world's petroleum and natural gas markets will suffer rising prices for the foreseeable future. However, China does not enjoy rich reserves of fossil fuels other than coal so, as reported by Jeff McIntire-Strasburg at sustainablog, China and the rest of Asia is "Looking Hard at Biofuels".

In the 1950's China had a choice between using food for feeding its populace or using it to obtain weapons. Mao opted for power - resulting in the starvation of an estimated 12 million Chinese. It will not sacrifice its people for energy now but the writing is on the wall - it must secure its energy future. According to the following story, China is aggressively pursuing an ethanol production capability using a variety of feedstock. Excerpts are below:


Sky-High Oil Prices Fuel Ethanol Mania in China

HONG KONG/BEIJING - Record crude oil prices are fuelling ethanol fever in China, the world's second-largest oil consumer, despite Beijing's reservations in allowing more food grains to be used to run cars.

Beijing is reluctant to expand ethanol production from food grains as China will face a shortage of grains like corn or wheat possibly as early as next year, due to rising domestic demand brought on by higher affluence.

China began its ethanol projects in early 2000 in a bid to get rid of its surplus grain reserves and partially convert them into the biofuel.

China is the world's third-largest ethanol fuel producer after the United States and Brazil, which make the fuel from corn and sugar cane, respectively.

With crude oil prices skyrocketing to more than US$70 a barrel from about US$30 in 2003 when China's ethanol projects started operations, Beijing is likely to scrap subsidies for the four ethanol plants altogether.

But eager investors are unfazed by the prospect.

"Oil prices are so high that it's interesting to make ethanol from most raw materials at the moment," Simon Bentley, an analyst from LMC International Ltd. in Oxford told Reuters.

"With current technology, people start breaking even making ethanol at around US$40 a barrel of oil," said the head of LME's Starch & Sweetener Research, who was in China last week.

Earlier this month, the National Development and Reform Commission, the country's top planner, said on its Web site ( that biofuels should replace about 2 million tonnes of crude oil by 2010 and 10 million tonnes by 2020.

But it also said China would shift to non-grain raw materials -- such as sweet sorghum or cassava, also known as tapioca -- to make fuel ethanol. These alternatives can be used to churn out around 30 million tonnes of ethanol, the commission said.


FLORIDA: Citrus as Feedstock - a Farm-to-Fuel Update

Florida has crops and the will of its Farm-to-Fuel Program sponsors to become a leader in the development of an ethanol industry. Florida Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson said April 28th:

"I know we can do it. We can have 2 million acres worth of crops for fuel if we can get enough plants built so we can turn it into ethanol. Florida can outproduce any state in the union. Thousands of acres of Florida citrus that were leveled as part of the now-defunct citrus canker eradication program could be put into production for fuel crops."

Below are some excerpts that appeared in a story that contained an interview with Craig Evans, president of Stewardship America Inc. in Boca Raton.

Florida Has Future in Alternative Energies
By Kevin Bouffard
The Ledger

A study done earlier this year for the Polk County Farm Bureau suggests the county could land in the center of the alternative-fuel revolution.

"Two technologies . . . are ready for Polk County to use right now," according to a supplement on bio-fuels in the report, "The Contribution of Agribusiness to Polk County, Florida," done by Craig Evans, president of Stewardship America Inc. in Boca Raton.

Evans suggests alternative-fuel technologies using biomass -plant and animal products -could generate a renaissance of profit for Polk's farms and ranches.

Biomass includes not only fruits, vegetables and other foods but waste products such animal manure; grass, weeds, tree limbs and other yard wastes; and tons of citrus peels and pulp from Florida's juice-processing plants.

Until gas prices began heading toward $3 a gallon, ethanol could not compete without federal subsidies. Most ethanol is produced from Midwestern corn.

Even with subsidies, U.S. ethanol production this year will total 3.4 billion gallons, or about 2.3 percent of 145 billion gallons of gasoline consumed annually, Evans said.

How can new technologies change that?

Most ethanol production today comes from a standard fermentation process similar to the production of whiskey and other potable grain alcohols, Evans said.

"Sugar fermentation has, thus far, been the only technology to commercially produce ethanol from biomass, but it is only marginally profitable," Evans said.

Evans supports a new technology called BRI, named for the Arkansas company Bioengineering Resources Inc. that developed it.

The BRI process has an advantage in that it uses not only agricultural products and wastes but anything containing hydrocarbon, such as plastics and tires, Evans said.

"This technology converts any organic waste or hydrocarbon into ethanol," he said. "It also creates low-cost electricity as a byproduct."

That offers the potential to convert garbage now stored in landfills at the cost of millions of dollars to local governments into a valuable product, Evans said.


During past energy crises, Americans showed interest in alternative energy, but it faded once the crisis passed.

On April 18, 1977, President Jimmy Carter gave a nationally televised speech on his new energy policy geared toward conservation and developing alternative fuels.

"This difficult effort will be the `moral equivalent of war,' " Carter said.

Critics derisively labeled the policy by the acronym MEOW. Only his proposal for a strategic petroleum reserve became a reality.