July 31, 2006

July 2006 Digest

Despite being the world's leading consumer of ethanol (95% of which is imported), California cultivates very little corn. The corn that will be sugar fermented into ethanol at new in-state biorefineries will be trucked in from surrounding states. So the growth of ethanol production in California is dependent on localized deployment of biorefineries whose cellulosic feedstocks include not only agricultural and forestry waste but also unrecycled urban waste.

This sets the stage for the waste stream turf war between the entrenched recycling industry, landfill operators, and the broad-based conversion technology coalition headed by the L.A.-based BioEnergy Producers Association.

Two conferences held in Los Angeles recently provided an inside look at this turf war and are reviewed in a separate section of this month's digest.

Here is a Digest of articles posted on the BioConversion Blog during the month of July, 2006:

REVIEW: Two L.A. Alternative Energy Conferences------------
The Future of Alternative Fuels in California
Southern California Emerging Waste Technologies Forum
General Topics--------------
"Super Ethanol" Attracting Investment Attention
U.S. INFO: Seeking Money to Accelerate Energy Innovation
U.S. D.O.E.: Roadmap for Developing Cleaner Fuels
Research Tool for Assessing International Energy Agreements
Spinning “Gold” Out of Trash
Could Ethanol Boom Hurt the World's Poor?
Ethanol Net Energy Balance - A Response to Dr. Pimental
MIT: Redesigning Life to Make Ethanol

Ford Should Build Flexible Fueled, Plug in Hybrids

Around the Nation--------------
CALIFORNIA: Governor Announces BioEnergy Action Plan
CALIFORNIA: The Future of Alternative Fuels in CA?

Around the World--------------
BRAZIL: Impact of the Ethanol Gold Rush
INDONESIA: $22 Billion on Biofuels by 2010
ASIA: Linking Asian Climate Change to Energy Future
EUROPE: Report on Bioenergy and the Environment

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July 30, 2006

Ford Should Build Flexible Fueled, Plug in Hybrids

From the Ford Bold Moves: Documenting the Future of Ford website comes a point/counterpoint set of two articles soliciting reader opinions on whether Ford should focus its immediate attention on developing flex-fuel, plug-in hybrid technology or fuel cells and hydrogen.

If you read an article posted here April 3, titled Plug-in Partners National PHEV Initiative you'll already know this blog's answer to that question. It is good to read an expert's opinion on the subject. Below are some excerpts:


Ford Should Build Flexible Fueled, Plug in Hybrids
by David Morris

When Ford introduces its flexible fueled Escape hybrid, two-thirds of the technological foundation for an oil free future will be in place. The final piece? Enabling the grid system to recharge the hybrid's batteries.

Today's hybrids reduce gasoline consumption by 25-30 percent. That is a worthy achievement in its own right. But plug-in hybrids could decrease gasoline consumption by 50-80 percent. Why? Because electric motors are inherently more efficient than internal combustion engines, and because only 4 percent of our electricity is generated by oil.

Add an engine powered by biofuels and Ford could virtually eliminate the use of oil in its vehicles.

Biofuels have their own Achilles heel. The planet could grow only enough plant matter to supply 25-30 percent of our transportation energy, no matter what the feedstock.

A plug-in hybrid with a biofueled engine overcomes this shortcoming. Electricity will become the primary propulsion force. The amount of engine fuel can drop by two-thirds, or more. Sufficient land area is available to grow the biomass needed to supply 100 percent of this reduced consumption, without diminishing our food supply.

A flexible fueled, plug-in hybrid strategy could yield dramatic short-term results. The electricity distribution system is in place. The nation has sufficient off-peak electricity capacity to power more than 20 million vehicles without building a single new power plant. Converting a Ford Escape to a plug-in hybrid does not require technological breakthroughs.

Six million flexible fueled cars are currently on the road. The incremental cost to Ford of making a flexible fueled car might be as little as $100. Such a tiny cost should encourage the government to require all new vehicles be flexible fueled starting in 2009.

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July 29, 2006

Southern California Emerging Waste Technologies Forum

On July 27, 2006, the UCLA Hydrogen Energy Research Consortium played host to roughly 250 area “stakeholders” at The Southern California Emerging Waste Technologies Forum. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, State Senator Richard Alarcon, Assemblywoman Cindy Montanez, Councilman Greig Smith, and the City and County agencies responsible for public works and sanitation were among the sponsors. The list of speakers, their bios, and most of their presentations are available online along with the forum's agenda.

The purpose of the meeting was to provide Southern California waste and energy stakeholders the opportunity to learn about Conversion Technologies (CTs) and their potential for helping the state cope with its growing waste disposal problem in light of dwindling landfill alternatives. Also discussed was the potential of capturing the energy content of the waste material to help allay California’s gas import, ethanol import, electricity production, budgetary, employment and pollution problems.

The centerpiece of the forum is the Los Angeles City Council’s ambitious and well-researched RENEW L.A. program, a 20-year plan to divert waste from the county’s numerous landfills to biorefineries. These clean facilities convert roughly 80% of the unrecyclable trash to energy (most likely ethanol) and electricity, drastically reduce greenhouse gases from landfills and waste transport, create skilled "green collar" jobs throughout the city, while they enhance environmental justice in Los Angeles County. The plan was passed unanimously in March of this year and has earned the support of the Mayor's office. Furthermore, it is fully in compliance with the Governor's recently signed BioEnergy Action Plan.

The current obstacle to implementation is state legislature (specifically the Assembly Natural Resources Committee and the Senate Environmental Quality Committee) where for two years proponents have been unable to get action on even the simplest of changes in statute to correct scientifically inaccurate definitions that govern the permitting of these technologies.

The afternoon session was organized around a lively panel discussion of the 5 issues deemed crucial to implementation of CTs in California: What is the best way to achieve zero waste? Can emissions from landfills and CTs be mitigated? How can environmental justice best be achieved? What is the economic viability of CTs? What role do CTs play in energy sustainability?

For approximately 3/4 of the panelists and a sizeable majority of the audience, the need and viability of CTs is not questioned. The status quo of processing and trucking a growing volume of waste to fewer landfills at greater distances mandates that existing CTs be evaluated and deployed in carefully monitored stages to implement the timetable of the RENEW LA plan. Through the cooperation of government, universities, and industry, any problems that occur during deployment can be resolved, but at no time will existing recycling programs be reduced or regional emissions statutes be violated. Indeed, recycling will enhanced dramatically and existing emissions data demonstrates that CTs will provide significant improvement in the reduction of toxins and greenhouse gases.

Among those opposing implementation of CTs was Californians Against Waste (CAW). CAW has been actively involved in the development, negotiation and passage of waste reduction and recycling legislation in California. However, CAW strongly believes there is no basis for counting CTs as recycling at this time and that CTs will, through success, gradually reduce recycling efforts in the state.

Other environmental groups, none of which have expressed any interest in learning about the environmental advances of 21 Century CT technologies, attempted to promote skepticism about the emissions impact of CTs on the health in local communities - objective UC/CE-CERT measurement of emissions data notwithstanding.

The only alternative to CTs offered by its opposition was "source reduction" - reducing the amount of products going to waste by simultaneously educating the public on more efficient waste reduction practices and enforcing new legislation and enforcement policies - requiring manufacturers to redesign their packaging to eliminate waste or take responsibility for the waste disposal of products they sell.

My opinion

1 - The rate at which recycling can increase by source reduction alone is not likely to exceed the amount of additional waste entering the system. Meanwhile, RENEW L.A. is moving forward so that, within 20 years, L.A. will no longer be dependent on landfills for waste disposal. Without the permitting and deployment of CTs, waste disposal in California will become increasingly expensive and environmentally dangerous.

2 - CTs represent a true opportunity to not only expand recycling through mass reduction and conversion into useful products (like electricity, ethanol, and "green" chemicals) but also help California meet its bioenergy goals in the Governors BioEnergy Action Plan.

3 - AB 2118 should be negotiated in good faith with the BioEnergy Producers Association input, and passed immediately so that the investment, R&D and deployment permitting of clean CTs in California can proceed apace.

4 - Only through deployment will the final processes be refined and required emissions data be collected. All parties can be assured that through constant monitoring, new facilities will meet every emissions requirement or they will be shut down until they do.

5 - California is a "can do" state that needs to take advantage of new opportunities to right its own budgetary ship and solve its landfill, waste, employment, electricity, pollution, and renewable fuels problems. Conversion Technologies will help achieve those goals.

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July 26, 2006

MIT: Redesigning Life to Make Ethanol

I highly recommend reading the current issue of MIT’s Technology Review magazine. It features a well-written Special Report called “It's Not Too Late: The energy technologies that might forestall global warming already exist.”

The writers almost got the story right - but they failed to mention what some consider the most promising short-term solution to the knotty renewable-energy-global-warming-landfill-pollution-oil import-war crisis - namely syngas fermentation. Let me explain...

In one article called The Dirty Secret David Talbot writes about the promise of gasification (using high heat in a controlled near vacuum to convert the coal into a gas) for cleaning up coal burning plants of the future. It's better than combustion because you capture the greenhouse gases before they are spewed into the atmosphere. However, you still have to actually do something clean and productive with the syngas (CO, CO2, and H2) that is produced. Talbot speculates that utilities could sell the carbon dioxide to oil companies who would pump it underground to push oil to the surface while neatly sequestering the CO2 from the atmosphere.

A separate article is called Redesigning Life to Make Ethanol. Here author Jamie Shreeve writes about exciting advances being made by biotechnology companies (like the oft-cited Canadian company, Iogen) who are coming up with new strains of enzymes that can break the chemical bonds in cellulosic material to create glucose for fermentation into ethanol by a second set of micro-organisms or yeasts. There could come a time when a single, sturdy micro-organism would be developed that could perform the feedstock-to-ethanol "alchemy" all in one step. That could be decades off but partial solutions could be implemented now - albeit with crude, expensive enzyme concoctions.

What is missing is the link between gasification in the first article with fermentation in the second. Instead of creating a super enzyme to perform two very different tasks, how about using gasification to break down the chemical bonds of the feedstock and then use a micro-organism or catalyst to convert the syngas to ethanol? Using "syngas fermentation" there are several companies that have achieved very promising results (roughly 100+gallons of ethanol per ton of biomass). BRI Energy in Arkansas, BioConversion Technology (no relation) in Colorado, and Future Fuels, Inc. in Washington, DC are companies that are pioneering this technology in pilot plants right now. All are in the process of negotiating their first commercial-scale deployments.

"It's Not Too Late" to unravel the Gordian Knot. But why don't we slice it in half instead?

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July 23, 2006

European Report on Bioenergy and the Environment

Thanks again to BioPact for bird-dogging an important EU report that "assesses how much biomass could technically be available for energy production without increasing pressures on the environment." It was written by the European Environment Agency and is called How much bioenergy can Europe produce without harming the environment?

This 72-page document provides objective analysis of feedstock available for bioenergy energy systems that convert biomass into heat, electricity, and biofuels. It provides a listing of its overall assumptions and then gives a detailed assessment of the bioenergy potential for agricultural, forestry, and waste sectors. It also provides annexes that focus on such topics as:

• Indicative comparison of crop prices for bioenergy compared to commodity prices.
• Environmental pressures by crop.
• Net calorific values (per crop).
• Possible policy measures to influence the environmental effect of bioenergy cropping.

This is a valuable, up-to-date tool that can help policymakers, marketers, environmentalists, investors, agronomists, and other stakeholders assess the potential impact, needs, and opportunities associated with bioenergy systems. Its focus is on implementation in Europe but it is clearly relevant to study for other parts of the world.

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July 22, 2006

CALIFORNIA: The Future of Alternative Fuels in CA?

As Los Angeles County sweltered through the nation's latest heatwave (an omen of global warming?) an informational hearing of the Select Committee on Air and Water Quality was conducted in Santa Monica. The purpose of the hearing was to give its panel of state legislators a quick overview of the future of alternative fuels in California.

Representatives of the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and the California Energy Commission (CEC) talked about the status of their implementation of AB 1007 (the 2005 Alternative Fuels Act). There were also presentations by an electrical utility, alternative fuels proponents, and automobile representatives about the state of development of plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEV), ethanol flex-fuel cars (FFV), biodiesel, Hydrogen Fuel Cells (FCV), and Natural Gas Fuel Cell technology (FCX). Out in the parking lot were a number of prototype vehicles representing each of the developing fuel systems and a mockup of the innovative Phill home natural gas refueling appliance.

Missing from the presentations was any mention of waste biomass as a primary source of feedstock necessary for California to become self-sufficient in its production of ethanol. Since California is not a "corn state" (about 95% of its ethanol demand of 900 million gallons of ethanol is imported) the variety and source of other biomass to feed the front end of ethanol production is a critically important issue.

Until CA legislators recognize the central importance of the feedstock issue, the state regulations necessary to enable the financing of R&D and deployment of conversion technology (CT) will continue to flounder as they have during the last several years of debate in the California Assembly Natural Resources Committee (AB 1090 and AB 2118).

Since legitimate questions about possible harmful CT emissions have been researched and been given a clean bill of health by the independent UC/CE-CERT there is no basis for obstructive sectors of California's environmental community and landfill operations to object to new technologies that promise to reduce landfill needs, extend recycling, improve air quality, reduce oil imports, clean the environment, save water, cut greenhouse gas emissions, sequester carbon, co-generate green electricity, create jobs, and make California much more energy independent.

The panel members (particularly members of the Natural Resources Committee) who attended this meeting should join their State legislator colleagues, L.A. area politicians, utility proponents, academics, and Los Angeles area stakeholders at next week's Southern California Emerging Waste Technologies Forum. Session topics will include:

1 - "CONVERSION 101" - Panelists representing the public sector and academia will provide an overview of conversion technologies: what they are; how they work; where they might fit into our existing waste management infrastructure.

2 - “WHAT’S HAPPENING NOW” - Representatives from state and local government, community, academia, and the private sectors will discuss their experiences and the latest developments regarding conversion technologies.

3 - "L. A. STAKEHOLDER PERSPECTIVE" - A facilitated roundtable discussion of stakeholder interests representing community, environmental justice, environmental, state, regional, local, industry, and academia on the challenges and opportunities for emerging waste technologies in the City of Los Angeles.

I will review this conference next weekend.

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July 20, 2006

Ethanol Net Energy Balance - A Response to Dr. Pimental

Konrad Imielinski, author of G0G2G Blog, has provided a number of brief personal interview articles specifically focused on a series of controversial reports by Dr. David Pimentel and Dr. Tad Pazek of Cornell University (my alma mater) analyzing the net energy balance of ethanol. Entrepreneur Vinod Khosla has also issued a response.

Tad Patzek - 7/10/06
David Pimental - 7/13/06
Vinod Khosla - 7/14/06
David Pimental - 7/19/06

In his last posting, Dr. Pimental invited all to read his and Dr. Patzek's 2005 paper and forward comments. Below are mine.


Ethanol Net Energy Balance - A Response to Dr. Pimental
By C. Scott Miller, BioConversion Blog

I have several objections to the 2005 report authored by the Dr. David Pimentel and Dr. Tad W. Patzek entitled Ethanol Production Using Corn, Switchgrass, and Wood; Biodiesel Production Using Soybean and Sunflower. I defer to Michael Wang of the Argonne National Laboratory to argue the report's specific net energy findings. My own objections to the report are the following:

1 - The authors clearly state in the first sentence that "the United States desperately needs a liquid fuel replacement for oil in the future." The authors then document their analysis of CURRENT technology input and output energy balances of the globally acknowledged best replacement fuels available - ethanol, cellulosic ethanol, and biodiesel. If we are to assume that there are no other better alternatives than these three, then the findings of the report are of limited value unless their intent is to help identify areas requiring technological improvement. Obviously, the status quo is no alternative. I saw nothing in this report to suggest that the authors recommended R&D and deployment of new ethanol production methods.

2 - Ethanol is not only an alternative fuel, it is the primary oxygenate reducing automobile pollution and replacing toxic MTBE's in gasoline today. California alone has a demand for nearly 1 billion gallons of oxygenates per year - supplied primarily by the sugar fermentation of corn. Many states are adopting new, much higher, ethanol blending standards to reduce pollution and dependence on foreign oil. To meet current regulatory mandates, we need ethanol production regardless of the net energy findings - at least double America's current production.

3 - No allowance is made for what impact technological improvements to sugar fermentation could make on the the energy balance. Furthermore, other promising ethanol distillation technologies like Fischer-Tropsch, enzymatic hydrolysis, catalytic conversion, and synthesis gas fermentation are omitted. They could at least be mentioned as technologies warranting analysis in the future.

4 - In their report, feedstock is limited to corn, sugar cane, switchgrass, and wood. New distillation technologies open the range of feedstock to not only other sources of cellulosic material but also such diverse potential feedstock as sulfurous coal, auto-fluff, tires, municipal solid wastes, sewage, rice straw, etc. Many of these feedstocks require no cultivation and are, in fact, a bane on civilization requiring disposal. Diverting them to the production of ethanol, biodiesel, and electricity would represent a net societal gain regardless of the net energy balance of their disposal.

5 - While the net energy balance of current fuel production technology is subject to argument, the simultaneous need for production infrastructure, distribution systems, fueling stations, and flex-fuel vehicles manufacture is not. Alternative liquid fuels require broad technological support and business integration within society no matter what that fuel is. Many blends of ethanol and biodiesel are already being integrated successfully in many parts of the country.

6 - Included in their report are prejudicial references to "The Food vs. Fuel Issue", "major ethics and moral issues", global health from malnutrition, corporate profit-making, the U.S. balance of payments. These issues have no place in what is purported to be an objective analysis. Equally inflammatory for ethanol proponents would be arguments concerning the incalculable human cost in wars fought over petroleum, the impact on developing countries of skyrocketing energy prices, and global warming from fossil fuel combustion.

In short, what are the changes to the status quo necessary to lead us to a liquid fuel alternative to oil and gasoline? Based on importance of the Introduction's first sentence, this topic should be addressed in the report. It wasn't.

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July 16, 2006

Could an Ethanol Boom Hurt the World's Poor?

Ethanol feedstock is usually human feedstock - meaning that most of the raw material for fermenting ethanol comes from food crops - corn, sugar cane, and grains. Because of this, the concern often arises that replacing fossil fuels with renewable fuels based on food crops would deprive the world's starving poor in favor of the super-consuming privileged classes.

There are many assumptions in the argument - that ethanol will always be made from food crops, that feedstock dedicated to fuel production would otherwise be used for food, that industry in poor regions of the world wouldn't benefit the economic and physical health in those regions.

The best debate I have seen on the subject has been posted by Laurens Rademaker of Biopact. In his article he responds to a presentation by the president of Washington D.C.-based environmental research group, Earth Policy Institute,

"This is shaping up as competition between the 800 million people in the world that own automobiles and the 2 billion low- income people in the world, many of whom are already spending over half their income on food." Lester Brown of the Earth Policy Institute

Laurens obviously disagrees and his point-by-point arguments make a persuasive case. Below is an excerpt but I recommend reading the full text of his position.


“Ethanol boom could hurt world’s poor” - BioPact strongly disagrees

Together with the UN's FAO, which thoroughly analysed the stakes long ago and which concludes that bioenergy and biofuels can cut poverty, provide energy to the poor, reduces oil import costs for developing country governments, and opens a unique economic opportunity to connect millions of poor energy farmers to a global market where they can sell their biofuels at great competitive advantage -- we obviously disagree with the Earth Policy Institute.

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Spinning “Gold” Out of Trash

With its huge population and guilt-free car culture, California is the world's largest consumer of gasoline. By state regulation, 5.67% of the fuel pumped is actually ethanol - which is used as an oxygenate for gasoline. As a result, California is also the world's biggest consumer of ethanol - closing in on 1 Billion gallons per year.

As a rich agricultural state, one would think that there would be a huge production of corn or sugar cane to produce ethanol to meet the demand. Not so. 95% of the ethanol consumed is imported from, primarily, the Midwest by truck. There is no corn farming to speak of in California, nor will we see a sudden switch in cultivation. New ethanol plants located there will be shipping the corn in from surrounding states.

Assuming that California wants to become self-sufficient in ethanol, what will the feedstock be if not corn or sugar cane? The answer is agricultural, forestry, and urban waste. Being a heavily wooded, agriculturally rich, population booming, and super-consuming state means an incredible amount of waste. Therefore, progressive thinkers in California are looking to its waste streams to provide feedstock for the next big thing - biomass conversion of waste into biofuels including cellulosic ethanol, with the co-generation of electricity.

Such a switch couldn't come at a better time. Many professionals in the waste disposal industry recognize that major urban centers like Los Angeles will be faced with a "Peak Landfill" problem way in advance of a "Peak Oil" problem. Available land is scarce in a region of burgeoning development, NIMBYism, and accelerating waste disposal growth.

Kay Martin, Ph.D is vice president of the BioEnergy Producers Association. She directed Ventura County's solid waste programs from 1987 to 2004. She has been an active proponent of waste diversion from landfills for over a decade. She has written an incisive article about the need for landfill diversion and the potential of bioenergy production using conversion technologies. Here are some excerpts from a recent article she wrote for the Ventura County Star - a neighboring county of Los Angeles:

S.V. Landfill has chance to spin gold out of trash
By Kay Martin

...the total amount of garbage disposed in the county and statewide has not changed much over the past 10 years, despite the best efforts of local governments, businesses and residents to recycle. Recent gains made by recycling have been largely eclipsed by the effects of population and economic growth, and this trend is expected to continue. The growing waste problem is real, and requires some strategic planning now to avert a future crisis.

...Complicating the picture of where waste will flow in the future is the disappearance of local landfills. About the same time that recycling laws were passed, the federal government imposed stringent new standards on disposal sites intended to abate air and groundwater pollution threats. These costly permitting standards contributed to a 63 percent decline in the number of landfills nationally since 1988. The trend is for fewer and larger facilities, more remote from urban centers.

Several landfills in our neighboring Southern California counties are slated for closure, and NIMBY factors have trumped attempts at siting new ones, save for expensive desert landfill options accessible only by rail.

Role for bioenergy

The factor that should weigh heaviest in decisions to expand the Simi Valley Landfill, however, is the emergence of new "bioenergy" industries that can convert about 80 percent of the materials currently going to landfills into environmentally beneficial products — green power, biofuels and a variety of chemicals that reduce our reliance on petroleum. Moreover, because these industries produce valuable commodities, they can be cost-competitive with landfills. Bioenergy plants are operating successfully in both Europe and Japan, and are in various stages of development in other parts of the United States. The central question is, should we be looking to simply bury our wastes in the decades to come, or should we take positive steps now to turn these wastes into resources that can help build a more sustainable society?

The county of Santa Barbara, and the city and county of Los Angeles are each actively engaged in procurement processes to site bioenergy facilities (so-called "conversion technologies") to reduce and ultimately to replace their dependence on landfills.

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July 15, 2006

CALIFORNIA: Governor Announces BioEnergy Action Plan

Plenty of lip service is paid to political support for bioenergy development throughout the country. As reported here, getting legislation enacted, investment secured, and deployment started is process frustrated by the many divergent societal and environmental interests that obstruct real progress.

Yet California's Governor and his Bioenergy Interagency Working Group have worked steadfastly toward identification of goals and enactment of plans to resolve impasses to real progress in the bioenergy arena. Investors should take heart in the knowledge that there is top down commitment to significant technological development within California over the next four years.

Gov. Schwarzenegger today announced the Bioenergy Action Plan which outlines ways for California to bring alternative energy into the mainstream and reduce dependency on foreign fossil fuels. He has underscored the need for a consistent and coordinated state policy on bioenergy.

Below are some specific targets for the plan.


BioEnergy Action Plan

On April 25, 2006, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger issued Executive Order S-06-06, establishing targets for the use and production of biofuels and biopower and directing state agencies to work together to advance biomass programs in California while providing environmental protection and mitigation. The agencies of the Bioenergy Interagency Working Group (Working Group)1 are committed to seeing these goals met. This Bioenergy Action Plan (Plan) provides the specific actions and timelines that the agencies have agreed to take to implement the Executive Order.

In response to his Executive Order, members of the Working Group commit to the following near-term actions to achieve the state’s bioenergy policy objectives and biomass production and use targets. The Working Group will also work to secure necessary resources for the activities proposed in this Plan through the State Budget Process and pursue legislative initiatives needed to achieve the intent of this Plan. These actions will create the necessary institutional and regulatory changes that will substantially increase the production and use of biomass for energy in California in a manner that benefits the economy and protects the environment.

Biomass Production and Use Targets:
1. Regarding biofuels, the state shall produce a minimum of 20 percent of its biofuels within California by 2010, 40 percent by 2020, and 75 percent by 2050.
2. Regarding the use of biomass for electricity, the state shall meet a 20 percent target within the established state goals for renewable generation for 2010 and 2020.

The Working Group has identified the following two topics for possible legislative action during the 2006 session:
1. Amend existing law to revise existing technology definitions and establish new ones, where needed. In particular, review the definitions of gasification, transformation, fermentation, pyrolysis, and manufacturing. Such statutory clarification would enable the utilization of biomass residues through combustion or non-combustion technology.
2. Amend existing law to provide incentives to local jurisdictions for energy production activities.


July 13, 2006

INDONESIA: $22 Billion on Biofuels by 2010

From Biopact blog comes this article spotlighting the aggressive policies taken by the Indonesian government to develop a robust biofuels industry. Compared to the relative complacency of the American government, it is interesting to see how ambitiously Indonesia is willing to invest in developing new technologies, feedstocks, and infrastructure to meet its needs in the new millennium.


Indonesia to spend a massive US$22 Billion by 2010 to Promote Biofuels

OPEC member Indonesia, a future Biofuels Superpower, has given more details [*Bahasa Indonesia] about its previously announced bioenergy crash program (earlier post). The country plans to invest a massive Rupee 200 trillion (€17.3 bn / US$22 bn) over the next five years to promote the use of alternative fuels using crops such as palm oil, cassava, jatropha and sugar cane for the production of biodiesel and ethanol Energy Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro said.

About $6 billion will be spent securing 6 million hectares (14.8 million acres) of land, in an as-yet-unspecified location, and the rest will fund factories, roads and other supporting services, he said. Plant-based fuels can be mixed with gasoline, diesel and kerosene, now subsidized by the government.


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July 11, 2006

Research Tool for Assessing International Energy Agreements

Energy, money, power...

Each creates opportunities. Each is dependent on the other. Each comes with a high potential for corruption.

Because cutting oil imports is a global challenge, the need for strong laws and international treaties is critically important. Fashioning legal agreements that facilitate opportunity, secure investment, protect patents, and reduce coruption, while safeguarding the environment is no easy feat - but a new online resource will help legal scholars analyze and draft new legal instruments that will pave the way for international cooperation.

The Energy & Environmental Security Initiative (EESI) is an interdisciplinary center located at the University of Colordo. They have released an online database collection of international treaties called the International Sustainable Energy Assessment (ISEA) which is a goldmine of information for policy makers, entrepreneurs, legislators, lobbyists, investors, and energy business consultants alike. As they say...

By providing information on the implementation and impacts of international energy agreements, as well as analysis regarding the efficacy such agreements in achieving their stated goals, the ISEA database will provide the information essential to distilling objectives, principles, cooperative frameworks, institutional structures, dispute settlement mechanisms, implementing machinery, and financing mechanisms capable of facilitating the development, deployment and diffusion of renewable energy, energy efficiency and energy conservation. This information is essential to helping integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programs through the medium of international agreements.

The analysis of each treaty is designed to be broader than that available from other existing services. It will include global scope, international energy agreements, implementation data, REES Impact Analysis, and full searchable text of each document.

The resource is deployed with two levels of accessibility. An internal "holding bin" is accessible by password. After a treaty has been thoroughly researched, analyzed, and categorized then it is made accessible to the general public.

At right is the current (7/11/06) listing of the publicly accessible main categories and the number of documents associated with each. Those interested in Bioenergy treaties, for instance, would look under Sustainable Energy (SE) - 151, subcategory Renewable Energy (RE) - 97, subcategory Bioenergy (BE) - 1.

This resource provides significant value for corporate legal team research efforts in support of global business development. It simultaneously provides insight into current policies and restraints, while providing comparison and justification for interested parties to create, refine, and lobby for new ones.

Longterm, the ISEA database will expand to include resolutions, declarations and partnerships.

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July 10, 2006

BRAZIL: Impact of the Ethanol Gold Rush

Biopact Blog has featured a review of a new blog that offers an English language insider's look at Brazil's burgeoning ethanol industry. The author of the blog is Herique Oliveira, a U. of Michigan MBA grad student who grew up in Brazil.

As Laurens Rademakers of Biopact relates, there are numerous interesting articles at Ethablog.

The one that most interested me is one about the impact that world attention to Brazil's ethanol industry has made on that industry and the prices of related commodities and products.



Now it's official: the ethanol gold rush is on in Brazil.

Expect the price of everything in the country related to ethanol to go up substantially in the coming weeks: land, refineries, equipment, and anything else that can be, at least hypothetically, sold to the foreigners who will come streaming into Brazil in search of the fuel the country has been using for over 30 years.

Or so hope many Brazilians, from government officials in Brasilia to farmers in the Brazilian Midwest to businessmen in the city of Sao Paulo. Ever since the June 21st. edition of "Exame" magazine, the Brazilian equivalent of "BusinessWeek", brought a cover story with the headline: "Ethanol - the World Wants It. We Have It", ethanol has been all the rage in the country.

Brazilians have seen ethanol sold at fueling stations ever since the Pro-Alcool program was created by the Federal government in 1975. To a Brazilian, filling up the tank with ethanol is no big deal - many do not see any reason for all the fuss that surrounds the fuel's introduction to markets in the U.S. and the E.U.

But they certainly see the opportunities. They have watched the convergence of factors - 9/11, the Iraq War, political instability in the Middle East, the growing climate crisis - that is associated with escalating oil prices. Now, with the Exame article, they suddenly realize that the rest of the world has no realistic alternative for the coming years but to follow the path they chose to go down 31 years ago.

But the big question I have heard since the article came out is, "Can Brazil really produce enough ethanol for the entire world?" Market insiders know that Brazil has had trouble producing enough ethanol for its own fleet of cars and light trucks, which, at about 15 million, is 23 times smaller than that of the U.S. Can Brazil then serve as energy basket to the world?


To read Henrique's opinion on that question, continue to read the article. There are numerous other interesting articles detailing the production and marketing of ethanol in this enigmatic country (at least for most Americans).

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July 8, 2006

U.S. D.O.E.: Roadmap for Developing Cleaner Fuels

The Department of Energy has just announced the publication of an ambitious, long term, research "road map" for developing technologies for the conversion of biomass to cellulosic ethanol.

The roadmap identifies the research required for overcoming challenges to the large-scale production of cellulosic ethanol to help meet this goal, including maximizing biomass feedstock productivity, developing better processes by which to break down cellulosic materials into sugars, and optimizing the fermentation process to convert sugars to ethanol

The focus is clearly on the longterm development of enzymatic hydrolysis techniques involving enzymatic, genetic, thermochemical, and chemical R&D. The question is, what is the Department of Energy doing to support R&D and deployment of the other major processes for converting biomass to ethanol - synthesis gas fermentation including catalytic conversion of syngas to ethanol?

The D.O.E. appears to be ignoring the potential of converting a whole, vast class of feedstock and blended feedstock options (non-agricultural feedstocks including municipal solid waste, tires, sulfurous coal, etc.). In addition, they are ignoring the relative speed, ease, and cost efficiency of gasification of feedstock to break down molecular bonds prior to fermentation to ethanol. These technologies are crucial for waste diversion and urban participation in cellulosic ethanol production.

We applaud the scope of the D.O.E.'s commitment to cellulosic ethanol R&D, but focusing only on vastly more challenging and expensive processes may significantly delay the funding crucial to the R&D and deployment of more expedient bioconversion technologies. We would like to see a commensurate commitment to funding syngas fermentation and catalytic conversion process.


DOE Publishes Roadmap for Developing Cleaner Fuels
Research Aimed at Making Cellulosic Ethanol a Practical Alternative to Gasoline

WASHINGTON, DC -- The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today released an ambitious new research agenda for the development of cellulosic ethanol as an alternative to gasoline. The 200-page scientific “roadmap” cites recent advances in biotechnology that have made cost-effective production of ethanol from cellulose, or inedible plant fiber, an attainable goal. The report outlines a detailed research plan for developing new technologies to transform cellulosic ethanol—a renewable, cleaner-burning, and carbon-neutral alternative to gasoline—into an economically viable transportation fuel.

“Cellulosic ethanol has the potential to be a major source for transportation fuel for America’s energy future,” Under Secretary for Science Raymond L. Orbach said. “Low production cost and high efficiency require transformational changes in processing cellulose to ethanol. DOE’s Genomics: GTL program is poised to help do just that.”

The roadmap responds directly to the goal recently announced by Secretary of Energy Samuel W. Bodman of displacing 30 percent of 2004 transportation fuel consumption with biofuels by 2030. This goal was set in response to the President's Advanced Energy Initiative.

The roadmap identifies the research required for overcoming challenges to the large-scale production of cellulosic ethanol to help meet this goal, including maximizing biomass feedstock productivity, developing better processes by which to break down cellulosic materials into sugars, and optimizing the fermentation process to convert sugars to ethanol. Cellulosic ethanol is derived from the fibrous, woody and generally inedible portions of plant matter (biomass).

The focus of the research plan is to use advances in biotechnology -- first developed in the Human Genome Project and continued in the Genomics: GTL program in the Department’s Office of Science -- to jump-start a new fuel industry whose products can be transported, stored and distributed with only modest modifications to the existing infrastructure and can fuel many of today’s vehicles.

The new roadmap was developed during a December 2005 workshop hosted jointly by the Office of Biological and Environmental Research in the Office of Science and the Office of the Biomass Program in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. The success of the plan relies heavily on the continuation of the partnership between the two offices established at that workshop.

“Biofuels represent a tremendous opportunity to move our nation toward a reduced dependence on imported oil,” DOE Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Alexander Karsner said. “We fully intend to use all of our resources and talent to support the President’s goal of breaking our addiction to oil, while also enhancing our energy security.”

The report, “Breaking the Biological Barriers to Cellulosic Ethanol: A Joint Research Agenda,” and a fact sheet on the report may be viewed at http://www.doegenomestolife.org/biofuels/.

For more information about the Genomics: GTL program in the Office of Biological and Environmental Research in the Office of Science, see http://www.doegenomestolife.org/. For more information on the Office of the Biomass Program in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, see http://www1.eere.energy.gov/biomass/.

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July 6, 2006

U.S. INFO: Seeking Money to Accelerate Energy Innovation

The following article appears in the July 2006 issue of the State Department's electronic journal series Economic Perspectives. The complete issue, titled Clean Energy Solutions, can be viewed on the USINFO Web site.


Aid Urged for Commercializing Clean Power-Generation Technologies

Unprecedented, massive innovation must take place to develop, commercialize, and bring to market and large-scale deployment low-carbon technologies that will revolutionize the world.

Moreover, today’s energy and climate policies alone cannot drive clean energy markets at the scale or pace necessary to solidify energy security and stabilize the climate by 2050. We must be more creative in deploying new innovation strategies for all these low-carbon options. Also, current structures for financing and commercializing innovative technologies are failing to deliver these much-needed, low-carbon technologies to market.

Only by simultaneously tackling the twin challenges of accelerating the pace of low-carbon technology innovation and creating broad-scale financing and commercialization can we achieve a planetary energy transformation.

Cellulosic biomass and biofuels: As interest in the production and use of biofuels rises, there is more use of biomass technologies, such as anaerobic digesters and gasifiers, to make power from crops, crop waste, and manure. However, the bioenergy market is relatively nascent and has a way to go to reach the point that signals the rapid and widespread adoption of biomass and biofuels technologies. Further, from a low-carbon perspective, it is widely recognized that using cellulosic (plant-based) biomass is preferable to growing dedicated crops, such as maize, to produce biofuels because harvesting and transporting the dedicated crops increases carbon dioxide emissions. Genomics research may be critical to advance this technology, but it has yet to be harnessed to develop and commercialize high-energy-producing biofuels and energy systems.

To achieve a transformation... several changes must take place:

-- Of the utmost importance, the government, academia and the private sector should coordinate research and development (R&D) with deployment and technology commercialization, rather than treat R&D as a sole area of focus.

-- Debate on low-carbon technologies should take place at various levels (international, sub-national) and within many frameworks for sub-national stakeholders, as well as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the G8 Dialogue on Climate Change, Clean Energy, and Sustainable Development.

-- The task of reducing carbon emissions on a global scale should be distributed to all levels of the public and private sectors. This would open the door to the kind of creative problem solving that would address market shortcomings, promote low-carbon technology transfer and information sharing, foster linkages among disciplines, and produce real results.

-- Energy finance must shift aggressively toward new forms of capital accumulation to build the low-carbon energy infrastructure of the future.

-- The G8 investment framework and other forms of international collaboration must answer broader questions on technology innovation and commercialization. Gaps in the innovation chain must be filled in order to shift to low-carbon technologies in both industrialized and developing countries. To produce results, this must be coupled with a significant expansion of resources and distinct budgets. Public-private partnerships need to make it a top priority to accelerate the pace of low-carbon technology innovation and adoption.

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“Super Ethanol” attracting Investment Attention

The market curve for cellulosic ethanol is still at the "bleeding edge" stage for the simple reason that no commercial scale facilities have been deployed. It is remarkable then to see the enthusiasm for cellulosic ethanol that it attracts from some of the most highly esteemed numbers crunchers in the world.

CNNMoney.com just ran an article citing the opinions of former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan and others in a position to understand the promising Energy ROI of cellulosic ethanol. More telling is the investment of Goldman Sachs in Iogen, which is certainly an early adopter investment opportunity, but is not the most promising technology in the field.


Super ethanol is on its way

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Cellulosic ethanol, the biofuel that differs from corn-based ethanol in that it can be made from pretty much any organic matter, has made an impression among people who matter.

Alan Greenspan, the revered former chairman of the Federal Reserve with a big distaste for irrational exuberance, recently sang its praises before a Congressional hearing on energy security. Greenspan said cellulosic ethanol is the only alternative energy source that could be produced in enough volume to make a dent in gas usage.

"You'll get an awful lot of investments [into this technology] coming in, especially if the numbers make sense, which I think they do," he said.

And last month Goldman Sachs, the world's largest investment bank, poured $27 million into Iogen, a Canadian-based biotech specializing in ethanol made from cellulose.

"There are a lot of people who think the technology is there," and could be competitive even if oil prices return to $30 a barrel, said Greg Bohannon, a managing partner at Greenrock Capital, a California-based private equity fund that focuses on renewable energy. "Why would Goldman Sachs invest in a company that's not going to be commercially viable for 10 years?"

John Ashworth, a biomass expert at the Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory, said corn could only supply about 12 to 18 billion gallons of ethanol a year, or about 10 percent of the nation's 140 billion gallon-a-year gasoline habit.

Cellulosic ethanol has all the advantages of corn-based ethanol - there is no difference in the ethanol, only in the way it's produced.

But unlike corn-based ethanol, cellulosic ethanol can be made from a variety of things that might otherwise be considered waste -- sewage sludge, switchgrass, plant stalks, trees, even coal -- virtually anything that contains carbon.

Ashworth said there are an estimated one billion tons of such material available in the U.S. every year, enough for 100 billion gallons of ethanol.

While it's not feasible to actually go out and collect every ounce of that one billion tons, he said it's not unreasonable to expect ethanol to replace 40 billion gallons of gasoline in the near future.

"There's a lot of venture capitol out there that's willing to invest in cellulosic ethanol," he said. "You're likely to see some plants built in the next 12 to 18 months."

Entrepreneurs are in fact pressing ahead with ambitious plans.

"We know the technology is proven," said Jim Stewart, a spokesman for Bioengineering Resources Inc., or BRI, an Arkansas-based biofuel outfit. "It's at the point of commercialization."

Stewart said BRI uses a patented bacterial culture to transform organic matter into ethanol, and can produce a gallon of it at a fourth the retail cost of a gallon of gas.

He said the company plans to have 4 plants operating commercially within the next 16 to 18 months, but some industry-watchers believe it will be at least several years before cellulosic ethanol production will become commercially viable.

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ASIA: Linking Asian Climate Change to Energy Future

When bankers in developing countries create funding initiatives to address concern about the impact of energy technology and security on climate issues, it is time to take notice. It could be a public relations move by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to draw attention to its other investment initiatives, but the facts President Kuroda cites about the upsurge in demand and the possible consequences in GHG emissions and climate change shows sincerity of purpose.

ADB's mission "The work of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) is aimed at improving the welfare of the people in Asia and the Pacific, particularly the 1.9 billion who live on less than $2 a day. Despite many success stories, Asia and the Pacific remains home to two thirds of the world's poor."

Hyping its "Clean Energy Week" as the world's first "carbon neutral conference", the organizers from ADB's Regional and Sustainable Development Department have made preliminary calculations on the amount of carbon produced in putting on the event. This includes carbon dioxide emissions from flights carrying participants, their taxi rides from the airport, electricity for hotel rooms, preparation of meals and refreshments, and lighting and air conditioning at the meeting.

In addition, emissions and consumption will be kept to a minimum with no presentations of meeting notes printed (instead, all papers will be made available online) and participants encouraged to walk from their hotel, neighboring the ADB building.
At the end of the event, the calculations will be finalized and ADB will then purchase equivalent carbon credits from the market.

Below is the full text of their p.r. release...


Asia Critical to Future of Climate Change
Asian Development Bank President Kuroda

Manila, June 20, 2006 (ACN Newswire) - No region in the world is as critical to future climate change as Asia, Asian Development Bank (ASX: ATB) President Haruhiko Kuroda told the opening of ADB's Clean Energy Week today.

"Climate change is a reality that we can no longer ignore and one that we have to take immediate action to mitigate and adapt to," Mr. Kuroda said in opening remarks to the event at ADB's Manila Headquarters.

Over three days, major players in the Asian energy agenda - including representatives of developing countries, donor governments, nongovernment organizations, and the private sector - will discuss, debate and exchange experiences on energy issues and climate change.

"We look forward to working with all our development partners to bring concrete, lasting solutions to the table for slowing climate change and ensuring a sustainable growth path for Asia and the Pacific," Mr. Kuroda said.

The ADB President said while Asia needs energy to maintain rapid growth and continue cutting poverty, energy production and consumption need to move to a more sustainable path.

"Today, the issues surrounding energy conservation, efficiency and security are more important than ever," he said. "While Asia's rapid growth has brought undeniable benefits to the poor, it has also put a serious strain on the environment and on our natural resources, including energy."

In the 30 years to 2003, he pointed out, Asia's energy consumption grew by 230%, compared with the average worldwide increase of 75%. As a result, the share of the region's greenhouse gas emissions has risen from less than one-tenth of global emissions to nearly one quarter. Meanwhile, the rocketing of the price of oil to almost $80 a barrel has elevated the need for energy conservation and efficiency, and the use of renewable energy as key priorities for the region.

Mr. Kuroda said that in response to these challenges, ADB is supporting activities in renewable energy, energy efficiency, and climate change mitigation and adaptation.

These include an Energy Efficiency Initiative, under which ADB plans to expand its program of clean energy projects to $1 billion a year, as well as a planned Carbon Market Initiative (CMI), which will help developing countries address shortages in finance and capacity for adopting cleaner energy technologies.

"We believe the CMI will help shift investment patterns, foster sustainable economic development, and, in the long term, have a positive impact on both energy security and climate change," Mr. Kuroda said.

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