January 31, 2007

January 2007 Digest

The Renewable Industrial Revolution

After more than 150 years, the Industrial Revolution is overdue for a major retooling. No longer can we heedlessly combust biomass and fossil resources without consideration for the carbon emissions and potential energy that "floats out the smokestack." But what can possibly replace the status quo paradigm that we have based so much of our energy, industry, transportation, and lifestyle liberties upon?

This BIO "BlogRing" - BIOstock Blog, BIOconversion Blog, BIOoutput Blog, and the new BIOwaste Blog - is intended to help identify the multi-faceted pieces of emerging biomass technologies. - is intended to help identify the multi-faceted pieces of emerging biomass technologies. Like a Rubik's cube, the parts are inextricably linked together, but currently in disarray. By addressing each facet independently, challenging issues will become clear. By shifting perspective, new collaborative solutions can be synthesized. Not just one solution but many, because the ultimate solution for any market will depend upon the resources, ecology, and stakeholders of that market.

Here are their most significant developments of January 2007, organized by blog...

BIOstock Blog--------------
Utilizing Pine Beetle Wood Waste as BIOstock
Japanese wood-to-ethanol facility uses Arkenol process
CHINA: Choosing wood over corn for biofuels production
Low heat gasification converts woody biostock to energy
25x'25 Vision of BIOstock Supply
Food vs. Fuel: Over-reliance on Corn Raises Ag Prices
Celunol produces Ethanol from Wood using Bacteria
BIOethanol converted from pulping liquor
Food vs. Fuel? U.S. Farmers Can Produce Both
Black Liquor Gasification Technology Attracts Volvo Investment

BIOconversion Blog--------------
Biomass: Year-in-Review
Biomass Power Generation using Gasification
ALT Energy Stocks: The Future of Ethanol
FLORIDA: Cultivating a Bioconversion Industry
Low heat gasification technique to convert biostock to energy
Europe's "New Industrial Revolution"
Celunol launches commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant in Japan
Cellulose Ethanol Market Potential Report
ACORE: President Bush on Renewable Energy in 2007
Apollo Alliance pursues 'green-collar' jobs
Ethanol and Net Energy - EROI
The Renewable Path to Energy Security

BIOoutput Blog-----------------
FAQ: BIOoutput Blog
"Living with Ed" Begley, Jr. in Studio City
CALIFORNIA: Governor Targets Fuel Emissions
Electric cars - a boost for biofuels?
CHINA: Pollution threatens 2008 Olympics
BioButanol from Cellulosic Bioconversion
From Food to Fuel to Fashion

NEW! BIOwaste Blog-----------------
FAQ: BIOwaste Blog
Spinning “Gold” Out of Trash
Southern California Emerging Waste Technologies Forum
The Benefits of Conversion Technologies
Recycling’s “China Syndrome”
Plasma Gasification and Incineration Compared
CANADA: Municipal Solid Waste Disposal Options
CHINA: Pollution threatens 2008 Olympics
Using Algae to Recycle Flue Gas into Biofuels
U.S. D.O.E.: Strategies for Reducing Greenhouse Gases
CALIFORNIA: Air Resources Board tackles Global Warming
Impact of Global Growth on Carbon Emissions
Enforcing California's Greenhouse Gas Emissions Limits
BIOwaste Energy as Explained on the Energy Kid's Page
Expanded Recycling - a Key to Cutting Fossil Fuels and Global Warming
Mayors seek $4B to fight Energy & Environmental Challenges
MIT/PNNL Plasma Arc Waste-to-ethanol Solution

Each month we provide a similar breakdown of article titles from our favorite "companion" site - Biopact Blog. This list is kept current and is accessible in the right hand column of each of the three blogs.

Please forward a link to this digest to anyone you know who would be interested in keeping track of change that will affect us all. They can add their name to the mailing list on the BioConversion Blog.

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January 27, 2007

The Renewable Path to Energy Security

Mixing environmental concern with American "can-do" attitude, the Worldwatch Insitute and Center for American Progress have teamed up to provide a free, online 40-page that provides chapters titled:
• a vision for a more secure and prosperous America
• building a new energy economy
• a cleaner, healthier America
• resources and technology
• American energy policy agenda

As their press release announces:

The American Energy Initiative is a joint project of the Worldwatch Institute and the Center for American Progress focused on educating and inspiring the public and policymakers on the importance of renewable energy to the economic, environmental and national security of the United States. The report, American Energy: The Renewable Path to Energy Security, demonstrates the potential of renewable energy and energy efficiency and presents a practical policy agenda for achieving them.

The chapters on Biofuels and Biopower are particularly relevant to the interests of frequent visitors to this blog. There is a blind eye, however, to urban waste as a biomass feedstock. This misses a major opportunity to effect industrial and urban change in our society.

Rather than quote excerpts, here are a few harvested charts and snippets to encourage you to download and read the report:

American Energy: The Renewable Path to Energy Security
by the Worldwatch Institute and the Center for American Progress

The time is ripe for a strong national commitment to enacting new policies at the federal, state, and local levels that will allow the United States to become a world leader in building a 21st century energy system.Meeting that challenge will require concerted action by governments, businesses, and citizens across our nation.

“Renewable energy is one of the great stories of recent years, and it’s going to be a bigger story in the years to come.”
—George W. Bush, President of the United States

“This field of greentech could be the largest economic opportunity of the 21st century.”
—John Doerr, venture capitalist for Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

“The Stone Age did not end for lack of stones, and the Oil Age will end long before the world runs out of oil.”
—Sheikh Yamani, former Oil Minister of Saudi Arabia

“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”
—Alan Kay, pioneer of personal computing

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January 26, 2007

Ethanol and Net Energy - EROI

Energy return on investment (EROI) is the ratio of the energy delivered by a process to the energy used directly and indirectly in that process.

Many of the arguments against ethanol concern the hotly debated Energy Rate of Investment (EROI) of the fuel. Does it take more (mostly fossil fuel) energy to produce ethanol than the final fermented product contains?

Most experts agree that ethanol made from corn has a lower EROI than that made from sugarcane because sugarcane has more energy in it than corn and the energy to cultivate and harvest the crop takes less energy. They also agree that cellulosic ethanol, made from agricultural and forestry waste, would have a much higher EROI because the cellulosic feedstock does not include accounting for cultivation energy expense. However, the conversion process could be higher than sugar fermentation so it is hard to come up with real numbers.

Interestingly, while determining EROI is a fairly straightforward process of accounting for inputs and outputs, there are social factors that come into play when evaluating fuels and they are highly variable. The social cost we place on carbon emissions, for example, would impact the refining and infrastructure costs of the fuel. Can we put a price on disposal of uranium wastes or other process residues like pet-coke (which may grow as time goes along)? Should we factor in the hidden costs of oil or feedstock for a process?

Increasingly, it seems, EROI is becoming more of a fuzzy math affected by assessment of non-scientific military, employment, trade, and political variables.

Changing structure of final energy sold to consumers in the United States by energy form. Solids consist of fuelwood and other biomass and coal. Liquids consist of petroleum products. Grids consist of electricity, gas, and district heat.
The costs of energy transition may make the usefulness of one low-EROI fuel more attractive than one with a higher EROI. Is it realistic to expect to convert to a hydrogen-based energy economy when one considers that the historical trends of energy form do not even include compressed gas or fuel cells (see chart above)?

There is an excellent online reference called the encyclopedia of earth that helps define EROI in laymen's terms. Many of the topics come from the Environmental Protection Agency which is a pretty credible endorsement for the site.

The entry on EROI is fairly lengthy but I have listed the ten principles here:

Ten fundamental principles of net energy

The decline in cost for ethanol fuel produced from sugarcane in Brazil.

EROI is a tool of net energy analysis, a methodology that seeks to compare the amount of energy delivered to society by a technology to the total energy required to find, extract, process, deliver, and otherwise upgrade that energy to a socially useful form. Net energy analysis was developed in response to the emergence of energy as an important economic, technological and geopolitical force following the energy price increases of 1973-74 and 1980-81. Interest in net energy analysis was rekindled in recent years following another round of energy price increases, growing concern about energy's role in climate change, and the debate surrounding the remaining lifetime of conventional fossil fuels, especially crude oil.

The principles
1. Net energy and energy surplus are important driving forces in ecology and economic systems
2. The size and rate of delivery of surplus energy is just as important as EROI
3. The unprecedented expansion of the human population, the global economy, and per capita living standards of the last 200 years was powered by high EROI, high energy surplus fossil fuels
4. The principal economic impact of a shift to a lower EROI energy system is the increased opportunity cost of energy delivery
5. Energy quality matters
6. Market imperfections that distort prices and cost also affect EROI
7. The methodologies to perform net energy analysis are well established
8. The relation between “peak oil” and the EROI for world oil production is unknown
9. Technological change affects EROI just as it affects price and cost
10. Alternatives to the dominant energy and power systems show a wide range in EROI

On the power generation side, coal, and hydropower have the highest EROI among conventional power systems, although the latter has very limited potential for further expansion in most regions of the world. Nuclear power appears to have a lower EROI, but there are very few credible studies that are thorough and unbiased. We do not know what the EROI will be from the new generation of nuclear reactors that would be built if demand for them returns.

Wind has a very favorable EROI in the right conditions, while solar thermal and photovoltaic systems have lower EROIs compared to coal and hydropower. As outlined above, a key issue is the size of the surplus that can realistically be delivered by those renewable power technologies.

A final point for consideration: Carbon may trump EROI. The growing concern that climate change may impose swift and large costs on society may drive the next major energy transition. It is plausible that carbon intensity, as opposed to net energy, may be the principal attribute of future energy systems that determines the timing and pace of their adoption. Society may choose to forgo the benefits of a larger energy surplus to reduce its exposure to climate-related risks.

For more information, click HERE

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January 25, 2007

Apollo Alliance pursues 'green-collar' jobs

One of the great benefits of deploying emerging renewable energy technologies are the "green-collar" jobs that they will create. A leader in advancing the cause of new employment is the Apollo Alliance led by Jerome Ringo.

I met Mr. Ringo at the ACORE Biomass Coordinating Council meeting last April. He is passionate in his pursuit of green industry jobs for the upwardly mobile middle class.

Here is a story about the environmental community and the Apollo Alliance both embracing the same goals in pursuit of a greener nation.

Unions see greenbacks in 'green' future
Organized labor is joining forces with environmentalists to push for an eco-friendly economy.
By Moises Velasquez-Manoff | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

Union leaders are betting that a green economy will not only address the issue of climate change, it will also provide a bonanza of well-paying manufacturing jobs – the kinds of jobs that have largely vanished from the United States in recent decades.

"From labor unions' point of view, these are the kinds of jobs their unions are most prepared for," says Jeff Rickert, vice president of the Apollo Alliance, a coalition of the major environmental and labor organizations.

According to studies by the Apollo Alliance, which has outlined a 10-point plan for energy independence and jumpstarting the renewables sector, dollars invested in clean energy create more jobs than those invested in traditional energy sources. Renewable energy is simply more labor intensive. An investment of $30 billion per year for 10 years would create 3.3 million jobs and boost the gross domestic product by $1.4 trillion, according to its analysis. The federal government would recoup the initial investment in increased tax revenues within the same 10-year period.

The most optimistic point out that, because decentralization is inherent to renewable energy, an equitable distribution of wealth is built into the new energy paradigm.

Environmentalists looked down their noses at organized labor as "goons" more interested in protecting polluting industries than protecting the environment. Organized labor, meanwhile, viewed the environmental movement as elitist and more preoccupied with saving trees than in saving livelihoods. The Bush administration has helped change those attitudes.

"They have run roughshod over the environmentalists, who thought they were so powerful," Professor Getman says, "and they have done everything possible to diminish the power of unions."

Mr. Rifkin envisions not only more jobs but also a more equitable distribution of wealth due to the decentralization of energy production. He foresees a land dotted with community- or individually-owned generators and hydrogen fuel cells to store energy, all connected by a "smart grid," an Internet-like network managing the ebb and flow of electricity.

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January 24, 2007

ACORE: President Bush on Renewable Energy in 2007

While this year's State of the Union address had no memorable "addicted to oil" soundbites, it did include some notable goals for the renewable energy and fuels industries. His Twenty in Ten plan (reducing U.S. gasoline usage by 20% in the next ten years) is the kind of goal setting that we need to achieve significant change in the energy paradigm.

I recommend reading David Adams' article at "The Fueling Station" where he asks How green did he go? and then places it in the context of what it means in practical terms for the development of the cellulosic ethanol industry and biofuel imports.

I am a member of the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE), a membership nonprofit organization headquartered in Washington, D.C. It is dedicated to bringing renewable energy into the mainstream of the US economy and lifestyle through information and communications programs.

At its annual Power-Gen Conference on Renewable Energy each year ACORE provides a common platform for the the renewable energy community - including renewable energy industries, associations, utilities, end users, professional service firms, financial institutions and government agencies. It's Biomass Coordinating Council holds a pre-conference meeting that alone is worth the price of admission.

I profited greatly from my participation last year and highly recommend attendance this year March 6-8, 2007 in Las Vegas - especially in light of the lift the industry has received from both the Executive and Legislative branches of government. I will be helping Price BIOstock Services with their presence at Booth 338 this year. Let me know if you are attending and please visit the booth.

Here is ACORE statement about the President's State of the Union Address commitments to renewable energy:

ACORE Supports President Bush's Renewable Energy Initiatives in State of the Union 2007

Washington, D.C. - President George W. Bush laid out a set of important programs and goals for a national shift to renewable energy and fuels in last night's State of the Union address.

The President laid out a comprehensive set of actions and goals to increase the use of renewable energy in America. He called for an increase in solar energy and wind power for electricity generation, and an increase in renewable fuels such as biodiesel and ethanol for more fuels.

Specifically, the President set a goal of reducing our gasoline consumption by 20% in 10 years. He called for a mandatory target of 35 billion gallons of renewable fuels by 2017, and to reform fuel economy standards for automobiles.

The President called for Americans to live our lives less dependent on oil, and to reduce the threat of global climate change.

The American Council On Renewable Energy (ACORE) is pleased with this forward-stepping program for increased use of renewable energy.

"The President's program for renewable energy gets things going in the right direction for our country," said Michael Eckhart, ACORE President, who added, "but we can actually do much more."

ACORE, a 400-member non-profit organization, was formed five years ago to assume responsibility for the success of renewable energy in America, to bring renewable energy into the mainstream of our country, and to be for renewable energy and against nothing.

"The President took some bold steps in the right direction tonight," said John Geesman, Co-Chairman of the ACORE Board of Directors, "and we applaud him for it. We will continue working with all public leaders who see the path forward with renewable energy."

A new assessment of the potential for renewable energy, developed by 15 non-profit institutions and trade associations, indicates that renewable energy can contribute as much as 25% of US energy supplies by the year 2025, in accordance with a campaign by the Energy Future Coalition and recent legislation introduced by Senator Lugar of Indiana.

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January 21, 2007

Cellulose Ethanol Market Potential Report

Recently published by Energy Business Reports this report may be of interest to some readers - I haven't read it yet. With all the renewable energy conferences and interest in cellulosic ethanol, we should expect to see more of these publications in the years to come.

See the linked webpage for table of content information. Here is their brief description:

Given its environmental and economic benefits, together with the vast availability of feedstock, ethanol has taken on prominence as one of the most favored alternatives to fossil fuel.

The Market for Cellulose Ethanol report is an in-depth analysis of the prospects for the use of cellulose ethanol as a fuel. The report includes a comprehensive analysis of how cellulose ethanol is produced, its cost-effectiveness, the growth drivers promoting the use of ethanol over other fuels, the barriers to market, and much more.

The report also focuses on the steps the U.S. government is taking to promote ethanol use, including tax incentives, funding for research and development, funding for technology, and other measures. The report also covers the basics of ethanol production; how ethanol differs from other fuels, and the benefits to consumers from using ethanol.

The Market for Cellulose Ethanol report is an analysis of this promising young industry and the market potential of ethanol as an alternative fuel source.

Includes a SPECIAL SECTION: A Guide for Developing Ethanol Processing Plants

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Celunol launches commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant in Japan

Celunol Corporation out of Dedham, Massachusetts is making good on its commitment to help open commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol facilities this year using their proprietary wet biomass conversion technology.

The technology

The sugar in cellulosic biomass is locked up in the form of cellulose and hemicellulose. Cellulose contains glucose, the same type of sugar—a six-carbon (C6) sugar—that is found in cornstarch and that can be fermented to ethanol using conventional yeasts.  However, hemicellulose contains mainly non-glucose sugars—five-carbon (C5) sugars.  Conventional yeasts cannot ferment most non-glucose sugars to ethanol with commercially acceptable yields.

Celunol’s technology enables almost complete conversion of all the sugars found in cellulosic biomass.  This efficiency advantage, combined with the low input cost of cellulosic biomass, results in superior economics in the production of ethanol.

(Its) groundbreaking technology is based on the metabolic engineering of microorganisms. Its key element is a set of genetically engineered strains of Escherichia coli bacteria that are capable of fermenting into ethanol essentially all of the sugars released from many types of cellulosic biomass. This trait enables Celunol to achieve the required efficiency to make the process commercially feasible.

BioEthanol Japan Begins Production of Cellulosic Ethanol from Wood Scraps; Uses Celunol Technology

BioEthanol Japan on Tuesday became the world’s first company to produce cellulosic ethanol from wood construction waste on a commercial basis.

The plant in Osaka Prefecture has an annual capacity of 1.4 million liters (about 370,000 gallons US). In 2008, it plans to boost production to 4 million liters (1 million gallons).

BioEthanol Japan was established in 2004 by five companies, including construction firm Taisei Corp., major trading house Marubeni Corp., Daiei Inter Nature System, and beermaker Sapporo Breweries Ltd.

Marubeni is supplying the process technology, which it has licensed from US-based Celunol (earlier post), to BioEthanol Japan. Marubeni is also supplying the same technology for a wood ethanol project in Asia, and is also involved in a bioethanol project using sugar cane in Thailand run by the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO).

Celunol is a privately held company headquartered in Dedham, Massachusetts moving rapidly to commercialize its proprietary technology for producing ethanol from a wide array of cellulosic biomass feedstocks, including bagasse, agricultural waste, wood products and dedicated energy crops.

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January 14, 2007

Europe's "New Industrial Revolution"

If we are learning anything in the new millennium it is that the Industrial Revolution of the last 150 years is overdue for a major upgrade. While we have come a long way from wood burning boilers (at least in some industries) we seem stuck on old ways of thinking about what is efficient and economical without considering the social costs related to:
1 - particulate matter and toxic emissions from combustion
2 - wasted energy related to released heat and emissions
3 - energy transport and transmission from over centralization
4 - foreign resource and energy supply dependency
5 - carbon release into the atmosphere
6 - geopolitical and market competitiveness
7 - aging infrastructure

We need to look at feedstock and energy generation with a fresh eye - an eye for opportunities to improve the status quo in significant ways. The new European Union report entitled An Energy Policy for Europe gives a glimpse of what is under consideration for that continent with significant implications for the rest of the world.

To see other related European Union documents (plus laymen's summaries), visit the EU Press Room's Energy for a Changing World. Topics include: Renewable Energy Road Map, Progress in renewable electricity, Progress in Biofuels, Gas and Electricity Infrastructures, Nuclear Energy, Sustainable Power Generation from Fossil Fuels, and European strategic energy technology plan.

Below are some excerpts from the Biopact description of the Energy Policy's contents...

EU unveils energy policy for the 21st century: towards a 'low carbon economy' with renewables

Today, the Commission put forward a series of energy reports and policy proposals, which it hopes will be a catalyst for "a new industrial revolution" that will "transform Europe into a highly energy-efficient and low-CO2 energy economy" by the mid-century.

To address those challenges, the Commission proposes an Action Plan, to be implemented in the next three years. It calls on the European Parliament and on EU leaders to endorse the plan at the forthcoming summit in March. "The point of departure for a common energy policy must be combating climate change, promoting jobs and growth and limiting the EU's external vulnerability to imported hydrocarbons," the Commission says.

The new EU energy strategy is based on three main pillars:

1. Accelerating the shift to low carbon energy

In its report entitled the Renewables Energy Roadmap the Commission proposes to maintain the EU's position as a world leader in renewable energy, by proposing a binding target of 20% of its overall energy mix will be sourced from renewable energy by 2020. This will require a massive growth in all three renewable energy sectors: electricity, biofuels and heating and cooling. This renewables target will be supplemented by a minimum target for biofuels of 10%. In addition, a 2007 renewables legislative package will include specific measures to facilitate the market penetration of both biofuels and heating and cooling.

2. Creation of a true Internal Energy Market
The aim is to give real choice for EU energy users, whether citizens or businesses, and to trigger the huge investments needed in energy, as outlined in the policy proposal Prospects for the Internal Gas and Electricity Market. The single market is good not just for competitiveness, but also sustainability and security.

3. Energy efficiency
As outlined in the Strategic Energy Technology Plan [*.pdf], the Commission proposes that the use of fuel efficient vehicles for transport is accelerated; tougher standards and better labelling on appliances; improved energy performance of the EU's existing buildings and improved efficiency of heat and electricity generation, transmission and distribution. The Commission also proposes a new international agreement on energy efficiency.

The European Union cannot achieve its energy and climate change objectives on its own. It needs to work with both developed and developing countries and energy consumers and producers. The European Union will develop effective solidarity mechanisms to deal with any energy supply crisis and actively develop a common external energy policy to increasingly "speak with one voice" with third countries. It will endeavour to develop real energy partnerships with suppliers based on transparency, predictability and reciprocity.

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January 13, 2007

Low heat gasification technique to convert biostock to energy

The thermal process of gasification is one way to break down the bonds of cellulosic feedstock into syngas (primarily CO and H2). Some processes, like plasma arc, uses extremely high heat to "vaporize" the biostock.

Here is an announcement from Germany about a company that has been getting very promising results from gasifying at a lower heat level. They claim, based on experiments with woody biomass, that the lower heat level enables the process to be applicable to a greater range of biostock, including wet forestry waste.

While commercial-scalability is always an issue, such advancements bring the vision of decentralized, blended feedstock, continuous flow bioconversion ever closer.

Here is a brief of the original article I found at Biopact. Thank goodness someone there can interpret German!

German consortium tests new biomass gasification technology, obtains record hydrogen yield

The 'Zentrum für Sonnenenergie- und Wasserstoff-Forschung' (ZSW) in Baden-Württemberg, Germany, announces that it has developed a new gasification technology for the production of an energy rich gas from biomass that can be used for the generation of electricy and heat, but also for the production of biohydrogen, biomethane and a series of next-generation synthetic liquid biofuels.

The innovation at the ZSW concentrates on the water vapour gasification of biomass in the presence of a CO2 absorbent. The technology is based on an innovative step in a process called 'Absorption Enhanced Reforming' (AER), which was developed in cooperation with the University of Stuttgart and other European partners. During the gasification process, solid biomass is converted into a hydrogen-rich and carbon-oxide-poor fuel gas with a low tar content by means of integrated gas conditioning. Compared to other gasification processes, the AER technique yields gas with a much higher hydrogen content; pilot tests showed yields of up to 70% hydrogen, an unprecedented level.

The integrated gasification-cogeneration plant uses woody biomass as a feedstock. But, compared to conventional gasification methods, the AER technique considerably reduces the temperatures required for the gasification of biomass. This not only reduces the amount of energy needed to drive the process, it also allows for a much broader range of feedstocks to be used, including wet biomass. Large waste-streams from the agroforestry industry now become available: from grass and straw residues with low ash melting points, which weren't useable until now, to wet wood (leaves, shoots).

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January 12, 2007

FLORIDA: Cultivating a Bioconversion Industry

As the most tropical state on the continent, Florida provides a unique combination of climate and agriculture for the cultivation of biomass feedstock. Almost more important, it has a state commissioner that recognizes the unique opportunity the state has to lead the nation in bioconversion of its crops into biofuels.

The Fueling Station website has a report on Commissioner Charles H. Bronson's appeal to Florida legislators to provide a regulatory environment (equal to the agricultural ecology) necessary to cultivate a powerhouse bioconversion industry there. Here is part of the report...

Florida Official Touts Alternative Fuels To Lawmakers.

Florida has the capability of producing more alternative fuels than anywhere else in the country, Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Charles H. Bronson told state legislators on Wednesday.

Appearing before a joint meeting of the House Agribusiness and House Energy Committees, Bronson said the state's abundant sunshine, ample rainfall and year-round growing season puts Florida ahead of every state in the country in its potential to produce ethanol and bio-diesel crops.

"You today are in a position of putting Florida ahead of the pack," Bronson said. "It will be a Florida that looks much different than it does today."

What are needed are tax incentives or some form of financial assistance that the state can provide to encourage growers to produce alternative energy crops and processors to locate facilities in Florida to convert the crops to fuel, Bronson said.

Bronson is a member of the steering committee of "25x25" -- a national bipartisan organization whose goal is to see U.S. agriculture produce 25 percent of the nation's energy needs by the year 2025. He has launched the state's Farm to Fuel program, which encompasses efforts under way in Florida to see that goal realized.

The Commissioner told legislators that unlike the Midwest, where corn is the primary alternative energy crop, research done at the University of Florida has concluded that by using certain bacteria, virtually any type of bio-mass can be broken down to fuel. That would include wood, forestry debris, plant stalks and even livestock waste in addition to conventional crops.

"The opportunities in Florida are going to shock you," Bronson said.


January 10, 2007

ALT Energy Stocks: The Future of Ethanol

For any renewable fuel to make a dent in the current oil paradigm, it is going to have to make sense to investors over the long haul. According to two writers for Alt Energy Stocks website, the fast growing ethanol industry offers some food for thought as well as food for energy. Rapid growth may result in some shortterm investment profits, but fear of a dot com type bust for some developers is very real. I invite you to read the original stories, but here are my abridged versions...

Are Ethanol Companies Risky Investments?
by Neal Dikeman

In the short run ethanol stocks are in a land grab phase ramping to meet demand, and some of these stocks may do well while demand still outstrips supply and the industry is still small, but when this dynamic changes – watch out as the margin pressure will be brutal, and could turn already aggressively valued stocks into a dot bomb style free fall as per gallon profits get crushed. So, make your profits while you can!

The Future of Alternative Fuels: Ethanol
by Charles Morand

Whether one likes ethanol or not, it was without a doubt one of the top alt energy stories of 2006, and will remain a biggie in the years ahead.

Consider this quote from a recent Bloomberg article on biofuel demand and feedstock prices:

“The 110 factories now producing ethanol in the U.S. have boosted their annual capacity by 12 percent in the past six months, to 5.3 billion gallons, according to the Renewable Fuels Association in Washington. An additional 6 billion gallons of capacity will be added in the next two years as 79 new plants or expansions of factories are completed, the association said.”

The industry’s capacity will thus grow by 113% by the end of 2008, a significant number.

Lester Brown, a known environmental commentator, argues that the Department of Agriculture’s projections that ethanol producers will, as a result of industry growth, consume 60 million tons of corn by 2008 are wrong, and says he instead expects ethanol manufacturers to consume 139 million tons of corn by then, more than double (by the way, the Earth Policy Institute, Lester Brown’s outfit, produced this very cool table of ethanol distilleries in the US by aggregating data from multiple industry sources.

However way you look at it, if the ethanol industry is truly responsible for the current rise in corn demand and associated run in corn prices, it is doubtful US farmers will be able to scale up production enough to keep pace with the kind of refining capacity growth discussed above, and prices should thus spike. The result of this will be that the food-Vs-fuel debate, which was mostly academic only 18 months ago, will intensify, pitting farmers and the ethanol industry against environmentalists and other concerned citizens. Another impact of this will be that high feedstock costs will eat away at producers’ margins, as there will be limits to what the market will tolerate in terms of price increases, especially if oil gets cheaper.

There are early signs that the new Democratic Congress wants to forge ahead with the budding ethanol economy. This article from the Green Car Congress provides details on a proposed piece of legislation that, if adopted, would grant significantly more regulatory certainty to the ethanol industry than to just about any other alternative energy industry in America.

In my view, corn-based ethanol is one of those transition technologies that will play a key part in America's energy mix for some time, but that will slowly dwindle into irrelevance as better solutions come on-stream. The best plays on ethanol should therefore do well, for a time.

You should also keep an eye on firms that are working on cellulosic ethanol. Cellulosic ethanol holds great promises, as evidenced by the fact that Goldman Sachs took, in May 2006, a $30 million position in cellulosic ethanol firm Iogen of Canada. But cellulosic ethanol is at least 5 years away.

In short, I’m sure ethanol, as an asset class, can and will make you money. The ethanol investor will, however, have to be cautious, as the waters ahead are not free of trouble.

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January 8, 2007

Biomass Power Generation using Gasification

Maximizing heat and electricity BIOoutput are the typical targets of biomass gasification research. Here is a good example of current efforts to use clean gasification technology to reduce waste in the service of generating electricity and heat.

Demonstration under Way for EERC-Developed Biomass Power Generation System
January 4, 2007
(GRAND FORKS, NORTH DAKOTA) -- The University of North Dakota Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) will demonstrate a biomass gasification power generation system to turn a low-value waste material into valuable heat and electricity at the Grand Forks Truss Plant in Grand Forks, North Dakota.

The biomass gasification power generation system, developed by the EERC's Center for Renewable Energy through several years of projects with the U.S. Department of Energy and commercial industry, will convert the sawdust and wood waste from the building product plant into a combustible gas to produce heat and electricity. The system is designed to match typical power requirements of various manufacturing industries generating between 10 kW to 1 MW of power.

"This power system provides unique energy solutions to industrial clients by producing heat and electrical power from a variety of fuels, including waste materials and other organic feedstocks," said Darren Schmidt, EERC Research Manager. "The power generation and consumption of the lumber scraps ultimately provide a cost savings for the Truss Plant."

"We are very excited and proud to host a project involving renewable energy. We have a vast supply of biomass waste and continue to produce more than we can utilize in our current heating system," said Shaun Johnson, Plant Operations, Grand Forks Truss. "We were considering options to better utilize our wood waste when, by chance, the EERC came to us with the answer. It's exciting to watch a research project, developed locally, being applied and unfold before us. It is an important step forward in the global goal of better utilizing our natural resources," he said.

"There are numerous applications for biomass gasification, which is being sought by numerous corporate partners and has global implications," said EERC Director Gerald Groenewold. "This project is based on the EERC's 12 years of biomass utilization experience and over 50 years of gasification experience, as well as 2 years of development and operation of a full-scale portable power plant here at our facilities," he said.

The project is being conducted under the EERC's Center for Renewable Energy (formerly the Center for Biomass Utilization) and the National Center for Hydrogen Technology (NCHT), two of the EERC's ten Centers of Excellence. The technology also has potential applications in the production of hydrogen from other renewable and fossil fuel sources.

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January 2, 2007

Biomass: Year-in-Review

Jetta Wong of Renewable Energy Access has done a nice job characterizing the strong advance made by biomass into the national dialog on renewable fuel options in 2006. She has also listed many specifics about the gaps between authorization and funding by the federal government, new bioenergy legislation under consideration by the U.S. Congress, the initiative shown by individual states to take the lead in renewable energy, and the surge in biomass/biofuels conferences.

Below is the introduction to the article. Click on the article title to read the entire entry.

Biomass: Year-in-Review
by Jetta Wong, Agriculture & Energy Policy Analyst

The biomass industry made tremendous gains in 2005, but even those knee-deep in biomass could not have foreseen such amazing strides made in 2006. Even with appropriation woes, large venture capital investments, new leadership, increased acceptance from the environmental community, national security threats and unstable energy markets sparked the country's enthusiasm for biomass. The industry's capacity to ramp up production and the ability of this renewable resource to provide a considerable quantity of power, not just liquid fuel, has made biomass a significant player in the U.S. energy future.

With dozens of biomass conferences and events across the country, it is no wonder that in 2006 more than 50 biomass-related bills were introduced. Increases to the national RFS, incentives for alternative fueling stations and flex-fuel vehicles and extensions of biomass-related tax incentives were highlighted in these bills.

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Biopact: January 2007 Digest

Biopact Blog writes many stories that are relevant to the study of BIOstock, BIOconversion, BIOoutput, and BIOwaste.

Rather than summarize and reprint excerpts from this excellent source of information, a breakdown of each month's most relevant titles is provided in one updated article...

A bad habit in the making: using coal to produce biofuels
Sweet potatoes and the carbohydrate economy
Nigeria's Ondo state and NNPC sign agreement on cassava ethanol production, release funds
An in-depth look at biofuels from algae
panding globally
Europe's forest growth exceeds wood demand for energy

INDIA: Notes on green energy and sustainability from the 94th Indian Science Congress
"Radical" biomass use urged to combat coal, carbon trading
Nigeria's renewables industry to generate 500,000 jobs
Syngenta and Diversa create partnership to discover enzymes for second-generation biofuels
European dependence on Russian energy fully exposed, once again
Indonesia's $12.4bn biofuels plan inaugurated today; CNOOC to invest $5.5bn
EU unveils energy policy for the 21st century: towards a 'low carbon economy' with renewables
China releases first-ever report on climate change
German consortium tests new biomass gasification technology, obtains record hydrogen yield
"Plants for power in place of nuclear power plants" - International Green Week
Bush's State of the Union: "twenty in ten", biofuel imports

Green car sales in Sweden seen quadrupling by 2012
Experts see 2007 as the year of biogas; biomethane as a transport fuel
The bioeconomy at work: Metabolix to build 50,000 ton per year PHA bioplastics factory
National survey in the U.S. reveals lack of knowledge about ethanol among consumers
The bioeconomy at work: bioplastics from plant-based oils
The bioeconomy at work: protein fibers from wheat gluten, similar to wool
Green Energy Resources sees ice storm damage wood as biomass supply

Green Energy Resources sees ice storm damage wood as biomass supply

In addition, the final week of the year, BIOpact has written a Looking back on 2006 series of articles summarizing worldwide factors affecting development in the biomass conversion industry by geographic zone:
Looking back on 2006
The year in review: Asia
The year in review: Africa
The year in review: Latin America

January 1, 2007

Inside Renewable Energy Podcasts

On March 21, 2006 Renewable Energy Access launched a new service called Inside Renewable Energy that features weekly podcasts. Their first offering explains what the service is about: Podcast Launch: Inside Renewable Energy. While the range of stories cover all forms of renewable energy, I will post those titles that have most relationship to the subject of my blogs - biomass and bioenergy.

Hosted by Stephen Lacey, each includes a weekly update of general renewable energy news items. There is other content than just what the titles suggest. To enjoy the full content of the service, please visit the site weekly. There you will find Program Notes for each broadcast as well as an opportunity to post listener comments.

March 9, 2007
A Review of the Power-Gen Conference
Here is an audio collage of the Power-Gen Renewable Energy and Fuels Conference held in Las Vegas, Nevada this past week....

March 1, 2007
Citrus Waste to Ethanol
Florida is ripe with waste that could add significant resources to the cellulosic ethanol industry -- citrus peels, membranes and seeds....

January 18, 2007
Agriculture and Food Industry Waste to Energy
Anaerobic digestion is the decomposition of organic matter. When this organic matter breaks down in an environment without oxygen, it creates...

January 4, 2007
A Look Back at 2006
2006 was a great year for renewable energy around the world. Here on the Inside Renewable Energy podcast we've provided our...

December 14, 2006
The Year for Renewables on Wall Street
Our financial contributor Rob Wilder, who is CEO and Founder of Wilder Shares, talks about the ups and downs for renewable...

November 16, 2006
Why Mass Storage Is So Important for Renewables
A common criticism of renewable resources such as wind and solar is that they are intermittent -- meaning that storage is...

September 28, 2006
The Challenges for Cellulosic Ethanol, A Wind Turbine for the Urban Environment
Speaking on Capitol Hill last week, representatives for the ethanol industry told members of Congress that cellulosic ethanol is ready to...

August 24, 2006
How to Prepare Your Home for Renewables, Turning Brownfields Green with Biofuel Crops
Energy efficiency is the most important thing to address when integrating renewables into your home. Indeed, there are many steps you...

August 3, 2006
Will Ethanol Challenge Food Supply?, Texas Overtakes California in Wind Energy Capacity
Grain-based ethanol has become one of the most popular forms of renewable energy in recent years. As politicians and private investors...

May 25, 2006
Wood Pellet Industry Expands As Oil and Gas Prices Escalate, REA.com Editor Jesse Broehl on the Month's Big Stories
Peterborough, New Hampshire [RenewableEnergyAccess.com] With the price of oil and gas increasingly out of reach for the average consumer, the wood...

March 23, 2006
Biofuels, Ethanol, Switchgrass, Power-Gen Renewable Energy & Fuels
The inaugural edition of Inside Renewable Energy takes a look at the present and future of biofuels. Dan Kammen, Professor of...

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