February 27, 2006

CALIFORNIA: A Dearth of Assembly Leadership on Conversion Technologies

California is the big prize in alternative fuel production facility deployment. Not only does it have the largest commuter market, but, as it has demonstrated so many times before, California defines trends that spread throughout the country and then the world. You almost have to expect that the tipping point for any meaningful fuel paradigm shift will have to come through California.

That is why it is so crucial that legislation in the state support innovation, not stifle it. Unfortunately, inertia in California's State Assembly and an unwillingness to challenge antiquated environmental biases has choked investment in innovation. Legislators who should know better are fearful that they will be painted with a scarlet "A" for "anti-environmentalist" and then thrown out at election time.

Witness a recent (11/16/05) CA Assembly Natural Resources Committee hearing for AB 1090, the Conversion Technology Bill. The hearing was held in Los Angeles at which numerous experts, local politicians, and research scientists cited numerous studies and spoke glowingly about advancements in CTs and their import to improving life quality in So. CA. It was clear at the hearing that the most populous region of the state is more than ready to attract and allocate investment for R&D and deployment of new CT facilities - without any risk to the environment. Incredibly, NOT ONE of the five So. CA Assembly members (half the committee) even showed up for the hearing! They also found a way to accept and then days later summarily reject the findings of a 2-year, $1.5 million study funded by a utilities' Task Force that touted the advancements in CTs and recommended the very changes specified in the Bill.

It turns out that all terms of the bill have to be acceptable to Californians Against Waste (CAW), a recycling lobbying group with strong ties to giant landfill operators in the state. To say that they have a vested interest in the disposition of the bill would be a gross understatement. In my opinion, it is unethical for them to dictate the Bill's terms which impact recycling in every municipality in the state.

As is noted in the following article which appeared in the Sacramento Bee (3/26/06) what is needed is "inspiring, galvanizing leadership." Regrettably, California lacks such a resource and, apparently, ethical backbone.


The carbohydrate economy
As technology improves, biofuel sources are everywhere

By Mark Braly -- Special To The Bee

Loyd Forrest, chief of a leading biomass energy consulting firm, TSS Consultants in Rancho Cordova, says he has never seen such interest by big-time investors in biomass energy. Bill Gates put $84 million into Pacific Ethanol, a company headed by former California Secretary of State Bill Jones.

The excitement comes from new technology that could create more energy from organic sources. Two California biotech firms, both Danish-owned, have been working to reduce the cost of making fuel out of cellulose materials - crop wastes, weeds, forest underbrush, urban garbage or nearly anything organic. Novozymes' bioenergy operation in Davis says it has proved a 30-fold reduction in the cost of the enzymes needed to break down cellulose material for fermentation into alcohol.

Glenn Nedwin, president of Novozymes' biomass operation, thinks the technology is almost here. He sees two to five more years of work on reducing costs of other steps of the ethanol process. But even today cellulosic biomass energy might be competitive, depending on the cost of oil and corn: "Corn costs $40 a ton, but garbage might be free."

The technology has been demonstrated in a pilot plant by a Canadian firm, Iogen.

It appears these feedstocks exist or could be cultivated economically in such abundance that oil independence by mid-century is possible. Equally important, the benefit for climate change and the environment is so evident that environmentalists, who have been leery of Midwest corn ethanol because it consumes so much fossil fuel to grow, are coming on board.

Converting urban waste to energy has a long, contentious history in the state. Fierce public opposition to incineration and the unfriendly regulatory climate have stopped new projects. But technology has improved.

Despite Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote renewables, California has not resolved regulatory hurdles. The state's Integrated Waste Management Board is bound by law to promote recycling over energy recovery from waste. And the state's Air Resources Board thinks that low blends of ethanol in gasoline could increase some smog ingredients. Biodiesel, which is made from vegetable oil, or even used restaurant grease, requiring little refinement, is stalled by similar concerns. With pure ethanol or high blends, such as the E85 mixture sold in the Midwest, these emissions do not seem to be a problem.

Many advocates of increased energy self-sufficiency have called for a government-led Apollo-or Manhattan-type project to create this better energy future sooner rather than later. But those efforts sought to create technology out of basic science and dreams. The technology that could bring us energy relief is much closer, if not here.

What it does have in common with those past heroic national efforts is the need for inspiring, galvanizing leadership.

February 24, 2006

NRDC: Simultaneous Ethanol R&D and Deployment

The Natural Resources Defense Council is a guardian of the environment and an advocate for policies that will have lasting impact on quality of life around the world. In July 2005 (before the latest fuel price spikes) the NRDC published a lengthy, footnoted position paper exhorting politicians to support policies that would bolster R&D and deployment of new conversion technologies. Below are some key pronouncements that give a flavor of the full document.


Bringing Biofuels to the Pump
An Aggressive Plan for Ending America's Oil Dependence

Principal authors: Nathanael Greene and Yerina Mugica

The United States does not have to rely on oil to drive our economy and quality of life. We can replace much of our oil with biofuels—fuels made from plant materials grown by American farmers. These fuels, especially those know as cellulosic biofuels, can be cost-competitive with gasoline and diesel, and allow us to invest our energy dollars at home. They can also slash global warming emissions, improve air quality, reduce soil erosion, and expand wildlife habitat.

• Biofuels could virtually eliminate our demand for gasoline by 2050.
• Biofuels could be cheaper than gasoline and diesel, saving us about $20 billion per year on fuel costs by 2050.
• By 2025, producing the crops to make these fuels could provide farmers with profits of more than $5 billion per year.
• Biofuels could reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 1.7 billion tons per year – equal to more than 80% of transportation-related emissions in 2002.

To make biofuels affordable and sustainable, we recommend a package of policies with the broad goal of developing a cellulosic biofuel industry by 2015 that is cost-competitive with corn ethanol and moving rapidly toward cost competitiveness with petroleum fuels. To achieve such an aggressive commercialization schedule, research, development, demonstration, and deployment (RD&D) will need to be pursued on nearly parallel tracks.

RD&D must focus on three areas of greatest technological challenge:
1 - Overcoming the recalcitrance of cellulosic biomass: converting cellulosic biomass into a more usable source of energy through technologies such as pretreatment, biological processing, and gasification is the greatest and most important challenge.
2 - Coproducts: enabling biofuel plants to diversify the range of products they produce along with biofuels, such as additional fuels, animal feed protein, and chemical, improves economics and efficency.
3 - Feedstocks: getting greater crop yields and making other advances in feedstock production will reduce the cost and the environmental footprint of biofuels.

Compared to the ever increasing national security and environmental costs of our oil addiction, increasing our R&D funding for biofuels to $1.1 Billion is an extremely reasonable investment.

Demonstration projects should be pursued in a range of geographic areas using a range of feedstocks.

Where appropriate, demonstrations should take advantage of existing biofuels infrastructure.

RD&D should increase the amount of ethanol produced from each ton of dry biomass from current levels of about 84 gallons to about 105 gallons. At the same time, the amount of excess electricity produced should nearly triple. These changes, along with major reductions in the cost of raw material handling and processing capital and operations, should reduce the cost of a gallon of ethanol from about $1.26 currently to about $.63 from advanced technologies (see also NRDC's Growing Energy report).

February 23, 2006

RFA: Ethanol Industry Outlook 2006

Released 2/16/06, the the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) Ethanol Industry Outlook is a must read for anyone interested in the Ethanol industry. According to this document this is a milestone year because of recent legislation and the future is bright.

From Niche to Nation
Ethanol Industry Outlook 2006

February, 2006

"From Niche to Nation” seems an appropriate theme for this year's Ethanol Industry Outlook. It reflects the unprecedented growth that has occurred over the past several years. Once serving just niche markets in the Midwest, ethanol is now a ubiquitous component of the U.S. transportation fuels market, as ethanol is now sold from coast to coast, and is blended in 30% of the nation's gasoline.

We feature new technologies designed to enhance production, reduce energy inputs and lower costs. These technologies are changing the face of the U.S. ethanol industry, and we look forward to continued innovation that improves efficiencies. Perhaps most importantly, we take an in-depth look at passage of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS), in which the U.S. has made an historic commitment to renewable biofuels as part of our nation's energy supply.

Impact of the RFS by 2012

• Reduce crude oil imports by 2 billion barrels and reduce the outflow of dollars largely to foreign oil producers by $64 billion;
• Create 234,840 new jobs in all sectors of the U.S. economy;
• Increase U.S. household income by $43 billion;
• Add $200 billion to GDP between 2005-2012;
• Create $6 billion in new investment in renewable fuel production facilities; and
• Result in the spending of $70 billion on goods and services required to produce 8 billion gallons of ethanol and biodiesel by 2012. Purchases of corn, grain sorghum, soybeans, corn stover and wheat straw alone will total $43 billion.
Source: LECG, LLC, May, 2005

Biomass Gasification

A biomass gasifier uses biomass to provide an energy source for both steam and power generation, increasing the overall efficiency of energy generation while reducing emissions. Central MN Ethanol Co-op will have an operational biomass gasifier in 2006, fueled by wood waste that will eliminate the refinery's use of natural gas. The unit will operate on a local supply of sawdust, slash, storm damage, yard waste and wood manufacturing residue. When fully operational, the refinery is expected to burn 280 tons of wood waste per day.

Chippewa Valley Ethanol Co. also plans to install a biomass gasifier designed to operate on a range of feedstocks including corn stover, distillers dried grains, corn, wheat straw and wood wastes.

Securing America's Energy Future

Ongoing violence in the Middle East, disruption of oil production in the Gulf of Mexico due to an active hurricane
season, and the growing demand for oil from countries like China and India contributed to oil prices soaring over $60 a barrel in 2005.
• 65% of the U.S. crude oil supply was imported in 2005.
• 71% of the U.S. crude oil supply is estimated to be imported by 2025.

Cleaner Fuel, Cleaner Environment

Ethanol use has been the reason that cities such as Denver, Colorado, have seen dramatic reductions in air pollution over the past two decades. The use of ethanol, consisting of 35% oxygen, is a key ingredient in reducing dangerous tailpipe emissions. Because of its high oxygen content, ethanol-blended fuel produces a cleaner, more complete combustion that reduces emissions.

According to analysis by Smog Reyes, the use of 10% ethanol blends reduces tailpipe fine particulate matter (PM)
emissions by 50%, carbon monoxide emissions up to 30%, toxics content up to 13% (mass), and toxics content up to 21% (potency). Ethanol blends also reduce secondary PM formation by diluting aromatic content in gasoline.

“Ethanol-blended fuels reduced CO2-equivalent greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by approximately 7.8 million tons in 2005, equal to removing the annual GHG emissions of 1.18 million cars from the road. ”
~ Argonne National Laboratory, GREET 1.7 Model

As concerns over greenhouse gas emissions grow and supplies of world oil are depleted, Europe and countries like China,
India, Australia and some Southeast Asian nations are rapidly expanding their biofuels production and use.

Ethanol Programs Worldwide

Brazil - Requires 25% ethanol blends; provides preferential tax treatment
Argentina - Requires use of 5% ethanol blends over the next five years
Thailand - All gasoline sold in Bangkok must be 10% ethanol
India - Requires 5% ethanol in all gasoline
Australia - Voluntary blending of up to 10% ethanol
Great Britain - Provides incentives for ethanol production at 36 cents per liter
European Union - 2% (energy content) biofuels target by 2005, increasing to 5.75% by 2010
Canada - Tax benefits for ethanol since 1992 (provincial mandates)

More than 5 million cars in the U.S. are designed to run on E85. 650 retail gas stations across the country are pumping E85 today, more than a 300% increase from 2004.
Source: National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition, January 2006

A recent study found that the U.S. could produce the equivalent of 7.9 million barrels of oil per day by 2050, more than 50% of our current total oil use for transportation. Biofuels could:
• Virtually eliminate our demand for gasoline by 2050
• Be cheaper than gasoline and diesel, saving about $20 billion per year on fuel costs by 2050
• Increase farmers profits by more than $5 billion per year by 2025
• Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 1.7 billion tons per year, equal to more than 80% of our transportation-related emissions in 2002
Source: 'Bringing Biofuels to the Pump: An Aggressive Plan for Ending America's Oil Dependence,” Natural Resources Defense Council, July 2005

February 22, 2006

CFA: Oil Companies Have Us "Over A Barrel"

I recently found two interesting articles researched by the Consumer Federation of America. They provide a perspective to recent articles I have posted about the Big Oil companies (Exxon Mobile and Chevron), and their vision for the future. Both are lengthy PDFs so I have included some excerpts below:


Why Aren't Oil Companies Using Ethanol to Lower Gasoline Prices?

May, 2005

The first quarter of 2005, with dramatically rising crude oil prices presents a stunning example of how domestic oil companies exercise market power over price to abuse consumers. If rising raw material (crude oil) costs were the problem then we would expect the domestic spread to decline as competition and consumer resistance (the elasticity of demand) squeezed the margin between the cost of inputs and the retail price. The opposite has happened because the industry is not competitive. Only in 2002, when demand was very weak due to the recession following September 11, did margins return to their historic levels. The winter of 2002 also taught the industry a lesson, that competition on price lowers profits.

The consumer implications of the refusal to use more ethanol are clear. While gasoline refiners are using as much ethanol as required, the same refiners are not buying lower-cost ethanol in other gasoline markets. Thus, consumers in many parts of the country where ethanol can be delivered to existing storage and terminal facilities are not receiving lower cost supplies and are paying as much as 8 cents a gallon more at the pump than they would if oil refiners purchased ethanol to blend.

The broader public policy implications should not be overlooked because the added abuse of consumers frustrates the nation’s ability to address the fundamental energy problem.


New Report Shows Nearly Three-Quarters of Americans Concerned About Future Gas Prices

Lower-Income and Rural Households Are Most Concerned and Are
Being Hit Especially Hard by Rising Prices

Washington, D.C. -- Nearly three-quarters (74%) of a representative sample of over 1,000 Americans are highly concerned (5 on a 1-5 scale) about gasoline prices over the next five years, according to a very recent national survey commissioned and released by the Consumer Federation of America. In a CFA-commissioned survey conducted earlier this year (February), less than two-thirds (65%) of Americans expressed this level of concern.

Households are conservatively estimated to spend an average of $1,948 this year on gasoline prices (assuming $2.25/gallon), according to a CFA economic analysis. That figure is up from $1,342 only three years ago (2002), an increase of 45%.

February 21, 2006

Chevron's "Will You Join Us?" Campaign

Chevron's Vice Chairman Peter Robertson demonstrates a much better sense of the proper mission of a major energy company than Exxon Mobil Sr. Vice Stuart McGill (see Big Oil Throws Down the Gauntlet). At the very least Mr. Robertson is much better at public relations:

"People want this product, they want to buy the product. We are in business to produce the products that people want. As soon as our customers tell us they don't want it, or vote it down, or do something like that, we will do something else."

By investing not just in alternative energy as BP does (with their alternativenergy campaign), but in renewable fuels like biodiesel and ethanol, Chevron is looking longterm and remains in position to exploit advances in renewable technologies well into this century.

Below is an article referred to me by Bostwick at Ecosensible Chatter Blog that he found on the BBC News website.


Chevron claims energy debate

Chevron last year made the highest profits in its 126-year history. The world's fifth-largest oil company, Chevron, has invested $300m a year in technology to support new energy sources, fearing oil and gas prices will continue to rise, one of the company's leading figures has told the BBC.

Peter Robertson, the oil giant's Scottish-born vice chairman, said that the company is putting the money into biodiesel and ethanol research, as it is "very important" for the long-term future of the company.

"In 30 years' time, oil and gas will be Chevron's core business - 50 years, I'm not sure," he told BBC World Service's The Interview programme.

"Prices will continue to go up, and I think that technology will continue to advance. Somewhere along that road this $300m a year (that Chevron is investing in alternative energy), which will grow, will intersect with the price of gasoline, or petrol, and people will find alternatives."

Energy debate

Mr Robertson said that Chevron - is now selling "energy efficiency" and claimed the company is the biggest producer of geothermal energy in the world.

"It makes good economic sense and we do it - I think it is very important for the future of our business," he added.

Chevron has made efforts to present itself as a leader in the energy debate.

The company has been running a web discussion - called willyoujoinus.com - inviting the views of the public on energy issues such as what fuels they want to use, where their fuel is coming from and how much they want to pay for it.

The home page details how many barrels of crude oil are consumed worldwide during the stay of a visitor to the site.

Mr Robertson said that willyoujoinus.com has had 300,000 hits in the seven months since it started.

"I think there is a huge debate going on in our country, the United States [and] there is probably a huge debate going on in the United Kingdom," he said.

He rebuffed criticism that, as a percentage of the company's $14bn a year profit, the $300m investment in renewable energy products is just two percent; and that effectively, with profits of $38m a day, only nine day's worth of profit is being invested.

"Actually, $300m is a lot of money when you are doing research," he said.

'Informed and realistic'

Mr Robertson admitted that the environmental specifications of many products have greatly changed.

However, he said that the site exists so the debate can be "informed about what is realistic" and what, in the company's view, is actually possible.

"We will do our very best to advise, to help people understand what can be done and to see whether we can come up with processes that will provide people with energy from a different source," he added.

And he stressed that the business has no intention of ceasing to reinvest in fossil fuels.

"As long as there is oil and gas that can be produced for customers at reasonable prices, that are better than anything else they've got, we will continue to do what is best for our customers - that's what they want us to do," he said.

"People want this product, they want to buy the product. We are in business to produce the products that people want.

"As soon as our customers tell us they don't want it, or vote it down, or do something like that, we will do something else."

February 20, 2006

President Discusses Advanced Energy Initiative

President Bush today began a new campaign to use the "power of the pulpit" to educate Americans about his new Advanced Energy Initiative.

Speaking in Wisconsin, a state that is currently considering legislation (AB 15) to increase the ethanol content of their gasoline to 10%, the President gave a broad overview of the promise offered by a mix of developing technology.

The puzzling aspect of his speech is the funding that will be made available. Considering the important benefits he outlines, one would expect a more aggressive budget to support R&D. Michigan is considering spending $2 Billion to develop an alternative energy research hub within the state. But the federal government is going to double its current budget to $150 MILLION?

His comments about ethanol and biomass-to-ethanol conversion, the impact for the MidWest and more localized production of renewable fuel are listed below:


President Discusses Advanced Energy Initiative In Milwaukee
Johnson Controls Building Efficiency Business
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

We're also supporting the development of advanced fuels that can replace regular gasoline. Here again I'm talking to folks who know what I'm talking about -- I'm talking about ethanol. You've got a lot of it here in Wisconsin because you've got corn. Ethanol is produced -- primarily produced from corn; it's blended with gasoline to produce clean and efficient fuel. And blends with that ethanol concentration of less than 10 percent, ethanol can be used in any vehicle. With minor modifications -- I emphasize "minor modifications" -- cars and trucks can become what we call flex-fuel vehicles that run on a fuel blend called E85, which is a mix of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline. That's a positive development.

Ethanol, by the way, can be used in hybrid vehicles. So the more ethanol we use, the less crude oil we consume. And using ethanol has the added benefit of supporting our farmers. I like to kind of tease in a way, but beneath the tease is serious -- it will be good one day when the President is given the crop report. (Laughter.) It says, "Mr. President, corn is up." (Laughter.) And we're less dependent on foreign sources of energy.

America produced a record 3.9 billion gallons of ethanol in 2005, was the record levels. That's twice the level produced when I got sworn in first time. There are five ethanol that plants up and running here in Wisconsin, and more are coming. We offer a tax credit to ethanol blenders of 51 cents per gallon. We're committed to ethanol. It makes sense. Ethanol benefits a lot of folks, but, most importantly, it benefits those who are driving cars.

Now, we're on the edge of advancing additional ethanol production. New technology is going to make it possible to produce ethanol from wood chips and stalks and switch grass, and other natural materials. Researchers at the Energy Department tell me we're five or six years away from breakthroughs in being able to produce fuels from those waste products. In other words, we're beginning to -- we're coming up with a way to make something out of nothing. And this is important because it's -- economics are such that it's important to have your ethanol-producing factories or plants close to where the product is grown.

That's why E85 has spread throughout the Midwest, that's where you're growing the corn. Pretty soon, you know, if you're able to grow switch grass and convert that into ethanol, then you're going to have availability for ethanol in other parts of the country. I mean, there's a lot of stuff that gets thrown away that may be converted into fuel, but it's not just located in one part of the country -- it's located around the country. And one of the goals is to make sure that ethanol is widespread. If we want to affect our consumption of oil, we want ethanol to be readily available for consumers outside certain parts of the -- certain regions of the country.

And so we proposed spending $150 million for government and private research into these homegrown fuels. It's an important initiative. We want to provide our consumers with reasonable, cost-effective ways to help us become less dependent on foreign sources of oil.

Big Oil Throws Down the Gauntlet

"America will always rely on foreign oil." - Exxon Mobil Senior Vice President Stuart McGill. Maybe so, to some extent, but can America rely on Big Oil?

Myopia appears to be alive and well at Exxon Mobil. "No combination of conservation measures, alternative energy sources and technological advances could realistically and economically provide a way to completely replace those imports in the short or medium term." And the long term?

This is disturbing because it means that the windfall profits made this past year from the escalation of oil prices will not be invested in ways that will help sustain a nation whose Texas-oil President is forced to admit is "addicted to oil."

Other industry indicators are equally disturbing. Yes British Petroleum is promoting "Beyond Petroleum" but none of the alternative energy technologies in their initiative have anything to do with renewable liquid fuel. And why not? Can anyone seriously argue that the oil companies aren't in a prime position to exploit the implementation of ethanol as a gasoline extender?

Brazil exports both oil and ethanol at considerable profit because they made a concerted effort to develop the production capacity of ethanol. Our oil companies could elect to do the same - protecting both their longterm resources and the economic health of the markets that buy them.

From the Daily KOS Blog. File under "Methinks thou dost protest too much."


"America will always rely on foreign oil"
by Chris Kulczycki

"America will always rely on foreign oil." So says Exxon Mobil Senior Vice President Stuart McGill at a recent Houston energy conference. This is one of several belated responses to Bush's weak call for American energy independence, or at least less reliance on Middle Eastern oil. More below:

"Realistically, it is simply not feasible in any time period relevant to our discussion today," Exxon Mobil Senior Vice President Stuart McGill said, referring to what he called the "misperception" that the United States can achieve energy independence. -snip-

"Americans depend upon imports to fill the gap," McGill said. "No combination of conservation measures, alternative energy sources and technological advances could realistically and economically provide a way to completely replace those imports in the short or medium term."

Instead of trying to achieve energy independence, importing nations like the U.S. should be promoting energy interdependence, McGill said.

"Because we are all contributing to and drawing from the same pool of oil, all nations -- exporting and importing -- are inextricably bound to one another in the energy marketplace," he said.

February 18, 2006

Los Angeles Council Votes for Waste-to-Energy Policy

Councilmember Greig Smith's loud and popular campaign against the continuance of Sunshine Canyon landfill contract in his district and his bold R.E.N.E.W. LA proposal is finally getting traction in Los Angeles politics.

Within the current week (February 12-18, 2006) the L.A. Times has reported L.A. Could Divert Trash From Dump, that the L.A. Council is considering diverting a substantial portion of waste to other landfills. Instead of renewing the decades-old current Sunshine landfill contract for another 5 years ($29 million/year), waste would be shipped to Riverside County (for an additional $15 million) and/or the San Joaquim Valley (for an additional $30 million). While the current landfill has capacity for another 15 years, Smith contends that environmental justice to his district obligates the Council to enact an alternative that would equalize processing waste between all the districts of Los Angeles.

According to this release, the Council has taken a serious step toward accepting a policy of developing a waste-to-energy plant solution to Los Angeles' landfill problem.


Council Postpones Vote on Trash Contract
From Los Angeles Times Staff and Wire Reports

The City Council on Friday postponed its vote on renewing a five-year contract to dump trash at the Sunshine Canyon Landfill above Granada Hills.

The council has until the end of the month to decide the issue and is looking at alternatives that involve taking some or all the city's trash to two distant landfills, at a cost increase of between about $4 million and $30 million each year.

Also on Friday, the council voted to embrace a policy of eventually using high-tech trash-to-energy plants to get rid of the city's trash

Categories: , , , , , ,

Replacing Petroleum with Biofuels and Renewable Energy

Perhaps no other more highly respected publication speaks on behalf of a concern for preservation of the earth and mankind than National Geographic. Reducing the "addiction to oil" means more than just reducing our import of Mideast petroleum. It means broadscale replacement of oil with biofuels and other renewable energy. Below are some excerpts from an article they published in response to President Bush's State of the Union commitment to reduce oil imports.


"Addicted to Oil": How Can U.S. Fulfill Bush Pledge?
Richard A. Lovett
for National Geographic News
February 14, 2006

The U.S. imports approximately 60 percent of its oil, but relatively little comes from the Middle East.

Only one Persian Gulf country is among the top five foreign sources: Saudi Arabia, which ranks third, behind Canada and Mexico. (The other members of the top five are Venezuela in South America and Nigeria in Africa.)

Reducing Middle Eastern imports therefore won't cure our reliance on foreign oil, says Ray Kopp, an economist at Resources for the Future, a nonpartisan think tank.

Even if we imported no Middle Eastern oil, we'd be vulnerable to political instabilities in the region, Kopp says, because global oil prices are tightly linked.

The U.S. is also committed to allies that are strongly dependent on Middle Eastern oil, says Alex Farrell, a professor in the Energy and Resources Group (ERG) at the University of California, Berkeley.

Another approach is by switching to ethanol and other plant-based biofuels.

In the U.S. ethanol is made by fermenting corn in industrial plants. (Brazil makes ethanol from sugar cane.) (See "Ethanol More Energy Efficient Than Thought, Study Says.")

Ethanol is already a billion-dollar industry in the U.S., says Surya Prakash, a chemistry professor at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

The U.S. ethanol industry produces about 4 billion gallons (15 billion liters) a year. But in terms of energy output, those 4 billion gallons equal only 2.5 billion gallons (9.5 billion liters) of gasoline, Prakash says.

That's because ethanol generates less power per gallon than gas.

"It's a drop in the bucket," Prakash says. "It can hardly cover three or four days' … usage" of gasoline in the U.S.

Other biofuels may hold greater promise.

These include products made from the switchgrass and wood chips mentioned in President Bush's address.

Prakash estimates that the different forms of biofuel can together probably replace 10 to 15 percent of total U.S. gasoline usage—enough to meet the president's goal of reducing oil imports from the Mideast by 75 percent.

Daniel Kammen, also in the ERG at U.C., Berkeley, is more optimistic.

Currently, he says, enough waste biomass is being generated by lumbering, by farming, and as urban waste to meet 10 percent of U.S. transportation needs.

With a major commitment, Kammen thinks it might be possible to replace all of the nation's oil with biofuels.

February 17, 2006

CALIFORNIA: Governor Candidate Campaigns on "Clean California" Plan

Politicians are offering new visions of the future that include flex-fuel vehicles, choices at the filling station, investment options, and incentives for businesses and consumers alike who participate in the scheme.

The Sacramento Bee reports on an "ambitious proposal" offered by State Treasurer and gubernatorial hopeful Phil Angelides for getting California on the road to more fuel choices and a reduction of dependence on fossil fuels.

Excerpts from the article are listed below...


Angelides' clean dream
Democratic gubernatorial hopeful unveils plan to cut state's oil use by 25 percent.

By Laura Mecoy -- Bee Los Angeles Bureau
Friday, February 17, 2006

SANTA MONICA - Vowing to be "pro-business and pro-environment," Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Phil Angelides unveiled a "Clean California" plan Thursday that seeks to cut the state's oil consumption by 25 percent over 10 years.
His ambitious proposal would change the type of cars Californians drive, the way their communities grow and the energy choices they can make.

"This is a plan about choices," the state treasurer said at a news conference at a production company that works on environmental projects.

"It's about pushing the marketplace to give Californians more choices that they don't have today."

Joined by actor and environmentalist Ed Begley Jr., Angelides said that if he is elected governor, he will introduce legislation to mandate all new vehicles sold in the state be flexible fuel cars, capable of running on any mix of gasoline and bio-fuels, such as ethanol.

He said he would also require major oil companies to supply bio-fuels at filling stations to match the number of flexible fuel vehicles on the road.

In addition, Angelides said he would require state and local governments to purchase vehicles that use alternative fuels, or to buy efficient vehicles, such as hybrids, when replacing or expanding their fleets.

He said California has 26 million vehicles consuming 15 billion gallons of gasoline a year, and that will rise to 36 million vehicles burning nearly 18 billion gallons of gasoline in 20 years if the state's residents don't change.

Angelides also said he would... increase partnerships and investments to encourage the creation of clean fuels and technology. He said he would provide incentives to encourage fuel-efficient choices by business and consumers.

He said he would also seek an additional $1.5 billion investment from state and local pension plans in clean technology, alternative energy and energy efficiency.Angelides provided no estimate of the cost of his plan but predicted it would save money by lowering energy costs, creating new jobs and making the state more competitive.

February 14, 2006

Michigan Invests $2-Billion to Become Alternative Energy Research Hub

In a move to capitalize on last summer's Energy Bill and the current national concern about fossil fuel dependence, the State of Michigan is considering an initiative to invest $2 billion to become the hub of alternative energy research in the country.

Excerpts from an article that appeared in the Detroit Free Press on February 13...


Michigan Invests $2-Billion to Become Alternative Energy Research Hub
Author: Alejandro Bodipo-Memba
Provider: Detroit Free Press

Feb. 13--The State of Michigan is racing to become the nation's first alternative energy research hub, as Americans grapple with President George W. Bush's recent statement that the United States is addicted to foreign oil.

"We want Michigan to be the state that lays claim to this emerging sector," said Gov. Jennifer Granholm, who pointed out the need to focus on alternative energy research during her State of the State address in January. "To take advantage of that legacy of research and development in the auto industry is a huge opportunity for our state."

Michigan, the automotive capital of the world for the past century, plans to spend $2 billion in bond money in the next decade to ensure that it becomes the nation's alternative energy epicenter. Close to $400 million of Michigan's tobacco settlement revenue in 2006-07 will go to support the program that involves research and development in alternative energy, life sciences, advanced manufacturing and homeland security. About $50 million in grants will be available each year from fiscal year 2006 through fiscal year 2011. State development departments will administer the money.

As a key component of the governor's 21st Century Jobs Fund program, research into alternative energy and renewable fuels is expected to be the hallmark of a new high-tech workforce in Michigan. Among the technologies being examined are:

1. Hydrogen fuel cells: Fuel cells use stored hydrogen and oxygen from the air to produce electricity to power cars, trucks and stationary products. Fuel cells are virtually pollution free because they create only water vapor as exhaust.

2. Biodiesel: This is a domestic, renewable fuel technology for diesel engines. It comes from natural oils like soybean oil that can be combined with petroleum-based diesel fuel and used in existing diesel engines with little or no modification.

3. Ethanol: An alcohol-based additive made from corn and other agricultural products that can be blended with gasoline to promote greater fuel efficiency and cleaner emissions.

4. Solar: Solar panels capture the energy in sunlight. Solar power can be used in vehicles and households. Sunlight can be converted into electricity, too.

5. Nuclear: Primarily used to generate electricity, nuclear power is considered by some to be a cleaner form of energy compared to fossil fuel-based materials. The major concern, however, is whether nuclear power is safe enough to utilize more widely.

When asked about the possibilities of nuclear power being part of the future of alternative energy sources, Granholm said, "I think everything should be on the table, as long as it's safe and it's clean and its energy won't result in an accident."

Michigan's efforts to explore futuristic energy sources became more urgent after the president's State of the Union speech last month. In that speech, he named breaking America's addiction to foreign oil as a major priority for the nation.

NextEnergy model

The model for Michigan's rise to the top of the alternative energy sector is the public-private partnership that started NextEnergy in Detroit.

NextEnergy is a nonprofit research-and-development incubator focused on high-tech and alternative solutions to current energy problems.

Since it started in 2001, during the administration of Gov. John Engler, NextEnergy has become Michigan's premier example of how the state's economy is becoming less dependent on automotive companies and more diversified to boost its fortunes.

The 40,000-square-foot facility is near the campus of Wayne State University, in one of Michigan's 11 SmartZones that offer tax incentives to lure technology companies.

The U.S. Department of Energy gave the NextEnergy Alternative Fuel Infrastructure funding to test and demonstrate emerging fuel production and storage systems for vehicles and on-site power -- alternatives such as hydrogen, natural gas and bio-synthetic fuels.

Currently, Michigan has 51 biomass plants, 12 photovoltaic facilities and seven wind-powered plants operating, and five ethanol plants are being built around the state.

"Whether it's corn production or other types of products that could be converted into ethanol, we clearly can be competitive and have market potential with ethanol," Mason said. "I think we can compete in that arena."

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February 11, 2006

GLOBAL: Brazil - A Model for Global Biofuel Industry

It doesn't take much "vision" to project what a flex-fuel society (one that exploits the use of a variety of fuels) looks like. While America's response to the energy crisis of the 70's was to buy smaller, more gas efficient (predominantly Japanese) vehicles, Brazil decided to develop a native alternative fuel economy that would not be so reliant on foreign sources of fuel.

Our response only led to more energy dependence and has been compounded by a worsening balance of trade, pollution, and political intrigue. Meanwhile, Brazil is well positioned to lead the world toward a more decentralized energy landscape based on fuels made from crops and biomass.

Below is an article that appeared on The Truth about Trade and Technology website.


Brazil leading U.S. in renewable fuels race
by: Dale Johnson

As President George W. Bush was advocating the nation seek greater energy independence using renewable resources, a small delegation of Midwesterners returned from Brazil where Bush’s dream is already a reality.

Three decades ago, Brazil was importing 90 percent of its petroleum consumption, and was hit hard by the 1973 oil embargo. Brazil launched a policy of energy independence, with ethanol from sugarcane the foundation.

Today, Brazil’s ethanol industry is flourishing. Brazil is the world’s largest ethanol producer at 4.4 billion gallons annually. The United States’ ethanol output, while spurting the last two years, totaled 4 billion gallons in 2005.

“They are way ahead of us in biofuels policy,” states Joel Severinghaus, an international trade analyst with the Iowa Farm Bureau. He recently led a 13-member Midwestern delegation on a 10-day biofuels study tour of Brazil.

The stark realization of what can be achieved if a nation sets a policy is painted across southern Brazil’s sugar-ethanol landscape. Ethanol from sugarcane costs less than $1 a gallon to produce ($1.50 for anhydrous ethanol with the last 3 percent of water removed). Ethanol from corn in the United States costs about $1.50 a gallon.

Brazil’s National Alcohol Program gives tax incentives for ethanol production and ethanol-powered automobiles. Brazil’s renewable fuel policies have reversed the exodus of energy dollars.

“In the 1970s and 1980s, Brazil pushed 100 percent ethanol as a fuel source,” explains Severinghaus. Automakers adapted and produced vehicles to burn pure ethanol. The goal changed buying patterns and pushed E100 to 55 percent of all gasoline consumed. The majority of new cars now sold have flex-fuel engines that can run on E100.

Today, Brazilian motorists can choose between E25, E100, and diesel fuel (in trucks only since no cars are allowed to have diesel engines).

Sugarcane is the base feedstock of Brazil’s ethanol industry.

Ethanol plants are co-located with sugarcane mills, primarily in Sao Paulo state, home to two-thirds of the plants.

“The Brazilian ethanol plants are completely energy self-sufficient,” exclaims Severinghaus, “plus, at the flip of a switch, they can produce either ethanol or crystalline sugar on any given day, whichever is more profitable.

Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPACT) Tax Credits

There are a number of tax breaks that were introduced with the passage of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Aside from tax credits for purchasing certain fuel economical vehicles and enhancements to homes and businesses that make them more fuel efficient, the Act includes some alternative fuel production and distribution bonuses:


Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPACT) Tax Credits
Biodiesel/Alternative Fuels

Small producer biodiesel and ethanol credit.
This credit will benefit small agri-biodiesel producers by giving them a 10 cent per gallon tax credit for up to 15 million gallons of agri-biodiesel produced. In addition, the limit on production capacity for small ethanol producers increased from 30 million to 60 million gallons. This is effective until the end of 2008.

Credit for installing alternative fuel refueling property.
Fueling stations are eligible to claim a 30% credit for the cost of installing clean-fuel vehicle refueling equipment, (e.g. E85 ethanol pumping stations). Under the provision, a clean fuel is any fuel that consists of at least 85% ethanol, natural gas, compressed natural gas, liquefied natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas, or hydrogen and any mixture of diesel fuel and biodiesel containing at least 20% biodiesel. This is effective through December 31, 2010.

February 10, 2006

General Motors - Live Green/Go Yellow Campaign

General Motors is beginning to promote E85 (a blend of 15% gasoline and 85% ethanol) and their line of Flex-Fuel vehicles in their advertising.

It is estimated that about 4 million vehicles in the U.S. are already E85 compatible. Many owners of certain models of major manufacturer cars and trucks don't realize that their vehicles are already capable of running on ethanol. To remedy this situation, the National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition has published a website listing all E85 compatible vehicles.

GM will be sending yellow fuel caps to the existing owners of E85 compatible vehicles. Later this year, all new GM FlexFuel vehicles will be equipped with yellow fuel caps at the factory.

The National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition also has a listing of all the E85 refueling stations in the nation. Expect this number to grow rapidly as E85 develops more awareness in the marketplace.


GM Announces E85 Awareness Campaign
announcement from the National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition

General Motors announced January 8, 2006 a significant E85 awareness campaign at the Chicago Auto Show. The Live Green Go Yellow campaign kicked off during Super Bowl XL in ads promoting the use of the clean, alternative fuel in GM’s flexible fuel vehicles.

Several major Chicago buildings will be illuminated in yellow lights during the show symbolizing the corn used in creating the ethanol in the E85 fuel. Other outreach for this campaign will include GM “street teams” reaching out to Chicagoans in February with giveaways and a major presence in the 2006 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and promotions with 2005 NASCAR Nextel Cup champion, Tony Stewart.

“GM is pursuing gasoline-savings solutions on many fronts on the way to our ultimate vision of hydrogen fuel cell-powered transportation,” said Elizabeth Lowery, GM vice president of environment and energy. “E85 ethanol burns cleaner than gasoline and is a renewable, domestic fuel that can enhance the nation’s economy and energy security.”

GM now has nine 2006 models that are compatible with E85: Chevy Impala and Monte Carlo; Chevrolet Silverado, Avalanche and GMC Sierra; Chevrolet Tahoe; and GMC Yukon, Yukon XL and Chevrolet Suburban. The automaker plans to add 400,000 of these vehicles to the fleet in 2006.

February 9, 2006

EUROPE: European Strategy for Biofuels

“There has never been a better moment to push the case for biofuels,” said Mariann Fischer Boel, Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development. “Crude oil prices remain high. We face stringent targets under the Kyoto Protocol. And the recent controversy over imports of Russian gas has underlined the importance of increasing Europe’s energy self-sufficiency. Raw materials for biofuel production also provide a potential new outlet for Europe’s farmers, who have been freed by CAP reform to become true entrepreneur."

Below are some excerpts from the adopted strategy.


European Strategy for Biofuels

The European Commission today adopted an ambitious EU Strategy for Biofuels, with a range of potential market-based, legislative and research measures to boost production of fuels from agricultural raw materials. The paper, which builds on the biomass action plan adopted in December 2005, sets out three main aims: to promote biofuels in both the EU and developing countries; to prepare for large-scale use of biofuels by improving their cost-competitiveness and increasing research into ‘second generation’ fuels; to support developing countries where biofuel production could stimulate sustainable economic growth. Increased use of biofuels will bring numerous benefits, by reducing Europe’s dependence on fossil fuel imports, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, providing new outlets for farmers and opening up new economic possibilities in several developing countries.

The Strategy picks out seven key policy axes, pulling together the measures the Commission will take to promote the production and use of biofuels.

1. Stimulating demand for biofuels.
The Commission will publish a report in 2006 on the possible revision of the implementation of the Biofuels Directive—a 2% market share for biofuels in 2005 and a 5.75% share in 2010. The 2005 target share of 2% biofuels was not achieved; at most, the countries obtained a 1.4% share. The Commission will encourage favorable treatment for second-generation biofuels in meeting biofuels obligations and encourage the Council and European Parliament to give speedy approval to its recently adopted legislative proposal to promote public procurement of clean and efficient vehicles, including those using high blends of biofuels.

2. Capturing environmental benefits.
The Commission will examine how biofuel use can count towards the CO2 emission reduction targets for car fleets; explore and, where appropriate, propose measures to ensure optimal greenhouse gas benefits from biofuels; work to ensure the sustainability of biofuel feedstock cultivation in the EU and third countries; and examine the issues of limits on the content of ethanol, ether and other oxygenates in petrol, limits on the vapour content of petrol, and limits on the biodiesel content of diesel.

3. Developing production and distribution of biofuels.
The Commission will propose a specific group to consider biofuels opportunities in rural development programs; and increase monitoring to ensure no discrimination against biofuels.

4. Extending supplies of feedstock.
The Commission is making sugar production for ethanol eligible for CAP support schemes; it will assess possibilities to process cereal intervention stocks; finance an information campaign for farmers and forest owners; bring forward a forestry action plan; and look into the possibilities for using animal by-products and clean waste.

5. Enhancing trade opportunities.
The Commission will assess the possibility of putting forward a proposal for separate customs codes for biofuels; it will pursue a balanced approach in trade talks with ethanol-producing countries; and propose amendments to the biodiesel standard to facilitate the use of a wider range of vegetable oils for biodiesel production, and allow ethanol to replace methanol in biodiesel production.

6. Supporting developing countries.
The Commission will ensure that measures for ACP Sugar Protocol countries affected by the EU sugar reform can be used to support the development of ethanol production; develop a coherent Biofuels Assistance Package for developing countries; and examine how best to assist national and regional biofuel platforms.

7. Research and development.
The Commission will continue to support the development of an industry-led Biofuel Technology Platform which will make recommendations for research in this sector. Biofuels will have a high priority in the 7th Framework Program, in particular bio-refineries and second generation biofuels. Through research, production costs could be cut considerably beyond 2010. Through its Intelligent Energy Europe Programme, the Commission will support market introduction and the dissemination of proven technologies.


Note from Green Car Congress: The Commission categorizes second-generation biofuels as including cellulosic ethanol and biomass-to-liquids (BtL) producing Fischer-Tropsch diesel and bio-DME (dimethyl ether). There are at present three pilot cellulosic ethanol plants in the EU (Sweden, Spain and Denmark). BtL demonstration plants are operating in Germany and Sweden. (Synthetic Natural Gas (SNG) produced from renewable resources also is an area of potential EU focus.)

WISCONSIN: American Lung Assoc. - E85 Less Harmful than Gas

The health benefits of moving from our dependence on fossil fuel to widespread adoption of E85 (85% ethanol blend) are significant in the opinion of the American Lung Association. Its Wisconsin organization is publicizing its support of broader legislative support for E85 and has created a website called “Clean Air Choice.” to build public awareness of the issues involved.


E85 is cleaner, home-grown answer to decreasing dependence on Mideast oil

Brookfield, WI (February 7, 2006) -- The American Lung Association of Wisconsin (ALA/W) has recognized E85 for flexible fuel vehicles as a “Clean Air Choice.” The ALA-WI supports the use of E85 because of its ability to reduce tailpipe and greenhouse gas emissions. E85 has the highest oxygen content of any transportation fuel available today, allowing it to burn cleaner than typical gasoline blends. Fewer exhaust emissions result in reduced smog formation and risk from respiratory illnesses like asthma and COPD.

E85 also reduces greenhouse gas emissions such as carbon dioxide, the main contributor to global warming, by 30 percent or more. E85 is designed for use in flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs). FFVs may use any blend of gasoline and/or E85 interchangeably. Not every vehicle is a FFV; however, literally tens of thousands of FFVs are on Wisconsin roads and highways today.

All three major U.S. auto manufacturers as well as Isuzu, Mazda, Mercedes, Mercury and Nissan offer several FFV models. Most FFV owners remain unaware that they may use anything except gasoline. All FFVs carry a small decal underneath the fuel door that indicates the use of E85 and/or gasoline.

FFVs do not cost more than gasoline-only models, unlike today’s hybrid-electric models. And, 100-plus octane E85 is cost-competitive. On a per mile basis, E85 is typically priced similar to 87-octane gasoline. When gasoline spiked to over $3.00 per gallon last year, E85 remained substantially lower.

Currently, 23 Wisconsin outlets sell E85, which is nearly double the number of stations compared with this time last year. ALA/W is working to build awareness of the benefits of E85 among consumers, service station owners and car dealerships to increase FFV ownership and E85 availability. The Lung Association hopes to assist local partners in doubling the number of
fueling stations in 2006, and the organization supports AB 809, a bill introduced by Representative Mike Sheridan that offers tax credits to consumers who purchasing FFVs.

“If you own an E85 FFV, the Lung Association urges you to heed the President’s call to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil,” stated Dona Wininsky, ALA/W Director of Public Policy and Communications. “Placing a ribbon on your car displays your patriotism, but make certain you have cleaner, home-grown, E85 in your tank.”

For more information on Wisconsin E85 fueling outlets and FFVs, visit www.CleanAirChoice.org or www.e85fuel.com.

February 2, 2006

California's Experts Seek More Aggressive Ethanol Policies

What we can imagine can be realized. It may not be manifest in a way we expect, but the final outcome and its impact might greatly exceed our expectations. We need to shoot higher and allow investors and developers latitude and support to solve the technological problems. Look at the photo (reputed to be from Popular Mechanics magazine in 1954 but actually a hoax photo concocted in 2004) and read the caption below.

"Scientists from the RAND Corporation have created this model to illustrate how a "home computer" could look like in the year 2004. However the needed technology will not be economically feasible for the average home. Also the scientists readily admit that the computer will require not yet invented technology to actually work, but 50 years from now scientific progress is expected to solve these problems. With teletype interface and the Fortran language, the computer will be easy to use."

I think President Bush woefully underestimated the impact and rate of change of a paradigm shift from a petroleum-based energy economy to one based on cellulosic ethanol converted from waste. Furthermore, conversion technologies are not "untested" - they are real, many have been in use in Japan and Germany for years, and they have undergone stringent emissions testing - meeting all environmental regulations by a significant amount.

The thrust of an article published in the San Diego Union Tribune 2/02/06 indicates that experts agree. Some excerpts...


Untested way to make ethanol is hot topic
Technology cited in State of Union
By Craig D. Rose, STAFF WRITER
February 2, 2006

Each year, President Bush has used his State of the Union address to warn of America's dependence on foreign oil. This year, he added a wrinkle to the warning: a goal of cutting oil imports from the Middle East by 75 percent over the next two decades... ...Bush raised the prospect of producing ethanol from waste material, which holds the potential for making it cost effective and reduce its environmental impact. Supporters say the president's goal is within reach.

“He said that in six years we want to have competitively priced ethanol from cellulose (waste plant material),” said Reid Detchon, executive director of the Energy Future Coalition, a bipartisan public policy group. “What that involves is moving from small scale pilot projects to full scale commercial facilities. I might be a little more aggressive. Ethanol can make a large difference in the shorter term.”

Environmentalists see big benefits to producing ethanol from waste material compared with grains such as corn. “With this new technology, resources to produce ethanol would be much more widely available,” said Daniel Lashof, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council. Lashof noted that producing cellulosic ethanol – the industry term for the fuel made from waste material – does not require fertilizer and other petroleum products.

The scientist estimated that while grain-based ethanol produces 15 percent to 30 percent less carbon dioxide in its production and use cycle compared with gasoline, cellulosic ethanol produces at least 80 percent less of the gas, which nearly all climate experts believe is a prime contributor to global warming.

David Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research, noted that the United States already has about 5 million vehicles on the road that are capable of running on mixtures of ethanol and gasoline.

“The big limiting factor has been the availability of fuel,” Cole said. Cole added that the auto industry is increasingly supportive of using ethanol, given that it costs $200 or less to equip a vehicle with the technology to run on ethanol blends. And that technology is in hand, as opposed to the goal of developing hydrogen-fueled cars, a goal set earlier by Bush...

Last year, U.S. manufacturers produced about 4 billion gallons of ethanol or less than 3 percent of all motor fuels.

Neil Koehler, chief executive of Fresno-based Pacific Ethanol, said that the U.S. energy act passed last year sets a production target of 7.5 billion gallons of ethanol by 2012, which would be about 5 percent of the nation's fuel supply. He said gas-powered vehicles are capable of running on a blend of up to 10 percent ethanol without modification...

He noted that even the big oil companies have become more supportive of ethanol as gasoline prices have risen... with soaring oil prices and strained refinery capacity, Koehler said oil companies are seeing ethanol producers as an additional source of supply.

Bush's targets for reducing oil imports from the Middle East, meanwhile, would not mean an overall reduction in U.S. petroleum use, which environmentalists say is essential. Reducing Middle East oil imports by 75 percent would shave about 4 million barrels from the 26 million barrels daily the United States is expected to consume in 2025. Current U.S. consumption is about 21 million barrels daily. If America succeeds in reaching Bush's target, the nation wouldn't be cutting oil consumption but instead slowing its increase in oil consumption to 5 percent over the next two decades.

Ethanol, meanwhile, has found its widest use in Brazil, which adopted programs to encourage its use after oil shocks in the 1970s. In Brazil, ethanol is produced from sugar cane... ...Ethanol constitutes about 40 percent of the motor fuel burned in Brazil, Ferreira he said, and most new vehicles in the country are capable of running on flexible fuels.

New Ethanol Study Supports CTs and Cellulosic Ethanol

James Fraser of The Energy Blog has posted a useful synopsis and some interesting comments on a UC Berkeley study that corroborates findings made by Michael Wang at the Argonne National Laboratory last year. Excerpts from The Energy Blog are included below...


New Ethanol Study from UC Berkeley

The study found that the net energy ratio (energy out/energy in) is 1.2 for ethanol produced from corn and 8.3 for cellulosic ethanol produced from switchgrass. The net energy value (energy out-energy in) was calculated to be 4.5 MJ/liter for corn ethanol and 22.8 MJ/liter for cellulosic ethanol. In terms of environmental impact corn ethanol decreases greenhouse gases only 14% when compared to gasoline, while cellulosic ethanol has a much greater reduction of 88% . They also pointed out, as have others, that it takes less energy to produce ethanol than it does to produce gasoline.

From the study: To study the potential effects of increased biofuel use, we evaluated six representative analysis of fuel ethanol. Studies that reported negative net energy incorrectly ignored coproducts and use some obsolete data. All studies indicated that current corn ethanol technologies are much less petroleum-intensive than gasoline but have greenhouse gas emissions similar to those of gasoline. However many important environmental effects of biofuel production are poorly understood. New metrics that measure specific resource inputs are developed, but further research into environmental metrics is needed. Nonetheless, it is already clear that the large-scale use of ethanol for fuel will almost certainly require cellulosic technology.

Cellulosic Ethanol as being developed by Colusa, Iogen, and Xethanol, or alternately the BRI Energy process should be in commercial use by 2010. Whether to use biomass to make vehicle fuel or for CHP fuel will be the question after 2020-25. There is also the possibility that by this time the gasification/Fischer-Tropsh processes (BTL) such as the Shell/Choren process will be used to produce both electricity and fuel.

The paper which was published in Science and the spreadsheet model used to develop the data as well as links to the six studies that were compared are found here: ERG Biofuel Analysis Meta-Model.

February 1, 2006

White House: The Advanced Energy Initiative

Posted on the White House website is a press release fleshing out more details of the Advanced Energy Initiative mentioned in the President's State of the Union speech on January 31, 2006. Excerpts below relate to subjects covered in this BioConversion Blog - cellulosic ethanol, biorefineries, hybrid automobiles, pollution, and hydrogen fuel cells.


The Advanced Energy Initiative

In His State Of The Union Address, President Bush Outlined The Advanced Energy Initiative To Help Break America's Dependence On Foreign Sources Of Energy. The President has set a national goal of replacing more than 75% of our oil imports from the Middle East by 2025. With America on the verge of breakthroughs in advanced energy technologies, the best way to break the addiction to foreign oil is through new technology. Since 2001, we have spent nearly $10 billion to develop cleaner, cheaper, and more reliable alternative energy sources. Tonight, the President announced the Advanced Energy Initiative, which provides for a 22% increase in clean-energy research at the Department of Energy (DOE). The Initiative will accelerate our breakthroughs in two vital areas; how we power our homes and businesses; and how we power our automobiles.

Changing The Way We Power Our Automobiles

We Are On The Verge Of Dramatic Improvements In How We Power Our Automobiles, And The President's Initiative Will Bring Those Improvements To The Forefront. The United States must move beyond a petroleum-based economy and develop new ways to power automobiles. The President wants to accelerate the development of domestic, renewable alternatives to gasoline and diesel fuels. The Administration will accelerate research in cutting-edge methods of producing "cellulosic ethanol" with the goal of making the use of such ethanol practical and competitive within 6 years. The Administration will also step up the Nation's research in better batteries for use in hybrid and electric cars and in pollution-free cars that run on hydrogen.

  • The Biorefinery Initiative. To achieve greater use of "homegrown" renewable fuels in the United States, advanced technologies need to be perfected to make fuel ethanol from cellulosic (plant fiber) biomass, which is now discarded as waste. The President's 2007 Budget will include $150 million – a $59 million increase over FY06 – to help develop bio-based transportation fuels from agricultural waste products, such as wood chips, stalks, or switch grass. Research scientists say that accelerating research into "cellulosic ethanol" can make it cost-competitive by 2012, offering the potential to displace up to 30% of the Nation's current fuel use.

  • Developing More Efficient Vehicles. Current hybrids on the road run on a battery developed at the DOE. The President's plan would accelerate research in the next generation of battery technology for hybrid vehicles and "plug-in hybrids." Current hybrids can only use the gasoline engine to charge the on-board battery. A "plug-in" hybrid can run either on electricity or on gasoline and can be plugged into the wall at night to recharge its batteries. These vehicles will enable drivers to meet most of their urban commuting needs with virtually no gasoline use. Advanced battery technologies offer the potential to significantly reduce oil consumption in the near-term. The 2007 Budget includes $30 million – a $6.7 million increase over FY06 – to speed up the development of this battery technology and extend the range of these vehicles.

  • The Hydrogen Fuel Initiative. In his 2003 State of the Union address, President Bush announced a $1.2 billion Hydrogen Fuel Initiative to develop technology for commercially viable hydrogen-powered fuel cells, which would power cars, trucks, homes, and businesses with no pollution or greenhouse gases. Through private-sector partnerships, the Initiative and related FreedomCAR programs will make it practical and cost-effective for Americans to use clean, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles by 2020. The President's 2007 Budget will provide $289 million – an increase of $53 million over FY06 – to accelerate the development of hydrogen fuel cells and affordable hydrogen-powered cars. Through the President's program, the cost of a hydrogen fuel cell has been cut by more than 50% in just four years.

  • America Must Act Now To Reduce Dependence On Foreign Sources Of Energy. There are an estimated 250 million vehicles on America's highways, and Americans will purchase more than 17 million vehicles this year. It will take approximately 15 years to switch America's automobiles over to more fuel efficient technologies. The sooner breakthroughs are achieved, the better for America.
  • The Military Surcharge for Oil

    It has been said that the War on Terrorism is the first war that the U.S. is paying for both sides of the conflict. Our "oil addiction" is compromising our national security.

    America pays a "national security surcharge" for each gallon of oil that is imported from the Middle East. The cost in blood can never be overestimated. But what has been the per gallon cost paid by the U.S. Treasury for military defense of our interests in the Middle East since 1991 and the first war in Iraq? This would be an externalized military cost that we do not see at the pump. It is also a cost that we do not incur for alternative fuels like E85 or biodiesel.

    In an award-winning essay posted on the National Defense University website Lt. Col. John Amidon talleyed the the 1991-2004 military costs of this unreported subsidy and then divided that total by the number of gallons consumed in the U.S. He arrived at a price of $1.276/gallon. Since about 10% of our oil is imported from the Middle East, the actual per gallon surcharge for imported oil is about ten times higher ($12.50/gallon)!

    Like Thomas L. Friedman, Lt. Col. Amidon calls for a "Manhattan Project" response to the Middle East petroleum dilemma because of the direct military costs of our dependence. He provides a reasoned two-phased approach to replacing oil import dependence which includes the production of cellulosic ethanol using domestic biomass and urban waste feedstock.

    His article includes discussions about the history of Middle East oil dependence, Hubbert's peak oil forecasts, the political instabiity of the Middle East, the military challenge and costs, U.S. consumption patterns, and his two-phased "Manhattan Project" approach to resolving the dilemma. Excerpts from the article...


    America's Strategic Imperative: A "Manhattan Project" for Energy
    by Lt. Col. John Amidon, USAF
    (Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff award-winning essay appearing in the Joint Forces Quarterly of National Defense University)

    Taken in whole, the National Energy Policy does not offer a compelling solution to the growing danger of foreign oil dependence. The 2004 Department of Energy budget for all types of renewable energy totaled $1.3 billion, increasing just 0.1 percent from 2002 to 2004, while lagging the entire Department of Energy budget, which increased 5.9 percent. Even if ANWR were fully exploited, proven reserves total about 7.7 billion barrels of recoverable oil, enough to supply the Nation for just over a year. Although the National Energy Policy sets forth a range of conservation and alternative technologies, no meaningful fiscal policy steps have been taken to bring them to the fore.

    Corn is a poor choice for ethanol feedstock since it is the most irrigation-and fertilizer-intensive crop grown in the United States, and corn used for ethanol drives cattle feed prices higher, creating hidden costs at the grocery store. Although a nascent corn ethanol industry has developed, future expansion should be discouraged through a removal of the tax regime. Unsubsidized corn ethanol actually costs $2.24 per gallon to produce, making it uneconomical except in times of very high oil prices.

    The biorefinery and cellulosic ethanol. Instead of valuable corn, the biorefinery produces ethanol using the starches and cellulose present in agricultural waste and byproducts such as corn stalks, rice straw, paper mill waste, recycled urban waste, and dedicated woody stemmed crops. Many of these sources of cellulosic ethanol are considered negative-cost feed stocks, meaning they have no food value and farmers must pay for their disposal. This gives cellulosic ethanol a much higher net energy balance than corn-based ethanol. Studies at candidate biorefinery sites in Indiana and Nebraska found that collocating ethanol biorefineries with existing power plants would allow production for $1.05/gallon to $1.60/gallon depending on the biomass selected. Cellulosic ethanol offers great promise for rural areas that have seen considerable depopulation due to modern farming methods.

    One cellulose ethanol plant would enhance energy security by replacing crude oil imports of 2.4 to 2.9 million barrels per year; increase farm income by $25 million per year by creating economic value for residues that currently have little to no value or are simply viewed as waste; create economic development by creating over 1,000 new jobs during peak construction, and almost 200 new permanent jobs and about 450 spin-off jobs.

    Biorefineries also hold great promise for urban areas. A typical large city has a substantial surplus of yard waste and wood debris, products that can no longer be deposited in landfills. New York and Philadelphia pay $150 per ton to dispose of municipal solid waste. Creating a simple urban wood recycling routine of household recycling bins would ensure a steady biomass supply and strengthen the economics of urban biorefineries through proximity to markets. Building an urban biorefinery in the hundred largest metropolitan areas could produce 7 billion gallons of ethanol a year, offsetting imported oil by 5 percent while helping solve urban waste problems.

    The biorefinery is not a fanciful dream. In 1975, Brazil initiated a domestic ethanol program based on sugar cane waste. Over its 30-year life, the ethanol industry has produced $50 billion worth of ethanol while supporting 700,000 Brazilian jobs. Electricity cogenerated at biorefineries provides 9 percent of national requirements. Ethanol supports a fourth of domestic petroleum demand and can be priced more cheaply than gasoline. According to testimony in the Senate, sufficient cellulosic biomass is available in the United States right now to displace up to 10 percent of today’s oil imports.

    The 2005 Department of Energy budget earmarks $2.5 billion for all categories of energy research. Given that the United States has spent $2.2 trillion over the past 14 years seeking energy security through military action, $50 billion spent to accelerate the arrival of PHEVs, TCP biorefineries, or other as-yet-undefined technology would seem a policy decision ranking with Thomas Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase.

    An ancillary bonus—clean air. Environmentalists have championed many of the above ideas for years but have been largely ignored or grudgingly placated with half-measures. Until now, economic considerations have trumped many of the environmentalists’ arguments as cheap gas and lack of government commitment knocked the props out from under the green platform. The Manhattan Project for energy would provide an ideal convergence of interests, bringing the economist, diplomat, soldier, and environmentalist under the same tent. In addition to girding energy security, PHEVs and TCP biorefineries offer dramatic improvements in the pollution impact of the transportation sector by either eliminating noxious byproducts entirely or transferring to less polluting energy sources.