May 30, 2007

May 2007 Digest

Tying Energy Efficiency to Renewable Energy

Lost in the rush to develop alternative energy technologies is the obvious value of making energy usage more efficient. As Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute would say, "a watt saved is a watt earned." This can be applied to biofuel usage as well. It is far cheaper to save energy than it is to produce more of it, particularly when existing technologies are so wasteful.

In marked contrast to the oil crisis of the 70's when cars lined up on even or odd license number days to tank up on gasoline and speed limits were held to 55 MPH to conserve energy, there has been little preaching by this administration - or the states for that matter - to slow down and use less. Memorial Day weekend driving plans were little impacted by recent gas price spikes. Auto shows still promote performance over gas use efficiency.

It is highly unlikely that the laudable goals of the 25x'25 Initiative for reducing fossil fuel dependence will be reached if we persist in inefficient usage of our energy resources or, in fact, grow our demand beyond current expectations. Similarly, while developing renewable energy (RE) technologies, energy efficiency (EE) needs to be built into the systems.

In a joint report presented by the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) and the American Council for an Energy-Efficency Economy (ACEEE) case studies are showcased that demonstrate the synergies available when RE and EE are developed together. For installations that have such long lifespans and high capital costs, it is important to address efficiency challenges during early planning.

Here are links to stories that were posted in the BioEnergy BlogRing during May, 2007:

BIOstock Blog--------------
Clean Wood replaces Coal Power Plant in N.H.
U.S. paper & pulp industry assesses its bioenergy future

BIOconversion Blog--------------
Molecular visualization of the bioconversion process
U.S. State Dept. to host 2008 Int'l Renewable Energy Conference
IPCC 4th Assessment: Steps to mitigate climate change
U.S. D.O.E./E.I.A. International Energy Outlook 2007

BIOoutput Blog--------------
Tying Energy Efficiency to Renewable Energy
California's electricity - Phasing out coal
Amory Lovins - RMI and the Hypercar

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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May 21, 2007

U.S. D.O.E./E.I.A. International Energy Outlook 2007

Business Energy Reports publishes a prolific number of excellent research reports that address the "global energy industry" and are available online for purchase. Did I mention that they are pricey? Well they are and it would serve them well to offer a discount based on volume purchases. Still, if you are curious to see one, they do offer a free loss leader called "Market Survey of the Energy Industry" which you receive online if you sign up for their email announcements of new releases.

Occasionally they distribute press releases that announce new reports from other agencies that are available online. This week they featured the U.S. Department of Energy's latest International Energy Outlook 2007 which is published through the Energy Information Administration (EIA) website (see below).

P R E S S   R E L E A S E

For Immediate Release
Press Contact: Barbara Drazga
Tel: 800-304-0345

World Energy Use Projected to Grow 57 Percent between 2004 and 2030

Phoenix, AZ –May 21, 2007 – World marketed energy consumption is projected to grow by 57 percent  between 2004 and 2030, according to the reference case projection from the International Energy Outlook 2007 (IEO2007) released today by the Energy Information Administration (EIA). The IEO2007 shows the most rapid growth in energy demand for nations outside the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) especially in non-OECD Asia, where strong projected economic growth drives the increase in energy use.
Global energy demand grows despite the relatively high world oil and natural gas prices in the reference case. However, rising oil prices dampen growth in demand for petroleum and other liquids fuels after 2015 and, as a result, reducing their share of overall energy use from 38 percent in 2004 to a projected 34 percent in 2030.  In contrast, the energy shares of natural gas, coal, and renewable energy sources are expected to grow over this period.  Liquids consumption is still expected to grow strongly, however, reaching 118 million barrels per day in 2030. The United States, China, and India together account for nearly half of the projected growth in world liquids use.
To meet the increment in world liquids demand in the IEO2007 reference case, supply in 2030 is projected to be 35 million barrels oil equivalent per day higher than the 2004 level of 83 million barrels per day.  Conventional resources account for about 27 million barrels per day of this increase, with a projected 21 million barrels per day increase in production by members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and a 6 million barrels per day increase in non-OPEC countries.  Production from unconventional resources (including biofuels, coal-to-liquids, and gas-to-liquids) increases by nearly 8 million barrels per day and accounts for 9 percent of total world liquids supply in 2030.
View Details on Related Reports:
Unconventional Gas Outlook: Resources, Economics, and Technologies 2007
Biomass to Biofuels Market Potential 2007
Commercialization of Coal to Liquids Technology 2007
Gas to Liquids Technology and Market Potential
Other EIA report highlights include:
* Coal consumption, which grows an average annual rate of 2.2 percent, is the fastest-growing energy source worldwide in the IEO2007 reference case projection, which assumes that existing laws and policies remain in effect through 2030 notwithstanding concerns related to the rising level of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions. World coal consumption increased sharply from 2003 to 2004, largely because of a 17-percent increase-on a British thermal unit (Btu) basis-in non-OECD Asia (mainly China and India). With oil and natural gas prices expected to continue rising, coal is an attractive fuel for nations with access to ample coal resources, especially in coal-rich countries like China, India, and the United States. These three countries combined account for 86 percent of the increment in world coal demand by 2030 in the reference case projection.
* Higher fossil fuel prices, energy security concerns, improved reactor designs, and environmental considerations are expected to improve prospects for nuclear power capacity in many parts of the world, and a number of countries are expected to build new nuclear power plants. World nuclear capacity is projected to rise from 368 gigawatts in 2004 to 481 gigawatts in 2030.  Declines in nuclear capacity are projected only in OECD Europe, where several countries (including Germany and Belgium) have either plans or mandates to phase out nuclear power, and where some old reactors are expected to be retired and not replaced.
* In the IEO2007 reference case, which does not include specific policies to limit greenhouse gas emissions, energy-related carbon dioxide emissions are projected to rise from 26.9 billion metric tons in 2004 to 33.9 billion metric tons in 2015 and 42.9 billion metric tons in 2030. From 2003 to 2004, carbon dioxide emissions from the non-OECD countries grew by almost 10 percent, while emissions in the OECD countries grew by less than 2 percent.  The result of the large increase in non-OECD emissions was that 2004 marked the first time in history that emissions from the non-OECD exceeded those from the OECD countries.  Further, because of the expectation that non-OECD countries will rely on fossil fuels to supply much of their future energy demand growth, carbon dioxide emissions from the non-OECD countries in 2030 are projected to exceed those from the OECD by 57 percent.
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May 5, 2007

IPCC 4th Assessment: Steps to mitigate climate change

It is extremely difficult to develop objective assessments of the dangers of climate change. It is clear that millennia of mankind's attempts to manage Earth's resources to provide heat, shelter, and energy took a significant detour at the Industrial Revolution which started over a 150 years ago. With the introduction of faster transportation and communications, labor-saving devices, and centralized manufacturing based on fossil fuels, a dangerous atmospheric imbalance of greenhouse gases has resulted - one that threatens to change worldwide climate patterns.

The jury is still out on when and how fast climate change will happen. However, it is universally agreed that, anticipating significant consequences from inaction, we need to begin remedial steps to mitigate climate change now.

In its fourth assessment the International Panel on Climate Change (Working Group III) has attempted to provide a series of steps to mitigate climate change by revising the management of current industrial, energy, transport, agricultural, forestry, architectural, and waste practices. It is a scientific analysis of what needs to be done - as a opposed to how the steps should be implemented (which has profound economic and political effects).

The consequences of inaction is stated in terms of degrees Celsius of average global temperature increase. While it is impossible to properly assess what the specific effect and repercussions would be for each degree of rising temperature, suffice it to say that the impact would be economically, socially, biologically, and politically profound.

BIOpact has prepared a lengthy summation of the report summary's major findings. Here are excerpts from their article:

IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: mitigation of climate change
BIOpact Blog

The report is a first draft entitled Summary for Policy Makers [*.pdf], and looks at five major issues:

• Greenhouse gas (GHG) emission trends
• Mitigation in the short and medium term, across different economic sectors (until 2030)
• Mitigation in the long-term (beyond 2030)
• Policies, measures and instruments to mitigate climate change
• Sustainable development and climate change mitigation

The report presents mitigation options that can be implemented by relying on currently available technologies, and those that are expected to be available in the medium term (2030). Many of those technologies deal with biofuels, bioenergy and bioproducts, including the carbon negative energy system known as 'Bio-Energy with Carbon Storage' (BECS), to which we refer often. This last option can be seen as a 'geo-engineering' option, because it involves large-scale energy plantations. The Summary sees BECS as a suitable strategy to reach the reductions presented in several mitigation scenarios, because the negative emissions system cleans up the carbon emissions from the past.

The broad conclusion that can be drawn from the report is that the world has both the knowledge, technologies and financial means to avoid the worst effects of climate change (as they were outlined by Working Group II, earlier post), by investing in renewables such as biofuels and in nuclear, by improving energy efficiency, by limiting the use of fossil fuels, by increasing the efficiency of agriculture and by investing in carbon capture and storage, including BECS [the carbon negative energy system known as Bio-Energy with Carbon Storage (BECS)]. A portfolio of those options makes it possible to limit emissions in such a way that global temperature increase does not surpass the 2°C mark. The technologies are available, but political will and a change in life-styles by wealthy consumers will be required.

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May 3, 2007

U.S. State Dept. to host 2008 Int'l Renewable Energy Conference

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced today (April 23, 2007) that the State Department will host the Washington International Renewable Energy Conference (WIREC 2008) March 2008.

WIREC 2008 is the third global ministerial level event on renewable energy. It will be an important opportunity for world ministers to show their commitment to renewable energy. The ministers will discuss how renewable energy advances our shared goals for climate, sustainable development and energy security. The Secretary noted that, "Diversifying our energy supplies is a key foreign policy objective of this Administration," and that, "Renewable energy sources can go a long way toward breaking the 'addiction to oil' that President Bush cited in his 2006 State of the Union Address."

WIREC 2008 goals include: 
- Advancing energy security, climate change, air quality, and sustainable development goals, including agriculture and rural development; 
- Demonstrating global leadership in renewable energy research, policy development, technology innovation, commercialization and deployment; and
- Fostering industry and government collaboration to help solve global energy challenges.

The U.S. Department of State will host this event, assisted by other relevant Departments and agencies including; the: U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Agency for International Development, U.S. Department of Interior, and the U.S. Department of Commerce. The intergovernmental team welcomes the strong support of the American Council On Renewable Energy (ACORE) and looks forward to cooperating with REN-21 and other relevant stakeholders.

For more information about the Washington International Renewable Energy Conference 2008, please contact William Armbruster at (202) 647-1247.

Here is the letter from The Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, to ACORE President Michael Eckhart:

April 23, 2007

Dear Mr. Eckhart:

Access to clean, reliable, and affordable energy is a key foreign policy objective of this Administration. Renewable energy sources can go a long way toward breaking the "addiction to oil" that President Bush cited in his 2006 State of the Union Address.

The Department of State looks forward to hosting in March 2008 the ministerial-level Washington International Renewable Energy Conference (WIREC 2008). WIREC 2008 is an important opportunity for government officials and other leaders to show their commitment to renewable energy and to discuss how renewable energy advances our shared goals for climate, sustainable development, and energy security.

The Department welcomes the strong support of the American Council on Renewable Energy in making this conference possible. The Administration remains committed to diversifying our nation's energy portfolio and recognizes the need to work in partnership with non-governmental leaders to harness the creativity and entrepreneurial spirit of all stakeholders. Thank you for your important work on one of the significant global challenges of our time.

Condoleezza Rice

Mr. Mike Eckhart, President;
American Council on Renewable Energy
1629 K Street NW, Suite 210,
Washington, D.C. 20006.

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May 2, 2007

Molecular visualization of the bioconversion process

The tools available for the hunt for renewable energy are very 21st Century. In place of wildcatting subterranean petroleum deposits using multi-million dollar rigs and oil crews, much of the ground-breaking research is taking place with meticulous precision at government labs in collaboration with universities and industry. New tools include robotics, mass spectrometers, laser imagers, and data collection and analysis devices. As a result, communications can be digital and more visual than ever before, speeding questions and understanding at warp speed around the globe.

The Society of Industrial Microbiology convened their 29th Symposium on Biotechnology for Fuels and Chemicals in Denver this week which was hosted by the federally-financed National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) situated in nearby Golden, Colorado. One of the highlights of the symposium was a tour of NREL's groundbreaking facilities. The tour included visits to its biochemical and thermochemical labs and pilot plants for converting an array of feedstock (particularly corn stover for now) into sugars and ethanol.

One stop was in a research area where high tech imaging devices are employed to analyze cell and molecular structures involved in the bioconversion process. At right is a picture of the X8 Proteum - a new tool for conducting biological crystallography research. Data collected from this device can be used to build accurate models and animations to aid understanding.

Each tour group was treated to a 4 minute animation that zoomed from outside a corn plant into its stalk structures with an intricate graphic depiction of how molecules interact during the bioconversion process. It was built from data provided by NREL and visualized by the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC).

In an article titled Tapping Plants for Fuel Cassie Ferguson, writing for the SDSC, explains the animation process this way:

To explore the intricate molecular dynamics of cellulase, researchers at NREL have turned to CHARMM (Chemistry at HARvard Molecular Mechanics), a suite of modeling software for macromolecular simulations, including energy minimization, molecular dynamics, and Monte Carlo simulations. The widely-used community code, originally developed in 1983 in the laboratory of Martin Karplus at Harvard University, models how atoms interact.

In the cellulase modeling, CHARMM is used to explore the ensemble configurations and protein structure, the interactions of the protein with the cellulose substrate, and the interactions of water with both. Not only are the NREL simulations the first to simultaneously model the cellulase enzyme, cellulose substrate, and surrounding water, they are among the largest molecular systems ever modeled. In particular, the researchers are interested in how cellulase aligns and attaches itself to cellulose, how the separate parts of cellulase—called protein domains—work with one another, and the effect of water on the overall system. And they are also investigating which of the over 500 amino acids that make up the cellulase protein are central to the overall workings of the "machine" as it chews up cellulose.

To the biochemists in the collaboration, the simulation is like a stop-motion film of a baseball pitcher throwing a curveball. In real-life the process occurs too quickly to evaluate visually, but by breaking down the throw into a step-by-step process, observers can find out the precise role of velocity, trajectory, movement, and arm angle. In simulations on SDSC's DataStar supercomputer, the researchers have modeled a portion of the enzyme, the type 1 cellulose binding domain, on a surface of crystalline cellulose in a box of water. The modeling revealed how the amino acids of the domain orient themselves when they interact with crystalline cellulose as well as how the interaction disrupts the layer of water molecules that lie on top of the cellulose, providing a detailed glimpse of this intricate molecular dance.

While this lengthy animation does not appear to be available online, another bioconversion cartoon (pictured at top) simulated by Dr. Mark Nimlosis (NREL) and visualized by Dr. Ross Walker and Amit Chourasia of SDSC is available for download.

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May 1, 2007

Biopact: May 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...

Brazil demonstrating that reducing tropical deforestation is possible while expanding biofuels
Dedini achieves breakthrough: cellulosic ethanol from bagasse at $27cents per liter ($1/gallon)

US DOE announces up to US$200 million in funding for small biorefineries
IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: mitigation of climate change
World's first carbon-negative energy system planned in Netherlands: biomass with carbon capture
Dupont outlines strategy for mass adoption of biofuels
Little Green Data Book 2007 focuses on emissions and energy
President Bush orders development of regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles - boost to biofuels
Report: clean coal and CCS 'feasible' in the UK - towards carbon negative energy?
World energy use to grow 57 percent between 2004 and 2030 - EIA
U.S. House proposes US$4.5 billion for biomass research, biorefineries
Boost to biohydrogen: high yield production from starch by synthetic enzymes
UPM and Andritz/Carbona team up to develop synthetic biofuels
Back to black: hydrothermal carbonisation of biomass to clean up CO2 emissions from the past
Engineering students patent promising plasma processing techniques to produce biofuels
Green designer coal: more on hydrothermal carbonisation of biomass

Third generation biofuels: scientists patent corn variety with embedded cellulase enzymes
The bioeconomy at work: bio-composites for home insulation made from mushrooms and starch
CO2 balance of large-scale electricity production: nuclear good, biogas best
Metabolix to develop bioplastics from sugarcane
Biofuels becoming a headache for OPEC
World's first ethanol powered fuel cell vehicle gets 2716 km/l (6,491mpg)
The bioeconomy at work: Toyota's i-Unit made from kenaf-reinforced bioplastic
UK outlines Biomass Strategy: large potential for bioenergy, bioproducts
Research warns 'dangerous climate change' may be imminent - carbon negative bioenergy now