BCO 41 - October 2007

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In This Edition

EESI Update

EESI Commentary

EESI Feature Article

Federal Initiatives Updates

State Initiative Updates

Research and Technology Updates

News Briefs

EESI Update

EESI Launches Operation Green Office Campaign

Due to our growing staff and rising rent costs, EESI is moving into a new
office space early next year. We want to ensure that both our new
office and the moving process are as “green” as possible in order to
minimize our impact on the environment and maintain high indoor air
quality in the new office. Among our objectives are to use bio-based
products, sustainable flooring materials and low-VOC paint and carpet,
to install energy-saving lighting and to minimize the amount of waste
and emissions generated during the moving process. In order to raise
the necessary $50,000 in cash and supply donation, EESI is launching
the Operation Green Office campaign. Please donate today to help EESI
lead by example in its efforts to promote environmental
sustainability.

Donations can be made at https://secure.groundspring.org/dn/index.php?aid=480 or by contacting Susan Williams at swilliams [at] eesi.org or (202) 662-1887.

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Commentary

Climate Change, Energy Independence, and Forest Management
By Dave Atkins

Two topics of major significance face our communities, our country and
our world. They comprise a truly “think globally, act locally” situation,
which requires our urgent action. They are 1) Climate Change and 2)
Energy Independence. Forest management has a role to play in each of
these issues.

The term Sustainability, simply put, means to live within our means and assure that future generations also have the ability to sustain themselves.
Almost everyone can accept this as a worthwhile goal; the difficulty
comes in bringing this into practice in an everyday sense of living.
The past 40 years have been witness to a long war between
environmentalists and the forest products industry over harvesting in
our forests. It is time to make peace and move towards sustaining our
environment, our economy and our society. In fact, I submit
that sustainable harvesting is in the interests of any environmentalist
that is concerned about global climate change, maintenance of old
growth, healthy watersheds, and wildlife habitat.

In Montana, and across the country, we are nearing the end of a very
difficult and expensive fire year in terms of homes lost, evacuations,
and smoky days – an irritant to some and a downright health risk for
others, as well as lost business in the tourism industry.

We import close to 2/3 of our oil, the amount of natural gas imported
from Canada and Mexico keeps growing, and we are looking at importing LNG.
The price of energy is substantial and unlikely to go down. In fact,
it is very likely to go up, as India, China, and many other countries’
growing economies work up an ever larger appetite for energy. When all
the major oil companies begin talking about “peak oil” and just behind
that “peak natural gas,” it is clear our hydrocarbon ride is nearing
its end.

What will it take to sustain ourselves in light of climate change and our
desire for energy independence? What different ways of approaching how
we live on earth do we need to achieve a sustainable lifestyle?

This is a huge topic. I will focus on only one slice of these questions:
how it relates to forests. I’ll focus on 3 points:

1) Forests are and have been significant warehouses of CO2 in the USA.
For over 60 years, our forests have helped offset a portion of the
fossil fuel CO2 we have been releasing by sequestering carbon in
biomass. Forests function as massive solar collectors changing
sunlight, CO2, and water into wood – a truly amazing phenomenon. In a
mechanistic perspective we could describe them as solar cells with
batteries, ones we don’t have to mine and manufacture to cause to
function as such and that provide many ecosystem services:
wildlife habitat, watersheds that provide a clean source of water,
wonderful places to recreate, storing Carbon, etc... However, forests
do have a maximum carrying capacity and eventually will start releasing
the carbon that has been accumulated.

2) Severe forest fires, insect epidemics and severe storms can kill large
areas of forest which causes them to release substantial amounts of
GHG’s. Droughts in recent years in various parts of the country,
combined with lots of stored energy in the form of dense forests, have
resulted in many large fires and insect epidemics. Recent fire seasons
have shown us that thinning forests, treating the slash, and careful
use of planned fire can be very effective in changing wildfire behavior
for many years (especially when used in combination), but it is not a
one time deal. These ecosystems are dynamic. The trees keep growing
and regenerating – storing more energy and CO2 in the process,
thankfully. The energy will be released at some point – we
must manage where, when and how. We will never stop all fires, nor do
we want to, as fire is an important part of many of our forest
ecosystems!

3) We have opportunities in regard to the stored carbon and energy in
our forests. We can use some of it by harvesting wood before or after a
disturbance as a renewable energy source and offset some of our fossil
fuel usage and CO2 release, creating local employment in the process.
We can capture some of the CO2 absorbed by the trees in wood products,
thus reducing the GHG’s in the atmosphere. Also, wood requires less
energy to manufacture than steel or concrete, so when we substitute
wood for these products we again reduce the amount of fossil fuel
consumed. We have the opportunity to convert pulp mills into
biorefineries that can still produce paper but also produce cellulosic
ethanol and a form of diesel. All of these uses of sustainably managed
forests can reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, reduce our trade
deficit and create domestic jobs, helping create a more sustainable
society.

Forty to fifty years ago, some poor forest management practices such as
terracing, poor road construction techniques, the over use of
clearcuts, motivated a portion of the environmental movement to form
and protest those practices. The movement has succeeded in prompting
the development of new sustainable forest management practices. It is
time to stop fighting over old battles and start working together for
the common goal of a sustainable society in which the management and
use of forests are an important part of achieving that goal. Forest
management isn’t “the silver bullet,” but it is one of many tools –
such as conservation, efficiency gains, energy production from wind,
geothermal, solar, ocean waves and more – that can lead us to success
in addressing the twin problems of climate change and energy
independence, resulting in a more sustainable society.

Dave Atkins is a forester and forest ecologist in Missoula, Montana.

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Feature Article

Algae Gaining Momentum as Biofuel Solution

For years, experts have known algae to have great potential as a feedstock
for biodiesel. Between 1978 and 1996, National Renewable Energy
Laboratory (NREL) studied approximately 300 species of microalgae as
part of its Aquatic Species Program and found that microalgae have the
highly desirable capability to use carbon dioxide emissions from fossil
fuel power plants and produce relatively clean-burning biodiesel. Some
species of algae produce more than 30 times the amount of oil per acre
than conventional feedstocks such as soybeans or canola, using just
water, sunlight, nutrients and carbon dioxide as inputs; additionally,
the carbohydrates in algae can be converted into ethanol and the
proteins used for animal feed. Another important advantage of algae is
that it does not have to compete for land or water resources used by
the domestic, industrial or agricultural sectors because many species
can grow in brackish, or saline, water.

However, NREL also found that at the time of its research the cost of
large-scale algae production was prohibitively high. Now, with high
petroleum prices and concerns about energy independence and climate
change rising, algae-based biofuel is gaining momentum as a potential
solution.

California-based LiveFuels, Inc., with the goal of producing commercially
viable algae-based biocrude by 2010, recently announced that John Sheehan,
the final project manager of NREL’s Aquatic Species Program, was appointed
as its Vice President of Strategy and Sustainable Development. LiveFuels
reports on its website that “theoretically, the U.S. could grow enough
algae on 20 million acres to replace imported oil.”

Colorado-based Solix Biofuels has developed a “photobioreactor” that can
control sunlight, temperature and carbon dioxide levels for mass algae
production. Solix, in partnership with Colorado State University,
plans to reproduce the prototype bioreactor system at five times the
scale to use the carbon dioxide byproduct from the New Belgium Brewing
Company to grow algae; full scale production is anticipated by the
middle of 2008.

Two Arizona-based companies, XL Renewables, Inc. and Diversified Energy
Corporation, have partnered to commercialize an algae production method
using thin walled polyethylene tubing similar to drip irrigation tubes.
This new system, called Simgae™ (for simple algae), requires 1/2 - 1/16 the
capital cost of traditional shallow pond algae production methods. Ben Cloud,
President and COO of XL Renewables, said Simgae™ “is the right
technology at the right time to deliver algae biomass for use as a
feedstock for biofuel oils, super-antioxidant animal feeds, starches to
the ethanol industry, and many other uses.” The Simgae™ system is
currently being demonstrated in Casa Grande, Arizona and will undergo
further testing through 2008.

Sources: http://www1.eere.energy.gov/biomass/pdfs/biodiesel_from_algae.pdf (pdf format)
http://diversified-energy.com/auxfiles/pressReleases/SimgaeSystem.pdf (pdf format)
http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/earth/4213775.html
http://www.livefuels.com/
http://www.ncbr.com/article.asp?id=87705

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Federal Initiatives Updates

USDA Awards $18.2 Million for Sec. 9006 Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency Projects

On September 20, 2007, Under Secretary for Rural Development Thomas Dorr
announced that 345 proposals had been selected to receive a total of
$18.2 million in loan guarantees and grants from the US Agriculture
Department’s (USDA) Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency program
(Sec. 9006 of the 2002 Farm Bill (P.L. 107-171)). These awards are the
last installment of the Sec. 9006 awards for FY07.

Of the total $18.2 million, $4.8 million has been awarded for guaranteed
loans and $13.4 million for grants. The successful grants cover a wide
array of projects and technologies, including wind turbines, biodiesel
plants, wood-pellet production, photovoltaic arrays, and anaerobic
digesters, as well as energy-efficient improvements to existing
equipment, processes and infrastructure at a number of facilities
across the agricultural, industrial, and service sectors. In addition
to these grants, 48 loans received loan guarantees. Recipients
represent 37 different states, including several states that did not
receive funding in FY06, such as Connecticut, Utah, Georgia, Kentucky,
Rhode Island, and Virginia.

Sources: Click Here for USDA Press Release
Click Here for Full List of Recipients (pdf format)
Click Here for Original Solicitation
Click Here for Program Description in the Federal Register (pdf format)

 

USDA Creates Council to Reduce Environmental Impact

On August 20, former Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns announced the
creation of the Sustainable Operations Council, chaired by the USDA’s
Assistant Secretary for Administration Boyd Rutherford, to reduce the
department’s environmental impact. Secretary Johanns said the council
will help “all USDA's employees work together to operate, promote and
use sustainable operating practices so we save energy and practice
effective use of our resources.” The USDA manages 193 million acres of
land, more than 23,000 buildings and a fleet of over 46,000 motor
vehicles.

Sources: http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usdahome?contentidonly=true&contentid=2007/08/0222.xml
http://www.greening.usda.gov/

 

AgSTAR Newsletter and Conference Provide Information on Anaerobic Digesters

A new web-based newsletter containing updates relating to anaerobic
digesters is being offered as part of the AgSTAR Program sponsored by
the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Agriculture and
Department of Energy. The AgSTAR Program is designed to educate
livestock producers about anaerobic digester technology, which converts
methane recovered from manure into energy, as well as help them find
funding for implementing the systems. Benefits of digester
technologies include odor control and reduced emissions of hydrogen
sulfide as well as methane, a major greenhouse gas. The quarterly
AgSTAR Digest newsletter can be found here: http://www.epa.gov/agstar/online_digest.html#1.

Additionally, an AgSTAR conference will take place in Sacramento, California
on November 27-28 and will include presentations on the technical, policy
and financial aspects of anaerobic digester systems. A keynote address
will be given by James Boyd, Vice-Chair of the California Energy
Commission and Chair of the BioEnergy Interagency Working Group, and
there will be an opportunity to tour two local farms with operating
digesters. More details about the conference can be found here: http://www.epa.gov/agstar/conference07.html.

Source: http://www.epa.gov/agstar

 

Value-Added Producer Grant Recipients Announced

On September 18, former Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns announced
the distribution of $22.7 million to 162 recipients as part of the
Value-Added Producer Grant program. “These grants support farm
families in rural America by helping them market their commodities and
increase their financial returns,” Secretary Johanns said. Among those
recipients working to develop biofuels and bioenergy are
Minnesota-based MinnErgy, LLC which will receive $300,000 for the
initial startup of an ethanol plant, and Orlicek Farm, which will
receive $98,500 to conduct a feasibility study of marketing biofuels
from a facility in Arkansas.

Source: http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usdahome?contentidonly=true&contentid=2007/09/0249.xml

 

Senator Grassley Supports Burgeoning Cellulosic Ethanol Industry

September 3, Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) toured the headquarters and
research facilities of Poet, an ethanol producer based in South Dakota.
Poet has plans to convert its ethanol plant in Emmetsburg, Iowa to use
the cellulose found in corn cobs and fiber in addition to corn kernels as
its feedstock, increasing the fuel yield per acre of crop by 27
percent. Senator Grassley stressed the importance of federal incentives
as the cellulosic ethanol industry develops and said that he expects
that such incentives will be included by the Senate in the next Farm
Bill. “It’s just a way of moving on to have further independence from
foreign sources of energy,” the Senator said of the new ethanol
feedstock. “It’s a way of doing more to clean up the environment, and
it’s obviously going to put money in farmers’ pockets.”

Source: http://www.townhall.com/news/business/2007/09/03/firm_hopes_to_get_more_ethanol_from_corn
http://www.poetenergy.com/news/showRelease.asp?id=77

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State Initiatives Updates

Kentucky Bill Moves State toward Energy Independence

On August 30, Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher signed House Bill 1 to
decrease the state’s dependence on foreign oil through the advancement
of energy policy and technology. Section 2 of the bill, called the
Incentives for Energy Independence Act, provides incentives of up to
half the capital investment in facilities to produce alternative fuels
or generate electricity from renewable resources. To qualify for the
incentives, an alternative fuel or gasification facility using coal
must have a capital investment of at least $100 million; one using
biomass must have a capital investment of $25 million. A renewable
energy facility’s capital investment must be $1 million.

House Bill 1 also expands the $1 per gallon biodiesel tax credit to include
renewable diesel and increases the cap on the total tax credit from
$1.5 million to $5 million in 2008 and then $10 million in 2009. Also,
new $1 per gallon tax credits are created for ethanol produced from
corn, soybeans, wheat, and cellulosic biomass.

Sources: http://www.eere.energy.gov/states/news_detail.cfm/news_id=11243
http://www.lrc.ky.gov/record/07S2/HB1.htm

 

Massachusetts Program to Help Farmers Reduce Energy Costs and Emissions

With $400,000 in funding from the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation
Service (NRCS) and the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural
Resources, farmers will have an opportunity to lower their costs while
contributing to energy efficiency and renewable energy goals in the
state. The new Massachusetts Farm Energy Program is a two year program
that will provide farmers with energy audits and offer incentives for
increasing efficiency and installing renewable energy projects.
Christine S. Clarke, Massachusetts State Conservationist for NRCS, said
“At a time when farmers are being hit hard with skyrocketing energy
bills, this program will help them save thousands of dollars a year
through energy efficiency and alternative and renewable energy sources.
The project also aims to reduce over 500 metric tons of CO2 emissions.”

Sources: http://www.renewableenergyaccess.com/rea/news/story?id=49825
http://www.ma.nrcs.usda.gov/news/news_CIG_2007_energy.html

 

Kansas Bill Redefines “Alternative Fuel”

Alternative fuel has a new definition in Section 14 of Kansas House Bill
2145, the section which authorizes tax credits for purchasers of alternative
fuel motor vehicles and alternative fuel fueling stations. The bill reads:
“’Alternative fuel’ means a combustible liquid derived from grain
starch, oil seed, animal fat or other biomass; or produced from biogas
source, including any nonfossilized, decaying, organic matter.”
Previously, alternative fuel had been defined according to 42 U.S.C.
13211, which also lists natural gas, hydrogen, coal-derived liquid
fuels and electricity (including electricity from solar energy) as
acceptable options. House Bill 2145 took effect on July 1, 2007.

Source: http://www.kslegislature.org/bills/2008/2145.pdf (pdf format)

 

North Carolina to Create Home-Grown Biofuels Industry

The recently established non-profit Biofuels Center of North Carolina has
been charged with implementing the state’s Strategic Plan for Biofuels
Leadership. The Biofuels Center will work with researchers, growers,
production facilities, educators and policymakers to comply with the
Strategic Plan’s directive: that biofuels grown and produced within
North Carolina will comprise 10% of all liquid fuels sold in the state
by 2017. The plan aims to take advantage of North Carolina’s forest
and agriculture resources by calling for cellulosic feedstocks such as
wood products, animal waste and high-yield plants and grasses. W.
Steven Burke, Chair of the Biofuels Center’s Board of Directors, said
that meeting the Strategic Plan’s goal will “yield a sector of impact
statewide, particularly for rural and agricultural communities. How
often does a state have opportunity to create a large new industry with
widespread benefit?”

Source: http://www.ncbiotech.org/news_and_events/news_releases/bio_center.html

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Research and Technology Updates

Large Ethanol Plants Can Encounter Diseconomies of Scale

John Farrell of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance examines the increasing costs for larger ethanol plants in Wind and Ethanol: Economies and Diseconomies of Scale.
Production and distribution costs are known to decrease as the size of
ethanol plants continues to increase. However, large plants experience
diseconomies of scale in transportation costs after the local demand
for ethanol and its byproducts is satisfied. Another concern for large
ethanol plants is their intensive use of water, which often outstrips
the local supply. Farrell asserts that, although modest economies of
scale in ethanol production costs are real, policymakers should take
into account the drawbacks of large ethanol plants—including the
effects of absentee facility ownership on rural communities—when
considering size-based incentives.

Source: http://www.newrules.org/de/scalereport.pdf (pdf format)

 

Future Profitability of Ethanol Plants Depends on Expansion of Renewable Fuel Standard

In his study titled Understanding Ethanol Plant Economics: Will Boom Turn Bust?
Dr. David J. Peters, Assistant Professor in the University of Nebraska
Lincoln’s Department of Agricultural Economics, analyzes two
hypothetical ethanol plants to make a projection on their future
economic viability. Dr. Peters writes that the ethanol industry has
been expanding rapidly in response to the great demand for ethanol
created by the high price of petroleum and the Renewable Fuel Standard
(RFS) Program, which requires 7.5 billion gallons of renewable fuels to
be used per year by 2012. Federal and state tax credits combined with
tariffs have also kept the market price of domestic ethanol high
compared to imports. The study is based on models of a 40 million
gallon per year (MGY) ethanol plant built in 2002 and a more productive
100-MGY ethanol plant built in 2005. With a projected drop in domestic
ethanol prices and increase in corn feedstock prices, Dr. Peters finds
that both types of plants will generate losses by 2014. Only if the
RFS Program is increased to 15 billion gallons per year, he concludes,
will the plants remain profitable in 2015.

Source: http://agecon.unl.edu/peters/pubs/rd-2007-08-1.pdf (pdf format)

 

Environmental Working Group Makes Recommendations to Reduce Soil Erosion

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has released a report titled Trouble Downstream: Upgrading Conservation Compliance,
which analyzes the effects of the Highly Erodible Land Conservation
(HELC) Compliance program. The HELC policy, established in the 1985
Farm Bill, mandates that farmers receiving certain benefits from the
federal government must implement a soil conservation plan on land
designated as “highly erodible”. The USDA credits these conservation
requirements with a 10% reduction in soil erosion between 1982 and
1997. However, there has been little progress in reducing soil
erosion since.

Among the EWG’s recommendations for the next Farm Bill are to require
conservation compliance on all cropland receiving farm program benefits
(even if not considered highly erodible land), expand the list of farm
program benefits that are subject to conservation compliance and require
nutrient management plans on cropland receiving farm program benefits. EWG
is increasingly concerned with soil erosion and nutrient run-off because of
the rapidly expanding ethanol industry, which contributed to an increase of
15 million acres of corn planted this year.

Source: http://www.ewg.org/reports/compliance

 

Newly Discovered Microbe May Streamline Cellulosic Ethanol Production

A new bacterium dubbed the Q Microbe may be the much sought after
solution to the difficult and expensive process of converting
cellulose, such as wood waste, switchgrass and corn cobs, into
ethanol. The development of cellulosic ethanol using the Q Microbe
could reduce the price of ethanol by 20%, according to analysts. This
is because the Q Microbe can extract sugar from cellulosic feedstocks
in one step, while enzymes under study must be manufactured in a lab to
be effective and require a less efficient, multi-step extraction
process. The Q Microbe also appears to work with almost all types of
cellulose material, as opposed to enzymes which only work with certain
types.

Q Microbe was discovered in the soil of New England by Susan Leschine,
Ph.D., of the University of Massachusetts’ Microbiology Department. Dr.
Leschine is working with SunEthanol to develop the new microbe for commercial
production; a test plant is expected to open by 2009.

Source: http://money.cnn.com/2007/09/04/news/companies/ethanol_qmicrobe/

 

Cornell Scientists Study Grasses as Potential Ethanol Feedstocks

Researchers from Cornell University are growing a number of species of
field grasses to determine which species are best suited to be used as
ethanol feedstocks in the state of New York. The crops are planted in
six different sites in order to analyze their effects on diverse
bioregions. Dr. Donald R. Viands, a lead principal investigator for
the project, described potential economic and environmental benefits of
grasses over corn in ethanol production: “Their perennial growth
eliminates the costs associated with an annual crop and they are
environmentally more sustainable because of their lower nutrient inputs
and because their root systems hold the soil against erosion and they
require less land disturbance as they grow.” The Cornell team also
hopes to develop new technologies and systems so that biofuel
production companies can minimize their future impact on the
environment. Cellulosic ethanol could become a big industry for New
York, which has 1.5 million acres of idle and underused agricultural
lands.

Sources: http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/Sept07/feedstocks.lc.html
http://www.nnyagdev.org/press-06-11-07.htm

 

New Technology Speeds Up Biodiesel Production

Oklahoma-based Orbitek, Inc., formerly known as Biodiesel Technologies,
Inc., has developed a highly efficient “continuous flow technology” for
biodiesel production in partnership with Cornell University. The standard
transesterification process uses a time-consuming, low-yield batch
process to convert fats and oils into diesel. The new technology
reduces the reaction time to three minutes, with a total energy input
of less than 700 BTU’s per gallon of biodiesel produced.

Sources: http://orbitekinc.com/pdfFiles/hwQBj-UiPtx-WcGRC-cornell.pdf (pdf format)
http://appft1.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&d=PG01&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2F
srchnum.html&r=1&f=G&l=50&s1=%2220070149795%22.PGNR.&OS=DN/20070149795&RS=DN/20070149795

 

Dow Introduces Bio-based Polyols Produced with RENUVA™ Technology

September 25, Dow Polyurethanes, a business group of The Dow Chemical
Company, introduced RENUVA™ Renewable Resource Technology at the 50th
Annual Polyurethanes Technical Conference and UTECH Expo in Orlando. This
unique process is used to produce high-performance bio-based polyols
with a high degree of renewable content from soybean oil. RENUVA™
technology requires as much as 60 percent less fossil fuel resources
than conventional polyol processes and is carbon neutral, according to
a third-party life cycle analysis. As well as being a reliable
high-performance product, polyols made with the new process do not have
the distinctive odors that characterized earlier bio-based polyols.
Commercial quantities of the new products are slated to be made
available in late 2007.

Sources: http://www.azom.com/details.asp?newsID=9979
http://news.dow.com/dow_news/prodbus/2007/20070925a.htm

 

Fast Pyrolysis Turns Poultry Litter into Bio-Oil and Fertilizer

 

Foster A. Agblevor, Ph.D., is building a reactor to convert chicken and
turkey litter into bio-oil using a process called fast pyrolysis, which
burns the waste in the absence of oxygen. Poultry litter is composed of
bedding, manure, feathers and spilled feed, and more than 5.6 million
tons are produced annually in the United States. The process has the
added environmental benefit of reducing the disposal of litter that
pollutes water ways and producing a charcoal byproduct that can be used
as a low-nutrient, slow-release fertilizer. Dr. Agblevor, an Associate
Professor at Virginia Tech, expects the reactor to convert 2,000-10,000
pounds of litter into 1000 pounds of biofuel and 800 pounds of charcoal
fertilizer per day. He is working to develop the technology wit a $1
million grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s
Chesapeake Bay Targeted Watershed Program.

Sources: http://www.energycurrent.com/index.php?id=3&storyid=4922
http://www.vtnews.vt.edu/news_print/index.php?relyear=2007&itemno=447

 

Sony’s New “Bio Battery” Can Make Electricity from Gatorade

Sony has developed an environmentally-friendly battery in which enzymes
break down glucose solutions to generate electricity. The prototype
battery, measuring approximately 1.5 inches on each side, is encased in
a vegetable-based plastic and has an output of 50 mW, enough to power a
Walkman music player. Sony described the benefits of the battery in
the following statement: “Sugar is a naturally occurring energy source
produced by plants through photosynthesis. It is therefore
regenerative, and can be found in most areas of the earth, underlining
the potential for sugar-based bio batteries as an ecologically-friendly
energy device of the future.”

Sources: http://www.reuters.com/article/scienceNews/idUSSP22885120070824
http://www.sony.net/SonyInfo/News/Press/200708/07-074E/index.html

 

Co-firing Biomass with Fossil Fuels Quick Way to Reduce Carbon Emissions

Burning biomass along with coal or natural gas is the most immediate and
inexpensive method for reducing utilities’ carbon emissions from their
existing fossil fuel plants according to the Department of Energy.
Biomass is composed of any organic matter, from wood and agricultural
products to animal waste. While burning biomass does release some
carbon into the atmosphere, it is considered part of a neutral cycle
because carbon is absorbed by the replacement biomass crops. Experts
say certain types of biomass can be mixed with fossil fuels for
combustion with only minor modifications to a power plant.

Sources: http://www.energycentral.com/centers/energybiz/ebi_detail.cfm?id=372
http://www1.eere.energy.gov/biomass/pdfs/33811.pdf (pdf format)

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News Briefs

Wyoming, Michigan and Georgia First States to Commercially Produce Wood-Based Ethanol

In Upton, Wyoming, a small wood-based ethanol plant recently began
operations under Western Biomass Energy. The plant is expected to
convert wood waste to 1.5 million gallons of ethanol annually.
Meanwhile, Georgia and Michigan are on track to build the first
large-scale cellulosic ethanol plants in the country. Massachusetts
based Mascoma Corporation announced that it will build a $100 million
plant near the forests of Michigan to convert timber industry
byproducts to ethanol, with production expected to begin by late 2008
or 2009. In Georgia, Range Fuels, Inc. has received a permit to
construct a cellulosic ethanol plant that will produce 20 million
gallons of ethanol annually in its first phase beginning in 2008. The
Range Fuels plant will bring close to $500,000 of tax revenue to
Treutlen County according to a University of Georgia study, and is
expected to create up to 80 full-time jobs with higher than average
salaries for the region.

Although still in the early stages of commercial development, one potential
advantage of cellulosic ethanol (which includes wood-based ethanol) over
corn-based ethanol is that its source is not part of the global food supply.
Additionally, wood-to-ethanol plants can provide a market for
underbrush and small-diameter trees that are removed from forests in
wildfire fuel reduction treatments. The process used at the Western
Biomass Energy plant is estimated to use less than 20,000 BTU of energy
to produce one gallon of ethanol, which contains about 80,000 BTU of
energy.

Sources: http://www.rapidcityjournal.com/articles/2007/08/06/news/local/doc46b7ebd8877aa824771625.txt
http://www.eere.energy.gov/states/news_detail.cfm/news_id=11123
http://www.earthportal.org/news/?p=414

 

Virginia Prepares for Switchgrass-Based Ethanol Market

Experts believe that switchgrass, a tall prairie grass native to North
America, may be the primary source of domestic ethanol in the future, and
some Virginians are taking note. Scientists at Virginia Tech estimate that
the state could meet one quarter of its gas, diesel and heating oil
needs with switchgrass and wood chips. Switchgrass is an especially
appealing feedstock for ethanol because it requires much less water and
fertilizer than corn, and its roots can filter out pollutants that
would otherwise contaminate waterways in agricultural run-off.

Because the science of fermenting the hardy grass into a solution with the
proper alcohol concentration has yet to be perfected, commercial
production of switchgrass-based ethanol may still be five years away or
more according to George Douglas, a spokesman for the National
Renewable Energy Laboratory. However, Virginia farmers who are looking
to replace their tobacco with something more economically viable are
already planting the new crop in anticipation of the switchgrass-based
ethanol market. If the new industry does take off, it is estimated to
have the potential to create more than 10,000 jobs for farmers, truck
drivers and refinery workers in the state.

Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/09/05/AR2007090502327_pf.html

 

Clean Fuels Development Coalition Releases Ethanol Fact Book for 110th Congress

The Clean Fuels Development Coalition (CFDC), which is composed of
industry, government and non-profit organizations, released the 5th
edition of their Ethanol Fact Book on September 10. The report
explains the history and current status of the ethanol industry, as
well as projections about future developments, for policymakers,
industry leaders and consumers. Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE), Co-Chair of
the CFDC Foundation’s Ethanol Across America education campaign, said,
“This year, with the Farm Bill and the Energy Bill, Congress has two
major opportunities to drastically expand and enhance our nation’s use
of renewable fuels. Ethanol is a common thread with these important
bills ... [We] believe when people understand the wide range of
benefits ethanol provides they will continue to support it.”

The Ethanol Fact Book outlines the energy security benefits provided by
ethanol by examining the true cost of gasoline, including military and
environmental costs, the economic benefits such as job creation and
increased tax revenue, and the environmental benefits, including the
reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and other air pollutants. Other
specific issues addressed include the net energy balance of ethanol and
the debate over using corn for fuel instead of food. The pdf version of
the 2007 Ethanol Fact Book is available here: http://www.ethanolacrossamerica.net/pdfs/2007EthanolFactBook.pdf.

Source: http://www.ethanolacrossamerica.net/pressreleases/pressrelease18.html

 

Kroger and Enterprise Partner with VeraSun to Increase Opportunities to Use E85

Ohio-based Kroger Company has partnered with South Dakota-based VeraSun
Energy Corporation to open 20 ethanol fueling stations in Ohio and Kentucky.
The stations will sell E85 fuel, a blend of 85% ethanol and 15%
conventional gasoline, which can be used by Flexible Fuel Vehicles
(FFVs). This marks a 50% increase in national retailer Kroger’s
locations that offer E85, with 40 already operating in Texas, Ohio and
Kentucky.

Subsequently, Enterprise Rent-A-Car and VeraSun announced a partnership
to increase the number of FFVs offered by Enterprise near the new E85
fueling stations. One quarter of Enterprise’s rental fleet in these select
locations will be FFVs produced by General Motors; Enterprise will provide
its customers with E85 educational material and maps to the new Kroger
stations.

According to the Argonne National Laboratory, the use of 4.9 billion gallons
of ethanol in the United States last year reduced greenhouse gas emissions
by approximately eight million tons.

Sources: http://www.enn.com/energy/article/22498
http://www.verasun.com/Press/details.cfm?ID=103

 

Safety Testing for E85 Dispensers to Begin This Year

Underwriters Laboratories (UL), in partnership with the U.S. Department
of Energy, is accepting requests for certification investigations for
gaskets and seals for use with ethanol blended fuels such as E85. Research
performed by UL demonstrated that while some gasket and seal materials
are compatible with E85, others deteriorated with long-term exposure.
UL’s Consumer Affairs Manager John Drengenberg stated that “these
results confirm the necessity of establishing safety requirements for
E85 dispensers that take into account the long-term effects of exposure
to ethanol.” Product testing is anticipated to begin by the end of
2007.

Source: http://www.ul.com/newsroom/newsrel/nr080207.html

 

Cornfields and Ethanol Plants Compete for Water in Nebraska

The rapidly expanding ethanol industry is causing concern for some corn
farmers in Nebraska due to the limited supply of fresh water in the
area. Because rainfall is relatively scarce in the shadow of the Rocky
Mountains, Nebraska’s agriculture industry depends on water pumped from
the underground Ogallala Aquifer which spans a huge area beneath eight
plains states. The level of water in the aquifer—or water table—has
been declining for years, and now ethanol plants are adding to the
strain by requiring around three gallons of water for every gallon of
ethanol produced.

In one district in southern Nebraska, farmers have been prohibited from
drilling new wells or adding new acres of irrigated cropland and faced
an allocation system which reduced their water usage by an average of 38%.
They are concerned that additional restrictions on water use would drive
property values and tax revenues down. “It’d be devastating to the
economy around here,” said Nelson Trambly, Chairman of the Board for
the Lower Republican Natural Resources District.

Meanwhile, many in the community still welcome the ethanol industry and the
financial benefits it brings. Mercury Ethanol, a subsidiary of Olympus
Energy Group, plans to open a 55 million gallon plant in early 2009.
It will pay approximately $1 million in taxes to the county annually,
provide 35-40 full time jobs and use 166 million gallons of water per
year. “I know we’ll get enough water for our one plant,” said Justin
Kent, president of Olympus Energy. “But if farmers don’t get enough
water that’s a big problem.”

In response to this story, Jacques Beaudry-Losique, Director of the Department
of Energy’s Biomass Program, wrote, “It’s not a question of choosing
between ethanol and water conservation. We can and must do both.” He
added that 87% of corn crops grown for ethanol are not irrigated, and
that the cellulosic feedstocks being developed will require as little
as half the amount of water necessary for corn.

Sources: http://www.olympusenergy.com/projects.php
Barrett, Joe. “How Ethanol Is Making the Farm Belt Thirsty.” The Wall Street Journal 5 September 2007: B1.
Beaudry-Losique, Jacques. Letter. The Wall Street Journal 17 September 2007: A15.

 

Outside Investors Encounter Barriers in Brazilian Ethanol Market

Multinational companies are looking to Brazil’s ethanol market, which
relies on sugarcane instead of corn as its renewable feedstock, for their
next big investment. Brazil committed itself to using sugarcane-based
ethanol in the 1970’s in an attempt to reduce the country’s dependence
on oil from the Middle East; today, the fuel is much more efficient to
make than U.S. corn-based ethanol, which relies on a 51-cent per gallon
tax credit to remain competitive with gasoline. Brazil could
potentially meet a large portion of the world’s demand for renewable
fuels, with the help of billions of dollars to expand its production
and transportation infrastructure.

Interested foreign investors, however, are finding many barriers in the
industry. Brazilian sugar mills are often family-owned, informally managed
and disorganized, and labor and environmental conditions can be potential
liabilities for foreign investors. Some mill owners are reluctant to
sell the family business to outsiders, and those who are willing can
still encounter political pressure not to do so.

Even without foreign investment, Brazil’s traditional sugar and ethanol
production companies plan to expand substantially in the next five
years; annual ethanol output is expected to reach 9.5 billion gallons
in that time.

Source: Regalado, Antonio and Fan, Grace. “Ethanol Giants Struggle to Crack Brazil Market.” The Wall Street Journal 10 September 2007: A1.

 

Hawaiian Utilities Transition to Biodiesel, Require Sustainably Grown Feedstock

August 21, Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO) and the Natural Resources Defense
Council announced a policy that will ensure HECO and its subsidiaries,
Maui Electric Company and Hawaii Electric Light Company, use only
sustainable feedstocks in their production of biodiesel. HECO will
give preference to locally grown feedstocks when available; otherwise,
it will purchase imported palm oil that fully adheres to the standards
set by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). Among the RSPO
provisions are that soil fertility be maintained, endangered species
near the plantation or mill be conserved, local peoples not be
displaced and child labor not be used.

HECO is also building a 110-megawatt biofuel power plant in Campbell
Industrial Park that could run on biodiesel or ethanol. The plant is
anticipated to be operational by 2009 and will be used during peak
hours only, to supplement existing power plants. Collectively, the
Hawaiian Electric companies will be the largest user of biodiesel in
the nation.

Sources: http://www.nrdc.org/media/2007/070821.asp
http://the.honoluluadvertiser.com/article/2007/Aug/22/ln/hawaii708220386.html
http://www.rspo.org/resource_centre/ (pdf format)

 

Nation’s Largest Biodiesel Production Facility Opens in Washington State

On August 15, Imperial Renewables opened the largest biodiesel production
plant in the nation in Grays Harbor, Washington. The facility will
produce 100 million gallons of biodiesel annually from soybean oil,
Washington-grown canola oil and other feedstocks. “This facility has
the scale and the systems to produce fuel comparable to petroleum
diesel that meets ASTM [American Society for Testing and Materials]
standards,” said Imperial Renewables Founder and President John Plaza.
“The difference is that our fuel has far less impact on our environment
than fossil fuels and is made from renewable resources.”

Biodiesel can be used pure or blended with petroleum diesel to create fuels
such as B20 (20% biodiesel). The National Biodiesel Board reports that
domestic biodiesel production has increased from 25 million gallons in
2004 to a projected 300 million gallons in 2007, and that the industry
is expected to add nearly 40,000 jobs and $24 billion to the U.S.
economy over the next eight years.

Sources: http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/texis.cgi/web/vortex/display?slug=imperium16&date=20070816
http://nbb.grassroots.com/07Releases/Imperium/
http://www.imperiumrenewables.com/press-ighgo.pdf (pdf format)

 

Heavy Duty Trucks Going Green

At the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas, Texas, the EPA recognized
the 48 companies participating in the SmartWay Grow & Go program,
an expansion of the SmartWay Transport Partnership focusing on
renewable fuels and energy independence. The goal of the new program
is for one quarter of the 600 SmartWay Transport partners to begin
using renewable fuels by 2012, one half by 2020. “Trucking companies
of all sizes and types are joining EPA in our drive toward a cleaner
environment and more secure energy supply,” said Bob Meyers, Principal
Deputy Assistant Administrator of the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation.

Two of the SmartWay partners who have made recent innovations in pursuit of
these goals are the National Biodiesel Board (NBB) and the Volvo
Group. The NBB, in conjunction with ProMiles, the National Renewable
Energy Laboratory and the Oil Price Information Service, has produced
mapping software that includes truck-accessible biodiesel fueling
stations, along with type of blend offered (such as B20 or B10) and
hours of operation at each station. According to the NBB, there are
nearly 600 truck-accessible locations with biodiesel pumps in the
country. The ProMiles XF software will be continuously updated and is
available to truckers now.

The Volvo Group unveiled seven trucks that run on renewable fuels including
biodiesel, biogas, a mix of biodiesel and biogas, DME (Dimethyl ether),
ethanol/methanol, synthetic diesel and a mix of hydrogen gas and
biogas. CEO Leif Johansson acknowledged, “As one of the world’s
largest manufacturers of heavy trucks, diesel engines and buses, the
Volvo Group is part of the climate problem.” But, he said, Volvo is
very concerned about environmental issues and “based on our resources
and knowledge, we both can and will be part of the solution.”

Six new fuel efficient SmartWay-certified tractor-trailers also went on
display at the show in Dallas. The heavy duty trucks improve fuel
efficiency by up to 20% through features such as advanced aerodynamics,
idle-reduction options and low-rolling resistance tires. According to
the EPA, SmartWay partners have reduced their consumption of diesel
fuel by more than 350 million gallons, eliminating almost 4 million
metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

Sources: http://www.eere.energy.gov/news/news_detail.cfm/news_id=11245
http://yosemite.epa.gov/opa/admpress.nsf/e87e8bc7fd0c11f1852572a000650c05/0b79f1eb273e5341852573410056657e%21OpenDocument
http://www.promiles.com/Company/Press_releases/NBB_BioDieselLocator_08-24-2007.asp
http://www.volvo.com/group/global/en-gb/newsmedia/pressreleases/2007/NewsItemPage.htm?channelId=2184&ItemID=27919&sl=en-gb

 

Sacramento County Considers Ban on Wood-Burning on Bad-Air Days

The Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District board is
considering a ban prohibiting the use of pellet and wood stoves on the
approximately 30 bad-air days that occur annually between November and
December. The ban would be part of an effort to comply with tightened
federal regulations regarding emissions of fine particulate matter.
Particulates are emitted as a result of incomplete combustion and have
negative repercussions on human health, including asthma, chronic
bronchitis, and heart and lung problems.

The board declined to vote on the measure, deciding instead to explore the
possibility of offering a partial or total exemption for
cleaning-burning stoves and furnaces. High-efficiency EPA-certified
wood stoves produce emissions as low as 6 grams of particulates per
hour, compared to the approximately 42 grams per hour emitted by wood
stoves produced in the ‘70s and ‘80s. EPA regulations set maximum
emissions at 7.5 grams per hour. Wood pellet stoves boast 75-90%
combustion efficiency, resulting in emissions as low as 1 gram per hour
– the lowest emissions of any solid-fuel burning product currently
available. The board is scheduled to reconsider the motion on October
25.

For more information on high efficiency wood burning see www.woodstovechangeout.org.

Sources: http://www.sacbee.com/101/story/364993.html
http://www.tmcnet.com/usubmit/2007/09/28/2973803.htm
http://www.hometips.com/cs-protected/guides/pellet_stoves/pelletstove_advantages.html
http://www.hpba.org/fileadmin/factsheets/FS_PelletStoves1.pdf (pdf format)

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Writers: Jetta L. Wong, Jesse Caputo, and Laura Parsons
Editor: Carol Werner

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