In This Edition
EESI Releases Forest Biomass Factsheets
EESI has released two factsheets highlighting the opportunity in using responsibly harvested forest biomass to complement good forest stewardship and to produce sustainable renewable fuels. The factsheets outline the case for using forest biomass from both public lands and privately-owned, non-plantation forests, both of which are excluded from the federal renewable fuel standard (RFS) as passed in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.
Green Energy from Fats, Oils, and Grease
By Bill Partanen, Stantec Consulting
Energy is a key word that is on everyone's mind today with gasoline prices in excess of $4.00 per gallon with no maximum price in sight. With energy costs affecting everything from food prices to what we pay for electricity, it is imperative that we find alternatives to high priced imported oil.
One source of green energy that is currently available in all large metropolitan areas is fats, oils, and grease (FOG). Fats, oils and greases are available from many sources. The most common sources are:
In the biofuels industry, FOGs are classified according to their level of degradation as follows:
All of these various types of grease, when not properly disposed of, end up in our sanitary sewers and are costing taxpayers millions of dollars per year in unnecessary repair costs. Associated spills threaten our health and quality of life.
EPA and many state and local government agencies have taken action to protect public health and the nation's beaches and waterways from disease-causing organisms and contamination that occurs from over 40,000 raw sewage overflows each year. EPA specific action relates to reducing the sewer overflows by proposing significant improvements in the operation and maintenance of the nation's sewer systems. The proper collection, handling and processing of FOG is directly related to this solution.
This collection and utilization of FOG provides four specific benefits that should be important to all of us. These benefits include:
1. Grease (FOG) is available for use as fuel - bio-boiler fuel or biodiesel;
2. Our valuable fresh water resources are better protected;
3. Water is available for reuse; and
4. FOG problems at sanitary sewer treatment facilities are greatly reduced.
FOG collected in external grease traps and sewer pipes are almost always of the brown grease type that is characterized by its high free fatty acid content. Potential yellow and brown grease feedstock availabilities vary depending on the location and culture of the people in that location. Based upon estimates from both USDA and industry, approximately 3 billion pounds of recycled grease is generated each year. This represents approximately 9 percent of the estimated supply of major fats and oils suitable for energy fuel production. A report the National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates that restaurant grease generation rates range between 3 and 21 lb/yr/person (8.87 lb/yr/person avg.) and that brown grease rates range between 1.5 to 26 lb/yr/person (13.4 lb/yr/person avg.). The average total would be 22 lb/yr/person. Assuming a 98 percent biodiesel yield from the yellow grease and a 50 percent yield from the brown, the assumed yield for biodiesel could approximate 15.79 lb/yr/person. Fuel production from metropolitan areas could approximate 2,000,000 gpy/1MM people population. This volume by itself may not seem worthy of pursuing but when you consider the cost and human benefits as noted above, removing this amount of grease from our sanitary sewers and the environmental benefit the green fuel can have when combined with conventional fuels, it becomes a very valuable commodity.
A reason why urban grease has not been considered a viable green energy source up to this point could be the problems associated with collection, pre-processing, and odors, as well as the relative low cost of conventional fuels. With conventional fuels now at record levels with no sign of returning to the levels we used to pay, this resource is now getting greater attention not only for its value as a green fuel but as a solution for the other problems improper disposal creates.
The technology currently exists to convert this nuisance into a valuable fuel at a cost that can be very competitive with conventional fuels. When you factor in the intrinsic savings associated with decreased maintenance cost in our sanitary sewers, re-use of the water in FOG as process water for industry or for irrigation, the improved quality of our valuable fresh water supplies, quality of life associated with closed beaches due to fecal matter contaminating our swimming areas and the public relations value, FOG produced energy may be far less expensive than the fossil fuel we continue to consume at record levels.
FOG, as compared with other more commonly recognized environmentally friendly energy sources, is a very viable green fuel alternative. It reduces our dependence on very costly fuels and solves a number of critical environmental issues. Continuing to contaminate our precious fresh water supplies is an inexcusable option. We have a renewable energy resource available in all major metropolitan areas that is creating environmental problems. The technology to solve the problem is available and has been demonstrated. It now needs to be implemented. We talk about the current price of oil but we forget that we are continuing to pollute our valuable water supplies. Certain areas of the US are already arguing over fresh water resources. Just last summer, Harford County, MD started taking drinking water from the Susquehanna River. Atlanta has a very critical water supply problem. Many areas of Florida are under water rationing. If this continues, it is not unreasonable to believe that water will replace our current concern over oil supplies. We can all live without oil but we can't live without water. Let us protect what we have and make better use of what we throw away.
The Connection between Climate Change and Extreme Weather
Over the past 50 years, global warming has occurred primarily due to human-induced increases in heat-trapping greenhouse gases from activities such as burning fossil fuels. Twenty years ago on June 23, 1988, Dr. James Hansen, a NASA scientist regarded by many as the Paul Revere of climate change, told a U.S. Senate Committee that he was 99 percent certain that the year's record temperatures were not the result of natural variation; an unprecedented heat wave, crop damage due to droughts, wildfires, and an unnavigable Mississippi River led to nearly half of the nation being declared a disaster area that summer. He noted that "global warming enhanced both extremes of the water cycle, meaning stronger droughts and forest fires, on the one hand, but also heavier rains and floods." His testimony marked the first time a lead scientist depicted a connection between human activities, a growing concentration of atmospheric pollutants, and a warming climate. Exactly 20 years later to the day, before the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, Dr. Hansen stated, "We have used up all slack in the schedule for actions needed to defuse the global warming time bomb" and that "climate is nearing dangerous tipping points."
The summer of 2008 has been marked by floods that have ravaged crops across the Midwest, wildfires on the west coast, and according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), moderate to exceptional drought conditions that have been causing crop damage and water supply shortages in much of the southern Atlantic, southern, west, and Pacific southwest states. Additionally, the last several years have seen a shrinking snowpack, warmer springs with earlier runoff in the western United States according to a January 2008 study published in Science magazine.
In June 2008, the U.S. Climate Change Science Program and the Subcommittee on Global Change Research released a scientific assessment that presented the first comprehensive analysis of observed and projected changes in weather and climate extremes in North America and U.S. territories. Major findings include that "droughts, heavy downpours, excessive heat, and intense hurricanes are likely to become more commonplace as humans continue to increase the atmospheric concentrations of heat-trapping greenhouse gases." The report acknowledged scientific evidence that a warming world is accompanied by changes in the intensity, duration, frequency, and geographic extent of weather and climate extremes. Dr. Tom Karl, director of NOAA's National Climatic Data Center, stated, "We are now witnessing and will increasingly experience more extreme weather and climate events."
In May 2008, the U.S. Climate Change Science Program and U.S. Department of Agriculture released a scientific assessment that examined the impact of climate change on U.S. ecosystems. The report found that climate change such as temperature increases, increasing carbon dioxide levels, and altered patterns of precipitation are already affecting U.S. water resources, agriculture, land resources, and biodiversity, and will continue to do so in the future. Findings of the report include that the growing season has increased by 10 to 14 days across temperate latitudes over the past 19 years; interior West, Southwest, and Alaskan forests are being affected by increased size and frequency of forest fires, insect outbreaks, and tree mortality; livestock mortality will increase due to hotter summers; increased invasion of exotic grass species in arid lands will cause increased fire frequency; weeds will grow more rapidly, migrate northward, and be less sensitive to herbicide applications; much of the United States has experienced higher precipitation and streamflow while the West and Southwest are expected to experience increased drought severity and duration; and increased temperatures combined with decreased or variable precipitation will lead to increased grain and oilseed crop failure, among other findings.
During the June 23, 2008, briefing, Dr. Hansen cautioned that "the consequences of continued increase of greenhouse gases extend far beyond extermination of species and future sea level rise." He urged that carbon dioxide growth needs to be halted and reversed to atmospheric levels of no more than 350 parts of carbon dioxide per million and that "the solution of the climate problem requires that we move to carbon-free energy promptly" because time is running out.
June 23, 2008 - House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, Dr. James Hansen: The Climate Threat to the Planet [LINK]
U.S. Climate Change Science Program. The Effects of Climate Change on Agriculture, Land Resources, Water Resources, and Biodiversity in the United States (May 2008 full report) [LINK] (.pdf format)
U.S. Climate Change Science Program. The Effects of Climate Change on Agriculture, Land Resources, Water Resources, and Biodiversity in the United States [LINK] (Summary Brochure) (.pdf format)
U.S. Climate Change Science Program. The Effects of Climate Change on Agriculture in the United States (Summary Brochure) [LINK] (.pdf format)
U.S. Climate Change Science Program. Weather and Climate Extremes in a Changing Climate (June 2008 full report) [LINK] (.pdf format)
U.S. Climate Change Science Program. Weather and Climate Extremes in a Changing Climate (Summary Brochure) [LINK] (.pdf format)
National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, Drought Information Center [LINK]
ScienceDaily, Expect More Droughts, Heavy Downpours, Excessive Heat, and Intense Hurricanes Due To Global Warming, NOAA [LINK]
Environmental Science and Technology Online, Western U.S. Droughts Caused by Humans [LINK]
Sciencexpress, Human-Induced Changes in the Hydrology of the Western United States (January 2008 full report) [LINK] (.pdf format)
May 22, Senators Bayh (D-IN), Lieberman (I-CT), Brownback (R-KS), Salazar (D-CO), Clinton (D-NY), Coleman (R-MN), Tester (D-MT), Lugar (R-IN), Durbin (D-IL), and Collins (R-ME) introduced S. 3056 to reduce the dependence of the United States on foreign oil by requiring the administration to do a thorough analysis and come up with a national oil savings plan. The bill was referred to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.
May 22, Senator Barrasso (R-WY) introduced S. 3071 to amend the Endangered Species Act of 1973 to temporarily prohibit the Secretary of the Interior from considering global climate change as a natural or manmade factor in determining whether a species is a threatened or endangered species. The bill was referred to the Committee on Environment and Public Works.
May 22, Rep. Burgess (R-TX) introduced H.R. 6125 to provide a mechanism for the construction of petroleum refineries on military installations to provide a reliable source of petroleum products for use by the Armed Forces. The bill also repeals section 526 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (42 U.S.C. 17142), which prohibits the purchase by the federal government of alternative or synthetic fuels that have greater greenhouse gas emissions profiles than conventional petroleum fuels. The bill was referred to the Committee on Armed Services, and in addition to the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned.
May 22, Reps. Barton (R-TX), Upton (R-MI), Deal (R-GA), Whitfield (R-KY), Shadegg (R-AZ), Pickering (R-MS), Radanovich (R-CA), Bono Mack (R-CA), Terry (R-NE), Rogers (R-KY), Myrick (R-NC), Burgess (R-TX), McCaul (R-TX), Brady (R-TX), Sam Johnson (R-TX), Gallegy (R-CA), Pearce (R-NM), McCrery (R-LA), Kuhl (R-NY), and Issa (R-CA) introduced H.R. 6130 to provide for a study of the effects of speculation in the futures markets for natural gas, crude oil, and gasoline on cash market and retail prices for the commodities and on the choice of trading venue, and to require the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking regarding comparability of foreign regulation of futures and derivatives trading. The bill was referred to the Committee on Agriculture, and in addition to the Committee on Energy and Commerce, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned.
May 22, Reps. Terry (R-NE), Barton (R-TX), Hall (R-TX), Upton (R-MI), Deal (R-GA), Whitfield (R-KY), Shimkus (R-IL), Wilson (R-NM), Shadegg (R-AZ), Pickering (R-MS), Buyer (R-IN), Radanovich (R-CA), Pitts (R-PA), Bono Mack (R-CA), Rogers (R-MI), Myrick (R-NC), Sullivan (R-OK), Burgess (R-TX), McCrery (R-LA), English (R-PA), Gallegly (R-CA), Pearce (R-NM), McCaul (R-TX), Kuhl (R-NY), and Issa (R-CA) introduced H.R. 6133 to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to extend and modify the renewable energy production tax credit and the solar energy and fuel cell investment tax credit. The bill was referred to the Committee on Ways and Means.
May 22, Reps. Barton (R-TX), Cantor (R-VA), Stearns (R-FL), Deal (R-GA), Shadegg (R-AZ), Pickering (R-MS), Randanovich (R-CA), Bono Mack (R-CA), Myrick (R-NC), Sullivan (R-OK), Burgess (R-TX), Blackburn (R-TN), Gallegly (R-CA), Pearce (R-NM), McCrery (R-LA), McCaul (R-TX), Kuhl (R-NY) and Issa (R-CA) introduced H.R. 6134 to repeal the renewable fuel standard as enacted in Energy Indepence and Security Act of 2007. The bill was referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce, and in addition to the Committee on Ways and Means, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned.
May 22, Reps. Burgess (R-TX), Barton (R-TX), Upton (R-MI), Deal (R-GA), Shadegg (R-AZ), Pickering (R-MS), Radanovich (R-CA), Pitts (R-PA), Bono Mack (R-CA), Walden (R-OR), Myrick (R-NC), Sullivan (R-OK), Blackburn (R-TN), Brady (R-TX), Gallegly (R-CA), Pearce (R-NM), McCrery (R-LA), McCaul (R-TX), Kuhl (R-NY), and Issa (R-CA) introduced H.R. 6136 to amend the Clean Air Act to authorize the President to waive any volume requirement for renewable fuels if he finds that the applicable volume is not technologically feasible or that the fuel concerned is not commercially available in the required volume. The bill was referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce.
May 22, Reps. Shadegg (R-AZ), Barton (R-TX), Upton (R-MI), Deal (R-GA), Radanovich (R-CA), Bono Mack (R-CA), Rogers (R-MI), Myrick (R-NC), Sullivan (R-OK), Burgess (R-TX), Blackburn (R-TN), Gallegly (R-CA), Tancredo (R-CO), Pearce (R-NM), McCrery (R-LA), McCaul (R-TX), Kuhl (R-NY), and Issa (R-CA) introduced H.R. 6137 to remove the additional tariff on ethanol. The bill was referred to the Committee on Ways and Means.
May 22, Reps. Upton (R-MI), Barton (R-TX), Hall (R-TX), Stearns (R-FL), Deal (R-GA), Whitfield (R-KY), Wilson (R-NM), Shadegg (R-AZ), Pickering (R-MS), Blunt (R-MO), Buyer (R-IN), Radanovich (R-CA), Pitts (R-PA), Bono Mack (R-CA), Terry (R-NE), Rogers (R-MI), Myrick (R-NC), Sullivan (R-OK), Burgess (R-TX), Blackburn (R-TN), Brady (R-TX), Fallin (R-OK), Sam Johnson (R-TX), Gallegly (R-CA), Pearce (R-NM), McCrery (R-LA), Neugebauer (R-TX), Wittman (R-VA), McCaul (R-TX), Kuhl (R-TX) and Issa (R-CA) introduced H.R. 6138 to repeal Section 433 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2008, which curtains the use of certain funds to prepare or publish final regulations regarding a commercial leasing program for oil shale (and tar sands) resources on public lands pursuant to requirements of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 with regard to a programmatic environmental impact statement for such program; or (2) to conduct an oil shale lease sale pursuant to such Act. The bill was referred to the Committee on Natural Resources.
May 22, Rep. Delahunt (D-MA) introduced H.R. 6149 to facilitate the installation of wind turbines and other renewable energy generating technology on the Massachusetts Military Reservation. The bill was referred to the Committee on Armed Services.
May 22, Rep. Markey (D-MA) introduced H.R. 6155 to establish and fund a Clean Energy Fund to accelerate the use of clean domestic renewable energy resources and alternative fuels, to promote the utilization of energy-efficient products and practices and conservation, to increase research, development, and deployment of clean renewable energy and efficiency technologies. In addition, 40 percent of the Fund shall be appropriated to the Secretary of Health and Human Services for carrying out the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Act of 1981. The bill was referred to the Committee on Ways and Means, and in addition to the Committees on Energy and Commerce, Science and Technology, and Education and Labor, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned.
May 22, Rep. Rogers (R-MI) introduced H.R. 6161 to provide for American energy independence by July 4, 2015. The bill provides tax credits, clean energy bonds, and other incentives for renewable, nuclear, alternative fuels, and efficiency. The bill was referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce, and in addition to the Committees on Ways and Means, Natural Resources, Transportation and Infrastructure, Rules, and Science and Technology, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned.
June 3, Rep. Lungren (R-CA) introduced H.R. 6171 to provide for the establishment of a commission and a national competition to significantly improve the energy efficiency of and reduce emissions from Federal buildings in the National Capital Region. The bill was referred to the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
June 4, Senators Feinstein (D-CA), Gregg (R-NH), Cantwell (D-WA), Allard (R-CO), and Collins (R-ME) introduced S. 3080 to ensure parity between the temporary duty imposed on ethanol and tax credits provided on ethanol. The bill was referred to the Committee on Finance.
June 4, Rep. Brown-Waite (R-FL) introduced H.R. 6183 to amend the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States to remove the tariffs on imported ethanol. The bill was referred to the Committee on Ways and Means.
June 4, Rep. Markey (D-MA) introduced H.R. 6186 to direct the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency to establish the core of a Federal program that will reduce United States greenhouse gas emissions substantially enough between 2008 and 2050 to avert the catastrophic impacts of global climate change and to accomplish that purpose while preserving robust growth in the United States economy, creating new jobs, and avoiding the imposition of undue hardship on United States citizens. The bill was referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce, and in addition to the Committees on Ways and Means, Science and Technology, Natural Resources, Agriculture, Foreign Affairs, Education and Labor, Transportation and Infrastructure, Oversight and Government Reform, and Rules, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned.
June 4, Rep. Tancredo introduced H.R. 6189to require the Secretary of Agriculture to conduct a ``Charter Forest'' demonstration project on all National Forest System lands in the State of Colorado in order to combat insect infestation, improve forest health, reduce the threat of wildfire, protect biological diversity, and enhance the social sustainability and economic productivity of the lands. The bill was referred to the Committee on Natural Resources.
June 10, Reps. Kline (R-MN), Boehner (R-OH), McKeon (R-CA), Wilson (R-SC), Walberg (R-MI), Price (R-GA), Sessions (R-TX), Barrett (R-SC), Blackburn (R-TN), Hensarling (R-TX), Drake (R-VA), Campbell (R-CA), Pence (R-IN), Myrick (R-NC), Sam Johnson (R-TX), Goode (R-VA), Pitts (R-PA), Marchant (R-TX), Gingrey (R-GA), Bartlett (R-MD), Fortuño (R-PR), David Davis (R-TN), Bachmann (R-MN), Boustany (R-LA), Brown-Waite (R-FL), Lungren (R-CA), Souder (R-IN), Chabot (R-OH), Feeney (R-FL), and Shadegg (R-AZ) introduced H.R. 6220 to amend the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 to make non-union training programs eligible for Federal funding under the ``Green Jobs'' program. The bill was referred to the Committee on Education and Labor.
June 10, Rep. Tancredo introduced H.R. 6231 amend title 49, United States Code, to require that any automobile manufactured by a manufacturer after model year 2018 be an alternative fueled automobile. The bill was referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce.
June 11, Reps. Dingell (D-MI), Barrow (D-GA), Hill (D-IN), Hoyer (D-MD), Boucher (D-VA), Doyle (D-PA), Towns (D-NY), Baldwin (D-WI), Stupak (D-MI), Eshoo (D-CA), Weiner (D-NY), Matheson (D-UT), Hooley (D-OR), Butterfield (D-NC), Allen (D-ME), Ross (D-AR), Melancon (D-LA), Inslee (D-WA), Markey (D-MA), Gonzalez (D-TX), Engel (D-NY), Capps (D-CA), Gordon (D-TN), Solis (D-CA), Waxman (D-CA), Rush (D-IL), Schakowsky (D-IL), Degette (D-CO), Harman (D-CA), Green (D-TX), Pallone (D-NJ), Barton (R-TX), Upton (R-MI), and Matsui (D-CA) introduced H.R. 6238 to provide for the establishment of an interagency working group to conduct a study to identify the factors that affect the pricing of crude oil and refined petroleum products, and to make recommendations on appropriate coordination of oversight and regulation. The bill was referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce.
June 12, Senator Collins (R-ME) introduced S. 3119 to stimulate the economy by encouraging energy efficiency, infrastructure and workforce investment, and homeownership retention, and by amending the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide certain business tax relief and incentives, including credits for replacement of wood-burning stoves. The bill was referred to the Committee on Finance.
June 12, Senators Cantwell (D-WA) and Snowe (R-ME) introduced S. 3122 to amend the Commodity Exchange Act to provide for the regulation of oil commodities markets. The bill was referred to the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry.
June 12, Senators Smith (R-OR) and Wyden (D-OR) introduced S. 3124 to require the Secretary of Labor to establish a program to provide for workforce training and education, at community colleges, in the fields of renewable energy and efficiency, green technology, and sustainable environmental practices. The bill was referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.
June 12, Senator Coleman (R-MN) introduced S. 3126 to provide for the development of certain traditional and alternative transportation energy resources, including offshore oil and gas, clean coal, and renewable fuels. The bill was referred to the Committee on Finance.
June 12, Senators Durbin (D-IL), Reid (R-NV), Levin (D-MI), Bingaman (D-NM), Dorgan (D-ND), Feinstein (D-CA), Klobuchar (D-MN), Menendez (D-NJ), Brown (D-OH), Casey (D-PA), Kerry (D-MA), Leahy (D-VT), Murray (D-WA), Mikulski (D-MD), Obama (D-IL), and Reed (D-RI) introduced S. 3130 to provide energy price relief by authorizing greater resources and authority for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. The bill was referred to the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry.
June 12, Senators Feinstein (D-CA) and Stevens (R-AK) introduced S. 3131 to amend the Commodity Exchange Act to ensure the application of speculation limits to speculators in energy markets. The bill was referred to the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry.
June 12, Senators Dodd (D-CT), Durbin (D-IL), and Menendez (D-NJ) introduced S. 3133 to direct the Secretary of the Interior to establish an annual production incentive fee with respect to Federal onshore and offshore land that is subject to a lease for production of oil or natural gas under which production is not occurring, to authorize use of the fee for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects, and for other purposes. The bill was referred to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.
June 12, Senator Nelson (D-FL) introduced S. 3134 to amend the Commodity Exchange Act to require energy commodities to be traded only on regulated markets. The bill was referred to the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry.
June 12, Reps. Markey (D-MA), Emanuel (D-IL), Rahall (D-WV), Hinchey (D-NY), Capps (D-CA), Castor (D-FL), Chandler (D-KY), McGovern (D-MA), George Miller (D-CA), Olver (D-MA), Shea-Porter (D-NH), Welch (D-VT), Yarmuth (D-KY), Grijalva (D-AZ), Bishop (D-NY), Hodes (D-NH), Gillibrand (D-NY), and Frank (D-MA) introduced H.R. 6256 to direct the Secretary of the Interior to establish an annual production incentive fee with respect to Federal onshore and offshore lands that are subject to a lease for production of oil or natural gas under which production is not occurring, to authorize use of amounts received as such fee for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. The bill was referred to the Committee on Natural Resources, and in addition to the Committees on Science and Technology, Energy and Commerce, and Education and Labor, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned.
June 12, Rep. Forbes (R-VA) introduced H.R. 6260 to ensure the energy independence of the United States by promoting research, development, demonstration, and commercial application of technologies through a system of grants and prizes on the scale of the original Manhattan Project. The bill was referred to the Committee on Science and Technology.
June 12, Reps. Larson (D-CT), Lobiondo (R-NJ), Courtney (D-CT), Kagen (D-WI), Wu (D-OR), Hill (D-IN), Hinchey (D-NY), and Welch (D-VT) introduced H.R. 6264 to prevent excessive speculation in over-the-counter derivatives markets for certain energy commodities by limiting participation in those markets to persons who are capable of producing, manufacturing, or taking physical delivery of the commodities. The bill was referred to the Committee on Agriculture.
June 12, Reps. Walberg (R-MI) and Latta (R-OH) introduced H.R. 6269 to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to allow a credit against income tax for the use of ethanol in tetra ethyl ortho silicate (TEOS) production. The bill was referred to the Committee on Ways and Means.
June 17, Rep. Chabot (R-OH) introduced H.R. 6279 to reduce speculation in crude oil markets through amendments to the Commodity Exchange Act. The bill was referred to the Committee on Agriculture.
June 17, Reps. Matheson (D-UT) and Melancon (D-LA) introduced H.R. 6284 to amend the Commodity Exchange Act to prevent price manipulation and excessive speculation and to increase transparency with respect to energy trading on foreign exchanges conducted within the United States. The bill was referred to the Committee on Agriculture.
June 18, Senator Vitter (R-LA) introduced S. 3146 to authorize the exploration of oil and natural gas in coastal areas to reduce the dependence of the United States on foreign energy sources, and to reduce gasoline and natural gas prices. The bill was referred to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.
June 18, Rep. Degette (D-CO) introduced H.R. 6297 to enhance the ability of drinking water utilities in the United States to develop and implement climate change adaptation programs and policies. The bill was referred to the Committee on Science and Technology.
June 20, Reps. Stupak (D-MI), Larson (D-CT), McHugh (R-NY), Allen (D-ME), Udall (D-CO), Carney (D-PA), Kildee (D-MI), Sutton (D-OH), Hinchey (D-NY), Courtney (D-CT), Donnelly (D-IN), Altmire (D-PA), Fattah (D-PA), Schwartz (D-PA), Defazio (D-OR), Visclosky (D-IN), Welch (D-VT), Davis (D-CA), Bishop (D-NY), Schakowsky (D-IL), Slaughter (D-NY), Inslee (D-WA), Capps (D-CA), Baird (D-WA), Thompson (D-CA), Hirono (D-HI), Wilson (D-OH), McGovern (D-MA), Chandler (D-KY), McCarthy (D-NY), Michaud (D-ME), Hill (D-IN), Murphy (D-PA), Richardson (D-CA), Hodes (D-NH), Blumenauer (D-OR), Grijalva (D-AZ), Pascrell (D-NJ), Ross (D-AZ), Solis (D-CA), Doyle (D-PA), Baldwin (D-WI), Conyers (D-MI), Delahunt (D-MA), Pastor (D-AZ), and Capuano (D-MA) introduced H.R. 6330 to provide for regulation of certain transactions involving energy commodities and to strengthen the enforcement authorities of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission under the Natural Gas Act and the Federal Power Act. The bill was referred to the Committee on Agriculture, and in addition to the Committee on Energy and Commerce, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned.
June 20, Rep. Etheridge (D-NC) introduced H.R. 6334 to provide energy price relief by authorizing greater resources and authority for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. The bill was referred to the Committee on Agriculture.
June 20, Reps. Van Hollen (D-MD), DeLauro (D-CT), Sutton (D-OH), Wexler (D-FL), Schiff (D-CA), Becerra (D-CA), Welch (D-VT), Higgins (D-NY), Delahunt (D-MA), and Grijalva (D-AZ) introduced H.R. 6341 to amend the Commodity Exchange Act to provide for regulation of energy derivatives. The bill was referred to the Committee on Agriculture.
June 23, Rep. Stupak (D-MI) introduced H.R. 6346. A bill to protect consumers from price-gouging of gasoline and other fuels by making it illegal for any person to sell distillate fuels at excessive prices in the event of an emergency. The bill was referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce, and in addition to the Committee on Education and Labor, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned.
June 24, Senators Dorgan (D-ND), Nelson (D-FL), and Carper (D-DE) introduced S. 3183 to amend the Commodity Exchange Act to provide oil and gas price relief by requiring the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to take action to end excessive speculation. The bill was referred to the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry.
June 24, Senators Cantwell (D-WA), Whitehouse (D-RI), Sanders (I-VT), Kerry (D-MA), Wyden (D-OR), and Nelson (D-FL) introduced S. 3185 to provide for regulation of certain transactions involving energy commodities, to strengthen the enforcement authorities of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission under the Natural Gas Act and the Federal Power Act. The bill was referred to the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry.
On June 5, the Environmental Protection Agency recognized three Energy Star Combined Heat and Power (CHP) Award winners for using CHP to reduce their energy use by more than 18 percent. Awards were given to Calpine Columbia Energy Center in Gaston, SC; the University of New Mexico CHP Project in Albuquerque, NM; and the Verizon Garden City Fuel Cell Project in Garden City, NY. The Verizon Garden City Fuel Cell Project is unique in that the CHP system has the largest commercial fuel cell installation of its kind in the United States.
At the 24th Annual International Fuel Ethanol Workshop and Expo in Nashville, Tennessee, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) awarded ENERGY STAR awards to two ethanol facilities for demonstrating exceptional energy savings. The awards were presented to POET Biorefining of Ashton, Iowa, and East Kansas Agri-Energy, LLC of Garnett, Kansas. John Askew, EPA Region 7 Administrator, stated, "EPA is proud to recognize the outstanding pollution reduction and energy efficiency qualities of both ethanol facilities by presenting these ENERGY STAR Combined Heat and Power Awards. These facilities in Iowa and Kansas are making improvements that contribute to a cleaner and healthier environment."
At POET's Ashton ethanol production facility, electricity is generated by a natural gas-fired turbine that requires around 16 percent less fuel than typical on-site thermal generation and purchased electricity. Based on that comparison, the system reduces carbon dioxide emissions by approximately 18,900 tons per year, which is equivalent to removing annual emissions from 3,100 cars or planting 3,900 acres of forest. At Agri-Energy's ethanol production facility, one-third of the facility's electrical needs are fulfilled by a steam turbine system. Approximately 23 percent less fuel is required using this system rather than typical onsite-thermal generation and purchased electricity. Based on that comparison, the plant reduces carbon dioxide emissions by an estimated 14,500 tons per year, equivalent to removing annual emissions from 2,400 cars or planting 3,000 acres of forest.
On June 19, Chuck Conner, USDA Deputy Director, announced that $1.52 million in loans and grants were awarded through the USDA Rural Development Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency program to 20 individuals and businesses in six states for renewable energy system projects or for increasing energy efficiency in farm and business operations. Conner said, "This funding is part of USDA's ongoing effort to help farmers and businesses invest in technology that will improve their efficiency and their bottom line. Investments such as these help conserve energy as well as help small businesses." This program was established under Section 9006 of the 2002 Farm Bill and is designed to support a wide range of technologies encompassing biomass, geothermal, hydrogen, solar, and wind energy, as well as energy efficiency improvements. A complete list of recipients can be viewed at the link below.
On June 30, 2008, the US Department of Energy (DOE) announced a second round of
solicitations for up to $30.5 billion in federal loan guarantee projects that employ "advanced energy
technologies that avoid, reduce or sequester air pollutants or greenhouse gas
emissions." Solicitations will take place in three areas: energy
efficiency, renewable energy and advanced transmission and distribution
technologies (up to $10 billion); nuclear power facilities (up to $18.5
billion); and advanced nuclear facilities for the "front-end" of the
nuclear fuel cycle. DOE plans to issue a solicitation for a fourth area,
advanced fossil energy projects (up to $8 billion) later this summer.
This is the second round of solicitations for DOE's Loan
Florida Passes New Energy Bill
On April 30, the Florida Senate passed a comprehensive energy bill with the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions as well as creating a renewable fuels standard. The bill, signed into law on June 26 by Governor Charlie Crist (R), requires that all gasoline sold in Florida contain ten percent ethanol by the end of 2010. The bill was modeled largely after California's energy plan; however, a renewable energy standard has not been set. Crist is hoping for a 20 percent standard for renewable power. The bill's passage "signifies a commitment to protecting Florida's natural beauty and stimulating our economy, as well as reducing our dependence on foreign sources of oil," Governor Crist said in a statement. Crist says of the bill, " [it is the] most comprehensive energy and economic development policy in the history of our state."
On May 21, Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle (R) signed a bill to allow biofuel producers to more easily lease public lands. This law is an extension of a 2002 law and expands the definition of a renewable energy producer to include growers and producers of biofuel feedstocks. This new law allows for growers to enter direct negotiations with the state to lease public agricultural land to grow crops. Previously, the production facility had to be in the same location as the fuel source.
This new law also states that byproducts from production may be used for other purposes such as mulch or feed and still qualify for the directly negotiated leases. "This new law is another important part of our strategy to increase the use of renewable resources and create a more secure energy future for Hawaii," said Governor Lingle. "This measure provides another incentive to grow more of the fuel we use so we can continue to reduce Hawaii's reliance on imported fossil fuels." The bill was signed during a meeting for the development of Hawaii's statewide bioenergy master plan. The main focus of the meeting to was to receive input from the public on the formation of the master plan and to address challenges in developing a renewable bioenergy program.
Governor Jim Douglas of Vermont permitted a bill that would allow farms to plant crops of industrial hemp to become law without signing it. He and law-enforcement officials expressed concern about the link between hemp and marijuana, but Governor Douglas did not feel those concerns warranted a veto. Federal law prohibits cultivation of hemp, so farmers will have to wait to see if there is a change in federal policy before they are allowed to produce hemp. In the mean time, the Agriculture Agency will have to draw up rules for hemp cultivation so farmers could be licensed if federal law changes. North Dakota is the only other state to have done the same thing.
Hemp can be used to make a variety of products such as cosmetics, food, and clothing, and it can be used as a fuel source in power plants to replace or supplement wood chips. Tom Murphy of the group Vote Hemp said, "It would be an excellent choice for cellulosic ethanol. There are cellulosic ethanol tax credits in the new farm bill. And industrial hemp, if it were able to be grown in the United States, would be a good fit along with other crops such as switchgrass and fast-growing wood that is being used and considered for cellulosic ethanol." Hemp can potentially offer an opportunity for some niche marketing and niche production for particularly small-scale producers.
Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal has signed the Advanced Biofuel Industry Development Initiative to develop a statewide advanced biofuel industry. This initiative will promote the use of sorghum as a feedstock which requires fewer resources to grow than corn. The initiative will promote a network of small facilities for the purpose of reducing feedstock supply risk as well as reducing the burden on water supplies. Variable blending pumps will be put into place providing consumers with a variety of fuel options including E10, E20, E30, and E85. This legislation will also initiate a pilot program of using hydrous blends of ethanol in vehicles which will be monitored for their performance by the state.
This initiative will require state agencies to purchase or lease vehicles that can utilize alternative fuels that can lower emissions of pollutants designated in the federal Clean Air Act. Also, any government institution is entitled to purchase biofuel blends at a price 15 percent less than the price of gasoline. Overall, this initiative is expected to provide an economic benefit for the state by increasing crop values for farmers, increasing investment in plants and equipment to stimulate local economies, and increasing state revenues.
The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) has announced that it is seeking proposals to develop and conduct a Renewable Fuels Roadmap and Sustainable Biomass Feedstock Study for New York. This "Roadmap" is expected to assess environmental, capacity, technology, efficiency, and economic issues for renewable fuels. Proposals should suggest possible strategies for dealing with negative impacts and ensuring sustainable feedstock production. This Roadmap will also help identify the fuels, feedstocks, and other factors that would be of the greatest benefit to New York State. NYSERDA is planning to award a total of $750,000 for one contract with no cost sharing contract required. The deadline for proposal submissions is August 12, 2008.
Source: http://www.nyserda.com/funding/1249rfp.pdf (pdf format)
Study Concludes that Biomass Energy Reduces Greenhouse Gas Emissions
A report released by the Green Power Institute's Renewable Energy Program of the Pacific Institute concluded that controlled combustion of cellulosic wastes has the potential to have negative greenhouse gas emissions. In addition to displacing use of fossil fuels, producing energy from wood and agricultural wastes large quantities of methane and other greenhouse gases emitted from decomposition, forest fires, and landfilling of these materials, resulting in net negative emissions of greenhouse gases. The report, conducted by Dr. Gregory Morris states, "In addition to being carbon neutral, bioenergy production can reduce net greenhouse-gas emissions by contributing to healthier and more resilient forests, and by eliminating the reduced-carbon emissions that are associated with the alternative fates for biomass resources that are not converted into useful energy." The report also states that biomass benefits could be included in offsets in a greenhouse gas tracking program which would improve the competitiveness of energy production from biomass. Robert E. Cleaves, IV, Chairman of USA Biomass agreed with the findings of this report stating, "Biomass should be recognized for the significant role it will play in providing a net reduction of the greenhouse gas effect."
An experimenter's kit for gasification has been developed in the hopes that users can make their own adjustments to eventually improve performance. The kit is customizable which allows a user to use different reactor types as well as different fuels. Developer Jim Mason describes the system as a tool to experiment and not as a solution to some historic problems with gasification. "I'm hoping this will be somewhat relevant for educators, comparative reasearch, and enabling DIYers to get started in the biomass thermal conversion arts," said Mason. "No more immaculate building to test out a new scheme (or just to get started). And no more comparing apples to oranges across completely different foundations." The kit currently available is sized to run engines in the 5-50 hp range and larger versions are expected to be available in the future. Mason's larger goal is to create what he calls a "power hacker culture" in which many different individuals can come together and share ideas. In addition to gasification, Mason's company All Power Labs has products for growing algae for biofuel and for solar power.
Automakers Mazda and Honda are both working towards using biobased products in new vehicles. Mazda has recently signed a collaborative research agreement with Hiroshima University to produce plastics from cellulosic biomass to use in vehicles by 2013. The research will focus on using cellulosic waste products to produce plastics with sufficient qualities to be utilized in vehicle bumpers and instrument panels. The plastics must be manufactured in an environmentally friendly and cost-effective process. Mazda has already produced high strength bioplastics and fabrics for use in car seats that will be installed in the Mazda Premacy Hydrogen RE Hybrid, which should be available in Japan in fiscal year 2008. In addition to Mazda, Honda has developed a bio-fabric for use in vehicle interiors. Honda claims that its bio-fabric has overcome durability issues associated with similar fabrics and can be used in seat surfaces as well as interior surfaces of doors, the roof, and floor mats. Honda also claims that this bio-fabric results in a 30 percent decrease in carbon dioxide due to a replacement of petroleum-based products. This bio-fabric will be utilized in Honda's FCX Clarity hydrogen fuel cell vehicle.
Donghai Wang, associate professor of biological and agricultural engineering at Kansas State University, is undertaking research to determine how sorghum may help remediate shortfalls associated with corn-based ethanol. Wang is currently studying the viability of sorghum for biofuels and he believes it can play a larger role in ethanol production compared to its current utilization of only four percent of total production. "Due to climate variability and continuing decline of water resources, utilization of dry land to grow sorghum and forage sorghum is critically important to ensure available energy resources and sustainable economic development," Wang said. "Sorghum requires 40 percent less water than corn to grow and can be produced in the semiarid regions of the nation and the world." Wang claims that although sorghum outperforms corn on dry land, there has been little research completed on how sorghum grain performs for ethanol production.
According to Wang, "The major barrier limiting industrial use of sorghum has been its relatively difficult enzymatic degradation in typical dry-grid ethanol production." Wang's research focuses on the chemical composition and physical properties of sorghum and how they impact biofuel production. Sweet sorghum can be directly fermented into ethanol much like corn, but it also has a short harvesting period and fast sugar degradation during storage which can affect ethanol yields. In addition to sorghum grains, Wang is researching the stovers as a cellulosic feedstock for biofuel production. "Utilization of sorghum for biofuels offers a unique opportunity for Kansas. Research and development of biofuels from sorghum grains and sorghum biomass, as well as improvement of sorghum biomass quality through biotechnology, will continue to be important," Wang said. "My basic approach is that biofuels can reduce U.S. dependence on foreign energy supplies, reduce environmental pollution and support our sustainable economic development."
California-based company LS9 is developing a strain of bacteria that can process biomass and create a renewable form of crude oil. LS9 is accomplishing this by modifying the DNA of nonpathogenic strains of E. coli to enable them to process biomass and produce biofuel. The oil produced could then be refined into several fuels including traditional gasoline and jet fuel. Although the process of engineering the bacteria is still expensive, costs have come down since research has begun. "Five to seven years ago, that process would have taken months and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars," said Greg Pal of LS9. "Now it can take weeks and cost maybe $20,000."
LS9 is not planning on using food crops for its process, instead focusing on agricultural wastes and other cellulosic feedstocks. Currently, only small-scale efforts are in operation, utilizing an approximately 250 gallon fermenting vessel. LS9 is hoping to advance their technology and have a demonstration scale facility in place by 2010 with a commercial scale facility coming afterwards. LS9 has received $20 million in funding from a number of sources, including prominent entrepreneur Vinod Khosla. In November 2007, LS9 was selected by the World Economic Forum as one of the 39 Technology Pioneers of 2008.
On March 27, the United States Climate Change Study Program (CCSP) released a report entitled "The Effects of Climate Change on Agriculture, Land Resources, Water Resources, and Biodiversity" which details how climate change could affect crop yields in the United States. Even with corn yields rising in recent history due to new seeds and fertilizers, corn crops could fall as much as five percent in coming decades due to higher temperatures causing droughts and weakening plants. "We're running into a situation in which we have the greater likelihood of occurrences of extreme temperature events during critical growth stages of that crop," said Jerry Hatfield, the lead author of the agriculture section of the report. Hatfield also says that many crops like corn are already being grown near their maximum temperature range, which will make future corn crops susceptible to rising temperatures. Unlike corn, soybean yields may increase due to the fact that it can withstand higher temperatures. The report also details how climate change may exacerbate other issues including forest fires, water scarcity, and biodiversity.
In a study released in the June 25 online edition of Environmental Science and Technology, researchers estimated that globally up to 1.8 million square miles of abandoned lands could be available for growing energy crops. Scientists from the Carnegie Institution and Stanford University made this estimate using historical land-use data, satellite imagery, and ecosystem models. It is estimated that this available land could yield as much as 2.1 billion tons of dry biomass for energy use which could satisfy up to 8 percent of worldwide energy demand. "At the national scale, the bioenergy potential is largest in the United States, Brazil, and Australia," says lead author Elliot Campbell. "These countries have the most extensive areas of abandoned crop and pasture lands. Eastern North America has the largest area of abandoned croplands, and the Midwest has the biggest expanse of abandoned pastureland. Even so, if 100 percent of these lands were used for bioenergy, they would still only yield enough for about 6 percent of our national energy needs."
The study also concluded that Africa has a large potential for biomass production which could provide up to 37 times the energy currently used. This is largely due to the productive grasslands in Africa as well as the current low demand for fossil fuel use. "Our study shows that there is clearly a potential for developing sustainable bioenergy, and we've been able to identify areas where biomass can be grown for energy, without endangering food security or making climate change worse," says Christopher Field, director of the Department of Global Ecology. "But we can't count on bioenergy to be a dominant contributor to the global energy system over the next few decades. Expanding beyond its sustainable limits would threaten food security and have serious environmental impacts."
Honeywell and Airbus Announce Plans to Develop Biobased Jet Fuel
Honeywell International and Airbus have announced that they are developing a biofuel that they say could supply a third of worldwide demand for commercial aircraft fuel by 2030. They plan to produce a fuel derived from algae and vegetation that does not compete with food production or land and water resources. "In order to replace a significant portion of that jet fuel with bio-jet, we need to find something that has much greater yield than the current biomass sources available," said Sebastien Remy, head of alternative fuels research programs for Airbus. "Airbus believes that second-generation bio-jet could provide up to 30 percent of all commercial aviation jet fuel by 2030." According to Airbus and Honeywell, the new biofuel is expected to be a replacement for kerosene and will not require engine modifications. The Honeywell Company UOP, LLC has already developed technology to convert natural oils to military jet fuel as part of a project funded by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
On May 21, Molson Coors Brewing Company announced that it would be donating ethanol to fuel the fleet of flex- fuel vehicles to be used for the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Since 1996 Molson Coors has been producing ethanol from waste beer, which is beer lost during packaging or deemed to be below quality standards. "By turning waste into fuel, Molson Coors illustrates the innovative spirit that is making Colorado and our New Energy Economy a leader in creating sustainable energy sources," said Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter. "The upcoming Convention will be the perfect opportunity to showcase Colorado's accomplishments in developing advanced renewable fuels. I applaud Molson Coors and Coors for helping us do so." Ethanol from the Coors facility will be used to fuel vehicles provided by General Motors to transport delegates and other individuals during the convention. Molson Coors is the first brewing company to produce ethanol from waste beer and produces approximately three million gallons of ethanol per year.
Several Massachusetts-based companies are looking at cranberry waste as a possible feedstock for cellulosic ethanol. Currently, waste materials such as leaves, rotting fruit, and twigs are left behind after a cranberry harvest to be eventually composted. However, with advancing technology and rising demand for ethanol, many are looking toward using this waste for cellulosic ethanol production as a means of decreasing dependence on petroleum. "That's why we need to go to cellulose, because we'd like to continue to chip away at our oil consumption," said Andrew Schuyler, director of the Northeast Biofuels Collaborative. "We do think that there's lots of potential to find alternative uses for cranberry bog biomass, and that would include biofuels." In addition to the wastes left in the bogs, there is also significant waste from the juicing process, the "press cake", that could be used to produce ethanol.
Utilizing cranberry waste for ethanol production is supported by the Cape Cod Cranberry Growers Association, which has been meeting with Northeast Biofuels. Jeff LaFleur, executive director, has stated that developing cellulosic ethanol would be an economic boost to cranberry growers compared to composting. He also stated that the berries themselves would not be utilized for ethanol and the resulting biofuels would therefore not compete for food. There are several companies which could utilize this waste as a feedstock, including Sun Ethanol, which is expected to have a pilot facility constructed in Massachusetts by 2009.
On May 26, Swedish company Sekab announced that it is the first company to supply verified sustainable ethanol produced from Brazilian sugarcane. The criterion on which this is based on was developed by SEKAB along with other Brazilian producers and was based on demands set forth from organizations such as the United Nations and various NGOs. The criterion includes at least an 85 percent reduction in carbon dioxide production in comparison to gasoline from a well-to-wheels perspective including impacts from fertilizers. Parts of Sekab's requirements include a zero tolerance for the destruction of rainforest, including a requirement for all permits in accordance with Brazilian law. Human rights and labor practices are also addressed with a zero tolerance policy towards slave and child labor. Sekab claims that an independent international verification company will complete an audit twice a year to ensure that all criteria are met. "This initiative is the first of its kind in the world and a major step for speeding up the replacement of gasoline and diesel," says Anders Fredriksson, EVP of Sekab. "The criteria will gradually be developed over the coming years and synchronized with international regulations when these are in place."
On May 26, Wetlands International released a study entitled Biofuel Production in Africa which discusses the potential impact of biofuel feedstock expansion in Africa on its wetlands. While the study contends that biofuel production can benefit Africa, it warns of the dangers of diverting water supply and land use changes. The report claims that if sugarcane were to be cultivated on a large scale for biofuel production, its high water requirement could pose a direct threat to wetlands leading to potential degradation. The study also warns against palm oil cultivation which can result in the degradation of rain forest. Even other potential crops which can grow on drier soils still need irrigation, which would provide further strain on wetlands.
Aside from these risks, the study contends that biofuel cultivation could provide many benefits as well. Economic development around wetlands may occur with the need for labor for both the cultivation and processing of feedstocks. Also by increasing domestic production of fuel, the decrease in need for fuel imports will increase energy security. It is not expected that food production will be at risk because biofuel production is expected to largely take place outside of agricultural areas. The study urges that, "Careful management of biofuel feedstock expansion is essential. Several conditions, such as effective land use planning, comprehensive biofuel policies, accountability mechanisms for producers, raising awareness, and sound agricultural management practices can help to mitigate the risks and promote the benefits."
Japanese power company Kansai Electric Power has announced that it will begin using wood pellets along with coal at a power plant beginning in August for the purpose of reducing carbon dioxide emissions. It is expected that carbon dioxide emissions will be cut by 92,000 tons annually which amounts to approximately two percent of the emissions if the plant used coal exclusively. The wood pellets will be supplied by a subsidiary of Canadian lumber company Canfor Corp. All together wood pellets are expected to produce 120 million KWh of power annually accounting for two percent of the power plant's output. This is in addition to three other power companies in Japan currently using wood pellets including Chugoku Electric Power. Chugoku announced in August that it would begin using 20,000 to 30,000 tons of wood biomass annually equaling one percent of the plant's coal use. There will be an expected reduction of 30,000 - 45,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year.
In May, the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), and the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) released a report stating that the best way to cope with rising food prices and water scarcity would be a reduction in wasted food. According to the report, inefficient harvesting, transportation, storage, and packaging alone cause 50 percent of food to be wasted, not including food that consumers discard. The report also claims that wasted food could be reduced by half by 2025 through improved efficiency. In the developing world, food waste is generally due to climate conditions and pests. Post harvest losses accounting for 25 to 50 in Africa could be reduced through proper storage and transfer facilities.
Water conservation technologies such as increased rainwater capture were highlighted in the report. Because agriculture currently requires 80 percent of global water resources, growing world demands for agricultural commodities, especially meat and dairy, will increase water demand further. "It's likely we'll need two times the water by 2050 than what we need today," said David Molden research director at Sri Lanka-based International Water Management Institute. "The challenge is to reduce the amount of water we need today." Aside from decreasing food waste, the report also recommended that water waste in processing and transportation be decreased as well.
The Brazilian government has been taking steps to improve working conditions in rural areas and to ensure cane-based ethanol production as a way to reduce poverty. In 2007, Brazilian officials liberated close to 6,000 agricultural workers, of which more than half worked in the sugar cane sector, but additional cases of forced cane labor have been confirmed. Amnesty International stated, "Forced labor and exploitative working conditions were reported in many states, including in the rapidly growing sugar cane sector." In Sao Paulo state, where more than 60 percent of national cane production is concentrated, the State Prosecutor on Labor has increased inspections and prosecutions. Amnesty International's annual report indicated that 288 workers at six cane plantations were released from forced labor there in March 2007.
Additionally, in Mato Grosso do Sul, 409 workers from an ethanol distillery were rescued from forced labor in March 2007, and 831 indigenous cane cutters were released in November 2007. In Para State, over 1,000 people were released from a sugar plantation in June 2007. Tim Cahill, Amnesty International's Brazil researcher, said, "Clearly resources are limited, areas are huge and the number of companies in this sector is expanding in an alarming way," adding that Amnesty International will continue to monitor the situation. He said, "It's time for Brazil to reconsider its position, how it will promote its economic expansion...and whether it wants to build it on the back of human rights violations and let problems be solved afterwards." Conversely, UNICA, Brazil's powerful Cane Industry Association, said, "The document transmits a wrong, out-of-context vision that does not represent the reality observed today in the vast majority of the Brazilian sugar and ethanol sector," adding that all of Unica's 110 associated companies had stable, legal labor agreements with its workers.
Sources: Simoes, Eduardo and Inae Riveras. "Amnesty Intl condemns forced cane labor in Brazil" Reuters 28 May 2008
Verenium Corporation has begun the commissioning phase of Louisiana's first demonstration-scale cellulosic ethanol production facility in Jennings, Louisiana. The facility will produce 1.4 million gallons of cellulose-based ethanol per year by using agricultural waste left over from locally grown and processed sugarcane. This next-generation ethanol plant will utilize specialty enzymes and Verenium's proprietary technology to convert the biomass to ethanol.
"This is a major step forward and a transformational moment for Verenium and the next-generation ethanol industry as we seek commercially-viable alternatives to traditional fuel sources," said Carlos A. Riva, President and Chief Executive Officer of Verenium. "We must assure that this next-generation of ethanol is produced in a responsible manner to minimize the carbon footprint and deliver the energy this country so urgently needs." The company is aiming to begin construction on a 30 million-gallon-per-year commercial cellulosic ethanol plant during the middle of next year in the southeastern United States.
The House of Commons passed a bill that would require gasoline sold in Canada to contain 5 percent ethanol by 2010 and diesel to contain 2 percent renewable fuels by 2012. The bill received mainstream political support, but was opposed by two smaller parties that voiced concern about food-crop production being diverted to fuel. Both of the governing parties, the Conservatives and the Liberals, backed the idea arguing that a small portion of food crops such as corn will be used to make the biofuel. The bill must now be approved by the Senate where passage seems likely because it is dominated by the Liberal Party.
If approved, this legislation would create an estimated demand for 2 billion liters of ethanol and 600 million liters of biodiesel. According to available data, Canada has 16 ethanol plants built or under construction with the potential capacity to produce 1.6 billion liters from corn and wheat. There are also three biodiesel plants built with the capability to produce 97 million liters from primarily animal fats. There is one biodiesel plant currently under construction in Alberta that would produce 225 million liters from canola oil.
Senator John Thune (R-SD) held a cellulosic ethanol roundtable in Sioux Falls with ethanol giants Poet and VeraSun, the world's two largest producers of corn-based ethanol, that focused on how to turn new farm bill legislation into industry action. Senator Thune was successful in inserting language into the 2008 Farm Bill that authorized payments to both farmers and companies involved in producing cellulosic ethanol.
farm bill provides financial assistance for farmers to grow, harvest, and transport
alternatives to corn, and it also provides loan guarantees to companies to
process cellulosic ethanol sooner rather than later. In regard to this new policy, Senator Thune
said, "We think that will help give a jump start to cellulosic ethanol
industry here in South Dakota and across the country which we really need to be
moving to that next generation of bio-fuels."
U.S.-based company Algenol has signed an $850 million deal with Mexican company BioFields to grow algae to produce biofuels. Algenol is expected to use a process to engineer algae to secrete ethanol directly, allowing fuel to be harvested without destroying the organisms and, therefore, increasing efficiency. Algenol claims that the only inputs into their bioreactors will be algae, sunlight, carbon dioxide, and salt water. "This process overcomes the enormous problems other companies face," said CEO Paul Woods. "We don't use food. We don't use feedstock. We don't use freshwater," emphasized Woods. "All this really helps the cost structure." Algenol claims it can produce 6,000 gallons of ethanol per acre of land and hopes to increase this yield to 10,000 gallons.
Algenol expects to produce 100 million gallons per year of ethanol in a plant to be constructed in Mexico's Sonoran Desert by the end of 2009. Algenol also plans to increase the output to 1 billion gallons per year by 2012. In addition to the $850 million deal with BioFields, Algenol has received $70 million from other investors. John Steelman of the Natural Resources Defense Council is cautiously optimistic about Algenol saying that how well the system works and what kinds and volumes of nutrients are unknowns. "It has a lot of promise," Steelman. "We do not know if it's a great thing yet." Steelman does acknowledge the productivity of algae in comparison to agricultural crops. Using Algenol's production estimates, Steelman said that if all U.S. ethanol was made from algae, it would only use three percent of the land in comparison to corn.
The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) announced that three sets of biodiesel specifications have been approved. New specifications were set for 100 percent biodiesel blends (B100), 5 percent blends (B5), and for blends between 6 and 20 percent. "The new ASTM specifications for B6-B20 blends will aid engine manufacturers in their engine design and testing processes to optimize the performance of vehicles running on biodiesel," said Steve Howell, chairman of the ASTM Biodiesel Task Force. "The new specifications will also help ensure that only the highest quality biodiesel blends are made available to consumers at the retail pump." This decision comes after five years of extensive research at the request of automakers and engine manufacturers who hope to gain acceptance for biodiesel use in diesel vehicles.
On June 11, San Francisco company Solazyme announced that it has created the first algal-based biodiesel to meet specifications set by ASTM. Solazyme says that its biodiesel is identical to that of standard petroleum-based diesel and is fully compatible with existing transportation fuel infrastructure. "This now marks the production of our second fuel that meets current U.S. fuel specifications and is an important validation of our proprietary process using microalgae to produce renewable fuels," said Jonathan Wolfson, chief executive officer of Solazyme. "Solazyme's leadership in the green fuels space will continue to grow as we now execute on our strategy for commercial launch." Although Solazyme claims that its biodiesel meets ASTM standards, ASTM does not approve these claims and it is ultimately up to competitors to challenge Solazyme's claim. Solazyme's claim came before ASTM's announcement of new biodiesel standards, and it is unclear if Solazyme's biodiesel will meet this standard.
Alabama-based Gulf Coast Energy is planning on constructing a commercial-scale biorefinery in Livingston, AL to produce ethanol and other fuels from wood waste. Gulf Coast Energy is currently working on a demonstration-scale facility but plans to expand to produce 45 million gallons of ethanol per year. Using a gasification process, wood waste from logging operations and other industrial operations that would otherwise be burned or landfilled, would be used as a feedstock. The project is projected to cost $90 million and construction is expected to begin in July and completed sometime next year. In addition to the Livingston facility, Gulf Coast Energy is also planning another facility in Mossy Head, FL to produce ethanol as well as biodiesel. Gulf Coast Energy has received a $7 million grant from the State of Florida to help fund the construction.
Product transportation company Safe Handling Inc. has opened western Pennsylvania's first rail-to-truck transloading terminal for ethanol. The terminal is located on three Class I railroad systems and will provide wholesalers the opportunity to purchase ethanol from a range of producers. "We are hopeful it will make a very significant difference in the volume of ethanol that people are using in western Pennsylvania," said Safe Handling's vice president of sustainability Andy Meyer. The terminal is located 45 miles southeast of Pittsburgh and has the capability to transload 180,000 gallons per day. This Pennsylvania transloading facility is in addition to one opened in Maine in December of 2007 by Safe Handling, Inc. "Transloading facilities like this are critical to the success of ethanol in our region and around the nation," said Pittsburgh Region Clean Cities Coordinator Ryan Walsh. "While ethanol's environmental and economic benefits are clear, the infrastructure has to be in place first and PRCC applauds Safe Handling for making this strategic investment in Southwestern Pennsylvania."
The European Union (EU) has begun anti-subsidy and anti-dumping investigations of U.S. biodiesel imports after examining complaints and supporting evidence submitted April 29th by the European Biodiesel Board, which represents interests of a majority of EU biodiesel producers. The European Biodiesel Board claimed that U.S. biodiesel subsidies and dumping of biodiesel on the European market were having an adverse effect on their biodiesel industry. U.S. biodiesel subsidies targeted by the Board include federal excise and income tax credits, federal grants that finance increased production capacity, and various programs on the state level. U.S. biodiesel imports have increased from about 7,000 tonnes in 2005 to around one million tonnes in 2007.
Peter Power, EU Spokesperson for Trade, commented, "We have always said that the EU will not tolerate unfair trade practices, and will pursue vigorously any well-founded complaint. The Commission will leave no stone unturned in these investigations and will act in accordance with the findings." The Commission will now conduct a detailed investigation into the allegations and is expected to make its provisional findings by March 13, 2009 at the latest.
Houston-based Gulf Ethanol has announced that a new preprocessing system for cellulosic feedstock has been completed in coordination with Vortex Ventures. It is the goal of this preprocessing system to reduce cellulosic material to a fine powder to allow for greater efficiency in biofuel production. Gulf Ethanol is hoping to reduce feedstock costs to $35 per ton. This system will be utilized with several different feedstocks including sorghum, switchgrass, stover, and wood waste. This system will be tested to determine its efficiency, energy requirements, and scalability. It is expected that material from this processing system will be tested in July.
The State of Alabama is looking to possibly cultivate sugar cane for biofuels production. Governor Bob Riley (R) recently returned from Brazil and spokesman Todd Stacy said, "This is in the beginning stage, a possibility, and it might happen." Companies such as Aymris Biotechnologies are showing interest in the prospect of sugar cane based biofuels in Alabama and are exploring the possibility of producing several different fuels such as diesel fuel and gasoline, as well as ethanol.
It is expected that the climate in Alabama will allow for the successful cultivation of sugar cane, providing that there is enough rainfall and winters are not too harsh. However, David Bransby, professor of energy crops and bioenergy at Auburn University, says "We have no research that sugar cane can grow adequately in the Black Belt. We'd have to get into all that kind of stuff." He also states that sugar cane will need to be replanted every three or four years depending on the severity of winters. In addition, he warns about the startup costs of planting sugar cane, stating that it costs between $850 and $1,000 per acre to plant. Regardless, Gov. Riley has spoken with Aymris Biotechnologies about constructing a $300 million sugar cane-to-jet-fuel facility in the Black Belt region of the state.
In a report released on June 22 in the journal Nature Geoscience, it was found that a significant portion of carbon emissions in Europe have been captured by forests during the last 50 years. According to the study, the carbon sink capacity has improved in all European countries since the 1950s and approximately 10 percent of emissions have been sequestered in forests, where wood growth has increased by 70 percent. This increase of carbon capacity has been attributed to climate conditions, nitrogen fallout, carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere, and forestry measures. The average carbon storage of new tree stands was found to be 40 tons per hectare while old growth forests contain 100-240 tons per hectare.
The report also warns of the potential overuse of forest resources for energy use. "The European Union (EU) is trying to increase the production of bioenergy, and the target can be reached only if logging is considerably increased," the Finnish Environment Institute said. "As a consequence, the carbon sink may be reduced almost down to zero." It is recommended that the logging rate of forests should be kept lower than the current growth rate. Climate change is also cited as a threat to the current carbon sink due to potential growth losses from increased storms, droughts, and pest invasions.
Ciais, P., M.J. Schelhaas, S. Zaehle, S.L. Piao, A. Cescatti, J. Liski, S. Luyssaert, G. Le-Maire, E.D. Schulze, O. Bouriaud, A. Freibauer, R. Valentini, and G.J. Nabuurs. 22 June 2008. Nature Geoscience. Published Online (abstract)
Boston-based company Ze-gen, Inc. has announced that its gasification facility located in New Bedford, MA is producing high quality synthesis gas from waste streams. The synthesis gas produced has a combined carbon monoxide and hydrogen content greater than 70 percent making it suitable for use as a replacement for natural gas and possibly to be converted to liquid transportation fuels. "Our positive test results are arriving at a time when fossil fuel prices are reaching historical record levels, and this offers one more renewable energy source to meet the energy requirements of the country," said Bill Davis, President & CEO of Ze-gen. Ze-gen currently has a demonstration scale facility in operation in New Bedford, MA.
Writers: Jetta L. Wong, Jesse Caputo, Justin Mattingly, and Fahran Robb
Editor: Carol Werner
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