In order to bring you more timely information and analysis on sustainable biomass and energy issues, beginning in April, we will be posting articles, feature stories, summaries of new legislation, and commentary directly to the EESI Sustainable Biomass and Energy web page http://www.eesi.org/Sustainable_Biomass_Energy_Program as we complete them. During the month, please check there for the latest news, analysis, and perspectives. All articles for a given month will then be bundled and emailed to you periodically under the Bioenergy, Climate Protection, and Oil Reduction (BCO) banner. We hope you will appreciate and value the more timely postings and original content. Please let us know what you think.
On March 12, Representatives Eliot L. Engel (D-NY), Bob Inglis (R-SC), Steve Israel (D-NY), and Roscoe G. Bartlett (R-MD) introduced the “Open Fuel standard Act of 2009” (H.R. 1476) to require automobile manufacturers to ensure that not less than 80 percent of the automobiles manufactured or sold in the United States by each manufacturer by 2015 will be equipped to operate on fuel mixtures containing 85 percent ethanol, 85 percent methanol, or biodiesel. The bill was referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce. Rep. Engel said, “We must take action as a nation to break our dependence on foreign oil and simultaneously aid efforts to halt the potentially harmful climate change affecting our planet.”
The transition to flex fuel vehicles is already underway. According to the Department of Energy (DOE), there are at least 36 FFV models on the market in the U.S. for the 2009 model year, and over 8 million FFV’s are on already the road. Conventional gasoline engines need to be modified slightly (at an additional cost of about $100) to handle higher blends of ethanol, the primary biofuel used in the United States. Most conventional automobile warrantees allow the use of fuel containing up to 10 percent ethanol without adjustments to the engine. The experience of Brazil, a country that relies heavily on ethanol as its primary transportation fuel, has demonstrated the feasibility of converting large segments of its national fleet to run on higher ethanol blends. In order to achieve this goal, however, Brazil needed to make substantial investments to create the alternative fuel distribution infrastructure and to produce FFVs – just as the U.S. is trying to do now.
The introduction of H.R. 1476 is timely, as the debate on Capitol Hill is heating up concerning what role ethanol and other renewable fuels should play in meeting future of U.S. climate, energy, and transportation needs. If enacted, the bill would send a strong signal of a continuing U.S. commitment to domestic biofuels production. The ethanol industry has been struggling due to low oil prices and decreased overall demand for fuel. Currently, gasoline blends can only contain a maximum of 10 percent ethanol (except for E85 used in FFVs). At current levels of demand, ethanol producers are concerned that the U.S. will soon hit a “blend wall” at which the market for ethanol will be saturated. Ethanol advocates, including Retired General Wesley Clark and Growth Energy, are lobbying the administration to raise the blend levels for conventionally equipped vehicles to 15 percent. Without an expanded market for ethanol, they say, the U.S. will fall short of meeting the mandated renewable fuels standards set in the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act, more ethanol producers will likely go out of business, and it will be more difficult for next generation, advanced, cellulosic biofuels production to start up successfully.
In other ethanol-related legislation, the Imported Ethanol Parity Act (S. 622) was recently introduced by Senators Feinstein (D-CA), Gregg (R-NH), Bingaman (D-NM), Collins (R-ME), Cantwell (D-WA), and Martinez (R-FL). The bill would lower the U.S. tariff on imported ethanol to achieve parity with the current subsidy for domestically produced ethanol ($0.45 per gallon). The bill would give greater access to the U.S. market for Brazil’s ethanol industry. Brazil’s ethanol is produced from sugar-cane, and its long growing seasons and high productivity per hectare makes it cheaper to produce than U.S. corn-based ethanol. Senator Feinstein said, “The current real trade barrier on sugar-based ethanol imported from Brazil and other foreign sources gives gasoline imports a competitive advantage. This legislation provides a sensible policy fix. It lowers the tariffs on imported ethanol to a level at or below the 45 cent ethanol blender credit – while ensuring that foreign ethanol suppliers neither benefit from the ethanol subsidy nor are penalized by artificial barriers to trade.” According to Brazilian news sources, U.S. agriculture giant Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) has been looking into investing in the Brazilian ethanol industry, possibly purchasing the Unialco group among other assets.
H.R. 864- Renewable Fuel Pipelines Act of 2009
H.R. 889- Save American Energy Act
On February 4, Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) introduced H.R. 889 to amend title VI of the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 to establish a federal energy efficiency resource standard for retail electricity and natural gas distributors. The bill was referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce.
H.R. 890- American Renewable Energy Act
S. 433- To establish a renewable electricity standard
On February 12, Sens. Tom Udall (D-NM), Mark Udall (D-CO), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) introduced S. 433 to amend the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 to establish a renewable electricity standard. The bill was referred to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.
S. 447- Prevent Excessive Speculation Act
H.R. 1063- To allow federal agencies to purchase alternative or synthetic fuels
H.R. 1111- Wildfire Risk Reduction and Renewable Biomass Utilization Act
H.R. 1112- E-85 Investment Act of 2009
H.R. 1158- Biogas Production Incentive Act of 2009
H.R.1167- Green Streets Act of 2009
H.R. 1190- Renewable Biomass Facilitation Act of 2009
Biomass energy industries have significant potential to provide much needed jobs in rural areas, reduce oil dependence, and cut greenhouse gas emissions sustainably, significantly, and soon. Toward that end, the “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009”, signed by President Obama February 16, included the following provisions:
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack sees forestry and agriculture having a significantly increased role in addressing climate change. “I want this department to be a national leader in climate change mitigation [and] adaptation efforts,” said the former governor of Iowa, according to Farm Week. “This will involve conservation, greater efficiency with the energy we have, and new technologies and expanded opportunities in biofuels and renewable energy.” The Secretary said he intends to work with DOE on carbon capture and sequestration efforts and the U.S. Forest Service on ways to prevent forest fires and manage forest areas that store vast quantities of carbon dioxide.
A new report by the Biomass Research and Development Board (an interagency task force) assesses the outstanding challenges and uncertainties surrounding the development of additional biomass feedstocks from agricultural and forestry resources for the purpose of informing future research priorities. The study, entitled "Increasing Feedstock Production for Biofuels: Economic Drivers, Environmental Implications and the Role of Research,” provides a number of different scenarios examining different research, economic and environmental factors that may affect the achievement of national targets for both conventional and advanced ethanol between 2016 and 2022. It explores questions such as: “What feedstocks at what price? What is the regional distribution of feedstock production? What are the effects of alternative investments in research on feedstocks? What are the consequences for sustainability and greenhouse gases related to feedstock production?” Some of the interesting observations include: “Research to enhance productivity provides multiple benefits for markets, sustainability, and carbon reduction. . . . Changes in input market conditions and other policies, such as a carbon tax, could offset land pressures associated with increases in biofuel production. . . Carbon markets could be an effective approach to simultaneously increasing biofuels production and improving the GHG footprint of these fuels.” The report forecasts the farm gate price of biomass feedstocks could range from $40 to over $60 per dried ton, depending on the economic scenario.
The USDA is considering permitting the widespread cultivation of a genetically engineered (GE) crop for biofuel production. The public comment period that followed its preliminary decision to grant non-regulated status to Syngenta Company’s GE ethanol corn has recently ended. The corn, if approved, would be the first genetically engineered industrial crop planted on millions of acres of U.S. farm land. The corn contains a special protein, not found in human diets, developed to reduce the cost of ethanol production by reducing the water and energy needed in processing the grain. The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) has opposed the deregulation of this GE crop, arguing it will “inevitably contaminate corn intended for the food and feed supply, exposing people to new engineered proteins that may pose an allergy risk.” The UCS also stated its opposition to using corn, modified or not, for ethanol because it “may contribute to…global warming emissions.” The Corn Refiners Association, National Grain and Feed Association, North American Export Grain Association and North American Miller’s Association also oppose USDA approval of GE corn according to the UCS release.
The Department of Energy (DOE) Joint Genome Institute (JGI) recently announced that it had successfully sequenced and analyzed the genome of sorghum, a major food and energy plant. Scientists expect the data will help them develop more productive variants of the plant. Sorghum is the second most widely used crop for ethanol production in the U.S. after corn. It produces as much energy per bushel as corn yet requires one third less water, can grow on marginal lands, and, because of its rapid growth and large size, offers great promise to be used as a cellulosic feedstock as well. “This is an important step on the road to development of cost-effective biofuels made from nonfood plant fiber” said Anna C. Palmisano, DOE Associate Director of Science for Biological and Environmental Research. The report is published in the January 29 edition of Nature.
The U.S. has the resources to produce 90 billion gallons of ethanol, enough to displace one third of gasoline used domestically by 2030, according to a study by the Department of Energy’s Sandia National Laboratories and General Motors Corp. Cellulosic ethanol from plant waste and energy crops such as switch grass and fast-growing trees would account for 75 billion gallons and the balance would be produced from corn. The 90 billion gallon estimate would require continued government support and technological advances. The researchers found ethanol would be cost competitive with fossil fuels based on the following assumptions: oil costs between $70 and $120 per barrel; an average conversion yield of 95 gallons per dry ton of biomass; an average feedstock cost of $40 per dry ton; and plant construction costs of $3.50 per gallon of capacity.
The report quickly caused a stir on both sides of the ethanol debate. The day after the report was released a number of environmental organizations, including the Environmental Working Group, issued a statement opposing continued subsidies to the ethanol industry saying that corn-based ethanol emits more carbon dioxide than gasoline and threatens food supplies. The Renewable Fuels Association responded immediately with information showing that the ethanol industry is vital to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing U.S. energy security, and creating new jobs.
Executive Summary: http://hitectransportation.org/news/2009/Exec_Summary02-2009.pdf (pdf)
Algae biofuel producer Origin Oil has announced a cooperative agreement with the Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory (INL) to conduct a multi-phase research program for further developing the company’s technology for growing algae for fuel in a “photobioreactor.” Later phases will focus on validation of the Origin Oil processes and piloting specific commercial applications.
A mobile version of the Department of Energy’s Alternative Fueling Station Locator is now available for cell phones and BlackBerrys. The Locator, developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and sponsored by the Clean Cities Initiative, identifies the five closest biodiesel, electricity, E85, hydrogen, natural gas, and propane fueling sites using Google Maps and provides contact information and directions.
Online version: http://www.afdc.energy.gov/afdc/stations/find_station.php
The U.S. Environment Protection Agency has granted a testing exemption to Renergie Inc. that will allow the company to use variable blending fuel pumps to dispense hydrous ethanol blends of E10, E20, E30 and E85, according to RenewableEnergyWorld.com. Variable blending at the pump mixes the fuels as they are pumped directly into a fuel tank. The technology can assure a more accurate control of the ethanol blend rate that is being put in the tank. The project is intended to determine the optimal blend levels with respect to fuel economy, engine emissions, and vehicle drivability. Sixty vehicles will be tested over the course of 15 months. “Tests conducted in Europe have shown that the use of hydrous ethanol, which eliminates the need for the hydrous-to-anhydrous dehydration processing step, could mean energy savings of between ten and forty-five percent during processing, a four percent product volume increase, higher mileage per gallon, a cleaner engine interior and a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.”
On March 19, the Department of Energy (DOE) released a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) for the Feedstock Logistics Industrial Partnership. DOE will make awards for one- to three-year projects, subject to annual
The "Biomass Feedstocks Logistics Systems FOA" has now been posted to FedConnect as FOA number DE-FOA-0000060. Interested parties should go to https://www.fedconnect.net, and search public opportunities and awards.
On February 17, the Governors’ Biofuels Coalition sent President Obama a letter asking him to quickly address a number of critical issues facing the biofuels industry and to articulate a vision for the future of biofuels. The letter signed by the 34 governors of the coalition included a list of recommendations calling on the President to establish an interagency task force on life cycle greenhouse gas emissions and transportation fuels, to increase the ethanol blend level to 13 percent, to create new policy options that increase sustainable production of feedstocks, and to implement a comprehensive biofuels market development program.
March 5, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) released a proposed regulation to implement a low carbon fuel standard for the State of California that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation fuels ten percent by 2020. A 45-day public comment period is now underway. The CARB staff computed the full life cycle carbon intensities of a variety of fuels on the California market today. Specifically included in the analysis of the biofuels are estimates of greenhouse gas emissions due to indirect land use changes that the CARB staff believe are caused by the diversion of crop land to fuel production. Scientists are still debating whether and how much corn-based ethanol production in the U.S. leads to significant indirect land use changes and greenhouse gas emissions around the world and how these can be objectively measured and modeled. The staff’s decision to incorporate estimated indirect emissions from land use changes around the world due to U.S. corn-based ethanol production would put corn-based ethanol at a competitive disadvantage with other fuels for the future low carbon fuel market in California. California’s regulation could have broad implications for the national fuel market. Many other states are considering emulating California’s standard, and the EPA is expected to issue a rulemaking of its own soon.
On February 5, the U.S. EPA and California Energy Commission announced a $1.2 million grant to fund a new “brown grease” biorefinery project by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC). This is the first project to turn brown grease, the messy sludge of cooking oil and food that gets collected in special drains in commercial kitchens, into biodiesel. The pilot plant, which will be built next to the city’s existing sewage treatment plant, will convert the grease into three types of alternative energy sources: high grade biodiesel for vehicles including city buses, low grade biodiesel for boilers, and methane to run the adjacent treatment plant. The program is an extension of the city’s SFGreasecycle program that has been collecting used cooking oil from local restaurants for free and converting it to biodiesel since 2007.
On January 29, Governor Edward G. Rendell of Pennsylvania announced two grants to fund biofuel and clean energy projects. The two grants - $6.5 million through the Alternative Fuels Incentive Grant (AFIG) program and $7.2 million through the Energy Harvest program - will support 49 projects in at least 25 counties, leverage more than $53.1 million in private investments, and create a minimum of 77 jobs. The grants are part of the state’s larger effort to increase energy independence, reduce energy costs for consumers, lower greenhouse gas emissions, and create jobs. The AFIG program has awarded over $24 million in grants for 78 projects since the Governor expanded the program in 2004.
A new study finds that the life cycle climate change and health costs of corn-based ethanol production exceed and could in some cases more than double the costs of gasoline, whereas the life cycle climate and health costs associated with cellulosic ethanol production are far less than for gasoline. The researchers “quantify and monetize the life-cycle climate change and health effects of greenhouse gas (GHG) and fine particulate matter (PM2.5) emissions from gasoline, corn ethanol, and cellulosic ethanol.” They found that “for each billion ethanol-equivalent gallons of fuel produced and combusted in the U.S., the combined climate change and health costs are $469 million for gasoline, $472–952 million for corn ethanol depending on biorefinery heat source (natural gas, corn stover, or coal) and technology, but only $123–208 million for cellulosic ethanol depending on feedstock (prairie biomass, Miscanthus, corn stover, or switchgrass).” A significant portion of the climate change cost of corn ethanol production was attributed to emissions from land use change caused directly by the conversion of marginal land and Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) land into corn production. The model assumed the cellulosic feedstock would be grown on converted CRP land; the process heat would be provided by biomass; and the processing would result in surplus electricity being generated for sale to the grid. The study “Climate Change and Health Costs of Air Emissions from Biofuels and Gasoline” was conducted by a team of researchers from the University of Minnesota, Stanford University and Argonne National Laboratory, and is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
A team of scientists in Dresden, Germany, has developed a small pilot biogas heat and power plant that runs entirely on non-food feedstocks, according to ScienceDaily.com. The plant uses agricultural wastes such as corn stalks to make biogas, which is used to power on-site fuel cells. The researchers were able to reduce the length of time needed to complete feedstock decomposition by over 50 percent relative to traditional plants by using pre-treatment enzymes that break down the cellulose for fermentation. This allows the plant to process a large quantity of waste in less time. The plant converts the biogas to electricity using fuel cells with an electrical efficiency of 40 to 55 percent compared to 38 percent for gasoline engines. Heat from the fuel cell, which operates at 850 degrees Celsius, can be used directly to feed into the district heating system for the plant and nearby residences. Overall, the plant’s combined thermal and electrical efficiency is 85 percent. Next, the researchers plan to scale up the capacity of the plant.
Algae biodiesel, a third generation biofuel that offers the possibility of producing tremendous amounts of biofuel using relatively little space (compared to first and second generation biofuels), remains very expensive to produce. Companies at this year’s National Biodiesel Conference in San Francisco, however, are discovering new ways to reduce the cost of producing biodiesel. For startup company Solix, the cost to produce a gallon of algae biodiesel is nearly $33. Their goal is to cut that down to around $1.50 per gallon. Using waste heat from adjacent utilities will help cut costs, as will selling protein and other co-products for pet food and other commercial uses. Developing new, proprietary, extraction techniques will also be key. Another company, Solazyme, said it plans to produce a competitively priced biodiesel fuel in 24 to 36 months, according to GreenTechMedia.com. For a review of recent developments and the challenges facing the industry, read more.
A German research team has developed a process to produce liquid fuels and chemicals from wood and straw for as low as 0.56 Euros per liter. The technology known as Bioliq involves first heating the feedstocks (pyrolysis) to produce an oily liquid that is then heated and pressured to form syngas. The syngas, after being filtered, can be converted to methanol, hydrogen, and synthetic diesel. This process has been used for years to produce liquid fuels from natural gas and coal, and is already fairly well developed. The bigger obstacle, according to the Karlsruhe Institute Scientists, was finding the most economically feasible method of transporting the plant material to a central facility. They concluded turning the feedstocks into biosyncrude at 50 regional pyrolysis plants and then transporting that product to a main processing plant would lower transportation costs and reduce traffic volume near the main plant. The biofuels would still be more expensive than conventional petroleum fuels, but with the right fuel tax incentives, Bioliq could be competitive.
Distillers’ grains—the mineral, fiber, and protein-rich co-product of corn ethanol production—can be mixed with soy beans to form an equally nutritious but cheaper alternative to the traditional swine diet of pure soy meal. Gary A. Apgar, an animal scientist at Southern Illinois University Carbondale who developed the meal combination, is working with a consortium of public and private organizations at a Wisconsin ethanol plant to see if they can lower greenhouse emissions while creating a low-cost, commercially viable livestock feed. The distillers’ grains do not have to be fully dried, which reduces the energy- and GHG emissions-intensity of the process as well as costs. Wet distillers’ grains cost about $50 per ton compared to $125 for dry distillers’ grains. Pure soy meal costs about $300 per ton.
Researchers at Virginia Tech, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), and the University of Georgia have identified a new process and unique combination of enzymes to convert cellulosic materials to produce hydrogen gas to run fuel cells. The “one pot” process represents a number of advances, including an increased hydrogen generation rate and the highest hydrogen yield reported from cellulosic materials. The researchers used wood chips for the feedstock, but crop wastes and switchgrass would also work. The research, “Spontaneous High-Yield Production of Hydrogen from Cellulosic Materials and Water Catalyzed by Enzyme Cocktails,” is published in the Wiley Journal ChemSusChem.
Setting a price on carbon stored in terrestrial ecosystems is critical for stabilizing overall greenhouse gas concentrations, according to research presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Researchers from the Joint Global Change Research Institute in College Park, MD, found that putting a price on carbon dioxide emitted from different land use practices could change the way land is used and shift markets to preserving and restoring carbon-rich ecosystems. By incorporating land use practices and land-based carbon into comprehensive climate mitigation strategies, overall costs of reducing carbon emissions could be reduced. Presenter Leon Clarke of the JGRI warned “without valuing the carbon in land, we risk losing large swaths of unmanaged ecosystems to agricultural crops and biofuels,” according to a Pacific Northwest Press Release.
The European Union (EU) has imposed anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties on imports of U.S. biodiesel. The duties have been applied for a period of six months, starting March 13, but the EU could decide to extend the tariffs for the next five years. The EU is imposing the punitive duty in response to tax credits granted by Congress to U.S. biodiesel producers that export the fuel to European countries. U.S. biodiesel sells for about $800 per ton whereas European producers charge $1000 per ton, according to the Wall Street Journal. The tariffs in most instances will amount to $400 to $500 per ton and could effectively eliminate U.S. biodiesel from the European market. Because of mandates that require biodiesel to be blended with petroleum-based diesel in the European Union’s 27 member states, the demand for biodiesel in Europe supports many U.S. producers. The loss of business will further threaten the U.S. biodiesel industry already struggling from relatively low fuel prices and a souring economy.
One of the nation’s biggest and most diversified agriculture companies, Archer Daniels Midland Co., said nearly 21 percent of U.S. ethanol production capacity has been shut down due to decreased demand, lower petroleum prices, and the global credit crunch, according to Reuters. ADM Vice President John Rice estimates ethanol production capacity is currently 10.2 billion gallons a year, down from a peak of 12.9 billion last year. Although production capacity was down at the end of 2008, total production in 2008 was higher than 2007 levels. According to the Renewable Fuels Association, U.S. ethanol plants produced 8 million gallons of ethanol per day more in November 2008 than November 2007. Reduced demand and lower prices, however, have led to increasing losses for many producers and many plants have closed. In December 2008, the average ethanol plant made zero profit.
On February 4, Midwest Environmental Advocates (MEA) filed two separate notices of intent to sue Utica Energy in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, on behalf of the Clean Water Action Council and Didion Ethanol in Cambria on behalf of private citizens of the town of Cambria for a combined total of more than 4,994 documented violations of the federal Clean Water Act including the continuous illegal dumping of chlorine, zinc, and phosphorus into local waters.
Wood pellet use in the U.S. is dwarfed by that of Europe, but state and federal incentives could significantly increase the role of wood pellets in U.S. energy production. The largest U.S. market for wood pellets is for residential heating. Europe’s much larger market includes generation of combined heat and power for utility and commercial applications, as well as residential heating. The European market is being driven in large part by policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Similar policies may be needed in the U.S. if wood pellets are to become competitive with other sources of energy. Despite the weaker domestic market, the number of producers in the U.S. is increasing. In 2008, Green Circle Bio Energy Inc. commissioned a 550,000 ton per year wood pellet factory in Cottondale, Florida. All the pellets produced at the plant are destined for the European market. Indeck is in the early stages of constructing a 90,000 ton per year plant in Ladysmith, Wisconsin, and has already sold over half its projected first year production to markets in states with renewable energy standards, primarily in the Northeast. A Wasilla, Alaska, company is planning to build a 10,000 sq. ft. plant in Fairbanks. The company plans to use wood wastes from sawmills, land clearing projects, and fire mitigation projects.
Worcester and surrounding communities in North Central Massachusetts have seen their hardwood population devastated by the Asian long-horned beetles. The communities have been able to do little to combat the beetle other than remove infected trees. The felled trees cannot be used as lumber or firewood and can only be transported after being ground into chips. Worcester city leaders are making the best out of the situation, however. The infected trees are being turned into chips in Worcester and then shipped to nearby power plants where they are burned to create energy for the electric grid.
In Vail, Colorado, the famous ski resort town is considering using some of the nearly 2 million acres of dead or dying pine trees to provide up to 100 percent of its hot water and electricity needs. Large portions of Colorado’s pine forests have been devastated by a pine bark beetle epidemic and drought. The plan, according to The Colorado Independent, calls for a biomass gasification plant and a wood pellet plant to be constructed, using federal funds and some private investment. The plan would provide a renewable energy resource for the community while helping to reduce the fire danger and promote healthier forests.
Franklin Pierce University has contracted with International Wood Fuels to provide wood pellet heating for three student residences and one airframe indoor athletic complex at its Rindge, New Hampshire, campus. The agreement is somewhat different than typical wood pellet projects because International Wood Fuels will provide all the equipment and wood pellets as part of the 10-year agreement in which the University is charged for the amount of metered heat that it uses, a process similar to purchasing conventional energy. The new heating system will lower energy costs and reduce the school’s carbon footprint by using a local and renewable energy source, said University President George J. Hagerty. Franklin Peirce has taken other steps to achieve its goal of carbon neutrality including energy efficiency measures and using a 20 percent biodiesel blend in its diesel vehicles.
As part of its Climate Smart Program, Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) is soliciting bids for projects in California that reduce, avoid, or sequester carbon emissions. Climate Smart is a voluntary program that lets PG&E customers make home or business energy use “carbon neutral.” Customers enrolled in the program pay a monthly fee—typically $5 a month per household—that PG&E spends on greenhouse gas reducing projects. Only forest sequestration, livestock methane capture, landfill methane capture, and urban forestry projects that meet the requirements of the California Climate Action Registry Protocols are eligible. More than 30,000 customers have enrolled in the program so far. Climate Smart, which was created in 2007, has funded two forestry projects that are expected to sequester up to 236,000 tons of carbon dioxide, and program planners hope to exceed a total of 1.5 million tons of captured or reduced emissions by the end of 2009.
Cellulosic ethanol company NextStep Biofuels announced it has struck a multi-year deal with feedstock supplier Energy Grains Biomass LLC. EGB will provide NextStep Biofuels with an undisclosed amount of corn stover for its 40 million gallon per year ethanol plant. “When you invest hundreds of millions of dollars into building a state-of-the-art, cellulosic ethanol plant, it’s vitally important to know where you’re going to secure the feedstocks needed to keep it running,” Russ Zeeck of NextStep Biofuels told Biomass Magazine.
BP and Verenium have announced a joint venture to build a new cellulosic ethanol plant in Highlands County, Florida. The companies agreed to commit $45 million to launch the 50-50 partnership. Construction of the $300 million plant is expected to begin in 2010 and start production in 2012. The 36 million gallon per year ethanol facility will be one of the first commercial scale cellulosic refineries in the country. This joint venture marks the first stage in the formal relationship announced last August between the oil giant BP and Cambridge-based cellulosic ethanol developer Verenium.
New Generation Biofuels has completed construction of its first commercial-scale biodiesel plant in Baltimore, Maryland. The facility has a nominal production capacity of 5 million gallons per year and will be able to produce as much as 50 million gallons per year. The company provides fuel for power generators, commercial and industrial processes and space heating, and marine transportation. It has secured agreements with Dynergy to supply up to 1.7 million gallons per year and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and Taunton State Hospital to supply 220,000 gallons for a twelve month period. The biodiesel is produced from vegetable oils and animal fats.
Rocky Mountain Sustainable Enterprises is planning to build a 4.5 million gallon per year biorefinery in Fort Morgan, Colorado. The plant will use crop residues, food processing wastes, and/or livestock processing wastes to generate the fuel. The site was chosen in part because of its close proximity to agricultural production facilities and developed infrastructure. Waste from the refinery could be mixed with agricultural waste from other nearby sites and used to make renewable gas for vehicles or electricity, according to CEO Aaron Perry.
Export of U. S. distillers grains, the livestock feed that is a co-product of corn-based ethanol production, nearly doubled in 2008, rising 91 percent from 2.36 million metric tons (mmt) in 2007 to 4.51 mmt in 2008, according to data released by the Foreign Agriculture Service. In an average dry mill ethanol refinery, about one third of every corn bushel is returned to the market for use as a high protein livestock feed. Mexico ranked at the top of the list for U.S. exports accounting for 26 percent of total exports, with Canada and Turkey ranking second and third, respectively.
Underwriters Laboratories (UL), an independent product safety and certification group, announced its approval of the use of 15 percent ethanol blends (E15) in dispensing equipment certified for regular gasoline. “UL determined that there is no significant incremental risk of damage between E10 and fuels with a maximum of 15 percent ethanol,” said John Drengenberg, Consumer Affairs Manager for UL. The company said it supports Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJs) who decide to permit the use of ethanol blends up to a maximum of 15 percent in gasoline dispensers. AHJs are local regulatory and approval bodies, such as fire marshals, that make the final determination of acceptance of fuel dispensing devices. Under the authority of the Clean Air Act, the U.S. EPA currently caps ethanol blends at 10 percent for vehicles - with the exception of flex fuel vehicles, which can use any level up to 85 percent. Pressure has been mounting recently on lawmakers and the EPA to allow ethanol blends up to 15 percent. In early February, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack asked the EPA to consider increasing the blend limit just days after being sworn in.
EESI Briefing: Corporate Leadership in Reducing Carbon Emissions (Mar. 27) 406 Dirksen Senate Office Building http://www.eesi.org/032709_corporate
EESI Briefing: Are we Ready for National Carbon and Renewable Energy Credit Markets? (Mar. 30) B340 Rayburn House Office Building http://www.eesi.org/033009_markets
5th National 25x’25 Renewable Energy Summit (Mar. 31 - Apr. 2) Arlington, VA http://www.25x25.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=717&Itemid=257
Ethanol 2009: Emerging Issues Forum (Apr. 2-3) Omaga, NE http://www.ne-ethanol.org/forum2009/
2nd Annual Biomass Supply Chain Conference 2009 (Apr. 2-3) St. Louis, MO http://www.biomassupdate.org/index.html
OPIS Energy Fuel Policy and Supply Summit (Apr. 5-7) Washington, DC http://www.opisnet.com/altfuels/index.html
Alternative Fuels and Vehicles National Conference and Expo (Apr. 19-22) Orlando, FL http://www.afv2009.com/
Advanced Biofuels Development Summit (Apr. 20-21) Washington, DC http://www.biofuels-summit.com/
The Global Green Initiative: Transportation in Transformation (Apr. 20-22) Memphis, TN http://www.gmfoundation.org/
Communicating Renewables Summit 2009 (Apr. 21-23) Minneapolis, MN http://www.communicatingrenewables.com/
International Biomass Conference and Trade Show (Apr. 28-30) Portland, OR http://www.biomassconference.com/ema/DisplayPage.aspx?pageId=About_Us
Ready or Not? A Conference on Issues and Solutions for Adapting to Climate Change (Apr. 30-May 1) Washington, DC http://www.boell.org/Events_read.cfm?EventID=256
Writers: Jamie Donovan, Ned Stowe
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