Center for Advanced BioEnergy Research, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Pioneer Joins Public Biofuel Education Effort

DES MOINES, Iowa,- Pioneer Hi-Bred, a subsidiary of DuPont, announced today that it is teaming up with the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council (EPIC) in an effort to educate consumers on the benefits of ethanol-enriched fuel. The effort includes funding for ethanol promotion and education programs.

"Ethanol is a factor in the effort to reduce our nation’s reliance on petroleum," says Dean Oestreich, Pioneer president and DuPont vice president and general manager. "EPIC has already helped to significantly raise awareness about the benefits of biofuels, and we are proud to be joining forces with them to continue their efforts to promote ethanol.

Supercomputer In Use to Study Enzyme-Cellulosic Biomass Interaction

I just watched a supercomputer-generated molecular simulation of a fungi-derived enzyme attempting to grab hold of a loose strand of cellulose. I wouldn't call it riveting cinema, but it was still compelling, in a mildly creepy way. At first, the enzyme appeared to float aimlessly over the impassive cellulose, randomly flicking molecular tendrils this way and that. But ever so gradually, it began to "fit" itself around a mishapen blob of cellulose protruding from the larger mass.

There was no satisfying denouement in the snippet I saw. In the endgame, the enzyme is supposed to latch on tight and then "unzip" the cellulose into fragments that it transforms into sugar. This is the key step necessary for converting fibrous plant matter into ethanol -- the so-called cellulosic technology that anyone interested in biofuels has been hearing so much about lately. If only we could figure out how to cheaply convert cellulose into ethanol, we could usher in an era in which biofuels didn't have to be made from sugar cane or corn kernels, but instead, could be generated from practically anything that grows.

According to Paul Tooby, a science writer who works for the San Diego Supercomputing Center, "the central bottleneck" preventing this magical era from arriving "is the sluggish rate at which the cellulose enzyme complex breaks down tightly bound cellulose into sugars, which are then fermented into ethanol." (Thanks to Biopact for the link.)

Enter the supercomputer. Using advanced molecular modeling techniques, a team of scientists have programmed the San Diego supercomputer to simulate what they think is happening when one particular enzyme attempts to chew on some tough plant cell walls. Thus the animated horror flick, in which the zombie microbe searches relentlessly for a chance to begin its relentless degradation.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

UI Investigators Evaluate Ways For Ethanol PlantsTo Recycle More Water

Ethanol plants use about three gallons of water for every gallon of ethanol they make, using the dry grind process. But investigators at the U of I are trying to determine if the amount of water that is recycled during ethanol production can be increased — significantly.

“If you have a plant that’s going to produce 100 million gallons of ethanol, like the proposed Anderson plant, that’s about 400 million gallons of water per year, and that’s not a trivial amount,” said Kent Rausch, a U of I agricultural and biological engineer involved in the project. “If we can increase the amount of recycled water from 50 to 85 percent, that will make a big difference from economic and environmental standpoints.”

In the conventional dry grind process, raw corn is finely ground and cooked; then the starch is fermented and converted into ethanol. After the ethanol has been recovered, the remaining material is called whole stillage. It contains water, protein, fat, fiber and ash from the corn kernel and yeast. This stillage is run through a centrifuge and about 50 percent of the water is recycled. The soluble material that remains after centrifuging is called thin stillage.

Rausch and his colleagues are planning to add membrane filtration — filtration through very small holes — to the process at this point. “We’re looking at filtering the thin stillage to improve our ability to recycle it,” said Rausch. “Impurities that inhibit yeast growth build up in the water and reduce ethanol yield; that makes the process less efficient.” Although a total recycle may not be possible, he said, “Our goal is to get rid of those impurities so more water can be recycled.”

Scientists Develop Super-Computer Model For Biofuel Manufacture

A team of UC San Diego scientists has now conducted molecular simulations of the production of biofuel from cellulosic biomass at the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC). By using “virtual molecules,” they have discovered key steps in the intricate dance in which the enzyme acts as a molecular machine - attaching to bundles of cellulose, pulling up a single strand of sugar, and putting it onto a molecular conveyor belt where it is chopped into smaller sugar pieces.

The researchers reported their results in the April 12 online edition of the Protein Engineering, Design and Selection journal, which also featured visualizations of the results on the cover.

“By learning how the cellulase enzyme complex breaks down cellulose we can develop protein engineering strategies to speed up this key reaction. This is important in making ethanol from plant biomass a realistic ‘carbon neutral’ alternative to the fossil petroleum used today for transportation fuels.” - Mike Cleary, SDSC coordinator

USDA: Leave Some Biomass In Fields

If conservation of soil organic matter is taken into account, the United States at best has to cut in half the amount of cornstalks that can be harvested to produce ethanol, according to an Agricultural Research Service (ARS) study.

Jane Johnson, a soil scientist with the ARS North Central Soil Conservation Research Laboratory in Morris, Minn., found that twice as many cornstalks have to be left in the field to maintain soil organic matter levels, compared to the amount of stalks needed only to prevent erosion.

This doesn't mean harvesting cornstalks for cellulosic ethanol isn't feasible—just that when you add soil organic matter concerns to erosion concerns, it slashes the amount of cornstalks available for conversion to ethanol. For example, 213-bushel-per-acre corn yields leave farmers an average four tons per acre of cornstalks after harvest. Farmers could then harvest about two tons of cornstalks per acre for conversion to ethanol—but only from land with low erosion risks, using little or no tillage.

If the same farmers rotate with soybeans as recommended, they can only remove half again as much biomass for ethanol production, or just one ton per acre, to compensate for the lower biomass left by soybeans.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Laughing Gas From Biodiesel 'Not Funny'

The wide uptake of biodiesel will not make any difference to global warming and could result in greater emissions of greenhouse gases than from conventional diesel, suggests a new study in Chemistry & Industry.

The study was based on a comparison of the two fuels over their entire lifecycle - from production to combustion. All up, the two fuels were similar, both emitting around the same quantity of carbon dioxide equivalent greenhouse gases. But while conventional diesel emits 85 percent of its greenhouse gases when burnt in the engine, two-thirds of the emissions produced by rapeseed derived biodiesel occur during the farming of the crop.

The culprit is nitrous oxide, otherwise known as laughing gas, which is 200-300 times as potent a greenhouse gas as carbon dioxide. The findings are likely to muddy the waters surrounding the European Union's planned aggressive uptake of biodiesel. The study notes that if the land used to grow rapeseed was instead used to grow trees, petroleum diesel would emit only a third of the carbon dioxide equivalent emissions as biodiesel.

Virginia Tech Forges Partnership WIth India

Finally, some good news involving Virginia Tech - Gov. Tim Kaine announced on Monday that the school is working to forge partnerships in India to support Corning Inc. in the development of clean, sustainable energy solutions.

The announcement comes as members of a Virginia delegation continue a trade mission to Asia that Kaine had to cut short on his own behalf after shootings on the Virginia Tech campus on April 16 left 33 people dead.

“Today’s announcement is a welcome sign that the important work at Virginia Tech will continue following last week’s tragedy,” Kaine said in a statement. “Corning and Virginia Tech have shown tremendous commitment and leadership to research and development in Virginia, and I am in full support of this effort to tap into India’s scientific talent. We all have high hopes that this collaboration ultimately will create jobs in Virginia and India that will help address today’s global energy needs.”

The initial focus of the joint project will be on research on fuel cells that will be conducted by scientists at Virginia Tech, at Corning and in India.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Oprah Offers DOE Energy Savers Booklet

On her Friday (April 20) show concentrating on green living, Oprah Winfrey displayed the Department of Energy's Energy Savers booklet. Her guests included Matt Damon and Sheryl Crow; the show also included "Going Green" tips, including using compact fluorescent lights (CFLs), limiting standby power used by appliances, and more.

Visit Oprah's Web site ( to learn more about (and view clips from) this show.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Chicago Ranks No. 10 in U.S. For Renewable Energy

CHICAGO – With the rising cost of fossil fuel and the never-ending discussions on global warming, people everywhere are turning to new technologies to help sustain the planet. Just in the time for Earth Day, SustainLane Government has released the results of its survey on renewable energy sources.

SustainLane, an online sustainability knowledge base for state and local government, surveyed 50 of the largest cities in the country to ascertain how much of a city’s electricity comes from renewable sources. Some of these sources include solar, wind, geothermal and small-scale hydro energy.

Within the survey, SustainLane examined 15 areas of urban sustainability including public transit use, air and tap water quality, planning and land use, affordability, energy and climate change policy, local food and agriculture, green economy and sustainability management.

“What we’re seeing now is a dramatic increase in local governments’ efforts to draw energy from renewable sources that are less harmful to the environment,” SustainLane researcher Warren Karlenzig said in a statement. “Some U.S. cities have also set goals for increasing renewable energy ranging from Chicago’s 20 percent goal by 2010.”

Though Chicago has been ranked No. 10 in the SustainLane survey out of 50 U.S. cities, Stephen Bell, director of the Chicago Center for Green Technology (CCGT), says Chicago “should be No. 1 from an insider perspective”. He also pointed out that the city’s definition of sustainability may be different than SustainLane’s.

Minneapolis ranked No. 8 while Oakland, Calif. dominantly took home the No. 1 spot.

NYU, Ivies Earn 'Greenest' School Title

WASHINGTON, April 19, 2007 -- New York University purchased 118 kilowatt-hours of renewable energy between 2006 and 2007, earning it the greenest-school title in the EPA's annual College & University Green Power Challenge.

Among collegiate conferences, the Ivy League schools beat out beat out 15 other collegiate groups in its power purchases.

"EPA hopes this year's competition inspires schools around the nation to participate in the 2007-2008 EPA College & University Green Power Challenge," said acting assistant administrator Bill Wehrum. "Buying green power is a great way to demonstrate that what's good for the environment is also good for higher education."

Since April 2006, the EPA's Green Power Partnership has ranked conferences by the quantity of green power purchased by their respective colleges and universities. These conferences must have schools that qualify as EPA Green Power Partners and make a collective green power purchase of at least 10 million kWh conference-wide in order to be eligible for the challenge.

The 33 schools and 16 conferences taking part in this year's challenge are buying more than 750 million kWh of green power. The EPA estimates that this amount of green power is equal to the electricity needed to power more than 60,000 average American homes each year.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Purdue, ADM To Work Together On Cellulosic Ethanol

A joint bioenergy project of Archer Daniels Midland Company and Purdue University has been selected to receive funding by the U.S. Department of Energy to further the commercialization of cellulosic ethanol. Specifically, the Purdue-ADM project is focused on commercializing the use of highly-efficient yeast which converts cellulosic materials into ethanol through fermentation.

"As the global leader in bioenergy, we are able to leverage our biofuel production and agricultural processing expertise to advance the development of cost-efficient processing technologies, including those that will turn cellulosic materials into ethanol and other co-products," stated Tom Binder, President-ADM Research.

Stanford Researcher: Ethanol Not Silver Bullet For Air Quality

Many of ethanol's backers are now pitching it as a clean-burning, healthy alternative to gasoline, in addition to promoting it as a homegrown fuel with potential CO2 savings. The idea is that ethanol burns cleaner than gas, making fewer unhealthy emissions and creating less smog.

But Mark Jacobson,an atmospheric chemist at Stanford University, knew that air quality got worse during Brazil's big ethanol push in the 1970s.

Jacobson decided to use a sophisticated air-pollution model to put ethanol to the test. Would switching the U.S. fleet to "white lightning" make the country breathe easier?

His results, published today on ES&T's Research ASAP website (DOI: 10.1021/es062085v), show that ethanol is no silver bullet for health. Switching to E85 blends (85% ethanol, 15% gasoline) could result in slightly higher ozone-related mortality, hospitalization, and asthma (9% higher in Los Angeles and 4% higher in the U.S. as a whole), the study finds. Cancer rates would be similar for gasoline and E85.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Time To Act On Global Warming?

Solving our global warming problems is the moral, business, economic, policy, political and technological challenge of our generation. The scientific debate is over. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s new February 2007 report makes clear that “the warming of the climate is unequivocal” and accelerating, and that businesses’ and people’s actions are the predominant cause. We know what the problems are. Now, we need to act on the solutions – and fast.

The economic analysis by the University of Illinois’ Regional Economics Applications Laboratory shows that implementing this clean energy development plan would create 209,000 net new jobs in the Midwest by 2020, and create almost $20 billion of net economic growth. That would infuse billions of dollars into the Midwest economy. It’s an old myth that environmental progress and economic growth are in conflict. That’s a false choice. There is no trade-off. We can be smart and have both.

ConocoPhillips, Tyson Foods Form Alliance For Animal Fat-Biodiesel

ConocoPhillips and Tyson Foods Inc. have formed a strategic alliance for the production of biodiesel from beef, pork and chicken fat from Tyson rendering plants. ConocoPhillips will prepare several refineries to process the fuel while Tyson will make capital improvements this summer at some of its rendering plants to start pre-processing animal fat. The companies said they expect to start production by the end of 2007 and to eventually reach 175,000,000 gpy of biodiesel.

Contact: Bill Tanner, ConocoPhillips, telephone: (281) 293-2801, email:, Gary Mickelson, Tyson, (479) 290-6111,

Monday, April 16, 2007

Big (Campus) Deals In Biofuels

Researchers and policy makers agree that corn kernels alone will not help slake the growing appetite in America and throughout the world for energy. Scientists also concur that the promise of "biorenewable energy" can be fully harvested only if they can figure out how to wring cheap fuel from the stalks and leaves of corn and other plants, and not just from the energy-rich seeds.

Scientists in academe and in industry are beginning to do just that. American universities, especially a handful of land-grant institutions in the Midwest, will play a major role in determining whether those efforts succeed.

"This train is moving very, very fast, not just at Iowa State but across our entire country," said Gregory L. Geoffroy, the university's president, at a recent town meeting on the campus. "Part of the problem is to keep up with it and not do damage along the way that creates long-term problems."

How-Weird Street Faire Going Green

From 11:11am to 5:55pm on May 6th, San Francisco’s 8th Annual How Weird Street Faire will shut down 5 city blocks in a celebration of all things community, music, art, and GREEN.

Featuring 7 biodiesel-powered dance stages and a sound system run entirely by people on bikes, the theme of this year’s How Weird turns green as it aims to incorporate sustainable technology and solutions into all aspects of the Faire.

Along with the recycling, compost, and bike-powered educational exhibits, How Weird will also be documenting the process of going green (almost zero-waste!) to give others an opportunity to see the necessary steps involved in greening up an event.

University of Minnesota Research 'Pathbreaking'

Research undertaken by our colleagues at the University of Minnesota into the ecological benefits of using perennial grasses as an alternative source for biofuels is pathbreaking. These researchers have correctly shown that corn-based ethanol is less than an ideal source for the fuels needed to move us into a truly renewable and sustainable energy future. However, our own work on biofuels, based in economics and public policy, leads us to question whether the promise of "cellulosic" alternatives to ethanol, like grasses, can be realized within a decade. The constraints to doing so fall into four categories: economics, politics, technology and logistics.

Top 10 U.S. Cities In Terms Of Renewable Energy Use

.Oakland, CA(17%)
2.Sacramento/SF/San Jose, CA (12%)*
3.Portland, OR(10%)
5.San Diego, CA(8%)
6.Austin, TX(6%)
7.Los Angeles, CA(5%)
8.Minneapolis, MN(4.5%)
9.Seattle, WA(3.5%)
10. Chicago, IL(2.5%)
*tied SustainLane US City Rankings data 2006/2007

Which of the largest 50 US cities provide citizens with the highest percentage of power produced from renewable energy? SustainLane Government ( determined the percentage of each city’s electricity that comes from renewables such as solar, wind, geothermal, and small-scale hydro energy.

ADM-Purdue Announce DOE Grant For Cellulosic Ethanol

 DECATUR, Ill., April 16 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- A joint BioEnergy
project of Archer Daniels Midland Company (NYSE: ADM) and Purdue University
has been selected to receive funding by the U.S. Department of Energy to
further the commercialization of cellulosic ethanol. Specifically, the
Purdue-ADM project is focused on commercializing the use of
highly-efficient yeast which converts cellulosic materials into ethanol
through fermentation.
"As the global leader in BioEnergy, we are able to leverage our biofuel
production and agricultural processing expertise to advance the development
of cost-efficient processing technologies, including those that will turn
cellulosic materials into ethanol and other co-products," stated Tom
Binder, President-ADM Research.
"One of our goals is to reduce the cost of the process and make it
applicable for commercial production," said Nancy Ho, the principal
investigator and a researcher in Purdue's Laboratory of Renewable Resources
Engineering (LORRE).

University of Minnesota Plans Free Bioenergy Forum

The public is invited to discuss renewable energy issues with Steve Polasky of the University of Minnesota and staff members from Rochester Public Utilities.

The free forum, happening the day before Earth Day, will be from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. at Quarry Hill Nature Center.

Co-sponsors include Rochester Community Education, the League of Women Voters, RNeighbors and Rochester Community and Technical College.

For more information, contact Michon Rogers at 287-7141 or

Sunday, April 15, 2007

West Virginia State Hosts Biofuel Meeting

Just replacing fossil fuels with alternatives won’t save the environment, said Sally Shepherd, president of WVBioFuels/Renewables Co-op.

“We have to conserve, and biodiesel is just one of the aspects of that,” she said.

On Saturday at West Virginia State University, Shepherd and WVBioFuels held a public demonstration and meeting about alternative fuel and power sources, including biodiesel and solar power, as part of the National Day of Climate Action.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Project Looks To Paper Company Trees For Ethanol

Forest-product companies have gotten pretty good over the years at squeezing as much lumber, paper pulp and chemicals out of their trees as they can.

Now they're hoping to squeeze one more useful product out of the trees and the lands they're grown on -- transportation fuel.

Federal Way-based Weyerhaeuser Co. said Thursday that it has signed an agreement with petroleum giant Chevron Corp. to study commercial production of biofuels from cellulose-based sources, including trees and other crops that might be grown on Weyerhaeuser lands.

Berkeley, U of I EBI Lists Five Areas Of Inquiry

The global transition towards biofuels and bioenergy is much more than a mere agricultural revolution. It is a complex process of change with impacts on a large number of socio-economic factors. In this respect, we have stressed many times that biofuels and bioenergy projects can go different ways: if implemented in a bad way, they can perpetuate existing economic patterns that lead towards more inequality, environmental degradation and poverty (earlier post). But if done well, they offer a unique opportunity to boost the livelihoods of some of the world's poorest people (e.g. 70% of sub-Saharan Africans are dependent on agriculture) and create a whole new development paradigm in the South, centered around energy security, access to mobility, energy independence, environmental sustainability, strengthened income and food security and more equitable socio-economic relations.

The University of Berkeley's Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI), like the Biopact, understands that bioenergy is fully embedded not only in the socio-economic fabric of the communities and nations where it is produced, but in a globalised market. The future of biofuels therefor depends on a deep understanding of their impacts on this fabric, and on our capacity to monitor and project these changes.

The EBI has identified five broad areas of inquiry into socio-economic drivers of the bioenergy future. To read more about them, access:

CBOT To Offer Ethanol Futures Seminars

A series of educational seminars for managing price risk using ethanol futures contracts, hosted by the Chicago Board of Trade, will be held in six Midwestern cities in April and May. The seminars are free and open to the public.

The seminars will be held from 10:30 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. Seminar topics will include an overview of CBOT Ethanol futures and OTC products, advanced strategies for managing ethanol price risk and a market outlook.

The dates and locations are as follows:

  • April 17: Omaha (Doubletree Omaha Downtown)
  • April 24: Cedar Rapids (Crowne Plaza Five Seasons Hotel)
  • April 25: Bloomington/Normal (Doubletree Hotel Bloomington)
  • April 26: Indianapolis (Sheraton Indianapolis Hotels and Suites)
  • May 2: Minneapolis (Minneapolis Airport Marriott)
  • May 3: Sioux Falls (Sheraton Hotel/Sioux Falls Convention Center)

For more information and to register for one of the seminars, visit

NYC's East River Becoming A Green Zone

NEW YORK — The murky waterways around the city aren't exactly what spring to mind at the mention of an environmentally friendly location.

Cesspool, perhaps. Or rumored resting place of countless mobsters. But not a green zone.

The state thinks otherwise. New York and a Virginia-based company have partnered to use the East River as the staging ground for a unique experiment in renewable energy. They are placing six windmills underwater on the east side of Roosevelt Island to harness kinetic energy in the tides to produce electricity _ without having to dam the water.

Town, City, University To Use Biodiesel Exclusivley

Illustrating their commitment to sustaining the environment and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the Town of Blacksburg, City of Roanoke, and Virginia Tech are converting their diesel fuel-powered public works and facilities vehicles and power equipment to biodiesel fuel — a cleaner-burning, renewable diesel fuel replacement made primarily from soybean oil.

The biodiesel initiative is tied to the Town of Blacksburg and City of Roanoke’s membership in the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI) — Local Governments for Sustainability. Members of ICLEI agree to complete a greenhouse gas emissions inventory, formulate an action plan for greenhouse gas mitigation, and implement the changes and monitor the resulting progress.

The City of Roanoke has converted 365 pieces of equipment – 100 percent of its diesel vehicles and equipment – to biodiesel. This includes school buses, trucks, fire trucks, front-end loaders as well as assorted smaller equipment. The Town of Blacksburg plans to convert 100 percent of its Public Works Department diesel powered fleet by August 2007. Virginia Tech will also convert the majority of its Physical Plant Operations fleet to biodiesel by August.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

UI Animal Scientists Look For By-Product Feed

URBANA – Ethanol is the star on the agriculture stage now, but behind the scenes, University of Illinois animal scientists are casting the spotlight on its not-so-sexy byproduct.

Distillers dried grains – or DDGs – are what's left over after distillers turn ground corn into alcohol, the hulls and other solids usually fed to livestock, especially ruminants like cattle and sheep that can digest the high fibrous feed.

UI animal scientists Larry Berger and Carl Parsons, a poultry specialist, are working on ways to make the feed more efficient and cost-effective because they say if ethanol production increases as forecast, there are going to be a lot more DDGs around

Berger said that fact is focusing industry interest on their work.

"Forecasts say in the next couple of years, we could be fermenting up to 40 percent of the corn crop," he said. "For every bushel of corn, you get 17 pounds of DDGs. With the plants under construction in the next year or two, we could be producing 30 million tons of DDGs a year. Production's in the 10 to 12 million range now."

Berger has developed a pelletized feed for ruminants made of cornstalks treated so they're more digestible and mixed with DDGs, a study he and his students completed with major support from Decatur ethanol giant Archer Daniels Midland.

Wrap Made For use As Fuel

Dr. Richard Gross of Polytechnic University in Brooklyn, N.Y., holds bioplastic, which is made from vegetable oils. Dr. Richard Gross of Polytechnic University in Brooklyn, N.Y., holds bioplastic, which is made from vegetable oils. (Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times)

WASHINGTON -- Scientists worldwide are struggling to make motor fuel from waste, but Richard Gross has taken an unusual approach: making a "fuel-latent plastic," designed for conversion. It can be used like ordinary plastic, for packaging or other purposes, but when it is waste, can easily be turned into a substitute diesel fuel.

Cellulosic Ethanol Needs funding, Expert Says

Ethanol made from crops other than corn won't account for any U.S. biofuel production before 2016 without new government subsidies, an Iowa State University researcher said Wednesday.

"Switchgrass never works, biodiesel never works, because the acres you'd use for that is better used for corn," based on crop yields and farmer profits, Iowa State agricultural economist Dermot Hayes said at a conference sponsored by Informa Economics Inc.

Biodiesel Byproduct Works As Feed: Iowa State

Researchers at Iowa State University and the US Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Services (ARS) discovered that a biodiesel by-product in pig feed is effective to pigs.

In a growth study, 5 and 10% glycerin was fed to pigs from weaning to market weight. Results showed equal growth performance between the glycerin-supplemented diet and a more conventional corn-soymeal diet.

Metabolism study
Brian Kerr, an ARS research leader and collaborating associate professor of animal science, directed the glycerin feed trials. In the study, both nursery and finishing pigs were fed at levels of 5, 10 and 20% glycerin. These studies showed the glycerin is readily used by pigs and has an energy value similar to corn.

One problem identified in the swine metabolism trial is that the diet containing 20% glycerol would not have flowed well in a dry self-feeder so Mark Honeyman, animal science professor and coordinator of Iowa State's Research Farms said the 10% inclusion level may be the upper limit. Bregendahl described the laying-hen diets that included 10 to 15% crude glycerin as 'rather sticky.'

Germans Research Sorghum Varieties or Biogas Production

British researchers who went on an expedition in Asia to collect different varieties of miscanthus, in order to analyse their potential for use as a bioenergy feedstock were previously in the news (previous post). Now German collegues are doing the same for sorghum, a genus of many different tropical grass species, often associated with semi-arid regions. Their aim: to study the plant as a dedicated energy crop for the production of biogas. (On the rising importance of large-scale biogas production in Europe, see here).

Researchers from the University of Applied Sciences in Bingen (South-West Germany), have collected and planted [*German] 160 different sorghum varieties from Africa and Asia in two test fields. Already in 2005, the agricultural extension services of the state of Rheinland-Pfalz did the same with two promising varieties and in Bingen, Emmelshausen and Herxheim near Landau, another 20 different sorghum species were grown in experimental plots.

Iowa State Announces ConocoPhillips Partnership

Iowa State University (ISU) and ConocoPhillips have announced an 8-year, $22,500,000 US partnership to establish a renewable fuels research program. ConocoPhillips will provide an initial grant of $1,500,000 US with additional grants of $3,000,000 US per year over the next seven years to support ISU researchers. Although details of specific projects have yet to be determined, studies may address converting biomass to fuel through fast pyrolysis and other thermo chemical technologies. Other funded research will explore and support environmental sustainability and rural economies emphasizing crop improvement and production, the harvesting and transportation of biomass and the impacts of biofuels on economic policy and rural sociology. (Source: Wallaces Farmer, Apr. 10, '07)

Contact: Robert Brown, Director of ISU's Office of Biorenewables Programs, telephone: (515) 294-7934, email:,

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Boosting Ethanol Production Efficiency with Enzymes

As ethanol production increases, so does the demand for suitable feedstocks.

Affordable, plentiful and easy to work with, corn is currently the feedstock of choice in the United States. So Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists at the Eastern Regional Research Center (ERRC) in Wyndmoor, Pa., are investigating ways to avoid overburdening the corn market as ethanol production expands.

Annual U.S. ethanol production is projected to increase from 5 billion gallons in 2006 to as many as 13 billion gallons in 2009. So what options will ethanol producers have? One solution is to increase conversion efficiency.

David Johnston, a food technologist in the ERRC's Crop Conversion Science and Engineering Research Unit, is investigating new processes using protease enzymes from microbial and fungal sources to make ethanol more efficiently. He has found that the enzymes make more nutrients available for the yeast, expediting fermentation of sugars. Protease enzymes can also facilitate the process of dewatering the solids that remain after the ethanol has been extracted.

Working with Vijay Singh, an agricultural engineer at the University of Illinois, Johnston conducted a field trial at a small wet-milling facility in Panang, Malaysia. They soaked U.S. corn in water for several hours and then applied the enzymes (provided by biotechnology company Genencor International Inc., of Palo Alto, Calif.). The scientists found that adding enzymes during processing increased starch recovery, just as it had in laboratory trials.

The starches can be used in more than 1,000 different products, from paper and sheet rock to high fructose corn syrup and ethanol. Economic analysis will be the next step, and Johnston and Singh are planning to replicate the trial at several more commercial facilities.

This is one of many ERRC research projects related to improving understanding and production of biofuels. Read more about the research in the April 2007 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief in-house scientific research agency.

MSU Experiment Focuses on Bio-Solid Waste

The T.B. Simon Power Plant at Michigan State University has conducted an experiment using bio-solid waste as an alternative to burning coal. The experiment, conducted with N-Viro International Corp., a company that works with recycling and alternative fuels, burned a mixture of biomass and coal in a standard boiler using bio-solids from the East Lansing Wastewater Treatment Plant and animal manure supplied by MSU. The experiment was so successful that the plant's Director, Robert Ellerhorst, said he hopes the university will be able to permanently use the alternative fuel to power its 5,200-acre campus. (Source: State News, Apr. 09, '07)

Contact: Robert Ellerhorst, Director Utilities, MSU, telephone: (355) 3314 ext 100, N-Viro International, telephone: (419) 535-6374 email:,

Thursday, April 5, 2007

ASU Announces Launch Of Alternative Energy Technologies Program

Many North American colleges and universities are making significant strides towards creating a more sustainable educational experience; few, however, are moving forward as aggressively and creatively as Arizona State University. A two-part series in the Christian Science Monitor late last year profiled the university's plans, and the vision of its president, Michael Crow. On Wednesday, ASU announced the next step in becoming a "a new kind of university": the launch of a program in Alternative Energy Technologies at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

The program will be offered at ASU's polytechnic campus in Mesa. According to the university's announcement,

The new alternative energy program will educate students about alternative energy sources, such as solar, wind, ocean, geothermal and biomass, promoting a dual energy crisis strategy of conservation or maximizing efficiency as well as vigorous development of alternative energy sources. The new courses that make up the program will prepare students in how to engineer concepts, components and materials. This unique program also compliments other activities at ASU that have similar goals, but different approaches.

The program will also emphasize Crow's vision of sustainability solutions that are sensitive to place: for Arizona, this means focusing on the "solar-hydrogen cycle," according to faculty member Slobodan Petrovic. This also creates greater opportunities for experiential learning, which will be a foundational element of the program: “All courses will have a practical component and will rely on project-based teaching methodology fostered at ASU’s Polytechnic campus,” said Petrovic. “In addition, students will have opportunities to conduct and participate in a wide spectrum of research projects.”

The Alternative Energy Technologies program will offer its first courses next Fall, and we're guessing that demand for them will be high: students are enrolling in college with a greater awareness of environmental challenges, and the growing demand for cleaner energy solutions will create jobs that require this combination of knowledge and skills. Programs like these won't just contribute to greener energy; they'll also ensure that students have more "sustainable" career paths upon graduation. ::Renewable Energy Access and ASU Polytechnic Campus News

South Dakota Panel: Higher Fuel Blends Critical

BROOKINGS, S.D. - Boosting the level of ethanol used in fuel blends is crucial to continuing the alternative energy industry's rapid growth, a panel of experts said.

About half of the gasoline sold across the United States is blended with 10 percent ethanol, but that percentage needs to increase for ethanol to go from being merely an additive to a true alternative, said Don Endres, chairman and chief executive officer of Brookings-based VeraSun Energy Corp., one the nation's largest ethanol producers.

The Environmental Protection Agency, with a stroke of pen, could approve E-20 or even E-30 blends, which would help demand keep up with an ever increasing supply of homegrown fuel, Endres said Wednesday during a farm bill hearing hosted by Sen. John Thune, R-S.D.

"Then, I think, the free market takes hold here," Endres said.

More than 200 people gathered at South Dakota State University for the two-hour field hearing of the Senate Agriculture Committee's energy subcommittee.

U.S. DOE Grants $1,500,000 To University Of Maine For Biomass Fuel Conversion

U.S. DOE has awarded more than $1,500,000 US in federal funding to the University of Maine to advance the university's ongoing efforts to develop methods for converting biomass from Maine's forests into fuels and valuable chemicals. The state will contribute 50 percent in matching funds to the project through the Maine Economic Improvement Fund. "This project adds the thermal conversion pathway to our earlier biochemical conversion focus for the utilization of woody biomass to produce biofuels and other co-products," says Hemant Pendse, Chair of U. of Maine's Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering. The money, which was awarded through the DOE's Experimental Programs to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), will be added to the $6,900,000 US the Forest Bioproducts Research Initiative (FBRI) received previously as part of the National Science Foundation's EPSCoR award in 2006. (Source: University of Maine, Apr. 05, '07)

Contact: Hemant Pendse, Chair, Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, University of Maine, telephone: (207 581-2283, email:, Forest Bioproducts Research Initiative, telephone: (207) 581-1431, email:, Kristen Bennett, Program Manager, EPSCoR, telephone: (301) 903 4269, email:,

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Wisconsin Looks To Soybeans For Biofuel

ATHAN LEAF 608-252-6126

Over the past few years, ethanol plants have sprung up all over Wisconsin and much of the Midwest as the biofuel has been touted as the solution to America's energy woes. And so far, corn has been the undisputed king.

C5-6 Technologies of Middleton is working to change the landscape of the biofuel industry. It plans to do this with newly developed enzymes - proteins that catalyze chemical reactions - that will not only make production of corn ethanol more efficient but also expand the raw materials, or feedstocks, that can be used to create the fuel.

John Biondi, Lucigen's former chief operating officer, was named president of the new company, which is named for the five and six carbon sugars formed by its enzymes.

Biondi said the enzymes will extract ethanol from parts of corn and other biomass that have to this point been commercially impossible to use in ethanol production. This will extend to cellulosic ethanol production, using materials such as switchgrass and wood chips.

But the company's most intriguing feedstock target is a plant already very familiar to Wisconsin farmers and the biofuel industry - the soybean.

AFT: Balanced Renewable Energy Policies Needed

"There is such great potential in renewable fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel to reduce air pollution, help solve global warming, reduce dependence on imported oil, shrink the national trade deficit and invigorate rural communities and more," says Ralph Grossi, president of American Farmland Trust (AFT).

"However, we must take into consideration the effects of biofuels policies on our working lands and natural resources. Nearly half of American land is working farm and ranch land and it is an irreplaceable resource. These lands are the basis of our nation's productive competitive advantage in agriculture, they provide healthy food for our world's citizens, renewable fuels, and open space, wildlife habitat and cleaner water," he said.

"While there are many benefits to renewable fuels, increasing the production of fuel from a limited agricultural land base will inevitably create pressures on our land, water, air and wildlife habitat," adds Grossi. AFT has written to the Senate and House leadership to suggest three ways in which Congress can address these pressures on agricultural land:
-- Ensure that any new mandates or incentives for additional biofuels production be accompanied by a dramatic increase in working lands conservation programs that help farmers grow feedstocks for renewable fuels while protecting the nation's soil, water, air and wildlife.

-- Energy policies must spur energy efficiency and discourage waste. Reducing consumption of all forms of energy will reduce pressures on working lands and further reduce our nation's reliance on imported oil.

-- To relieve the pressure on farmland from the booming ethanol and biodiesel industries, we must vigorously support the development of the next generation of biofuels. Many policy vehicles exist - such as increased research funding, loan guarantees, tax policies and renewable fuel mandates - that can be used to encourage this development.

Castro Reiterates Opposition To Use Of Food Crops For Ethanol Poduction

Cuba's government on Wednesday issued the second article in a week about ethanol production signed by Fidel Castro, with the ailing leader reiterating his charge that the use of food crops to produce biofuels for automobiles could leave the world's poor hungry.

 Fidel Castro (Lawanddisorder)
Fidel Castro (Lawanddisorder)

"Where are the poor countries of the Third World going to get the minimum resources to survive?" asked the article entitled "Reflections of the Commander in Chief." "I'm not exaggerating or using unmeasured words. I am sticking to the facts."

As for Brazil's continued support of ethanol production, Castro wrote: "It is not my intention to harm Brazil, nor get mixed up in affairs related to the internal politics of that great country."

But, Castro wrote, key questions remained unanswered about plans for biofuel production following weekend talks between Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and U.S. President George W. Bush on that and other trade matters.

"From where and who are going to supply the more than 500 million tons of corn and other cereals that United States, Europe and the rich countries are going to need to produce the quantity of gallons of ethanol that the big companies of the United States and other countries demand in return for their many investments?" he asked.

Castro's articles indicate he is increasingly anxious to have his voice heard on international matters eight months after being sidelined by illness.

Caution: Home-Cooked Biodiesel Can Be Dangerous

Journal of the American Medical Association. 2007;297:1428.

On May 7, 2006, a hazardous materials (HazMat) release occurred in a residential area of Colorado when a homeowner who was processing a tank of homemade biodiesel fuel forgot to turn off the tank's heating element and left for the weekend. The heating element overheated and caused a fire that burned the surrounding shed and equipment. The shed had contained >600 gallons of biodiesel and recycled restaurant cooking oil, smaller amounts of glycerin and sodium hydroxide, and 1-gallon containers of sulfuric and phosphoric acid; a mixture of these ingredients seeped into the ground during the fire. A certified HazMat team and the local fire department responded. Investigators found seven 55-gallon barrels of methanol and other hazardous materials outside the shed. No injuries or evacuations occurred. To prevent potential injuries, biodiesel should be purchased from a licensed commercial source.

... Biodiesel usually is produced commercially; however, some persons in the United States and elsewhere produce biodiesel in their homes for personal use. Those who produce homemade biodiesel should be aware of the substantial risk for injury. Substances used in biodiesel production can be highly explosive (i.e., methanol) or corrosive (i.e., sodium hydroxide). If improperly handled, these substances can cause severe eye, skin, and upper respiratory irritation; chemical burns; and other serious injuries.5-7 During the preceding 10 years, almost all fires and injuries caused by home production of biodiesel of which the National Biodiesel Board (NBB) is aware were caused by improper handling of methanol during production. NBB is the nonprofit trade association coordinating regulatory, technical, and market development of the fuel as a commercial product. The event described in this report is the first known to NBB involving a heating element in an unintentional fire related to home production of biodiesel.

Got Ethanol? Probably Not...

Although ethanol has been widely hyped as a home-grown alternative to imported oil, drivers can fill up with the stuff at only a tiny fraction of U.S. service stations, The Wall Street Journal reported.

There are a number of reasons why the fuel, which is made out of corn, is not widely available, but the biggest is resistance from oil companies, the WSJ said.

Despite public enthusiasm from some oil executives for alternative fuels, oil-company policies make it hard for many service stations to stock a fuel called E85, a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline.

Oil companies lose sales every time a driver chooses E85, and they use various ploys keep the fuel out of stations that bear the company name. Among the tactics that the WSJ noted: franchises sometimes are required to purchase all the fuel they sell from the oil company, but since oil companies generally don't sell E85, the stations are stuck unless the company grants an exception and lets them buy from another supplier; contracts sometimes limit advertising of E85 and restrict the use of credit cards to pay for it; some companies require that any E85 pump be on a separate island, not under the main canopy.

California Biotech Firmis Engineering Microbes To Produce Cheap Biofuels, May Outcompete Ethanol.

Stroll the streets of San Francisco and you're likely to overhear someone talking about biofuels. It's the latest technology wave to hit the Bay Area, and scientists and investors are swarming toward any startup claiming a better way to make ethanol or biodiesels. Amyris Biotechnologies may actually have found one. Having previously reengineered microbes so that they would produce a malaria drug, the company is now drawing on its expertise at creating efficient bacterial factories to cheaply churn out novel types of biofuels.

Amyris is one of the first companies to spring from the relatively new field of synthetic biology. Unlike the conventional genetic engineering currently used in the manufacture of antibiotics and protein drugs such as insulin, synthetic biology involves hacking the entire metabolic system--changing the structure of some proteins, altering the expression of others, and adding in genes from other organisms--to create an efficient microbial machine. "We think of biological components as parts you assemble and try to get to function as a whole," says Jay Keasling, a bioengineer at the University of California, Berkeley, and one of Amyris's cofounders.

Seeking Careers In The Renewable Energy Field

Q: If a person wanted to make a career designing residential and some commercial projects, what would be your suggestion as a starting point? In my area, we receive both good wind and periods of good sunshine for developing systems that employ both solar and wind. -- J. Hall, Skaneateles, New York

A: I am receiving many e-mails from readers on jobs in the industry, particularly in the design, sales, installation and service sector of the industries.

First, while the clean energy industries are growing more than 30 percent per year, the biggest bottleneck in this growth is in the product delivery chain to the customer. When I get asked "how should I enter the field?" my first response is to approach existing service vendors.

In system design, architectural and engineering firms are a good start in your locality. They may have someone, either full or part time, assigned to the renewable or distributed energy or green building sectors, and they may want to add or train someone in providing services. So check with people locally or go to the local Yellow Pages.

Second, the existing solar integrator, design, sales, installations and maintenance firms are growing, and they may need to add employees. Contact them, again checking the Yellow Pages in your area, or even better at "FindSolar.Com" or via the State Chapter lists from the websites of the American Solar Energy Society or the Solar Energy Industries Association (see links below).

I also urge approaching corollary industries that might want to set up some kind of parallel business in addition to their core business: HVAC contractors, building security companies, local telecommunications and cellular/tower companies, and traditional backup power companies now primarily offering diesel or battery banks -- since they may want to expand to cleaner applications. ( lists jobs opportunities, which can be broken down to suit your search.)

Local unions, such as IBEW, have a concerted effort to train their members, and I am sure local electricians, carpenters and builders are also beginning to add jobs in this field. So think out what may be best in your area, reach out to established and new players.

Good luck in finding a job, we need lots of new blood in this field as we scale-up and grow.

-- Scott Sklar

The Future Of Biodiesel

Our editor (at the Des Moines Register) wondered about the future of biodiesel and it contribution to our energy goals.

The amount of biodiesel currently being produced is relatively small, around 200 million gallons last year compared with a total of almost 70 billion gallons of conventional diesel fuel. However, its use is expected to grow as fuel suppliers seek flexibility in complying with the requirements of the 2005 Energy Policy Act and with the ultra-low sulfur diesel regulations. This growth will be aided by incentives contained in the Act and by recent EPA regulations that could potentially allow the use of non-petroleum resources, such as soy oil or animal fat as a feedstock at a petroleum refinery (renewable diesel). In response, efforts are being made to increase production and research is being performed to reduce biodiesel production costs by companies such as Chevron who is investing in efforts to produce biodisel on a commercial basis.

... The increase in crude and hence diesel prices over the last several months, as well as the $1 per gallon subsidy for biodiesel that was enacted last year are reducing, if not eliminating, the biodiesel cost disadvantage. If these trends continue, and if the cost of soybean oil as a blendstock moderates, biodiesel is posed to make a meaningful, if limited, contribution to energy diversity.

When Pigs Fly...

OK, I couldn’t resist that headline… or this story. It seems that North Carolina State University engineers have developed technology that can turn almost any oil… from hog lard to vegetable oil… into jet fuel.

According to an NC State news release, the technology is called Centia… a derivative of the Latin “crudus potentia,” or “green power”:

Dr. William Roberts, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and director of the Applied Energy Research Laboratory at NC State, says that besides being “100 percent green,” the new technology has some key advantages.

“We can take virtually any lipid-based feedstock, or raw material with a fat source – including what is perceived as low-quality feedstock like cooking grease – and turn it into virtually any fuel,” Roberts says. “Using low-quality feedstock is typically 30 percent less costly than using corn or canola oils to make fuel.”

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Ethanol, Renewable Fuels Topic Of University Of Iowa Lecture

From the University of Iowa News Services Office
Bruce Rastetter, founder and chief executive officer of Iowa Falls-based ethanol producer Hawkeye Renewables, will discuss the growth of his company and the future for ethanol and renewable fuels in a lecture at 10:30 a.m. April 12 at the University of Iowa.

Rastetter's lecture, in the Second Floor Ballroom of the Iowa Memorial Union, is sponsored by the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center and Iowa State Bank & Trust Company. Admission is free and open to the public.

Hawkeye Renewables produces 180 million gallons of ethanol annually, making it the largest ethanol producer in Iowa and third largest in the United States in just four years. Rastetter also founded Heartland Pork Enterprises in 1994 and was its presi-dent and CEO until 2004. He received his bachelor's degree from the University of Iowa in 1978.

Rastetter's lecture is part of an annual lecture series cosponsored by JPEC and ISB&T to promote entrepreneurship and eco-nomic development in the Iowa City and Cedar Rapids area.

China Halfway Home On Renewable Energy Law

CHINA has finished drafting more than half of the 12 regulations that will be used to implement the landmark renewable-energy law enacted last year, a senior government official said yesterday.

"Work on seven to eight rules is done," said Xu Dingming, deputy director-general of the Office of the National Energy Leading Group, which is in charge of China's energy strategy and policies.

Xu made the comments in Shanghai at an energy conference organized by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The official declined to specify which rules were finished or provide a schedule for when the entire job would be done.

The government earlier announced it would issue a dozen specific regulations ranging from pricing to preferential policies to standardize and develop the fledging renewable energy sector.

Biobutanol To Join The Quiver?

There’s a report in (4.3.07) called Better than ethanol. It’s about a green fuel called biobutanol, being worked on by DuPont in a partnership with BP. With all the negative press about ethanol lately (it takes a lot of energy to produce, it drives up the cost of food, it promotes condensation and problems with engines, etc.) scientists have been working on a number of plant-derived fuels than can be run in today’s vehicles. Biobutanol is likely to be one of them, but not next week or next month.

According to the CNN report, “The production of biobutanol is nearly identical to ethanol. They both ferment a food crop to yield a fuel. The only difference is the enzyme. And like cellulosic ethanol, which can be made using any plant matter, not just food crops - finding the right enzyme at the right price is the trick.”

Sources quoted in the article from BP, Valero (the biggest fuel blender in the country), Emerging Energy Research in Cambridge, MA, and the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) range from enthusiastic to cautiously optimistic to somewhat dubious. The take-home message, as far as we’re concerned, comes from Andy Aden at NREL, who points out that the paths to the proper energy future are going to have to be many and diversified. He says that biobutanol should be part of the solution, but that the current NREL position is that the main push should be toward cellulosic ethanol.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Berkeley Invites Four Department Heads To Join BP Contract Negotiations

The University of California at Berkeley has invited the professors who lead four academic senate committees to join in the contract negotiations to finalize a $500 million research pact between the energy giant BP, the university, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. The move comes as two petitions circulate at Berkeley. One is being signed by professors who fear the deal gives too much power to BP over faculty slots and resources, and calls for more faculty oversight of the deal. The other seeks to call the deal off, saying that BP is engaged in "greenwashing" - trying to improve its reputation through the research. The deal was announced with much fanfare in February, and has drawn more questions since.

U Of I's Nafsiger: Planting Dates From Mid-April Most Profitable

Planting date responses are notoriously variable, depending on seasonal weather, says U. of I. agronomist Emerson Nafziger in the April 2 issue of Praire Farmer. But with a few exceptions, planting from mid-April through early May has produced the highest yields.

U of I Professor: Too Much Green Energy In Midwest?

Fred Giertz, a professor of economics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, points out in FORBES that cities in Illinois and throughout the region in states such as Iowa and Michigan are all trying to attract green energy companies and that could lead to market saturation. He also worries that green energy on its own is not enough to lift the state or regional economy.

Ethanol Shares Wobble

Shares of ethanol producers climbed Friday after a government report showed farmers will plant the largest corn crop in 60 years, but lost some gains as investors questioned if the crop will be large enough.

Farmers will plant 90.5 million acres of corn this year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported, up from 78.3 million last year and ahead of the department's 87 million acre estimate. Surging ethanol demand was one of the reasons for the increase.

Citigroup analyst David Driscoll said the new planting will drive corn prices lower to about $3 per bushel by the end of 2007 from the current $4. He maintained a "Buy" rating on Archer Daniels Midland, the largest U.S. ethanol producer, and said lower corn prices will make ethanol production more profitable.

US Senators Introduce Bill to Nationalize California Tailpipe Gas Emissions

US Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe (both R-ME) have introduced a measure (S.1073) that would require automakers to reduce new vehicle greenhouse gas emissions 30% below 2002 levels by 2016. This would nationalize California’s motor vehicle greenhouse gas reduction standard. The EPA would be required to tighten the reductions every five years.

The bill also requires fuel suppliers to increase the percentage of low-carbon fuels—biodiesel, cellulosic ethanol E85, hydrogen, electricity, and others—in the motor vehicle fuel supply by 2015. This would reduce emissions from motor vehicle fuels by 10% below projected levels by 2030.

It’s clear that if we are serious about addressing the global warming challenge, reducing emissions from the use of motor vehicles must be a top priority. With more than 240 million vehicles on the road, this one sector alone produces 32% of all US greenhouse gas emissions. So, this legislation would slash emissions from this sector by 22% below anticipated levels by 2030. —Senator Feinstein

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced his support for this legislation and urged members of Congress to pass the legislation immediately. Earlier this year, Schwarzenegger ordered a Low Carbon Fuel Standard bill to require fuel producers in California to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other global warming gases on a full lifecycle basis by 10% by 2020.

January Ethanol Production Sets Record

The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) today (April 2) announced U.S. ethanol production and demand continue to set records as more Americans are looking to renewable fuels like ethanol to start America down the road of energy sustainability. According to information from the Energy Information Administration and the RFA, production of ethanol in January 2007 averaged 375,000 barrels per day (b/d) while demand averaged 414,000 b/d.

The increases in production and demand represent a rise of 87,000 b/d and 143,000 b/d respectively from January 2006.

“The U.S. ethanol industry is responding to the call for a more sustainable energy future in this country,” said RFA President Bob Dinneen. “By relying more heavily on a domestically-produced renewable fuel, our country is beginning down the long road of reducing the impacts of global warming and our dependence on foreign oil. While renewable fuels like ethanol are not the silver bullet to our nation’s energy problems, they do provide a confident first step toward meeting our future energy needs.”

Currently, 114 ethanol biorefineries nationwide have the capacity to produce more than 5.6 billion gallons annually. There are 80 ethanol refineries and 7 expansions under construction with a combined annual capacity of more than 6 billion gallons.

E85 Ethanol and Vintage Cars

A question was recently asked if someone should, or could, use E85 fuel in a 1972 gasoline collector's car.

The short answer is, no. E85 ethanol is a very poor idea to use in vintage cars.

A mixture of 85% ethanol and 15% gas, E85 ethanol, should not be consumed by any vehicle unless it is designated at the manufacturer as a "flex-fuel" vehicle. If you use E85 in a strictly gasoline car, not just a vintage collectible car, it may damage it beyond repair. E85 ethanol in a vehicle that is not made for e85 can cause major corrosion through out the entire fuel system, crack seals and hoses and it can remove lubrication off the engine's cylinders. Also, both the E85 ethanol and widely available E10 ethanol will move old sludge buildup, varnish and other dirts from the fuel tank. As soon as these are within the fuel, it will cause fuel line and filter clogging as well as prohibit fuel injectors and carburetor jets from spraying correctly.

Despite its higher octane number, e85 ethanol has less energy then gasoline per gallon. In the industry, it has become a well-known fact that E85 in a "flex-fuel" vehicle capable of using gasoline. E85, will provide less miles per gallon compared to gasoline (Ethanol industry generally estimates it to be about a 30% drop).

Gov. Blagojevich Announces $240,000 for Innovative Agribusiness Ventures

SPRINGFIELD – Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich awarded $240,000 in Opportunity Returns grants today to promote agricultural innovation and help create new jobs in rural communities across Illinois. The projects, funded through the Illinois Department of Agriculture’s AgriFIRST program, include a feasibility study to find new uses for a by-product of biodiesel production, the construction of a greenhouse to launch an organic, hydroponic tomato operation and the expansion of a livestock processing facility.

“Illinois is a leading, worldwide producer of food and fiber because of our agriculture industry’s ability to react to marketplace changes and quickly adopt new technologies,” Gov. Blagojevich said. “These grants will help fund the development of new agricultural products and innovative production practices that will keep the industry competitive, growing and creating better jobs for more people.”!B0DB128F5CD96151!2078.entry

Purdue receives $5 million grant

The Department of Energy announced Tuesday (March 28) that Purdue will receive a grant for $5 million.

The funding is one of five grants awarded for research in the area of cellulosic ethanol.

"Purdue is the only academic institution receiving this award," said Jay Gore, associate dean of research in the College of Engineering.

Nancy Ho, the leader of a molecular genetics group at Purdue, is involved with the University's cellulosic ethanol research.

"The grant is funding Nancy's work in the area of cellulosic ethanol," Gore said.

Cellulosic ethanol is a good alternative fuel because it uses the non-edible parts of corn, Gore said.

"It does not compete with our food supply."

The process Ho is working with involves the use of a genetically engineered yeast, she said.

"Simply, we need more ethanol," Ho said.

MSU Prof: Biofuels demand will increase, not decrease, world food supplies

CHICAGO As more and more corn grain is diverted to make ethanol, there have been public concerns about food shortages. However, ethanol made from cellulosic materials instead of corn grain, renders the food vs. fuel debate moot, according to research by a Michigan State University ethanol expert.

Bruce Dale, an MSU chemical engineering and materials science professor, has used life cycle analysis tools, which include agricultural data and computer modeling, to study the sustainability of producing biofuels fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel that are made from renewable resources.

Dale will present his findings today at the American Chemical Society annual meeting in Chicago.

"We grow animal feed, not human food in the United States," Dale said. "We could feed the country's population with 25 million acres of cropland, and we currently have 500 million acres. Most of our agricultural land is being used to grow animal feed. It's a lot simpler to integrate animal feed production into cellulosic ethanol production than it is to integrate human food production. With cellulosic ethanol, the 'food vs. fuel' debate goes away."

Cellulosic ethanol is made from the stems, leaves, stalks and trunks of plants, none of which is used for human food production. Having studied ethanol for more than 30 years, Dale said that as the country moves toward large-scale cellulosic ethanol production, the yield of so-called energy crops – grasses and woody materials grown for their energy content also will increase dramatically.

"This will reduce pressure on our land resources," said Dale, who also is associate director of the MSU Office of Biobased Technologies. "We'll be able to get more raw material out of one acre of land."

Dale said that many of these energy crops will be grown on land that isn't prime agricultural acreage. In other words, they'll be grown on marginal land that isn't growing a commercial crop right now.

Ethanol industry races to establish national identity

If cars fueled with ethanol can zip around a track at 230 mph, then certainly a little corn-based gasoline can get you to work on time.

The nation's ethanol producers hope to communicate that message by tying their product to the growing popularity of auto racing. It's one of many tactics the industry plans to employ in its initial attempts to advertise ethanol directly to consumers.

Just last weekend, the fledgling Ethanol Promotion and Information Council launched its first television commercials: two 30-second ads that aired March 16 on ESPN2 during the 2007 IndyCar Series season preview.

USDA offers funds to aid rural energy

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is offering rural development grants and loans for rural businesses and farmers looking to produce renewable energy or make energy-saving improvements.

The funds can be used to finance the installation of renewable energy sources such as wind turbines, solar or ethanol systems. Funds also could be used for energy efficient projects like adding insulation or improving electrical systems.

Energy efficiency improvements must cost at least $6,000 to qualify, and new renewable energy projects should cost at least $10,000. Grants can cover as much as one-fourth of a project’s cost and can be combined with guaranteed loans.

Costs incurred before submitting an application are not eligible.

The deadline for grant applications is May 18. Applications for guaranteed loans are due by July 2. Applicants should call the Rural Development State Office at 876-0995 for more information or to obtain a grant application guide.

Research May Turn Sugar Into Fuel

Katherine Ruiz / Contributing Writer

Joining world leaders' efforts to develop alternative fuel sources, FIU' s Applied Research Center has teamed with sugar producer Florida Crystals Corporation to begin a pretreatment process of converting sugarcane bagasse into ethanol, an alternative fuel.

Ethanol could be used one day to fuel the entire country, as well as parts of Latin America and the Caribbean. What this means is that hopefully one day the United States will be producing gasoline domestically.

The partnership between the University and the sugar company took place days before President Bush traveled to S�o Paulo, Brazil, where he announced a new partnership to promote the use of alternative fuels to reduce the Western hemisphere's dependence on fossil fuels.

The two largest nations in the hemisphere, Brazil and the United States, signed a memorandum March 9 to share fuel technology and promote its use by other nations in the region.