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

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Midwest Ethanol Plants Garner 'Energy Stars'

The Environmental Protection Agency handed out Energy Star awards to two Midwest ethanol plants at the Fuel Ethanol Workshop in St. Louis, recognizing their efforts to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions that equal the amount of pollution from nearly 6,000 cars a year.

During the FEW General Session, John Askew, EPA Region 7 Administrator, presented the awards to Macon Municipal Utilities in Macon, Missouri and Adkins Energy, LLC in Lena, Illinois. The two plants were honored for using Combined Heat and Power (CHP) to reduce energy usage.

Renewable Fuels Association, June 28, 2007

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

New Technology Could Lead To More Energy-Efficient Ethanol Production

Ethanol to fuel cars, trucks and other vehicles might tomorrow take less energy to produce, thanks to a device invented by Agricultural Research Service scientists in California.

Chemical engineers Richard D. Offeman and George H. Robertson at the ARS Western Regional Research Center in Albany, Calif., think it may be possible to cut energy costs by using a series of specially designed permeable plastic sheets, or membranes, to produce ethanol from fermented broths of corn, or straw and other kinds of biomass feedstocks.

Bioethanol is taken out of an incoming fermentation broth using this spiral-wound liquid membrane module. The broth flows across the surface of specially designed permeable plastic membranes that are wrapped around the module's perforated collection tube. Ethanol in the broth is separated by the membranes, using a vacuum, then sent to other equipment to be condensed into liquid. The leftover broth could be processed into byproducts.

The technology will help to address the serious concern regarding the energy efficiency of bioethanol production, according to Robert L. Fireovid, ARS national program leader for process engineering and chemistry, Beltsville, Md. The researchers' invention, called a spiral-wound liquid membrane module, could potentially replace the widely used process of distilling ethanol from fermentation broths.

The module offers ethanol producers the important advantage of combining two separation processes, extraction and membrane permeation, in one piece of equipment. With further research and development, the module would require less energy than distillation.

Today, energy costs are ethanol producers' second largest expense; feedstocks are first. In brief, the fermentation broth -- typically containing about 5 to 12 percent ethanol -- would travel through a sandwich-like configuration of membranes and mesh sheets, called spacers that keep the membranes separate from each other. One membrane has a solvent in its pores that extracts the ethanol from the broth. A second membrane, with the help of a vacuum, pulls the ethanol out of the solvent. The ethanol-and-water vapor that results is then, in other equipment, condensed into an ethanol-rich liquid.

The scientists have applied for a patent. They now plan to build and fine-tune a prototype, then turn it over to a membrane manufacturer for further development before commercialization.

(USDA Agricultural Research Service, June 26, 2007)

Technology Turns Glycerin into Ethanol

U.S. scientists have developed a technology designed to convert waste glycerin from biodiesel plants into ethanol, another popular biofuel. Rice University assistant professor Ramon Gonzalez and colleagues identified the metabolic processes and conditions that allow a strain of E. coli to convert glycerin into ethanol. "It's also very efficient," said Gonzalez. "We estimate the operational costs to be about 40 percent less that those of producing ethanol from corn." U.S. biodiesel production is at an all-time high, but the industry is also facing a significant problem in how to deal with waste glycerin. One pound of glycerin is produced for every 10 pounds of biodiesel, Gonzalez said. The research by Gonzalez, research associate Syed Shams Yazdani and graduate students Yandi Dharmadi and Abhishek Murarka is reported in the journal Current Opinion in Biotechnology.

(The Money Times, June 26, 2007)

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

U.S. To Create 3 Centers for Research on Biofuels


WASHINGTON, June 25 — The Energy Department is creating three bioenergy research centers to find new ways to turn plants into fuel.

The three centers, which the department described as three start-up companies with $125 million each in capital, will be in Oak Ridge, Tenn.; Madison, Wis.; and near Berkeley, Calif. They will involve numerous universities, national laboratories and private companies. The goal of the centers, which are to be announced on Tuesday, is to bring new technologies to market within five years.

New York Times, June 26, 2007

DOE Press Release, June 27, 2007

Monday, June 25, 2007

AP Newsbreak: MSU to Get Research Funds

By KEN THOMAS Associated Press Writer
© 2007 The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Michigan State University will receive $50 million in federal grants over five years to conduct basic research on biofuels, officials said Monday.

Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman is expected to announce Tuesday that Michigan State and other universities have been selected to share $375 million in federal funding to develop new bioenergy centers for research on cellulosic ethanol and biomass plants.

The Bush administration has touted the research centers as part of its overall strategy to improve the nation's energy security and reduce its dependence on foreign oil by developing alternative fuels from sources such as switchgrass and wood chips.

Michigan State and the University of Wisconsin at Madison will share in a $125 million federal grant to establish the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, said two officials with knowledge of the grants, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the announcement had not yet been made.

Associated Press, June 25, 2007

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Biofuel Industry's Focus Turns To House

Register Washington Bureau

June 23, 2007

Washington, D.C. - The biofuel industry's attention turns to the House now that the Senate has finished work on an energy bill that requires dramatic increases in ethanol usage.

Senate Republicans blocked approval of a tax package that would create a 50-cent-a-gallon subsidy for ethanol made from crop residue and other sources of plant cellulose.

However, Democrats said they would continue pushing for the tax measures.

One option mentioned by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is to attach the tax package to the new farm bill.

The energy bill, approved late Thursday, would require usage of 36 billion gallons of biofuels by 2022, about six times the amount of fuel ethanol that U.S. motorists will use this year.

The mandate is intended to guarantee a growing market for conventional corn ethanol as well as jump-start production of the cellulosic version.

"It's a big win for Iowa, it really is," said Ron Litterer, a Greene, Ia., farmer on the board of the National Corn Growers Association.

The road ahead in the House is not clear.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee is to take up an energy bill Wednesday, but the panel has put off until this fall its plan to require higher usage of alternative fuels, which would include coal-derived fuels as well as ethanol. Liberal Democrats objected to the inclusion of coal fuels that fail to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Des Moines Register, June 23, 2007

Friday, June 22, 2007

UI's Stein: Alternative Ingredients Could Lower Feed Costs

Pork producers dealing with higher input costs should consult a nutritionist to explore options presented by alternative feed ingredients, according to Hans Stein.

Stein, a University of Illinois Extension swine nutritionist, said a number of feed alternatives are available at different locations in the state that could replace a portion of the corn in hogs’ diets.

Distillers dried grains (DDGs) “obviously are one thing we have a lot of here in Illinois and are available to everyone,” said Stein, who was a featured speaker last week at feed cost management seminars hosted by the Illinois Pork Producers Association (IPPA) at Princeton and Decatur.

IPPA put the seminars together in response to feed prices that in the last year have increased from roughly 45 percent to 50-55 percent of total input costs.

“We feel really comfortable for producers to include up to 20 percent DDGs in the diets of all groups of pigs, if the diet is formulated correctly,” Stein said. “In many cases, we probably could feed (as much as 30 to 40 percent DDGs) but we don’t have the research to prove it yet.”

Producers also may include everything from oats, barley, and wheat byproducts to leftover products from the food processing industry in hogs’ diets, Stein said.

“There are several alternative products that are being marketed to the (pork) industry at relatively attractive prices,” he said.

Producers looking to lower feed costs with alternative products first must be willing to change aspects of their operation and their mindset, Stein said.

FarmWeek, 6-20-2007

Thursday, June 21, 2007

U.N.: Investors Flock to Renewable Energy & Efficiency Technologies

Paris, 20 June 2007 - Climate change worries coupled with high oil prices and increasing government support top a set of drivers fueling soaring rates of investment in the renewable energy and energy efficiency industries, according to a trend analysis from the UN Environment Programme.

The report says investment capital flowing into renewable energy climbed from $80 billion in 2005 to a record $100 billion in 2006. As well, the renewable energy sector's growth "although still volatile ... is showing no sign of abating."

The report offers a host of reasons behind and insights into the world's newest gold rush, which saw investors pour $71 billion into companies and new sector opportunities in 2006, a 43% jump from 2005 (and up 158% over the last two years. The trend continues in 2007 with experts predicting investments of $85 billion this year).

In addition to the $71 billion, about $30 billion entered the sector in 2006 via mergers and acquisitions, leveraged buyouts and asset refinancing. This buy-out activity, rewarding the sector's pioneers, implies deeper, more liquid markets and is helping the sector shed its niche image, according to the report.

United Nations Environment Programme, June 20, 2007

Corn-Based Ethanol Losing Steam As Biofuel Of Choice

Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle

BP, the oil patch's self-proclaimed king of green, says it sells more ethanol than anybody. But it doesn't produce a drop.

And it doesn't plan to.

"We're not in the ethanol production business," BP's chief executive, Tony Hayward, told me last week. "What we'd like to do is get to the next generation of biofuels."

BP blends ethanol as an additive in its gasoline and is embarking on a program to sell E85 ethanol (an alternative fuel that is 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline) through many of its stations in the Midwest.

Houston Chronicle, June 19

But it doesn't see ethanol as the answer to the alternative fuel question.

Corn-based ethanol, which the government touts as the best substitute for gasoline, may already be losing its luster as a fuel of the future. Increasingly skeptical reports question its efficiency, energy output, emissions and economics.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

ISU To Offer Renewable Energy Degrees

The Illinois State University board of directors approved on May 11 a new Bachelor of Science degree in renewable energy.

"Renewable energy is energy sources that are continually renewed, like wind, water and solar as opposed to fossil fuels, such as oil, coal and natural gas," David Kennell, associate professor in the Department of Technology, said.

The Department of Technology will administer the renewable energy degree program, which will draw from existing courses in agriculture, economics, health sciences, geography-geology, mathematics, politics and government, and physics.

The renewable energy degree will have two areas of specialization. Students can choose either the technology or the economics track.

UI's Voigt: Switchgrass, Other Biomass Crops To Be Featured at Farm Progress Show

DECATUR - Visitors to this year's Farm Progress Show will have the chance to see what many researchers consider the future of renewable energy.

University of Illinois students are partnering with the Agricultural Watershed Institute and other groups to bring large perennial plants such as switchgrass and miscanthus to Progress City USA. Researchers are testing uses for the biomass of the plants in hopes of one day replacing corn as the main ingredient in ethanol.

"I don't see corn going anywhere," said Frank Dohleman, a graduate student overseeing the upkeep of the plants at the site. "Most projections show corn leveling off."

Ethanol is commonly made using cornstarch. However, Dohleman said data has shown switchgrass has double the ethanol yield per acre compared with corn.

Researchers are particularly interested in what they're finding out about miscanthus.

"Miscanthus is the most productive energy grass," said Steve John, the watershed institute's executive director. "Miscanthus is going to be the champion of those efforts."

U.S. Senate Committee Passes $29.0B Energy Tax Package Bill

WARWICK, N.Y. (DTN) -- In a vote of 12-6 Tuesday, the United States Senate Finance Committee passed an energy tax package that seeks $28.5 billion in incentives for renewable and alternative energy. Called the Energy Advancement and Investment Act of 2007, the tax package extends previously existing subsidies, while introducing a credit for cellulosic ethanol production.

The measure provides a credit of up to $1.11 per gallon for a maximum of 60 million gallons of cellulosic fuel produced from sawgrass, agricultural wastes and other biomass. The package also extends through 2010 the $1.00 per gallon biodiesel credit when biodiesel is produced from soy, camelina and other plant materials, with no limit for a single facility's production.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Poet To Become World's Largest Ethanol Producer

By Ben Shouse
Published: June 17, 2007

Sioux Falls-based Poet is poised to become the world’s largest ethanol producer, overtaking agribusiness giant Archer Daniels Midland.

Poet has a different ownership model from some of its competitors. Both ADM and Brookings-based Verasun are publicly traded, whereas Poet is a private company with thousands local investors in its plants.

But when its 21st plant opens in Indiana this September, Poet’s hand will be on the spigot of more than 1.1 billion gallons of annual production capacity, according to the company’s figures. That will eclipse ADM’s 1.07 billion gallons of capacity, which will not increase until at least 2008, ADM has said.

The milestone is a sign of longstanding trends in the industry. And it could portend even more significant transformation, as Poet pushes to make commercial fuel from materials other than corn starch.

“We began as a one-million-gallon pure producer back in 1988, and we have just been on a continuous path of steady growth in this industry,” said Jeff Broin, Poet president and CEO.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Study: Greenhouse Gas Balance Of Different Energy Cropping Systems

In a recent open-access study published in Ecological Applications, Paul Adler from the USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and colleagues compare the net production of carbon dioxide and two other greenhouse gases (GHG) associated with producing biofuels via different pathways from several bioenergy crops. Since a GHG balance includes the emissions from energy used during farming, transporting and converting the biomass into biofuels, the study also offers an energy balance of the different biofuels.

The results of the life-cycle analysis show that of all bioenergy pathways studied, the gasification of hybrid poplar and switchgrass for the production of electricity reduced GHG emissions most. A conventional-till corn–soybean–alfalfa rotation the biomass of which is converted into ethanol had the smallest potential. If the biofuels replace gasoline and diesel, the resulting reduction of GHG emissions for corn rotations was 50–65%, for reed canarygrass 120%, and about 145% and 165% for switchgrass and hybrid poplar, respectively.

The Renewable Energy Centre: Leading The Way In Promoting Renewable Energy

Written by Angela Gallacher
Monday, 18 June 2007

Due to popular demand The Renewable Energy Centre has added three new sections to their website; a directory of UK and International renewable energy exhibitions and conferences for trade and consumers, a section for relevant Educational Resources and advice on government grants and funds available.

The Renewable Energy Centre website has been heralded as the first of its kind in the UK and is leading the way as a primary source of information and reference for the industry. Launched at the beginning of 2007, The Renewable Energy Centre has already established itself as an authority website in the sector through media coverage and a large network of links from energy related websites.

Visitors to the website can now view a list of all events being held throughout the UK and internationally, including conferences which deal with all aspects of renewable energy. The Educational Resources offer teaching materials for primary and secondary schools as well as a list of Colleges and Universities offering a variety of specialist courses and degrees. In order to promote energy saving and renewables the Grants and Funding section lists all current sources of financial help for all those who want to make changes to their home or business.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

llinois' Great Energy Hunt: Driving The State In Search Of Corn, Coal And Me-First Politics

By Jim Tankersley
Tribune national correspondent
Published June 17, 2007

MANTENO, Ill. -- Coal burrows in gentle hills near Carbondale, corn sprouts ankle-high from the black earth around Bloomington, and outside Urbana, Shaq-size grass sways in a professor's test field.

Here, in an outdoor showroom lined with gleaming green tractors, customers are the bumper crop. An alternative fuels boom is boosting sales at the Hogan Walker dealership, but the manager has no time to talk details. "Sorry," he explains. "These guys want to buy something."

Some 700 miles away on Capitol Hill, nearly everyone wants to buy into energy independence. Democrats and Republicans have made weaning America from foreign oil a priority, in the name of national security and relief from voter wrath born of soaring gasoline prices. Congress took up sprawling energy legislation last week. Defining the problem is the easy part. The question isn't whether lawmakers will try to accelerate the country's move away from oil. Rather, it's what fuels the nation will move toward.

Through the prism of Illinois, from Cairo to Zion, you can see nearly every important aspect of the debate on energy policy -- from coal country to the Corn Belt to suburban Chicago's high-tech research hubs.,0,6209957.story?coll=chi-bizfront-hed

Friday, June 15, 2007

USDA To Report On Livestock Use Of Ethanol Byproducts June 29

WASHINGTON (Dow Jones)--The U.S. Department of Agriculture is planning to publish on June 29 its first-ever report on how the livestock industry is using the left over material produced when ethanol is made from corn.

The USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service, together with the Nebraska Corn Board, said it has already "surveyed 9,400 livestock operations in 12 states to determine whether they used ethanol co-products" and that the results will be available later this month.

The practice of feeding ethanol co-products - mainly distillers grains and corn gluten feed - has been a "success" for many cattle ranchers that are nearby ethanol plants, but other livestock have trouble digesting them, USDA Secretary Mike Johanns said Thursday.

Livestock producers continue to complain about the high cost of corn-based feed as corn-based ethanol production in the U.S. continues to rise, bidding away corn from feed makers. Ethanol producers don't use all of the corn kernel when producing fuel, and the byproducts are offering a cheap source of feed that can replace at least some of the corn in livestock feed.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Oregon State Students Combine Wine-making, Energy Production And Develop New Polymer

by Jeremy Elton Jacquot, Los Angeles on 06.14.07
Science & Technology

Wine-making, meet renewable energy production: a team of undergraduate engineering students from Oregon State University has developed an environmentally friendly, biodegradable polymer derived from biodiesel and wine-making byproducts that could replace polystyrene foam meat trays in supermarkets and be used in the manufacture of fire logs, furniture and other consumer goods.

The senior chemical engineering students created this new polymer by combining glyerin, a biodiesel production byproduct, and tartaric acid, a common byproduct of wine production. "When put together, those ingredients can make a hard, bubbly polymer," said Heather Paris, one of the students. They blended sawdust and woodchips into the mixture to produce a more flexible, moldable material after their first attempts yielded a very hard, sticky substance.

What's Included In Energy Bill?, June 14, 2007 · The controversial energy bill now on the Senate floor takes a different approach than the bill pushed through by a Republican Senate in 2005. That measure sought to increase domestic oil production through subsidies and other incentives. With Democrats now in charge, the new bill focuses on decreasing consumption of oil and gasoline. Here's a look at the bill's major provisions:

Fuel Economy: The bill would, for the first time in decades, raise average fuel-economy standards for cars and SUVs or light trucks (up to 10,000 pounds) — from 25 mpg to 35 mpg by 2020 (a roughly 40 percent increase). This provision is the most controversial, especially with the auto industry, which argues that it could push up the production costs of each vehicle by thousands of dollars. That has led some Democrats to propose federal financial relief for automakers.

Renewable Fuels: The bill mandates the use of 15 billion gallons of biofuels annually by 2015 and 36 billion gallons by 2022 (up from 8.5 billion gallons in 2008). In the beginning, most of the biofuel would be corn ethanol. Beginning in 2016, the bill mandates annual increases of 3 billion gallons in the use of advanced biofuels – such as "cellulosic" ethanol, which can be made from switch grass, wood chips or agricultural waste. Oil refineries and food manufacturers – who warn that diverting corn to ethanol production could hike up food costs — oppose this provision.

Penn State Tests Biofuels In Tractors

In principle, biofuels can be produced with virtually no petroleum inputs. Farm equipment - irrigation machines, tractors, harvesting tools - can all be run on biofuels, and production plants can be fuelled by biomass (as is already being done in Brazil, where ethanol plants are powered by bagasse and even produce excess electricity they sell to the grid). The fact is especially important for agricultural regions in oil-importing developing countries that struggle with high oil prices. In an ideal scenario, farmers would produce their own biofuels on-site, and use them to grow food and fuel.

A collaborative demonstration project involving Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences and machinery manufactured by Case New Holland shows it is possible and appears to have ramifications for the makers and users of all types of diesel-powered equipment.

For the past year, Penn State has been running two new, unmodified New Holland tractors on B100 biodiesel (fuel made from soybean oil with no petroleum-based component) with no ill effects. After extensive use on Penn State's farm fields, neither of the machines shows any sign of extra wear, according to Glen Cauffman, the university's manager of farm operations and services.

"Thus far, we have experienced no negative effects of B100. The tractors' power, fuel consumption and performance appear equal to that of machines running on petroleum diesel fuel," said Glen Cauffman, Penn State College of Agricultural

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

World Leaders Agree To Set Global Goals On Greenhouse Gases

The world's eight leading industrialized nations—Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States—agreed last week to set a global goal for reducing emissions of greenhouse gases. During the annual summit for the Group of Eight (G8) in Germany, the leaders committed to taking "strong and early action to tackle climate change in order to stabilize greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic (human-caused) interference with the climate system." The leaders will also "consider seriously" the commitment by the European Union, Canada, and Japan to cut global GHG emissions in half by 2050.

The G8 agreement calls on all parties to actively and constructively participate in the United Nations' Climate Change Conference in Indonesia in December to develop a comprehensive agreement that includes all major GHG emitters and would take effect after 2012, when the Kyoto Protocol expires. It also calls for all major emitters to agree on a new global framework for GHG reductions by the end of 2008, which would lead to a global agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC) by 2009. The plan was welcomed by the executive secretary of the UNFCCC and was endorsed by the Group of Five countries with emerging economies, namely Brazil, China, India, Mexico, and South Africa.

EERE Network News []

Updated Ethanol Map (U.S. Only)

For larger image, click here.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Deep Sea Extremophiles May Be Key To New Form Of Renewable Biofuel

Buried beneath a sulfurous cauldron in European seas lies a class of microorganisms known as “extremophiles,” so named because of the extreme environmental conditions in which they live and thrive. Almost as radical, perhaps, is the idea that these organisms and their associated enzymes could somehow unlock the key to a new transportation economy based on a renewable biofuel, lignocellulosic ethanol.

That’s the concept behind an internally funded research program at Sandia National Laboratories, now in its second year. As researchers search for ways to process cellulosic biomass cheaply and efficiently for the production of lignocellulosic ethanol, the Sandia project aims to successfully demonstrate various computational tools and enzyme engineering methods that will make extreme enzymes relevant to the technical debate. Processing of biomass key to ethanol production Blake Simmons, a chemical engineer and project lead at Sandia’s Livermore, Calif., site, says that the primary hurdle preventing lignocellulosic ethanol from becoming a viable transportation fuel is not the availability of lignocellulosic biomass, but rather its efficient and cost-effective processing.

Utah Grad Students Report on Device To Convert Waste Heat Into Renewable Energy

By Deborah Ramsay
Deseret Morning News
Four graduate students from the Utah of University physics department presented research findings for a promising thermoacoustic device capable of converting wasted heat into a renewable energy source during this year's Acoustical Society of America Conference in Salt Lake City Friday.
The devices, some smaller than a penny, are able to remove waste heat from just about any heat-producing source, convert the heat into a sound wave and then create energy to be used to power electrical equipment.
Students estimated that any practical application of their research is two to five years in the future, but they were excited about its potential to harness a source of energy that right now is lost.
"I see this being used for a wide variety of applications on the university campus," said U. student Brenna Gillman. "The campus nuclear power plant and hot-water-heating system produce wasted heat. If we placed 100 or 1,000 devices in an array on the hot side of the heat sources we could harness the heat and use it to produce more power.",1249,665192852,00.html

Fat Tire Beer Helping To Create New Biodiesel Fuel Via Algae Sacs

New Belgium Brewing Company, the brewery behind the excellent Fat Tire Ale among other beers, is teaming up with alternative fuel company Solix to help development a system for converting oil from algae in order to make a new kind of biodiesel fuel.

In this month's Popular Science (article not yet online), details are given about how Solix plans to utilize the CO2 created by New Belgium in brewing their beers to grow the algae in plastic sacs. Yes, it all sounds a bit weird - kind of reminds me of the human harvest fields in The Matrix - but Solix plans on harvesting tons of acres of "fatty" algae grown in plastic sacs, to create biodiesel fuel for cars.

Great beer, algae sac farms, and biodiesel cars - what more do you need?

Monday, June 11, 2007

UI's Hutjens: Milk Price Increase Squeezing Kraft

Kraft Foods Inc., already losing business to grocery store-branded cheese, has a new problem: soaring milk prices.

Reduced supply, increased demand and higher production costs are jacking up the cost of cheese's primary ingredient. Milk prices, up more than 30% this year, are expected to rise even higher in the next month. That's bad news for the maker of Velveeta: Kraft counted on cheese for 19% of its $34 billion in sales last year.

"It's going to squeeze companies like Kraft pretty bad," says Mike Hutjens, a University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign dairy specialist. Candymaker Hershey Co. and dairy-products company Dean Foods Co. both said last month that they expect earnings to suffer amid rising milk costs.

UI's Darrel Good: Food Price Hikes Caused by Several Factors, Including Biofuel Production

DECATUR - Public outcry has been loud and furious over surging prices at the gasoline pump in recent months, but everyday expenses at the supermarket checkout also have crept up to put a bigger dent in consumers' checkbooks, food analysts say.

Nationally, food prices have increased in the last year on average by 7 cents per pound of beef, 13 cents for a loaf of white bread, 33 cents for a dozen eggs and 60 cents for a can of frozen orange juice concentrate, among other items, according to the most recent data compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Several factors are contributing to higher food costs for consumers, said Darrel Good, professor of agricultural economics at the University of Illinois in Champaign.

Good said one has been a spike in energy costs that have made processing, packaging and transporting food more expensive for the people who grow, make and sell it.

"It's really unfolded over probably the past year, when we saw crude oils spike higher about this time last year and stay pretty high; and then that coincided right as we've seen very rapid expansion in the biofuels production," he said.

Those biofuels include corn-based ethanol and soy biodiesel, which have increased demand and thus prices for grains and vegetable oils, as well as the foods that use them as ingredients.

"That's going to keep upward pressure on all of our commodity prices," Good said. "I guess the hope is at this point that overall increases in food prices will be 'manageable,' I guess."

Green Cars From Green Minds: College Kids Win With Biodiesel Hybrid

he burden of testing advanced technology for alternative-fuel vehicles doesn’t have to fall squarely on the shoulders of Detroit’s engineers. Why not enlist some brilliant minds of the future help out, too? Seventeen universities just completed a key stage of the Challenge X, a four-year engineering competition charging students to design and implement a “green” biofuel-powered hybrid vehicle.

The students teamed up with GM and the U.S. Department of Energy to re-engineer the 2005 Chevrolet Equinox crossover SUV for better fuel efficiency and a reduced environmental impact, producing advanced powertrains and subsystems while maintaining the SUV’s practicality. By using advanced propulsion technologies and a variety of alternative fuels—from biodiesel and ethanol to reformulated gasoline and hydrogen—engineering students can pitch into the alt-fuel revolution that has “become a global priority,” says John F. Mizroch of the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

The CX-winning model came from the Mississippi State University team, who concocted an all-wheel-drive hybrid-electric (pictured above) using a 1.9-liter GM direct-injection turbodiesel engine fueled by B20 biodiesel; their powertrain increased the fuel economy by an astounding 48 percent over the production vehicle. Students from the University of Wisconsin-Madison had an almost identical design and snatched second placee. Another contender, Virginia Tech, was awarded third place overall with a four-wheel-drive-capable hybrid that runs on E85 ethanol with a four-cylinder, 2.3-liter turbocharged spark ignition engine.

USDA, DOE Award $8.3M To 11 Labs To Use Genomics, Proteomic Tools In Biofuel Research

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) — The US Departments of Energy and Agriculture yesterday said they have awarded $8.3 million to fund 11 research projects to use genomics and proteomics technology to study certain plant species for their ability to develop biofuels.

The agencies said that these studies will “provide the scientific foundation to facilitate and accelerate the use of woody plant tissue for bioenergy and biofuel.”

Beginning this year, the DOE will put up $5.5 million for seven projects, and the USDA will funnel $1.5 million into three projects.

"These research projects build upon DOE's strategic investments in genomics and biotechnology and strengthen our commitment to developing a robust bioenergy future," DOE Secretary Samuel Bodman said in a statement.

USDA Secretary Mike Johanns added that these grants “diversify the portfolio or research” by looking into new ways to develop cordgrass, rice, and switchgrass in renewable energy sources.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Iowa State: US Ethanol Production Will Cause Long-Term Rise in Crop Prices

June 7, 2007 - 9:59pm — David Herron

A new report from the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD) at Iowa State University projects that ethanol demand will cause a long-term increase in crop prices.

What's been growing in awareness is that the growing demand for Ethanol is causing a growing demand for Corn. In the U.S. anyway we equate Ethanol production with Corn, even though Corn is one of the most inefficient ways to generate Ethanol.

IEA Chief: Biofuels Not Threat To OPEC

Reacting to OPEC's recent statement on biofuels, Claude Mandil, the head of the International Energy Agency (IEA), told the Financial Times that, even in the worst-case scenario for the oil cartel, there would be a "dramatic" need for an increase in production by the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. "OPEC has nothing to fear. Even in the most optimistic scenarios, the contribution from biofuels would be very small," Mr Mandil said.

The oil producers’ group has become increasingly concerned about efforts in the US and the European Union to cut oil imports. Recently, Abdalla el-Badri, secretary-general of the oil cartel warned that booming biofuels activities may threaten investments in oil production and cause petroleum prices to "go through the roof". Analysts have suspected some tactical move behind the statement. OPEC ministers were however genuinely appalled by the State of the Union address by President George W. Bush in January, in which he said he wanted to "dramatically reduce our dependence on foreign oil."

Ohio State Study Gauges Fuel Crop Affects On Soil

CHICAGO (Dow Jones)--New research focusing on corn residue as an ethanol feedstock is predicting some grim results for future soil conditions if the process continues to expand.

After three years of research, Ohio State University released the initial findings comparing the use of different cellulose biomasses for ethanol production and their affects on the soil.

"We are trying to find out the impact of switchgrass on soil quality in comparison with removing crop residue for ethanol production," said Rattan Lal, an Ohio State professor of soil science and director of the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center's Carbon Management and Sequestration Center. "In general, we find that if you remove the corn stover it has an adverse impact on soil quality."

Corn stover is what is left over after the crop is harvested for grain. Many times it is left in the ground to prevent soil erosion. High petroleum prices and a mandate on using renewable energy has increased ethanol production, which is primary corn-based in the U.S. There's has been greater interest in using cellulosic ethanol to expand production beyond corn.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Wash U, St. Louis, Investing $55 Million In Renewable Energy Research Initiative

June 4, 2007 -- Washington University in St. Louis is creating a new International Center for Advanced Renewable Energy and Sustainability (I-CARES) to encourage and coordinate university-wide and external collaborative research in the areas of renewable energy and sustainability — including biofuels, CO2 mitigation and coal-related issues. The university will invest more than $55 million in the initiative, according to Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton.

A key goal of I-CARES is to foster institutional, regional and international research on the development and production of biofuels from plant and microbial systems and the exploration of sustainable alternative energy and environmental systems and practices. Research at the center will also focus on the region's important coal resources and efforts to mitigate carbon dioxide accumulation, improve combustion processes and reduce emissions. I-CARES will operate under the direction of Himadri B. Pakrasi, Ph.D., the George William and Irene Koechig Freiberg professor of biology in Arts & Sciences, and professor of energy in the School of Engineering.

I-CARES will be a part of the office of the vice chancellor for research, headed by Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D., professor of medicine and of molecular microbiology at the School of Medicine. An external advisory committee will provide guidance to the I-CARES director, and an internal steering committee will work closely with the director to set programmatic priorities and attract new faculty to the center.

Iowa State Study: Ethanol Boom Already Boosting Food Prices $47 Per Person Per Year

A recent study conducted by the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development at Iowa State University (which receives funding from grocery manufacturers and livestock producers) reported that U.S. ethanol production could consume more than half of U.S. corn, wheat and coarse grains by 2012, driving up food prices and causing shortages. The study estimates that booming ethanol production has already raised U.S. food prices by $47 per person annually. In Mexico, protests have already erupted over the high price of corn tortillas, a staple food in the local diet.

Biodiesel & Text Messaging: The Next Frontier

Have you heard of biodiesel? It’s a clean burning alternative fuel, produced by domestic, renewable resources. With gas prices edging ever-higher, and long-term concerns about greenhouse gas emissions, many people are interested in purchasing and using diesel vehicles. These things are so popular, diesel vehicle sales from all the major manufacturers have exceeded forecasts.

However, finding biodiesel to use in your diesel vehicle is not quite as easy driving by your corner gas station. In fact, there are slightly over 1400 stations in the US that have some blend of biodiesel (ranging anywhere from 2% to 100% biodiesel). So, what’s the easiest way to find a nearby gas station that has biodiesel? That’s right – your cell phone!

NearBio is a free service, powered by 4INFO, that allows cell phone users to find their nearest biodiesel fueling locations. Just text “nbio” plus your current zip code (or city and state) to 44636 (4INFO), and you’ll get the address and phone number of the five nearest biodiesel stations. NearBio verifies all the locations and updates the database on a daily basis.

First UK Biodiesel Train Launched

The Voyager fleet could run on 100% biodiesel in the future
The UK's first train to run on biodiesel is going into service as part of an attempt to make rail travel more environmentally friendly.

The Virgin Voyager has been modified to run on eco-friendly fuel and the company is aiming to convert more in the future.

The train uses a blended fuel which is 20% biodiesel - to reduce CO2 emissions without harming the engine.

The London Euston to Llandudno passenger train leaves at 1127 BST.

The journey will be launched by prime minister-in-waiting Gordon Brown.

Biodiesel is a processed fuel derived from biological sources including rapeseed, soyabean and palm oil.

It is biodegradable and produces less CO2 than conventional diesel.

During the six-month trial, the train will run from Birmingham to Scotland, across South Wales, North East England, the North West, the West Country, the South West and the South coast.

Montana State Researchers Say New Crop Could Produce Affordable Biodiesel

by Walt Williams

It's a gamble that farmer Bruce Wright believes is worth taking.

For the first time this year, Wright planted 50 acres of the European oilseed camelina on his farm along Springhill Road.

The reason? The plant is loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for the heart, and that's something people will pay for.

"It's got a lot of properties that sound like they can be very beneficial," he said.

But Montana State University researchers see another benefit.

Camelina can be used to make biodiesel, an environmentally friendly alternative to diesel fuel. And they say it can be produced for much less than other biodiesel crops, for the first time making the fuel competitive in price with its petroleum counterpart.

Soaring gas prices at the pumps have led to renewed interest in alternative fuels as a way of curbing the nation's reliance on foreign oil. President Bush visited a biodiesel plant in West Virginia Monday to encourage the development of biodiesel and ethanol. Ethanol is blended with gasoline so it will burn cleaner.

In Montana, state lawmakers recently passed a law requiring all gasoline to be blended with 10 percent ethanol.

Alternative fuels are a major focus of MSU's Institute for Biobased Products, which is developing crops that can be used to make biodiesel, ethanol and biolubricants to replace motor oils.

The institute sees a lot of promise in camelina, which is new to Montana but has been grown in Europe for a long time. The state's cool and dry climate is well suited for growing the crop.

"We believe it has the potential to be substantial crop in Montana over the next year," said Gary Iverson, executive director of the Great Northern Growers Cooperative, whose members have planted about 700 acres of the oilseed in their fields this year.

Oregon Passes Tough New Renewable Energy Law

Daily Herald

Aaron Clark

The Associated Press

SALEM, Ore. -- Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski signed into law one of the nation's toughest renewable energy standards Wednesday, requiring large utilities to generate 25 percent of the state's electricity from renewable resources such as wind, sunlight and biomass by 2025.

Supporters said the measure will promote economic growth in Oregon's rural areas and make it a leader in the emerging clean energy, low-carbon marketplace.

"This bill is the most significant environmental legislation we can enact in more than 30 years that will also stimulate billions of dollars in investment," Kulongoski said. "We are protecting our quality of life, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, stimulating our economy -- and protecting ratepayers with more stable and predictable utility rates."

The measure requires large electrical utilities to draw 5 percent of their power from renewable resources -- other than existing hydroelectric dams -- by 2011. The renewable share increases by increments to 25 percent by 2025.

Oregon's mandates are among the most aggressive in the nation.

Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia require electric utilities to draw a portion of their energy from renewable sources, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Minnesota and New Hampshire have passed similar renewable requirements, and California has a standard of 20 percent by 2010.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Researcher Uses New Sceening Method To ID Better BioFuel Crops

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Skyrocketing gasoline prices and growing concern over global warming has spawned massive growth of the biofuel industry, particularly ethanol production. While corn has been the major raw material for producing ethanol in the U.S., producers are looking for other more cost effective and sustainable crops. Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory are looking at a novel way to help them determine what type of plant material offers the best solution.

Analytical chemist Emily Smith plans to use Raman imaging to study plant cell structure to determine which crops offer the right combination of cell wall composition and degradation to maximize the materials’ conversion to ethanol. If successful, a simplified version of the test could even be used in the field to determine if plants were at the prime stage for harvest.

“Just like vintners monitor and test the sugar content of their grapes in the field, biofuel producers could potentially use this technology to determine if their crop was at optimal development for conversion to ethanol,” said Smith, an Ames Laboratory researcher and Iowa State University assistant professor of chemistry.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Ethanol 2012 Study Announced

DANVERS, Mass., June 4 /PRNewswire/ -- The Hale Group, Ltd. and its affiliates are pleased to announce a multi-client study titled Ethanol 2012 Study. This report is designed to define the key forces that will impact the U.S. ethanol industry during the next five years and to develop appropriate competitive strategies.

The Ethanol 2012 Study encompasses the leading experts from the agricultural, petroleum, public policy and technology sectors with a tight focus on the U.S. ethanol market. The Hale Group will work closely with Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA), which is led by Dr. Daniel Yergin; Clayton Yeutter, the former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture; and Dr. Bruce Dale of Michigan State University. This collaboration of experts will address the gap that exists between the agricultural and petroleum sectors in an effective manner for the first time.

"Over the next five years, the U.S. corn-based ethanol industry is going to face major strategic challenges as it becomes a more mature industry given that the commodity markets remain volatile and the government is developing policies for renewable energy and climate change," said Clayton Yeutter. "The Ethanol 2012 Study brings together a highly qualified group with the petroleum, agricultural, technology and policy expertise to develop winning strategies that respond to the challenges.",115846.shtml

Could Pipelines Move Ethanol From Iowa To Major Markets?

From Wallaces Farmer
June 4, 2007
Iowa Congressmen Leonard Boswell has introduced bipartisan legislation to increase the availability of alternative fuels at gasoline stations across the country. The legislation calls for funding a study to find out whether underground pipelines would be a good way to transport ethanol and biodiesel.

Boswell, a Democrat who represents central Iowa, explained the legislation at a press conference May 29 at Magellan Pipeline Company in Pleasant Hill, on the southeast side of Des Moines.

Joining Boswell and speaking at the press conference were Jamie Cashman, with Iowa Governor Chet Culver's office, Monte Shaw with the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association and Bruce Heine, director of government and media affairs for Magellan Midstream Partners. Also, Jim Meyer, a farmer from Odebolt, spoke on behalf of the Iowa Corn Growers Association.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Ethanol Industry Fights To Keep Fuel Prices In Check

Omaha, Neb. (June 1, 2007) – Memorial Day weekend found the cost of driving at its highest in history. Many motorists took shorter trips and stayed closer to home. The cost of driving will continue to be highest in history as the oil industry continues to drive gas prices higher and higher.

“The American economy is struggling due to the sudden rise of the price of gasoline. With the tank of gasoline costing upwards of $70 dollars, many consumers will have difficulty affording to fill their tanks,” said Tom Slunecka, executive director of the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council (EPIC).

As gasoline prices continue to rise, the ethanol industry is doing all it can by increasing the amount of ethanol-enriched fuel in the marketplace by billions of gallons. “The industry has reached new highs in its ability to provide America a high-performance renewable fuel that will help reduce costs at the pump,” said Slunecka.

According to experts, if every gallon of ethanol were removed from today’s gasoline supply, per gallon gas costs would rise an estimated 45 cents, making the national average for fuel nearly $4.00 dollars per gallon.

Ethanol is blended in 46 percent of the nation’s gasoline, reducing U.S. dependence on foreign oil, and lowering costs, by providing a renewable source of energy. By the end of 2007, nearly 140 plants will be producing approximately seven billion gallons of ethanol.

For more information about ethanol, visit