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

Monday, June 30, 2008

Opinion: Biofuels put bucks over ducks

After the Midwest floods, the corn-ethanol lobby wants conserved land plowed up.
The Christian Science Monitor
from the June 24, 2008 edition

The massive crop loss from Midwest floods has again laid bare the political power of the corn-ethanol lobby. The US Agriculture Department may soon help keep ethanol plants running by letting farmers plow up land set aside for wildlife.

Such a move, being pushed by Sen. Charles Grassley (R) of Iowa, would put birds such as ducks, sage grouse, meadowlarks, pheasants, and bobwhites in jeopardy. It would also chew up millions of acres of trees and endangered prairie that now probably do more to absorb carbon and curb global warming than the expanding corn-ethanol industry can claim for its dubious enterprise.

Under a 1985 farm law that started the federal Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), about 35 million acres of marginal farmland are now purposely idled by USDA to create wildlife habitat, curb soil erosion, and prevent runoff of pollutants from farming. The CRP was originally intended to boost grain prices by idling land during bumper crop years. But it has since turned out to be America's biggest conservation program, becoming a main reason to continue it and similar programs.

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The ethanol option: More using E85 mix, which is cheaper than pure gasoline

Southeast Missourian
Sunday, June 22, 2008
By Brian Blackwell

At $2.94 per gallon, Patricia Ann Smith pumped the E85 blend of gasoline and ethanol into her 2001 white Ford Ranger on Wednesday.

"It's been a great money-saver for me," Smith said as she kept an eye on the amount of fuel she was putting into her vehicle at the Rhodes 101 convenience store at South Sprigg Street and Highway 74 in Cape Girardeau. "Instead of using that money on gas, I can spend it on more things I need, like food. So far, I've been pleased with the results since I began using it earlier this year."

The combination of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline is gaining more users since it was introduced in the last few years. Ethanol is an alcohol-based renewable fuel with the aim of increasing octane and improving the emission quality of gasoline. The fuel is made from agricultural products, generally corn.

When MFA Oil Co. in Perryville, Mo., began offering E85 18 months ago, it sold 100 gallons per week. Now it sells 1,000 to 1,500 gallons weekly.

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Texas A & M Study: Postponing Renewable Fuel Standards Will Not Reduce Corn Prices
Date Posted: Jun. 24, 2008

Washington, D.C.—Biofuels are needed to help reduce fuel prices, which are the root cause of higher food prices, according to the available evidence.

The Biotechnology Industry Organization today submitted comments to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) opposing Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s (R) request for a waiver of 50 percent of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) mandate for production of ethanol from grain.

BIO President and CEO Jim Greenwood said, “Texas has not demonstrated in its petition to the EPA that the higher costs for corn currently impacting its livestock and agriculture industries are the result of biofuel production.

In fact, Texas’ own study of the problem shows that the soaring cost of oil is the primary cause of higher agricultural costs and food prices and that relaxing the RFS will not lower corn prices.

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Kansas State University's Grain Science and Industry Program to Offer Degree in Biofuels Production and Management
Date Posted: Jun. 25, 2008

Manhattan—The department of grain science and industry at Kansas State University is addressing industry needs by introducing a degree option in biofuels production and management.

"There is a high demand for degrees in plant management or supervision in biofuels," said Fred Fairchild, a professor of grain science and industry.

"We've been made aware of the industry needs and we've adjusted our feed science and management degree to address this."

Starting this fall, students enrolled in the feed science and management program at K-State have the option to focus their majors in either feed production or biofuels production.

The classes offered for the biofuels production degree will cover all principals of processing grains, turning them into fuels and finding uses for the byproducts of the fermentation process.

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Copersucar eyes rise in Brazil ethanol exports

Reuters UK
Wed Jun 25, 2008 12:04am BST

SAO PAULO, June 24 (Reuters) - Brazilian ethanol exports from the center-south could rise this season by at least 50 percent over last year's crop as U.S. demand for the biofuel surges, a top sugar and ethanol trading group said on Tuesday.

Shipments of Brazilian ethanol to the U.S. have become feasible despite a 54-cent-a-gallon import tariff after floods destroyed some of the U.S. corn crop used to make ethanol, driving up the price of both corn and ethanol in the U.S.

"Total exports could reach 4.5 billion to 5 billion liters ... due mainly to the increase in U.S. ethanol prices," said Soren Jensen, international trading manager at Copersucar, one of Brazil's largest sugar and ethanol trading groups.

The South American nation is the world's largest ethanol exporter and the United States is its main customer. Last year the centre-south region, which grows most of the country's cane, exported 3.1 billion liters of ethanol.

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Friday, June 27, 2008

Botanic Energy Resources Make Hot Research Topics
24 June 2008

National Arboretum showcases power plants to fuel the future
By Lea TerhuneStaff Writer

Washington -- Plants used or being considered for renewable energy sources are the featured celebrities at the U.S. National Arboretum, highlighted in a special exhibit during its Bioenergy Awareness Days launched June 21.

“Power Plants” features flora from around the world: field crops, palms, trees and flowering annuals. The 0.4-hectare (one-acre) exhibit aims to educate visitors about the raw materials of biomass.

“We have 21 plants on display here that are currently being used to produce ethanol and biodiesel or have the potential to do so. They range all the way from … traditional crops like corn and barley and soybeans and things that are tropical and subtropical, sugar cane and jatropha and cuphea, and even some unusual plants such as algae,” Arboretum Director Thomas S. Elias said.

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Floods give more fuel to critics of ethanol

As corn prices climb, Texas governor is expected to urge EPA to amend rules
Copyright 2008 Houston Chronicle
June 23, 2008, 10:43PM

Already under siege from many sides, the U.S. ethanol industry is facing further pressures as recent Midwest flooding pushes corn prices to new highs and federal regulators weigh calls to reduce required use of the fuel.

One of the people calling for that is Gov. Rick Perry, who has scheduled a news conference on the subject today in Washington. Fearing the effects of high corn prices on the state's cattle and poultry industries, he has called on the federal government to suspend or reduce its mandate setting minimum levels of ethanol in the nation's fuel supply.

He is expected to urge the Environmental Protection Agency to amend the ethanol requirement this year, citing its damaging impact on Texas' economy. An EPA comment period on the proposal formally ended Monday.

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Meeting stresses benefits of 'green' industry

The News-Gazette (Champaign, IL)
By Noelle McGee
Thursday, June 26, 2008 7:07 AM CDT

DANVILLE – At first, Danville resident Robert Isaac dismissed the notion of "green" jobs, thinking they were nothing more than a fad. Then he heard that a once-idle steel mill in Gary, Ind., had called back 250 laid-off workers to manufacture steel for wind turbines.

"The opportunities are here, and they're growing. We need to be a part of it," said Isaac, a Bunge Milling employee and vice president of United Steelworkers Local 972. "Danville's had a lot of plants shut down. This is a chance to bring jobs back. ... And we can do something good for the environment."

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Illinois Ag Community Is Divided on Ethanol Policy

Prairie Farmer
Josh Flint
June 25, 2008

High grain prices continue to drive a wedge between Illinois grain farmers and pork producers.

At the Illinois Agricultural Legislative Roundtable, the Illinois Pork Producers' Association voiced its opposition to current ethanol policy. The comments came after Adam Nielsen, Illinois Farm Bureau director of issue management, discussed the recent showdown between ethanol and the Grocery Manufacturer's Association.

Phil Borgic, president of IPPA, says the organization first became concerned when the Renewable Fuels Standard was passed in 2005.

"The mandates and subsidies were coming too fast," Borgic notes. "When 70% of your cost is feedstuffs and that has doubled in the past 18 months, that's a big change."

Borgic's heard of large pork producers who have reduced sow herds by 10% in the last 18 months as a result of corn costs. He says the blender's credit and ethanol tariff have created an unfair marketplace in the hunt for corn.

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Abandoned Farmlands Are Key To Sustainable Bioenergy

Science Daily

ScienceDaily (June 24, 2008) — Biofuels can be a sustainable part of the world's energy future, especially if bioenergy agriculture is developed on currently abandoned or degraded agricultural lands, report scientists from the Carnegie Institution and Stanford University. Using these lands for energy crops, instead of converting existing croplands or clearing new land, avoids competition with food production and preserves carbon-storing forests needed to mitigate climate change.

Sustainable bioenergy is likely to satisfy no more than 10% of the demand in the energy-intensive economies of North America, Europe, and Asia. But for some developing countries, notably in Sub-Saharan Africa, the potential exists to supply many times their current energy needs without compromising food supply or destroying forests.

Elliot Campbell, Robert Genova, and Christopher Field of the Carnegie Institution's Department of Global Ecology, with David Lobell of Stanford University, estimated the global extent of abandoned crop and pastureland and calculated their potential for sustainable bioenergy production from historical land-use data, satellite imaging, and ecosystem models. Agricultural areas that have been converted to urban areas or have reverted to forests were not included in the assessment.

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Obama's Evolving Ethanol Rhetoric

By Alec MacGillis

Given that energy appears likely to be a dominant issue in this election season, Barack Obama's campaign may want to settle on a more consistent message when it comes to subsidies for ethanol, the corn-based alternative fuel that is hailed by some as a key resource in weaning America off foreign oil and forestalling global warming but lambasted by others as a wasteful boondoggle that is driving up food prices.

Since entering the Senate in 2005, Obama has been a staunch supporter of ethanol -- he justified his vote for for the Bush Administration's 2005 energy bill, which was favorable to the oil industry, on the grounds that it also contained subsidies for ethanol and other forms of alternative energy, and he has sought earmarks for research projects on ethanol and other biofuels in his home state of Illinois, the second-highest corn-producing state after Iowa.

Obama's support for ethanol is shared by many farm state senators (even Hillary Clinton came around after an ethanol industry took root in upstate New York) but it contrasts sharply with John McCain, who has for years been so critical of the subsidies that he decided not to compete in the 2000 Iowa caucuses.

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McCain proposes $300 million car battery contest
June 23, 2008 1:27 PM PDT

Presumed Republican presidential nominee John McCain on Monday proposed a $300 million prize to develop a car battery that will "leapfrog" today's plug-in hybrids.

In an energy policy speech at Fresno State University in California, McCain also called for an overhaul to existing policies that favor domestic ethanol production--one of the biggest differences he has with his expected opponent, Senator Barack Obama.

McCain said that, if elected, his administration would issue a Clean Car Challenge that would give give a $5,000 tax credit to people who purchase "zero-emissions cars."

There would be a sliding scale so that vehicles, regardless of type, with lower carbon dioxide emissions will have larger tax credits.

His $300 million car battery prize is meant to spur creativity among automakers to make energy-efficient products.

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Florida, Osceola play role in ethanol-fuel research

Orlando Sentinel
Eleanor Foerste Special To The Sentinel
June 22, 2008

You may have noticed signs at the gas station to alert you to the ethanol content of our fuel. Soon, all stations in Florida will be required to convert to 10 percent ethanol.

This move is not to support farmers. It is to reduce our dependence on foreign oil as well as reduce carbon dioxide, particulate matter and other atmospheric pollution that is harmful to our health and contributes to global warming.

Ethanol is 100 percent (200 proof) alcohol produced from distilling sugars from some type of organic matter. The first organic sources were corn. Small amounts of gasoline are required to be added to make ethanol unsafe to drink.

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UH (Hawaii) tests ethanol waste as animal feed

Star Bulletin (Hawaii)

Research at the University of Hawaii could hold the key to turning a profit in producing ethanol fuel from sugar cane in Hawaii.

The research involves a method to turn a waste product called vinasse into fish or cattle feed that could be sold to local fish farms and ranches.

Hawaiian Commercial and Sugar Co. says the results could help determine whether the company goes into ethanol production here.

The ethanol fermentation process produces 10 to 15 gallons of vinasse, said Lee Jakeway, director of energy development for the sugar company. "We really don't have a good solution for it now. That's been holding us back from moving forward with ethanol production."

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Ethanol from rice straws

The Manilla Times (Phillipines)
Sunday, June 22, 2008

By Rony V. Diaz

THE experiment by three researchers at the Ateneo de Manila University has deepened our understanding of the sequence of biochemical reactions that lead to the production of ethanol.
On May 20, 2008, Crisanto Lopez, the team’s adviser, told The Manila Times that the extraction of ethanol from rice straws solves the food versus biofuel conundrum.

Miguel Angelo Vicente, Dulce Marie Romea and Jose Maria Villamor used three microorganisms to break down the lignin, to produce cellulase and to ferment it into ethanol.

“The results,” they said, “were compared to the results of a control set-up which simulated the procedure . . . in industrial ethanol production.”

Their paper has still to be published in a refereed journal.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Kudzu could be the next biofuel
Cox News Service
Published on: 06/19/08

WASHINGTON — It has caused the southeast millions in property and crop damage, but a researcher in Canada and colleagues at the U.S. Department of Agriculture say the invasive kudzu vine could be an important new source of bioethanol.

Their findings come at a time when experts are rethinking whether corn is best suited for ethanol production as a biofuel alternative to gasoline. The rise in ethanol demand has prompted concerns over food supply shortages, which in turn have contributed to considerable spikes in food prices worldwide.

Rowan Sage, one of eight authors whose study was published recently in Biomass & Bioenergy.
The plant is a fast-growing, woody vine that can grow up to 60 feet in one season. Its underground roots, around the diameter of an adult forearm, store plenty of starch essential for ethanol production. Kudzu exists mostly in the southeast but is native to China and Japan, where the starchy roots have long been used for cooking and thickening sauces.

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Crop Devastation Nears $3 Billion

Wallaces Farmer
Rod Swoboda
June 23, 2008

Flood damage to Iowa crops is between $2.5 and $3 billion, according to an estimate made Friday by Iowa officials. "The devastation is unbelievable," says Craig Lang, president of the Iowa Farm Bureau.

Lang, along with Iowa Lt. Governor Patty Judge and nine other Iowa ag officials and leaders of commodity groups, took a four-hour helicopter tour Friday June 20. The ride gave them a bird's eye view of the agricultural damage caused by record flooding in the eastern half of the state.

The farm leaders flew from Des Moines to Mason City, Cedar Rapids and Burlington in an Iowa National Guard Black Hawk helicopter. It's the first step in assessing the damage suffered by Iowa farmers and agribusiness firms from the state's widespread floods. The losses include damage done by flooding of corn, soybean and hay crops and to pastures.

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USDA "Power Plants" Exhibit Opens at National Arboretum

By Ann Perry
June 20 , 2008

WASHINGTON, June 20--A living outdoor exhibit showcasing a range of existing and potential bioenergy crops opens on June 21 at the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington, D.C.

Arboretum visitors will be able to stroll through a well-tended garden and learn more about the 21 plants on display, which include field crops, palms, trees, flowering annuals and algae. Interpretive materials will provide information about how each plant can be used for biofuel production. This one-acre exhibit is the first of its kind in a U.S. botanical garden.

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U.S., Brazil, EU Speed Up Standardizing Ethanol, Official Says
By Carlos Caminada

June 20 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S., Brazil and the European Union are accelerating efforts to create global standards for ethanol and make the alternative fuel an internationally traded commodity, boosting its use, an American official said.

Government and industry leaders discussing the plan may finish standardizing methods for analyzing ethanol properties such as water and energy content by December, four years ahead of schedule, the U.S. State Department's Gregory Manuel said. Next, the group will begin to set content standards, he said.

``The U.S., Brazil and EU have agreed to fast-track the process,'' Manuel, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's special adviser for alternative energy, said in an interview in Sao Paulo yesterday. ``What we've achieved so far could have taken several years and we did it in several months.''

The standards will let buyers and sellers worldwide trade ethanol like gasoline, oil, copper, sugar and other commodities, boosting the fuel's use, Manuel said. Currently, a buyer in Sweden has to send engineers to mills in Brazil to test the fuel before buying it to sell to drivers of flex-fuel Saabs and Volvos in the Nordic country, he said.

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US House bill would to cut ethanol import tariff

Reuters UK
Fri Jun 20, 2008 8:03pm BST
By Tom Doggett

WASHINGTON, June 20 (Reuters) - Two U.S. House lawmakers introduced legislation this week that would lower the U.S. tariff on ethanol imports, boosting supplies of the fuel additive and hopefully lower gasoline prices for consumers.

The bill would reduce the ethanol import tariff from 54 cents per gallon to 45 cents, bringing the tariff in line with U.S. ethanol blending subsidies, which a new farm law lowered to 45 cents per gallon from 51 cents.

The measure's sponsors, Democratic Reps. Mark Udall and Ed Perlmutter, both from Colorado, said the higher tariff would restrict supplies and increase the price of fuel.

"This bill opens the door to lower fuel prices in the short term and promotes the growth of alternative sources of fuel for the long term," said Perlmutter.

The legislation would also require the Energy and Commerce Departments to report to Congress on how even deeper cuts in the tariff would affect fuel prices and domestic ethanol production.

Similar legislation was introduced in the Senate earlier this month.

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Scandinavia's approach to alt-energy

The Cities Business Review (Michigan)
by Chris Schilling
Thursday June 19, 2008, 9:45 AM

I just returned from a Scandinavian alternative energy tour that was organized by the U.S. Department of Commerce. The tour included a day at the World Bioenergy Congress where alternative energy technology developers from around the world showcased their latest products.

I was astonished to see so many creative inventions resulting in mature business clusters that, in the U.S., are either unheard of or in their infancy.

This business growth is no surprise, given that (1) European energy prices have been much higher than in the U.S. for some time; and (2) European government incentives routinely spawn research and commercialization of inventions in many different areas of alternative energy including advanced batteries, wind turbines, solar cells, tidal power, biomass fuel, cellulosic bioethanol, biogas, biodiesel, and geothermal energy. U.S. inventors have some catching up to do.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Company abandons plans for Illinois ethanol plants
Associated Press 06.18.08, 4:14 PM ET

A Tennessee company has abandoned plans to build up to seven ethanol plants across Illinois.

Heartland Ethanol spokesman Mike Craig said Tuesday's decision was based on the high price of corn, which is the main ingredient in ethanol. He also said the company had a tough time borrowing money to build.

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Ethanol policy boosts food costs, study finds

Columbia Tribune (Missouri)
By T.J. GREANEY of the Tribune’s staff
Published Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A new study by the University of Missouri’s Food and Agriculture Policy Research Institute shows that in biofuels, federal policy is the puppet master with power to manipulate the economy with market interventions such as subsidies, tariffs and mandates.

"Federal involvement in agriculture has waxed and waned over the decades, and the nature of the involvement has changed," said Pat Westhoff, co-director of FAPRI. "Most of our basic crop and livestock support measures today have less impact" than in past decades, but "biofuel policies are much more important now than even three years ago."

A new report co-authored by Westhoff and other MU researchers puts biofuel policy on center stage. It predicts that between 2011 and 2017, corn prices will rise 16 percent more than they would in a purely free-market economy without ethanol tariffs or tax credits for ethanol producers.

Eyes on the North: Canada Ramps Up Bioenergy Activity

BioMass Magazine - July 2008
By Crystal Luxmore

When the 77-person Canadian delegation stepped off the plane in Sweden, they knew they were in bioenergy country. “The whole Arlanda airport is heated with biomass,” says Paul Smallman, a woodlot owner from Prince Edward Island. Like many Canadian delegates on the trade mission to World Bioenergy 2008, the largest biomass conference in the world, Smallwood went to Sweden with a mission: to learn from the best, network and turn the experience into a viable renewable energy business back home. “The wood and forestry sector is going broke by relying on conventional markets,” he says. “I want to set up a small pellet plant and use large wood-burning furnaces to make renewable heat and power and sell it to local people in [Prince Edward Island]. Scandinavians are leading the bioenergy industry, and I wanted to learn from the best.”

The Canadian Bioenergy Association organized and led a 42-member trade mission from six of the country’s 10 provinces. Another 35 independent Canadian delegates also attended the May event held in Jönköping, Sweden. Participants came from the across the bioenergy sector, including forest owners, biomass-rich communities, researchers and technology providers. Everyone was there for the same reason: to do business. “Our international colleagues knew we meant business when Canada brought the largest delegation to the World Bioenergy event,” says CANBIO President Doug Bradley.

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Industry assesses impact of EISA, farm bill

BioDiesel Magazine - July 2008
By Hope Deutscher

Industry experts and suppliers are discussing the impacts that federal mandates in the Energy Independence & Security Act of 2007 are having on the renewable fuels industry.

The renewable fuels standard in EISA mandates 600 million gallons of advanced biofuel consumption, including biodiesel, in 2009. During a DTN-hosted webcast on the topic in late April, Sherri Cabrera, director of legislative affairs for the Petroleum Marketers Association of America, said the association is specifically concerned about biodiesel pump labeling requirements that will be put into place by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission in June. For pumps containing less than 5 percent biomass-based diesel blends (including but not exclusive to biodiesel) and meeting the ASTM D 975 diesel specifications, there are no new labeling requirements. However, B5 to B20 blends will be labeled “contains biomass-based diesel” or “biodiesel in quantities between 5 percent and 20 percent.” Blends above B20 will be labeled “contains more than 20 percent biomass-based diesel or biodiesel.”

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India strives for alternative bioenergy resources
18 June 2008 02:43 [Source: ICIS news]

SAN DIEGO (ICIS news) -- India is pushing forward with a massive shift from a fossil-fuel driven economy to an alternative energy-driven economy using biotechnology, Indian government and industry officials said on Tuesday.

“Alternative energy is a dire imperative for us, and it is cost, not green technology, that is the driver,” said K V Subramaniam, president and CEO of Reliance Life Sciences, a major biofuels player in India said at the 2008 Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) International Convention in San Diego, USA.

Energy demand in India is approximately 315 MTOE (million tonne oil equivalent) and is projected to grow 8 times that much to the year 2030. The economy is essentially based on diesel fuel, 75% of which is imported.

“We must increase the proportion of blended-in ethanol. We have already achieved a 5% blending, and we intend to achieve a 10% blending,” said N S Samant, joint secretary of India’s Department of Biotechnology.

India’s bioethanol is mainly derived from molasses from the sugarcane plant, whose crop yield the agricultural sector is looking to increase. Authorities are also looking at increasing the production of biodiesel from the Jatropha plant and other sources.

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INTERVIEW-More incentives needed for cellulosic ethanol

Reuters UK
Mon Jun 16, 2008 11:20pm BST

By Carey Gillam
SAN DIEGO, June 16 (Reuters) - The U.S. government needs to ante up more in loan guarantees to convince lenders to back commercial development of cellulosic ethanol, Verenium Corp Chairman Carlos Riva said on Monday.

Riva said the 5-year U.S. farm law enacted last month was a good start in boosting cellulosic technology, which aims to produce large quantities of ethanol for fuel from switchgrass, crop residues and other plant cellulose wastes. Ethanol in the United States is now mostly made from corn.

The new farm law provides $320 million in loan guarantees for the next two years for construction of cellulosic refineries. But an additional $150 million may be allocated if lawmakers are able to find the funding.

But Riva said a moderately sized plant costs more than $150 million, so more guarantees are needed if the fledgling industry is to meet a renewable fuel standard goal of producing 16 billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol by 2022.

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Monday, June 23, 2008

McCain blasts corn subsidies, backs larger Security Council

USA Today
Posted6/15/2008 6:35 PM

SAO PAULO, Brazil (AP) — U.S. presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain supports ending subsidies for U.S. ethanol production and would back Brazil's inclusion on an expanded United Nations Security Council, a Brazilian newspaper reported Sunday.

In comments published by the Estado de S. Paulo newspaper, McCain also said he would support Brazil's addition to the Group of Eight industrialized nations and lauded the nation's drive to find clean energy sources.

The United States has "committed a series of errors in not adopting a sustainable energy policy," McCain was quoted as saying. "One of those is the subsidies for ethanol from corn."

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K-state engineer researching how sorghum can meet the need for ethanol in agricultural regions where corn's potential is nearly exhausted
June 13, 2008
By Donghai Wang
MANHATTAN, KS - Corn is the key grain crop used in the production of fuel ethanol in the United States. As demand for ethanol has increased, so has construction of new ethanol facilities.

But in some areas of the Corn Belt, concentration of these facilities is reaching near saturation relative to the volume of corn grain available. Statistics show that if the entire 2007 corn crop had gone for ethanol production, it still would have only met less than 17 percent of U.S. energy needs.

That's why Donghai Wang, associate professor of biological and agricultural engineering at Kansas State University, is researching how sorghum might solve this problem. Funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a U.S. Department of Transportation SunGrant, the Kansas Sorghum Commission and the K-State Agricultural Experiment Station, Wang's current research is threefold.

He is investigating sorghum as a viable renewable resource for biofuels, as well as developing a comprehensive understanding and utilization of sorghum stover and forage sorghum for ethanol production. He's also researching the use of sweet sorghum for ethanol production.

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Grassley: Too early to change biofuel policies
By PHILIP BRASHER • • June 17, 2008

Washington, D.C. — Sen. Charles Grassley says it’s too early in the year to consider rolling back biofuels incentives to soften the economic impact of high crop prices.

“You’re going to have this nervousness all through the summer, and you shouldn’t make any decisions like this until you know what the crop is at the end of the harvest season,” said the Iowa Republican.

Corn and soybean prices already were at historic highs before skyrocketing this month as flooding destroyed crops across Iowa and other Midwest states.

The first indication of the extent of the damage will come June 30, when the Agriculture Department releases its annual survey of what farmers have planted. USDA’s first survey-based forecast of the fall harvest will come in August.

Suspending tax credits for biofuels or temporarily waiving the ethanol usage mandate would discourage investment in the industry, he said.

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Midwest flooding adds to farmers' woes

Livestock owners under threat; five U.S. ethanol plants forced to shut

MSNBC News Services
updated 8:42 p.m. CT, Fri., June. 13, 2008

Flooding in the Midwest has damaged thousands of acres of cropland at a time when corn prices are already at record highs and Americans are stretching their grocery budgets.

Storms this week have inundated fields in Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin and other states where much of the world’s food is grown. The flooding also threatens livestock owners, who depend on the grain to feed their herds, and has forced the closures of five ethanol plants.

The flooding comes after a wet, damp spring that brought planting delays — which often translate into lower yields — and has pushed corn prices to a record near $8 per bushel, nearly double last year’s price.

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US Govt's Options In Potential Corn Crisis Limited
6/16/2008 5:59:00 PM

WASHINGTON (Dow Jones)--Concerns are mounting quickly that a sharp drop in U.S. corn production this year could create far tighter supplies than expected, and the government has few options in averting a potential crisis pitting the ethanol industry against livestock producers in a bidding war that would further drive up corn prices.

Extremely wet weather and flooding in the Midwest is taking a sharp toll on corn production, although the full extent of the damage is still unknown as many farmers wait to see if conditions will dry up enough in time to plant.

Just last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture lowered its 2008 corn production forecast to 11.7 billion bushels, roughly 3% less than the May forecast. The new 2008 estimate is about 10% below what farmers harvested last year, when acreage was significantly larger.

Government intervention seems likely, according to a report this week by Citi Investment Research, but that may have to come from Congress because Bush administration officials, unlike the the food manufacturing and livestock industries, don't yet seem worried.

Asked if there was anything the USDA could do if corn production estimates continued to fall, Deputy Secretary Chuck Conner suggested there was, but wouldn't comment on details. "I'm not going to speculate on our other options because of market sensitivity," Conner told Dow Jones Newswires.

"It's way too early to begin getting out there bouncing options off the wall, hitting the panic button." If the USDA does decide it needs to act, though, officials there are going to have to get "creative," Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer told Dow Jones Newswires.

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Friday, June 20, 2008

Alabama plant to begin producing ethanol from waste wood

The Birmingham News

Alabama plant will use special process to turn useless sawdust and scrap timber into ethanol
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
THOMAS SPENCER News staff writer

LIVINGSTON - In a cavernous, abandoned lumber mill in the Black Belt, a small team of engineers and technicians is assembling a demonstration plant that, as early as this month, will start turning wood scraps into ethanol.

The plant would be one of the first in the country to use a technology called gasification on wood waste. Most ethanol and biodiesel plants use fermentation to turn soybeans or corn into fuel.

If the plant runs as advertised, the company - Gulf Coast Energy - plans to expand on the site with a $90 million commercial-scale plant, which it says will be capable of producing 45 million gallons of ethanol a year.

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USDA Official Supports Ethanol

By Pork news staff (Thursday, June 12, 2008)

Referring to the nation’s priority to reduce foreign energy dependence, Thomas Dorr, USDA Under Secretary of Rural Development says, “Unless we fully address the energy price structure that’s impacting agriculture at the same time we address the corn and protein price structure it’s an incomplete approach.” Dorr says that the current price pressure on corn is not solely the result of ethanol production, but also the world’s desire for better dietary standards and record corn exports.

“The overall increase in food prices is about 4.5 percent and, at most, 10 percent of that increase is being driven by ethanol. The component that is really driving the (corn and food price) increase is the high cost of energy,” Dorr says.

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E.U. Rethinking Biofuels Usage

Energy Tribune
Posted on Jun. 12, 2008

Public backlash over environmental concerns and rising food costs will likely force the European Commission to delay, or perhaps even reverse, its target of using biofuels to supply 10 percent of its transport needs by 2020.

The target, set last year and ratified earlier this year, is critical to the E.U.’s goals of cutting its emissions. Biofuels were also seen as a way to address energy supply concerns. But the E.U. has been forced to change its tune due to soaring food prices and increasing reports that biofuels may be more harmful than fossil fuels, in terms of greenhouse gases.

Oil accounts for 98 percent of the E.U.’s transport needs, and more than two-thirds of its oil supplies are imported. The transport sector is also responsible for about 22 percent of the block’s total greenhouse gas emissions. Biofuels were to be a key element of Europe’s plan to meet its binding target of cutting its G.H.G. emissions by 20 percent by 2020. It has also set a goal of getting 20 percent of its energy with renewable sources.

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Ethanol focus turns to efficiency

By Tim Hoskins, Iowa Farmer Today

While the ethanol industry was building plants at a rapid pace in the past few years, the attention has turned to improving the efficiency of plants.

The current state of the ethanol industry is difficult on plants’ margins, says Tom Branhan, board president of the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council (EPIC).

Bill Becker, CEO of Lifeline Foods in St. Joseph, Mo., agrees. He says the profits for ethanol plants are not what they were a couple years ago.However, they say the industry is still making money.

Branhan, also an official with Glacial Lakes Energy in Watertown, S.D., says the lower profit margins are due to the perceived glut of ethanol coming on the market.

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Biodiesel backers rally around movie

The Seattle Times

By Seattle Times business staff
Rami Grunbaum, deputy business editor, and Seattle Times Business staff

Biofuels derived from agricultural products are currently under fire amid rising food prices and doubts about their environmental benefits. But this week, area biodiesel enthusiasts will fight back — at the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF).

"Fields of Fuel", a documentary advocating the wider adoption of biodiesel, will screen at the Harvard Exit theater on Capitol Hill on Wednesday at 7 p.m. and Thursday at 4.30 p.m. Director Josh Tickell is scheduled to attend both showings of what the SIFF catalog calls a "fiercely populist" film.

Local biofuel lovers will also join biodiesel car caravans ending at the Harvard Exit on Tuesday, and before the Wednesday screening.

Read the full story

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Trash-to-ethanol plan begs questions


June 15, 2008
By Erik Potter Post-Tribune staff writer

Garbage-to-ethanol has been touted as the alternative to landfills, to foreign oil, the solution to global warming and the answer for municipalities fearful of going broke under new state caps on property taxes.

But can it deliver on those expectations? Does it offer answers to not just Lake County's, but the nation's, waste, fuel and global warming dilemmas?

The answers are mixed and to a large extent unanswered.

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Ethanol hits a turning point as corn prices soar

Rising costs squeeze profits
Updated: 06/15/08 6:57 AM

HENNEPIN, Ill. — When Mark Marquis started building his $180 million ethanol plant along the Illinois River, turning corn into fuel seemed like a license to print money. Ethanol enjoyed the unflinching support of the federal government, making it the preferred alternative to foreign oil.
But as Marquis Energy recently loaded its first batch of fuel onto a barge, ethanol refiners found themselves facing a vicious backlash.

Corn climbed past $6 a bushel in the past year, threatening to expose plants to losses as ethanol failed to match that increase. Rising food prices led Congress to consider halting its aggressive promotion of ethanol. And Wall Street is brutally punishing the few publicly traded players, as investments in new refineries begin to slow.

“We have a modest margin at this point, enough to stay in business,” Marquis said. “But there’s not enough margin to encourage the construction of any new ethanol plants. The investors want a significant margin, not a modest one.”

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Dallas gas station goes green as biodiesel ecovenience store

WFAA Dallas-Ft. Worth Channel 8
03:21 PM CDT on Tuesday, June 10, 2008
By AARON CHIMBEL / WFAA Mobile Journalist

DALLAS -- Take one part Whole Foods Market, one part 7-Eleven, mix in a bit of Carl's Corner and put it on a busy street near White Rock Lake and you have the Green Spot.

"Very surprised. I didn't expect this at all here," says customer Rod Stasick. "Usually you go into a place and it has a lot of junk food and there's not any junk food in here at all."

Most convenience stores don't have fair trade organic coffee, compostable corn cups to fill-up with natural soda, among a vast selection of health food.

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Midwest Floods Push Grain Prices Higher, Weigh on Ethanol

Posted by Truth About Trade & Technology
Monday, 16 June 2008

The Wall Street Journal
Original Publish Date: June 14, 2008

The effects of flooding in the Midwest are rippling across and beyond the Great Plains, striking at the ethanol industry, hog farmers, pork producers and even catfish farms as grain prices continue to soar.

Cities in Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois and Missouri sandbagged levees to keep them from bursting and urged residents to seek higher ground. River levels in some places have surpassed records set during a flood in 1993, considered the worst in recent history.

The entire state of Iowa is experiencing flood conditions, according to the Army Corps of Engineers. In Cedar Rapids, population 124,000, a railroad bridge collapsed, 3,000 homes were evacuated and a downtown hospital had to be evacuated. Experts say Iowa's Cedar River could crest above 30 feet -- more than 10 feet higher than its crest of 19.27 feet in 1993. Heavy rains are expected to continue across the Midwest at least through Monday, though drier, sunnier weather is forecast next week.

The flooding threatens to wipe out farms' crops of corn or soybeans, and this has pushed prices to record levels. On the Chicago Board of Trade Friday, corn prices hit a new record high of $7.3175 a bushel, while soybeans traded near record highs, closing at $15.60. Corn prices have climbed about 10% in the past week, threatening to put further upward pressure on food prices that have been climbing for a year.

Read the full story

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Corn gains on concerns over flood-damaged crops

3:30 PM CDT, June 17, 2008

NEW YORK - Corn prices climbed higher Tuesday, staying in record territory after the government said flooding had swallowed nearly 10 percent of corn crops in Iowa, the largest U.S. grower.

Other commodities traded mixed, with crude oil, silver and copper falling and wheat and soybeans moving higher.

Devastating flooding in the Midwest has taken a toll on corn, with 12 percent of the U.S. crop -- or about 3 million acres -- in poor to very poor condition, up from 9 percent last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said in its weekly crop progress report."It's a big number. Having 3 million acres in poor condition sure hurts the national yield," said Jason Ward, analyst with Northstar Commodity in Minneapolis.

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Planting begins on switchgrass research site

Plugging in: Friday, June 13, 2008
Bob Tippee


ARDMORE — Planting began this week on the world's largest stand of switchgrass devoted to cellulosic ethanol production.

In Guymon in the state's Panhandle, the 1,000-acre site is a primary research project of the Oklahoma Bioenergy Center, a state initiative championed by Gov. Brad Henry. The site will provide production-scale demonstration fields for cellulosic energy crops, such as switchgrass and forage sorghum, to contribute to the Oklahoma and U.S. bioenergy efforts.

This switchgrass site will be the first of its size anywhere in the world focused on biomass production. Additional acreage of forage sorghum and switchgrass will be planted near Chickasha (150 acres) and Maysville (150 acres) in central Oklahoma.

Switchgrass is a perennial grass that is naturally drought resistant and grows on marginal lands.

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Mexico eyes more sugar cane for ethanol
Thu Jun 12, 2008 5:23pm EDT

By Mica Rosenberg and Adriana Barrera

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico's agriculture minister is pushing sugar growers to increase the total area planted with cane by up to 13 percent between now and 2012 to provide material for ethanol production.

Alberto Cardenas told Reuters in an interview on Thursday that farmers should aim to plant up to 100,000 more hectares of sugar cane across the country to reach the ministry's long-term goal of producing over 800 million liters of ethanol annually.

"We have almost 30 million hectares of land ready for planting and we are only using between 22 and 22.5 million of it," said the minister.

Some of the unused land could also be planted with corn, as food prices skyrocket on international markets, he said.

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According to New U.S. Department of Agriculture Study, Corn-Based Ethanol Only Accounts for 3% of Recent Increase in Global Food Prices
Date Posted: Jun. 12, 2008

The claims that corn-based ethanol is responsible for increased commodity prices affecting U.S. food companies are biased and ill-informed. In a time when we are all looking for solutions to rising food prices, ethanol has become the easy scapegoat.

The United States Department of Agriculture released data in May showing that ethanol is not a major contributor to rising global food costs. In reality, the total global increase in corn-based ethanol production accounts for only about three percent of the recent increase in global food prices, according to facts from the Council of Economic Advisors.

Many other factors are influencing food prices, including; expected high foreign economic growth, export restrictions, higher food marketing and transportation costs, and drought, to name a few. But the primary driver that has caused a ripple effect throughout the global economy is skyrocketing energy costs.

With record high fuel prices and crude oil trading at more than $135 a barrel, the cost of growing, harvesting and transporting food has increased exponentially. The energy costs faced by U.S. growers and truckers as they fuel machinery, tractors, and semi trucks is directly related to the cost of food at the retail level.

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Illinois Soybean Farmers and Illinois Department of Transportation Team Up to Increase Biodiesel Awareness

Date Posted: Jun. 10, 2008

BLOOMINGTON, IL—This summer, Illinois fuel users will find out what Illinois soybean farmers have been saying for years, biodiesel is good for their engines. With biodiesel set to be labeled at Illinois pumps on July 1, the Illinois Soybean Association is helping diesel users take notice of this American grown fuel and the benefits it has for your engine.

“Biodiesel has been on the scene for more than ten years and has billions of miles under its belt,” said David Hartke, chairman of the Illinois Soybean Association and soybean grower from Teutopolis, IL. “Made from renewable feedstocks like soybeans, biodiesel is helping fuel America, while leaving the protein of soybeans to feed the world.”

Soybeans, which are made of roughly 80 percent protein and 20 percent oil, can be used for both oil and feed consumption purposes.

Soybean farmers aren’t the only ones taking note of biodiesel’s renewable qualities. The Illinois Department of Transportation already runs B5 (5 percent biodiesel, 95 percent petroleum diesel) in their engines, and plans to showcase biodiesel on their 1,500 diesel vehicles via bumper stickers from the Illinois Soybean Association.

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Human cost of Brazil's biofuels boom

The country is a key producer of ethanol. Many of those cutting the sugar cane used to make the fuel are said to endure primitive conditions.
By Patrick J. McDonnell, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer June 16, 2008

BOCAINA, BRAZIL -- For as far as the eye can see, stalks of sugar cane march across the hillsides here like giant praying mantises. This is ground zero for ethanol production in Brazil -- "the Saudi Arabia of biofuels," as some have already labeled this vast South American country.

But even as Brazil's booming economy is powered by fuel processed from the cane, labor officials are confronting what some call the country's dirty little ethanol secret: the mostly primitive conditions endured by the multitudes of workers who cut the cane.

Biofuels may help reduce humanity's carbon footprint, but the social footprint is substantial.

"These workers should have a break, a place to eat and access to a proper restroom," Marcus Vinicius Goncalves, a government labor cop in suit and tie, declared in the midst of a snarl of felled stalks and bedraggled cane cutters here. "This is degrading treatment."

More than 300,000 farmworkers are seasonal cane cutters in Brazil, the government says. By most accounts, their work and living conditions range from basic to deplorable to outright servitude.

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To Beer! The Cause of, and Solution to, All Life’s Problems!

New York Times Political Blog
June 13, 2008, 11:53 am
By Leslie Wayne

Beer-powered cars.

That is what Molson Coors Brewing Company will be providing to the political elite at the Democratic National Convention in Denver in August. Beer, it turns out, can be turned into ethanol and used to fuel cars. This alternative source will be on display at the convention, which is trying to promote its green bona fides.

There is, of course, the obvious question: Why would anyone want to pour good beer into the tank of a car?

For starters, it’s not actually good beer, but beer that is “lost during packaging or deemed below quality standards,” according to Coors. Since 1996, Coors has been converting this waste beer, as it is called, into ethanol and generating about 3 million gallons of waste-beer ethanol a year.

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Further spike in food costs expected because of Iowa floods

Lost crops could cause a dramatic increase
By Tim Jones
Chicago Tribune correspondent
2:47 PM CDT, June 15, 2008

Get ready for food prices to shoot up again.

Even though disaster assistance workers will have to wait for high water to subside across millions of acres in Iowa before assessing the damage from the state's worst flooding in more than half a century, the numbers linked to lost crops are already coming in, creating their own floodlike pressure on food price inflation.

The bushel price of September corn, which already had reached record levels, jumped another 11 percent last week, fueled in part by news that 10 percent of Iowa's corn crop—about 1.3 million acres—has been lost to flooding or the inability to plant because of poor weather. Soybean losses, according to the Iowa Farm Bureau, are about 20 percent, or about 2 million acres.

It's too soon to say what the price impact will be, according to analysts, but dramatic production cuts in two key commodities increase the likelihood that consumers will be paying more for milk, meat, bread and poultry. Perhaps a lot more.

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Firm to unveil process to allow ethanol plants to add food

KMEG TV (Nebraska)
Associated Press - June 15, 2008 1:35 PM ET

COLWICH, Kan. (AP) - The nation's leading designer of ethanol plants plans to unveil a new technology that would allow processors of corn-based ethanol to produce food for human consumption as well as fuel.

Tomorrow, ICM Incorporated will introduce its advanced food and fuel technology -- a "dry corn fractionation" process that allows the use of the entire corn kernel. The plan calls for the construction of separate facilities at ethanol plants where the dry corn kernel can be separated into its components before it is contaminated in the later ethanol distillation process.

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Monday, June 16, 2008

Harvard and SunEthanol, Inc. announce collaboration to advance biofuels research
June 13, 2008

CAMBRIDGE and AMHERST, Mass. - Harvard University’s Office of Technology Development and SunEthanol, Inc., a biofuels technology company, announced yesterday that they have entered into a new research collaboration agreement to further advance a promising approach for deriving ethanol from biomass.

Under the collaboration, Harvard Medical School researchers will work to develop new genetic strains of a proprietary natural bacterium that SunEthanol is using to convert cellulose into ethanol. SunEthanol is developing the “Q Microbe” – which a member of its team discovered near the Quabbin Reservoir in Central Massachusetts – to produce ethanol from a variety of plentiful biomass feedstocks, including switchgrass, corn stover, wheat straw, sugar cane bagasse, and wood pulp.

Importantly, none of these sources of biomass would be diverted from the food supply, addressing a major limitation to the current use of corn to produce ethanol. In addition, using a microbe to break down cellulose, free fermentable sugars, and convert them to ethanol is an efficient process that promises to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 90% or more over gasoline.

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Domestic Ethanol an Overall Benefit for the Family Budget, According to New Merrill Lynch Report
Date Posted: Jun. 13, 2008

Washington—According to a new analysis by Merrill Lynch Commodity Strategist Francisco Blanch, “retail gasoline prices would be $21/bbl higher, on average, without the incremental biofuel supply.” This translates to a $526 a year savings on gasoline for the average family (1).

Blanch also calculates that U.S. ethanol production has increased corn prices by just 21% since 2004. Because a very small portion of the price of corn is passed through to retail food items, this means ethanol has increased household spending on retail food items by just $15 per year.

According to a wide range of experts, skyrocketing oil prices, increased global demand for meat and grains from China and elsewhere, commodity speculators, the declining value of the dollar and droughts and bad weather account for approximately 80 percent of corn costs.

“By keeping gasoline prices lower than they otherwise would be, ethanol is helping the average American family save about $500 a year, even after accounting for the slight increase in food prices due to higher prices for corn,” said Bob Dinneen, President of the Renewable Fuels Association.

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Ethanol plants shut on record corn price: Citi

Fri Jun 13, 2008 3:35pm BST

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Record corn prices pushed up by flooding in the Midwest have forced five small to mid-sized U.S. ethanol plants to shut and output of the biofuel could be slowed for months, a Citi research note said on Friday.

Storms this week have dumped rain on crop fields across the Midwest, where much of the world's food is grown. Corn prices have shot to a record near $8 per bushel, nearly double last year's price.

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Flooded ethanol industry threatens US mandates

Fri Jun 13, 2008 10:56pm BST
By Timothy Gardner - Analysis

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Floods in the Midwest that have pushed corn prices to record levels have wiped out profits for making U.S. ethanol and threaten to sink production of the fuel below government mandates.

"If it's simply economically impossible to make ethanol. then (the government) may have to amend or suspend the Renewable Fuel Standard," analyst Pavel Molchanov at Raymond James and Associates in Houston said by telephone.

The floods ravaging the corn crop across at least eight states, including Iowa and Illinois, at a time of growing global demand have put another roadblock before the U.S. biofuels policy.

Hoping to wean the country off foreign oil, the Bush administration has boosted incentives and mandates for alternative fuels made from food crops. Many have blamed those steps for lifting food prices at a time of mounting hunger problems.

Corn prices for the new-crop July 2009 corn hit a record near $8 per bushel on Friday, while old-crop also hit a record above $7.

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New Poll Finds 76% of Americans Want Ethanol Law Changed; Voters in the Farm Belt Favor Eliminating or Reducing Corn Ethanol
Date Posted: Jun. 10, 2008

WASHINGTON—Most Americans, including those in the Farm Belt, want Congress to reduce or eliminate the corn ethanol mandate, according to a new poll released June 10 by the National Center for Public Policy Research.

The poll, published by the Public Opinion and Policy Center of the National Center for Public Policy Research, found that 41% of Americans want Congress to repeal the corn ethanol mandate entirely, while 35% want Congress to repeal the law it passed last December to double it. Just 6% want the mandate to increase as planned while 5% want it to be even expanded further.

"With grocery prices up 1.5% in April alone, or 18% on an annualized basis, Americans aren't in the mood for anything that would push food prices up even further," said David A. Ridenour, vice president of the National Center for Public Policy Research. "While there are multiple reasons for food price increases, diverting one-third of the U.S. corn crop to produce fuel rather than food is a significant factor and the American people know it."

The survey found a majority in the Farm Belt want Congress to change the ethanol policy. Twenty-five percent want it repealed entirely while 30% want it reduced.

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Friday, June 13, 2008

Ethanol executive still is fired up about fuel alternative

Sacramento Bee (CA)

By Dale Kasler -
Published 12:17 am PDT Sunday, June 8, 2008
Story appeared in MAIN NEWS section, Page A1

So there he was, Neil Koehler, Mr. Ethanol from Sacramento, getting pounded again in front of a national cable TV audience.

In a combative five-minute interview in April on business channel CNBC, anchor Dylan Ratigan blamed Koehler and the rest of the ethanol industry for soaring food prices ("Tortillas are twice what they were in Mexico City! Pasta is twice what it was in Rome!"). He badgered Koehler, interrupted him and mangled his last name (it's "curler").

Koehler calmly held his ground and, in an interview weeks later, insisted these televised beatings are good for ethanol and his company, Sacramento's Pacific Ethanol Inc. The fact that TV's talking heads are picking on ethanol means they're taking it seriously.

"The good news about the bad news is that ethanol is here to stay, and has arrived," Koehler said. "That is why it's obviously getting so much attention."

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Rising Gas Prices, Americans Looking Towards Ethanol
Date Posted: Jun. 10, 2008

OMAHA, NE—A recent national survey commissioned by Ethanol Promotion and Information Council (EPIC) shows the skyrocketing cost of gasoline is forcing American motorists to rethink their driving habits and choices at the pump. The cost of summer driving, with oil prices nearing $140 a barrel, has become an increasing financial burden for many American consumers.

The EPIC survey found 47 percent of those polled stated that a fuel price below $5 a gallon should be the point where fossil fuels are no longer our primary fuel sources. An additional 27 percent of those polled reported that the critical price point lies between $5 and $5.99. America is getting close to the break-point as Sunday, the national average of a gallon of gasoline rose to $4.005, 90 cents higher than a year ago, according to AAA.

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Finding Creativity in Ethanol Project Finance

Ethanol Producer Magazine
July 2008
By Bryan Sims

As consolidation, compressed operating margins and a volatile commodities market continue to persist within a maturing ethanol industry, the traditional financing strategies employed by ethanol plant developers that were effective two to three years ago are rapidly withering.

With the amount of senior debt financing becoming more limited and ethanol developers becoming increasingly hesitant to put forth more equity, the result is a financial hurdle that many plants can’t cross. As a result, more creative finance mechanisms have emerged, one of them being tax-exempt bonds.

Tax-exempt bonds—also known as solid waste bonds—are issued by a municipal, county or state government entity on behalf of developers, whose interest payments aren’t subject to federal income tax. According to John May, managing director of St. Louis-based Stern Brothers & Co., incorporating tax-exempt bonds into ethanol project finance is an effective finance strategy for ethanol developers, depending on the unique circumstances of the project. “The issuance of tax-exempt bonds is an important strategy because the buyers of the bonds, which are typically high-yield mutual funds, are a new source of debt capital and a separate source of debt capital from the banks,” May says. “We think it’s an indispensable part of financing strategy for these ethanol plants in the current market. The ability of commercial banks to continue to provide financing for [greenfield] ethanol plants is limited at this point.”

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Formula 1 Considering A Switch to Ethanol

Wired Blog Network: Autopia
By Chuck Squatriglia June 09, 2008 2:06:53 PM
Categories: Auto Racing, Biofuel, Ethanol

Formula 1, widely considered the pinnacle of automotive engineering but woefully behind in environmentalism, is reportedly considering a switch to ethanol.

The move comes as the sport faces increasing pressure from Max Mosley, the beleaguered president of F1's sanctioning body, to make its cars more energy-efficient and the engineering behind them more relevant to road cars. Given the stratospheric amounts of fossil fuels the sport's 10 teams consume, Mosley and Bernie Ecclestone - who controls F1's business affairs - realize Formula 1 is a target ripe for attack by environmentalists and regulators.

This year, at least 5.75 percent of the fuel burned by F1 cars be renewable, and next year will see the adoption of kinetic energy recovery systems to capture energy generated by the cars' tremendous braking forces.

Now comes word the sport may switch to ethanol.

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Midwest governors voice support for RFS

Brownfield Network
Friday, June 6, 2008, 4:09 PM
by Bob Meyer

The Midwest Governors Association has sent a letter to EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson voicing their support for the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS). The governors say the letter is in response to the Texas request to grant a waiver for RFS.

The letter cited the many benefits of ethanol and took issue with charges the renewable fuel is responsible for high food costs. They state the high price of food is due to a number of factors including high fuel and transportation prices concluding, “Granting any waiver to the RFS will not reduce current food commodity prices.”

The letter goes on to point out that RFS will also help move the ethanol industry to the use of cellulosic materials as a feedstock.The Midwest Governors Association is made up of governors from South Dakota, Michigan, Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, Indiana Wisconsin, Nebraska, North Dakota, Minnesota, Kansas and Ohio.

Read the letter

To see the story

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Food Before Fuel Campaign Launches, Aims to Encourage Congress to Reconsider Food-To- Fuel Policies

Date Posted: Jun. 10, 2008

WASHINGTON—June 10, the Food Before Fuel Campaign - a partnership of more than 20 environmental, retail, hunger, Hispanic and food industry groups - launched a cooperative effort urging Congress to revisit the nation's food-to-fuel policies, a key factor in the growing global food crisis.

Congressional policies mandate the conversion of more than one-third of all U.S. corn to ethanol, with additional subsidies and tariffs further promoting the diversion of food to fuel. Food policy experts broadly agree that these policies have contributed to record food price inflation, and the International Monetary Fund reports that U.S. food-to-fuel policy is responsible for more than 30 percent of food price inflation globally.

According to the Campaign's statement of principles, the members will encourage policymakers to "revisit and restructure policies that have increased our reliance on food as an energy source, and to carefully address how to develop alternative fuels that do not pit our energy needs against affordable food and environmental sustainability."

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New Solvents May Lead to Better Biofuels

Online NewsHour
Posted: May 30, 2008, 4:35 PM ET

Molten salts used as solvents may provide a stepping stone toward cheaper, more environmentally friendly biofuels, researchers said this month.

One of the biggest challenges biofuel producers face is breaking down energy-containing plant material into simple sugars that can be fermented into fuel. It's particularly difficult to break down the tough cellulose in material like wood chips and switchgrass, which could otherwise produce more energy-efficient ethanol than corn.

A majority of ethanol producers use strong chemicals or heat to dissolve the plant material. But molten salts -- also called ionic liquids -- may provide a better alternative, researchers said at an Australian symposium on ionic liquids. The liquids are made up of highly charged atoms called ions, and the forces exerted by those ions make the liquid an ideal solvent.

"Ionic liquids are the enabling technology to 'crack' biomass efficiently and economically," said Robin Rogers, a chemistry professor at the University of Alabama. "This is really the key to any biomass product."

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Biodiesel plan sees a payoff in weeds (Albany, NY)

Albany company gets financing to produce fuel from unwanted plants

By ERIC ANDERSON, Deputy business editor
First published: Friday, June 6, 2008

ALBANY -- Could weeds be the next big source of biodiesel?

An Albany-based startup believes so, and is lining up millions of dollars in financing to construct plants in Fulton, Oswego County, and Hampton, Washington County.

Innovation Fuels Inc. already operates a plant in New York Harbor that makes biodiesel from nonedible oils -- animal fats and used vegetable oils -- producing 40 million gallons a year.

The 1-year-old company also has acquired a biodiesel production facility being developed at the Port of Milwaukee.

But Innovation Fuels also is looking at other plant sources -- mustard seeds, pennycress and camelina -- that could produce the oils for biodiesel, said chief executive John Fox.

"They grow in northern regions, and grow in the shoulder months," he said in a phone interview Thursday. The plants could be interplanted with corn and soybeans, and harvested with the same equipment. "You can do two plantings a year."

Read the full story

Biodiesel backers rally around movie

The Seattle Times: Business & Technology
Sunday, June 8, 2008 - Page updated at 12:00 AM
By Seattle Times business staff
Rami Grunbaum, deputy business editor, and Seattle Times Business staff

Biofuels derived from agricultural products are currently under fire amid rising food prices and doubts about their environmental benefits. But this week, area biodiesel enthusiasts will fight back — at the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF).

"Fields of Fuel", a documentary advocating the wider adoption of biodiesel, will screen at the Harvard Exit theater on Capitol Hill on Wednesday at 7 p.m. and Thursday at 4.30 p.m. Director Josh Tickell is scheduled to attend both showings of what the SIFF catalog calls a "fiercely populist" film.

Local biofuel lovers will also join biodiesel car caravans ending at the Harvard Exit on Tuesday, and before the Wednesday screening.

Read the full story

Cellulosic Ethanol Path is Paved With Various Technologies

Ethanol Producer Magazine
July 2008

In the midst of rising oil prices, the economics of producing cellulosic ethanol are becoming increasingly favorable and several companies are steadfastly moving to commercialize various process technologies. It would be easy to view this development as a race pitting one technology against the other but is that really the case? Is one approach better than another?

By Jessica Ebert

The development of technologies for the production of ethanol from biomass feedstocks such as wood dates back to the years leading into the first two world wars. Germany, in particular, being a land poor in petroleum began developing internal sources of fuel. Much of the country’s war machine, in fact, was powered by locally produced ethanol. The process technology of choice at this time was a biological approach consisting of concentrated or dilute acid hydrolysis to release simple sugars from wood followed by microbial fermentation of those sugars to ethanol. Although pioneered by the German war effort, the United States, Russia and others followed suit, establishing their own wood-to-ethanol plants.

But this was not the only approach to the self-sustaining production of renewable fuels being spearheaded by warring nations. Scientists in coal-rich Germany had been developing a thermochemical process for the conversion of coal into synthesis gas that was subsequently reformed into fuel using a catalyst. This approach, dubbed the Fischer-Tropsch process for its originators, researchers Franz Fischer and Hans Tropsch, was also used in South Africa to produce liquid fuels from coal and natural gas during the years of apartheid.

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Under Secretary Dorr delivers keynote address at CUTC

High Plains/Midwest Ag Journal
By Doug Rich

Ethanol, once the poster child for biofuels, has come under attack recently as food prices rise in this country. In his keynote address at the Corn Utilization & Technology Conference, Thomas Dorr, U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Under Secretary for Rural Development, defended the ethanol industry.

"One would think that with all of the contributions that ethanol has made to this country that it would be celebrated, but in recent weeks we have seen a substantial assault on biofuels," Dorr said.

Dorr said much of the food versus fuel controversy has been orchestrated by a slick public relations campaign funded by the Grocery Manufacturers Association. Unfortunately, this attack has fallen on fertile ground. There are a number of reasons why this attack has been so successful.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Endowed chairs plan has its good points

The Edmund Sun (OK)
Published: June 05, 2008 08:35 pm

EDMOND — T. Boone Pickens’ $100 million academic donation to Oklahoma State University did more than just make history — it also put a public eye on a little-known state funding issue that’s been lurking in the background for several years.

In 1989, state lawmakers agreed to a 1-1 matching program for university endowed professorship chairs. So every time a donor gave to a university’s endowed chair program, the state would match it. At that time, the phenomenal heights of university foundation fundraising machines was completely unforeseen. Certainly no one saw the T. Boone Pickenses of the world coming along to rock the boat.

For several years now, the endowed chairs matching program has been in arrears as the state found other priorities in tight budgets. That problem had ballooned to $116 million before Pickens’ donation and now is at $216 million the state owes because it promised universities it would pay.

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Putting Ethanol on the Offensive

Ethanol Producer Magazine
July 2008
By Toni Nuernberg

December 1776 was a desperate time for George Washington and the American Revolution. The ragtag Continental Army, encamped along the Pennsylvania shore of the Delaware River, was exhausted, demoralized and uncertain of its future.

Washington’s army—after narrowly escaping British troops and retreating into Pennsylvania—was viewed as merely an annoyance soon to be swatted into oblivion like a bothersome bee at a picnic.

2008 may feel like similarly desperate times for the renewable fuels movement and the U.S. ethanol industry. Dogged by naysayers from environmentalists to the oil industry and humanitarian organizations to others within American agriculture, we find our industry accused of causing a global food crisis.

At this point in the American Revolution, Washington recognized he had to do something and quickly. His decision was to attack the British.

The Ethanol Promotion and Information Council, through the Renewable Fuels Now campaign, has followed Washington’s lead, attacking our foes in the food-vs.-fuel war of words.

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New World Bioenergy Association Formed

June 6, 2008
Ontario, Canada []

Aiming to be the global voice for bioenergy and to promote the use of biomass in a sustainable and economical way, the World Bioenergy Association (WBA) has been formed.

Douglas Bradley, President of the Canadian Bioenergy Association (CANBIO) was appointed to represent Canada as a Board Member. Other intended members include the U.S., Australia, Japan, India, Brazil, Sweden and other EU countries.

"Finding the best paths for sustainable biomass use is a global challenge, requiring global solutions," Bradley said. "But the bioenergy industry is fragmented compared to other renewables such as wind and solar power; biomass ranges from animal waste to leftover wood, and end uses range from heat and power to renewable products that can replace synthetic chemicals and plastics...For bioenergy to take off, we need to speak with one voice — this is what the World Bioenergy Association is all about."

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Turning Local Crops into Biodiesel

Story Updated: Jun 5, 2008 at 5:15 PM HDT

By Vanessa Stewart

With the shutdown of many local companies producing milk, fruit and meat, Hawaii is dependent on the mainland to get products.

An EPA grant to conduct research on four local crops to make biodiesel locally hopes to change that--making Hawaii more self-sufficient.

Kukui nut, Coconut, Jatropha and Castor bean are the local crops researchers hope can create large scale production of biodiesel.

"Kukui nut oil has never been made into biodiesel so we don't know if we can meet the quality standards of biodiesel," says Kelly King, Pacific Biodiesel.

Thursday, two machines went to work, showing us just how the oil is produced.

Researchers at the Oceanic Institute use soybeans as a benchmark.

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A grease shortage worries biodiesel makers

At $5 a gallon and competition for feedstock, Oregon's fledgling biodiesel industry could burn out before it ever gets going

The Oregonian
Sunday, June 08, 2008
AMY HSUAN The Oregonian Staff

There's a shortage of fryer grease in America.

Thieves pilfer it by the gallon. Investors wage a bidding war for every golden drop. Add to that the soaring price of soy and canola seed, and you can understand why 26-year-old Libby Rodgers, who hopes to launch a biodiesel company, won't reveal the sources of her blend.

"I don't want to shoot my mouth off," says Rodgers, who collects grease from places around Prineville that she won't name. "I can't say too much about my feedstock. It is just so competitive."

Not long ago, restaurants might have paid Rodgers to haul away their oily dribbles. But with a runaway commodity market and growing friction in the food vs. fuel conflict, secondhand grease has become the diamond of gemstones to biodiesel brewers.

Now, the grease crisis has become just one part of a slippery slope that threatens Oregon's biodiesel bonanza.

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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Henry signs Oklahoma Bioenergy Center funding bill
OKCBusiness Staff

Gov. Brad Henry announced today he signed legislation to ensure continuing funding of the Oklahoma Bioenergy Center.

“Like all Americans, Oklahomans are being hit with skyrocketing prices at the gas pump,” Henry said in a statement. “More than ever before, it is evident that this nation must get serious about sustainable energy and conservation. Fortunately, Oklahoma is ideally suited to take a lead role in biofuels research and development.”

The center, established in 2007, coordinates research and development of biofuels at Oklahoma State University, the University of Oklahoma and Ardmore’s Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation.

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Corn Pipe: Will Falling Ethanol Prices Mean Savings at the Pump?

The Wall Street Journal
June 4, 2008, 11:25 am
Posted by Jeffrey Ball

The Journal’s Ana Campoy reports:
For all the bad rap ethanol’s been getting from politicians and environmentalists, it’s actually helped keep gas prices from going even higher in the past few months.

Refiners have been paying an arm and a leg for crude oil—the main raw material they use to make gasoline. By blending cheaper ethanol into the mix, they make oil-based gasoline go farther. In March, refiners blended 20% more ethanol than in the same month last year, and 7% more in February, according to the latest government data.

That’s not only giving refiners a break, but consumers too.

If ethanol were out of the picture, gas would be more expensive at the pump because refiners would pass on at least part of the higher costs to the consumers.

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World Bioenergy Association forms to promote bioenergy

Ethanol Producer Magazine
June 2008

By Jerry W. Kram
Web exclusive posted June 5, 2008 at 1:31 p.m. CST

The World Bioenergy Association, an organization for the fast growing bioenergy sector, was launched during the World Bioenergy 2008 conference in Jönköping, Sweden.

The new organization’s focus is to be a global voice for bioenergy and promote the use of bioenergy in a sustainable and economically efficient way. The World Bioenergy Association will help develop certification systems to document that fuels are produced in an environmentally sustainable way, and under acceptable working and social conditions. The organization will also promote trade with biofuels and biomass, standardization of fuels, technical development and research.

The organization will represent national and regional bioenergy associations, as well as associated commercial enterprises in the bioenergy field.

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Energy experts: China not to sacrifice food for fuel
2008-06-06 00:13:23

MANILA, June 5 (Xinhua) -- China has no plan to sacrifice food for fuel, the country's energy experts said on Thursday amid controversy over biofuel.

"Food security comes first in China, more important than fuel," said Song Yanqin, a co-drafter of China's national energy strategies, at Asia Clean Energy Forum 2008 sponsored by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in Manila.

"Biofuel," as said in the ADB's publication "Development Asia", has become a new buzz word all over the world, from the Philippines to Brazil, from the United States to the European Union.

Produced from agricultural crops such as maize, palm oil, sugarcane and jatropha, biofuel are used to run factories, power stations and vehicles. Countries that have the right conditions are setting aside millions of hectares of land for new plantations as international demand for prominent biofuel.

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High gas prices and politics push companies toward the ‘holy grail’ of biofuel: cellulosic ethanol.

The race for nonfood biofuel

By Mark Clayton Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / June 4, 2008 edition

Way back in 2006, when gasoline cost just $2.50 a gallon, President Bush called for home-grown biofuels to replace three-quarters of oil imports from the Persian Gulf – or about 72 billion gallons – by 2025.

How to achieve that goal is still a question. Corn-based ethanol production is expected to be 12 billion to 15 billion gallons in coming years.

But with gas now at $4 a gallon and critics hammering corn ethanol for helping to pump up global food prices, it is clear that the holy grail of biofuels – cellulosic ethanol – needs to make its entrance soon.

Driven by a growing political consensus to shift toward nonfood biofuels, the high price of oil, and gains in technology, a flood of public and private investment has poured into the development of cellulosic ethanol.

“Actual marketplace production of cellulosic ethanol is zero – there’s not a gallon being produced [commercially] right now,” says Thomas Foust, biofuels research director at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo. “But with all these plants coming on line … by 2010 or 2011 we will start to see millions of gallons.”

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EU still split on biofuels, decision seen delayed
Tue Jun 3, 2008 5:22pm BST
By Paul Taylor

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union states are so divided on the conditions for producing biofuels made from crops that they are unlikely to reach agreement this week on a set of so-called "sustainability criteria", diplomats say.

A paper circulated by the Slovenian EU presidency before environment ministers meet on Thursday shows member states don't agree on rules to prevent fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel doing more harm than good in fighting climate change.

"There remain important differences of opinion on certain issues," the report said after a working group of experts spent two months trying to define appropriate criteria.

Biofuels have come under attack by many scientists and environmental groups that contend that their production has contributed to food price inflation, depleted rainforests and failed to save substantial greenhouse gas emissions.

The OECD and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation said in a joint report last week that rapidly rising global output of biofuels from food crops over the next decade would boost already soaring agricultural commodity prices.

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Monday, June 9, 2008

USDA chief: 'A lot of concern' about corn crop
By PHILIP BRASHER • • June 5, 2008

Washington, D.C. — Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer said today that he has a "lot of concern" about the nation's weather-battered corn crop.

A steady succession of storms and cool weather in the Midwest slowed planting this spring and has prevented many farmers from replanting fields where crops failed to come up.

"We're trying to do everything we can to deal with it. We're monitoring it closely because it is of concern," Schafer told reporters from Rome, where he was attending a summit on the global food crisis. Worries about the impact of rising grain prices on livestock producers recently led the Agriculture Department to allow grassland in the federal Conservation Reserve Program to be grazed or cut for hay.

Schafer did not say what further the Bush administration might do. The government's options are generally limited. The ethanol usage mandate for refiners could be waived, but economists say that would have a minimal impact on ethanol production because the soaring price of oil would still make it economical to make fuel from corn.

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Food summit fails to agree on biofuels

Julian Borger in Rome
The Guardian,
Friday June 6 2008

World leaders last night ended a summit on the global food crisis without an agreement on biofuels, leaving unadopted a plan to ensure the crops are not produced at the expense of the world's 850 million hungry.

A draft declaration warned that food prices would "remain high in the years to come" and called for "urgent and coordinated action" to alleviate the impact on the poor. However, the summit, convened to address "the challenges of climate change and bioenergy", had little to say about either.

In the face of US and Brazilian opposition to any review of ethanol production, there were only vague references to "the challenges and opportunities posed by biofuels". The declaration from the summit in Rome said: "We are convinced that in-depth studies are necessary to ensure that production and use of biofuels is sustainable."

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Fungus Improves the Efficiency of Ethanol Processing

Renewable Energy
by Mike Krapfl
Iowa, United States []

Growing a fungus in some of the leftovers from ethanol production can save energy, recycle more water and improve the livestock feed that is a co-product of fuel production, according to a team of researchers from Iowa State University and the University of Hawai'i.

"The process could change ethanol production in dry-grind plants so much that energy costs can be reduced by as much as one-third," said Hans van Leeuwen, an Iowa State professor of civil, construction and environmental engineering and the leader of the research project.

The project is focused on using fungi to clean up and improve the dry-grind ethanol production process. That process grinds corn kernels and adds water and enzymes. The enzymes break the starches into sugars. The sugars are fermented with yeasts to produce ethanol.

The fuel is recovered by distillation, but there are about six gallons of leftovers for every gallon of fuel that's produced. Those leftovers, known as stillage, contain solids and other organic material. Most of the solids are removed by centrifugation and dried into distillers dried grains that are sold as livestock feed, primarily for cattle.

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Leaders Speak of Their Own Issues at a Conference Addressing Food Shortages

The New York Times
Published: June 5, 2008

ROME — It was supposed to be an emergency conference on food shortages, climate change and energy. At the opening ceremony, the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, noted that there were nearly one billion people short of food, and he called upon countries gathered here to act with “a sense of purpose and mission.”

But when the microphone was turned on for the powerful politicians who had flown in from all over the world, they spoke mostly about economic issues in their own countries and political priorities.

The United States’ agriculture secretary, Ed Schafer, talked about the benefits of biofuels and genetically modified crops. Brazil’s president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, spoke for half an hour about how Brazilian biofuels were superior to American ones. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran, talked about the need to inject religion into food politics.

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