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

Friday, November 28, 2008

Scientists form global bioenergy group

Ethanol Producer Magazine
December 2008
By Susanne Retka Schill
Web exclusive posted Nov. 24, 2008 at 11:37 a.m. CST

The groundwork is being laid to form an international body of scientists involved in bioenergy and biofuels to evaluate research being conducted around the world and help guide policy making efforts.

It would function much like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change whose comments on climate change are considered authoritative, partly because of the breadth and inclusiveness of the scientists involved in the process.

“There is a clear need for an authoritative body that can comment on the longer term implications of bioenergy development,” said Luuk van der Wielen, leader of a Dutch delegation to a recent roundtable on biofuels. The Nov. 15 roundtable was organized in Chicago by van der Wielen and Madhu Khanna, an agricultural economics professor at the University of Illinois-Urbana who leads a research program on the socio-economic impacts of biofuels at the Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI) at the University of California-Berkeley. The meeting was sponsored by B-Basic, EBI and the Consulate of the Kingdom of The Netherland. This was a follow-up to a meeting held earlier this year in San Francisco, van der Wielen said, where U.S. DOE and USDA officials suggested a need for the scientific community to organize globally to address the economic, environmental and land use impacts of bioenergy and to use science to inform biofuel policy.

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Discovery Channel Documentary "Shades of Green" to Feature Lake Erie Biofuels Facility in Erie, PA
Date Posted: November 20, 2008

Erie, PA—Lake Erie Biofuels, LLC, Pennsylvania’s first large-scale biodiesel production facility, is the leading producer of biodiesel in the Northeastern United States and will soon be introduced to millions of households nationwide by way of primetime television.

“Shades of Green,” a new television documentary on The Discovery Channel, will showcase the cutting edge technology and on-site laboratories that Lake Erie Biofuels, LLC utilizes in its state-of-the-art facility.

While emphasizing the importance of biodiesel in today’s global economy, “Shades of Green” will provide an inside look into the production of biodiesel and the incredible impact it could have on our planet’s future.

The show’s main focus is to highlight the very latest topics and trends impacting the world by providing its viewers with information on alternative energy and sustainable living.

Each feature segment of “Shades of Green” will focus on a specific renewable energy source, such as wind, fuel and solar power.

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Minnesota utility harvests cobs for test burn

BioMass Magazine December 2008
By Ryan C. Christiansen
Web exclusive posted Nov. 21, 2008 at 9:57 a.m. CST

Willmar Municipal Utilities, the electric utility for the city of Willmar, Minn., harvested 450 tons of corn cobs from a local farmer this fall and will test burn cobs with coal at its power plant this winter.

According to Jon Folkedahl, a consultant for the renewable energy venture, the Willmar utility submitted a request to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency on Nov. 18 for a temporary permit to burn the cobs.

If the test burn is successful, the utility plans to apply for a permit to permanently burn 20 to 30 percent cobs with 70 to 80 percent coal at its 16-megawatt power plant, said Bruce Gomm, general manager for Willmar Municipal Utilities.

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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

From All of the Center for Advanced BioEnergy Research Staff

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The push is on for cellulosic ethanol - The Wichita Eagle - Business Today
Posted on Sun, Nov. 23, 2008

Long before cellulosic ethanol became a hot biofuel topic, Doug Rivers was deep into researching the product. From the late 1970s to the mid-1980s, Rivers worked for Gulf Oil for three years and the University of Arkansas for five years researching ways to make it economically feasible to produce cellulosic ethanol on a commercial scale.

"We were reasonably close when the bottom fell out of the oil market in the early 1980s," Rivers said. "Funding for the research fell off the table."

That's been the story of cellulosic ethanol -- dating back to the first attempt at the product in 1898 by Germany.

Read the full story

Black Gold

Corn & Soybean Digest
Nov 30, 2008 12:00 PM, By Susan Winsor

What makes amazing soil amazing? High organic matter, comprised largely of carbon.
The most agriculturally productive soils in the world, Mollisols, (found, for example, in Iowa and Ukraine) contain up to 3.3% carbon. Carbon is black gold.

Yet, agricultural soils have lost, on average, half of their carbon due to intensive cultivation and other degradations of human origin, says Bruno Glaser, soil physics department, University of Bayreuth, Germany.

Scientists are studying ancient Amazonian soils to learn how to restore carbon to soils in the form of biomass charcoal — biochar. This charred waste can do double duty as a soil amendment, concentrated carbon sequesterer, and a critical link between biofuels and sustainable farming practices.

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Search on to get food crops out of biofuels

San Francisco Chronicle
Arthur Max, Associated Press
Sunday, November 23, 2008

(11-23) 04:00 PST Amsterdam --
In future years, we may look back at the Great Mexican Tortilla Crisis of 2006 as the time when ethanol lost its vroom.

Right or wrong, that was when blame firmly settled on biofuels for the surge in food prices. The diversion of American corn from flour to fuel put the flat corn bread out of reach for Mexico's poorest.

Two years later, the search is on for ways to keep corn on the table rather than in the gas tank. Moving away from food crops, the biofuel of the future may come from the tall grass growing wild by the roadside, from grain stalks left behind by the harvest, and from garbage dumps and dinner table scraps.

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EPA announces 2009 RFS changes

Ethanol Producer Magazine
December 2008
By Ron Kotrba
Web exclusive posted Nov. 24, 2008 at 11:57 a.m. CST

The U.S. EPA has announced that the 2009 renewable fuels standard (RFS) blending requirement will be set at 10.21 percent to ensure that at least 11.1 billion gallons of renewable fuels are blended into transportation gasoline. The percentage is calculated using projected total gasoline consumption and multiple variables, such as subtracting projected production from exempt small refiners, but excluding Alaska’s projected gas consumption. Hawaii’s projected gas consumption is included because the state has chosen to opt into the RFS program; Alaska has not.

The announcement comes in the interim period between RFS1, enacted in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, and the proposed rulemaking for RFS2, which was signed into law in December 2007 as part of the Energy Independence & Security Act of 2007. Under RFS1, the 2009 volume of renewable fuels required would have been only 6.1 billion gallons instead of 11.1 billion gallons.

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Study finds hybrids grow more in daytime
Published: Nov. 24, 2008 at 4:21 PM

AUSTIN, Texas, Nov. 24 (UPI) -- Hybrid plants are growing bigger and more vigorously than their parents because they're more active during the day, U.S. researchers reported.

University of Texas-Austin researchers said their study could mean new methods to increase biomass for biofuels and seed production for both animal and human consumption, the researchers said in university news release.

Researchers said it's long been known that hybrid plants are more vigorous than their parents because they have more biomass and bigger seeds. The same is true for plants that are polyploid, or having two or more sets of chromosomes.

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Commericalizing Cellulosic Ethanol

BioCycle November 2008, Vol. 49, No. 11, p. 47

Four of the six companies awarded U.S. Department of Energy grants for early stage funding are moving forward with gasification, enzymatic hydrolysis and acid hydrolysis projects.

Diane Greer

CELLULOSIC biofuels, produced from nonfood feedstock, are expected to play a critical role in reducing the country's dependence on imported oil. EISA, the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, calls for the production of 100 million gallons per year (mgpy) of cellulosic biofuels by 2010, with a longer term goal of 16 billion gallons by 2022.

Achieving these goals will not be easy. Several technologies to produce cellulosic ethanol, proven in small-scale facilities, are moving toward commercial production. But challenges remain in scaling the technologies, reducing production costs and financing large-volume plants.

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Akron sewage plant generates power
Published on Sunday Nov 23, 2008

The city is using a biological process to turn sewage into energy that runs a wastewater treatment plant on its own power, fueling predictions that the technology could spread quickly throughout Ohio and generate energy, savings and maybe even jobs.

Akron's system went online last December and now processes one-third of the sludge going through its wastewater facility, using tiny bacteria to consume organic waste and emit methane gas. The gas is captured and converted to electricity, which has allowed the city to save about 15 percent on the power bill for the plant, built by Cleveland-based Schmack BioEnergy.

Though the methane-powered sewage plant is the first of its kind in the U.S., it's not an experiment, said Clemens Halene, vice president of engineering at Schmack. The company has more than 300 similar facilities in operation in Germany and has additional Ohio projects planned in Columbus and Zanesville, he said.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Sweet potatoes enter biofuels arena

Southeast Farm Press
Nov 18, 2008 9:43 AM, By Dave Caldwell
North Carolina State University

It’s too early just yet to divine the future of the sweet potato, but a team of College of Agriculture and Life Sciences researchers at North Carolina State University is working on several fronts to make what the scientists call industrial sweet potatoes a viable crop for the state’s growers.

Making a fuel like ethanol from sweet potatoes is a relatively straight-forward process. To begin with, sweet potatoes are a good source of starch. Just process sweet potatoes to turn that starch into sugars, ferment the sugars, and you can make ethanol. The drawback is the cost.

At this point, sweet potatoes are not an economically competitive fuel source. It costs more to grow and process sweet potatoes than many other fuel sources. Indeed, Craig Yencho, associate professor of horticultural science and sweet potato breeder, estimates it costs eight times as much to grow an acre of sweet potatoes as an acre of corn. But Yencho and others are out to change that.

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Opinion: Biofuels run into trouble

November 20th, 2008
By: John Kemp

John Kemp is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own

Despite a promising start, the U.S. experiment with renewable fuels is facing a serious challenge next year. Falling gasoline consumption, lower pump prices and contradictions within the federal government program are intensifying existing pressures on ethanol distillers and farmers already struggling to cope with over-capacity and collapsing margins.


Between 2000 and 2007, production of fuel ethanol quadrupled from 1.6 billion to 6.5 billion gallons, and the industry is on course to distill a record 9.3 billion gallons in 2008.

Ethanol production is not really economic at oil prices below about $60-70 per barrel (prices of grains and fats for ethanol conversion and processing costs are too high relative to oil). So the original boost to ethanol came from its use as an oxygenating additive in reformulated gasoline, rather than as fuel in its own right, when a number of states banned the use of MTBE.

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Our neighbors have big biomass plans
By Dave Hodges

With biomass becoming a household word — or a fightin' word, depending on your viewpoint — it might be instructive to look at what our neighbors to the north are doing.

Georgia could well be the biomass capital of the South. It ranks second nationally in pine acreage and there's a huge amount of available wood supply, both scrap and by-products, from the pulp and paper industry.

"Looking around Georgia and the opportunities for a renewable resource, we really don't have a lot of options," said Bill Ussery, executive vice president for member and external relations for Oglethorpe Power Corp., the nation's largest power supply cooperative.

Oglethorpe has plans to build up to three 100-megawatt biomass electric generating facilities in Georgia. Designed to be carbon-neutral and to utilize woody biomass, the plants will provide power to Oglethorpe's 38 member cooperatives, which supply electricity to nearly half of Georgia's population. The closest facility to Tallahassee could be in Echols County, just east of Valdosta.

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Op-Ed: Detroit: Get a Clue

Washington Post
Eugene Robinson
Friday, November 21, 2008; Page A23

The truth is that the chief executives of the Big Three automakers could have hitchhiked to Washington to beg for alms and they still would have been raked over the coals. But the fact that they came in their corporate jets was a bit much.

What, they couldn't have piled into a tricked-out Malibu and taken turns at the wheel?
Richard Wagoner of General Motors, Robert Nardelli of Chrysler and Alan Mulally of Ford should begin the inevitable cost-cutting by firing their public relations consultants. They left Capitol Hill empty-handed, but they're bound to get some kind of federal help, however grudging. In the end, I don't think either George W. Bush or Barack Obama wants to be remembered as the president who lost the auto industry. Strings will be attached, solemn promises extracted, oaths signed in blood. At some point -- I'm an eternal optimist -- the wizards of Detroit might even come up with a car or two that Americans want to buy.

Read the full op-ed

Obama Under Pressure Over Role of Ethanol in Energy Policy

U.S. News & World Report
By Kent Garber
Posted November 21, 2008

Environmental groups are unhappy with his support of corn-based ethanol during the campaign

Environmentalists agree with President-elect Barack Obama on many points, but his policy on ethanol isn't one of them.

In the ongoing debate over the future of the country's energy policy, biofuels occupy a unique and precarious position: reviled in some quarters, championed in others. Ethanol producers have enjoyed meteoric rises in the amount of ethanol they can make and sell, but they also have been accused of harming the environment, prompting food riots abroad, and throwing away government money on unsustainable endeavors.

Environmentalists are asking Congress and the next administration for a far-reaching overhaul of the current biofuel policy.

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Ethanol market takes hit from low oil prices

Des Moines Register
By DAN PILLER • • November 21, 2008

Oil prices have hit levels not seen in more than three years, which is good news for drivers but not ethanol producers.

Prices at the pump fell to a national average of about $2 a gallon Thursday, with the average prices in 23 states - including Iowa at $1.92 - even less than that.

The decline in the price of crude oil has taken with it the price of ethanol, which has fallen from $2.90 per gallon last July to $1.64 per gallon Thursday on the Chicago Board of Trade.

Of concern to ethanol producers is the spread between ethanol and unleaded gasoline, whose price closed at $1.04 per gallon Thursday on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Oil companies have more incentive to add the 10 percent ethanol blends to gasoline if ethanol is cheaper.

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Ethanol Is Boon for Lobbyists

The Washington Post
POSTED: 11:54 AM ET, 11/19/2008 by The Editors

Big corporate interests are lining up to battle for and against the expansion of the U.S. ethanol industry, producing a bonanza for lobbyists and public relations firms in the next Congress.

A new coalition announced on Tuesday that it had signed up at least 50 groups--including the Grocery Manufacturers Association, National Pork Producers, American Meat Institute, National Council of Restaurant Chains--to fight for the removal of tax breaks and tariff protections for ethanol. To map strategy, the coalition has hired Glover Park Group, co-founded by Joe Lockhart, former chief spokesman for President Clinton.

The food industry, including groceries, livestock producers and cereal manufacturers, contends ethanol is a main culprit in rising food prices because beef, pork, turkey and poultry producers have to compete against ethanol refineries for corn, raising animal feed prices.

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Oklahoma State Regents help finance biofuel grant

The Daily O'Collegian - Stillwater, OK
By Kyle Milton Staff Writer
Published: November 19, 2008

An Oklahoma research group received a $20 million grant to help energize the state’s growing biofuel research and finance bioenergy education.

The National Science Foundation and the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education donated the grant to the Oklahoma Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research. OSU, OU and the Samuel Roberts Noble Research Foundation will also help in “Building Oklahoma’s Leadership Role in Cellulosic Bioenergy.”

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A Model to Measure Soil Health in the Era of Bioenergy
Source: Soil Science Society of America (SSSA)
Released: Wed 19-Nov-2008, 10:30 ET

Newswise — One of the biggest threats to today’s farmlands is the loss of soil organic carbon (SOC) and soil organic matter (SOM) from poor land-management practices. The presence of these materials is essential as they do everything from providing plants with proper nutrients to filtering harmful chemical compounds to the prevention of soil erosion. Sustainable management practices for crop residues are critical for maintaining soil productivity, but being able to measure a loss in the quality of soil can be difficult.

In an article published in the Soil Science Society of America Journal, a team of USDA-Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists detail a method of measuring soil quality using a new model. The researchers combined their knowledge of crop, soil, and climatic data to predict long-term SOM and SOC changes to evaluate the effect of an array of management practices, including crop residue removal, on long-term SOC levels by using this new model. CQESTR, pronounced “sequester,” a contraction of “C sequestration” (meaning carbon storage), is a process-based model developed by ARS scientists at the Columbia Plateau Conservation Research Center in Pendleton, OR.

Four long-term experiments with several management systems were selected to examine the ability of the model to simulate the long-term effects of management practice on SOC dynamics. These management systems included crop rotations, tillage practices, and organic amendments, as well as crop residue removal. The results showed success in predicting both SOC depletion and sequestration.

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Farmers caught up in ethanol shakeout

Business Week
The Associated Press November 20, 2008, 4:57PM ET

America's corn farmers, who have become closely tied to the nation's biofuel production, are getting caught up in some of industry's recent fallout.

Those supplying VeraSun Energy Corp., the nation's second largest ethanol producer, are being told the company doesn't necessarily have to honor its corn contracts under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

VeraSun has the flexibility to reject existing contracts, but farmers and elevator operators remain bound by the terms they agreed to, said Roger McEowen, director of the Iowa State University Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation.

"A lot of farmers may feel that it's not fair, but that's the way the bankruptcy rules are right now," McEowen said Thursday.

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Michaud proposes biomass credit - Maine
By the mainebiz news staff
Yesterday (11-20-2008)

U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud yesterday introduced a House bill to give $19 million annually in federal energy tax credits to biomass boilers in Maine.

The bill would allot biomass boilers at mills and other industrial facilities a three-cent per kilowatt hour tax credit, which is already given to wholesale biomass electricity producers that provide power to the New England power grid, according to the Bangor Daily News. The proposal would benefit facilities like Katahdin Paper Co.'s East Millinocket paper mill, which has used a biomass boiler for decades, and the company's Millinocket paper mill, which has been trying to get a biomass boiler after it was forced to shut down due to high oil costs.

Michaud told the paper that the bill would "equalize the treatment of all biomass producers," promote renewable energy production and create jobs. Other similar legislative efforts have failed in the past.

Read a copy of the full story

Friday, November 21, 2008

LECG Study Shows Ethanol Tax Exemption Increases U.S. Government Revenues and Reduces Dependence on Foreign Oil
Date Posted: November 19, 2008

Wayne, PA—The federal investment in ethanol over the past three decades has yielded billions of dollars of economic gain, according to a report released November 17 from economic consulting firm LECG, LLC.

The report concluded that each dollar invested in America’s ethanol industry in the form of the federal excise tax credit returned nearly $5 to federal, state and local government and the economy as a whole.

According to the analysis, the tax provision has not only increased federal tax revenues, but also reduced imported oil expenditures and put more money into consumer pockets.

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Another report released by LECG on Nov. 18:
Economic Contribution of the Partial Exemption for Ethanol From the Federal Excise Tax on Motor Fuel Increased revenues and reduced dependence on foreign oil

U.S. Federal Trade Commission "2008 Report on U.S. Ethanol Market Concentration"
Date Posted: November 18, 2008

Shows Industry Not Concentrated Enough to Coordinate Price or Output

The Commission has issued the report, “2008 Report on Ethanol Market Concentration.”
Full FTC Report

This is the Commission’s fourth annual report on the state of ethanol production in the United States, as required by the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

The report concludes that the U.S. fuel ethanol market, measured on the basis of production or capacity, remains unconcentrated.

As of September 2008, 160 firms produced ethanol in the United States – a one-year increase of 57 firms.

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Ethanol producers pinched

Peoria Journal Star
of the Journal Star
Posted Nov 18, 2008 @ 12:32 AM

Pekin-based Aventine putting new plants on hold as market wavers

Ethanol producers such as Pekin-based Aventine Renewable Energy Holdings Inc. are feeling the squeeze these days.

Last week Aventine announced it will suspend construction of an ethanol plant in Nebraska while delaying the building of an Indiana facility until the end of 2009.

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EPA Sets 2009 Renewable Fuel Standard to 10.21% of Total Gasoline Supply
Date Posted: November 18, 2008

The 2009 renewable fuel standard (RFS) will be 10.21 percent to ensure that at least 11.1 billion gallons of renewable fuels be blended into transportation gasoline.

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA) established the annual overall renewable fuel volume targets, reaching a level of 36 billion gallons in 2022.

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Brazil official says Amazon won't be hurt by increased ethanol production

Baltimore Sun
2:53 PM EST, November 17, 2008

SAO PAULO, Brazil (AP) _ Expansion of vast sugarcane plantations across Brazil to meet growing worldwide demand for ethanol won't harm the Amazon, a top Brazilian official said Monday.

Speaking at the start of a five-day international conference on biofuels, presidential chief of staff Dilma Rousseff said Brazil will soon unveil an agricultural zoning plan to specify where crops across Latin America's largest nation can be grown for fuel and food.

The Amazon and several other regions known for their wide range of plant and animal species are likely to be declared off limits. But Brazil will encourage expanded ethanol production elsewhere and in poor nations around the world that have temperate climates suitable for sugarcane.

"It's a socio-economic reality," Rousseff said. "It generates jobs and income, mainly in tropical countries."

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

More Ethanol Plant Bankruptcies Predicted
Charles Johnson, Farm Journal National Editor

Look for more ethanol plant bankruptcies soon. Mark Lakers, president of Ag and Food Associates, an Omaha, Neb., middle market merger and acquisitions investment bank, expects as many as 40 Chapter 11 filings by the end of January.

Those include the 16 VeraSun plants in 8 Midwestern states in bankruptcy proceedings since Oct. 31. The U.S. now has about 150 ethanol plants in operation.

Lakers anticipates rapid consolidation in the ethanol industry, with companies owning plants with less debt buying the mostly newer but more debt-ridden facilities. They will be getting good deals, Lakers says, with 50-million gallon yearly capacity plants selling for as little as $1.50 per gallon.. By comparison, building a new plant would cost $2.20 per gallon.

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BIO: Oil Prices, Not Biofuels, Effect Food and Crop Prices Most in 2008
Date Posted: November 19, 2008

Washington—Consumers should be aware that the price of oil has had the greatest impact on crop and food prices during 2008 and that biofuels can help end U.S. dependence on petroleum while creating new green jobs and real economic growth.

Jim Greenwood, president and CEO of the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), today released the following statement:

“American consumers should not be fooled by ongoing attempts to misplace blame for this year’s rise in food prices on biofuels.

"The evidence before consumers is clear: crop prices have fallen dramatically in the past few months as oil and gas prices have declined.

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U.S. Sugar sees the future in plant waste: ethanol

The Miami Herald
Posted on Monday, 11.17.08

From sugar on the table to fuel in cars -- U.S. Sugar eyes stalks and leaves as an alternative energy source.

CLEWISTON -- Egrets, herons and other birds circle as a sugar harvester rolls slowly through a cane field, slicing the stalks at the base, loading them into transport trucks and then blowing the thrash back onto the ground.

The harvested cane will be milled into raw sugar in a mere seven hours. But someday there may also be value in what is left in the fields.

Judy Sanchez, spokeswoman for Clewiston-based United States Sugar Corp., pointed to the piles of leaves and other plant material blanketing the cane field. ''All that can be used as biomass,'' she said as she watched the birds swoop in to feast on insects churned up in the harvest.

Alternative energy production is a promising new business and one of the compelling reasons for keeping the Clewiston mill and refinery operating under U.S. Sugar's control.

Rather than distilling sugar cane into ethanol, U.S. Sugar is interested in using the estimated one million tons of plant waste generated in sugar production -- the biomass -- to make lower-cost ethanol.

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BioEnergy Solutions: Kern County Supervisors Approve First-in-the-Nation Biogas Distribution Network

Business Wire

Landmark Cow Power Project Will Link up to Nine Farms to Generate Electricity for California Homes

BAKERSFIELD, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The Kern County Board of Supervisors has approved construction of a biogas distribution network that will for the first time produce renewable natural gas from multiple dairy farms to generate power for utility customers, BioEnergy Solutions announced.

The distribution network, the first of its kind to be approved by a government authority in the U.S., will produce biogas from cow manure on as many as nine dairies in eastern Kern County, upgrade it to utility standards and deliver it into a nearby Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E) pipeline.

Construction will begin in early 2009.

“California is the leading dairy producer in the U.S. and its dairies, with their abundant supplies of cow manure, have great potential for the production of renewable natural gas,” said David Albers, president of BioEnergy Solutions and a third-generation dairyman. “California’s dairy community is poised to pioneer the large-scale production of this cleaner, greener form of energy and create a model for agricultural and energy producers nationwide.”

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Thinking Clearly about Oil and Alternative Fuels

Guest Blog
by Bruce E. Dale, Ph. D.

Never mind the recent decline in oil prices from their record highs. The age of cheap oil is over. And it will not return. Shrinking supplies of conventional crude, rising demand from emerging markets and the shadowy presence of speculators have forever ended the days of $20 per barrel oil and $1 per gallon gasoline. If oil were "only" expensive, it would be painful but not particularly dangerous. But because remaining conventional oil supplies are increasingly located in hostile or unstable countries, our oil addiction is also a huge threat to our national security. We need to think clearly about alternatives to oil.

We are safer as a nation when oil alternatives fit easily into our existing fuel distribution and vehicle system, stretch domestic oil supplies and can be produced in large volumes at reasonable cost. We already have this in the blending of 10 percent ethanol (E10) into more than 70 percent of regular unleaded gasoline sold in this country and in 85 percent ethanol (E85) for the more than 7 million flex-fuel vehicles capable of using higher blends of ethanol on the road today.

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Quick Response to Call for Ending Ethanol Incentives

Farm Futures
Jason Vance

Food Before Fuel campaign is attacking corn and ethanol.

On Tuesday several industry groups held a press conference calling for the end of tax incentives, import tariffs and biofuel mandates for ethanol. The event was sponsored by the Food Before Fuel campaign, a coalition of more than 20 groups that includes the National Turkey Federation, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the American Meat Institute, the National Chicken Council and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.

"The nation's renewable fuels standard, especially as it relates to corn-based ethanol, is in need of reform," said National Turkey Federation President Joel Brandenberger, who led the press conference. The coalition has asked that ethanol policy be revisited and rethought and were major backers of requests for a reduction of the RFS earlier this year.

Corn and ethanol industry leaders were quick to respond to the group's press event. National Corn Growers Association President Bob Dickey says he is terribly disappointed in the myths that are being put forward as fact blaming high food prices on corn and ethanol.

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Nonfood Crops Are Potential Biodiesel Feedstock
11/14/2008 9:57:00 AM

BATON ROUGE, La. -- Although gasoline is the fuel of choice for the American automobile, diesel is the fuel of choice for moving freight – whether by truck, train or ship.

And while the primary source for diesel is from petroleum, the fuel can be made from both plant and animal sources, according to experts in the LSU AgCenter.

“We have many sources of feedstocks for biodiesel,” said Gary Breitenbeck, a researcher in the LSU AgCenter’s School of Plant, Environmental and Soil Sciences.

The current source for most biodiesel produced in the United States today is soybean oil, Breitenbeck said.

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Growth Energy Launches Ad Campaign to Promote Higher Ethanol Blends
Date Posted: November 19, 2008

Washington, DC—Growth Energy launched an ad campaign this week to promote higher blends of ethanol in the U.S. gas supply (see the ad campaign at

Currently, most gasoline in America is E-10 which is ninety percent gasoline and ten percent ethanol.

The ad campaign's message is that increasing the blend of ethanol would stimulate the economy and create jobs in America, move the country closer to energy independence and benefit the environment.

The group also calls attention to the large body of research that supports higher ethanol blends.
Growth Energy's ad runs in today's Politico and in tomorrow's Washington Post.

Read the full story

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

University Opens Biofuel Research Facility (Australia)
Thursday, November 06, 2008

AUSTRALIA - A new, unique biofuel research testing facility at QUT will help speed up the race to drastically reduce Australia's carbon emissions and dependence on fossil fuels.

Australia's only biofuel engine research facility, opening at Queensland University of Technology today, will enable testing of a range of biofuels, from used cooking oil to algae, and new engine technologies with the aim of producing engines tailor-made for particular biofuels.

Dr Richard Brown, from the new Biofuel Engine Research Facility, said the facility would test the emissions, efficiency and engine performance of renewable fuel made from plant material.

"We will test ethanol made from waste sugar cane and grain and biodiesel made from food-based material such as canola oil, waste cooking oil and tallow as well as biodiesel made from algae, waste timber, green waste and sugar cane waste," Dr Brown said.

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Stronger support for farmers, biofuels, Harkin predicts

Agriculture Online
Dan Looker
Successful Farming magazine Business Editor
11/10/2008, 1:15 PM CST

Biofuels emphasis
Senator Tom Harkin, the Iowa Democrat who heads the Senate Agriculture Committee, says President-elect Barack Obama will have a USDA that supports the farm bill Congress passed over a veto last summer. And the new Obama Administration will be a strong advocate of biofuels, Harkin tells Agriculture Online.

"I think you're going to see from the Obama administration much more emphasis on rural renewable energy, on ethanol. They're just going to be pushing really hard on the renewable fuels standard and on cellulosic ethanol," says Harkin.

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Renewable Energy Plant won't cause smoky skies

The Daily Eastern News
Emily Zulz/Administration Editor
Issue date: 11/17/08

Clean process used to create energy

No smoke or smell will be emitted from the new Renewable Energy Center, which is slated to replace the current coal-burning steam plant in fall 2010.

The center will use a biomass gasification process to heat and cool the campus. A biomass is an organic material that can be used as a renewable resource. Wood chips are a widely available biomass, and will be the initial fuel source for the campus.

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Researchers test biomass gasification pretreatment

BioMass Magazine - November 2008
By Ryan C. Christiansen
Web exclusive posted Nov. 14, 2008 at 10:07 a.m. CST

Researchers at the University of Nevada, Reno are developing a biomass pretreatment method to help optimize the gasification of biomass, such as wood, corn stover, rice straw, and switchgrass. Using a hot pressurized water hydrothermal process followed by a hot nitrogen torrefaction process, the researchers are converting biomass into a carbon-neutral black, crumbly char, similar in shape and size to coal.

“[Through torrefaction], you increase the energy density of the biomass by exposing the material to a certain temperature level in the absence of oxygen, and so you can use nitrogen, for instance, so that oxidation processes do not occur,” said Victor Vasquez, an associate professor in the chemical engineering department at the university and one of the researchers. “You dry out a lot of the water and you dry out some of the volatile compounds and in the end, you end up with a product that has a higher energy density and a reduced amount of water. The material becomes quite hydrophobic.”

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Iowa Power Fund Awards Renewable Energy Group $740,000 for Biodiesel Research and Feedstock Commercialization Lab in Ames, IA
Date Posted: November 13, 2008

Ames, IA—Iowa Gov. Chet Culver and Iowa’s Office of Energy Independence Executive Director Roya Stanley announced November 13 that Iowa-based Renewable Energy Group® has been awarded a $740,000 grant from the Iowa Power Fund to staff a new state-of-the-art biodiesel research and feedstock commercialization lab at its headquarters in Ames, Iowa.

The Office of Energy Independence sets the strategic direction for Iowa’s clean energy future by identifying goals to achieve desired results.

The grant for Renewable Energy Group’s lab helps the state move one set closer to energy independence through partnerships with business and industry, community leaders, government and public agencies, and other stakeholders.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Taiwan university converts biomass into hydrogen at high rate

Taiwan News
Central News Agency 2008-11-14 07:27 PM

Taiwan's Feng Chia University has succeeded in boosting the production of hydrogen from biomass to 15 liters per hour, one of the world's top biohydrogen production rates, a researcher at the university said Friday.

Lin Chiu-yu, dean of the Feng Chia College of Engineering, said at a news conference at the school's campus in Taichung City that the university began efforts in 1998 to use facultative anaerobic organisms to produce hydrogen gas, that could one day power fuel cells in cars and other devices.

In 2007, the university built Taiwan's first model system for the production of biomass energy, called the "Biomass Energy Pilot Plant," through which a research team managed to produce hydrogen and carbon dioxide from the fermentation of different strains of anaerobes in a sugar cane-based liquefied mixture.

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Tree fungus could fuel cars

A tree fungus which produces diesel could solve the world's energy problems.

The fungus, which lives in the Ulmo tree in South American rainforest, naturally produces hydrocarbon fuel similar to the diesel used in cars and trucks.

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Noble Foundation receives funds to study switchgrass

BioMass Magazine - November 2008
By Ryan C. Christiansen
Web exclusive posted Nov. 14, 2008 at 10:32 a.m. CST

The National Science Foundation and the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education have awarded more than $1.2 million to scientists at The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation in Ardmore, Okla., an independent, nonprofit institute conducting plant science research.

The funding, provided through the Oklahoma Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), will enable the foundation to continue studies to improve varieties of switchgrass for the production of cellulosic ethanol. The Noble Foundation is developing new switchgrass varieties for ethanol production with Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma through the Oklahoma Bioenergy Center. As a member of the U.S. DOE Bioenergy Science Center, the foundation is also working with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

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Small biorefinery produces biodiesel from locally grown oilseeds

By SUE ROESLER, Farm & Ranch Guide
Wednesday, November 5, 2008 5:02 PM CST

SIDNEY, Mont. - Chuck Flynn spends a lot of time these days with his hands in grease.

He's not an auto mechanic, but he is excited about biodiesel and what it could mean for producers in the upper Midwest.

“We're studying the potential of biodiesel from locally grown oilseeds by producers,” says Flynn, a research chemist at Montana State University's Eastern Ag Research Center in Sidney. “We spend a lot of money for oil. If we can (make) our own, why not?”

This spring, SunBio Systems, Inc., based in California, set up a small, farmstyle biorefinery and reactor at the MSU satellite site in Sidney.

Flynn is now going through crushing oilseed and making biodiesel in the hopes of refining some that will meet ASTM (American Society for Testing and Measurements) standards.

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UF Research Mines Waste For Ethanol Production

Tampa Bay Online
Published: November 16, 2008

GAINESVILLE - Inside his bright, new laboratory at the University of Florida, researcher Lonnie Ingram is trying to build a better bug.

That's what scientists and others call the microscopic organisms they are counting on to create a new U.S.-based fuel industry free of ties to foreign oil producers.

More than 20 years ago, Ingram and other UF researchers genetically engineered a bacterium that could turn common grasses, agricultural waste and wood chips into ethanol for our cars. Called cellulosic ethanol, it is an alternative to ethanol made from corn, which has lost favor because it uses land also needed for food crops.

Ingram, a microbiology and cell science professor, has devoted the better part of his career to the cellulosic cause. In 1991, he and the university received a U.S. patent on his first ethanol-making organism. Since then, his work has received 19 more patents and has attracted investors who bought the rights to use two of the microbial creations.

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Global Industry Analysts Inc. Report: World Ethanol Market Likely to Hit 27.7 Billion Gallons by 2012
Date Posted: November 10, 2008

San Jose, CA—The world ethanol market stands enthused by rising consumption patterns in end-use markets.

Fuel-ethanol is witnessing unprecedented interest encouraged largely by the ban on MTBE in several countries and its resulting replacement by ethanol.

Regulatory riders imposed by most governments in the developed markets are additionally helping perk up demand for ethanol in fuels.

In the United States, the renewable fuels standard mandates the use of approximately 8 billion gallons of ethanol by the year 2012.

The need to skirt stinging hikes in crude oil prices, reduce green house gas emissions, and lower international dependence on oil, is encouraging governmental intervention in fostering consumption of ethanol.

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Green Energy Resources Commences Shipment of 20,000 Tons of Hurricane Ike Wood to Twin Oaks, Texas Power Plant

MarketWatch - The Wall Street Journal
Last update: 10:40 a.m. EST Nov. 10, 2008

HOUSTON, Nov 10, 2008 (GlobeNewswire via COMTEX) -- Green Energy Resources Inc. (Pink Sheets:GRGR) commenced shipping 20,000 tons of Hurricane Ike wood to Sempra Energy's Twin Oaks power plant located near Waco, Texas. The 170 megawatt power plant is temporarily switching from coal to wood biomass to be "greener", according to the announcement on the power plant's website. Green Energy Resources is the subcontracted supplier. Green Energy Resources is collaborating on multiple projects nationwide with several strategic partners seeking to gain a major U.S. market share for wood biomass. Green Energy Resources is in the process of procuring upwards of a million or more tons of wood generated throughout the region by Hurricane Ike last September. The Texas market in particular is rapidly growing and expects to add over 250 megawatts of wood powered plants over the next three years.

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Money, research spur race for algae as fuel source - Portland Oregon
By PHUONG LE, Associated Press Writer
Story Published: Nov 2, 2008 at 5:52 PM PST
Story Updated: Nov 2, 2008 at 5:52 PM PST

SEATTLE (AP) - Turning pea-green pond scum into cheap fuel for automobiles and airplanes is still years away, but supporters are still betting heavily with infusions of venture capital money and intensive research.

About $180 million in venture capital money has been raised for algae research, with more than half coming in the third quarter of this year, according to Cleantech, an industry research group.

Some academic institutes have set up dedicated algae research centers, and a handful of start-ups are planning to test algae on a larger demonstration projects in coming months.

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Don't count out ag

Capital Press
11/13/2008 6:00:00 AM
Don Curlee
For the Capital Press

If you're having doubts about agriculture's ability to contribute to the nation's fuel supplies, the Agricultural Research Service of the U. S. Department of Agriculture has a word for you.

Actually, several words.

Some are the names of crops that can lead to the production of ethanol or other bioenergy sources. For example, serious research is being done with these oilseed plants: sunflower, soybean, canola, camelina, castor bean, peanut, lesquerella, white, brown and black mustard, jatropha, cuphea, African oil palm and algae.

And those are in addition to the more familiar grain sources for fuel, such as corn, barley and sorghum and sugar sources like beets and sugarcane and the cellulose contributors switchgrass, poplar, miscanthus and alfalfa.

You have a right to expect many of these words to be more familiar to the legislators who determine the direction of domestic fuel production. Washington, D.C., is home to the ARS U.S. National Arboretum where many of these "power plants" are grown, nourished and studied for their ability to produce fuel and other bioenergy.

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U.S. E85 Stations Exceed 1,800

Sara Muri, AgWeb Business & Crops Online Editor

Currently, flex-fuel drivers can find 1,802 private and public E85 stations across the U.S. to refuel their vehicles, according to the National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition (NEVC).

Between October 2007 and October 2008, the number of E85 fueling stations has grown 27%.

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Slash could contribute to biomass economy

Published: November 11, 2008 06:37 pm
Special to the Grand Traverse Herald

Slash is logging debris left in the forest after a harvest. Sometimes it is called logging residue.
Slash can serve a range of purposes. The term waste would not be a good descriptive choice.

Nutrients in slash become available to plants as they decompose or to animals that feed on the leaves, buds, and twigs. The physical structure of slash can protect new seedlings from excessive browsing from herbivores such as deer. Slash piles serve as effective refuge from predators for many small animals. Forest owners are often concerned about how slash impacts the visual quality of a post-harvest woodland. For loggers, slash is often laid in trails to better support equipment and minimize soil compaction. Slash might also become a source of energy as woody biomass.

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Friday, November 14, 2008

Biodisel plant opens next week

Danville Commercial-News
Published: November 12, 2008 08:54 pm
BY ANNA HERKAMPCommercial-News

DANVILLE — A biodiesel plant begins operation in Danville next week.

Blackhawk Biofuels, LLC is located adjacent to Bunge Milling on Anderson Street. After a private ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday, the plant begins operation next Thursday. The plant eventually will be able to produce 45 million gallons of biofuel per year.

Earlier this year, Blackhawk took over the plant from Biofuels Company of America LLC.

The cost of soybeans, which had skyrocketed in recent years, had kept the facility’s construction from completion before the new investors took over, Vermilion Advantage President and CEO Vicki Haugen said in May.

Although soybean prices have fallen, the plant will help the local ag economy by allowing farmers to sell their soybeans at a good price in Danville, according to Vermilion County Farm Bureau spokesman Tom Fricke.

The plant’s biodiesel would be created from Bunge’s soybean oil and eventually, alternative feedstocks like animal fats.

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Governor Awards $4 million Renewable Fuels Development Grant For Next Generation Biorefinery

Illinois Corn Growers Association
November 12, 2008

Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today announced that Illinois River Energy, LLC in Ogle County has received a $4 million Renewable Fuels Development grant to help build a new $120 million-plus ethanol production facility in Northern Illinois. The new biorefinery will support Governor Blagojevich's drive for energy independence and will create 40 new permanent jobs for the Northern Stateline region, as well as 120 construction jobs.

The Renewable Fuels Development Program, which was championed by the Illinois Corn Growers Association in the Legislature, is administered through the state's Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO). DCEO Director Jack Lavin joined labor and industry leaders and members of the academic community today on behalf of the Governor at an event highlighting Illinois' biofuels industry.

"By investing in ethanol and other renewable fuels, we are increasing our energy independence, creating jobs and helping to secure Illinois' future," said Governor Blagojevich. "This new ethanol plant represents the next generation of ethanol production in Illinois - using less energy while producing less carbon emissions - and will be one of the cleanest and most efficient facilities in the country."

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University of Illinois News Bureau

Ethanol will curb farm income until economy rebounds, economist says
Jan Dennis, Business & Law Editor217-333-0568;

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Ethanol helped drive two years of record profits for grain farmers, but also will hold income down during a looming recession that has already sliced crop prices in half, a University of Illinois economist says.

Scott Irwin says agriculture’s fortunes are now tethered more to ethanol than food, making crop growers vulnerable to sharp price swings at filling stations rather than the typically slower cost shifts at grocery stores.

“We’re just experiencing the full brunt of this new source of volatility,” said Irwin, a professor of agricultural and consumer economics. “When food prices were the main trigger, recessionary impacts were much less direct and much more gradual. Now, there’s this new connection through energy costs that immediately gets translated to agriculture.”

Energy demand has sagged amid a global economic meltdown, netting sharply lower prices for crude oil, gasoline and ethanol, a corn-based fuel additive, he said. That, in turn, reduced the amount ethanol producers can pay for corn and still break even, pulling down the market for both corn and other grains that have ridden its coattails since the ethanol boom took hold in 2006.

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Environmentalist Groups Letter Urges EPA to Act on Emissions and Indirect Land Use for Biofuels
Date Posted: November 12, 2008

Washington—The Environmental Protection Agency must accurately account for global warming emissions from biofuels when implementing the new renewable fuel standard, leading environmental and science groups said in a letter they sent November 10 to EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson.

In last year's energy bill, Congress explicitly required the EPA to accurately measure global warming emissions from renewable fuels based on their entire lifecycle, from cultivation to fuel production to vehicle exhaust.

However, industry trade groups and others are pressuring EPA to omit or delay accounting for greenhouse gas emissions from land use change, such as tropical deforestation, tied to expanding biofuels production.

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RFA Report Shows Ethanol a Minor Factor in Land Use Changes
Date Posted: November 12, 2008

Washington, DC—The amount of agricultural land required to produce 15 billion gallons of grain ethanol in the United States by 2015, as required by the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA), is likely to be less than 1 percent of total world cropland, according to a new report released November 12 by the Renewable Fuels Association.

According to the report, “Understanding Land Use Change and U.S. Ethanol Expansion,” gains in agricultural productivity, coupled with the contribution of feed produced as an ethanol co-product, are expected to significantly mitigate the need for conversion of non-agricultural lands to support expanded U.S. biofuels production.

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Engineer Granted $1.75 Million to Produce Hydrogen from Cellulosic Biomass

Media Newswire

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) issued the grant to Wu, a professor of chemical engineering, because he is one of the foremost scientists working to derive ethanol from biological waste products. Generating hydrogen gas, Wu explains, is very similar to generating ethanol, and he is employing state-of-the-art genomic approaches to study and enhance the abilities of a microorganism that has the capability to produce both fuels from farm and forest residues.

( - University of Rochester Professor David Wu has received a $1.75 million grant to investigate a way to turn waste biomass, such as grass clippings, cornstalks, and wood chips, into usable hydrogen or ethanol.

The U.S. Department of Energy ( DOE ) issued the grant to Wu, a professor of chemical engineering, because he is one of the foremost scientists working to derive ethanol from biological waste products. Generating hydrogen gas, Wu explains, is very similar to generating ethanol, and he is employing state-of-the-art genomic approaches to study and enhance the abilities of a microorganism that has the capability to produce both fuels from farm and forest residues.

"Our goal is to understand how the bacterium controls the production of these two energy sources so we can engineer genetic modifications to enhance and control what it produces," says Wu. "It's an exciting possibility that we may be able to convert biomass we would have otherwise discarded, directly into usable liquid or gas fuel at will."

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Ethanol makers push U.S. to boost fuel blend rate
Tue Nov 11, 2008 3:42pm EST
By Charles Abbott

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. government should set the ethanol-to-gasoline blend rate above the current 10 percent to ensure federal targets for using the renewable fuel are met, industry leaders said on Tuesday.

They said a blend rate of 15 percent or 20 percent may be more appropriate. Jeff Broin of POET, the largest U.S. ethanol maker, said a newly formed trade group, Growth Energy, would work with the Environmental Protection Agency on the issue.

Asked if the Obama administration would support higher blends, Broin said "We see tremendous alignment between our goals."

Thursday, November 13, 2008

RENEWED ENERGY: Biomass Industry Looks To Obama For Boost
11/11/2008 2:50:00 PM

NEW YORK (Dow Jones)--Developers of power plants fueled by wood chips, manure and other biological materials are hoping a new presidential administration will help usher in a new era for the industry.

Companies generating electricity by burning so-called biomass materials could get an outsized boost in some regions compared with their peers in solar and wind power if a federal renewable portfolio standard, or RPS, is enacted. Such a standard would require utilities to produce or buy a certain percentage of their electricity from sources other than fossil fuels or nuclear power. Electric utilities are lobbying against such a measure, arguing that it would result in higher rates for many consumers.

Although Southern utilities are developing biomass plants, wind farms and solar projects to hedge their bets against a possible federal mandate, these companies claim that a one-size-fits-all approach to renewable energy development would unfairly penalize rate payers in the Southeast. The region lacks the wind and solar resources that are available in other parts of the country, these utilities claim.

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Ethanol firms join forces against critics

Des Moines Register
By PHILIP BRASHER • • November 11, 2008

Washington, D.C. – Several ethanol companies are getting together to add another voice to the debate over using grain for fuel.

They’ve formed Growth Energy, which planned ads in the New York Times defending the ethanol industry from accusations that biofuel production is driving up food prices.

Jeff Broin, chief executive of Poet LLC and a leader in putting the new group together, said it would be a “fresh, aggressive” voice for the industry. Poet, which operates seven ethanol plants in Iowa, planned to renew its membership in the rival Renewable Fuels Association but at a reduced level. Both RFA and Growth Energy are based in Washington.

Bruce Rastetter, chief executive of Ames-based Hawkeye Energy, said Growth Energy would be a “new voice in the industry that provides some leadership in particular on the food-versus-fuel debate.”

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Researchers push butanol as biofuel answer

Researchers look to ethanol's cousin butanol to meet aggressive biofuel push
November 11, 2008: 02:52 PM EST

NEW YORK (Associated Press) - Ethanol might reign as the king of biofuels, but several companies are betting that a close cousin may overcome some of its shortcomings.

Butanol has traditionally been used as paint thinner, cleaner and adhesive, but as a fuel additive it contains more energy than ethanol and could be blended into existing cars at higher percentages.

And unlike ethanol, butanol does not eat away at pipes so it doesn't need to be shipped by truck. That could help the nation meet its aggressive renewable fuels standard of 36 billion gallons of biofuels to be blended into gasoline by 2022, said Andy Aden, a research engineer at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

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Biofuel costs, benefits are focus of public forum, Nov. 14

Washington University - St. Louis
By Gerry Everding

Nov. 11, 2008 -- The profitability of corn ethanol processing, the costs and benefits of ethanol as a fuel source, the impact of the ethanol boom on rural America and the future of the biofuel industry will be among topics explored at a conference on the economics of ethanol from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Nov. 14 in the main auditorium of the Eric P. Newman Education Center on the medical school campus of Washington University in St. Louis.

Free and open to the public, the conference kicks off with a keynote address by Mark Stowers, vice president of research and development with POET Energy. Stowers explores the evolution of the ethanol industry in the United States and challenges facing the industry.

Geared for non-technical audiences, the conference also includes sessions on the environmental effects of ethanol production, energy balance with fossil fuels, effects on food prices, subsidy rate relative to oil and gas, and effects on farm production decisions.

Speakers include nationally recognized scholars and business leaders, such as Paul Gallagher, Department of Economics, Iowa State; Douglas Tiffany, Department of Applied Economics, University of Minnesota; Jason Henderson, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City - Omaha Branch; Jerry Taylor, CATO Institute; Rick Tolman, CEO of the National Corn Growers Association; and Nicholas Kalaitzandonakes, Department of Agricultural Economics, University of Missouri - Columbia.

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The Behind-the-Scenes Struggle Over Ethanol

U.S. News & World Report

Obama supports biofuels, but competing interests are fighting over the course of ethanol policy
By Kent Garber
Posted November 11, 2008

In preparation for what promises to be a heated debate over biofuels under the Obama administration, the much-maligned ethanol industry is pushing to regain some of its lost luster.

Today, in the latest thrust of a lobbying war raging in Washington and across much of the country, four of the nation's largest ethanol producers publicly launched a new organization, Growth Energy, to offer a "fresh, aggressive new voice in the energy debate."

The announcement clearly represents the latest, most visible attempt by ethanol backers to discount critics who have blamed corn-based fuels for rising food prices—"a sham cooked up by the food industry," according to one member. But one week after the election, it also is just one of several efforts—public and private—the ethanol industry is undertaking as it works to position itself favorably with a new Congress and a new president.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Mr. Ethanol Fights Back

Truth About Trade & Technology
Friday, 07 November 2008

October 30, 2008 At the Poet ethanol plant in Chancellor, S.D. two things stand out: the sheer scale of the six corn-storage bins--each 90 feet tall, together capable of holding five weeks' worth of corn for the plant--and the nearly overpowering smell, a yeasty aroma, with hints of something slightly rotten. Even Jeffrey Broin, the chief executive of Poet LLC and an old hand when it comes to fermenting corn, comments on the unusual odor. "It's not normally like this. There must have been some wet distillers grain left out," he says.

Stale odors are the least of Broin's challenges these days. Ethanol companies, of which the privately held Poet is the largest, went from being hailed in the media as green energy heroes in 2007 to being widely blamed for the summer surge in global food prices. Critics, including many Republicans, have lambasted U.S. tax subsidies for ethanol blenders as well as federal mandates for ethanol production.

Broin, 43, dismisses the criticism and the tough economic conditions and denies that ethanol is to blame for higher food prices. "Incentives to produce ethanol have cost the government $4 billion [a year] but saved $8 billion in farm aid," says Broin. "There's a tremendous amount of misinformation being put out by people who want to protect the status quo."

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New Sustainable Energy Journal Goes Paperless

Listen Now [12 min 28 sec]

Talk of the Nation, November 7, 2008 · A new interdisciplinary online-only journal from the American Institute of Physics is focusing on the burgeoning renewable- and sustainable-energy fields. The peer-reviewed Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy will feature a blog, top news stories and multimedia features.

Editors will draw on worldwide researchers in the fields of bioenergy and technology; nuclear wind and solar power; and transportation and energy conservation.

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Scientists study biomass haying effects on pheasants

Ethanol Producer
December 2008
By Ryan C. Christiansen
Web exclusive posted Nov. 7, 2008 at 10:18 a.m. CST

South Dakota State University researchers have begun a study to determine when and how much perennial grass could be harvested for the production of cellulosic ethanol – without affecting the nesting success of pheasants and breeding waterfowl.

The SDSU researchers are working with the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and landowners to determine which combination of stubble height and haying season is best for the harvest of biomass for cellulosic ethanol production and wildlife conservation.

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Biodiesel plant may grow like a weed

Peoria Journal Star
Posted Nov 03, 2008 @ 07:59 PM

Facility near Mapleton would blend pennycress oil with petroleum

PEORIA — A new plant may grow soon in Peoria, a biodiesel plant that will make use of a whole new energy source: a weed called pennycress.

Biodiesel Manufacturers of Illinois plans to build a $40 million manufacturing plant near Mapleton, 10 miles southwest of Peoria, that would produce 45 million gallons of fuel annually. That's the equivalent of 10 percent of all the biodiesel fuel produced in the United States last year.

Biodiesel is specially treated vegetable oil - traditionally, soybean oil - blended with petroleum diesel to make a more environmentally friendly diesel fuel with reduced emissions.

The Peoria plant would take advantage of a new source for biodiesel: pennycress.
What excites Sudhir Seth, BMI's president and CEO, is that using pennycress, an oil-rich plant with up to 36 percent oil content, would sidestep the entire fuel-versus-food debate.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Ethanol-maker, manufacturers show how cob collection is done

The Des Moines Register
By DAN PILLER • • November 8, 2008

Emmetsburg, Ia. — Poet's planned ethanol plant that would process corncobs rather than corn kernels faces a "Field of Dreams"-like question:If Poet builds the plant, will farmers come with the cobs?

Corn-fed ethanol is an easy trick for producers because farmers simply harvest the grain and truck it to the ethanol plant the same way they would if they take the corn to an elevator. Not so the corncobs, which will require new and expensive equipment to separate from the grain on the combine. The process also may require more hard-to-find farm labor.

Farmers — made wary by rising input costs and stagnant corn and soybean markets this fall — may need some persuasion before they turn next year's harvest into what Poet LLC hopes to be the first biomass harvest.

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Huhnke named 2008 Sarkeys Distinguished Professor

High Plains/Midwest Ag Journal

Oklahoma State University's Ray Huhnke has been named the 2008 recipient of the Sarkeys Distinguished Professor Award by the OSU Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources.

The Sarkeys award is based on outstanding contributions to agriculture through teaching, research or extension efforts. The award was established by the Sarkeys Foundation in 1980 to honor Elmo Baumann, an agronomist who worked with the foundation after his retirement from OSU.

Huhnke serves as director of the DASNR Biobased Products and Energy Center. The main activity of the center is to coordinate and provide leadership for the division's nationally recognized bioenergy programs and serve as a liaison with the bioenergy industry.
The center also is a catalyst for identifying multi-disciplinary priorities and enhancing the development of grants, contracts and cooperative agreements with government agencies, private industry, tribal nations and communities, thereby streamlining efforts to provide solutions to bioenergy issues.

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Are alternative fuels reliving the 1980s?

The Christian Science Monitor
By Mark Clayton Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor/ November 6, 2008 edition

Today’s slumping oil prices may undermine viability of alt-fuel programs – again.

Tumbling gas-pump prices make motorists smile, but not Peter Vanderzee. They remind him how falling oil costs sank his effort to unshackle the United States from Middle East oil two decades ago.

As project manager for two large alternative-energy projects under President Carter’s US Synthetic Fuels program launched in 1980, Mr. Vanderzee was pushing his team to make methanol from coal for auto fuel.

But in 1985, just as his technology was starting to produce results, oil plummeted. In today’s inflation-adjusted dollars, oil went from $53 a barrel to $28, with pump prices falling from $2.20 a gallon to $1.60. The next year, President Reagan pulled the plug on the US Synfuels program.

“It was a huge letdown,” Vanderzee recalls. “We had the technology ready to go. But Mideast crude oil suppliers decided the US was serious about our program and just didn’t want the US making alternatives to oil. So they pumped more oil and lowered the price.”

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Farmers see money in cow manure

Posted on Thursday, November 6, 2008
By Robert Rodriguez Fresno Bee

TULARE -- With energy costs high and crop prices sluggish, farmers are turning to solar power, converting animal waste to natural gas and planting exotic trees to help them survive a tough economy.

Farmer and entrepreneur David Albers is among those using technology to boost revenue at his 2,800-cow dairy and that of many others.

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S.D.-based ethanol company expected to survive recent bankruptcy

Grand Forks Agweek
Published: 11/10/2008

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Ethanol producer VeraSun Energy Corp. says it has received commitments for as much as $215 million in debtor-in-possession financing to pay bills after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Oct. 31.

AgStar Financial Services, based in Mankato, Minn., is posting the funds, in addition to certain holders of VeraSun’s secured notes.

A judge says VeraSun can borrow as much as $40 million from the financing to keep its doors open.

The company is in negotiations with other lenders to get a total of $250 million in financing.

VeraSun says it would not have been able to make payroll without help. The company says it also needs money to buy corn, natural gas, pay for leases and other costs.

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Researchers turn biomass into energy
Published: Nov. 6, 2008 at 2:05 PM

RENO, Nev., Nov. 6 (UPI) -- U.S. scientists say they are testing the viability of converting leafy or woody biomass into a commercially feasible fuel product.

University of Nevada-Reno Associate Professors Charles Coronella and Victor Vasquez said they are working on the pretreatment portion of the biomass conversion process as part of a $4.6 million study funded by the Gas Technology Institute.

"Biomass produces a dirty gas if it's not pretreated," said Coronella. "The molecular composition of biomass is not ideal for gasification."

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Introducing the Biomass Power Association -- a New Name for a New Generation of Renewable Energy

MarketWatch - The Wall Street Journal
Last update: 4:04 p.m. EST Nov. 6, 2008

Nationally-Recognized "USA Biomass" Becomes the "Biomass Power Association"

PORTLAND, ME, Nov 06, 2008 (MARKET WIRE via COMTEX) -- The nation's leading biopower association, USA Biomass, used today's national Platts Biomass Power Forum to announce it will be changing its name to the Biomass Power Association -- but not changing its commitment to promoting clean, renewable, sustainable biomass power throughout the country.

"Generating clean, renewable power is what our members do, so we thought it was high time that 'power' be a prominent part of our association's name and identity," said Robert Cleaves, Chairman of the Biomass Power Association, whose members include owners and operators of biomass power facilities across the country.

"We recently launched a nationwide education campaign aimed at federal policy makers on the critical benefits of biomass power and its role in reducing greenhouse gases," said Cleaves. "We hope that our new name, which more accurately defines our industry, will aide in these efforts.

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Obama to Back Ailing Ethanol Makers, Follow Failed Bush Policy
By Mario Parker and Kim Chipman

Nov. 6 (Bloomberg) -- President-elect Barack Obama plans to support unprofitable U.S. ethanol producers and pursue the same policies that failed George W. Bush.

Obama, the Democratic senator from Illinois, the second- biggest corn-growing state, will maintain Bush's goal requiring fuel producers use at least 36 billion gallons of biofuels in 2022, said Heather Zichal, the campaign's senior energy adviser. The ethanol industry, which loses about 66 cents a gallon at current prices, will receive at least as much support as from the current administration, including tax credits to spur consumption, she said.

"Obama recognizes how important the renewable and biofuels industry is to creating jobs and meeting our goal of reducing dependence on foreign oil," Zichal said in a Nov. 3 interview. "He's fully committed to it and sees tremendous value in the renewable fuels standard and continuing down this path."

Ethanol makers are collapsing after wrong-way bets on corn prices overwhelmed $20 billion in federal aid and government- guaranteed demand for the fuel additive. VeraSun Energy Corp., the second-largest producer, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Oct. 31.

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Algae on the Move: The 2008 Algae Biomass Summit Wrap-up

Renewable Energy
November 7, 2008
by John F. Pierce and Thomas Byrne
Washington, United States []

Taking a look back at the recently held 2008 Algae Biomass Summit that took place from October 23-24 in Seattle, it is hard to believe how far this young industry has come in just one year.

Last fall, the Inaugural Algae Biomass Summit had a solid group of 350 attendees who came to discuss algae's future in renewable energy. Out of that conference the Algal Biomass Organization (ABO) was formed with the mission to accelerate the development of the algae industry.

Now, just one short year later, there was double the turnout with 700 people attending, representing more than a dozen countries worldwide. This wide gathering of algae producers, scientists, investors and policy-makers left Seattle with new ideas, partnerships and an enthusiasm to continue developing a road map for the industry.

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Friday, November 7, 2008

New algae species could be used for biodiesel

The Nation (Thailand)
By The NationPublished on November 1, 2008

Researchers at Khon Kaen University (KKU) have discovered a small species of green algae with commercial potential for biodiesel production.The species has been labelled KKU-S2.

"We can extract oil from this species. Its properties are fit for biodiesel production," said microbiology expert Dr Ratanaporn Leesing.

She heads a team at KKU tasked with exploring sources of biodiesel. It began its mission by looking at small green algae in freshwater sources.

KKU-S2 so far has been found only on the surface of one pond at the university.

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Kinder Morgan, Central Florida Pipeline batch ship ethanol

Tampa Bay Journal
Friday, October 31, 2008 Modified: Monday, November 3, 2008 - 4:00 AM
Tampa Bay Business Journal - by Jane Meinhardt Staff Writer

TAMPA — Kinder Morgan Energy Partners passed a milestone in renewable energy history by shipping batches of ethanol in a pipeline from Tampa to Orlando.

Kinder Morgan, based in Houston, and subsidiary Central Florida Pipeline Co. in Tampa recently completed a series of tests using Kinder Morgan’s gasoline pipeline to determine if transporting batched ethanol between the two markets would be feasible. The company now plans to offer the ethanol pipeline transporting service to customers by the middle of November.

“It is the first time it has been batched shipped from one market to another, and the first time ethanol is being shipped along with other petroleum products on a pipeline in the U.S.,” said Emily Mir Thompson, corporate communications manager for Kinder Morgan.

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Biomass Ethanol Website Launched

Domestic Fuel - Alternative Fuel News
November 4th, 2008
Posted by Cindy Zimmerman

A web site dedicated to the exchange of information on switchgrass and other biomass energy crops has been launched at

“The focus of the site is to allow producers and stakeholders to openly share ideas and experiences gleaned from raising and marketing switchgrass and other biomass energy crops,” says site host and switchgrass farmer Andy Bater.

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Thursday, November 6, 2008

U.S. biofuels sector sees ally in Obama
Wednesday November 5 2008
By Charles Abbott

WASHINGTON, Nov 5 (Reuters) - U.S. biofuel makers, struggling to make a profit at a time of tumbling oil and gasoline prices, look upon President-elect Barack Obama as a staunch ally for growth.

Obama has expressed support for the federal requirement to use ethanol, made mostly from corn, as a motor fuel and says he will accelerate the development of new feedstocks. That is a great contrast from foodmakers and livestock producers who tried last summer to scale back the ethanol mandate.

Ethanol makers believe Obama's victory will give them a more assured path into the future. The 2007 energy law sets a target of using 36 billion gallons of renewable fuels by 2022, including 15 billion gallons of grain-based ethanol by 2015.

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Biofuel flying will take off in three years, says Boeing
Dan Milmo, transport correspondent
The Guardian,
Monday October 27 2008

Biofuel-powered aircraft could be carrying millions of passengers around the world within three years, according to Boeing.

Darrin Morgan, an environmental expert at the US jet manufacturer, said the group was expecting official approval of biofuel use in the near future.

"The certification will happen much sooner than anybody thought," he said. "We are thinking that within three to five years we are going to see approval for commercial use of biofuels - and possibly sooner."

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New biofuels degree program opens at Central Carolina C.C.

Carolina News Wire

PITTSBORO, N.C. -- P.J. Bordelon, fuel distribution manager for Piedmont Biofuels, in Pittsboro, and Will Mitchell, of Chapel Hill, who's thinking of becoming a farmer, dont seem to have much in common.

But get them talking about Central Carolina Community Colleges new Alternative Energy Technology: Biofuels associate degree program and they're equally enthusiastic.

I've been working on a degree in renewable and sustainable resources and I'm here to learn, said Bordelon. Taking the colleges program makes me more important as an employee for Piedmont.

Mitchell speaks fondly of a 1,000-acre farm in Georgia thats been in his family for eight generations. In addition to the biofuels training, he is finishing up a degree at the college in sustainable agriculture. Mitchell is also a graduate of the colleges REAL (Rural Entrepreneurship through Action Learning), a program that prepares people to successfully open and operate their own small businesses.

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Biofuel research project advances

Western Farm Press

Oct 31, 2008 10:09 AM

Sustainable agriculture practices in the western San Joaquin Valley are advancing through a research partnership featuring a Fresno County grower and scientists from the USDA and California State University, Fresno.

The research team has succeeded in reducing selenium content in West Side soils by growing canola, processing the seed oil to be mixed with diesel fuel and then using the canola meal by-product – with trace elements of selenium – as a supplement for cattle feed.

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What went wrong at VeraSun?

Agriculture Online
Dan Looker
Successful Farming magazine Business Editor
11/04/2008, 10:02 AM CST

As one of the nation's largest ethanol makers struggles to survive by seeking to reorganize under Chapter 11 bankruptcy, farmers are wondering what went wrong at VeraSun Energy Corporation.

Neither the company's CEO, Don Endres, nor other company officers were available for comment Monday, but one farmer and ethanol competitor sees some factors that may have been unique to VeraSun, while other forces that hurt the company also threaten the entire industry.

"They grew really, really fast, especially in the last two years," Belmond, Iowa farmer Dave Nelson, who is also board chairman of Midwest Grain processors, told Agriculture Online. "Two-thirds of their plants came on line in the last two years."

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Culturing Solutions develops new lipid extraction technology

Biodiesel Magazine
November 2008
By Ron Kotrba
Web exclusive posted Nov. 4, 2008 at 2:57 p.m. CST

A new lipid extraction technology for algae has been developed by Culturing Solutions Inc., according to company Chief Executive Officer Dean Tsoupeis. The process is called ultrasonic cavitation. “There are different varieties of reactors out there that utilize this technology, but ours passes the algae biomass through a chamber and what’s called the horn,” Tsoupeis said. “The tolerance between the chamber and the horn is very small and, as it passes over that, the cavitation occurs, which creates small bubbles that collapse on a high-pressure cycle.”

The process is a violent reaction, essentially, which ruptures the algal cell wall to release the lipids. From there, the material goes to a “special centrifuge” to separate out the oil, water and biomass, Tsoupeis said. After separation, dehydration and evaporation can take place to remove any remaining water in the oil, which can proceed “straight to biodiesel production,” he added.

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Biofuels Industry Braces Ahead Of EPA Emissions Report
Mon. November 03, 2008; Posted: 04:41 PM

WASHINGTON, Nov 03, 2008 (Dow Jones Commodities News Select via Comtex) -- By Siobhan Hughes Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will soon release an analysis of greenhouse-gas emissions produced by biofuels, prompting industry fears that the report will curb development by painting biofuels as an environmental threat.

Early last month, representatives from Archer Daniels Midland Co. (ADM), DuPont Co. (DD) and the Biotechnology Industry Organization met with White House officials to air their concerns. Environmental groups sat down with White House officials two weeks later to support the EPA's approach.

The EPA determines which fuels are lower-emitting by looking to the entire life cycle of biofuels, from planting crops to distributing fuel. The controversy involves whether the EPA should factor in the ripple effects around the world of converting farms, pastures and other land into sources of biofuels.

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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Additive to boost biofuels

Science Alert - Australia and New Zealand
Monday, 27 October 2008
Flinders University

A biofuel additive developed by Flinders University could significantly boost biofuel use in Australia following the product’s commercialisation by the University’s industry partners, Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA), Midfield Group and Food Processing Equipment (FPE).

The additive lowers the temperature at which tallow-based biodiesel solidifies - a problem which causes fuel flow difficulties and has constrained the take-up of biofuels made from the waste products of abattoirs.

Leader of Flinders Materials and Bioenergy Group, Dr Stephen Clarke, said there “is a huge potential market for tallow-based biofuels, with the current consumption of petroleum diesel being around 15 billion litres annually in Australia”.

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