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

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Unlikely groups combine to push more ethanol testing
by DAN PILLER & PHILIP BRASHER • • December 28, 2008

It would seem to take a lot to bring the petrochemical refiners and the Sierra Club together, but ethanol has done it.

The National Petrochemical and Refiners Association, which represents the oil-based plastics and gasoline refineries, and the Sierra Club were among 14 organizations that asked the Environmental Protection Agency to do more testing and study before approving ethanol blends of higher than 10 percent in unleaded gasoline.

Other groups in the effort to slow ethanol's drive for higher blend concentrations included the Natural Resources Defense Council, American Lung Association, Engine Manufacturers Association and Motorcycle Industry Council. The bikers, along with boaters, have become vocal in recent months about their fears that ethanol blends might damage motorcycle engines.

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Cellulosic ethanol pushes ahead

by Mark Steil, Minnesota Public Radio
December 26, 2008

Ethanol made from something other than corn has gotten a lot of hype but so far has little to show. Critics like to joke the success of cellulosic ethanol has been "five years away for the last 20 years." It's a jab at an alternative energy source which everybody seems to love, but no one can make. But that could be changing. A South Dakota company, POET, has one of the handful of small-scale pilot plants successfully making ethanol from plant fiber, things like corn cobs and wood chips.

Sioux Falls, S.D. — Standing amid test tubes and fermenting machines in POET's laboratory in Sioux Falls, company research and development chief Mark Stowers gives an upbeat report on the pilot plant.

"We started up on November 18 and already we've been making cellulosic ethanol and we're very, very excited," said Stowers.

POET isn't giving any tours of the pilot plant, located in the town of Scotland some 60 miles southwest of here. It makes ethanol from corn cobs, about 20,000 gallons a year.

Stowers say the Scotland facility is basically a large version of the system initially developed in this laboratory.

Read the full story or listen to the audio

US military funds $35M in research of algae-based jet fuel
December 22, 2008

Science Applications International and General Atomics secure contracts through 2010 to help commercialize biofuel for military jets and vehicles.

A sector of the U.S. Department of Defense has signed nearly $35 million in contracts with two San Diego companies to develop biofuel derived from algae for use in Air Force jets and Army vehicles.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) signed a $14.9 million deal with Science Applications International to work on making the algae-based jet fuel commercially and technically feasible.

DARPA also signed a $19.9 million deal with General Atomics to research algae-based fuel.
The two agreements are expected to last through 2010.

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Grocery inflation likely to ease in 2009

The Chicago Tribune
By Mike Hughlett Tribune reporter
December 26, 2008

Though some crop prices have fallen dramatically, it can take 6 months for the costs to work their way to store shelves

Corn prices have fallen dramatically since summer, and wheat and soybeans have plummeted from historic highs too.

Meanwhile, the price of fuel, the potion that helps turn commodities into foods and allows those foods to be ferried to grocery stores, has fallen off a cliff.

So why is grocery inflation hovering at levels not seen in almost 20 years—and will it finally ease in 2009?

Spikes in commodity costs can take six months to work their way from the farm to store shelves, economists said. That means food inflation should retreat in 2009, but not necessarily back to the levels consumers were used to seeing, agricultural economists said.

Meanwhile, long-term trends that have been pushing food prices higher—growing global demand and an increasing flow of grains to fuel production—may hibernate a bit as the world's economy slows. But don't expect them to go away, economists said.

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Biofuel Economics: Future of renewable energy is secure The Green Sheet
By Cole Gustafson, Biofuels Economist, North Dakota State University Extension
Published on Friday, December 26, 2008

On Dec. 11, the California Air Resources Board passed sweeping new legislation that secures the future of renewable energy. As part of the scoping plan that implements the goals established in their 2006 Global Warming Solutions Act, new key provisions include:
- 33 percent of all energy must come from renewable sources by 2020.
- New homes built after 2020 must be energy self-sufficent.
- Greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced to 1990 levels.

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N.H. Legislator Considers Banning Ethanol

Lancaster Farming (Pennsylvania)
Submitted by Editor on Fri, 12/26/2008 - 10:50am.
Steve Taylor, N.H. Correspondent

NASHUA, N.H. — David Campbell wants to ban corn-based ethanol from being blended into gasoline sold in the state of New Hampshire.

“It makes no sense environmentally when making a gallon of ethanol has a bigger carbon footprint than a gallon of gasoline, and it makes no sense to allow it to drive up food costs and availability when millions of people around the globe are facing starvation,” Campbell, a member of the state legislature, says.

He has had a bill drafted for consideration at the upcoming legislative session to prohibit sale of gasoline containing ethanol, and he’s already been hearing from people who promise support, as well as from state bureaucrats who tell it can’t be done.

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Ethanol Questions Fuel a Pushback Over Regulation Changes

U.S. News & World Report
By Kent Garber
Posted December 26, 2008

As the Bush administration winds down, a controversial energy matter is continuing to stoke debate, largely behind closed doors, among lobbyists, lawmakers, and federal officials: whether to allow motor vehicles to use gasoline containing higher blends of ethanol.

Representatives of several public health, environmental, and manufacturing groups met last week with the Bush administration's Office of Management and Budget and asked that more testing be done on car engines before federal ethanol limits are changed, warning that the impact of such an action upon consumers and the environment is not yet fully known.

The question of whether cars can safely run on higher blends is a murky one. At the moment, federal law allows gasoline used in regular cars to contain no more than 10 percent ethanol. The ethanol industry says the proportion could go higher—to 15 percent or even 20 percent—without significantly affecting how cars drive or hold up or how their emissions control systems perform.

Some industry representatives are asking the Environmental Protection Agency, which has final say in these matters, to quickly approve 12 or 13 percent blends.

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Biomass push can help Georgia

By David Ames
For the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Friday, December 26, 2008

Over the past 30 years, Georgia has experienced remarkable growth in population, economic activity and energy demand. Already the ninth most populous state in the country, Georgia’s population is expected to grow by an additional 50 percent by 2025. This growing population will demand more energy and new jobs.

Unlike other states that have made waves instituting ambitious renewable energy targets, Georgia has not developed its renewable resources. However, by developing the renewable-energy industry in Georgia, particularly our significant biomass resources, we can ensure a steady supply of cost-effective energy and a market for skilled workers —- both of which will bolster our state’s economy in years to come.

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An Ethanol Bailout?

The Wall Street Journal Opinion Journal
December 24, 2008
And we thought we'd seen everything.

Along with Russia, Venezuela, Iran and the Dubai property market, add another name to the list of bubble economies hurt by the falling price of oil: the ethanol industry. And naturally, the ethanol lobby is looking for a bailout on top of its regular taxpayer subsidies.

The commodity bust has clobbered corn ethanol, whose energy inefficiencies require high oil prices to be competitive. The price of ethanol at the pump has fallen nearly in half in recent months to $1.60 from $2.90 per gallon due to lower commodity prices, and that lower price now barely covers production costs even after accounting for federal subsidies. Three major producers are in or near bankruptcy, including giant VeraSun Energy.

So here they go again back to the taxpayer for help. The Renewable Fuels Association, the industry lobby, is seeking $1 billion in short-term credit from the government to help plants stay in business and up to $50 billion in loan guarantees to finance expansion. The lobby would also like Congress to ease the 10% limit on how much ethanol can be added to gasoline for conventional cars and trucks -- never mind the potential damage to engines from such an unproven mix.

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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Agriculture secretary designee earns plaudits in South Dakota

Black Hills Pioneer
By Tom LawrenceThe Weekly News
Published: December 24, 2008

Johnson, Thune say they look forward to learning his views

President-elect Barack Obama’s choice of former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack as the next secretary of agriculture may be a boon for ethanol research.Vilsack has been a leading proponent of the biofuel. Obama supported ethanol research when he won the Iowa caucuses. That win propelled him to frontrunner status and, eventually the Democratic presidential nomination. Obama noted Vilsack’s interest in ethanol when he nominated him for the post Dec. 14.

“As governor of one of our most abundant farm states, he led with vision, fostering an agricultural economy of the future that not only grows the food we eat but the energy we use,” he said.

Vilsack has pushed for further development of cellulosic ethanol, in which products such as woodchips and switchgrass are used to produce the biofuel. He has called for dropping subsidies for corn-based ethanol.

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Iowa Office of Energy Independence Plans for Green Future

Environment News Service

DES MOINES, Iowa, December 23, 2008 (ENS) - The Iowa State Office of Energy Independence today released its 2008 Plan for Energy Independence, with recommendations on best practices for efficiency and energy production statewide.

A newly formed state agency, the Office of Energy Independence issued its first annual energy plan in the fall of 2007. Since then, the OEI has received more than 160 pre-applications, proposing nearly $1 billion in private-sector investment in renewable energy and job creation.

"Iowa’s natural resources, innovation, and work ethic provide a solid foundation for us to lead in this new energy economy," said Governor Chet Culver. "Most important, research and development into energy efficiency, renewable energy, and next-generation biofuels is leading to job growth in every corner of Iowa."

Under the plan, Iowa's Office of Energy Independence will enact an energy efficiency portfolio standard, expand energy education, promote smart growth and support workforce development in energy.

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U.S. Offers Biofuel Refinery Grants

The Wall Street Journal
DECEMBER 22, 2008, 9:56 P.M. ET

WASHINGTON -- The Department of Energy on Monday said it is making available as much as $200 million for advanced biofuel pilot refineries and expects to make awards to between five and 12 projects over the next six years.

The department said that if deployed on a large scale, the commercial facilities could produce volumes that would contribute significantly to the new national renewable-fuels mandate.
"This funding opportunity will look for the most promising technologies that can advance the potential of renewable biomass as a resource for second-generation transportation biofuels," said John Mizroch, acting assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy.

"The Department of Energy will select breakthrough integrated biorefinery projects that have technical and economic performance data at the bench or pilot scale to prove they are ready to move a step closer toward commercial readiness," he said.

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Dramatic Drop Seen in Corn Used for Ethanol

Ohio Farm Bureau Federation
Published on 12/23/2008

WASHINGTON – The Agriculture Department’s World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) released today places corn used for ethanol production at 3.7 billion bushels, down 300 million bushels from the November estimate. “The most dramatic change in the December WASDE report was the big drop in corn used for ethanol production,” said Terry Francl, senior crops economist with the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF). “I am surprised that corn use for ethanol dropped by that much. Demand for ethanol is down, just like demand for gasoline is down, but I just don’t think the decline is that large. I believe 3.8 billion bushels to 3.9 billion bushels is closer to the mark.”

Francl explained that a number of ethanol plants are idled due to weak demand, which explains the drop in corn used for ethanol. However, the Renewable Fuel Standards would seem to imply that at least 3.8 billion bushels of corn will be utilized for ethanol production in 2008/09.

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Monday, December 29, 2008

Officials say more Iowa ethanol plants may close

Chicago Tribune
Associated Press
12:01 AM CST, December 23, 2008

DES MOINES, Iowa - Renewable fuel officials say more ethanol plants in Iowa could close as the industry deals with falling prices.

The drop in price for corn, crude oil and ethanol has resulted in reduced revenues for the ethanol industry this year, prompting three of the state's 32 ethanol plants to file for bankruptcy.

Plants in Albert City, Dyersville and Steamboat Rock have closed in recent months.

Monte Shaw, executive director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, says it's a frustrating time for the ethanol industry.

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At a Sleek Bioenergy Lab, a Lens on a Cabinet Pick

The New York Times Science
Published: December 22, 2008

EMERYVILLE, Calif. — The Joint BioEnergy Institute, which encompasses the fourth floor of a high-tech office building here in a neighborhood of biotech companies, radiates a sleek ecological modernity: floorboards manufactured of recycled materials and laminated to look like bamboo, trendy office furniture and laboratories stocked with new equipment.

It even has a hip nickname: Jay-Bay. That is how everyone pronounces JBEI. The institute has the look and feel — and organizational chart — of a startup venture, not a federal research laboratory.

But JBEI is financed by the Energy Department — $135 million over five years. And JBEI is under the purview of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in nearby Berkeley, whose director, Steven Chu, has been selected as the next energy secretary.

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Lampung builds special school to support bioenergy program

Monday, December 29, 2008 9:48 PM
Oyos Saroso H.N. , The Jakarta Post , Bandarlampung Tue, 12/23/2008 10:59 AM The Archipelago

The Lampung provincial administration is building an integrated biofuel school in Central Lampung regency as part of its plan to become a national bioenergy center.

Construction of the special school in Sulusuban village, Central Lampung, is expected to cost Rp 216 billion (US$19.6 million), funded by the central government (50 percent), province (30 percent) and regency (20 percent).

Construction work commenced in the middle of the year and is scheduled for completion in 2017.
Head of the Lampung office Development Planning Board, Suryono S.W., said the school would be located within the compound of the Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT) in Sulusuban village in Seputihagung district.

"The budgeted Rp 216 billion will be used to build the school, from elementary to university levels. A vocational school will be built in the initial phase, followed by a polytechnic," Suryono said recently.

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Oil & ethanol: New partners?
Peter Harriman • • December 21, 2008

Former rivals now make good business team, some experts say

Renewable fuel producers and big oil companies might appear to be natural enemies, but the development of ethanol has moved the two industries inexorably closer in recent years.

Once combatants, oil companies and ethanol producers now are forging partnerships, the result of federal regulations and economic reality. Such partnerships could aid struggling ethanol producers and give oil companies a leg up in a fledgling industry. And an oil company could be South Dakota ethanol giant VeraSun's ticket out of bankruptcy.

Marathon Oil, one of the largest U.S. oil companies, early last year entered into a partnership with The Andersons Inc., an ethanol refiner with a plant in Ohio and another in Indiana.

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Iowa Interstate Railroads receives $31 million

Ethanol Producer Magazine
January 2009
By Ryan C. Christiansen
Web exclusive posted Dec. 21, 2008, at 12:08 p.m. CST

The Federal Railroad Administration has announced that Cedar Rapids, Iowa-based Iowa Interstate Railroad Ltd., a subsidiary of Railroad Development Corp. of Pittsburgh, Pa., will receive a $31 million loan under the Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing program to help finance the railroad’s recent purchase of 12 new 4,400-horsepower General Electric ES44AC Evolution Series locomotives, which have allowed the railroad to increase train lengths, tonnage, and operating speeds in its service to newly constructed ethanol plants along its line. The new locomotives are 18 percent more fuel efficient than alternatives and comply with all of the latest U.S. EPA requirements. The railroad received the new locomotives this fall.

Iowa Interstate Railroad expects to move approximately one billion gallons of ethanol per year from ethanol plants along its line in the near future. The ethanol plants that are currently producing along the Iowa Interstate Railroad line include the 37 MMgy Penford Products Corp. ethanol plant and the 420 MMgy Archer Daniels Midland Co. ethanol plant in Cedar Rapids, Iowa; the 110 MMgy Hawkeye Renewables ethanol plant in Menlo, Iowa; the 100 MMgy ADM plant in Peoria, Ill.; and the 100 MMgy Patriot Renewable Fuels LLC plant in Annawan, Ill. The ethanol plants under construction along the railroad line include a 275 MMgy ADM expansion in Cedar Rapids, Iowa; and a new 110 MMgy Southwest Iowa Renewable Energy LLC ethanol plant in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

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Biomass fuels to the rescue?

The Miami Herald Business
Posted on Monday, 12.22.08

Nobody loves biomass. When talk turns to global warming and the green movement, it's hardly ever mentioned. Biomass can be garbage (literally) or wood chips or sugar-cane remnants or grass.

Still, among energy experts, biomass has some strong supporters, and for good reason: Right now, virtually all the renewable-energy power in Florida comes from biomass, including three plants in Miami-Dade and Broward.

What's more, it's cheap -- cheaper in some instances even than coal, which is generally considered the nation's least expensive way of producing electricity but is also the biggest producer of greenhouse gases that scientists say are heating up the globe.

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Trash gas proves powerful

Denton Record-Chronicle (Texas)
07:21 AM CST on Monday, December 22, 2008
By Lowell Brown / Staff Writer

New project starts converting city landfill emissions into energy

As Americans search for solutions to the nation’s energy problems — foreign oil dependence, shrinking fossil fuel supplies, global warming — Rick Koch hopes they don’t overlook their garbage cans.

Koch is a construction manager for Moline, Ill.-based Green Construction LLC, which specializes in projects that convert trash into energy. His latest endeavor is at the Denton landfill, where he’s worked since August to see that one man’s trash could be another man’s power supply.

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Biofuel Development Shifting From Soil To Sea, Specifically To Marine Algae

Science Daily
ScienceDaily (Dec. 20, 2008) — Bell-bottoms… Designer jeans… Disco… Big hair… Gas shortages.

Some icons of the 1970s are emblazoned in the memories of those old enough to remember. A few styles, to the dismay of many, have come back in vogue—oil-related crises among them. Broad anxiety over fuel manifested again in 2008, illuminating the dark side of the nation’s continued oil addiction.

Out of the ‘70s oil crisis came U.S. government funding for research evaluating the prospects of new fuel sources derived from terrestrial plants such as corn and soybeans, as well as algae. But when oil prices plummeted in the late 1980s and ‘90s, interest in such biofuel programs waned and support dried up. Now 21st century gas prices—which bolted upward to $4.50 a gallon in California earlier this year—have sparked a renaissance in the search for new biologically based energy solutions.

Today, the most fervent attention in biofuel development has shifted from soil to the sea, and specifically to marine algae. Scientists at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, along with researchers at UCSD’s Division of Biological Sciences, are part of an emerging algal biofuel consortium that includes academic collaborators, CleanTECH San Diego, regional industry representatives, and public and private partners.

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Forget Ethanol, UCLA Looks At Bacteria For Fuel

Dec 20, 2008 10:20 am US/Pacific

A strain of bacteria usually associated with polluted beaches has been genetically modified by UCLA scientists, and the new bug has the potential of making jet fuel, gasoline and other petroleum products that deliver much more energy.

E. coli, the humble bug found in human digestive tracts, can be modified so that each cell can generate "long-chain alcohol," an advance that could reduce global warming and increase fuel efficiency by using the bacteria to excrete a better form of fuel, UCLA announced.

Scientists at UCLA have for the first time produced E. coli that can generate alcohol with five carbon atoms per molecule, instead of the normal two or three. Alcohol molecules with eight carbon atoms may also be possible, they report in this month's edition of the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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Seed money awarded for biofuel projects

Friday, December 19, 2008
Denver Business Journal

The Colorado Center for Biorefining and Biofuels (known as C2B2) has selected 12 projects to receive funding in 2009 to support developing technologies to advance sustainable biorefining and biofuels processes.

Formed in 2007, C2B2 is a partnership of the University of Colorado-Boulder, the Colorado School of Mines, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Colorado State University. The seed-grant funding is awarded annually to principal investigators from the four institutions.

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Energy technology a new cash crop for Virginia?


BY REX BOWMAN Media General News Service Published: December 12, 2008

Where tobacco once formed the foundation of the economies in Southside and parts of Southwest Virginia, the cash crop of the future could turn out to be energy research.

Using $32 million wrung from tobacco companies a decade ago, the communities of Lynchburg, Danville, South Boston and Abingdon are preparing to build four energy-research centers where scientists from Virginia Tech, other institutions and private businesses could work to find solutions to the nation’s, and world’s, energy problems.

To the Lynchburg center goes the task of nuclear research. To Danville, bio-energy. To South Boston, wind turbines and green engineering. And to Abingdon, clean coal and natural gas.

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Cellulosic ethanol mandate too ambitious

Jacqui Fatka

Today marks the one-year anniversary of the signing of the Energy Security and Independence Act (EISA) which included an expanded Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) of 36 billion gallons with only 15 billion gallons from corn-based ethanol. For advanced biofuels it calls for 21 billion gallons or at least 16 billion gallons of cellulosic production by 2022 - an ambitious target considering today only pilot plants are producing ethanol from sources other than corn.

In its Annual Energy Outlook 2009, the Energy Information Administration, projected ethanol use for gasoline blending grows to 12.2 billion gallons and E85 consumption to 17.3 billion gallons in 2030. Biodiesel and biomass-to-liquid diesel fuel use both rise significantly, reaching nearly 2 billion gallons and 5 billion gallons, respectively, in 2030.

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UNM Leads Team Exploring Ethanol Use for Hydrogen Economy

University of New Mexico Today
December 19, 2008

UNM Associate Professor of Chemical and Nuclear Engineering Plamen Atanassov is leading a team exploring the possibility of putting biofuel into a fuel cell, research that takes a step toward hydrogen rather than petroleum based economy. Biofuels are considered a renewable energy source since they are plant-based rather than petroleum-based.

Atanassov, director of the Center for Emerging Energy Technologies, said, “We would link the world of biofuels with the world of fuel cells.”

A major grant from the Department of Energy’s EPSCoR program brought together research faculty from UNM, New Mexico State University, New Mexico Tech and Eastern New Mexico University as well as researchers from Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Labs to explore the possibility of making usable fuel cells from ethanol to produce electricity.
The grant is about $750,000 per year for up to six years. Students at the universities will work directly with research faculty on a cutting edge problem vital to the future of the United States. Student participation will range from undergraduates to post doctoral research.

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Editorial: Fixing Agriculture

The New York Times
Published: December 19, 2008

Tom Vilsack, President-elect Barack Obama’s choice to lead the Agriculture Department has the merit of being unsatisfactory to both extremes of the farm-policy debates.

Zealous advocates of sustainable agriculture question his support of biotechnology, while partisans of the status quo find him insufficiently loyal to the system of farm subsidies. That leaves him with a very large center of support. He’ll need it to move this country’s broken agricultural policy in a new direction.

During his days as governor of Iowa, Mr. Vilsack embraced innovation — encouraging the use of farmland to produce energy from ethanol and wind power, while promoting better treatment of migrant workers. He has the additional advantage of having governed a state where small, innovative farms are emerging.

Read the full editorial

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Continental Airlines to Perform Test Flight Fueled by Algae and Jatropha Biofuel on Jan. 7
Date Posted: December 9, 2008

Houston—Continental Airlines (NYSE: CAL) announced Dec. 8 plans for the first biofuel-powered demonstration flight of a U.S. commercial airliner, to be conducted in Houston on Jan. 7, 2009.

The demonstration flight, which will be operated with no passengers, will be powered by a special fuel blend including components derived from algae and jatropha plants -- sustainable, second-generation fuel sources that don't impact food crops or water resources, and don't contribute to deforestation.

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Biodiesel Byproduct May Be Used As Value-Added Ag Commodity
12/11/2008 7:50:00 AM

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A byproduct of biodiesel may be used to support the production of an animal feed additive to enhance the performance and growth of dairy cattle.

Ohio State University Department of Animal Science researchers have received a $38,733 one-year grant from the Ohio Soybean Council to use crude glycerol to grow yeast -- a common feed supplement in dairy cattle diets. The researchers are evaluating whether or not glycerol can effectively be used to grow yeast and how that yeast stacks up to commercial varieties in quality and in price.

"The idea behind the project is to take what is considered a waste product and turn it into a value-added agricultural commodity," said Zhongtang Yu, a microbiologist with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center and principal investigator of the project.

Read the full story

Monday, December 22, 2008

Report has renewable fuels lowering American oil demand through 2030

By Robert Pore
The Grand Island Independent
Posted Dec 17, 2008 @ 09:53 PM

With the growth of renewable fuels, the U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA) on Wednesday said that for the first time in more than 20 years, the government is projecting virtually no growth in U.S. oil consumption.

In its "Annual Energy Outlook 2009," EIA said along with increased use of renewable fuels, recently enacted CAFE standards and an assumed rebound in oil prices as the world's economy rebounds, it will keep U.S. oil use flat through 2030.

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Biochar Offered as Climate Change Reduction Tool

Environmental News Service

ATHENS, Georgia, December 17, 2008 (ENS) - Former inhabitants of the Amazon Basin enriched their fields with charcoal and transformed some of the Earth's most infertile soils into some of the most productive. They disappeared 500 years ago, but their soil is still rich in organic matter and nutrients.

Now, scientists, environmental groups and policymakers forging the next world climate agreement see the charred organic material that they have dubbed "biochar" as a tool for replenishing soils and as a tool for combating global warming.

Christoph Steiner, a University of Georgia-Athens research scientist in the Faculty of Engineering, was a contributor to the biochar proposal submitted by the UN Convention to Combat Desertification at a side event held last week at the UN climate change conference meeting in Poland. The new climate change agreement will replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.

"The potential of biochar lies in its ability to sequester - capture and store - huge amounts of carbon while also displacing fossil fuel energy, effectively doubling its carbon impact," said Steiner, a soil scientist whose research in the Amazon Basin originally focused on the use of biochar as a soil amendment.

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$900G for biofuels research goes to 3 universities

New Haven (Conn.) Register
Monday, December 8, 2008 5:52 AM EST
By Luther Turmelle, North Bureau Chief

The state has awarded more than $900,000 in grant money to three Connecticut universities for research into biofuels.

The grants will go to Yale University, the University of New Haven and the University of Connecticut, Gov. M. Jodi Rell announced Friday.

The grants were awarded through the Fuel Diversification Grant Program, which is administered by Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology and funded by the state’s Department of Economic and Community Development.

Friday, December 19, 2008

USDA Secretary Pick Vilsack Faces Farm Bill, Ethanol
By Alan Bjerga

Dec. 17 (Bloomberg) -- Tom Vilsack, who President-elect Barack Obama named as his Agriculture secretary choice, will need to act quickly on unimplemented farm subsidies and lower crop prices, commodity and agriculture analysts said.

As the 30th head of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the former Iowa governor, 58, would also be tasked with re-examining the nation’s biofuels policy. He replaces Ed Schafer, who has led the USDA since Jan. 28.

Vilsack’s experience as governor of a rural state makes him well-qualified to lead the third-largest Cabinet department in spending, Obama said at a news conference today. The USDA has a budget of about $100 billion and 110,000 employees.

“As fiercely protective of family farmers and the farm economy as he has been, he’s also been forward-looking” on rural development and renewable energy, Obama said in Chicago with Vilsack.

Red the full story

Hard Task for New Team on Energy and Climate

The New York Times
Published: December 15, 2008

WASHINGTON — The team President-elect Barack Obama introduced on Monday to carry out his energy and environmental policies faces a host of political, economic, diplomatic and scientific challenges that could impede his plans to address global warming and America’s growing dependence on dirty and uncertain sources of energy.

Acknowledging that a succession of presidents and Congresses had failed to make much progress on the issues, Mr. Obama vowed to press ahead despite the faltering economy and suggested that he would invest his political capital in trying to break logjams.

“This time must be different,” Mr. Obama said at a news conference in Chicago. “This will be a leading priority of my presidency and a defining test of our time. We cannot accept complacency, nor accept any more broken promises.”

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Vilsack: Some Hard Choices on Ethanol

By Michael Grunwald Thursday, Dec. 18, 2008

Iowa is the ethanol capital of the nation, and President-elect Barack Obama has been a reliable supporter of biofuels, so it's no surprise that former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack, his choice for Agriculture Secretary, has been an even more reliable supporter of biofuels, even chairing a national coalition on ethanol (ethyl alcohol, a fuel distilled from plant matter). "As governor of one of our most abundant farm states, he led with vision," Obama said of Vilsack on Wednesday, "fostering an agricultural economy of the future that not only grows the food we eat but the energy we use."

Unfortunately, the scientific evidence is becoming increasingly clear that the agricultural economy should stick to growing food; turns out that using cropland to grow fuel instead is an environmental and economic catastrophe, accelerating the conversion of forests and wetlands into new cropland while jacking up food prices around the world.

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As Obama Picks Cellulosic Advocates, EIA Predicts Shortfall
December 17, 2008: 05:47 PM ET

WASHINGTON -(Dow Jones)- The U.S. won't be able to meet its mandate to produce 36 billion barrels of biofuel by 2022, according to the government's top energy forecaster.

The Energy Information Administration predicted the technological breakthroughs necessary to produce the advanced ethanol quantities called for in the mandate would mean only around 30 billion barrels will be produced.

The prediction comes as President-elect Barack Obama named his Agriculture Secretary nomination, former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, who's a proponent of advanced cellulosic ethanol, but an advocate of dropping subsidies for corn- based ethanol.

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DOE Joint Genome Institute Completes Soybean Genome Map; Releases Data for Biodiesel, Food, and Feed Research
Date Posted: December 9, 2008

Walnut Creek, CA—The U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute (DOE JGI) has released a complete draft assembly of the soybean (Glycine max) genetic code, making it widely available to the research community to advance new breeding strategies for one of the world’s most valuable plant commodities.

Soybean not only accounts for 70 percent of the world’s edible protein, but also is an emerging feedstock for biodiesel production.

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Marine biomass could serve as power source

Biomass Magazine
January 2009
By Erin Voegele

Algae have gained a great deal of attention over the past year as a potential source of oil for biodiesel production. However, algae and other forms of marine biomass—kelp, in particular—could have important implications for energy production, as well.

A recent report published by the Scottish Association for Marine Science on behalf of The Crown Estate, the property-holding organization for the British monarchy, detailed the potential production of methane from marine biomass via anaerobic digestion. The methane could be used to generate electricity and heat, or used as compressed natural gas for transportation fuel.

The use of marine biomass could circumvent many of the land and freshwater use issues associated with terrestrial biomass, the report said. In addition, studies investigating the anaerobic digestion of marine biomass have found that marine algae are as good a feedstock as terrestrial sources of biomass.

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Consumers to Pick Up Tab for Off-Target Cellulosic Ethanol Industry
by: Michael Kanellos
December 16, 2008

It's been talk, talk, talk all the time in the cellulosic ethanol biz. Meanwhile, it looks like the industry won't meet its production requirements.

Cellulosic ethanol is turning out to be an underachiever so far.

The 2008 Energy Independence and Security Act set a goal of producing 100 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol in the U.S. by 2010 and 250 million gallons by 2011, but a survey conducted by David Woodburn of ThinkEquity strongly indicates that the industry is likely to miss its mark.

Woodburn expects only 28.5 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol to be produced in the U.S. in 2010, leaving a 71.5 million gallon gap.

"Congress put this 100 million figure out there and I'm not sure they had any idea about the capacity in the industry," he said.

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Sustainable biofuels can provide 10% of world's energy
Written by Giles Clark, London
Tuesday, 16 December 2008

In the medium term around 10% of the world’s energy needs could be met by sustainable bioenergy from biogenic residues and energy crops, according to a report from the German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU). However, the report, “Future Bioenergy and Sustainable Land Use”, also warns that utilization of this potential should only be pursued if risks to food security as well as to nature conservation and climate change mitigation targets can be excluded. For this to happen, binding sustainability standards need to be introduced at national and international level.

The report highlights the point that bioenergy achieves the greatest contribution to climate change mitigation when it is used to generate electricity. The key approach is to deploy bioenergy to replace energy sources entailing high CO2 emissions, particularly coal. In the electricity sector the climate change mitigation effect of bioenergy is almost twice that of using biofuels for transport or when bioenergy is used to produce heat alone.

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

25x'25 Offers Economic Recovery Advice

Pork Magazine
By Pork news staff Monday, December 15, 2008

The National 25x'25 Alliance Steering Committee has offered Congress and the incoming Obama administration a broad package of new recommendations that will bolster the U.S. economy, create new jobs and insure a clean energy future, the group contends.

The recommendations take aim at all objectives: research, innovation funding for start-up businesses, financial assistance to established firms, infrastructure development and job growth, all in a wide variety of renewable energy sectors that also address the ongoing economic downturn.

The 12 recommendations boost federal renewable energy programs by calling for additional investments totaling some $4.14 billion, an outlay that could ultimately help generate hundreds of billions in new annual revenues and millions of new jobs. The proposals target programs that accelerate markets the wind energy, solar power, biomass, geothermal energy, hydropower and biofuels industries. The package also calls for a renewed look at government support for advanced biofuel production, including increased funding in the form of grants specifically aimed at the construction of commercial-scale, cellulosic production facilities. The proposals underscore the critical role USDA and its programs can and will play in the promotion of a clean energy future and a robust economy.

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Ceres offers biomass seed

Biomass Magazine
December 2008
By Ryan C. Christiansen
Web exclusive posted Dec. 15, 2008 at 4:04 p.m. CST

Under the Blade Energy Crops label, Thousand Oaks, Calif.-based energy crop development company Ceres Inc. has begun selling seed to grow switchgrass and high-biomass sorghum. The switchgrass seed is being sold by weight and the sorghum seed is being sold by count, according to Frank Hardimon, sales director for the Blade label. He said selling sorghum seed by count mirrors the industry practice for corn and soy. “This allows producers to purchase only the amount of seed they need rather than having to overbuy to cover variations in seeds per pound,” he said. Hardimon said the switchgrass seed will be sold in pounds of pure live seed rather than bulk weight so that customers can purchase only viable seeds.

The Blade seed products include two improved switchgrass seed varieties, EG 1101 and EG 1102, adapted for the southern and middle ranges of the U.S. The varieties are high-biomass-yield seed which has been bred for better establishment in high rainfall areas. Hardimon said the varieties have shown superior conversion characteristics in both biochemical and thermochemical processes. Other switchgrass varieties are also available for mid- and northern climates, he said.

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BHS Energy develops biomass briquette press

Your Renewable News
Monday, Dec 15, 2008

Pennsylvania-based BHS Energy LLC has developed a small-scale biomass briquette press designed to compress switchgrass, but is applicable for use with other biomass materials, such as waste wood.

According to Bryan Reggie, an electrical engineer and a managing member of BHS Energy, the product was designed to benefit individual farms and other small-scale entities interested in producing their own heating fuel without the expense of investing in an industrial-scale product.

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Food Prices Expected to Keep Going Up

The New York Times
Published: November 26, 2008

For more than a year, food manufacturers have been shaving package sizes and raising prices, declaring that they had little choice because of unprecedented increases in the cost of raw ingredients like corn, soybeans and wheat.

Prices are dropping for commodities like this corn being harvested near Auburn, Ill., but economists predict the cost of food for consumers will continue to increase through next year.
Now, with the price of grains and other commodities plunging, it may seem logical that grocery prices will follow. But while prices for some items like milk and fresh produce are dropping, those of most packaged items and meat are holding firm or even increasing. Experts warn that consumers should not expect lower prices anytime soon on most items at the grocery store or in restaurants.

Government and industry economists project that the overall cost of food will continue to climb in 2009, led by increases for meat and poultry. A big reason, they say, is that food companies still have not caught up with the prolonged run-up in commodity prices, which remain above historical averages despite coming down from their highs early this year.

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Thoughts from a cellulosic skeptic

Gristmill - Environmental News & Commentary

Cellulosic ethanol ranks dead last
Posted by biodiversivist (Guest Contributor) at 10:49 AM on 14 Dec 2008

Mark Jacobson (associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, Stanford University) has just published a paper in the journal of the Royal Society of Chemistry. You can read the entire article here (PDF).

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Capital Press - The West's Ag Website
12/11/2008 10:26:00 AM
Mateusz Perkowski Capital Press

It looks like cauliflower mosaic virus, crown gall disease and E.coli may have some useful purposes after all.

Genes from these plant and human pathogens have been inserted into corn by the Syngenta company, creating a new cultivar that improves the efficiency of ethanol production.

The USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service recently announced it will consider deregulating the genetically engineered corn, currently known as Event 3272, which would allow it to be freely grown and sold in the United States.

"There are no other petitions submitted for nonregulated status for GE organisms related to ethanol production," according to an APHIS draft risk assessment. "If granted nonregulated status, Event 3272 corn could be the only GE variety available (specifically) for ethanol production."

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Think Tank Turns To NCGA for Research On Ethanol
12/12/2008 11:42:00 AM

A new collection of essays on current energy issues includes a chapter on the future of corn ethanol penned by National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) Chief Executive Officer Rick Tolman that stresses the ability of farmers to meet all demands for corn, whether as food, feed, fuel or fiber.

“The future for corn ethanol in the U.S. is bright,” Tolman writes. “The trends in cost of production, productivity, and sustainability are all moving in a positive direction. Corn ethanol is the bridge to second and third generation biofuels, but will continue to play a key role for the foreseeable future as we develop alternative sources for petrochemical stocks.”

The book, From Energy Crisis to Energy Security, was edited by Daveed Gartenstein-Ross and Clifford D. May for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. The organization is a nonpartisan policy institute dedicated exclusively to promoting pluralism, defending democratic values, and fighting the ideologies that threaten democracy. NCGA’s Research and Business Development staff, led by Dr. Richard Glass, assisted Tolman with the project.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

(LSU) AgCenter researchers looking at ethanol from sugar cane
Special to The Times • December 15, 2008 2:00 am

ST. GABRIEL — Researchers at the LSU AgCenter's Audubon Sugar Institute are combining their knowledge of sugarcane processing and chemical engineering to develop a synergy between sugar production and ethanol.

Some of the same process technology industry uses for producing ethanol from corn can be used to produce it from many other raw materials, including sugarcane and similar plants, said Donal Day, a researcher at the LSU AgCenter's Audubon Sugar Institute.

"The knowledge base is here," Day said.

Funding for ethanol research at Audubon Sugar Institute has come from several sources. This year, the U.S. Department of Energy provided a grant of $980,000, and BP has given an additional $400,000, Day said. Over the past few years, funding for ethanol research at Audubon has exceeded $3 million.

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Trash Becomes Ethanol In Major Canadian Alt-Fuel Move

The Cutting Edge
Edge on Alternative Energy
Neal Rauhauser Cutting Edge Sci-Tech Writer
December 15th 2008

The city of Edmonton in Alberta, Canada has taken a large step forward in liquid fuel production. But it has nothing to do with the famous tar sands deposit of the province—it has to do with trash.

Prior to mastering the drilling and piping of natural gas in the 1940s, lighting and cooking in cities used what was called "town gas" or producer gas. Coal was heated in a low oxygen atmosphere (sometimes with water) and a mix of hydrogen, carbon monoxide, methane, and carbon dioxide was emitted. Carbon monoxide was the key. Although even in low concentrations it is dangerous as it binds very tightly to the oxygen-carrying part of our blood, carbon monoxide is a fine fuel, burning just as natural gas does.

Fast-forward to 2008, and Edmonton is reviving this process with a 21st century twist.

Edmonton has an aggressive trash reduction program with 60 percent of all solid waste being recycled or composted. What’s new is that they intend to improve that figure by taking an additional 30 percent of their waste stream and making ethanol.

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Good news for wind, bad for ethanol in major energy study

ars technica
By Tim De Chant Published: December 15, 2008 - 07:25AM CT

Growing concerns over climate change and energy security have kicked research on alternative energy sources into high gear. The list of options continues to expand, yet few papers have comprehensively reviewed them. And fewer still have weighed the pros and cons in as much depth as a new study published earlier this month in the journal, Energy & Environmental Science. The results are a mixed bag of logical conclusions and startling wake-up calls.

The review pits twelve combinations of electric power generation and vehicular motivation against each other. It is a battle royal of nine electric power sources, three vehicle technologies, and two liquid fuel sources. It rates each combination based on eleven categories. And it was all compiled by one man, Mark Jacobson, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University.

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Ethanol producer hopes to create biomass market

Morris Sun Tribune
Tom Cherveny, West Central Tribune
Published Sunday, December 14, 2008

BENSON — Weather conditions made it very difficult to harvest this year’s corn crop, but they didn’t stop the Chippewa Valley Ethanol Company from gleaning corn cobs along with the yellow grain from roughly 2,500 acres.

There were “no show stoppers’’ to the Benson-based cooperative’s first-ever efforts to harvest corn cobs as a biomass fuel, according to Gene Fynboh, a member of the co-op’s board of directors and coordinator for the harvest. Fynboh and others met Thursday in Benson to assess the corn cob harvest, and to plan their next steps.

“My impression is that it’s still worth pursuing here,’’ said Fynboh.

“We’re committed to making this work,’’ said Bill Lee, general manager of Chippewa Valley Ethanol Company, as discussions on the harvest continued.

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Biomass Board release feedstocks report

Biomass Magazine
December 2008
By Susanne Retka Schill
Web exclusive posted Dec. 12, 2008 at 9:57 a.m. CST

Biomass feedstocks and their cost, sustainability and greenhouse gas impacts are the focus of an interagency report that outlines research priorities, and suggests that new technologies will be the linchpin to developing a sustainable biofuel industry to meet national goals.

The Biomass Research and Development Board released “Increasing Feedstock Production for Biofuels: Economic Drivers, Environmental Implications, and the Role of Research” on Dec. 4.

"Our national security, our economy and the future of the planet require that we explore the development of biofuels in a cost-effective, environmentally sound manner and that we move beyond food crops to include a diverse base of feedstocks," said Gale Buchanan, USDA Chief Scientist and Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics, who co-chairs the Biomass Research and Development Board. "This report addresses the constraints and implications of meeting our biofuel production goals and provides invaluable guidance for further research."

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Experts predict push for biofuels

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
By Thomas Content of the Journal Sentinel
Posted: Dec. 15, 2008

Obama advisers will focus on 'green' policies, they say

A surge of interest - and funding - is likely in 2009 for efforts to cut energy use, develop next-generation biofuels and expand renewable energy sources such as wind power, energy experts say.

But don't look for a rapid acceleration of plans to build new nuclear reactors, the experts said in assessing President-elect Barack Obama's choices to lead his administration's energy policy.

Experts say energy policy is going to take a greener hue, and they say an economic stimulus package may have its own green tint now that Obama has named his key energy and environment policy advisers.

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Ethanol counting on campaign promises

Chicago Tribune
By Joshua Boak Tribune reporter
December 12, 2008

Obama pledged his support, but policy, interests may collide

Record corn prices drove VeraSun Energy into bankruptcy. Shares in Aventine Renewable Energy are trading for less than 50 cents, down 99 percent from their peak. Plans for 19 ethanol refineries were recently canceled, including nine in Illinois.

And because of its lower energy content, ethanol blend E85 effectively costs drivers about 30 cents more per gallon than gasoline, hurting its acceptance as an alternative fuel.

Promises of additional government support for ethanol producers from President-elect Barack Obama might not be enough to immediately rescue a business near and dear to farmers. Ethanol is a crucial part of Obama's pledge to limit the use of foreign oil, a policy that connects energy to national security and economic development.

Government mandates established a demand for ethanol that proved greater than what the corn harvest could provide. That drove up corn prices and slashed the profit margins of refiners. Additional government efforts to strengthen the industry could only prolong that cycle.

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Brown: House passes plan to boost sale of renewable fuels

Huron Daily Tribune
Published: Tuesday, December 9, 2008 11:24 AM EST

LANSING — Lawmakers voted last week for a plan that will encourage the use and production of renewable fuels in Michigan by providing a tax credit to gas station owners who upgrade or purchase new pumps and tanks that sell ethanol or biodiesel fuel.

“Making renewable fuels available to more consumers statewide will increase Thumb-area farmers’ profits and help protect and create jobs right here in our communities,” said State Rep. Terry Brown (D-Pigeon), a member of both the House Agriculture Committee and the Energy and Technology Committee, in a statement last week. “By enabling more gas station owners to provide homegrown ethanol and biodiesel at their pumps, we can also break our dependence on foreign oil more quickly. Expanding our use of renewable fuels is critical to ensuring that our farmers prosper, our economy becomes more diverse and our country increases its security and independence.”

The plan passed by the House will create a business tax credit beginning in 2009 for service station owners who install new renewable fuel delivery systems, according to a press release issued last week by the Michigan Democratic Communications Office. The credit would be available over the next three years, and would be limited to $1 million overall and $20,000 per taxpayer.

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EIN News Launches New Biofuel Industry Today News Web Site
Date Posted: December 12, 2008

Washington—EIN News has announced the launch of a new alternative energy website providing in-depth news on the biofuel industry.

While environmental problems pile up around us, the world's politicians and business leaders alike realize that switching to alternative energy presents not only a way of cleaning up our environment, but growth and profit opportunities as well.

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Column: Detroit must make flexible-fuel vehicles

The Eagle-Tribune
Published: December 11, 2008 02:09 am
by Clifford D. May

The price of gasoline is down — from over $4 a gallon to about $1.70 a gallon. That's because the price of oil is down from almost $150 a barrel to around $40 a barrel. This is good news for moms who chauffeur their kids to soccer games, music lessons and religious school, and for truck drivers moving products from factories to stores. The savings should trickle down to consumers as well.

But, as the TV pitchmen say, these prices won't last! They are the result of a global recession, which has suppressed demand. When the economy recovers — as we pray it shall — demand will increase, not just in the United States and Europe but in India and China and elsewhere. Unless there is additional fuel supply to meet that growing demand, prices will push skyward again.

Another word for yo-yoing prices is volatility. Volatility is bad for businessmen who need to make long-range plans and families attempting to budget. It puts additional stress on an economy already sickly due to the myopia of Wall Street tycoons and the incompetence of the politicians paid to keep an eye on them.

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Large Ethanol Demand Cut Unlikely To Repeat

12/11/2008 3:05:00 PM

CHICAGO (Dow Jones)--Thursday's supply and demand report might not be the last time the U.S. Department of Agriculture slices projected ethanol demand, but it was likely the last big cut, at least for a while, analysts said.

The USDA, in its monthly world supply and demand report, lowered its forecast for corn usage by the ethanol sector to 3.7 billion bushels, a 300-million-bushel drop from its November forecast. It said prospects for blending above federally mandated levels will decline.

The industry has been plagued by widespread financial problems and falling gasoline prices that have led to bankruptcy in some cases, such as VeraSun, the largest ethanol producer. The government noted that the industry's financial problems are reducing plant capacity utilization and delaying plant openings.

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Team from Rice wins $10,000 in 'Recycle Ike' contest

Copyright 2008 Houston Chronicle (
Dec. 10, 2008, 11:04PM

A team of Rice scientists and students won a city contest Wednesday to devise a new way to recycle tree debris — by turning it into carbon-sequestering "biomass charcoal."
"This just goes to show how Houstonians have figured out in so many ways big and small how to make the best out of a natural disaster," Mayor Bill White said. "From necessity comes ingenuity and creativity, and I think that's what we're seeing here."

The winners of Houston's "Recycle Ike" contest accepted $10,000 in prize money, which they will use to build a pilot bioreactor on campus. The team of seven included students, graduate students, researchers and professors.

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Researchers Converting Rotting Watermelons, Peaches Into Ethanol
12/5/2008 3:52:00 PM

ATHENS, Ga. — Half of all the fruit grown in Georgia is never eaten by people or animals. It rots in the fields. A University of Georgia researcher says that spoiled fruit could fuel cars.

That wasted fruit can be converted into bioethanol through a fermentation process, said Elliot Altman, program coordinator for the UGA Center for Molecular Bioengineering.

“All fruits are 10 percent sugar, or potentially 5 percent ethanol,” said Altman, an engineer with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. “It’s a real opportunity.”

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ALMANAC Model May Help Predict Crops' Role in Bioenergy Production

By Don Comis
December 10, 2008

A computer model called ALMANAC promises to provide answers about a key issue facing agriculture today: the management of crops such as corn and switchgrass for bioenergy production.

Agricultural Research Service (ARS) agronomist Jim R. Kiniry at the Grassland Soil and Water Research Laboratory in Temple, Tex., and his colleagues originally developed ALMANAC as a crop-management tool, then updated it as a pasture management tool. Now it's being used to evaluate biofuel crops.

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Ethanol Funds Tapped Out

Dec 11 2008 7:44AM
Associated Press

Bismarck, N.D. (AP) A state fund that helps North Dakota ethanol plants is expected to run out of money this month.

Ethanol producers can tap into the fund when Corn prices are high. Randy Schneider of the North Dakota Ethanol Producers Association said that's what happened in the third quarter of the year when corn sold for nearly $6 a bushel.

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"New" ethanol to face crunch time under a Chu DOE

Reuters UK
Thu Dec 11, 2008 9:48pm GMT
By Timothy Gardner

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The next U.S. energy secretary, a long-standing champion of producing ethanol from non-food crops rather than corn, could face hurdles in moving the next-generation biofuel from the laboratory to the gasoline station.

Steven Chu, Obama's pick for the head of the Department of Energy, is a steadfast supporter of next-generation biofuels such as cellulosic ethanol, expected to be made from the tough woody bits of crops like grasses and fast growing trees as well as plant and timber waste.

A 2007 report co-chaired by Chu, and commissioned by the governments of China and Brazil, called for "intensive research" into production of cellulosic, which relies on technology like isolating microbes, or using large amounts of heat and steam, to break down the tough bits into fuel.

Chu, the head of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and a Nobel physics laureate, also helped organize the Energy Biosciences Institute, a lab focusing on next-generation biofuels funded with $500 million from oil major BP Plc.

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Steven Chu, Obama’s Remarkable Choice For Secretary Of Energy

Think Progress - The Wonk Room
By Brad Johnson on Dec 10th, 2008 at 5:28 pm

President-elect Barack Obama’s reported selection of Dr. Steven Chu as Secretary of Energy is a bold stroke to set the nation on the path to a clean energy economy. Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, is the sixth director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, a Department of Energy-funded basic science research institution managed by the University of California. After moving to Berkeley Lab from Stanford University in 2004, Chu “has emerged internationally to champion science as society’s best defense against climate catastrophe.” As director, Chu has steered the direction of Berkeley Lab to addressing the climate crisis, pushing for breakthrough research in energy efficiency, solar energy, and biofuels technology.

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Friday, December 12, 2008

Ethanol: Will It Always Be In Demand Or Will It Ever Be A Surplus Commodity?
12/9/2008 7:42:00 AM

Through the hard work of nearly every corn farmer and various commodity and farm organizations, ethanol has become a significant motor fuel and new use of surplus corn. While corn has moved from surplus to a demand commodity in the past several years, more ethanol plants have been produced to meet the demand for ethanol by the motoring public and to satisfy the various governmental mandates for it use. But at some point ethanol will be found in nearly all of the US motor fuel, and what happens at that point of market saturation. Can agriculture afford for ethanol to be a surplus commodity?

The answer to that question is no. Agriculture cannot afford for ethanol to be in surplus and both economists and policy planners should anticipate the day that ethanol has saturated the conventional 10% blend of the motor fuel market. Iowa State economists Bruce Babcock and Michael Boland track the use of ethanol in the fall issue of the Iowa Ag Review.

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Higher ethanol co-product exports expected

Delta Farm Press
Dec 9, 2008 10:12 AM

According to Dan Keefe, U.S. Grains Council manager of international operations for distiller’s dried grains with solubles, U.S. DDGS exports are likely to recover in January, rebounding from a sluggish fourth quarter.

Freight costs had been the primary factor in causing a loss of export sales of U.S. DDGS, a co-product of U.S. ethanol production.

“What we saw occur was bulk freight costs drop substantially relative to container freight costs,” said Keefe. “Container freight is usually the most common transport mode for DDGS and lower bulk freight costs made corn cheaper on a delivered basis, causing DDGS exports to suffer.

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MATRIC Publishes Book on Feeding Distillers Grains

The Midwest Agribusiness Trade Research and Information Center

Contacts: Dermot J. Hayes, Economics, Finance, FAPRI; John D. Lawrence, Economics, Iowa Beef Center; Bruce A. Babcock, Economics, CARD, MATRIC; Sandy Clarke, CARD communications;
November 24, 2008

The Midwest Agribusiness Trade Research and Information Center (MATRIC) at Iowa State University has published a book on using distillers grains, a co-product of biofuels production, as a feedstuff for livestock and poultry. The book is only available online at and is free for downloading.

The book, Using Distillers Grains in the U.S. and International Livestock and Poultry Industries, was edited by Bruce A. Babcock, Dermot J. Hayes and John D. Lawrence, all professors of economics at Iowa State University. The editors invited internationally renowned experts in animal science, economics, trade, and transportation and logistics from Iowa State and six other universities to share their knowledge and the latest research about distillers grains.

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Synthetic e.coli for biofuel?
Dec 9, 2008

CHICAGO - US RESEARCHER have engineered a synthetic version of the common e. coli bacteria that could help build a better biofuel, according to a study published on Monday.

By altering the basic genetic structure of the bacteria, researchers were able to stimulate it to produce long-chain alcohols that are denser in energy than those found in nature.

Ethanol, one of the leading sources of biofuel, contains just two carbon atoms, and the most common naturally-produced long-chain alcohols contain no more than five carbon atoms.

But alcohols produced for the e. coli study by the University of California's Los Angeles lab contain up to eight carbon atoms, which means they pack a lot more energy.

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Big Three Auto Makers Re-Pledge 50% Flex-Fuel Vehicle Production by 2012 in New Bailout Appeal
Date Posted: December 8, 2008
The following article is reprinted by permission from the National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition FYI Newsletter for December 8, 2008 (14.20).

On December 2, 2008, the Detroit 3 automakers (Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors) submitted plans to the Congress which seek bridge loan funds in order to sustain business operations during a period of unprecedented decline in demand for new motor vehicles.

As part of each of their business plans, the Detroit 3 restated their previous commitments to the production of 50% of their fleet as Flexible Fuel Vehicles (FFVs) by 2012.

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RENEWED ENERGY: Ethanol Poses Big Challenge For New EPA Chief
12/2/2008 2:04:00 PM

WASHINGTON (Dow Jones)--The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency chief who takes over next month faces an immediate challenge: how to handle a flood of ethanol into the market.

The U.S. Congress last year increased by almost five times the amount of biofuels that must be in the fuel supply by 2022. Next year alone, companies that blend ethanol must add 11.1 billion gallons, more than double the amount mandated two years earlier. The jump has been hailed by lawmakers from Minnesota and South Dakota, where the ethanol industry is creating jobs, and promoted as part of a solution to U.S. dependence on foreign oil.

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DALE: Sound policy needs sound science

The Washington Times
Bruce Dale
Wednesday, November 26, 2008

As the Environmental Protection Agency fulfills its requirement to determine how direct and indirect land use change is impacted by crops produced to make biofuels, it needs to assure that good science is used to create good policy.

It would be easy - and wrong - to rely on a much-publicized study that connects U.S. corn ethanol production to greenhouse gas release via indirect land use change. Indirect land use change refers to bringing new lands into agricultural production, and thereby creating a "carbon debt," because of market forces.

This study, first publicized in ScienceExpress online in February 2008 and widely quoted in a Time magazine cover story in March, cast a pall over all biofuels and has chilled investment in advanced non-grain-based biofuels such as cellulosic ethanol. My evaluation is that the study meets neither the standards for scientific significance nor life cycle analysis as required in the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007.

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Termites studied in quest for green fuels

International Herald Tribune - The Global Edition of the New York Times
By Carolyn Y. Johnson The Boston Globe
Published: December 9, 2008

Researchers have scooped soil near a reservoir in Massachusetts, visited a Russian volcano, and scoured the bottom of the sea looking for microbes that hold the key to new biofuels. Now, they are investigating termites more deeply.

The otherwise dreaded insect is a model bug bioreactor, adept at the difficult task of breaking down wood and turning it into fuel.

Learning the secret of that skill could open the door to creating a new class of plant-based fuels to offset a reliance on petroleum products.

What scientists have learned so far, however, suggests that it will not be easy to duplicate nature.

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Worldwatch report highlights biomass power, CHP

Biomass Magazine - December 2008
By Ron Kotrba
Web exclusive posted Dec. 9, 2008 at 12:42 p.m. CST

A new report from the Worldwatch Institute, titled “Low-Carbon Energy: A Roadmap,” was released in early December (free download available at from link above). Author of the report, Worldwatch Institute President Christopher Flavin, stated that increased biomass power production and more combined heat and power (CHP) systems are integral to retiring “hundreds of coal-fired power plants that now provide 40 percent of the world’s power by 2030, eliminating up to one-third of global carbon dioxide emissions while creating millions of new jobs.”

The institute calls this modern-day evolution the decarbonization of the global energy economy. “We no longer need to say ‘in the future’ when talking about a low-carbon energy system,” Flavin said. “These technologies – unlike carbon-capture facilities – are being deployed now and are poised to make the most carbon-intensive fossil fuels obsolete.”

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More Universities Offering Master's Degree Programs in Renewable Energy

Renewable Energy
December 10, 2008
by Jennifer Runyon, Managing Editor

In an effort to help ease the the pain of jobs losses throughout the state and bolster the work force that will be necessary if the U.S. is going to transition to a green economy, four universities in Ohio are collaborating to offer a Masters degree program in renewable energy.

"Ohio is in the midst of major job losses and is trying to reinvent itself as a tech-based economy. One of those ways is in the area of 'green' jobs," said Kevin Hallinan, director of the University of Dayton's master's program in clean and renewable energy.

Renewable energy companies in Ohio were pleased to learn about the state's first master's program in clean and renewable energy.

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Museum to feature biomass gasifier in energy center

Biomass Magazine - December 2008
By Ryan C. Christiansen
Web exclusive posted Dec. 5, 2008 at 10:51 a.m. CST

The 74-acre, 300,000-square-foot Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa, Fla., is planning to build a new hands-on educational exhibit about energy that will feature renewable energies and be built around a proposed six-megawatt biomass gasification plant to provide power for the museum.

According to Wit Ostrenko, president of the Hillsborough County, Fla.-owned MOSI, the museum plans to submit a request for proposals from developers who would be interested in building a gasification plant at the proposed $14 million Energy Center exhibit which will occupy a 10,000-square-foot building on 3 to 5 acres on the museum campus. The gasification plant will include an educational component so that visitors can see and understand how the gasification plant works and how biomass gasification is more beneficial than burning fossil fuels.

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Mapping a renewable energy agenda

CNN Money
By Steve Hargreaves, staff writer
Last Updated: December 4, 2008: 2:37 PM ET

Industry advocates gather in Washington to outline hopes and expectations from a new Obama administration.

WASHINGTON ( -- Renewable energy advocates were upbeat Thursday as they met in Washington, D.C. to discuss upcoming energy policies expected under a new Obama Administration.

"Candidate Obama made alternative energy a central part of his campaign," former Sen. Tom Daschle, now Obama's pick for Health and Human Services secretary, told the crowd at the Cannon House Office Building on Capitol Hill. "It will soon be a new day for national climate and energy policy."

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Experts worry plant used for biofuel is bad for environment (FL)
Originally published 7:40 p.m., Wednesday, December 3, 2008

BONITA SPRINGS — It’s not kudzu and it’s not melaleuca, but the Florida Native Plant Society and others say that the spread of jatropha could be just as troubling.

Kudzu — the so-called vine that strangled the south — was introduced in North America at the Centennial Expo in 1876. The Japanese native was sweet-smelling and fast-growing, promoted for erosion control and planted by the federal government in the 1930’s and 1940’s.

Only decades later did people realize it smothered native species, and there have been efforts to eradicate it ever since.

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ASU pair's project makes 'Time' list of best inventions
by Kerry Fehr-Snyder - Nov. 26, 2008 10:50 AM
The Arizona Republic

Alternatives to fossil fuel, from electricity to compressed natural gas, power automobiles, but when it comes to airplanes, only petroleum-based jet fuel is used.

A pair of Arizona State University researchers are trying to change that by harvesting and converting algae into kerosene-based jet fuel using a complex process they've been honing for years.

The algae-to-fuel project is headed by professors Milton Sommerfeld and Qiang Hu, who run a lab filled with bubbling vats of water and green algae.

Time magazine recently picked their work as No. 11 on its list of the top 50 inventions in 2008.

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Modified Lignin Has Potential Benefits for Ethanol, Paper and Feed

By Laura McGinnis
December 9, 2008

Cellulose is a key component of plant cell walls that can be converted into ethanol and other products. New findings from the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) could help make that conversion process easier.

Plant walls contain cellulose, the main component of paper and a source of sugars for ethanol production. Cellulose could be described as the "brick" of the cell wall, while pectin, hemicellulose and lignin function like mortar, cementing everything together.

Lignin is vital for plant survival, but its structure impedes cellulose conversion. But what if lignin were altered so that it would break down easier, thus facilitating the production of paper, ethanol and other industrial products?

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Global Insight Report Suggests More Thorough Analysis Needed to Assess Ethanol-Related Emissions Associated With Land Use Changes
Date Posted: December 2, 2008

Sioux Falls, SD—Recognizing that Congress is likely to take up legislation in the future considering a Low Carbon Fuels Standard (LCFS), the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) released December 1 the findings of a timely report entitled "Lifecycle Analysis of Greenhouse Gas Emissions Associated with Starch-Based Ethanol."

The study was conducted by Global Insight and commissioned by ACE.

Read the full story and link to free report download

Replacing carbon loss with cellulosic ethanol

by North Platte Bulletin Staff - 12/8/2008

Cellulosic ethanol derived from corn stalks and husks can reduce carbon emissions if manure is used as a fertilizer, according to a recent scientific study.

Cellulose-based ethanol has emerged as one way to lessen dependence on oil. It would add sugar to fibrous plants such as grasses and stalks to make alcohol for fuel.

Congress recently appropriated funds for research to make cellulosic ethanol financially feasible.

Corn stover is currently the most popular source of cellulose, but removing the stover from the land creates a loss of soil organic carbon, according to a Dec. 8 news report from Science Daily.

Michigan State University scientists have studied the effectiveness of carbon augmentation through cover crops, manure and compost, to replace carbon loss when corn stover is removed.

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Iowa State University AgMRC Analysis: Ethanol Industry Likely at "Break-Even" Point
Date Posted: December 2, 2008

Climate Change Could Be Wild-Card for Industry

Ames, IA—New industries used to emerge over decades or generations.
All that changed first with the computer revolution, then with the Internet revolution, each transforming our planet within a few years.

So the breakneck speed of today’s biofuels revolution is no surprise.

But new uncertainty about what happens next for ethanol and other alternative fuels is a concern.

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Ethanol subsidy may be a target

Minnesota Public Radio
Posted at 12:18 PM on December 10, 2008 by Bob Collins

When he unveils his plans for closing the projected $5.2 billion budget deficit, Gov. Tim Pawlenty will be hard-pressed to leave one of the state's sacred cows unscathed -- ethanol. And few of its backers will talk about the possibility today.

Ethanol, of course, has been hailed in Minnesota as the economic future for rural Minnesota farmers, and an answer to an evolving energy crisis. And the state has been among the leaders in supporting it, not only with a mandate for ethanol in gasoline sold in the state, and tax-free zones where ethanol plants are likely to be built, but also direct -- and somewhat controversial -- payments to ethanol producers.

In 2007, Minnesota paid over $15 million to ethanol plants as part of a per-gallon subsidy. Gov. Pawlenty has argued that it's a worthy investment with a large return. The state, however, cut the payments during the last budget crisis in the state (although it cut sizeable checks more than a year ago to make up for the cut), and seems likely to target the subsidy again. Nobody in the State Agriculture Department today, however, would speak to the possibility.

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The Promise of Algae

The New York Times
December 9, 2008, 7:15 am — Updated: 2:51 pm
By Kate Galbraith

Algae have gotten short shrift in the decade or so since the Clinton administration axed its research funding at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. But could these tiny, ubiquitous plants, which come in a rainbow of colors and varieties, get us off of foreign oil some day?

“One of the big challenges — price, price, price,” said Michael Webber, a professor at the University of Texas. Right now, he said, algae could make fuel for around $10 a gallon, whereas the objective is to get the price down to $1.

The University of Texas is home to what is probably the world’s largest algae collection, with close to 3,000 different strains. Many are little green or red plumes in tubes; others sit in a liquid nitrogen deep-freeze — so cold that if you were to stick a finger in there for a few seconds, it might get lopped off if you banged it against something, according to Jerry Brand, the collection’s director.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Wisconsin Ethanol Co-Product Exports Nearly Doubled

Wisconsin Ag Connection - 12/05/2008

The Wisconsin Bio Industry Alliance announced that of the record $1.5 billion of agriculture exports from Wisconsin, dried distillers grain--a co-product of the ethanol production process--has seen a 93 percent increase through the first nine months of 2008. Citing Thursday's announcement from the Governor's office about the value of farm products sold abroad, exports of DDGs increased from $19.2 million in 2007 to $25 million in 2008."

Growing international acceptance of DDGs as great livestock feed continues to drive our export sales," said WBIA Director Joshua Morby. "Distillers grains are highly sought after as a high protein livestock feed."

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Montana Agriculture Development Council Awards $50,000 to Great Plains Companies for Camelina Biodiesel Feasability Study
Date Posted: December 4, 2008

Havre, MN—The Montana Agriculture Development Council awarded $50,000 in grant funding from the Montana Growth Through Agriculture (GTA) program to Great Plains – The Camelina Company.

The funds will be used to conduct a feasibility study for an oilseed crushing plant in Montana.
Great Plains is focused on developing Camelina sativa (camelina) as an oilseed crop for biodiesel production in Montana, Washington, Oregon and surrounding states, and has engaged in extensive research and marketing of the crop for over 10 years.

Camelina grows well in the unpredictable dry climates of these states and can be used as a profitable rotational crop with wheat or other small grain crops.

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National Ethanol Conference draws near

Ethanol Producer Magazine - January 2009

With a new administration and Congress taking office at a critical point in the ethanol industry’s history, anticipation is mounting for the Renewable Fuels Association’s 14th Annual National Ethanol Conference. Registration is open for the event, which will be held Feb. 23-25 at the San Antonio Convention Center in San Antonio. This year’s conference is themed “Growing Innovation: America’s Energy Future Starts at Home.”

The event, which drew more than 2,100 to Orlando, Fla., in February 2008, will again feature a general session, breakout sessions and ample networking opportunities. The conference will cover all the major issues impacting the industry.

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Studies remeasure corn-based ethanol’s impact, potential

Ethanol Producer Magazine - January 2009
By Jerry W. Kram

Corn-based ethanol production has often been and will likely continue to be scrutinized. Recently, two studies commissioned by the Illinois Corn Marketing Board updated corn-based ethanol’s energy balance and evaluated global corn supply, while another study examined what would happen if corn-based ethanol plant construction levels off.

To determine ethanol’s energy balance, Steffan Mueller, principal research economist of the Energy Resources Center at the University of Illinois at Chicago, conducted a life cycle analysis of Illinois River Energy LLC, a 50 MMgy ethanol plant near Rochelle, Ill. Using surveys of local corn growers and USDA data, he concluded the facility had 21 percent less of a global warming impact (GWI) than the standard value for existing ethanol plants, and 40 percent less GWI than gasoline from petroleum. “We wanted to dig deeper and actually survey the corn producers who are providing corn to the plant, which led us to get involved in the land-use issue,” said Rodney Weinzierl, the board’s executive director. “We think that as you get outside the corn industry, a lot of people may not realize we are continuing to increase yields and use fewer inputs to do it.”

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