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

Friday, January 30, 2009

In Iowa, Questions Arise on Impact of Ethanol Production

Originally Aired: January 28, 2009

Al Gore testified before Congress Wednesday on the urgency of energy policy reform and made the case for easing America's reliance on carbon-based fuels. Heidi Cullen of Climate Central reports on an emerging debate over the changing land use and impact of ethanol production in Iowa.

JIM LEHRER: Next, connecting the dots on energy, the economy, and national security. That was the focus of former Vice President Gore's testimony today before a U.S. Senate committee. He urged lawmakers to address what he called the "climate crisis."

FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: We must face up to this urgent and unprecedented threat to the existence of our civilization at a time when our nation must simultaneously solve two other worsening crises.

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DOE develops an ethanol Fuel Cell catalyst
By Nino Marchetti
Tuesday, January 27, 2009 16:55

Upton (NY) - Scientists working for the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory say they've developed a new catalyst which could make feasible ethanol-powered fuel cells. This step forward in fuel cell research marks a step further forward in developing clean, renewable energy sources.

This new catalyst, developed in collaboration with researchers from the University of Delaware and Yeshiva University, provides for what the DOE says are two crucial and previously unreachable steps needed to oxidize ethanol. Their catalyst, made of platinum and rhodium atoms on carbon-supported tin dioxide nanoparticles, is capable of breaking carbon bonds at room temperature and efficiently oxidizing ethanol into carbon dioxide as the main reaction product.

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Ag Secretary Answers Ethanol Questions

Domestic Fuel - Alternative Fuel News
January 27, 2009
Posted by Cindy Zimmerman

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack got questions about ethanol during his first official press conference Monday.

Vilsack says he favors improving efficiency in ethanol plants in order to ensure that the industry survives the economic downturn. “We need to make sure that the biofuels industry has the necessary support to survive the recent downturn,” Vilsack told reporters.

“The USDA should research, develop and promote best practices to improve efficiency at corn-based ethanol plants, which have been hit hard by volatile corn prices, followed by a sharp drop in demand for the biofuel, which is more expensive than gasoline,” Vilsack said.

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Colorado biomass projects receive NEED grants

Biomass Magazine January 2009
By Anna Austin
Web exclusive posted Jan. 27, 2009, at 2:45 p.m. CST

Eight Coloradan organizations have received New Energy Economic Development grants, which were provided by Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter’s Energy Office through the state Clean Energy Funds.

A total of $370,000 was awarded to biomass, energy efficiency, wind, solar and other projects. Criteria for the grants included projects which will serve to create jobs and strengthen local economies.

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Other U.S. colleges find success with biomass energy

Daily Eastern News
Joe Astrouski / City Editor
Issue date: 1/28/09

Eastern's plan similar to what's used in Vermont, S. Carolina schools

While Eastern's proposed Renewable Energy Center is still in the public meetings process, similar plants are already in place at colleges and universities around the country.Honeywell International, the consulting firm that designed the proposed biomass gasification plant, has designed two similar plants, said company spokesman Aaron Parker.

"I found two other schools that are using technology similar to what we are proposing at Eastern Illinois University," Parker said. "Those schools are Middlebury College (in Middlebury, Vt.) and the University of South Carolina (in Columbia, S.C.)."

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Change eases sales of ethanol, biodiesel

Lawrence (Kansas) Journal World
By Chad Lawhorn
January 29, 2009

A few months ago, Wednesday’s announcement by the Kansas Department of Agriculture would have been big news to motorists across the state.

The state announced it is making significant changes to its regulations that will make it easier for Kansas gasoline stations to sell multiple types of ethanol and biodiesel fuels.

Of course, several months ago, gasoline was near $4 a gallon, and motorists were vowing to never again find themselves so bent over a foreign oil barrel.

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Thursday, January 29, 2009

US House and Senate Move Forward on American Recovery and Reinvestment Act

Renewable Energy
January 28, 2009
by Graham Jesmer, Staff Writer

Stimulus package in discussion includes favorable provisions for renewable energy industry

Washington, D.C., United States []
The U.S. House of Representatives may vote as early as next week on a stimulus package that could bring relief to the beleaguered American economy. Known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the bill (H.R. 598) contains provisions that could help bring stability to the renewable energy industry amid the tough economic environment. The bill was introduced in the House of Representatives on January 16, 2009 as part of the US $825 billion economic stimulus plan that President Barack Obama has been touting since before his inauguration last week.

Of the US $550 billion allocated by H.R. 598 as it now reads, $8 billion is set aside as loans for renewable energy power generation and transmission projects. US $2 billion will go to energy efficiency and renewable energy research, development, demonstration and deployment activities. These funds will be awarded on a competitive basis to universities, companies and national laboratories. An additional $2 billion will be put into grants for advanced battery technology and $4.3 billion for various energy efficiency initiatives.

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UWM seeks stimulus funds for 2 big construction projects

Milwaukee (Wisconsin) Journal-Sentinel
By Erica Perez of the Journal Sentinel
Posted: Jan. 27, 2009

Great Lakes facility upgrade, science building are on wish list

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee officials are lobbying for federal economic stimulus funding for two major campus construction projects: a $44 million update to the Great Lakes water research facility and a $50 million integrated science research building.

UWM and Wisconsin's other universities, public and private, are among thousands angling for a piece of the $825 million federal pie, but how much money each state's colleges will receive is still unknown.

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Madrid High-level Meeting on Food Security for All Calls for Exploring Options for a Global Partnership for Agriculture and Food Security

27 January 2009: The High-level Meeting on Food Security for All, held from 26-27 January 2009, in Madrid, Spain, issued a statement that calls for a consultative process on options for a Global Partnership for Agriculture Food Security and Nutrition. Convened by the Government of Spain and the UN, and attended by representatives of 126 countries as well as UN agencies, civil society, trade unions, academia, donor agencies and the private sector, the meeting reviewed progress in addressing the global food crisis since the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) High-level Conference on World Food Security: the Challenges of Climate Change and Bioenergy, held in June 2008.

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UK launches new, £27M bioenergy centre

Posted by Greenbang on January 28th, 2009

The UK’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) has announced the launch of a new Sustainable Bioenergy Centre, seeded with startup funds of £27 million, the “biggest ever single UK public investment in bioenergy research.”

The centre’s aim is to promote research and development of non-food biofuel crops to “replace the petrol in our cars.”

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Scientists publish complete genetic blueprint of key biofuels crop

Public release date: 28-Jan-2009

WALNUT CREEK, Calif.-- Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Joint Genome Institute (JGI) and several partner institutions have published the sequence and analysis of the complete genome of sorghum, a major food and fodder plant with high potential as a bioenergy crop. The genome data will aid scientists in optimizing sorghum and other crops not only for food and fodder use, but also for biofuels production. The comparative analysis of the sorghum genome appears in the January 29 edition of the journal Nature.

Prized for its drought resistance and high productivity, sorghum is currently the second most prevalent biofuels crop in the United States, behind corn. Grain sorghum produces the same amount of ethanol per bushel as corn while utilizing one-third less water. As the technology for producing "cellulosic" (whole plant fiber-based) biofuels matures, sorghum's rapid growth--rising from eight to 15 feet tall in one season--is likely to make it desirable as a cellulosic biofuels "feedstock."

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

US Department of Agriculture begins policy shift under Vilsack; focuses on ethanol feasibility, best practices; climate change leadership

Biofuels Digest
January 27, 2009

In Washington, the US Department of Agriculture commenced a policy shift when Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack pledged to direct the USDA to research and develop best practices for the ethanol industry to ensure its survival.

Vilsack also pledged that the Department of Agriculture will be the “national leader in the climate change” discussion. The emphasis on best practices and climate change is a shift for the USDA. Vilsack said, in his first news conference, that “we need to make sure that the biofuels industry has the necessary support to survive the recent downturn, while at the same promoting policies that will speed up the development of second and third generation feedstocks for those biofuels that have the potential to significantly improve America’s energy security and independence.”

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Breakthrough Makes Ethanol Fuel Cells Feasible
Jason Mick (Blog) - January 27, 2009 9:21 AM

A new catalyst has been developed which can efficiently break down ethanol
Hydrogen fuel cells are one of the hottest topics in alternative energy. However, switching to a hydrogen economy brings with it a load of difficulties and costs, the biggest of which are how to mass produce, ship, and store the fuel. Thus fuel cell designers have looked to seemingly easier marks like methanol and ethanol.

While methanol fuel cells are relatively proven, with many designs set to enter the small battery market in the next few years, methanol still has the problem of limited supply. Thus researchers are turning to ethanol, which will become increasingly cheap and abundant as cellulosic sources hit commercial-scale production.

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Ethanol leader: 'Tough time for biofuels'

Des Moines Register
By DAN PILLER • • January 27, 2009

The executive director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association said Tuesday in Des Moines that more biofuels plants may close because of tight profit margins, but said that congress and President Obama are unlikely to relax the Renewable Fuel Standards that require more ethanol and biodiesel use this year.

"If President George Bush, a former oilman from Texas, wouldn't relax the Renewable Fuel Standards last year, I don't see how President Obama will grant any waivers for the standards this year," said Monte Shaw, executive director of the Iowa Renewable Fuel Association to the group's third annual summit meeting in Des Moines.

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By thester

Measure Would Allow Solar, Wind, Biomass Energy Facilities and Equipment on Farms

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly members Upendra Chivukula, Connie Wagner, Douglas H. Fisher and John F. McKeon to promote solar, biomass and wind energy generation on New Jersey farms was released today by an Assembly committee.

The bill (A-2859) would allow a person who owns preserved farmland to build, install and operate solar, biomass and wind energy facilities and equipment on the farm, provided it doesn’t interfere with use of the land for farming.

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Berkeley eyes turning its garbage into gold (South Carolina)
By Tony Bartelme (Contact)
The Post and Courier
Tuesday, January 27, 2009

MONCKS CORNER — Berkeley County officials are drawing up an ambitious plan to turn the smelly gas and rotting garbage in the county's giant landfill off U.S. Highway 52 into power and money.

The project has many puzzle pieces, but if they fit together, officials said their plan could extend the life of the landfill for decades, reduce the dump's noxious odors, generate enough electricity to power homes in a small city and earn or save the county hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

Colin Martin, executive director of Berkeley County Water and Sanitation, said the goal is to take five different wastes — methane, sewage sludge, waste water, food and yard waste and wood debris — and turn them into power. All of this would happen at the landfill.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

USDA to help ethanol plants look for efficiencies

Mon Jan 26, 2009 12:55pm EST

WASHINGTON, Jan 26 (Reuters) - The U.S. Agriculture Department will help the struggling ethanol industry identify the most efficient ways to produce the alternative fuel, so more plants can stay afloat, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said on Monday.

The USDA should research, develop and promote "best practices" to improve efficiency at corn-based ethanol plants, which have been hit hard by volatile corn prices, followed by a sharp drop in demand for the biofuel, which is more expensive than gasoline, Vilsack said.

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Nelson, Johanns sponsor biogas bill

Grand Island Independent (Nebraska)
By Robert
Published: Saturday, January 24, 2009 9:42 PM CST

Along with ethanol and wind energy, add a new alternative energy source to the list — livestock waste.

Nebraska Sens. Ben Nelson and Mike Johanns are among the sponsors of legislation promoting the development of biogas — a natural gas substitute created by converting agricultural, animal or other organic wastes — through tax incentives.

“We already have the technology to break down these wastes to create biogas, but it needs encouragement from the federal government to become a commercially viable alternative to natural gas,” Nelson said.

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Sources Of Climate- And Health-afflicting Soot Pollution Over South Asia Identified

ScienceDaily (Jan. 25, 2009) —

A gigantic brownish haze from various burning and combustion processes is blanketing India and surrounding land and oceans during the winter season. This soot-laden Brown Cloud is affecting South Asian climate as much or more than carbon dioxide and cause premature deaths of 100 000s annually, yet its sources have been poorly understood.

In the journal Science Örjan Gustafsson and colleagues at Stockholm University and in India use a novel carbon-14 method to determine that two-thirds of the soot particles are from biomass combustion such as in household cooking and in slash-and-burn agriculture.

Brown Clouds, covering large parts of South and East Asia, originate from burning of wood, dung and crop residue as well as from industrial processes and traffic. Previous studies had left it unclear as to the relative source contributions of biomass versus fossil fuel combustion.

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BBI to host biomass conference in April

Biomass Magazine January 2009
Web exclusive posted Jan. 23, 2009, at 11:01 a.m. CST

BBI International’s 2009 International Biomass Conference & Expo will be held in Portland, Ore., on April 28-30.

The conference will feature 90 speakers and six feedstock-oriented tracks, or focused topic areas, appealing to the most diverse of biomass interests. The expo is expected to attract 150 exhibitors.

The tracks were designed with specific feedstocks in mind to help focus areas of interest for attendees. The tracks are: crop residues, dedicated energy crops, forest and wood processing residues, livestock and poultry wastes, municipal solid waste, urban wastes and landfill gas, and food processing residues.

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Monday, January 26, 2009

MSU's New Cellulosic Ethanol Breakthrough is Cheap, Efficient

Daily Tech
Jason Mick (Blog) - January 22, 2009 10:15 AM

A new process invented by Michigan State University helps to increase the yields of cellulosic ethanol at a reasonable premium

The world of cellulosic ethanol is a hot business. GM has already backed two cellulosic ethanol companies, Coskata and Mascoma Corp., and many others are taking a serious look at the new type of fuel. Essentially with the same advantages and disadvantages from a fuel perspective as normal ethanol, which it shares virtually the same chemical character with, the big bonus is that cellulosic ethanol can be made from plant waste of all times, reducing the price pressure produced by food-crop ethanol.

Using technology to produce cellulosic ethanol, the fruits and vegetables of food crops can ship to the market and the leftovers -- leaves, stalks, stems, and husks -- can be ground up and made into ethanol. One of the first targets is corn stover, the leftovers from the corn harvest, somewhat of an ironic source as sugarcorn (the food) became one of the two main controversial sources of food-crop ethanol.

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UNL Research: Corn Ethanol Emits 51 Percent Less Greenhouse Gas Than Gasoline
1/22/2009 12:49:00 PM

LINCOLN, Neb. -- Corn ethanol directly emits an average of 51 percent less greenhouse gas than gasoline, as much as three times the reduction reported in earlier research, thanks to recent improvements in efficiency throughout the production process, University of Nebraska-Lincoln research shows.

A Journal of Industrial Ecology article (available online at outlines the research, conducted by an interdisciplinary team of UNL researchers, which evaluated dry-mill ethanol plants that use natural gas. Such plants account for nearly 90 percent of current production capacity.

This research is the first to quantify the impact of recent improvements throughout the corn-ethanol production process, including crop production, biorefinery operations and co-product use, said Ken Cassman, UNL agronomist who was part of the research team. Previous studies, which found ethanol to have a much smaller edge over gasoline in GHG emissions, relied on estimates based on corn production, ethanol plant performance and co-product use as they were seven years ago.

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The buckthorn stops here

Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)
By JOY POWELL, Star Tribune
Last update: January 22, 2009 - 2:48 PM

The bane of the 'burbs, the pesky buckthorn shrub is being cut in Burnsville for biomass energy.

The whir of brush saws echoes daily through Kelleher Park in Burnsville as workers cut down the invader: buckthorn. Cropping up in thickets of prickly shrubs and small trees, this pest has been slowly choking off the undergrowth of plants and wildlife in this rare bur oak savannah. So with the help of a state grant and volunteers, an unusual forest restoration project is under way to chop down and chip up the buckthorn and haul it to St. Paul, where a biomass plant will burn it to produce electricity.

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Friday, January 23, 2009

Georgia’s pines fit Obama’s energy plan

Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Thursday, January 22, 2009

WASHINGTON — Georgia is known for peaches and peanuts, but its millions of acres of pine trees could make all the difference as Barack Obama moves into the White House with promises to spend $150 billion to develop a new generation of biofuels and alternative energy sources.

In the push to wean the nation off oil imports, pine needles and wood chips are among the most accessible and environmentally friendly materials that can be converted to fuel for cars and electrical grids.

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Web site offers spread sheet to calculate costs for storing ethanol by-products

Atlantic News Telegraph
By Jennifer NicholsNT Staff Writer
Published: Tuesday, January 20, 2009 10:01 AM CST

University of Nebraska Extension Economic Specialist Dr. Darrell Mark gave those who attended the 4-State Beef Conference last week a web site where they can find a spread sheet to help determine how much it would cost producers to store by-products of ethanol that can be fed to livestock.

Previously, Dr. Rick Rasby spoke about producers feeding more by-products, such as distillers grain, and storing the by-products. Mark said there are a number of items that factor into the cost of storing, including equipment, like tractors, grinders and mixers, as well as bags or bunker space for storage, feed costs, transportation costs, labor, fuel and possible interest on money, if it’s loaned to the producer.

Mark said if producers go to the web site, they can search for a spread sheet, and input numbers of the following items, and help them get an estimate of cost for storing the by-products. This can help the producer determine the best course of action for his operation.

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Algae’s Impact on the Food-Versus-Fuel Debate

Biodiesel Magazine
By Dean Tsoupeis

The growing use of algae biomass for nutraceutical purposes is expected to provide an attractive revenue stream for those using algae oil for biodiesel.

Algae have been providing energy for as long as it has existed. Animals have always eaten it. It’s what gives fish omega 3 fatty acids and other beneficial characteristics that make fish oil so popular to the nutracteutical market. Some nutraceutical brands even produce omega 3 acids directly from the algae, which is more environmentally sustainable and safer in regard to mercury content.

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New Green Business Generator is Hungry for Your Trash

Daily Tech
Jason Mick (Blog) - January 19, 2009 10:40 AM

New generator is simple -- just park it in your company's parking lot, and start collecting trash to feed it.

Small startup IST's generator is hungry -- for your trash. While some companies have turned to solar or wind power to cut their power budgets and green their campus, IST's solution is twofold: cut your waste disposal costs, while also producing green power and heat.

The generator, called the Green Energy Machine (GEM), takes up three parking spaces and can easily be placed in a lot. The generator does require a slightly special diet. Metal and glass have no energy content and thus IST encourages people not to put them in the generator, but rather recycle them. However, food, cardboard, plastics, agricultural wastes, all can go in.

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Biomass heating: a practical guide for potential users

Carbon Trust (UK)

New publication available

This publication is aimed at businesses and public sector organisations interested in implementing a biomass heating project.

It provides a detailed introduction to the policy background of the technology – covering key issues such as sustainability and fuel supply, as well as going on to provide a detailed introduction to the technicalities of fuel and plant operation.

The implementation section of the guide discusses initial feasibility through to full commissioning and key steps and considerations in the biomass implementation process.

Read the full story and link to download the publication

Ethanol production will have to increase to meet government mandates

North Texas e-News
By Kay Ledbetter, Texas A&M
Jan 19, 2009

AMARILLO – Ethanol plant construction has come to a halt, but the mandates by government are not declining, which could mean prices could jump again. Producers should prepare for round two, a Texas AgriLife Extension Service specialist said.

“Expanded ethanol production is probably a given; however, the pace is expected to slow due to capacity limits and policy,” said Dr. Steve Amosson, AgriLife Extension economist.

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CME to Clear CBOT Ethanol Swaps
Posted on Jan. 19, 2009
By Ed Zwirn, Regulation Correspondent

Starting later this month, CME Group will make legacy Chicago Board of Trade ethanol swaps contracts available on its CME ClearPort electronic system.

According to CME Group, the enhancement, which “extends the benefits of centralized clearing to over-the-counter products,” is scheduled to begin on Jan. 25 for trade date Jan. 26.

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State Journal Register (Springfield, IL)
Posted Jan 18, 2009 @ 12:01 AM

Although the big rush for permits to build ethanol plants in Illinois has slowed to a trickle, the number of flexible-fuel vehicles on the road that can use E85 is increasing.

And despite the fact that cheaper gasoline prices may somewhat have dampened enthusiasm for the generally less expensive E85, the number of facilities offering the ethanol-gasoline blend has grown since last year.

“The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency alternate fuels rebate program remains active,” said agency spokesman Maggie Carson. “There are a large number of E85-compliant vehicles, and people are continuing to use them and apply for rebates.”

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Opinion: Secretaries give words of caution as delegates push for biofuels

The Daily Republic (Mitchell, SD)
Denise Ross The Daily Republic
Published Saturday, January 17, 2009

With the Obama administration on the brink of taking the reins, cabinet confirmation hearings have kept the nation’s senators hopping. When South Dakota’s senators questioned nominees to lead the agriculture and energy departments, talk of renewable energy was the order of the day.
In both cases, our senators wanted to talk about increasing the ethanol blend in gasoline above the current standard of 10 percent.

Agriculture Secretary-designee Tom Vilsack and Energy Secretary-designee Steven Chu had different answers, but neither got out the bullhorns and confetti to cheerlead higher ethanol blends.

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Energy chief has some advice for his successor (Houston Chronicle)
By JENNIFER A. DLOUHY Copyright 2009 Houston Chronicle
Jan. 14, 2009, 11:20PM

WASHINGTON — Outgoing Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman on Wednesday urged his successor to embrace a comprehensive plan for fueling the nation, by promoting biofuel research and the development of new nuclear and coal power plants.

Bodman’s comments came one day after President-elect Obama’s energy secretary nominee, Steven Chu, sailed through a Senate confirmation hearing with promises to include domestic oil and gas drilling in any broad energy plan.

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ASA Submits 2009 Policy Priorities to Obama Administration
Date Posted: January 15, 2009

Saint Louis, MO—The American Soybean Association (ASA) submitted a document outlining its 2009 policy priorities to the Obama Administration ahead of President-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration as President of the United States on January 20, 2009.

By developing and advocating soybean farmer top policy priorities to the incoming Obama Administration, ASA continues its rich tradition of working in the best interest of U.S. soybean farmers.

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County Lands World's First Commercial Cellulosic Ethanol Plant (Tampa Bay Online)
By Jim Konkoly Highlands Today
Published: January 15, 2009

SEBRING - Verenium Corporation announced Thursday it will construct the world's first commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant in Highlands County, in cooperation with Lykes Brothers supplying the biomass.

The process to produce cellulosic ethanol, based on technology developed by the University of Florida, uses renewable grasses for fuel production instead of food crops.

The plant, which will provide about 150 full-time jobs in the production of 36 million gallons of ethanol per year, will cost about $250 million to construct on the Lykes Brothers ranch, off State Road 70 east of US 27.

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Groups Discuss Energy Recommendations for Congress

Farm Futures
Jason Vance

A coalition has sent a letter to Congress proposing ways to improve clean energy solutions.

Last week a coalition of diverse organizations joined together in calling for Congress to increase funding for USDA Energy title programs along with an expansion of tax incentives that would accelerate renewable electric energy.

On Tuesday, representatives of the 25 x '25 Alliance, National Wildlife Federation, National Association of Wheat Growers and Environmental Law and Policy Center held a conference call with the media to further discuss the collection of recommendations and the points that were made in the letter.

"The proposals outlined in the joint Jan. 6 letter reinforce some of the key priorities and underscore the critical role that USDA and its programs can and will play in promotion of a clean energy future and a robust economy," said Bart Ruth, policy chair for the 25 x '25 Alliance. "The Rural Energy for America Program is already funding new wind, solar, biogas, bioenergy, geothermal and energy efficiency projects in nearly every state in the nation."

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MSU offers new degree program in sustainable food and bioenergy systems

Montana State University
January 14, 2009 -- Anne Pettinger, MSU News

Beginning this spring Montana State University will offer a new degree program designed to contribute to the development of bioenergy and a stronger, more secure food system in Montana.

"It's an exciting opportunity for both faculty and students to be on the front end of what we at MSU hope will be a transformational program in food systems," said Jeff Jacobsen, dean of MSU's College of Agriculture. The new major is a partnership between the College of Agriculture and the College of Education, Health and Human Development.

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Food Prices Overcooked Given Decline of Corn, Oil: Chart of Day
By Lee J. Miller and Alan Bjerga

Jan. 14 (Bloomberg) -- Food prices should be lower, given the decline in commodities such as corn and crude oil the past six months, according to Robert Dinneen, president of the Renewable Fuels Association.

"Those who continue even today to suggest that ethanol and corn demand for ethanol production are driving food prices have lost all credibility because corn prices have fallen, energy prices have fallen,'' Dinneen said in a telephone interview from Washington this week. "The only thing not falling today are food prices, and I think consumers are starting to wonder just what's going on.''

"There are lots of food products for which there is very little delay -- eggs and chickens,'' according to the trade- group chief. "Yet food prices are still up there.''

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More U.S. backing seen possible for ethanol plants

Reuters - UK
Tue Jan 13, 2009 8:41pm GMT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Congress may add $1 billion to a U.S. loan guarantee program for construction of cellulosic ethanol plants, the president of a renewable fuels trade group trade said on Tuesday.

During a teleconference, Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Bob Dinneen said lawmakers apparently were looking at $1 billion for loan guarantees to bring new feedstocks into use.

A $320 million guarantee program was created in the 2008 farm law for biorefineries producing advanced fuels such as ethanol from cellulose found in wood and grass.

Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer says the first guarantee may be issued soon.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

With corn prices in retreat, fuel vs. food debate loses heat

The Register-Guard (Eugene, Oregon)
By Deborah Jian Lee
The Associated Press
Published: Jan 11, 2009 09:17AM
Business: Home: Story

Question: Now that corn prices have plunged, is the ethanol industry still in the hot seat for driving up prices?

Answer: Just a few short months ago, when agricultural commodity prices reached their peaks, U.S. biofuel companies took the heat for a litany of woes: high food prices, world hunger and misplaced government spending. The corn-dependent industry faced blame from a diverse alliance of cattle ranchers, grocers and environmentalists.

From the spring through the summer of this year, the two sides sparred publicly in a food vs. fuel debate. As corn prices hit a record high of nearly $8 a bushel and consumers buckled under hefty grocery prices and a bleak economy, many pointed to the ethanol industry, buffeted by government subsidies and mandates for high production, as the primary culprit.

Corn prices, like most commodities, have plunged since the summer buying frenzy, falling from almost $8 in July to $4.25 in October. Ethanol production hasn’t eased up, and the industry is on target to meet its goal of churning out about 9 billion barrels of ethanol this year.

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For Ethanol Plants, Two Roads Diverge

The New York Times
January 13, 2009, 9:37 am — Updated: 12:48 pm
By Kate Galbraith

The race to make cellulosic ethanol is heating up just as some corn-ethanol plants are shutting down.

On Monday POET, a privately held company that is the country’s largest ethanol producer, announced details of an $8 million pilot cellulosic-ethanol plant in the company’s home state of South Dakota, which started production in December.

The company said that it hopes to start production from a commercial-scale cellulosic plant in 2011.

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Ethanol and the Green Team

Ethanol Producer Magazine
January 2009
By Bob Dinneen

President Barack Obama’s White House, Cabinet and agency selections bode well for a large-scale shift to significantly advancing the development of energy innovation and green technologies. The naming of Nobel Prize-winning physicist Steven Chu as Secretary of Energy; Lisa Jackson, former head of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection as Administrator of the U.S. EPA; former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack for Secretary of the Department of Agriculture; and former Clinton EPA Administrator Carol Browner as White House Energy/Environment Czar point to a significant change in the direction of this nation’s use of fossil fuels.

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Ethanol good for U.S. agriculture: poll

Tue Jan 13, 2009 1:29pm EST
By Christopher Doering

SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) - U.S. farmers believe overwhelmingly that ethanol has been good for American agriculture, believing the renewable fuel has boosted their bottom line, a straw poll conducted by Reuters showed on Tuesday.

Makers of the alternative fuel are expected to consume 3.6 billion bushels of corn, or about 30 percent of the U.S. corn crop, to make ethanol during 2008/09, up from about 23 percent the prior year. A study by Informa Economics forecast ethanol to climb to 34 percent of U.S. corn production in 2009.

Nearly 80 percent of the 820 farmers surveyed at the American Farm Bureau Federation's annual meeting in San Antonio said ethanol was beneficial for agriculture, but 17 percent of respondents said it did more harm than good.

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Ethanol is Bracing for Challenges in 2009

Farm Futures
Jason Vance

Renewable Fuels Association provides outlook for ethanol.

The year 2008 was a difficult year for American businesses and the ethanol industry was no exception. With unprecedented economic collapses, the freezing of the credit market, wild swings in commodity markets and a great deal of manufactured hysteria over the food versus fuel debate, all of which created challenging conditions for America's farmers and ethanol producers.

"But 2008 is now behind us and the American ethanol industry is completely focused on the future and we are dedicated to not only the success of current ethanol producers but also to the development and the deployment of next generation technologies that will expand the basket of feedstocks from which ethanol is produced," said Renewable Fuels Association Chairman Chris Stanlee during a press teleconference on Tuesday. "This will also create hundreds of thousands of green jobs in all sectors of the economy, it will provide even greater reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and further lessen our dependence on foreign oil."

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Bill promises biomass break for farmers
By NATHAN BRUTTELL Argus-Press Staff Writer Email this story Print this story
Monday, January 12, 2009 10:02 AM EST

As the nation faces a recession, local and state officials have passed a bill to ease the burden on the agricultural world and the environment.

A bill signed New Year's Eve allows Michigan farmers who purchase machinery that can harvest biomass material to receive a key sales tax exemption under a new law authored by State Rep. Dick Ball, R-Owosso, according to a press release.

The bill, which is part of a statewide energy project, provides a tax exemption on machinery such as combines that can harvest grain and other crops, while collecting the biomass residue used to produce alternative energy.

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USDA could jump-start cellulosic fuel

North Queensland Register (Australia)
13/01/2009 9:34:00 AM

United States Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer has predicted that the US Department of Agriculture will make the first loan guarantee for a commercial-size cellulosic ethanol plant before the Bush Administration wraps up business next week.

If that plant, a woodchip-based plant on which Range Fuels has broken ground in Soperton, Georgia, lives up to the promise of becoming a commercial success, Mr Schafer believes it will advance the timetable for commercial production of cellulosic ethanol in the US by two years.
"If that investment gets made, if that facility gets up and running, it will jump by two years, I believe, the goal of producing, on a commercialised basis, ethanol from non-corn or non-food sources," Schafer said.

The breakthrough on woodchips could begin a cascade into the production of ethanol from other cellulosic feedstocks, he predicted, adding "it could explode the opportunities for second-generation biofuels".

Read the full story

Friday, January 16, 2009

Editorial: Good to see ISU being a leader in alternative energy field

The Pantagraph (Bloomington, IL)
By the Pantagraph Editorial Board

The need for developing alternative energy sources is as obvious as the latest news story about the war in Iraq.

The potential for developing those alternatives is as apparent as the wind turbines spinning above McLean County and the crops growing around them.

The interest in being part of the process is borne out by the students majoring in renewable energy at Illinois State University.

While universities as a whole sometimes cling to outdated programs out of a sense of tradition, they really shine when they become innovators who embrace change and fulfill emerging needs.

All universities should examine whether long-established programs remain relevant and continue to serve a purpose. All universities also should stay on top of emerging fields where college-educated people are needed.

Alternative energy production is one of those fields.

Central Illinois has all the makings to be a leader in the alternative energy field.

Read the full editorial

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Stanford News: Stanford Launches $100 Million Initiative to Tackle Energy Issues

Stanford News

STANFORD, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Recognizing that energy is at the heart of many of the world’s tribulations—economic, environmental and political—Stanford is establishing a $100 million research institute to focus intently on energy issues, President John Hennessy announced today. The $100 million in new funds will enable the hiring of additional faculty and support new graduate students, in addition to the more than $30 million in yearly funding now spent on energy research.

The new Precourt Institute for Energy will draw on deep scientific expertise from across the campus and around the world. From the minuscule—materials scientists prying loose more electricity from sunshine through more efficient photovoltaic cells—to the national effort to develop sustainable energy and the global search for ways to reduce atmospheric levels of carbon, the new institute will be at the forefront.

The institute is being brought to life through the generosity of donors, led by founding donors Jay Precourt and the husband-and-wife team of Thomas Steyer and Kat Taylor. Precourt is an energy executive; Steyer is a Stanford trustee and managing partner of Farallon Capital Management, and Taylor is active in a variety of public benefit and philanthropic ventures. They are all Stanford alumni.

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Continental follows with algae

Air Transport World
By Jerome Greer Chandler Eco-Aviation Today, January 12, 2009, p.2

Continental Airlines followed Air New Zealand's historic trip into the record books a week later by making the first flight on Jan. 7 of a commercial transport partially powered by a fuel derived from algae. The 80-min. test regimen that Richard Jankowski and Joe O'Neil put their 737-800 through went "perfectly," said Jankowski. If parity with Jet A was the goal, the mission may have been a shade better than perfect. He said both fuel consumption and exhaust gas temperatures "were slightly lower" for the No. 2 CFM56-7 that was powered by a blend of Jet A (50%), jatropha (44%), and algae (6%).

How quickly biofuel migrates from the experimental to the operational remains to be seen. But industry experts gathered at Bush Houston Intercontinental for the test flight were almost unabashedly ebullient. CO Chairman and CEO Larry Kellner labeled the flight "a very important step" toward renewable biofuels. Partners Boeing, GE Aviation, CFM International, Terasol Energy, Honeywell UOP and Sapphire Energy were equally upbeat.

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Colorado ACRE awards grants to biomass projects

Biomass Magazine
January 2009
By Ryan C. Christiansen
Web exclusive posted Jan. 8, 2009, at 10:58 a.m. CST

The Colorado Agricultural Value Added Development Board of the Colorado Department of Agriculture has awarded $250,000 in Advancing Colorado’s Renewable Energy (ACRE) grants to organizations for biomass-related projects.

A $50,000 research grant was awarded to the Colorado State University Golden Plains Area Extension Service to evaluate how energy crops should be rotated on northeastern Colorado dryland farms.

“What we're trying to do is take the potential renewable energy crops—whether its biodiesel, ethanol, or cellulosic sources—and see how they fit into a cropping sequence,” said Alan Helm, area extension agent for CSU. “Which crops follow which best? Which crops don't follow? If we start growing some of these alternative-type crops, whether it's canola or camelina, where do they fit into our cropping systems?”

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Obama’s energy pick optimistic on new biofuels

The Des Moines Register
By PHILIP BRASHER • • January 13, 2009

Washington, D.C. — Steven Chu, the Nobel laureate selected to be the next energy secretary, says he’s optimistic that the country can commercialize new forms of biofuels that won’t come from food crops.

The next generation of biofuels won’t necessarily be ethanol, Chu said at his confirmation hearing today before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. He said scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory where he’s been director are developing the bacteria and yeast needed to convert plant cellulose into new versions of conventional gasoline and diesel.

He also says scientists are working on new crops for biofuels that will require less energy to grow and be “more robust.”

Corn ethanol has frequently been criticized because of the relatively large amount of energy needed to grow the grain as opposed to grasses or trees, which could be feedstocks for new fuels.

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Will The Brazilian Ethanol Machine Challenge US Renewable Fuels Policies?
1/12/2009 10:25:00 AM

The corn market, and to an arguable extent, the soybean and wheat markets, have been a function of the demand for ethanol and the US renewable fuels policy. That policy sets annual targets for ethanol production and keeps in place a subsidy for fuel blenders and a tariff that make foreign produced ethanol more expensive when it enters the US market. Next to the US, the world’s biggest ethanol producer is Brazil, which converts sugarcane to fuel, and runs a substantial amount of its motor vehicle traffic on ethanol. But is Brazilian ethanol a real competitive threat to the Midwestern corn grower?

Brazil has nearly doubled its ethanol production since 2003, and will produce over 7 billion gallons in its current marketing year, compared to the 9 billion in the US, according to Don Hofstrand, in the January Iowa State Ag Decision Maker. Hofstrand says Brazil initiated a renewable fuels program in the 1970’s during the high oil price era, and kept building it into today’s robust ethanol program.

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Report: Atlantica region must use forest biomass

Biomass Magazine
January 2009
By Erin Voegele
Web exclusive posted Jan. 8, 2009, at 5:54 p.m. CST

A new report released by the Atlantica BioEnergy Task Force declares that action must be taken to implement renewable energy technologies in the Atlantica Region’s forest products industry. The study was compiled by PricewaterhouseCoopers and recommends 15 actions that should be taken in the areas of sustainable forest management, biomass management, energy policy, education, research and development and technology implementation.

The Atlantica BioEnergy Task Force includes representatives from regional governments, industry, utilities, federal and regional organizations and post-secondary institutions. The Atlantica Region includes the provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia in Canada, and the state of Maine in the United States.

Read the full story

Wed. January 07, 2009; Posted: 04:02 AM

SEOUL, Jan 07, 2009 (AsiaPulse via COMTEX) -- South Korean scientists have developed a high-tech process to extract commercially viable chemical compounds from a biodiesel by-product that can help cut costs of making the synthetic fuel, the government said Wednesday.

The Ministry of Knowledge Economy said researchers from local universities, the state-run Korea Research Institute of Chemical Technology and GS Caltex Corp. have successfully made glycerol carbonate (GC) and 3-hydroxypropionic acid (3-HP) from glycerol.
"Using a special catalyst to make the chemicals, scientists have found a way to effectively reduce biodiesel production costs by 15 percent," a government official said. He said production cost can be lowered as manufacturers will be able to sell the by-product chemicals on the market.

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Biofuel from Algae?: Ask UNH

Connecticut Business News Journal
Business New Haven01/05/2009
by BNH

WEST HAVEN - The University of New Haven (UNH) will expand its biodiesel research efforts to explore the viability of Long Island Sound algae as a fuel source.

UNH received a $135,276 grant from the Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology to fund its research. The grant is one of three awarded through the Connecticut Fuel Diversification Grant Program funded by the state's Department of Economic & Community Development. Says Eddie Luzik, co-principal research investigator of the UNH project, "No one has yet studied whether the algae species prevalent in Long Island Sound contain significant or recoverable amounts of the lipids necessary to be converted to fuel."

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Group Pushing for Center to Research Algae-Based Fuels

San Diego Business Journal
Posted date: 1/12/2009
San Diego Business Journal Staff

Stephen Mayfield, a biologist and associate dean at The Scripps Research Institute, is lobbying to build a multimillion-dollar facility focused on turning algae into fuel for cars, trucks and airplanes.

A consortium of academic researchers is pushing to make San Diego a hub for research on algae-based fuels, a task that, if successful, could pour more jobs and funding into the area.

Stephen Mayfield, a biologist and associate dean at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, is spearheading an effort to elevate the region’s position as a leader in algae-based fuels.

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Kemin Industries Inc. and Renewable Energy Group Research Shows Antioxidants Can Maintain Biodiesel Quality During Long-Term Storage
Date Posted: January 7, 2009

Des Moines, IA—Kemin Industries, Inc. and Renewable Energy Group® announced Jan. 6 a research collaboration and preliminary test results aimed at better understanding how to cost-effectively maintain biodiesel quality during storage.

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Continental flight powered with biofuel takes off

Associated Press
By JOHN PORRETTO – January 8, 2009

HOUSTON (AP) — Continental Airlines on Wednesday became the first U.S. commercial carrier to conduct a demonstration flight powered in part by alternative fuels, though large-scale use of such fuel is forecast to be several years away.

The Houston-based company, the nation's fourth-largest airline, made the flight with a Boeing 737-800 that left from Bush Intercontinental Airport, its large hub. The flight took about 1 hour, 45 minutes and had no passengers.

Continental chairman and chief executive Larry Kellner said the goal was to analyze technical aspects of using biofuels, including effects on the plane's mechanical systems. In this case, the alternative fuel was derived from algae and jatropha plants and used in only one of the plane's two engines.

Read the full story

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

EPA mandates increased ethanol use

Prairie Business Magazine - Grand Forks Herald (North Dakota)
Cole Gustafson, Prairie Business Magazine
Published Friday, January 09, 2009

The Enivornmental Protection Agency has announced a higher national blend rate for ethanol of 10.21 percent in 2009. This raises many questions for ethanol producers, corn growers, the livestock industry and automobile owners.

The previous ethanol blend rate of 7.76 percent was established by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. Since it is an average national blend rate and some areas have minimal ethanol consumption, the Midwest needs to blend higher levels of ethanol in gasoline to meet the goal.

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Coalition: Congress should fund Farm Bill programs, tax credits

Biodiesel Magazine
January 2009
By Erin Voegele
Web exclusive posted Jan. 9, 2009, at 10:58 a.m. CST

A coalition of 34 renewable energy, environmental and agricultural groups issued a letter to congressional leaders Jan. 6 requesting that funding for Farm Bill programs and renewable energy production tax credit extensions be included in economic recovery legislation.

According to the Biotechnology Industry Organization, which represents more than 1,200 biotechnology entities, funding these programs and tax credits can help speed the completion of renewable energy projects, creating jobs and generating economic activity.

Read the full story

Obama Presses for Action on the Economy

The New York Times
Published: January 8, 2009
Transcript: Obama's Speech on the Economy (January 8, 2009)

WASHINGTON — President-elect Barack Obama on Thursday urged Congress to act quickly to pass sweeping economic stimulus measures, including a tax cut and an infusion of as much as $800 billion, or face the likelihood that “this recession could linger for years.”

In making an unusually direct and high-profile appeal in remarks at George Mason University in northern Virginia, Mr. Obama was building on a campaign for swift economic action that he has conducted for weeks — each time in ever-sharper terms.

Read the full story - including call to double renewable energy production within three years

Finding a sustainable future at the dump

The Boston Globe
By Jeffrey E. Surma
January 12, 2009

THE ECONOMIC CRISIS has now hit the bottom of the barrel - the trash barrel, that is.

If we were to look at a garbage landfill from 200 feet away, most of us would see what appears to be a landscape of unidentifiable trash. If we dared to stand in the landfill, we would be able to identify familiar solid-waste products such as paper, cardboard, metal cans, plastic and glass bottles, scrap metal, and a host of other items. But what if we were able to take a really close look - down to the atomic level? We would see trillions of molecules made up of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, the building blocks of precious fuel to run our cars, heat our homes, and generate electricity. We would see trillions of molecules of inorganic chemicals that could be transformed into building and construction materials to save energy and preserve our natural resources.

Read the full story

Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE Announces New Division for Large Automakers to Showcase Fuel-Efficiency Efforts

SOURCE: Progressive Automotive X PRIZE
Jan 11, 2009 10:40 ET

Details of the Competition's New Demonstration Division Announced at the 2009 North American International Auto Show in Detroit

DETROIT, MI--(Marketwire - January 11, 2009) - The Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE, a multimillion dollar competition designed to inspire a new generation of viable, super fuel-efficient vehicles, today announced details of a Demonstration Division designed specifically for large, established automobile manufacturers. "We believe that this new Division provides an ideal platform for major automakers in the U.S. and E.U. to promote their latest fuel-efficient vehicles and we hope this announcement sparks new entries into the competition," noted Peter Diamandis, President and CEO of the X PRIZE Foundation.

The Demonstration Division, distinct from the existing Competition Division, is intended to showcase high-efficiency vehicles from established automakers that are already selling fully validated, four-wheel vehicles in the U.S. or E.U. at quantities greater than 10,000 per year, and have been doing so since 2005. Such companies may enter efficient Mainstream Class vehicles that are either in production or committed for production and sale in the U.S. or E.U. prior to the end of 2012.

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Phase II Biofuels: The Tie Between Biofuels and Chemicals From Biomass

MarketWatch - The Wall Street Journal
Last update: 2:46 p.m. EST Jan. 8, 2009

SRI Consulting Publishes 2008 Biofuels and the Impact on Chemicals

MENLO PARK, Calif., Jan 08, 2009 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- Two things are apparent concerning the biofuels industry. First, they are entering a new era. Second, their future as well as the future of many chemicals is linked together. Today, SRI Consulting (SRIC) published its new report: 2008 Biofuels and the Impact on Chemicals, providing its most comprehensive study on phase II biofuels, bioethanol, biodiesel, biobutanol, and many other products.

Over the last several years the growth of biofuels has been phenomenal, even though they are still a minor part of the motor fuel market - and are apt to remain that way for some time. Yet many companies are still developing new biofuel technologies and building new capacity, and many countries have ambitious plans for self-sufficiency through increased use of biofuels.

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Monday, January 12, 2009

Corn Ethanol's Subsidy Glut
by: Jeff St. John
January 9, 2009

Corn ethanol received 76 percent of all federal government renewable energy subsidies in 2007, despite its unclear environmental and energy benefits, according to the Environmental Working Group.

Corn-based ethanol, beloved by farm states and maligned by some environmentalists, received more than three-quarters of all federal renewable energy tax credits in 2007 – a balance that the Environmental Working Group says needs to change.

The Washington, D.C.-based group released a report Thursday citing U.S. Department of Energy data showing the corn-based ethanol industry took about $3 billion in federal tax credits in 2007, or 76 percent of all the tax credits going to renewable energy nationwide. That could grow to $5 billion by 2010, the report stated.

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US weekly ethanol margins improve, still negative

Reuters UK
Fri Jan 9, 2009 8:37pm GMT

NEW YORK, Jan 9 (Reuters) - Average U.S. ethanol distillers remained in the red this week, though not as deeply as last week thanks to an uptick in prices for the finished product, analysts said.

The ethanol crush spread rose about 7.8 cents to 19.8 cents a gallon, using the formula of the Midwest ethanol price, minus the corn price divided by 2.8.

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BRIEF: Poet Opening Pilot Cellulosic Ethanol Plant
Friday, January 09, 2009 4:52 PM

(Source: The Wichita Eagle (Wichita, Kan.))By Rick Plumlee, The Wichita Eagle, Kan.

Jan. 9--Poet will hold a grand opening Monday of its pilot-scale cellulosic ethanol plant in Scotland, S.D.

The facility will use corn cobs as its fuel source.

A year ago, $114 million in federal money was invested in building pilot plants to develop ways to make cellulosic ethanol cost-effective.

Current federal law mandates that 100,000 gallons of cellulosic ethanol will be produced in 2010.

Poet is based in Sioux Falls, S.D. Its marketing headquarters are in Wichita.

Read the full story

Cellulosic ethanol output could "explode"

Fri Jan 9, 2009 4:04pm EST

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Ethanol production from wood chips, grass and other plant material could "explode" by 2012 if a commercialized facility to produce the second generation of biofuels is successful, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer said on Thursday.

Schafer told reporters that he expected that by January 20 USDA will award a loan guarantee to Range Fuels, based in Colorado, to build a commercial-size plant capable of producing 100 million gallons of ethanol annually from woodchips.

It would be the first guarantee issued through a program created in the 2008 farm law to speed development of new biofuels. Schafer would not say how much the loan would be.

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First Cellulosic Ethanol Plant in USA Up and Running

gas 2.0; biofuels, oil, a revolution
Written by Nick Chambers
Published on January 9th, 2009
Posted in cellulosic ethanol

After a $90 million shot in the arm from oil giant BP back in August, second generation cellulosic ethanol pioneer Verenium has started production of ethanol from non-food sources such as wood chips, grass straw, and trash at their Jennings Louisiana demonstration plant (PDF). This is the first such plant to begin operation in the US.

Read the full story

Friday, January 9, 2009

1/8/2009 7:52:00 AM
Whatever Happened To The Move Toward Cellulosic Ethanol?

There is no secret that when corn becomes too high priced or there is an insufficient supply, ethanol will be refined from cornstalks, switchgrass, miscanthus, wood chips, potato peels or some other form of low value biomass. The bugs are being worked out of the processes, but since it is all in the experimental stage, what will be the financial support for the biomass ethanol industry to start up and go on line toward full scale production? Has the economy threatened such a start up industry? You and a lot of other farmers want to know when to deliver a truckload of corn stalks.

USDA grants in the past year provided over $10 million to speed up the cellulosic ethanol research, and some pilot plants are operating. But economist Cole Gustafson at North Dakota State University says financial constraints will interfere with the transition from experimental to commercial operation. His analysis casts doubt on the availability of industry capital and the uncertainty in the US financial markets.

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Ethanol projects receive Colorado ACRE grants

Ethanol Producer Magazine
January 2009
By Ryan C. Christiansen
Web exclusive posted Jan. 8, 2009, at 10:40 a.m. CST

The Colorado Agricultural Value Added Development Board of the Colorado Department of Agriculture has awarded $200,000 in Advancing Colorado’s Renewable Energy (ACRE) grants to organizations for ethanol-related projects.

Feedlot Biofuel LLC of Wichita, Kan., received $25,000 to assess the feasibility of establishing ethanol plants at feedlots in east-central and southeastern Colorado. According to Bowe Wingerd, manager of Feedlot Biofuel, the company has designed an ethanol plant which has been optimized to produce wet distillers grains with solubles that caters to the nutritional needs of cattle.

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New hydrogen production method could reduce need for fossil fuels

Scientists have created an entirely natural and renewable method for producing hydrogen to generate electricity which could drastically reduce the dependency on fossil fuels in the future. The breakthrough means ethanol which comes from the fermentation of crops can be completely converted to hydrogen and carbon dioxide for the first time.

( - Scientists have created an entirely natural and renewable method for producing hydrogen to generate electricity which could drastically reduce the dependency on fossil fuels in the future.The breakthrough means ethanol which comes from the fermentation of crops can be completely converted to hydrogen and carbon dioxide for the first time.

The hydrogen generated would be used to power fuel cells - devices which convert fuels into electricity directly without the need for combustion.

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Simple soybean anything but - genetically, researcher says
December 16th, 2008

( -- Think humans are complex creatures? Consider the lowly soybean, said a Purdue University researcher. When it comes to genetics, the soybean plant is far more intricate than that of a human, said Scott Jackson, a plant genomics and cytogenetics researcher in Purdue's Department of Agronomy.

Jackson was among a team of researchers that mapped and sequenced the soybean genome for a project sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute (DOE JGI). The genome was released to the public this past week and can be viewed online at .

Soybean plants have tens of thousands more genes per cell nucleus than humans, even though the plant's complete genetic profile is much smaller, Jackson said.

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New Soybean Meal Processing Method May Simplify Biodiesel Production: USDA Research
Journal of Technology: December 30, 2008 12:01:00 AM EST

According to recent research published in the journal Aquaculture, "A new method of soybean meal processing has been developed, which may simplify the process of biodiesel production. This method, 'in situ transesterification', eliminates hexane extraction to remove the oil, combining the extraction and transesterification steps so as to synthesize biodiesel via a single treatment conducted directly on a lipid-bearing solid material."

"If the resulting meal is comparable in nutritional value to commercially available hexane-extracted soybean meal (SE-SBM) the new process could become widely used in the bio-fuel industry.

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Familiar challenges on biofuels, environment, subsidies await Vilsack

Des Moines Register
By PHILIP BRASHER • • December 18, 2008

Washington, D.C. — Tom Vilsack will have plenty on his to-do list at the U.S. Agriculture Department, and a lot of it will look familiar to an Iowan.One of the biggest challenges he will face is dealing with the growing global demand for crops for food and fuel and managing the effects of that farm production on the environment.

No state has been more affected by the growth in biofuel production than Iowa, where livestock farms have been paying higher prices for feed, and increased fertilizer use for corn is threatening water quality. If crop prices soar again as they did this year, he could face pressure to release idled cropland from a federal conservation program.

Read the full story

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Ethanol could outgrow corn

of the (Peoria) Journal Star
Posted Jan 05, 2009 @ 08:32 PM

Some worry that strain on farms could build, but experts call corn-based fuel just a stepping stone

BLOOMINGTON — A funny thing happened to ethanol on its way to national stardom: The corn-based fuel became the heavy.

The U.S. government wants 11 billion gallons of ethanol this year to help offset the nation's reliance on imported oil, yet Time magazine recently described the use of cropland for fuel "an environmental and economic catastrophe."

Time's story - on former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack, President-elect Obama's choice as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture - said using so much corn for fuel was responsible for converting forests and wetlands into cropland while "jacking up food prices around the world."

That's a long way from being viewed as the environmentally friendly, made-in-the-USA alternative to foreign oil.

Read the full story

11 Eastern States Commit to Regional Low Carbon Fuel Standard

Environment News Service

HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania, January 6, 2009 (ENS) - Pennsylvania has signed a letter of agreement with 10 other eastern states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation fuels and other sources by developing a regional low carbon fuel standard.

Vehicles using low carbon transport fuels include cars powered by hydrogen fuel cells; electric cars such as plug-in hybrids; cars fueled with ethanol, especially cellulosic ethanol made from non-food plant materials; and cars fueled with biodiesel.

"This partnership will work closely on a standard for the entire region," said Governor Ed Rendell on Monday, announcing the agreement. "In conjunction with Pennsylvania's energy policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase clean energy development, this work done by this partnership will ultimately grow our economy and protect our planet by fostering a cleaner environment."

The other states in on the agreement are Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont.

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Advanced Biomass Workshop at Morris Jan. 15

University of Minnesota - Morris
Posted by Judy Riley on Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2009
Event Date/Time:
Thursday, Jan. 15, 2009 8:00 am
Location: Student Center

Those interested in current and near-term biomass use in energy production are invited to attend The Advanced Biomass Energy Workshop on Thursday, Jan. 15, at the University of Minnesota, Morris Student Center. The event is co-sponsored by the University of Minnesota West Central Research and Outreach Center and the Morris campus. Funding is provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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Registration Now Open for GEAPS-KSU Distance-Ed Courses on Aeration Systems and Ethanol Production
Date Posted: January 6, 2009

Registration is now open for two upcoming GEAPS-KSU distance-ed courses--"Fundamentals of Ethanol Production" and "Aeration System Design & Operational Management."
Both courses begin March 2 and run for five weeks.

Read the full story

NASA researchers study effects of biofuel crops

Ethanol Producer Magazine
January 2009
By Erin Voegele
Web exclusive posted Dec. 21, 2008, at 11:58 a.m. CST

NASA researchers presented preliminary findings of biofuel crop research at the 2008 fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union on Dec. 19. Christopher Potter, a research scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center, and his colleagues described how they are working to predict the agricultural productivity of areas in the Midwest that are converting cropland to biofuels feedstock production.

The research uses satellite data collected by NASA and computer models to follow the effects of land-use changes on carbon pools and greenhouse gas emissions. The satellite images are used to make observations of vegetation cover and map above-ground and subsurface carbon pools in croplands.

Read the full story

Murley To Chair Florida Energy & Climate Commission

Foster Folly News (Florida)
Tuesday January 6th, 2009

Commission will lead state energy policy, administer Renewable Energy and Energy Efficient Technologies Grants Program.

TALLAHASSEE – Governor Charlie Crist has named James F. Murley, Director of the Center for Urban and Environmental Solutions at Florida Atlantic University, as Chair of the Florida Energy & Climate Commission, for a term ending November 30, 2011, subject to Senate confirmation.

“The Florida Energy & Climate Commission will help Florida continue forward to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase energy efficiency and stimulate the development of renewable and alternative energy sources here in Florida,” said Governor Crist. “Under the leadership of Chairman Murley, the Commission has an important role in our state’s energy future, and I look forward to working with him.”

Created by Governor Crist and the Florida Legislature in the 2008 Legislative session, the Florida Energy & Climate Commission is housed within the Executive Office of the Governor and is the primary organization for state energy and climate change programs and policies

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Falling oil prices endanger alternative sources

Chicago Tribune
By Joshua Boak Tribune Reporter
December 27, 2008

Energy prices resembled a roller coaster this year, clambering to record heights only to hurtle back toward earth at an alarming speed.

Expect a smoother ride in 2009, industry experts say. Gasoline could hug $1.50 a gallon. Crude oil, once thought to reach $200 a barrel, could stay well below $50.

The worst economic crisis since the Great Depression has lessened the demand for fossil fuels around the world. Americans are driving fewer miles, while growing economic powers such as China and India have begun to stop gorging on petroleum.

Read the full story

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Ethanol’s Roots: How Brazilian Legislation Created the International Ethanol Boom

The William & Mary Environmental Law and Policy Review published “Ethanol’s Roots: How Brazilian Legislation Created the International Ethanol Boom,” a review of ethanol policy development by Vanessa Cordonnier.

Read the report

Government grants might speed local interest in biofuels

Beaumont Enterprise (Texas)
January, 4, 2009

Rice and cattle were once the agricultural kings of Southeast Texas, but some local farmers now are looking forward to potentially lucrative crops - harvests that can be used as renewable energy sources, such as sorghum, cane and some types of rice.

A rush to meet federal standards designed to increase the country's energy independence has made some of these farmers optimistic that new refineries and acres of energy crops could be in the region's future.

Growing thousands of acres of new energy sources could be a "shot in the arm" for agriculture in the area, said Mike Doguet, an advocate for biofuels.

Read the full story

Biomass One recycles Christmas trees to fuel biomass power plant

BioMass Magazine
January 2009
By Bryan Sims
Web exclusive posted Jan. 5, 2009, at 3:41 p.m. CST

White City, Ore.-based Biomass One is accepting used Christmas trees to use as biomass fuel for its 25-megawatt per year wood-fired steam and electricity cogeneration production power plant in Medford, Ore.

Biomass One, which has been recycling old Christmas trees free of charge for the past four years, is estimating it will receive approximately 4,500 trees this year with the majority expected to come from local tree lots, according to Biomass One Vice President Gordon Draper.

Read the full story

Biobased Industry Center at forefront of research efforts

AgriNews (Minnesota/Iowa)
Wednesday, December 31, 2008

AMES, Iowa -- Iowa State University's new Biobased Industry Center is sponsoring four research projects designed to answer questions important to the biofuels industry.

"The purpose of the center is to study parts of the biofuels industry that have received less attention," said Ron Cox, an interim co-director of the center and the director of Iowa State's Center for Industrial Research and Service. "That's the business and economic side of the industry as opposed to the technical side of biofuel production."

The center is part of ISU's Bioeconomy Institute and has been in the works for several years. It was approved by the Iowa Board of Regents this fall. It is designed to support interdisciplinary research of the biorenewables industry and its economic, policy, business, social and work force issues.

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Top 10 Earth2Tech Stories of 2008
Written by Katie Fehrenbacher

We’ve brought you the victories and the disappointments of the year in cleantech, and now here’s a top 10 list that’s a little more personal: The top 10 Earth2Tech stories of 2008. The list is a combo of reader favorites — page views and number of comments — along with editor’s favorites, because there were some stories that made me glad to be part of this team this year.

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APSU students study bacteria as fuel source

By ANN WALLACE • The Leaf-Chronicle (Clarksville, TN) • January 4, 2009

Professer striving to find alternative energy in biofuels

When Austin Peay State University associate professor Sergei Markov looks at bacteria, he doesn't see a microscopic villain, but instead a facilitator to create a cost-efficient biofuel for use in vehicles.

Markov recently received a $10,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to conduct pilot studies using a prototype bioreactor he built to study the role specific bacteria can play in producing biofuels as inexpensive and plentiful alternatives to petroleum.

"This is a new area. We're kind of pioneers," said Markov, who grew up in Russia.

Markov received a $107,000 grant from the National Science Foundation last year.

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Agriculture secretary designee earns plaudits in South Dakota

Black Hills Pioneer
By Tom Lawrence
The Weekly News
Published: Dec. 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.

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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Coskata, Sapphire Energy and Virent head the “50 Hottest Companies in Bioenergy” rankings

Biofuels Digest
December 22, 2008

Cellulosic ethanol pioneer Coskata took the #1 spot in the “50 Hottest Companies in Bioenergy” rankings for 2008-09, published today by Biofuels Digest. Algae-to-energy start-up Sapphire Energy took the #2 position, while biomass-to-”drop in hydrocarbon” early-stage company Virent Energy took the #3 position. The list recognizes innovation and achievement in bioenergy development.

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US weekly ethanol margins fall deeper into the red

Reuters UK
Fri Jan 2, 2009 9:50pm GMT

NEW YORK, Jan 2 (Reuters) - Average U.S. ethanol distillers lost even more money this week on higher corn prices and weak demand for motor fuel, analysts said.

"Right now ethanol is just not a profitable business," said Pavel Mulchanov, an analyst at Raymond James & Associates in Houston.

Distillers were losing about 10 to 15 cents per gallon for the week ending Thursday, down about five cents.

Mulchanov said the profit margins were not sustainable because as distillers stop making the fuel, the price will go up. "There is a need for ethanol, refiners need it for blending reformulated gasoline," he said.

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11 Questions for Obama’s Science Team

The New York Times Science
Dot Earth
December 31, 2008, 5:33 pm — Updated: 6:16 pm
By Andrew C. Revkin

President-elect Barack Obama pledges to put a lot of emphasis not only on reinvigorating science, but on making decisions that are grounded in science. As promised, I’m going to seek answers from his environmental and science team to the questions that received the most reader recommendations. Here are the top 10 (actually, 11 because of a multiple tie):

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Top Ethanol Stories of 2008

Domestic Fuel - Alternative Fuel News
Posted by Cindy Zimmerman

Here is the Domestic Fuel list of the Top Ten ethanol stories of 2008.

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Ethanol Report Year in Review

Domestic Fuel - Alternative Fuel News
Posted by Cindy Zimmerman

In this edition of the “Ethanol Report” podcast, we take a look at 2008 - a challenging year full of surprises for the ethanol industry. This report features comments from this past year made by Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) President Bob Dinneen, RFA Chairman Chris Standlee of Abengoa Energy, former Secretary of Agriculture John Block, EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson, and RFA Communications Director Matt Hartwig.

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Petroleum Chief to Address Ethanol Conference

Domestic Fuel - Alternative Fuel News
Posted by Cindy Zimmerman

The new president and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute (API) will address the nation’s ethanol producers at the first industry conference of 2009.

Jack Gerard, who was appointed head of the API in November, has been confirmed as a keynote speaker for the 14th Annual National Ethanol Conference: Policy & Marketing, which will be held February 23-25 in San Antonio. Gerard was selected to succeed Red Cavaney, who headed the API for more than ten years.

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Monday, January 5, 2009

Can a Kind of Ancient Charcoal Put the Brakes on Global Warming?

Popular Mechanics
By Jeremy Jacquot
Published on: December 30, 2008

Biochar was first created and used thousands of years ago to help plants grow. Researchers have found that this charcoal-like substance traps carbon and is a renewable source of fuel. Nine countries are pouring research dollars into the charcoal-like substance to see if it can sequester carbon, improve the soil and produce biofuels all at once—on an economically competitive scale. Could this ancient fertilizer really put a dent on global warming?

When pre-Columbian natives in the Amazon Basin first began to use biochar—a fine-grained, carbon-rich type of charcoal made from burning bone fragments and other food remains—some 7,000 years ago, they knew that it helped their crops grow. But they didn't realize that this charred biomass was extraordinarily good at absorbing and storing carbon dioxide, and that the process that made it released chemicals that could be used as fuel. (At the time, chemistry was still a few thousand years away.) Today, private companies, universities and government organizations in nine countries—Vietnam, Belize, Cameroon, Chile, Costa Rica, Egypt, India, Kenya and Mongolia—are setting up demonstration trials to evaluate biochar's ability to improve various types of soils while trapping carbon and making fuel to find out if this ancient substance is an economically viable solution to global warming.

Biochar is different from the dry charcoal that you'd burn in a grill: It is produced by heating plant waste to 400 to 500 degrees C in the absence of oxygen—a process known as low-temperature pyrolysis—which makes a substance that has a greater number of smaller pores than charcoal. (The better to trap carbon dioxide with.) The process used to make biochar is a closed, sustainable one: Biomass is fed into the oxygen-free burners and turned into the char. The gases that are released during the reaction is then captured and converted into electricity (from combustible gases) or biofuel, while the remaining char is safe to throw directly into the soil. Biochar does the rest of the work underground. The substance improves the ground's composition and fertility by locking in water and nutrients, thereby reducing the need for fertilizers while boosting crop yields. It also stores the carbon from the plant materials that made it— around 50 percent of the carbon produced from converting biomass into biochar can be trapped—and traps even more carbon from decomposing plants in the soil.

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