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

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Methyl halides from biomass waste

RSC Chemistry World
29 April 2009

US researchers have developed a new way to engineer microorganisms to use biomass to produce methyl halides, simple chemicals used as agricultural fumigants and precursor molecules for complex chemicals and fuels.

Processing non-food biomass into fuels and high-value chemicals could provide a sustainable alternative to petrochemicals. With this in mind, a team of researchers used a new approach to engineer yeasts and bacteria to produce methyl halides from sources such as corn stover, bagasse and switchgrass.

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Energy Frontier Research Center (EFRC) Awards

DOE Basic Energy Sciences Energy Frontier Research Centers
April 27, 2009

The White House today announced that the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science will invest $777 million in Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRCs) over the next five years. In a major effort to accelerate the scientific breakthroughs needed to build a new 21st-century energy economy, 46 new multi-million-dollar EFRCs will be established at universities, national laboratories, nonprofit organizations, and private firms across the nation (White House Fact Sheet).

Supported in part by funds made available under President Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act), the EFRCs will bring together groups of leading scientists to address fundamental issues in fields ranging from solar energy and electricity storage to materials sciences, biofuels, advanced nuclear systems, and carbon capture and sequestration (synopses of the 46 EFRC awards).

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Obama Administration launches Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), establishes offshore renewables development framework

Biofuels Digest
April 29, 2009 Jim Lane

Major announcements came from Washington regarding new advanced projects energy research funding and rules for offshore development.

The Administration announced the launch of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), modeled after the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which was authorized by Congress in 2007 and funded through the $400 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

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DOE makes largest research award in Danforth Campus history

Washington University in St. Louis
By Tony Fitzpatrick

$20 million awarded to WUSTL; $15 million to Donald Danforth Plant Science Center

April 28, 2009 -- Washington University and the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center have received two awards totaling $35 million from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to do research on novel energy initiatives. At $20 million, the Washington University research award is the largest ever received on the Danforth Campus. The $15 million for the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center is the largest the organization has ever received.

Washington University and the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center will be home to two of 46 new multimillion-dollar Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRCs) announced April 27 by the White House in conjunction with a speech delivered by President Barack Obama at the annual meeting of the National Academy of Sciences.

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A Desert Star: Guayule

swnewsherald (Chicago) Everybody's Science
By SANDY MILLER HAYS, Agricultural Research Service

It's odd how the mind works, isn't it? A particular scent will take us back in time to something that happened decades ago, and a simple turn of phrase can instantly bring back the lyrics of a song from high school.

That's probably why, every time I hear the word "guayule" (pronounced "why-YOU-lee"), I automatically think, "Why not?" Because if there's any plant that seems less promising on the surface, but actually has amazing potential, I'd be hard-pressed to name it.

If you stumbled across guayule in the desert and confused it with sagebrush, that would be totally understandable, because the two plants look a little alike. Guayule has silvery, grayish-green leaves and yellow flowers, and blends right into its native territory of the Chichuahuan Desert of the southwestern United States and northern Mexico.

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Abengoa Solar Begins Operation of World's Largest Solar Power Tower Plant

Earth Times
Posted : Mon, 27 Apr 2009 18:49:51 GMT
Author : Abengoa Solar

DENVER, April 27 Abengoa-Solar-tower
- Performance of power tower plant, PS20, exceeded design output during three-day production and operational testing period.
- New 20-megawatt solar power plant will produce enough energy to supply 10,000 homes.

DENVER, April 27 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Following the conclusion of the successful three-day production and operational testing period, Abengoa Solar has begun commercial operation of the new PS20 solar power tower plant located at the Solucar Platform, near Seville (Spain). Over the course of the testing period, PS20 surpassed the predicted power output, thus further validating the high potential of power tower technology.

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Biodiesel Powers University Vehicles (produced by The Morning News)
Last updated Tuesday, April 21, 2009 9:13 PM CDT in News

Conversion Recycles Cafeteria Waste

FAYETTEVILLE — From big blue tractors tilling fields to the signature orange utility trucks buzzing around campus, the University of Arkansas uses a lot of diesel fuel.

Feeding thousands of college students also produces a lot of used cooking oil.

Turns out those chicken fingers at the cafeteria might be indirectly helping power the equipment that grows the vegetables and keeps the grass mowed.

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European Study Looks at Biofuels Land Use Effects on Biodiversity
Date Posted: April 27, 2009

Current estimates state that transport is responsible for about 25% of the energy-related greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.

While biofuels are seen as a possible means to reduce these emissions, they are under heavy discussion in terms of economic cost benefits and their environmental and social impacts.

The EU promotes the production of biofuels and has set a target of 5.75% share of biofuels in the transport section for all EU Member States by 2010, and a target of 10% to be reached by 2020.
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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

National Corn Growers Association

April 27: Iowa’s secretary of agriculture last week credited distillers grains, a key ethanol coproduct, for helping the livestock industry grow in his state. The remarks were made during the 13th Annual Distillers Grains Symposium, hosted by the Distillers Grains Technology Council (DGTC).

Jamey Cline, NCGA Director of Biofuels Programs and Business Development, attended the Des Moines event. “Distillers dried grains increase the supply of feed and provide livestock producers with a high-protein, high-energy livestock feed,” said Cline. “The information presented at this event is extremely important to NCGA’s work with ethanol and feed industry leaders, livestock nutritionists and others to ensure ethanol producers continue to have a market for this valuable coproduct.”

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Feds, Mayors Group Announce Plans for Clean Cities

Mon Apr 27, 2009 12:32pm EDT
By GreenBiz Staff

City infrastructure, from transit to recreation, is the focus of two new greening initiatives announced last week.

Both the federal government and the National Conference of Black Mayors offered ideas, goals and, in the case of the feds, hefty sums of money, dedicated to making urban areas in the U.S. cleaner, healthier and more environmentally sustainable.

Vice President Joe Biden last week detailed the latest spending plan from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act: $300 million in stimulus funds that will be dedicated to improving public transit and city vehicle fleets across the nation.

"From advanced battery cars to hybrid-electric city buses, we're going put Recovery Act dollars to work deploying cleaner, greener vehicles in cities and towns across the nation that will cut costs, reduce pollution and create the jobs that will drive our economic recovery," Biden said.

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LamarMcKay, BP's new head of U.S. operations, talks about the Obama administration's policies, the future of biofuels and more

The Wall Street Journal Business
APRIL 26, 2009, 7:11 P.M. ET

A Full Agenda
In January, oil giant BP PLC appointed Lamar McKay, an experienced Russia hand, to head its operations in another key energy-producing trouble spot -- the U.S.

BP runs the two largest oil fields in the U.S., and its U.S. operations account for about 40% of the company's global business. BP America is still recovering from a recent string of high-profile incidents ranging from a lethal explosion at its Texas City refinery to federal charges of propane-market manipulation and operational problems in Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico. Last month, the federal government and the state of Alaska sued BP for civil damages over two 2006 oil spills in the North Slope.

Mr. McKay also is taking the helm as a new U.S. administration seeks to give alternative energy a solid footing, an effort that creates uncertainties for fossil-fuel producers.

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Inside the Plant: How Ethanol is Made
Posted: April 26, 2009 11:14 PM CDT

Living in Nebraska ethanol is a part of daily life. Many farmers sell their corn for it's production, some feed cattle with the what's left over, and we use it in our cars. But how does it go from corn to alcohol?

It's roughly a nine step process, but many of those steps have even more steps within them.

Read the full story and see video

Searching for Deeper Pockets

The Wall Street Journal
APRIL 26, 2009, 10:25 P.M. ET
Power Plays
The latest on alternative-energy deals from Dow Jones Clean Technology Insight

Amid tight credit and tough market conditions, clean-technology companies without large backers are looking to better-capitalized suitors. This trend became apparent in the solar-power industry over the past few weeks.

"There are a lot of thinly capitalized developers who are struggling to figure out how to develop projects," says Arno Harris, chief executive of Recurrent Energy Inc., who sees that weakness as a buying opportunity.

Read the full story

The Journal ReportSee the complete Energy report.

CME Group Ethanol Outlook Report - April 27, 2009

Inside Futures
Monday, April 27, 2009
by CRB Research Team of Commodity Research Bureau

The ethanol market this week will focus on:

  • the EIA ethanol report for February, which will put an official number on the recent drop in ethanol production,
  • corn prices, which are keying on spring planting weather,
  • gasoline prices, which are keying on demand and inventory levels, and
  • any news about when the 12 idled ethanol plants formerly owned by VeraSun will come back on line.
May CBOT Ethanol futures prices recovered from last Wednesday's 6-week low and closed the week just slightly lower by 0.4 cents at $1.570 per gallon. The main bearish factor was the 3.4% sell-off in gasoline prices. Bullish factors included (1) slightly higher corn prices, (2) last week's 1.5% sell-off in the dollar index, and (3) last Friday's report by the US Federal Highway Administration that U.S. motorists increased their average daily driving by +2.7% in February, the first increase in the last 15 months. In addition, the weekly DOE report showed that implied fuel demand in the week ended April 17 rose +2.1% w/w and was up +5.7% from mid-January.

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Posted: April 23, 2009 01:15 PM CDT

Washington, DC - U.S. Senator Mike Johanns today announced his support of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) taking the first step to raise the limit on the amount of ethanol blended with gasoline. The EPA has opened a public comment period on the possibility of raising the limit from its current cap of 10 percent to as much as 15 percent.

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California rule could end ethanol's honeymoon

Fri Apr 24, 2009 5:57pm EDT
By Timothy Gardner - Analysis

NEW YORK (Reuters) - California's newly adopted low-carbon fuel standard may mark the beginning of the end of ethanol's coveted status as the sole U.S. alternative motor fuel.

The U.S. state with the most cars late on Thursday approved the world's first-ever regulations to slash emissions of planet-warming carbon dioxide from vehicle fuels.

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Climate changing for ethanol industry? (Tribune Herald)
Sunday, April 26, 2009

Obama's visit puts spotlight on Iowa's efforts to curb global warming.

Maybe you noticed a well-dressed man ambling about, swarmed by security officers and fans alike.


Well, if you failed to follow every step of President Barack Obama's trip to Iowa on Wednesday, I assure you one group picked up where you might have left off -- the media.

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Coskata races towards first 50-60 Mgy cellulosic ethanol plant in 2012; reduces water use compared to gasoline; unconcerned about ethanol acceptance

Biofuels Digest
April 27, 2009 Jim Lane

In Washington, Coskata VP Wes Bolsen gave a comprehensive update on the company’s drive towards delivering the first 50 Mgy cellulosic ethanol facility, and rated his concern about the lack of E85 outlets and the E10 “blend wall” at “1 on a scale of 1 to 5″, at the Advanced Biofuels Development Summit.

The #1-ranked company in the “50 Hottest Companies in Bioenergy,” Coskata is on schedule to complete a “semi-scale” commercial demonstration of its technology in Madison, Pennsylvania this year, after opening a pilot-scale facility in Warrenville, Illinois more than a year ago.

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Walden, Gore debate the merits of biomass

The Bulletin
By Keith Chu / The Bulletin
Published: April 25. 2009 4:00AM PST

Woody debris from federal land isn’t renewable under energy bill

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Greg Walden and former Vice President Al Gore shared a testy exchange Friday over how to use woody debris from federal lands in a U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing.

In an unusual four-day-long hearing this week, Walden repeatedly pressed witnesses about why woody debris from federal land doesn’t count as renewable energy in a massive bill to reduce greenhouse gases that is being debated in the House committee. Gore was on hand as perhaps the most famous of a host of experts on climate change and energy who testified throughout the week.

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Monday, April 27, 2009

SDTC, North Carolina fund biomass projects

Biomass Magazine May 2009
By Bryan Sims

Several biomass projects in the U.S. (North Carolina) and Canada have received grants to help accelerate their biomass projects.

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100 percent biomass or bust gains ground

Biomass Magazine May 2009
By Anna Austin

Power providers have taken a keen interest in biomass due to its current cost competitiveness with coal and its clean-burning properties. Despite the new-found popularity, not every biomass power project gets the green light. The determining factor for whether a project moves forward or falls between the cracks is the amount of biomass being used—100 percent versus cofired. Lately, the sentiment seems to be all or nothing.

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Brownback endorses fuel edict
By Tim Carpenter
April 22, 2009 - 11:38am

U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback is willing to push harder on the pedal of federal mandates to require half of new automobiles built in 2012 to operate on a range of fuels.

The legislation introduced Wednesday stipulates 50 percent of new vehicles must be capable of operating on gas, ethanol and methanol or diesel and biodiesel.

The standard would rise to 80 percent of automobiles in 2015.

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GIC Group: With Cap and Trade, Biofuels Would Offer Cost-Competetive Business Model to Petroleum Fuels
Date Posted: April 23, 2009

At the Advanced Biofuels Development Summit, Rick Gilmore, President of GIC Group indicated that with the prospect of cap and trade, biofuels offer a cost-competitive business model to petroleum based fuels.

He also pointed out that the conventional wisdom on ethanol prices is that margins are lock-step in line with oil prices.

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South Korea to spend $271m on seaweed forests for biomass

Power Engineering International

23 April 2009 - South Korea will spend 365.3bn won ($271.5m) in the next ten years to create new seaweed forests that can help increase the country's ability to produce biomass energy, officials said.

The plan calls for 35 000 hectares of seaweed forest to be created in waters in the east and south coasts and near Jeju Island that can produce up to 1.56bn liters of ethanol per year by 2020.

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CARB Adopts Low Carbon Fuel Standard
Date Posted: April 24, 2009

Sacramento—The Air Resources Board adopted a regulation that will implement Governor Schwarzenegger's Low Carbon Fuel Standard calling for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from California's transportation fuels by ten percent by 2020.

The new regulation is aimed at diversifying the variety of fuels used for transportation.

It will boost the market for alternative-fuel vehicles and achieve 16 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emission reductions by 2020.

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Friday, April 24, 2009

G-Max yeast, crossover refineries for cellulosic ethanol, biodiesel, pyrolysis highlighted at Advanced Biofuels Development Summit

Biofuels Digest
April 23, 2009 Jim Lane

In Washington, Steve Hughes of the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service presented a new “G-Max” yeast for cellulosic ethanol conversion at the Advanced Biofuels Development Summit that will facilitate the production of biodiesel and ethanol from cellulosic feedstocks at “crossover refineries” that combines starch ethanol, cellulosic ethanol and biodiesel production.

The complete presentation can be downloaded here.

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Breaking the ties that bind: New hope for biomass fuels


LOS ALAMOS, New Mexico, April 22, 2009--Los Alamos National Laboratory researchers have discovered a potential chink in the armor of fibers that make the cell walls of certain inedible plant materials so tough. The insight ultimately could lead to a cost-effective and energy-efficient strategy for turning biomass into alternative fuels.

In separate papers published today in Biophysical Journal and recently in an issue of Biomacromolecules, Los Alamos researchers identify potential weaknesses among sheets of cellulose molecules comprising lignocellulosic biomass, the inedible fibrous material derived from plant cell walls. The material is a potentially abundant source of sugar that can be used to brew batches of methanol or butanol, which show potential as biofuels.

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Lula says Brazil ready to share sugarcane biofuel technology

China View - News - World 2009-04-19 07:28:47

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad and Tobago, April 18 (Xinhua) -- Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva spoke here Saturday in favor of the use of sugarcane-based ethanol as an alternative to fossil-based fuel offering to share its know-how in the world's fight against global warming.

"Brazil is ready to share the technologies it developed for more than 30 years and to expand and strengthen initiatives of cooperation," Lula told a plenary session of the Fifth Summit of the Americas dedicated to the topic of energy security.

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Purdue startup marketing new ethanol yeast

Chicago Tribune
By RICK CALLAHAN Associated Press Writer
4:47 PM CDT, April 21, 2009

INDIANAPOLIS - An Indiana biotechnology company announced Tuesday that it has begun producing a genetically modified yeast that promises to make it easier and faster to turn corn cobs, wood chips and a host of agricultural wastes into ethanol.

Green Tech America Inc. of West Lafayette said its modified yeast ferments both major forms of sugar -- glucose and xylose -- involved in creating cellulosic ethanol from plant matter.

The yeast, which arose from research at Purdue University dating back three decades, is a modified form of common baker's yeast that its creators made using recombinant DNA techniques.

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California seeks ethanol support for fuel standard

Thu Apr 23, 2009 5:02pm EDT
By Steve Gorman and Nichola Groom

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - California regulators preparing Thursday to adopt landmark rules curbing carbon emissions from transport fuels made an eleventh-hour bid to woo critics who call the measures unfair to corn-based ethanol.

Transport alone accounts for 40 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in California, which ranks as the leading automobile market in the United States.

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Kinder mulls sending ethanol on Plantation line

Reuters UK
Wed Apr 22, 2009 5:40pm BST

ORLANDO, Florida, April 22 (Reuters) - U.S. oil products pipeline company Kinder Morgan Energy Partners (KMP.N) is exploring sending ethanol on the Louisiana to Virginia Plantation duct as business for the alternative motor fuel expands.

"We are evaluating the Plantation pipeline ... as the next possible pipeline system that can handle ethanol," Jim Lelio, a renewable fuels business development director at the company, told the Alternative Fuels & Vehicles conference in Orlando on Tuesday.

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Recovery Act Announcement: Vice President Biden Announces $300 Million in Recovery Act Funds for Clean Cities Program

April 22, 2009

During a visit to the WMATA Carmen Turner Maintenance and Training Facility in Landover, Maryland, Vice President Joe Biden today announced $300 million in funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for state and local governments and transit authorities to expand the nation's fleet of clean, sustainable vehicles and the fueling infrastructure necessary to support them.

"For city and state governments across this country, every day is Earth Day thanks to the ambitious commitments they are making to green their vehicles and transit systems. Now it's time for Washington to help them deliver on those promises," said Vice President Biden. "From advanced battery cars to hybrid-electric city buses, we're going put Recovery Act dollars to work deploying cleaner, greener vehicles in cities and towns across the nation that will cut costs, reduce pollution and create the jobs that will drive our economic recovery."

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"Making Advanced Biofuels from Cellulosic Biomass Is Not an Illusion: It is About to Happen”, a Biofuels Digest special report on advanced biofuels

Biofueld Digest
By Biofuels Digest special correspondent Tim Sklar

On April 4, 2009, C. Ford Runge, a professor of applied economics and law at the University of Minnesota published an “opinion piece” on website titled “The biofuel illusion”.

This article was cited in Biofuels Digest and available to thousands of its readers through a hyperlink. Dr. Runge’s opinions should be of concern to all who are involved in developing biofuels, as many of his assessments appear to be inadequately researched and many of his conclusions, ill founded.

This article highlights those assessments that are most damaging and provides information that can be used to rebut many of the conclusions Dr. Runge has reached.

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

New global map and database of advanced biofuels plants

Biofuels Digest
March 10, 2009

The International Energy Agency has completed its mapping of global second-generation biofuels demo plants and projects, now available here.

The interactive map allows for searching by type of plant (biochemical, thermochemical or hybrid), scale (pilot, demo or commercial) and status (planned,on hold, under construction, under commissioning, or operational).

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Jahn: Wisconsin-based bio-energy research leading the way (Wisconsin's Business News)
By Brian E. Clark For

If the United States is going to change its energy use habits, research coming out of places like the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center at UW-Madison will surely help.

So says Molly Jahn, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at the university.

Scientists and engineers at the bioenergy center – funded by the Department of Energy with a $125 million, five-year grant – are conducting basic research on new technologies to help convert plant material such as cornstalks, wood chips and perennial native grasses to sources of energy for everything from cars to power plants.

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Ethanol Co-Product Use in U.S. Cattle Feeding: Lessons Learned and Considerations

By Kenneth H. Mathews, Jr., and Michael J. McConnell
Outlook Report No. (FDS-09D-01) 14 pp, April 2009

The byproducts of making ethanol, sweeteners, syrups, and oils used to be considered less valuable than the primary products. But the increased livestock-feed market for such byproducts in the past few years has switched that perception to one of the ethanol industry making grain-based “co-products” that have market value separate from the primary products. Co-products such as dried distiller’s grains, corn gluten feed, corn gluten meal, corn oil, solubles, and brewer’s grains have become economically viable components, along with traditional ingredients (such as corn, soybean meal, and urea), in feed rations.

Read the full story or download the report

Study ranks Iowa second-best in use of water to make ethanol

Des Moines Register
By PHILIP BRASHER • • April 16, 2009

Washington, D.C. -— Iowa not only makes a lot of ethanol but also produces it without using nearly as much water as many other states, according to a study.

University of Minnesota researchers looked into how much water is required to make ethanol in each state and found differences based on the amount of irrigation needed to grow the corn.

Their study, published Wednesday by the journal Environmental Science and Technology, found that it takes six gallons of water to produce a gallon of ethanol in Iowa, the No. 1 producer of ethanol. By comparison, ethanol production in Nebraska requires 501 gallons of water per gallon of ethanol.

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Grainnet Podcast With Darrel Good, University of Illinois Extension Economist, On California Air Resource Board Decision on Indirect Land Use Change
April 21, 2009

by Greg Sullivan, Grainnet Editor
On April 21, I interviewed Darrel Good, University of Illinois Extension Economist.
He Spoke on the following topics:
• CARB Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS)
• The role of corn-based ethanol and land use changes for the LCFS
• Main factors involved in a fair assessment of land use change
• Importance of acreage needed, yield, and ethanol co-products for deciding correctly about land use
• Consequences of an unfair decision

Read the full story and listen to podcast

Making Fuel Precursors from Corn Waste
Source: University of Massachusetts Amherst
Released: Tue 14-Apr-2009, 05:00 ET

Newswise — The Department of Defense has awarded $1.9-million in funding to a biofuel research team led by chemical engineer George Huber at the University of Massachusetts Amherst so he and colleagues can turn wood and corn waste products into fuel precursors.

The DoD’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has granted Huber and colleagues funding to investigate new catalysts to enable low-cost pathways for the conversion of lignocellulosic biomass (derived from the cells and woody fibers of plants and trees) into a liquid composition that can be easily refined to a fuel such as JP-8. Huber and his team will exploit new chemistries to develop an end-to-end process that starts with biomass as the input and ends with JP-8 range alkanes and aromatics, which are both hydrocarbons and are the essential ingredients in military fuel.

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China won't copy U.S. and EU in bioenergy development: legislator

English People's Daily Online (China)
17:35, April 21, 2009

Rigid domestic demand for grain crops has forced China to turn its back on corn and rapeseed, the traditional raw materials used by the West for bioenergy production, and focus on crops whose annual output stands much higher, said an agricultural legislator Monday.

At a rural economic forum closed here on Monday, Vice Chairman Yin Chengjie of the Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee of the National People's Congress, China's top legislature, said the premise of China's bioenergy development strategy was "not to jeopardize food safety."

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Supply Security & Environmental Concerns to Propel Biopower Capacity to 84.1 GW by 2015, According to New Report by Global Industry Analysts
April 14, 2009

Rising concerns about global warming, volatile oil prices, and the need for energy supply security are fostering the demand for sustained power generation from renewable sources such as biomass. Driven by economic incentives, favorable government policies, and subsidies, power generation capacity of biomass and waste-to-energy facilities is expected to reach 84.1 GW by 2015.

San Jose, California (PRWEB) April 14, 2009 -- Rapidly expanding global population and fast-paced economic growth, particularly in developing countries, is propelling the demand for all forms of energy including electricity. To address the growing energy demand, countries are exploring a wide array of low-cost, environment-friendly and renewable energy resources such as biomass, biogas, and wind. Biomass is the leading source of primary energy, and the second largest renewable source of power generation after hydropower.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Will a phony carbon footprint crush the biofuels industry?

Dan Looker
Successful Farming magazine Business Editor
4/17/2009, 3:41 PM CDT

Biofuel supporters are worried that the EPA is going to use convoluted logic to make ethanol and biodiesel look worse than petroleum when it updates the 2007 Energy Bill's Renewable Fuel Standard this year. The snag is a theory that every U.S. corn or soybean acre devoted to ethanol or biodiesel means an acre of tropical rainforest is being cut down somewhere to offset it and grow food. Deforestation puts greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Under the law, biofuels have to show that they reduce greenhouse gases compared to petroleum-based fuels. Biodiesel has to be 50% better than diesel fuel, says Ray Gaesser, a Corning, Iowa, farmer who is a vice president of the American Soybean Association.

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Controversies Continue to Swirl over Corn Ethanol

Business Week
Energy April 16, 2009, 5:00PM EST
By John Carey

Rising corn prices and slack demand have hurt producers. And biofuel makers face a limit on how much ethanol can be blended with gas

Progress is being made on next-generation biofuels, but for the traditional corn ethanol industry, times are tough. Industry's facilities are 20% idle, taking 2 billion gallons a year worth of capacity off line. Bankruptcies are up. The biggest bankrupt producer, VeraSun Energy (VSUQ), was forced to sell seven of its plants, which were bought by oil refining giant Valero Energy (VLO)at bargain prices. "It's frustrating," says Rodney M. Weinzierl, executive director of the Illinois Corn Growers Assn. "The impact on the rural economy is tremendous."

Why the stumble? After all, corn ethanol was once heralded as a savior—a way to reduce dependence on foreign oil while slowing global warming and helping farmers. And until the troubles kicked in last year, new facilities were being built at a rapid pace

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Brazillian's Receive Information on the Use of Ethanol in Their New Cars
April 18, 2009

Starting in May, buyers of all flex- fuel vehicles manufactured in Brazil by Fiat, Ford, General Motors and Volkswagen will find extra reading material in the glove compartment of their new cars.

Along with the owner's manual, they'll receive the Ethanol Handbook, a concise, to-the-point overview of the advantages of using ethanol instead of gasoline, produced by the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (UNICA).

The unique partnership, described as "historic" by UNICA president and CEO Marcos Jank , was launched with a news conference at UNICA headquarters in Sao Paulo on Wednesday, April 15 . "Ethanol points to a more secure energy future for the world, and Brazil has the technology and is applying it successfully, which makes for a significant contribution to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The quality of Brazilian ethanol has been verified by numerous independent studies from solid, credible organizations the world over. Quite simply, it is the best commercially available option in terms of renewable fuels today," Jank said at the launch.

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California plan scares supporters of ethanol (South Dakota)
Peter Harriman • • April 20, 2009

S.D. interests call environmental tracking unfair

A California environmental agency this week will consider a controversial new way to evaluate the carbon footprint of biofuels.

At stake for the ethanol industry is continued unencumbered access to the state that uses the most motor fuel in the country, and the prospect that other states could follow California's lead.
Ethanol industry leaders fear the proposed Low Carbon Fuel Standard stacks the deck against corn-based ethanol. Some scientists are concerned that attempts to project the effect of growing corn for ethanol around the world exceeds the ability of science to measure such changes. South Dakotans are coming down on both sides of the issue.

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Omnibus Appropriations Act funding supports ethanol research

Ethanol Producer Magazine May 2009
By Erin Voegele
Web exclusive posted April 20, 2009, at 1:00 p.m. CST

The Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009, or H.R. 1105, was recently signed into law. The $410 billion legislative package contains appropriations bills that were not completed in the 110th congress. Several biofuel projects, including those in Michigan, Minnesota and Louisiana, received funding under the legislation.

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JBEI researchers develop new technique to assess feasibility of biofuel microbes

Ethanol Producer Magazine May 2009
By Erin Voegele
Web exclusive posted April 20, 2009, at 1:00 p.m. CST

Researchers at the Joint BioEnergy Institute, a California-based scientific partnership led by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, have developed a new technique to complete metabolic studies that could greatly accelerate the search for new biofuel microbes.

To date, this research has focused on the microbe Geobacillus thermoglucosidasius. According to Rajat Sapra, JBEI’s director of enzyme optimization and a staff scientist at Sandia National Laboratory, work has focused on this particular microbe for three reasons; it is a bacteria that can grow at high temperatures, it can utilize both C5 and C6 sugars, and it has been shown to have a higher tolerance to ethanol than any other known bacteria.

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Californians engineer microbes to produce methyl halides

Biomass Magazine April 2009
By Susanne Retka Schill

Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, have published a paper on their work with a bacteria and a yeast that have the potential to become a truly feedstock flexible process producing an intermediate chemical new to the biomass industry. Christopher Voigt, an associate professor in pharmaceutical chemistry at UCSF, was the principle investigator for the paper, “Synthesis of Methyl Halides from Biomass Using Engineered Microbes,” published online April 20 by the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

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Stimulus act, federal budget include renewable energy funding

Ethanol Producer Magazine May 2009
By Ryan C. Christiansen

The $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that President Barack Obama signed into law Feb. 17 includes $43 billion to support energy development, according to the White House. The Clean Energy Finance Authority program included in the recovery plan intends to revive the renewable energy industry and to double the amount of energy produced from renewable sources over the next three years. Collectively, this funding is expected to leverage nearly $100 billion in clean energy projects.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

EPA seeks input on ethanol blends

Published: 04/17/2009

EPA Seeks Comments on Ethanol Blend Rate Request

On April 16, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it is seeking public comment regarding a request from ethanol producers for a waiver under section 211(f)(4) of the Clean Air Act to permit ethanol blends with gasoline of up to 15 percent (E15) by volume. The current blend rate is set at about 10 percent. The public comment period will be open for 30 days. By law, the EPA must make a decision by December 1, 2009.

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A Truly Green Energy Source: Algae

National Public Radio (npr)
Health & Science

Listen Now [20 min 19 sec] add to playlist

Talk of the Nation, April 17, 2009 · Ira Flatow and guests discuss the future of algae-based energy — including plans for a new algae-fueled power plant in Venice, Italy. Biologist Jerry Brand explains why biotech companies are snapping up samples from his extensive algae collection at the University of Texas at Austin.

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Drowning in ethanol

USAToday Open Road
Apr 16, 2009 01:38 PM

The EPA has begun taking comments on boosting ethanol content to 15% in gasoline for general use, up from the 10% now (see USA TODAY story here). Ethanol producers, mandated by Congress to make more, say we won't be able to use all the corn-fuel they make if EPA doesn't allow up to 15%. Automakers are testing whether the higher level is harmless to cars, while small-engine makers (such as lawn mower companies) say they are concerned about ethanol's corrosive effects. The EPA is taking public comment for 30 days. Have fun trying to figure out how to comment on this EPA page. And let us know what you think: Is more ethanol better? For energy independence or for farmers and auto mechanics?

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Government Fuel Goals Will Require Higher Ethanol Blends, Study Concludes

The New York Times Green Inc.
April 17, 2009, 7:41 am
By Kate Galbraith
The Associated Press

If government mandates are to be met, higher ethanol blends will be necessary, a new report from the National Commission on Energy Policy.A new report on biofuels is urging that better infrastructure and more aggressive policies necessary if the nation is to meet its mandates for ethanol and other alternative fuels.

The report, by the National Commission on Energy Policy, argues that the nation needs to increase the amount of ethanol blended into gasoline, as well as make it easier for biofuels plants and pipelines to get government permits and make it easier to transport ethanol.

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Monday, April 20, 2009

Brazil's auto industry markets ethanol as green

Reuters UK
Thu Apr 16, 2009 4:27am BST

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - The big four auto makers in Brazil joined forces with the Sugar Cane Industry Association (Unica) on Wednesday in a campaign aimed at expanding the use of cane-based ethanol in flex-fuel vehicles.

Local subsidiaries of U.S.-based General Motors Corp and Ford Motor Co, Italy's Fiat SpA and Germany's Volkswagen AG will together distribute 2 million free booklets explaining the benefits of ethanol for consumers who buy their flex-fuel cars in Brazil.

"Brazil's interest in ethanol is in accordance with GM's interest," said General Motors' CEO in Brazil, Jaime Ardila, in a news conference to launch the partnership.

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China to get first biomass plant using sea buckthorn, caragana

CleanTech Group
April 15, 2009

Inner Mongolia plant expected to generate 150 million kWh per year using the native shrubs.
China's Baotou Kaidi Sunshine Energy Investment announced plans for the country's first biomass plant to be powered by the native shrubs of hippophae rhamnoides and caragana.

Baotou Kaidi is expected to spend RMB 1 billion ($147 million) to build the plant in Damao Banner, a section of Baotou, which is the largest city in Inner Mongolia.

The plant is expected to generate 150 million kilowatt-hours of electricity per year by consuming 130,000 tons of hippophae rhamnoides and caragana. The plants are expected to replace 80,000 tons of coal annually.

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Biomass needs energy conversion standards, says Environment Agency (UK)

Energy Efficiency News
Policy April 15, 2009

Using biomass for energy generation could reduce greenhouse gas emissions compared with fossil fuels but only if it is used efficiently and produced sustainably, according to a report from the UK Environment Agency.

Biomass heat and power is currently the UK’s largest renewable energy source, accounting for 2.3% of electricity and 1% of heat demand. But under the Government’s renewable energy strategy this could grow to 30% of renewable electricity and heat by 2020.

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Algal bloom: A look at the new kid on the biofuel block.

Mother Nature Network
Tue, Apr 14 2009 at 12:39 PM EST

Glen Kertz is excited about algae. But it’s not just because he’s a plant physiologist. Kertz’s enthusiasm about the photosynthetic organisms stems from their ability to both provide a source of energy and absorb greenhouse gases.

Kertz is president of Valcent, a technology company that is nearing completion of its 6.2-acre algae facility in El Paso, Texas. “We can produce high-grade biofuel [with algae], and at the same time sequester carbon dioxide,” he says.

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UC San Diego and UC Davis team to boost solar power in California

Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News

Apr 15 2009, 5:05 PM EST
Contact: Andrea Siedsma 858-822-0899
University of California - San Diego

The University of California, San Diego, in collaboration with UC Davis will use a two-year, $700,000 grant from the California Energy Commission to expand the development and use of solar energy in the state. The new California Solar Energy Collaborative will collect and critically analyze existing solar research; facilitate research in gap areas where existing data are insufficient; and develop consensus among key solar stakeholders based on this research by tracking the evolving landscape of solar technology development and use in California. This new collaborative is also intended to help California achieve an ambitious target of installing 3,000 megawatts of solar in California by 2017.

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Beetle-kill biomass gains momentum as ‘green energy’ funding grows

The Colorado Independent
By David O. Williams 4/14/09 11:37 AM

Funding sources to turn millions of acres of dead and dying lodgepole pines into biomass-generated heat and electricity are seemingly coming out of the woodwork.

With the governor’s Energy Office pushing state grants and aggressive renewable-energy programs — coupled with the potential for millions in federal stimulus dollars — the beetle-kill biomass dreams of ski towns like Vail and Avon no longer look like a kooky environmentalist’s pipe dream.

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Is biomass worse than fossil fuels?

CleanTech Group
April 14, 2009 - Cleantech Group best of the web pick

Planting energy crops could produce more carbon dioxide emissions than burning the fossil fuels being replaced, according to the UK's Environment Agency.

Emissions produced by biomass energy are too variable to rubber-stamp the technology as a way to solve the UK's emissions problems, according to a new report released today by the UK's Environment Agency.

Highly efficient biomass plants could produce just 27 kilograms of CO2 per megawatt-hour—98 percent less than coal. But growing energy crops on current fields of grassland could produce more emissions by 2030 than burning fossil fuels instead, the report said.

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When Oceans Get Warmer, Carbon Dioxide Uptake By Marine Plankton May Be Reduced

ScienceDaily (Apr. 14, 2009) — The global ocean plays a central role in Earth’s climate system and has considerably slowed down climate change by taking up about one third of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted through human activities.

To what extent this will continue in the future depends on a variety of physical and chemical processes - and, as marine scientists from the Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences (IFM-GEOMAR) together with colleagues from the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research (Bremerhaven, Germany) and the Leibniz Institute for Baltic Sea Research (Warnemünde, Germany) have now shown in an experiment with natural plankton communities, also depends on biological factors.

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Friday, April 17, 2009

Renewable Fuel Prices Driven by Federal Policies (Kansas City)
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
University of Missouri analysts say that the effect was neither catastrophic nor negligible, and that today's ethanol prices are based on government policies and oil prices.

Columbia, MO - infoZine - "Going green," driving hybrid cars and looking for alternative energy sources have been part of a national conversation in the past several years. As oil prices climbed to their 2008 peaks, ethanol production also multiplied exponentially. Many claimed that the demand for, and production of, ethanol had a direct effect on feed prices for hogs and cattle, but others said ethanol consumption had almost no effect on other users. University of Missouri analysts say that the effect was neither catastrophic nor negligible, and that today's ethanol prices are based on government policies and oil prices.

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Decoded algae could aid biofuel, climate work

San Francisco Chronicle
David Perlman, Chronicle Science Editor
Friday, April 10, 2009

Scientists in laboratories at Moss Landing and Walnut Creek have decoded the genes of two widely varied species of ocean-dwelling algae, finding promising evidence of their ability to resist global climate change and clues to new sources of biofuels for an energy-short world.

The algae are called Micromonas, and they are among the vast and varied tribe of microscopic ocean plants whose evolutionary ancestors were among the very first organisms that populated the Earth, more than 3 billion years ago.

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Byproducts of Biofuels Could be Economically Viable for Growers

By Alfredo Flores
April 10, 2009

Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists have found environmentally and economically sound uses for the byproducts of biofuel production.

Animal scientist William Dozier, formerly with the ARS Poultry Research Unit in Mississippi State, Miss., has been working with colleagues at the ARS Swine Odor and Manure Management Research Unit in Ames, Iowa, and Iowa State University (ISU) to find ways to supplement animal diets with glycerin. Glycerin, a biofuel byproduct, contains energy-providing nutrients for animals.

Dozier and ISU colleague Kristjan Bregendahl evaluated the use of glycerin supplements in poultry feed. Dozier primarily dealt with broilers, which are chickens raised specifically for meat production, and gave glycerin-supplemented poultry feed to broilers that were 7 to 45 days old.

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

RFA: Indirect Land Use Debate Rages On
Date Posted: April 15, 2009

As more and more experts look into the unproven and nascent science of indirect land use changes (ILUC) resulting from biofuels expansion, a growing chorus of researchers and scientists is raising serious concerns about the validity of early efforts to quantify ILUC effects.

In the recent critique (“Biofuels and indirect land use change effects: the debate continues”) of the work done by environmental advocate and lawyer Timothy Searchinger and others that sparked the ILUC debate one year ago, two professors from Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia roundly criticize the methodology and questionable assumptions on which Searchinger’s exaggerated conclusions were based.

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Midwestern Ethanol Industrial Processes Use Much Less Water Than That Used In Western Plants

ScienceDaily (Apr. 15, 2009) — Ethanol production in Minnesota and Iowa uses far less water overall than similar processes in states where water is less plentiful, a new University of Minnesota study shows.

The study, which will be published in the April 15 edition of the journal Environmental Science and Technology, is the first to compare water use in corn-ethanol production on a state-by-state basis. The authors used agricultural and geologic data from 2006-2008 to develop a ratio showing how much irrigated water was used to grow and harvest the corn and to process it at ethanol plants.

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POET Ethanol Plant in Bingham Lake, MN Utilizes Zero-Liquid Discharge Technology to Drastically Cut Water Use
Date Posted: April 14, 2009

Sioux Falls, SD—POET Biorefining – Bingham Lake (MN) has eliminated water discharge through new technology, making its process for producing ethanol even more efficient.

The Bingham Lake facility already used less water than the industry average.

The 35 million-gallons-per-year-plant on average used 3.42 gallons of water to produce one gallon of ethanol.

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New look for ethanol industry
14 April 2009

There is a new plan in development to produce clean, renewable energy by creating a low-emissions burner and a new catalyst for ethanol production.

Both technologies will use the synthesis gas, a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen, produced by the gasification of discarded seed corn, switchgrass, wood chips, and other biomass, said researchers Iowa State University.

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Renewable Energy Group Completes Construction Upgrades for New Production Capabilities at Blackhawk Biofuels Plant in Danville, IL
Date Posted: April 7, 2009

Danville, IL—Company officials at Renewable Energy Group® (REG®) and Blackhawk Biofuels, LLC, announced April 7 completion of construction upgrades resulting in new production capabilities at the biodiesel plant here.

Located near the Illinois/Indiana border, the 45 million gallon-per-year biodiesel production facility can now utilize a wider array of fats and oils, like recycled kitchen grease.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

U.S. ethanol capacity growth to slow in 2009-EIA

Reuters India

Tue Apr 14, 2009 6:19pm IST

NEW YORK, April 14 (Reuters) - U.S. growth in ethanol capacity will slow this year on softer fuel prices and as financing for new plants evaporates, the government's top energy forecasting agency said Tuesday.

The explosive growth in ethanol plant capacity over the last few years will "slow dramatically in 2009" as lower gasoline prices hurt ethanol margins, and the credit crunch halts construction plans, the Energy Information Administration said in its monthly short-term forecast.

Ethanol capacity grew about 60 percent last year amid generous government incentives and mandates calling for steep increases in the amount of the alternative fuel to be blended into gasoline.

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U.S. will approve higher ethanol blend: group

Reuters UK
Tue Apr 14, 2009 6:31pm BST
By Ayesha Rascoe

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. government will eventually allow higher levels of ethanol to be blended into gasoline, Renewable Fuels Association President Bob Dinneen said on Tuesday.

Ethanol is currently approved to make up 10 percent of gasoline, but producers have lobbied the government to increase the blend level.

"I absolutely believe that when all the science is in, the efficacy of using greater than 10 percent blends will be validated," Dinneen told reporters at an Energy Information Administration summer energy outlook conference.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Student-built vehicles to take aim at 3,000 mpg in speedway contest

Press (Riverside, CA)
06:38 AM PDT on Monday, April 13, 2009
By LAURIE LUCASThe Press-Enterprise

At the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana on Friday morning, officials will bawl: "Students, start your fuel-efficient engines!"

At that moment, a team from Corona, the only Inland competitor, will rev up its two energy-
hoarding vehicles.

One's solar-powered, the other runs on unleaded gasoline.

Both were built by 29 boys at Centennial High School and their advisor, metal shop teacher Kent Galloway.

Their goal is to get 3,000 miles per gallon.

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In Cahoots: Fungi, Ants, And Bacteria

Chemical and Engineering News
April 13, 2009
Volume 87, Number 15
Web Exclusive

Symbiotic system could be a source of potential drug leads and enzymes for biofuel production
Elizabeth K. Wilson and Amanda Yarnell

FOR YEARS scientists have been scrutinizing an ancient symbiotic love triangle involving ants, fungi, and bacteria: Tropical leafcutter ants chew leaf beds, which promotes fungal growth and thus helps the fungus. The ants then turn on the symbiotic fungus and eat it. Meanwhile, bacteria that live on the ants produce antibiotics that keep predator fungi from attacking the symbiotic fungus and destroying the ants' food supply.

More than just of ecological interest, this interconnected system is now proving to be a rich source of new chemistry, including antibiotics and enzymes that could break down biomass for biofuels, researchers announced at two recent meetings.

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Energy Self-Reliant States: Homegrown Renewable Power

New Rules Project
A Program of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance
Published November 2008
Author: David Morris
Author: John Farrell

How much energy could be generated by states tapping into internal renewable resources? To date, no study has addressed this question comprehensively. This report is a first attempt to do so.

The data in this report, while preliminary, suggest that at least half of the fifty states could meet all their internal energy needs from renewable energy generated inside their borders, and the vast majority could meet a significant percentage. And these estimates may well be conservative.

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Bioenergy boom for the Border City?

Meridian Booster (LloydMinister)

Posted By Graham Mason
Posted April 11, 2009

A feasibility study is underway for the largest biodeisel facility in Canada to be built here in Lloydminster.

As a joint project between Vancouver-based Canadian Bioenergy and Archer Daniels Midland Co., the plant would be integrated into the existing ADM crushing facility on the west side of the city.

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O'Brien County, IA among finalists for hub of ethanol pipeline

KTIV - NBC News Channel 4 for the Siouxland
April 9, 2009 09:35 PM CDT

PRIMGHAR, IA (KTIV) - Northwest Iowa could be the starting point for a multi-billion dollar pipeline that would transport ethanol to the East Coast. O'Brien County is one of three areas project executives are seriously considering.

"We have designed three spots in northwest and central Iowa that would be gathering stations," said Bruce Heine, with Magellan.

The other two are Fort Dodge and Mason City. It's not official yet, but if the project moves forward, the pipeline would have multiple points where ethanol plants would have direct connections to it.

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Ethanol producer files for Chapter 11 in Wilmington

Delaware Business Ledger
Published: Saturday, April 11, 2009 8:01 PM CDT

Another ethanol company is in Delaware U.S. Bankruptcy Court. Illinois-basede Aventine Renewable Energy Holdings, and certain holders of its 10.0% senior unsecured notes have agreed to a first priority secured debtor-in-possession (“DIP”) term loan totaling $30 million that will enable the Company to continue to satisfy obligations associated with its ongoing operations. The DIP loan aims to give the company and creditors time to come up with a plan for its future, according to a release.

Ethanol producers have been hit by an excess supply and falling demand for gas that has reduced demand for higher percentages of ethanol and gasoline.

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Study: Other factors, not ethanol, chief culprit in food price jumps

Des Moines Register
by PHILIP BRASHER & DAN PILLER • • April 12, 2009

The bulk of last year's increase in food prices should be blamed on factors other than ethanol, according to a new study from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

The budget office estimates that ethanol was responsible for 10 percent to 15 percent of the increase in food prices between April 2007 and April 2008. Put another way, ethanol contributed 0.5 to 0.8 points of the 5.1 percent increase in food inflation during that period.

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Opinion: Butterfield: NREL’s history of fickle funding

By Anne B. Butterfield
Sunday, April 12, 2009

Announcing $1.2 billion of stimulus funding last month, Energy Secretary Dr. Steven Chu said that leadership in science is “vital to America’s prosperity, energy security, and global competitiveness.”

Dr. Chu’s aims are timely and focused, but let’s pause to look at some details because when we run billions through an out-sized federal bureaucracy, such as the Department of Energy, there is always a chance for error.

And we have little room for error in light of our nation’s dire situation. Late last year the International Energy Administration announced that they project an annual nine-percent decline in output from existing oil fields — that could be offset only a bit by hundreds of billions of sustained, annual investment in drilling capacity.

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New chapter in offshore oil debate on North Coast

Santa Rosa Press
Published: Sunday, April 12, 2009 at 6:18 p.m. Last Modified: Sunday, April 12, 2009 at 6:18 p.m.

The three-decade war over oil drilling on the North Coast is shifting to a more measured consideration of wind and wave power generators along the rugged and scenic seascape.

President Barack Obama’s preference for renewable, carbon-free energy appears to be buffering the Sonoma and Mendocino shoreline from the prospect of oil rigs irrevocably associated with the Santa Barbara oil spill of 1969.

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Opinion: Opportunity in the midst of crisis

Miami Herald
Posted on Monday, 04.13.09

The timing of the Fifth Summit of the Americas could not be more propitious. Because it is being held at a time of deep and diverse crises in the global economy and society, the meeting offers a great opportunity for leaders in our hemisphere to fashion a fresh, regional development perspective, that draws heavily on the lessons from recent global events and that ushers in a new era in hemispheric relations.

It will also be a great chance for President Barack Obama to meet all leaders of the region at once only three months after taking office. The occasion will be of historical proportions: It is the first time that all 34 member states of the Organization of American States will send democratically elected leaders to the summit. Those leaders, meeting from April 17-19 in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, will have to face an intensive dialogue on the best ways of overcoming the immediate and future challenges facing the people of our hemisphere. And most of those leaders will expect a step forward in a new direction that President Obama rightly defined as a policy ''with'' and not ''for'' Latin America and the Caribbean.

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Friday, April 10, 2009

'Bacteria battery' grazes on biomass for baffling benefits
April 8, 2009

A new university experiment claims to give new life to the promise of a fuel cell made from bacteria, with the added benefit that it could clean up the earth as it feeds on waste biomass for its fuel.

Natalie D'Silva, a student of Dhempe College of Arts and Science in Miramar, India, has been researching this technique, referred to as microbial fuel cell (MFC). Her current experiment netted a surprising 0.47 volts. Ideally, this power would go towards powering small devices such as cell phones and other electronics.

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Letter: Farm energy
By The Capital-Journal
Created April 10, 2009 at 12:05am

As a southwest Kansas dairy farmer, I'm always looking for new markets to improve my bottom line. With milk prices so low we can no longer make it on milk alone, my business partners and I are considering putting our cow manure through methane digesters to make biogas — which can be used to generate clean energy.

Right now, Congress is debating a national renewable electricity standard (RES) that would help us move in that direction. The standard would require utilities to obtain a percentage of their electricity from clean energy sources, including solar, wind and bioenergy from plant and animal wastes. Kansas is blessed with the third-largest wind resources and the fourth-largest bioenergy resources in the country, but we don't have the necessary markets to develop them.

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Thursday, April 9, 2009

Ethanol Blending Tests May Take Another Year
Posted by Michelle Kautz – April 6th, 2009

A senior agency official with the U.S. EPA says they may need another year to determine how blending ethanol in gasoline over the current 10 percent limit would affect vehicles and nonroad equipment.

EPA is working with the Energy Department to try to determine whether “mid-level” blends at 13 or 15 percent will affect emissions controls and engine durability. EPA is under ethanol-industry pressure to allow blends up to 15 percent, especially as the “blendwall” — the point at which the market is saturated at the current 10 percent limit — looms.

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Antibiotics pose concern for ethanol producers

Mark Steil, Minnesota Public Radio News
Published: 04/06/2009

WORTHINGTON, Minn. — Ethanol’s main by-product, which is sold as livestock feed, has raised potential food safety concerns.

Several studies have linked the byproduct, known as distillers grain, to elevated rates of E. coli in cattle. And now, distillers grain is facing further scrutiny because the Food and Drug Administration has found that it often contains antibiotics left over from making ethanol.

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Top 5 Financially Happy States

ABC News
April 6, 2009

Nebraska Tops the List, While Oregon's High Unemployment Brings Up the Rear

If it's financial happiness you're seeking for your next move, then the Midwest may be your best bet because according to a new study Nebraska tops the list of happiest states, fiscally.

The home of the Cornhuskers, Kool-Aid and the world's largest porch swing ranked No. 1 on's Happiness Index, which used unemployment figures, foreclosures and nonmortgage debt to determine a state's overall financial well being.

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Ames Lab and Catilin look to capitalize on oil extraction from algae
Camille Ricketts April 7th, 2009

Researchers looking to derive fuel from algae just took a big step forward. The Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory, in partnership with Iowa State University, announced a new “nanofarming” technique that would allow people to “harvest” oil from algae while leaving the plants intact to continuously produce more.

Already, they are looking for ways to commercialize their discovery, tapping nanotechnology and biofuel company Catilin to aid them in research, development and eventual marketing plans. The three-year project responsible for developing the nanofarming approach is supported by $885,000 from the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, as well as $216,000 from Catilin and $16,000 from the university.

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Can ethanol help save the U.S. economy? (Chicago)
April 6, 7:18 PM · 4 comments

Ethanol production can bring jobs and reduce oil imports, but it also comes with controversy.
As the Obama Administration searches for ways stimulate the economy and takes some unpopular positions, such as aiding banks, automakers, and in-over-their-head mortgage-holders, there may be an opportunity in another controversial area – ethanol.

Ethanol’s roller coaster ride in and out of popularity came to a head during the heated energy debate in late 2007 when anti-ethanol interests launched a campaign raising questions about the biofuel’s sustainability. Anti-ethanol rhetoric, falling oil prices and a country in the grip of a deep recession has created a perfect storm straining ethanol’s future. But is it a train permanently off the tracks?

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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Excessive Economic and National Security Costs to Result From Low Carbon Fuel Standards

George C. Marshall Institute

New Studies Highlight Consequences of Proposed Federal and State Actions
The George C. Marshall Institute has released two studies documenting the adverse economic, environmental and national security implications of proposed low carbon fuel standards (LCFS). Low carbon fuel standards have been proposed at both the federal and state level, and serve as an element of the Obama Administration’s broad energy and environmental agenda. The studies, issued in early April, come on the heels of climate and energy legislation introduced in the U.S. House of Representative’s Energy & Commerce Committee, which includes a LCFS similar to one under consideration by several states, notably California.

A low carbon fuel standard sets limits on the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions allowed from the production and consumption of a transportation fuel and then reduces those limits over time.

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Firm projects ethanol plants will operate at 67% capacity through 2010

Ethanol Producer Magazine April 2009
By Erin Voegele

Management consulting firm HighQuest Partners LLC is projecting that regulated parties are on track to meet the 2009 and 2010 goals of the Renewable Fuels Standard. Due to reduced ethanol production, however, those goals may be more difficult to meet in 2011.

According to Hunt Stookey, HighQuest Partners’ managing director, the U.S. ethanol fleet is expected to operate at approximately 67 percent nameplate capacity through 2010. Although ethanol producers will be manufacturing less ethanol, regulated parties will be able to continue meeting the RFS in 2009 and 2010 through the carryover of Renewable Identification Numbers (RIN) from previous years. “You have to remember that the standard is not how much [ethanol] is produced,” said Stookey. “It’s for how many RINs.”

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Oil Giants Loath to Follow Obama’s Green Lead

The New York Times
Published: April 7, 2009

The Obama administration wants to reduce oil consumption, increase renewable energy supplies and cut carbon dioxide emissions in the most ambitious transformation of energy policy in a generation.

But the world’s oil giants are not convinced that it will work. Even as Washington goes into a frenzy over energy, many of the oil companies are staying on the sidelines, balking at investing in new technologies favored by the president, or even straying from commitments they had already made.

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Powerful Ideas: Wringing Oil From Algae
Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Algae come in all sizes and shapes: from single-celled microbes in pond scum to 100-foot-long seaweeds in kelp forests. They can live in salty, fresh and even waste water.
The speed at which algae grow can overwhelm marine habitats and fish tanks, but that same productivity could make these organisms the best choice for supplying biofuels. Attracted by this potential, researchers and entrepreneurs are trying to reduce the costs of current harvesting methods.

The relation between algae and fuel actually goes back millions of years. The remains of ancient algae are generally thought to have mulched into the petroleum we now pump up from underground.

"We're sort of going 'back to the future' in making biofuels with living algae," said Thomas Byrne, a Minnesota-based renewable energy consultant and secretary of the Algal Biomass Organization.

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Will Renewables Represent 90% of New Capacity by 2012?
by: Michael Kanellos
April 7, 2009

Wind and solar are growing. Coal is not. As a result, those new electrons in the U.S. are green, says a new report from the Prometheus Institute.

The U.S. still derives the vast majority of its electricity from coal, natural gas and nuclear reactors, but the growth is all in renewables.

Approximately 90 percent of the new electrical capacity that will be brought on line in the U.S. in 2012 will come from renewables like solar, wind, geothermal, biomass and hydroelectric power, according to a new study from the Prometheus Institute.

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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Switchgrass Crop Could Produce Energy

Cape May County

By Jack Fichter

COURTHOUSE — While it has only been grown in small quantities for test purposes in this county, Switchgrass could be a crop for alternative energy with the potential to heat greenhouses or a school buildings.

Zane Helsel, a specialist in alternative energy from Rutgers University, presented a program on Switchgrass April 1 at the Cooperative Extension of Cape May County. The audience was a mix of farmers and environmentalists.Helsel said determining how well the tall, warm season grass would grow in this county was still in the preliminary stages. He said Switchgrass was a perennial, drought tolerant and could be grown on marginal land.It does not require as much nitrogen as a corn crop and is harvested once per year, said Helsel. Switchgrass grows densely and provides habitat for birds, rabbits, toads and frogs.
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Ontario Green Energy Act Fires Up Biomass Development -- But Lacks Heat

Renewable Energy World
April 6, 2009
by Christopher Rees, Canadian Ecology Centre

Ontario's new Green Energy Act, released by the Provincial Government last month, has all the right tools to make renewable energy a much greater contributor to the province's energy mix, but there's one thing missing: heat.

The best use of biomass is for heating, not electricity production. To produce electricity using biomass and then using the electricity to produce heat or hot water is not an efficient process. Instead, it's better to produce the heat and hot water directly using biomass.

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Biofuel research expands possibilities

SF Gate (San Francisco Chronicle)
Jim Doyle, Chronicle Staff Writer
Sunday, April 5, 2009

Scientists at a research and development laboratory in Menlo Park are refining the process of using microbes found in termite guts to turn forests of fast-growing poplar trees into an environmentally friendly form of ethanol to power cars.

A South San Francisco firm is using algae to produce oil in large fermentation tanks, while researchers at the Joint BioEnergy Institute in Emeryville are designing a synthetic catalyst to break down energy crops into sugars to make new, cleaner liquid fuels for today's cars and jet aircraft engines.

The search for biologically derived transportation fuels has exploded into a technological drag race among Bay Area researchers - one that could morph into business profits for corporations, entrepreneurs and investors as the next generation of biofuels begins to replace or augment crude oil and gasoline.

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Monday, April 6, 2009

Strategies for Measuring Viable Biomass

Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News
Apr 1 2009 (Vol. 29, No. 7)
John Carvell

Novel Technique Aims to Extend Application of RF Impedance to Single-Use Bioreactors

Of the available on-line biomass assays, the radio-frequency impedance method (often referred to as capacitance) is generally regarded as the most robust and reliable method to monitor viable biomass during fermentation and cell culture.

The first paper to show that capacitance could be used to estimate microbial biomass dates back over 20 years, and today the technology is routinely used for monitoring and controlling mammalian cell culture processes and high-density yeast and bacterial fermentations in research, process development, and manufacturing applications.

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Nova Bioresource Fuels files for bankrutpcy as another biofuels company sinks under low prices, high costs

Biofuels Digest
April 02, 2009 Jim Lane

In New York, Nova Biosource Fuels announced that it has filed for bankruptcy, citing the crash in energy prics. The company said that it has $50 million in liabilities and assets. Nova produces biodiesel from fats, oils and greases, and said that it had a total of five refineries.

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Friday, April 3, 2009

Gov. Bredesen to unveil Tenn. clean energy plan
ERIK SCHELZIG • Associated Press - submitted by Brian Dunn • March 30, 2009

The Democratic governor was scheduled to present his legislative proposal Tuesday afternoon at the state Capitol. It follows a series of statewide meetings of a 16-member energy task force he appointed to find ways to overhaul Tennessee's energy policy.

The panel recommended stricter energy standards for state buildings and vehicles, creating jobs in clean energy technology and promoting residential energy efficiency.

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Ethanol May Change Meat Trading Patterns

Biofuels production in Canada will impact meat trading patterns according to research by Al Mussell, George Morris Centre, University of Guelph. He says that the increase in biofuels production will turn the country into an importer of grains instead of an exporter. Al was one of the speakers at the Transition To A Bio Economy Conference.

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Carbohydrate Research Center receives $3 million grant (University of Georgia)
Issue date: 3/31/09 Section: News

DARVILLThe University's Complex Carbohydrate Research Center was granted $3.1 million to continue research on complex carbohydrates of plants and various microbes that interact with plants, thanks to the U.S. Department of Energy.

The center also received $20 million of a $135 million BioEnergy Science Center grant in 2007 to study biofuel technology.

"Most plants you see when you look outside are composed of sugars, or complex carbohydrates," said Alan Darvill, plant biology director of the center. "We are trying to develop methods to break down this plant material into sugars that can be fermented into biofuel."

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Chemist Graham Fleming named vice chancellor for research

UCBerkeley News
By Robert Sanders, Media Relations 01 April 2009

BERKELEY — Graham R. Fleming, the Melvin Calvin Distinguished Professor of Chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, and former deputy director of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), has been appointed the campus's vice chancellor for research, Chancellor Robert Birgeneau announced today (Wednesday, April 1.)

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FirstEnergy power plant switching to biomass fuel
By Bob DowningBeacon Journal staff writer
POSTED: 11:00 a.m. EDT, Apr 01, 2009

Akron's FirstEnergy Corp. and Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland announced this morning that the utility's R.E. Burger Power Plant in Belmont County will continue to generate electricity but will switch largely to cleaner-burning renewable fuels.

The coal-fired power plant at Shadyside south of Wheeling on the Ohio River will become one of the largest biomass-burning facilities in the United States.

The conversion, expected to be completed in 2012, will cost an estimated $200 million, FirstEnergy said a press conference at the plant.

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Thursday, April 2, 2009

Algal Biomass Organization Announces 3(rd) Annual Algae Biomass Summit

Earth Times
Posted : Tue, 31 Mar 2009 18:02:56 GMT
Author : Algal Biomass Organization

SEATTLE - (Business Wire) The Algal Biomass Organization today announced the dates and location of its 3rd Annual Algae Biomass Summit, hosted by Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati and Byrne & Company, Ltd. It also announced a Call for Presentations for the summit, which will take place October 7-9, 2009 at the Marriot San Diego Hotel & Marina in San Diego, California.

The Algae Biomass Summit is currently accepting papers and presentation abstracts via the website
now through July 5, 2009. Final decisions will be made and an agenda will be posted on the website shortly after.

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Farmer leads the way in 'locally grown' renewable energy

California Farm Bureau Federation
Issue Date: April 1, 2009
By Christine SouzaAssistant Editor

Winters grower Russ Lester stands by his energy biomass power system that converts walnut shells into heat and power and produces 50 kilowatts of electricity.

There's been much interest in Washington, D.C. and Sacramento about making the nation more energy-independent by investing in alternative and renewable energy. Fourth-generation farmer Russ Lester represents one push in that direction, as he finds a variety of resourceful ways to fulfill his goal of becoming energy self-sufficient by 2012 at his operation in Winters.

"California has set a goal of producing 33 percent of its renewable energy by the year 2020. I want to see it happen and believe it is possible much sooner than later," Lester said. "I've been dreaming about doing this for quite some time."

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Menlo to be site of corncob-to-ammonia plant

Des Moines Register
By DAN PILLER • • March 30, 2009

SynGest of San Francisco said it will make anhydrous ammonia fuel and fertilizer from corncobs and other biomass from a plant to be located on 75 acres near Menlo, west of Des Moines.

The $80 million plant will sit adjacent to the Hawkeye Renewables ethanol plant east of Menlo. When in operation, the facility will employ about 40 workers.

The company said it has signed an agreement to buy the land. The plant will be the first of its kind in the United States to convert biomass into fertilizer. The so-called "auto thermal" process burns the cobs at temperatures up to 1,700 degrees to produce a vapor that is liquefied into ammonia.

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Tapping the energy potential in our backyards

The Christian Science Monitor
March 31, 2009 edition

Earth Talk: Biomass has significant ecofriendly potential for power and heat, experts say.

Q: There’s a lot of talk today about solar and wind power, but what about biomass? How big a role might this renewable energy source play in our future? Couldn’t everyday people burn their own lawn and leaf clippings to generate power?– Deborah Welch, Niagara Falls, N.Y.

A: The oldest and most prevalent source of renewable energy known to man, biomass is already a mainstay of energy production in the United States and elsewhere. Since such a wide variety of biomass resources is available – from trees and grasses to forestry, agricultural, and urban wastes – biomass promises to play a continuing role in providing power and heat for millions of people around the world.

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NMSU researchers explore production of polymers from biomass

High Plains/Midwest Ag Journal

Energy sources, such as biodiesel and ethanol, are currently being produced on the industrial scale from plants, plant products and algae. Now researchers from New Mexico State University are investigating ways to use these renewable biomass sources to produce polymeric products that might be used for biomedical or food-related applications.

Delia Julieta Valles-Rosales, assistant professor of industrial engineering, is interested in developing novel methods to convert biomass, such as vegetable oil, into biopolymers that could be molded into value-added products. She has assembled a group of industrial engineering students along with chemistry and chemical engineering researchers in a quest to develop a patentable, bioplastic material.

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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Can 'biochar' save the planet?

By Azadeh Ansari
March 31, 2009

ATHENS, Georgia (CNN) -- Over the railroad tracks, near Agriculture Drive on the University of Georgia campus, sits a unique machine that may hold one of the solutions to big environmental problems like energy, food production and even global climate change.

"This machine right here is our baby," said UGA research engineer Brian Bibens, who is one of a handful of researchers around the world working on alternative ways to recycle carbon.
Bibens' specialty is "biochar," a highly porous charcoal made from organic waste. The raw material can be any forest, agricultural or animal waste. Some examples are woodchips, corn husks, peanut shells, even chicken manure.

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