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

Friday, October 30, 2009

Sins of Emission

The Wall Street Journal - Opinion
OCTOBER 29, 2009

The ethanol boondoggle is also an environmental catastrophe.

Donning FDR's cape, Eisenhower's stripes and JFK's boat shoes, President Obama observed in Florida on Tuesday that his "clean energy economy" will require "mobilization" on the order of fighting World War II, building the interstate highway system and going to the moon. Of course, the only "mobilization" going on at the moment is on behalf of ethanol, whose many political dispensations the biofuels lobby is finding new ways to preserve even as the evidence of its destructiveness piles up.

The latest embarrassment arrives via the peer-reviewed journal Science, not known for its right-wing inclinations. A new paper calls attention to what the authors (led by Princeton's Tim Searchinger) call "a critical accounting error" in the way carbon emissions from biofuels are measured in climate-change programs world-wide. Bernie Madoff had a few critical accounting errors too.

Read the full opinion

Cereplast to Transform Algae into Bioplastics


Breakthrough technology could eventually replace 50% or more of petroleum-based plastics content with algae-based resins

HAWTHORNE, Calif.—October 20, 2009 - Cereplast, Inc. (OTCBB:CERP), manufacturer of proprietary bio-based sustainable plastics, announced that it has been developing a breakthrough technology to transform algae into bioplastics and intends to launch a new family of algae-based resins that will complement the company’s existing line of Compostables® & Hybrid ®resins.

Cereplast algae-based resins could replace 50% or more of the petroleum content used in traditional plastic resins. Currently, Cereplast is using renewable material such as starches from corn, tapioca, wheat and potatoes and Ingeo® PLA.

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Coskata video made available by GM

Biofuels Digest
October 29, 2009 Jim Lane

In Illinois, a video on the new processing plant at Coskata has been made available by General Motors, highlighting the company’s cellulosic ethanol gasification technology that will utilize wood biomass, agricultural waste, construction waste and potential municipal solid waste as feedstocks.

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Researchers Given Award to Study DNA Sequences In Order to Make Biofuels
Published Date: 28/10/2009

Sandia researchers and others at the University of New Mexico (UNM), the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI), Novozymes and North Carolina State University’s Center for Integrated Fungal Research (NCSU-CIFR) have received a DNA sequencing award from the Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute (JGI) to study microbial genes in arid grasslands. The research combines interests in fundamental microbial ecology with DOE goals to exploit microbes in the production of biofuels.

“This award positions a very talented team to collaboratively apply DOE’s unique facilities in genomics and systems biology to the important challenge of sustainable bioenergy production,” said Grant Heffelfinger, biofuels program lead for Sandia. “We normally think of biofuels-relevant ecosystems as those where substantial amounts of biomass is produced and broken down, but this is an excellent example of the relevance of biodiversity across ecosystems — both for the advancement of systems biology as well as biofuels production.”

Microorganisms in aridland ecosystems have evolved high-efficiency recycling systems to cope with severe nutrient scarcity, extreme temperatures and low water availability. Genes underlying these adaptations offer great potential in industrial-scale processes designed to convert plant material cheaply and efficiently into biofuels.

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N.C. sets up Web site to aid biomass economy

Winston-Salem Journal
Published: October 29, 2009

RALEIGH - The N.C. Division of Pollution Prevention and Environmental Assistance has set up a commodity trading Web site for organic materials.

The goal of is expanding the development of the biomass economy in the state. The Web site serves as an exchange for surplus and waste biomass materials, such as waste vegetable oil, restaurant grease, wood waste, manures, food waste, forest products and byproducts and agricultural products and byproducts.

The trading site is available to individuals, organizations and businesses that have biomass commodities that others need or are looking for biomass commodities.

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Midwest Legislative Conference issues resolutions in support of E15 and higher ethanol blends

October 29, 2009 Jim Lane

In Missouri, the Midwest Legislative Conference of The Council of State Governments, a bipartisan association of lawmakers in 11 Midwestern issues a statement and resolutions that “the scientific data from extensive state and federally funded research supports the use of higher blends of ethanol in gasoline.”

The group found that “operating on a 20 percent blend of ethanol fuel [a vehicle] will perform better than those running on a 10 percent ethanol blend.” This would require an increase from the current “arbitrary cap on the volume of ethanol permitted in gasoline at just 10 percent.”

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BP to Produce “Second Generation” Ethanol in Brazil

Latin American Herald Tribune

SAO PAULO – British oil giant BP plc plans to produce cellulosic ethanol made from biomass, known as “second generation” ethanol, in Brazil starting in 2013, BP Biofuels chief Philip New said in an interview published Monday in the press.

The first plant for producing second generation ethanol will be constructed in the United States in 2010, with the technology being transferred to BP’s plants in Brazil after operations commence at the U.S. facility, New told the Valor Online business daily.

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Lidar Provides Clearer Forest Views
October 26, 2009

For years, aerial photography has aided researchers in surveying the density of forests. However, a recent Texas AgriLife Research study shows that infrared detection allows for a more comprehensive measurement for trees and other plant life.

Lidar technology, which can be applied both on the ground, air and space, uses intensive pulses of light to capture information and give researchers a more comprehensive look at a surveyed area.

“Lidar creates the premise for 3-D modeling of vegetation structure, providing a three-dimensional look versus regular aerial photos that provide only a two-dimensional view,” says Sorin Popescu, AgriLife Research scientist at Texas A&M Univ. “It gives us a clearer picture of what’s there.”

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RTI to develop biomass fuel

RTI International won a $3.1 million contract from the Department of Energy to help develop a biomass fuel that could be used as a direct replacement for petroleum.

The Research Triangle Park think tank will work on the project with Archer Daniels Midland, ConocoPhillips and Albemarle.

"This project will help address our nation's energy challenges by developing a one-step process to convert biomass materials into usablefuels," said David Dayton, director of Biofuels Research at RTI International, in a prepared statement.

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25X’25: Kerry-Boxer proposal needs more ag emphasis
Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Kerry-Boxer measure, (S. 1733) will need serious modification before it can maximize the role of farms, ranches and forestlands in reducing the nation's carbon footprint and combating global climate change, says the 25X’25 Alliance.

Among the current shortcomings in Kerry-Boxer (S. 1733) is the measure's failure to explicitly exclude the U.S. agriculture and forestry sectors from rules that cap emissions, and to allow the sectors to deliver quick, low-cost, greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions in a volume significant enough to help meet the national goal established in the bill, which starts at 20-percent below 2005 emission levels by 2020.

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UC Berkeley Merges Programs into Energy Institute (Environmental Protection)
Oct 27, 2009

The Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, is launching The Energy Institute at Haas, which will address the rising need for research and the growing student interest in the markets, policy, and technology for sustainable energy. Berkeley and Haas have long held a leadership position in this field. The institute will advance related research and teaching, and offer a variety of events and initiatives for the community.

The institute is the result of a merger of two highly successful programs: the UC Energy Institute's Center for the Study of Energy Markets and the Haas School's Center for Energy and Environmental Innovation.

The Haas School will celebrate the creation of its Energy Institute with a launch event on Oct. 30. Matt Rogers, senior adviser to U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, will discuss Department of Energy's strategies for addressing the country's energy and climate change challenges.

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Ceres Gets $4.9M Grant From DOE
Monday, October 26, 2009

Thousand Oaks-based Ceres, a developer of energy crops for the biofuels energy, has landed $4,989,144 in a grant from the Department of Energy, as part of a $151M effort to fund energy breakthroughs. According to the DOE, the funding--part of a effort called the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E)--was part of a selection of 37 projects pursuing breakthroughs that could "fundamentally change the way we use and produce energy." The grant to Ceres went to a effort to develop "Biomass Energy Genes" to enable energy crops to produce more biomass using less land, less water, and less fertilizer than standard energy crops. The effort is targeted at creating feed stocks for biofuels projects, to displace oil and coal.

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Energy Dept. Funds Speculative Science

The New American
Written by James Heiser
Monday, 26 October 2009 17:45

Have you been watching the nation’s economy continue to unravel and wondering where all of that stimulus money went? Another $400 million of the $787 billion approved last February in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act have been accounted for, this time at the federal Energy Department. Why did the Energy Department receive these funds? To support technological research that, in many cases, is so speculative that it apparently cannot attract private venture capital.

According to an article in the New York Times (“Energy Dept. Aid for Scientists on the Edge”,) the federal Energy Department will make good on a pledge for a bolder technology strategy on Monday, awarding research grants for ideas like bacteria that will make gasoline, enzymes that will capture carbon dioxide to counter global warming and batteries so cheap that they will allow the use of solar power all night long.

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OriginOil's Algae Oil Extraction Process Reaches Highest Industry Efficiency Standards

Business Wire
October 26, 2009 05:00 AM Eastern Daylight Time

Research lab at California State University Long Beach collaborated on methodology

LOS ANGELES--(BUSINESS WIRE)--OriginOil, Inc. (OOIL), the developer of a breakthrough technology to transform algae, the most promising source of renewable oil, into a true competitor to petroleum, today announced that Single Step Extraction™, OriginOil's low energy process to extract oil from algae, has reached the highest industry standards for oil extraction efficiency.

In a long-running collaboration with an advanced research lab at California State University, Long Beach, OriginOil has optimized its Single Step Extraction process to reach the highest industry level for algae oil extraction. The typical efficiency for oil extraction is 94-97%. OriginOil's recent breakthrough can extract up to 97% of the oil from algae cells.

"This level of efficiency is astonishing for a process that requires less than a tenth of the energy of conventional processes, and without needing chemicals," said Riggs Eckelberry, OriginOil's CEO. "I congratulate our lead researcher, Dr. Dheeban Kannan, and the team at Cal-State Long Beach IIRMES for their achievement and very hard work."

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UK’s Energy Research Center says timing of peak oil may be accelerating, based on 500-study review

Biofuels Digest
October 26, 2009 Jim Lane

In the UK, the Energy Research Center released a review of 500 studies on the theory of peak oil and concluded that “the rate of decline of production is accelerating. More than two thirds of existing capacity may need to be replaced by 2030 solely to prevent production from falling.”

The report concluded that “while large resources of conventional oil may be available, these are unlikely to be accessed quickly and may make little difference to the timing of the global peak.” The authors also warned that a global peak in production may be reached as soon as 2020.

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India tops with US in solar power

The Economic Times (India)
26 Oct 2009, 0530 hrs IST, Chittaranjan Tembhekar, TNN

MUMBAI: The green energy revolution is not miles away from India. The country has emerged as the world’s number one, along with United States, in annual solar power generation.

In wind power production, India ranks fifth in the world. And when it comes to space, scope and facilities for renewable energy expansion, India ranks fourth in the world.

McKinsey & Company, in its survey ended in May 2009, has stated that India has one of the world’s highest solar intensities with an annual solar energy yield of 1,700 to 1,900 kilowatt hours per kilowatt peak (kWh/KWp) of the installed capacity.

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Michigan Technological University and National Energy Technology Laboratory Work to Develop More Efficient Diesel and Biodiesel Engines

Biofuels Journal
Date Posted: October 21, 2009

Diesel engines are famously high-performance, reliable and economical.

In recent years, they have also improved their image through advanced emissions control systems.

An unfortunate side effect of cleaning up diesel exhaust, however, can be a drop in engine efficiency, which translates into increased fuel consumption.

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Atropha aims to make biofuels to withstand harsh climate

MHT - Mass High Tech - The Journal of New England Technology
Wednesday, October 21, 2009

In July, a state mandate kicks in requiring that 2 percent of all diesel fuel be composed of biofuels. That will increase by 1 percent every year for three years until it hits 5 percent. A similar mandate in Minnesota ran into problems last winter because biofuels cloud up and solidify. Chad Joshi, CEO of Atropha LLC, wants to keep that from happening again. “[Biofuels] work well in the tropics, but in cold weather you have problems,” Joshi said.

Vegetable oil-based biofuel molecules have lots of oxygen, which causes the fuel to cloud and thicken under 55 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on the type. Atropha is developing an electrochemical process to break down the vegetable oil and deoxygenate its molecules, making it a viable fuel for environments as cold as 50 degrees below zero, Joshi said.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

AgMRC: biodiesel profitability turns corner

Biodiesel Magazine November 2009
By Susanne Retka Schill
Posted October 15, 2009

After six months of negative net returns, the model developed by the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center for a hypothetical, single-feedstock biodiesel refinery using soybean oil, showed a return to the black in September.

Biodiesel revenue for September showed $3.02 per gallon, the soybean oil cost was $2.35 per gallon, natural gas 3 cents per gallon and methanol cost 9 cents per gallon. AgMRC’s model plant showed a total breakeven cost per gallon, including variable and fixed costs of $2.96 per gallon. The net return over variable costs was 32 cents per gallon, and the net return over all costs for September was 6 cents per gallon.

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Technology, design firms partner to build modular ethanol plants

Ethanol Producer Magazine November 2009
By Erin Voegele
Report posted Oct. 23, 2009, at 11:38 a.m. CST

New Jersey-based ChemPro Group LLC recently announced the formation of an alliance with Missouri-based Mo-Fuel (Rural Bio-waste) to commercialize a patented feedstock-flexible cellulosic ethanol process.

Ted Lewis, president of Mo-Fuel (Rural Bio-waste) and owner and holder of the technology’s patent rights, said the process is unique. “According to an independent study done by the [U.S. DOE], the process has the potential for considerable economic savings, as well as reducing the U.S.’s dependence of foreign oil.”

According to ChemPro, Mo-Fuel (Rural Bio-waste)’s technology is a continuous catalytic hydrolysis process that lends itself to modular construction. “ChemPro’s modular expertise makes the company an ideal partner for designing and building the units,” Lewis said.

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USDA's Second-in-Command Learns About Biofuels

American Agriculturist
Rod Swoboda
Published: Oct 23, 2009

USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan's central Iowa tour gives her a look at ethanol and biodiesel production—and cutting edge biofuel technology.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan had never visited an ethanol plant before. On October 20 she got the chance to tour the Lincolnway Energy ethanol plant at Nevada in central Iowa, and also Renewable Energy Group's cutting-edge biodiesel feedstock research lab just down the road at Ames.

Merrigan is the second highest ranking official in USDA, behind U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. She was an assistant professor of nutrition at Tufts University before her confirmation as deputy secretary this year.

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Biofuels Digest
October 26, 2009 Jim Lane

Bio-Based Energy Analysis Group says renewable energy standards raise farm incomes
In Washington, the University of Tennessee’s Bio-Based Energy Analysis Group presented a study during a US Senate briefing that found that a national renewable energy standard would create a large new market for biomass from the agricultural and forestry sectors, and have a positive effect on farm income.

The group said that a national 25 percent renewable energy standard would increase farm incomes by $9,419 in Florida, $11,283 in Colorado, $16,028 in North Carolina, and $43,229 in Kansas. The researchers evaluated direct employment opportunities from electric power buildout as well as the potential for job growth on the farm supported by increased biomass production.

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Ethanol Groups Refute Science Article
Posted by Cindy Zimmerman – October 23rd, 2009

All of the major ethanol organizations in the country have made statements refuting an article in Science journal this week regarding indirect land use change effects of biofuels.

“Fixing a Critical Climate Accounting Error”, authored by recognized ethanol-detractor Timothy Searchinger, argues that biofuels and other bio-based energies should be accountable for the biogenic tailpipe and “smokestack” CO2 emissions that are absorbed by growing feedstocks and carbon emissions that could result from land clearing. The authors claim that existing and proposed regulations, such as the so-called U.S. cap and trade bill, create an accounting loophole that will lead to increased deforestation.

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Tallying Biofuels' Real Environmental Cost

By Bryan Walsh
Friday, Oct. 23, 2009William Radcliffe / Science Faction /

The promise of biofuels like ethanol is that they will someday help the world grow its way out of its addiction to oil. Nine billion gallons of corn ethanol were produced in the U.S. in 2008, while countries like Brazil have already widely replaced gasoline with ethanol from sugar cane and countless start-ups are working to bring cellulosic and other second-generation biofuels to market. The reasoning is that if we use greener biofuels in place of gasoline, it will significantly enhance our effort to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

But the question is, Are biofuels really green? A pair of new studies in the Oct. 22 issue of Science damningly demonstrate that the answer is no, at least not the way we currently create and use them. In the first study, a team of researchers led by Jerry Melillo of the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass., projected the effects of a major biofuel expansion over the coming century and found that it could end up increasing global greenhouse-gas emissions instead of reducing them. In the second paper, another team of researchers led by Tim Searchinger of Princeton University uncovered a potentially damaging flaw in the way carbon emissions from bioenergy are calculated under the Kyoto Protocol and in the carbon cap-and-trade bill currently being debated in Congress. If that error in calculation goes unfixed, a future increase in biofuel use could end up backfiring and derailing efforts to control global warming, according to the paper. "Biofuels can be an important part of the portfolio of climate-change activities," says Steve Hamburg, chief scientist for the Environmental Defense Fund and a corresponding author on the second Science paper. "But we have to make sure we incentivize the right way, or we could end up with perverse outcomes."

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Monday, October 26, 2009

Scaling Up Is Hard to Do

Technology Review (Published by MIT)
By Peter Fairley

Transportation has a voracious appetite for energy. In 2008, the world consumed 1.3 trillion gallons of oil, most of it converted into gasoline and diesel and used to power vehicles. If biofuels or batteries are to satisfy a significant fraction of that appetite, production of these alternative power sources must be boosted significantly.

Cellulosic ethanol offers potential economic and environmental advantages over the corn- and sugar-derived ethanol that makes up the bulk of today's biofuel, and it should be a more scalable technology, because a wide variety of biomass can be used for feedstock (see "Petroleum's Long Good-bye"). But to date, it remains expensive, in that huge capital investments are required. The largest project under way to produce advanced biofuels is Range Fuels' wood-to-ethanol plant in Soperton, GA, which is scheduled to begin operating early in 2010. The plant is being built with the assistance of $76 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Energy and an $80 million loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It will initially produce just 10 million gallons of ethanol per year--a drop in the bucket compared with the 138 billion gallons of gasoline consumed annually by vehicles in the United States.

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AGCO to Demonstrate Biomass Harvesting System

Kansas Farmer
Compiled by staff
Published: Oct 22, 2009

Innovative system utilizes Hesston large square baler technology.

AGCO Corporation, a leading manufacturer and distributor of agricultural equipment, is applying its experience and innovation in harvesting and haying equipment to the development of efficient and affordable means for harvesting and transporting crop residue for cellulosic feedstock.

After several years of research and development, AGCO's first prototype biomass harvesting system will be demonstrated November 3 at the POET Project LIBERTY Field Day near Emmetsburg, Iowa. Project LIBERTY will produce 25 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol per year from corn cobs. POET is currently working with 14 farmers in the Emmetsburg area on a pre-commercial harvest, and biomass is a major area of interest.

The biomass harvesting system currently in development at AGCO is a one-pass system which marries proven combine technology and the durable, reliable Hesston large square baler to collect and package clean corn stover, corn cob and leaf mixture into a 3-foot by 4-foot square bale. The time-saving system requires just one pass through the field for both grain and crop-residue harvest. In addition, it provides a biomass product that has minimal silicon content (dirt) as compared to other collection and storage options.

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Past UWP Professor Shares Findings on Biofuel Impact

Wisconsin Ag Connection - 10/16/2009

John Simonson, professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, has conducted research on the impact of biofuels and found that biofuels' impact is sizable but the recession is devastating.

"The biofuels industry has a sizeable impact on Wisconsin's economy, despite fluctuating petroleum prices and global recession, according to a study by University of Wisconsin-Platteville's Center for Applied Public Policy," said Simonson.

Biofuels include ethanol, produced from corn, and biodiesel, produced largely from soybeans. Simonson said the study found that the recession that began in 2008 had 'devastating effects' on the state's biofuels industry, especially biodiesel production. Some facilities have cut production by as much as half; others have filed for Chapter 11 reorganization or ceased operations entirely.

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CEO: Bioscience center could benefit region (Kansas)
Published online 10/20/2009 10:31 PM
By Mary Clarkin The Hutchinson News

It could aid alternate energy businesses, agency chief says.

It makes sense that a future center for bioenergy innovation would be located somewhere in "the arc from Wichita to Hugoton," said Tom Thornton, president and chief executive officer of the Kansas Bioscience Authority, during a visit Tuesday to Hutchinson.

Northeast Kansas has provided the main stage in recent bioscience initiatives. But Thornton, addressing a lunch at the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center attended by business and government leaders, indicated other regions could benefit, too.

The KBA was created as a result of legislative action about five years ago. Its goals include boosting the annual federal bioscience investment in research and development and increasing private venture capital investment in bioscience companies.

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Metabolix Completes Field Trial of Bioplastic-Producing Tobacco Crop

Thu Oct 22, 2009 4:05pm EDT

Demonstrates expertise in expression of PHA in non-food crops

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.--(Business Wire)-- Metabolix, Inc. (NASDAQ: MBLX), a bioscience company focused on developing sustainable solutions for plastics, chemicals and energy, announced today that it has completed a field trial of tobacco, genetically engineered to express polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) biobased polymers. Metabolix obtained the necessary permits from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to perform an open air field trial in March of 2009 and field trial experiments were completed in early October.

The trial was performed on 0.8 acres of land and provided valuable data and information relating to polymer production, with the best plants producing 3-5% PHA. This furthers development
of Metabolix crop technologies for the co-production of biobased plastics in non-food bioenergy crops.

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Friday, October 23, 2009

Oklahoma: OSU experts discuss sweet sorghum use in ethanol

The Joplin Globe
The Associate Press

Published October 21, 2009 11:36 pm - CHICKASHA, Okla. — With demand growing for ethanol produced from sources other than corn, researchers at Oklahoma State University said Wednesday that state agriculture producers could someday grow sweet sorghum or switchgrass as cash crops.

Division scientists and engineers from OSU’s Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources spoke during a “biofuels field day” at the university’s South Central Research Station in Chickasha about the potential of crops that could be grown by Oklahoma farmers for use in ethanol production.

Little sweet sorghum is grown in Oklahoma because there hasn’t been much need for it, said Danielle Bellmer, a food process engineer at OSU’s Robert M. Kerr Food and Agricultural Products Center who talked enthusiastically Wednesday about the plant’s potential as a renewable energy crop.

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Torrefaction: Improving the Properties of Biomass Feedstocks

Biomass Magazine November 2009
By Bruce Folkedahl

Interest in using biomass for power and fuels production has grown even during this economic downturn because of its CO2 neutrality. For electricity production, biomass can be combusted or cocombusted with coal directly in a boiler or it can first be upgraded via gasification into a gaseous fuel and then be used to produce heat and power.

However, the different biomass fuels available are plagued by a large diversity in quality and quantity. One of the challenges for utilizing biomass for heat and power is its handling properties and feeding the fuel into a conversion process, whether it is combustion or gasification.

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Biofuel could cut global emissions by 80%

Scientists in Singapore and Switzerland have published new research in a report called Global Change Biology: Bioenergy which states that converting waste from the world's landfills into biofuel, and using it in place of gasoline, could cut global carbon emissions by 80%.

Using alternative biofuels, such as those produced from crops, is not ideal because the necessary increase in crop production has an adverse environmental effect, but the use of refuse-derived biofuels e.g. cellulosic ethanol offers the same benefits.

'Our results suggest that fuel from processed waste biomass, such as paper and cardboard, is a promising clean energy solution,' said study author Associate Professor Hugh Tan of the National University of Singapore. 'If developed fully this biofuel could simultaneously meet part of the world's energy needs, while also combating carbon emissions and fossil fuel dependency.'

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Advances in Bioenergy

Ohio Farmer (blog)
Posted on October 20, 2009 at 5:00 AM

There's a lot more attention being paid these days to plants and algae as a source of renewable hydrocarbons that could replace petroleum-based hydrocarbons. A new $2 million research program at Iowa State University, funded by a National Science Foundation Grant, aims to look much more closely at this issue.

Researchers know that plants capture solar energy and create compounds identical to petroleum, but little is known about the exact structures, mechanisms, genetics or metabolism of that conversion. The four-year grant will study the production of biological hydrocarbons. The work will focus on a way to isolate and bioengineer a catalyst that creates biological hydrocarbons. This work could lead to technologies that change how liquid fuels are produced.

Read the full blog post

Study: Impact of bioenergy crops on climate change underestimated

The Washington Post
By Juliet Eilperin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 22, 2009; 3:37 PM

The world's policymakers and scientists have made a critical error in how they count biofuels' contribution to human-generated greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new paper published Thursday in the journal Science.

While the article addresses a wonkish subject -- how to measure the environmental impact of energy sources such as ethanol and wood chips, which absorb carbon as they grow but release it back into the atmosphere when they're burned -- it has broad implications. The current method undercounts the global warming contribution of some bioenergy crops, the team of 13 researchers wrote, because it doesn't factor in what sort of land use changes might occur to produce them in the first place.

"We made an honest mistake within the scientific framing of the debate, and we've got to correct it to make it right," said Steven P. Hamburg, chief scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund, and one of the paper's authors.

The discrepancy stems from the fact that government officials in the U.S., Europe and elsewhere, when calculating the greenhouse gas emissions limit, do not count the carbon that biofuels release when they're burned. They've also established a legal system that limits emissions from energy use but not from land use activities such as clearing a forest. Since carbon is released when a producer clears and burns trees, even to grow a crop destined for the biofuels market, this math doesn't add up.

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U.S. Biomass Potential From Forests to the Plains

Biomass Magazine November 2009
By Lisa Gibson

Studies to evaluate the potential of biomass are being conducted in several states as people begin to realize its economic benefits. One study takes a unique approach by going straight to businesses, organizations and farmers to create a supply chain and industry infrastructure before engaging state government.

Several studies and research projects are ongoing in individual states across the country, evaluating not only the availability of biomass, but also the biomass-based products that best suit each state’s economy.

The market for biomass products is growing but getting into those markets will take careful planning and evaluation to determine which types of biomass are viable to grow, harvest and extract in specific locations, followed by which products can be manufactured from that biomass and how.

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Brazilians Switch to Gas as Ethanol Prices Climb: A Dark Sign of Things to Come?
Michael Kanellos October 21, 2009 at 12:40 PM

Liquid fuel is a commodity, it turns out.

Brazilian drivers in many states are switching from ethanol made from sugar cane to gas as higher sugar prices are pushing ethanol prices up, says Reuters.

When ethanol costs about 70 percent as much or more than gas, drivers switch. Ethanol only provides about two-thirds of the energy content that gas does; as a result, when it passes the 70 percent mark, it effectively becomes more expensive. In big cities like São Paolo and Rio, ethanol costs 60 percent to 67 percent of the price of gas, so drivers still pick it up. After taxes, it's still economical.

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Poet introduces new ethanol co-product
by Tom Stundza -- Purchasing, 10/21/2009 12:36:35 PM

Plan is to enter plastics, film, coatings markets

Poet, the nation's largest ethanol producer, is introducing a co-product that can be used as a gum base or in films, packaging, adhesives, coatings and glazes. Inviz is Poet's brand name for zein, a biodegradable, low-nutrient protein derived from corn-based distillers' grains.

The Sioux Falls, S.D-based company says in a release that zein is colorless, odorless, tasteless and edible and can replace petroleum-based ingredients in household products ranging from pill and food coatings to plastic packaging.

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Big Oil Looks to Biofuels

The Wall Street Journal
OCTOBER 19, 2009

As low-carbon fuels get pushed, BP, Shell and others invest in alternatives

The biofuels industry, hit hard by the global credit crunch, is getting a shot in the arm from a new source–the oil majors.

Among the oil companies, BP PLC and Royal Dutch Shell PLC have been the most active investors in the sector. But it's even beginning to attract more-conservative companies like Exxon Mobil Corp., whose chief executive, Rex Tillerson, once famously dismissed corn-based ethanol as "moonshine." Exxon announced in July it was investing $600 million in an algae-to-fuel start-up, Synthetic Genomics Inc.

"It was a major signal to the biofuels industry," says Bruce Jamerson, chief executive of Mascoma Corp., a producer of cellulosic ethanol, which is made from inedible plant materials.

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USDA’s Vilsack Pushing EPA to Raise Ethanol ‘Blend Wall’ to 15%
By Alan Bjerga

Oct. 16 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said he is pushing the Environmental Protection Agency to raise the amount of ethanol allowed in gasoline as the deadline for a decision nears.

Science indicates that a higher “blend wall” is safe for automobile engines, Vilsack said yesterday in an interview at a conference on global hunger in Des Moines, Iowa. Increasing production of ethanol, made from corn in the U.S., would also meet national goals of energy independence and aid the industry as it attempts to expand.

“We will continue to publicly advocate an increase, and privately advocate,” Vilsack said. “Our hope is they understand the significance of this decision as it relates to the future of the industry.”

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Chemical Solution

The Wall Street Journal Business
OCTOBER 19, 2009

With demand for fuel falling, ethanol plants look for other products to sell.

Can green chemicals save the ethanol industry?

Ethanol producers, who focused on transforming corn into transportation fuel, got whipsawed by skyrocketing corn prices and collapsing demand as consumers cut back on driving.

Now a group of biotechnology and chemical companies is proposing a different model: using the existing ethanol infrastructure to make higher-margin chemicals.

Worries about global warming and government efforts to make chemicals more environmentally friendly are pushing the industry to find alternatives to the building-block materials they make mostly out of oil and natural gas. Ethanol itself, and other chemicals that can be brewed at ethanol plants, are emerging as viable options.

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Message exchanges reveal tensions among ethanol groups

Jerry Hagstrom, Agweek
Published: 10/19/2009

WASHINGTON — A nasty exchange of messages among the National Corn Growers Association, the Renewable Fuels Association and Growth Energy, the ethanol lobbying group headed by South Dakota-based ethanol plant builder and owner Jeff Broin and former Gen. Wesley Clark, has led to splits among the groups and revelations about why Broin and a handful of other ethanol leaders left RFA to form Growth Energy.

The messages have revealed that Broin and others established Growth Energy in 2008 because they did not think the NCGA and the RFA were lobbying hard enough for ethanol. Broin, Clark and Tom Buis, their Washington lobbyist, also are making the case that they have defended the industry and are pursuing its goals more vigorously than the other groups in the last two years.

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Biodiesel retunrs 4.5 units of energy per unit of energy used in production, study finds

Biofuels Digest
October 21, 2009 Jim Lane

In Idaho, new research from the University of Idaho and U.S. Department of Agriculture has found that biodiesel fuel is returning 4.5 units of energy for every unit consumed in its manufacture.

According to the National Biodiesel Board, the key drivers that continue to make biodiesel an efficient fuel choice include: New seed varieties and management practices are upping soybean yields; reduced tillage practices; modern soybean varieties that have reduced the need for pesticides; more energy efficient soy and biodiesel processing.

A copy of the report is here.

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Evolution Fuels Announces Branding Campaign and Fuel Station Rollout Strategy

Wed Oct 21, 2009 9:30am EDT

DALLAS, Oct. 21, 2009 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Evolution Fuels, Inc. (Pink Sheets:EVFL) (the "Company") today announced its strategy for a rollout of "Evolution Fuels"-branded renewable fuel stations.

The Company's rollout plan extends from Texas and Oklahoma, and eastward through Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. The plan calls for the establishment of select "marquee" stations within key cities in each of these states over the course of the next twelve months, to be followed by additional stations as permitted by the degree of the Company's future successes.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

VT willow harvest promises cheap biomass fuel

Associated Press
By DAVE GRAM (AP) – 10-18-09

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. — Middlebury College used to heat its buildings with oil, then switched to wood chips. Now it has planted a sustainable and relatively cheap fuel source — willow shrubs - that could help cut demand on the state's forests.

With a nine-acre patch of the fast-growing willows, the college is conducting a biomass energy experiment that seeks to answer the question: What if wood chip-burning heat systems lead to the deforestation of Vermont?

Willows, which grow faster than other trees and branch out when pruned, may be the answer — and may be a resource for other cold-weather states, too. So Jack Byrne, director of sustainability for the college, and business services director Tom Corbin have turned into farmers of sorts, planting tightly packed rows of willows in a field west of Middlebury's campus.

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Fed grants for Ill. hazardous materials training

Associated Press
(AP) – 10-20-09

CHICAGO — Illinois will get a slice of $21 million in federal grants to improve responses to transportation accidents involving hazardous materials.

The U.S. Department of Transportation says Illinois will get more than $1 million. Some money will go toward training first responders.

The issue of transporting hazardous substances came to the fore in Illinois this summer when train cars carrying ethanol derailed and burst into flames in Rockford. One person died in the fiery derailment, and ethanol leaked into surrounding soil and water.

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Fossil Fuels’ Hidden Cost Is in Billions, Study Says Sign in to Recommend

The New York Times
Published: October 19, 2009

WASHINGTON — Burning fossil fuels costs the United States about $120 billion a year in health costs, mostly because of thousands of premature deaths from air pollution, the National Academy of Sciences reported in a study issued Monday.

The damages are caused almost equally by coal and oil, according to the study, which was ordered by Congress. The study set out to measure the costs not incorporated into the price of a kilowatt-hour or a gallon of gasoline or diesel fuel.

The estimates by the academy do not include damages from global warming, which has been linked to the gases produced by burning fossil fuels. The authors said the extent of such damage, and the timing, were too uncertain to estimate.

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Prof. discusses biofuel technology
Published on Monday, October 19, 2009

Students must not be daunted in their attempts to improve sustainability in the world, despite the challenges associated with the task, Dartmouth environmental engineering professor Lee Lynd said in his lecture, “Sustainable Biofuels: A Personal Odyssey,” held at the Thayer School of Engineering on Friday.

Lynd — director and chief scientific officer of the Lebanon, N.H.-based biofuel company Mascoma — is well known for his research on the production of energy from plant biomass.

“There are only two resource transitions in the course of human history,” he said. “The first is from hunting and gathering to preindustrial agricultural society, and the second is from the preindustrial agricultural society to the industrial, non-sustainable resource base. The third transition, that from the non-sustainable to the sustainable industrial society, has yet to happen.”

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Leaders in bioenergy honored at Bioenergy Engineering 2009

Biomass Magazine October 2009
Posted October 19, 2009, at 9:18 a.m. CST

Four outstanding individuals and one bioenergy corporation were honored this week at Bioenergy Engineering 2009, an international conference held in Bellevue, Wash.

Those honored include: John Ferrell, U.S. Department of Energy, Phillip C. Badger of General*Bioenergy Inc, Ralph P. Cavalieri, associate dean for research and director of the Agricultural Research Center at Washington State University, Bryan M. Jenkins, professor of biological and agricultural engineering at the University of California–Davis and Abengoa Bioenergy Group.

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DOE Awards FDC Enterprises $4.9M for Cellulosic Ethanol Feedstock Delivery System Development

Mon Oct 19, 2009 4:06pm EDT

LANDOVER, Md., Oct. 19 /PRNewswire/ -- The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)
recently announced that FDC Enterprises of Columbus, Ohio, was one of five
winners to share in a $21 million grant to develop supply systems to handle
and deliver feedstocks for cellulosic biofuels production.

Cellulosic biofuels can be derived from a diverse number of feedstocks
including switchgrass, woodchips, and agricultural residues. All of these
materials contain the sugars needed to produce ethanol by fermentation, but
they are more difficult to process than sugar cane, corn and milo, which are
in wide use today. The key advantage of cellulosic ethanol is that it will be
made from sustainable, renewable resources not currently consumed for food.

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Potential Grows for Biomass Energy

The New York Times - Global Business
Published: October 20, 2009

SAN FRANCISCO — Woody biomass provides just 0.94 percent of all U.S. energy now, supplying the equivalent of 3.5 million American homes. But Bob Cleaves, president of the Biomass Power Association, a group in Portland, Maine, that represents about 80 plant-burning incinerators in 16 states, says available raw material would allow the industry to double its output. New incinerators are already being planned in many states.

The idea of homegrown, renewable energy, is appealing. It would qualify for tax credits under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and could benefit from support for renewables in the climate bill now going through the Senate.

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Biomass is Challenge and Opportunity

Michigan Farmer
Posted on October 19, 2009 at 4:49 AM

It's curious how you look at a new potential market. Take biofuels for example. Farmers and industry have worked long and hard on the ethanol business to create a profit engine (they hope) that will drive innovation and creativity. And it's time to start looking at the next step for biofuels.

With all the talk about how biomass-based fuels offer a better carbon footprint or enhanced profitability, you keep running into the same roadblocks - infrastructure. We already know how to move corn and soybeans from place to place. We have the trucks we have the elevators and conveyors. But biomass? Geez, just what are we asking?

That's what the biofuels industry is working to ask and at least one farm equipment maker is pushing too. Agco is hard at work on the logistical problems surrounding biomass-based fuels.

Read the full blog post

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

GM testing cellulosic ethanol from Coskata’s demo plant
October 16, 2009 - by Emma Ritch, Cleantech Group

Illinois-based Coskata’s secret formula for cellulosic ethanol is now in the hands of investor General Motors (NYSE:GM).

The biofuel startup has launched production at its Madison, Pa.-based demonstration facility, which is turning wood chips into ethanol using a continuous, three-step process that takes minutes from start to finish.

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Summerhill Biomass Systems Unveils Solid Biomass Technology System at Syracuse Expo

Fri Oct 16, 2009 6:01pm EDT

Syracuse University School of Information Studies Associate Professor Lee
McKnight, co-founder of nationally-acclaimed Wireless Grids Corp., is key
player in Summerhill Biomass, which is participating along with WGC in a
$200,000 SU Chancellor's Leadership Project award to the Syracuse
Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Development (SEED) project, exploring wireless grids
and biomass energy innovations for community and social change

SYRACUSE, N.Y., Oct. 16 /PRNewswire/ -- Summerhill Biomass Systems is planting
the seeds of innovation into the Syracuse Tech Garden.

Summerhill, named after the Cayuga County community where the technology was
developed, has pending patents across the globe on its system for grinding up
timber, brush, corn stalks and other plant waste and converting the fine
powder into heat.

Dr. James T. McKnight, Summerhill president and co-founder, said he's eager to
prove that this solid form of renewable energy is more efficient than ethanol
and other types of biomass produced around the world. Central New Yorkers
will be among the first to witness a locally-produced energy system that has
global potential. "Photosynthesis as biomass is the most efficient way to
store solar energy, and excess quantities are being stored this way all the
time. Summerhill just provides the most efficient way to use this stored
solar energy" said McKnight, who helped develop products for DuPont and
Johnson & Johnson as an organic chemist before founding Summerhill with sons
Kim and Steven in 2006. "By contrast, when you grow corn, 95 percent of what
you grow (stalk) is wasted. Then you take the corn off, and it's expensive to
convert to ethanol."

Read the full story

DF Cast: Mixing Ethanol and (Bio) Diesel
Posted by John Davis – October 16th, 2009

You can’t burn ethanol in a diesel engine. Nope. Just not done. Like mixing oil and water.

But what if you added more water to the ethanol? And came up with a way to mix the hydrated-ethanol blend with the diesel… or better yet, biodiesel… right at the point of ignition? Ahhh… then you’d have something that National Corn Growers Association chairman and Nebraska corn farmer Bob Dickey calls the CleanFlex Power System… a new venture he has formed with Ron Preston, president of CleanFlex. Together, they hope to get the 60 million diesel engines in the U.S. to burn some ethanol as well.

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U.N. Panel Finds Environmental Assessments of Biofuels Lacking

The New York Times
By BEN GEMAN of Greenwire
Published: October 16, 2009

A U.N. panel said today that biofuels' effects on air and water have not been sufficiently explored despite growing global production.

The U.N. Environment Programme's report (pdf) concludes that so-called lifecycle assessments must go beyond calculating greenhouse gas emissions and consider how agricultural production of feedstocks affect the acidification and nutrient loading of waterways.

"The available knowledge from life-cycle-assessments ... seems limited, despite the fact that for those issues many biofuels cause higher environmental pressures than fossil fuels," the report says.

Read the full story

Monday, October 19, 2009

Iowa ethanol plant to grow algae for feed and fuel
by O. Kay Henderson on October 15, 2009

A southwest Iowa ethanol plant is the home of a pilot project that involves growing algae for feed and fuel. The Green Plains Renewable Energy Plant in Shenandoah got a 2.1 million dollar state grant for the project. Carbon dioxide, water and waste products from the ethanol plant will be used to grow algae.

Todd Becker, C.E.O. of Green Plains, says they’re in phase one of the project. “What we’re going to do is first, measure the amount of CO2 that we’re using to grow algae in the reactor so that we can then figure out what it’s going to look like on a scale up to a commercialization platform,” Becker says. The harvested algae has many uses, according to Becker. For example, it can be fed to livestock.

Read the full story

Industry Built From Scratch

The New York Times
Published: October 14, 2009

MADISON, Pa. — On one side of a factory here, workers dump 500-pound sacks of pine chips into a hopper. Deep inside the plant, an 8,000-degree blow torch roars like a jet engine as the chips are processed. At the far end, the workers turn a tap and out pours ethanol, ready for use as a motor fuel.

Coskata’s small-scale ethanol plant in Madison, Pa. The factory, through a process that includes a torch, converts tons of wood chips into fuel.

The facility, built by a company called Coskata, is not quite proof that a new era is at hand for American transportation fuels. But with the company claiming it will be able to convert wood waste into biofuel for about $1 a gallon, the plant suggests that day may be drawing nearer.

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ADM CEO says long-term goal is non-food biofuels

Wed Oct 14, 2009 7:04pm EDT
By Christine Stebbins

DES MOINES, Oct 14 (Reuters) - The long-term goal for the biofuels industry will be to use nonfood sources for raw materials rather than grains, but to reach that goal industry must build on and not abandon current technology, biofuels giant Archer Daniels Midland (ADM.N) said on Wednesday.

"My belief is agriculture can contribute to both -- both higher food production and these other elements of the food chain that contribute to other ingredients in our daily life including fuels," ADM Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Patricia Woertz told reporters at the World Food Prize forum.

"But it won't be the only platform. It will probably be a more advanced technology of second and third generation that are not food-based fuel substances," she said.

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Economic Development Strategy Leverages Knoxville-Oak Ridge Innovation Valley Assets

Thu Oct 15, 2009 4:25pm EDT

Economic Development Strategy Leverages Knoxville-Oak Ridge Innovation Valley

KNOXVILLE, Tenn., Oct. 15 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Already a hotbed of research, the Knoxville-Oak Ridge Innovation Valley has a new roadmap for turning those technological and human assets into a prosperous future. The strategy identifies four promising industry sectors:
-- instrumentation
-- nuclear energy
-- bioenergy
-- energy-related materials.

Developed by Innovation Valley officials and consultants from the Battelle Technology Partnership Practice, these four high tech areas utilize the high tech resources of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Y-12 National Security Complex, the University of Tennessee , and partnerships and initiatives across the Innovation Valley, and reflect current national business trends.

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Governor Doyle (WI) Signs Innovation Agreement with Manitoba

Posted Thursday, October 15, 2009 --- 10:12 a.m.

Agreement Promotes Collaboration, Commercialization and Bilateral Trade

MADISON – Governor Jim Doyle today signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Province of Manitoba and the State of Wisconsin promoting the growth of innovation through collaboration, commercialization and bilateral trade.

The agreement, signed by Governor Doyle and Premier Gary Doer, promotes a working relationship between Wisconsin and Manitoba and builds upon current efforts to advance emerging technologies and enhance the mid-continent knowledge “IQ” corridor.

“Wisconsin and Manitoba share a strong past and a bright future in research and technology development,” Governor Doyle said. “This agreement builds on our common strengths and commits to continuing collaboration that will lead the future of innovation and grow our economies.”

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ArborGen LLC and Clemson University form research cooperative

Clemson University
Published: October 15, 2009

SUMMERVILLE, S.C. — Clemson University and ArborGen LLC, two of South Carolina’s most recognized names in forestry and biofuels research, have partnered to develop purpose-grown woody biomass as feedstock for the biofuels industry.

The cooperative will support South Carolina’s ethanol industry based on existing cellulose conversion technology, foster multi-agency collaboration and engage students in research and internships.

Cellulose-to-ethanol conversion is the practice of producing biofuel from cellulose — the fibrous material that makes up most of the plant matter of nonfood plants, such as switchgrass, wood chips and many other varieties.

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2009 Solar Decathlon Winners Announced

U.S. Department of Energy
October 16, 2009

U.S. Department of Energy Deputy Secretary Daniel Poneman today announced the winners of the 2009 Department of Energy Solar Decathlon competition on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Team Germany, the student team from Darmstadt, Germany, won top honors by designing, building, and operating the most attractive and efficient solar-powered home. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign took second place followed by Team California in third place.

The active competition lasted for a week, with the prototype home designs open to the public through Sunday. Team Germany's winning "Cube House" design produced a surplus of power even during three days of rain. This is the team's second-straight Solar Decathlon victory, after winning the previous competition in 2007.

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Friday, October 16, 2009

Wood making comeback as power source

USA Today
Updated October 14, 2009
By Traci Watson, USA TODAY

One of the world's oldest energy sources is making a comeback.

Across the USA, power plants are turning to wood to make electricity. The move is spurred by state mandates to encourage renewable power and by bills moving through Congress that require more renewable electricity nationwide.

Wood power's rise is "meteoric," says William Perritt, editor of Wood Biomass Market Report. One wood-burning plant started up in 2007, seven in 2008 and a dozen in 2009, he says

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Boeing joins with Mexico and Honeywell in biofuels research

SeattlePI blogs
Posted by Aubrey Cohen at October 14, 2009 4:24 p.m.

Boeing, Mexico's Airports and Auxiliary Services agency and Honeywell's UOP Wednesday announced a collaboration to find, research and develop a commercially viable market for sustainable aviation biofuels sourced in Mexico.

"Working together, we are assessing the potential for large-scale production of aviation fuels made from sustainable biomass systems such as halophytes, algae, jatropha, castor and other so-called next-generation biomass-for-energy systems," Darrin Morgan, director of biofuel strategy for Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said in a news release.

Read the full blog

American energy security could come from trees

Creston News Advertiser (Iowa)
Created: Tuesday, October 13, 2009 12:00 a.m. CDT
By (ARA)

You don't have to be an energy expert to realize the challenge ahead if the country is to reach President Obama's goal of reducing 50 percent of America's fossil fuel emissions by 2050. To do that will require several innovative approaches to generating fuel and electricity.

One alternative is to use plant or tree materials, also known as biomass, as an energy source. Biomass trees could be specifically planted for use as bioenergy in regions where available land is well-suited to tree growth and harvest. Although many different types of crops can be used as biomass, trees have particular advantages, including the ability to be harvested year-round. In the Southeast, where the infrastructure to harvest and transport trees to the mill already exists, biomass production could help reinvigorate rural economies.

In addition to poplar, pine and cottonwood, another variety of tree being evaluated for its amazing growth potential is the eucalyptus. One of the fastest growing hardwood trees in the world, eucalyptus is cultivated in more than 90 countries and represents 8 percent of all planted forests. In 2003, global eucalyptus pulp demand was 8 million tons and it represented 40 percent of the world's hardwood pulp market.

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U.S. biomass subsidy poses new threat to Canada's forest industry

The Canadian Press
By Ross Marowits (CP) – October 14, 2009

MONTREAL — Canada's battered forest industry faces a new threat on the horizon that could kills thousands of jobs as reports suggest the United States is looking to bolster a biomass subsidy, says the Forest Products Association of Canada.

Association president Avrim Lazar says U.S. producers would gain a new competitive advantage unless Ottawa develops a national strategy and provides substantial funding to harness the country's potential to become a bioenergy superpower.

"If the U.S. and European government subsidize the movement of their industries in that direction, we're going to lose tens of thousands of jobs and we're going to lose a huge opportunity," he said in an interview.

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GreenShift Awarded Patent for Corn Oil Extraction

Wed Oct 14, 2009 11:45am EDT

NEW YORK--(Business Wire)-- GreenShift Corporation (OTC Bulletin Board: GERS) announced today that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has issued U.S. Patent No. 7,601,858, titled "Method of Processing Ethanol Byproducts and Related Subsystems" (the `858 Patent) for the extraction of corn oil to GS CleanTech Corporation, a wholly-owned subsidiary of GreenShift.

GreenShift`s patented and patent-pending corn oil extraction technologies enable GreenShift and its licensees to "drill" into the back-end of first generation corn ethanol plants to tap into a new reserve of inedible crude corn oil with an estimated industry-wide output of about 20 million barrels per year. This corn oil is a valuable second generation feedstock for use in the production of biodiesel and renewable diesel - advanced carbon-neutral liquid fuels, thereby
enhancing total fuel production from corn and increasing ethanol plant profits.

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Cane ethanol helps cut greenhouse emissions: study

Wed Oct 14, 2009 2:14pm EDT
By Inae Riveras

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Use of sugar cane-based ethanol as a substitute for gasoline is among the cheapest and easiest ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to a Brazilian study published on Wednesday.

Cane ethanol provides about eight times the energy used to produce it and adoption of new cane plant varieties and processes could increase its efficiency further.

The study looked only at the future production of cane over pastures or as a replacement for other crops -- not over native forests.

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Examiner Bio Corn: feed, food, booze or fuel? (Chicago)
October 13, 4:26 PM James McConnell

Widening splits among the three major lobbying groups in the ethanol industry seem to be torpedoing a unified front regarding the treatment of ethanol as a fuel in pending climate change legislation in Congress. Growth energy, an ethanol lobby formed last year by ethanol plant builder Jeff Broin and retired General Wesley Clark, believes the National Corn Growers Association and Renewable Fuels, the third big ethanol lobby, are soft on ethanol fuel development because RFA is dominated by Archer Daniels Midland, a major livestock feed processor.

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Internationally Recognized Bioenergy Experts Convene in Sacramento

Wed Oct 14, 2009 4:45pm EDT

SACRAMENTO, Calif., Oct. 14 /PRNewswire/ -- The inaugural Advanced Bioenergy
Conference and Expo, scheduled for November 11-13, 2009 at the Sacramento
Convention Center in Sacramento, Calif. will feature a number of
internationally recognized experts representing all sectors of the bioenergy
value chain.

During the opening plenary session, Doug Cameron, managing director and chief
science advisor at Piper Jaffray & Co., will present The Investment Climate
for Bioenergy: Current Weather and Future Forecast. Cameron was recently
awarded the Raphael Katzen Award for distinguished contributions in the
deployment and commercialization of biotechnology to produce fuels and
chemicals. In addition to his current role at Piper Jaffray, he has held
senior positions at Khosla Ventures and Cargill and was a professor of
chemical engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Read the full story

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Clemson University set to announce biofuel research partnership (South Carolina)
Published: October 12, 2009

FLORENCE - Clemson University and ArborGen LLC will announce plans to develop a research partnership later this week that officials say will help advance South Carolina’s biofuels industry.

According to a news release, the announcement will be made Thursday at 11:30 a.m. during the 2009 South Carolina BioEnergy Summit at the Clemson University Pee Dee Research and Education Center, 2200 Pocket Road in Florence.

Read the full story

Deal to turn methane into watts

Contra Costa Times
By Danny Bernardini
Posted: 10/13/2009 01:01:33 AM PDT

Garbage trucks from Solano and San Mateo counties dump their loads at the Potrero Hills Landfill in Suisun in September. (Rick Roach / The Reporter) The folks at Potrero Hills Landfill have signed an agreement to turn waste into watts.

After signing a 25-year contract with DTE Biomass Energy, Waste Connections Inc. on Monday announced it would eventually start converting methane gas into electricity that will power about 7,000 homes per year.

It isn't known exactly how long it will take to get the operation up and running, but the Suisun City landfill should be producing energy in two or three years, said Worthing Jackman, chief financial officer for Waste Connections.

He said the effort falls right in line with California's goal of becoming a leader in renewable energy. He said it also helps the landfill, which is responsible for getting rid of the methane gas one way or another.

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Algae Biofuels Skeptics Emphasize Need for Realistic Outlook and Business Discipline (San Diego, CA)
Bruce V. Bigelow 10/14/09

When the organizers of the annual Algae Biomass Summit convene to begin planning for next year’s event, they might consider renaming it the Algae Biomass Smackdown.

It might be more accurate, considering the air of skepticism that seemed to pervade some of the sessions I attended during the three-day conference that was held last week in downtown San Diego. Bear in mind that in September 2008 we learned that Bill Gates’ investment arm, Kirkland, WA-based Cascade Investment, was participating in a $100 million secondary round of funding for San Diego’s Sapphire Energy. About 10 months later, ExxonMobil disclosed that it was investing $600 million to develop algae biofuels, including at least $300 million through a partnership with Synthetic Genomics, the algae biofuels startup founded by human genome pioneer J. Craig Venter.

To many observers, both of these announcements were indications that serious investors with the scientific resources to do serious due diligence had determined the credibility of algae biofuels technologies.

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Biomass gasification, biochar show commercial promise

Southwest Farm Press
Oct 13, 2009 9:04 AM, By Paul Schattenberg, Texas A&M University

Biomass gasification and the resulting production of “biochar” were among the topics addressed at the Texas Animal Manure Management Issues Conference Sept. 29-30 in Round Rock, north of Austin.

The conference was attended by about 175 beef, poultry and dairy industry producers, researchers, engineers, regulators and others involved in environmental, regulatory and energy related aspects of manure management.

During a technical session devoted to advanced manure conversion/bioenergy, Dr. Sergio Capareda with Texas AgriLife Research spoke about how animal manure and other biomass can be converted into useful energy. He also noted the commercial possibilities of the biochar which is produced from biomass gasification.

Read the full story

MGA Energy & Jobs Forum
Posted: Oct 12, 2009 12:53 PM CDT

(Bioenergy Weekly Dispatch) (October 12, 2009) The Midwestern Governors Association held an Energy and Jobs Forum in Detroit last week to release its Platform for Creating and Retaining Midwestern Jobs in the New Energy Economy, the Midwestern Energy Infrastructure Accord and the Midwestern Energy Security and Climate Stewardship Roadmap. The advisory group recommendations contained in the roadmap have been in development since November 2007 when the governors agreed to goals laid out in the MGA's Energy Security and Climate Stewardship Platform for the Midwest.

The Energy Roadmap provides a menu of state policy options for the region's governors to adopt that would be most applicable to their state's individual and unique needs and circumstances to meet the goals of the Energy Platform. Great Plains Institute has been one of the organizations working with the MGA to help facilitate and staff groups of stakeholders to develop the documents released last week at the Forum.

Read the full story and links to additional information

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Biofuels meet EU CO2 target but gains vary: study

Fri Oct 9, 2009 10:59am EDT
By Gus Trompiz and Valerie Parent

PARIS (Reuters) - The current generation of biofuels meets a European target for cutting carbon dioxide emissions but its performance varies widely depending on the crop and production process used, an official French study has shown.

Biofuels made with grains and oilseeds mostly showed a fall in emissions of 60-80 percent versus fossil fuels, above a 35 percent objective set by the European Union for 2010, according to the study published late on Thursday by French energy and environment agency Ademe.

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Biomass Thermal Heats Up
October 9, 2009
by Stephen Lacey, Podcast Editor
New Hampshire, United States []

For a decade, Europe has been supporting biomass thermal energy, creating a large commercial and industrial market for resources like wood pellets. Here in the U.S., support has been absent; therefore, wood pellets play only a niche role in residential applications.

Read the full story and link to the podcast

Researchers Encouraged by Biomass Crop Growth on Abandoned Mine Lands

Lancaster Farming
Submitted by Editor on Fri, 10/09/2009 - 11:45am.

But Costs Still Remain The Big Issue

Chris Torres, Staff Writer

PINE GROVE, Pa. — Nearly 180,000 acres of Pennsylvania mine land sit abandoned, relics of an old mining industry that used to dominate areas like Schuylkill County and an area of northeastern Pennsylvania referred to by many as “the coal regions.”

With much of the area’s land depleted of the necessary nutrients to support plant life, it has little use other than possibly putting buildings on it.

Now a group of researchers is hoping to prove that with some work, this land can be a possible source for growing the next generation of biofuels crops.

Representatives from Penn State, the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, and Red Barn Trading and Consulting hosted a field day Tuesday, which brought about 50 people to an abandoned piece of mine land in Schuylkill County.

Read the full story

Nanotech Breakthrough Could Further Reduce Costs of Cellulosic Ethanol
Jason Mick (Blog) - October 9, 2009 11:05 AM

The outlook for waste-ethanol is looking up

Cellulosic ethanol is an exciting technology which promises to convert the abundant sources of organic waste worldwide (kitchen waste, yard waste, paper industry waste, etc.) into green alternative fuel. Unlike traditional ethanol, it won't use food crops or raise food prices. In addition, environmental impact studies have indicated that while traditional ethanol releases more greenhouse gases than burning fossil fuels, cellulosic ethanol could reduce emissions substantially.

Traditionally the creation of cellulosic ethanol follows one of two routes. The first route is to first plasmify the organic matter, breaking down the cellulose and creating a gassy mix of small hydrocarbons. This mix is then fed to special bacteria, which produce the ethanol. Coskata, one leading manufacturer that promises $1/gallon ethanol, is implementing this strategy.

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New PNNL Facilities Enable Biology, Computing Advancements

October 09, 2009

Solutions impact bioenergy, emissions capture

RICHLAND, Wash., Oct. 9 -- The Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory today celebrated the opening of new facilities that will enable discoveries in biological, computational and subsurface science and developments in bioenergy, carbon sequestration and homeland security.

The $75 million facilities represent the first new buildings on PNNL's campus since 1995. The buildings will primarily support research in biological systems science and data-intensive computing for DOE, the Department of Homeland Security, the National Institutes of Health and other organizations.

"These buildings represent the future of the Laboratory -- providing us advanced equipment and tools needed to have an even greater impact," said PNNL Director Mike Kluse. "We have some great scientists, and these facilities will provide them the equipment and tools they need to advance science and deliver science-based solutions."

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Profitability Returning to Ethanol Industry

Posted by Cindy Zimmerman – October 11th, 2009

The sun appears to be rising again for the ethanol industry.

“Profitability has returned,” says Joe Victor, who is Vice President of commodity research advisory firm Allendale, Inc. “We know that over the past three months that there is profit returning, above and beyond all costs. Ethanol companies are turning a profit over the past three months.”

The main reason is lower corn prices compared to last year and prospects for a bumper corn crop this year. The Wall Street Journal is calling it “Christmas in October for Ethanol Producers.” Last week, ethanol processing margins nearly doubled to a dollar a bushel. Since early July, ethanol futures on the Chicago Board of Trade have increased more than 20%, while corn futures have only gone up about five percent.

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Nanotechnology used in biofuel processing
Published: Oct. 12, 2009 at 12:59 PM

RUSTON, La., Oct. 12 (UPI) -- U.S. scientists say they are using nanotechnology to improve the cellulosic ethanol processes involved in producing biofuels.

Louisiana Tech Professors James Palmer, Yuri Lvov, Dale Snow and Hisham Hegab say biofuels will play an important part in sustainable fuel and energy production solutions for the future. But the professors say the nation's appetite for fuel cannot be satisfied with just traditional crops, such as sugar cane or corn. But they note emerging technologies are allowing cellulosic biomass (wood, grass, stalks, etc.) to also be converted into ethanol.

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EC pushes renewables research

Chemistry World
12 October 2009

The European Commission has called for a dramatic increase in investment in low carbon technologies to address climate change and secure the future energy supply. It proposes that over the next decade, an additional €50 billion (£46.7 billion) will be needed - a near-tripling of the EU's current annual investment of €3 billion - to implement the European Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET-Plan).

According to economic and monetary affairs commissioner Joaquín Almunia, the Commission and the European Investment Bank have already significantly increased funding for renewable energies, but 'We need to mobilise more public and private sector funds,' he said. The cash is needed to pay for both basic and applied research, as well as early market take-up.

In the current economic climate, this seems like a huge challenge, but it's essential, claims science and research commissioner Janez Potocnik. 'In crisis times, putting additional investment into low carbon technology can look like a luxury,' he said at a meeting in Brussels on 7 October. 'But, on the contrary, such investment is part of the necessary structural reform of our economy. It will provide a strong shift to an investment-based growth.'

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

BioEnergy Technologies to build AD facilities

Biomass Magazine October 2009
By Lisa Gibson
Posted October 8, 2009, at 11:38 a.m. CST

A new Sumter, S.C.,-based bioenergy company will design, build and possibly own and operate on-site anaerobic digestion systems at farms or food processing facilities that generate a large amount of biowaste and high-energy density waste, such as fats, oil and grease.

Established this past summer, BioEnergy Technologies LLC will work with interested partners to convert agricultural and food waste into methane, for conversion into electricity and heat to be used at the facilities, according to the company. Excess electricity could be sold to the grid, as well, according to Rachel Barnett, marketing and public relations representative for the company. The first location has not been established yet but the company hopes to announce it by the end of the year. BioEnergy is in discussions with a number of food processors, farmers and utilities. Feasibility studies are being conducted and results should be ready in three to six months, Barnett said.

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A 'Green Revolution' Buds Slowly in Algae Sign in to Recommend

The New York Times
By ANNIE JIA of ClimateWire
Published: October 7, 2009

Amid the charts on James Levin's bulletin board with titles like "Photosynthetic Carbon Fixation" there is a diagram that looks just like the others -- until Levin starts to explain it.

Levin is a biologist who researches algae for Kent Bioenergy. After seven years in the pharmaceutical industry, he came to Kent to study viruses that kill bacteria. His office in San Diego has gray-blue carpet, and the lab around the corner contains petri dishes and test tubes.

But when he talks about this chart, he speaks of a different world.

"When you look at the so-called 'green revolution' that they talk about, when the production of corn increased by [an order of] magnitude, essentially it required two things," he said in an interview later.

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Big Oil's Big Entrance

Ethanol Producer Magazine
November 2009
By Craig A. Johnson

Oil companies were noticeably absent during the ethanol industry boom from 2004 to 2007. Now, as some of those first-generation ethanol plants struggle to survive, Big Oil has begun to take an interest.

With the implementation of the renewable fuel standard (RFS) in 2003, a mandate to blend ethanol into gasoline was created, and the ethanol industry boomed. For the next several years, construction of ethanol plants accounted for most of the industry investment. Builders were in short supply, or booked for months in advance. Newspapers were filled with stories of ethanol plants going up across the Midwest. Many of them turned out to be just stories, but the build had begun and ethanol became a household word almost overnight.

Existing fuel producers and refiners, companies such as Royal Dutch Shell plc, BP plc and Exxon Mobil Corp., were initially caught flat-footed by the explosion of growth in the ethanol industry. "I don't know much about farming, I'm not an expert on biofuels, and there's not a lot of technology I can add to moonshine," Exxon Mobil Chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson said at a Houston energy conference in May 2007. "There is really nothing we can bring to that whole issue. We don't see a direct role for ourselves with today's technology."

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U.S. ethanol profits from bumper corn crop

Wed Oct 7, 2009 5:36pm EDT
By Sam Nelson

CHICAGO (Reuters) - The U.S. ethanol industry is chalking up the best profits in months after suffering through 2008, with a bumper corn crop this year, relatively high energy prices and the possibility of exports bolstering the sector.

Corn is the foundation of the U.S. ethanol industry, and producers got a huge boost to their bottom line this year as corn prices were cut in half from the record high of $7.65 per bushel posted in the summer of 2008.

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Establishing Standard Definitions For Genome Sequences

ScienceDaily (Oct. 8, 2009) — In 1996, researchers from major genome sequencing centers around the world convened on the island of Bermuda and defined a finished genome as a gapless sequence with a nucleotide error rate of one or less in 10,000 bases. This effectively set the quality target for the human genome effort and was quickly applied to other genome projects. If a genome sequence didn't meet this stringent criterion, it was simply considered a "draft."

More than a decade later, researchers are finding that with the advent of the latest sequencing technologies the terms "draft" and "finished" are no longer sufficient to describe the varying levels of genome sequence quality being produced. The quality issue is of particular concern for any researcher who wants to use the sequence, in order to know its integrity and reliability. This is of even greater concern for reference genome sequences, such as those genome projects conducted in support of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) missions of bioenergy and environmental clean-up, because they provide the foundational knowledge of the gene content and how these organisms interact with the environment.

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Friday, October 9, 2009

Dale, Searchinger debate biofuels, indirect land use change

October 07, 2009 Jim Lane

In Michigan, the German Marshall Fund recently hosted a debate on biofuels and indirect land use change between Tim Searchinger, transatlantic fellow at the German Marshall Fund and Bruce Dale, professor at Michigan State University. The debate was moderated by Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post and is available on video here.

According to one industry observer, “Dale pretty much wiped the floor with Searchinger.”

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Gov Schwarzenegger Demands Revolution To Combat Climate Change
October 06, 2009 06:00 am
Mark Truppner, MML Reporter

Governer Schwarzenegger was Tuesday's KVML "Newsmaker of the Day". Here is his speech as delivered at last week's Governor's Global Climate Summit:

"...This is exactly the kind of collaboration that is needed to launch a national and international green revolution. And that is what we need, nothing less than a revolution, to combat climate change and to win our energy independence and to develop new low-carbon technologies. To grow our green economies is also very important and to achieve global balance. There is no single issue that threatens the health and the prosperity of our nations and humanity more than climate change.

And that is why last year we all joined together for the first time for the First Governors' Global Climate Summit. There was so much action -- action, action, action. We committed to reducing greenhouse gases from deforestation. We established and strengthened international relationships.

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LBCC lands $115K grant (Oregon)
Democrat-Herald Posted: Friday, October 2, 2009 11:30 pm

Linn-Benton Community College has been awarded a $115,412 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service.

The grant, titled "Fueling Pathways to Rural Prosperity," will be used to develop programs at LBCC to train students to work in green energy and sustainable energy industries.

LBCC plans to design an agricultural technician degree with a focus on sustainable fuel and fiber production and processing. The program will provide training for entrance into the cellulosic biofuel, pulp and paper, and sustainable agriculture industries.

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Study Finds Ethanol Enhances Vehicle Efficiency
Posted by Cindy Zimmerman – October 5th, 2009

A new University of Nebraska study finds that higher ethanol blends increase engine efficiency.

The study, which was funded by the Nebraska Corn Board, found that high ethanol blends provide better energy conversion within an engine than other fuels, meaning less energy to travel further. The report says that e85 improved energy conversion by 13, 9 and 14 percent, respectively when compared to e10, for the light, medium and heavy loaded vehicles tested.

Vehicles went through chassis dynamometer testing as part of the study. The dynamometer simulated different road and vehicle operating conditions, allowing researchers to fully measure a number of important data points to measure the performance of different ethanol blends.

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Thursday, October 8, 2009

Microbe converts sludge into ethanol

CNet News
October 7, 2009 6:04 AM PDT
by Martin LaMonica

Two companies said Wednesday that they have developed a method for turning sewage sludge into ethanol.

Israel-based Applied CleanTech and Marlborough, Mass.-based Qteros created a joint development project that combines sewage treatment technology and a microbial process for converting biomass into ethanol.

The method can turn municipal solid waste into a fuel and reduce the amount of sludge processed by traditional treatment facilities, the companies said. Many researchers have been studying ways to extract usable energy from sewage sludge but there are not any commercial operations that make liquid fuel.

Applied CleanTech's core technology, which is already used in treatment plants, extracts the biosolids from raw sewage, which is a way to reduce the overall amount of wastewater that needs to be treated.

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Youth science day makes millions of young scientists

University of Wisconsin-Madison
Oct. 6, 2009

On Wednesday, Oct. 7, millions of young people across the United States will become scientists for the day as they explore the world of biofuels. On the second annual 4-H National Youth Science Day, youth will participate in "Biofuel Blast," an investigation of how organic plant materials can be converted to biofuels to supply alternative forms of energy.

Biofuel Blast, known as the National Science Experiment, was created by Cathy Vrentas of the University of Wisconsin-Extension and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Biotechnology Center. The experimenters will produce the biofuel ethanol from corn sugars and encourage young researchers to explore how other plants and feedstocks — such as switchgrass, sorghum and algae — could be used to produce biofuels. Youth are encouraged to share their results via the Web.

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Biomass Feedstocks Research
Posted by Cindy Zimmerman – October 6th, 2009

USDA’s Agricultural Research Service is studying the use of plant residues for biofuels.

At the University of Minnesota-Morris Biomass Gasification Facility, for example, gasification researcher Jim Barbour and ARS soil scientist Jane Johnson (pictured) are evaluating potential biomass feedstocks, including pressed corn stover.

The Agricultural Research Service has scientists in 18 states involved in the Renewable Energy Assessment Project (REAP) which is trying to determine the balance between how much crop residue can be used to produce ethanol and other biofuels and how much should be left on the ground to protect soil from erosion, maintain soil organisms, and store carbon in the soil.

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OriginOil Announces the Completion of Phase 1 Research Project with Department of Energy's Idaho National Laboratory

October 07, 2009 05:00 AM Eastern Daylight Time

Senior scientist applauds collaboration leading to first-ever presentation of productivity model

LOS ANGELES--(BUSINESS WIRE)--OriginOil, Inc. (OOIL), the developer of a breakthrough technology to transform algae, the most promising source of renewable oil, into a true competitor to petroleum, today announced the completion of Phase 1 of a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with the U.S. Department of Energy's Idaho National Laboratory (INL).

OriginOil has been working with INL to develop a process model for the commercial production of algae for biofuels and other value-added products. Phase 1 of the CRADA focused on developing a comprehensive mass-energy balance of OriginOil's proprietary process. This helped the company develop its comprehensive productivity model recently presented to the National Algae Association's Quarterly Forum in Houston, Texas. INL researchers provided core data on the projected efficiency and recovery values for the various steps involved in the algae-growing process, including lipid and biomass production from algae.

"Algae represent a potential key biomass resource for a sustainable bioenergy industry," said Tom Ulrich, INL Senior Advisory Scientist. "Collaboration with OriginOil has been encouraging, especially the modeling of their algae growth and production process. Phase 2 of the CRADA will focus on further process validation, economic modeling and improved biomass logistics for the scale up of algae biomass production."

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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Biofuel Producers Form Association to Address Inequities

Environmental Protection online
Oct 05, 2009

Advanced biofuel producers have formed the Low Carbon Synthetic Fuels Association (LCSFA), with members including TRI, Rentech Inc., Velocys, Choren, Flambeau River Biofuels/Johnson Timber, AP Fuels and World GTL.

The LCSFA was formed to address existing legislative and regulatory inequities that have slowed or even hindered the development of advanced biofuels. To date, federal programs have resulted in incentives that do not necessarily promote or reward the best performing and most environmentally friendly fuels.

Specifically, the LCSFA represents the biomass-to-liquids (BtL) industry. BtL is produced through the gasification of renewable biomass and the subsequent conversion of the gasified biomass using the Fischer-Tropsch (F-T) synthesis process. The renewable fuels produced are predominantly synthetic diesel and jet fuel, which are nearly identical to current crude oil-derived fuels but cleaner. BtL fuels can be produced from abundant, non-food organic materials such as wood waste from urban recycling programs, paper mills or forestry residues. They are fully compatible with the existing fuels infrastructure, enhance engine performance, and reduce emissions.

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