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

Friday, December 25, 2009

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays!
from the Center for Advance BioEnergy Research staff.

The bioenergy blog won't be published again until January 4. Please visit then as we catch up with bioenergy stories at the end of the year and the beginning of 2010.


Thursday, December 24, 2009

by: Government of Saskatchewan Dec 17th, 2009

The Saskatchewan Research Council (SRC) is leading a biodiesel pilot project to demonstrate how well the renewable fuel performs year-round in agriculture equipment. Supported under the National Renewable Diesel Demonstration Initiative (NRDDI), the project will help SRC assess biodiesel’s quality retention and performance in farming equipment and bulk storage facilities in all seasons, including the coldest winter months.

“The Government of Canada is pleased to partner with the Saskatchewan Research Council to promote the use of renewable diesel,” said Tom Lukiwski, Member of Parliament for Regina-Lumsden-Lake Centre, on behalf of Lisa Raitt, Minister of Natural Resources. “Our investment of $782,000 for this demonstration project will contribute to reducing Canada’s total greenhouse gas emissions while investing in made-in-Canada technology and stimulating the economy.”

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Bioenergy could satisfy world energy demand

The World Bioenergy Association has issued a paper based on a report by the Department of Energy and Technology at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) showing that the world has the potential to produce sufficient biomass in a sustainable way to meet global energy demand.

The World Bioenergy Association (WBA) reports that bioenergy production could reach an estimated 1,135-1,548 Exajoules (EJ) in 2050, based on different scientific studies. Globally, we consume 490 EJ of energy today, which could reach well over 1,000 EJ in 2050, according to International Energy Agency projections.

“There is a lack of awareness of the enormous potential of bioenergy worldwide both among politicians, media and the public”, says Kent Nyström, president of World Bioenergy Association. “We have to present these facts to the political leaders in Copenhagen since Bioenergy must play a major role in the strategy to combat climate change”.

According to the report, the largest potential for bioenergy comes from biomass production on surplus agricultural lands and degraded lands. The current use of biomass for energy is only 50 EJ, around 10% of global energy consumption. Bioenergy crops are grown on 25 million hectares, which is only 0.19% of the world’s total land area and 0.5% of the total agricultural land.

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New rhizome root harvester to be unveiled at U of I bioenergy symposium
Public release date: 21-Dec-2009
Contact: Jennifer Shike
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

URBANA – A new miscanthus rhizome root harvester and planter will be unveiled at the seventh annual Bioenergy Feedstocks Symposium on Monday, Jan. 11 and Tuesday, Jan. 12 at the I Hotel and Conference Center in Champaign, Ill.

In collaboration with the University of Illinois, European bioenergy developer, Tomax Ltd., and Oklahoma machinery manufacturer, Bermuda King, will reveal how the Rizomgen™ Harvester /Planter package can save 50 percent on existing rhizome harvesting and planting costs.

Tomax Senior Bioenergy Consultant Gavin Maxwell said, "Our collaboration with the Energy Crop Science Team at the University of Illinois has enabled us to analyze a greater variety of testing conditions and has allowed our manufacturing partner to apply appropriate engineering solutions to make vegetative rhizome harvesting more competitive."

Recent United States trials demonstrated a 200 percent increase in rhizome collection over manual systems. This will allow regional nurseries to expand more efficiently to meet the demand for both solid and liquid fuel conversion.

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Challenge could become new business in biomass industry

Date Modified: 12/22/2009 9:13 AM
By Heather Thorstensen
Agri News staff writer

ST. PAUL -- A challenge for the emerging biomass-for-energy market could become a new business opportunity.

Once farmers begin growing biomass other than grain for renewable energy production, someone will need to get it in a form suitable for transportation and haul it to a facility that can use it for energy.

This could create a new type of business, said Vance Morey, a University of Minnesota professor of bioproducts and biosystems engineering.

Morey spoke recently during a conference on the St. Paul campus titled "Growing the Bioeconomy: Solutions for Sustainability."

He presented a logistics model of supplying corn stover to an ethanol plant for electricity and process heat.

The model showed farmers could receive an estimated $7 per ton profit. It accounts for costs of collecting, storing and transporting the stover as well as replacing soil nutrients.

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UF students hope Gator Glyss soaps will shine light on biodiesel
By Julia McClure, Correspondent
Published: Saturday, December 19, 2009 at 7:05 p.m.

What do you get when you mix frying oil and methanol with dedicated University of Florida students?

About Gator GlyssSoap Concepts LLC, a company started by UF students, produces Gator Glyss, a soap that the students say is organic and sustainable. It is made using glycerin, a byproduct of biodiesel production, which is good for the skin. Instead of using fragrances, essential oils are added to Gator Glyss that have been extracted from fruit peels collected from UF campus eateries. For more information on ordering the soaps, send an e-mail to

Biodiesel, eventually. And Gator soap in the meantime.

UF's biodiesel plant was forced to halt production last spring because of a variety of issues. After the plant shut down, two UF students started their own soap company to promote sustainability and biodiesel.

Eric Layton and Telly Concepcion teamed up to produce and sell sustainable, gator-shaped soaps to promote sustainable fuel and biodiesel production.

Layton, a fifth-year mechanical and aerospace engineering major, and Concepcion, a graduate of UF's Thomas S. Johnson Entrepreneurship Master's Program and former UF football player, started Soap Concepts LLC from their experiences with biodiesel at UF.

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Congress fails to extend US biodiesel tax credit
17 December 2009 22:25 [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS news)--The US Senate has declined to vote on a bill that would extend a blending tax credit the biodiesel industry considers crucial for its survival, the National Biodiesel Board (NBB) said on Thursday.

The Senate would not be able take up the tax-extenders bill before the end of the year, sources said. The one dollar per gallon tax credit expires on 31 December.

NBB spokesman Michael Frohlich said the Senate is occupied by health care reform legislation, which precludes it from acting on tax credit legislation before year’s end.

Also, the House and Senate would need time to work out the differences between different versions of the tax credit bill, he said.

The NBB was working to make the issue a top legislative item when Congress meets again in January, Frohlich said. The tax credit extension would be made retroactive to 1 January to ensure continuity of the credit, he said.

“If they act swiftly they can minimise the damage to the industry,” Frohlich said.

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Iowa ethanol plants file bankruptcy

Chicago Tribune
The Des Moines Register
1:26 p.m. CST, December 21, 2009

DES MOINES, Iowa - Hawkeye Energy on Monday put its ethanol plants at Iowa Falls and Fairbank into bankruptcy in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Del., essentially turning over the operations to a group of banks led by Credit Suisse.

The Iowa Falls and Fairbank plants, each of which employs about 45 workers, will continue to operate under the current management, Hawkeye president Bruce Rastetter said. They also will continue to buy corn and will honor forward contracts for purchases of corn from farmers.

Hawkeye's plants at Menlo and Shell Rock are not affected by the filing, Rastetter said.

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Audi Tells Obama, “Forget Plug-Ins, Think Biodiesel”
Posted by John Davis – December 16th, 2009

The top executive at Audi’s U.S. offices says American political leaders need to think less about plug-in electric vehicles and more about vehicles that run on biodiesel, as well as standardizing the rules for biodiesel.

The Detroit News reports that Audi of America President Johan de Nysschen made the remarks at Washington, D.C.’s National Press Club, where he told the audience that despite the current administration’s love of extended-range electric cars, such as the Chevy Volt, that technology is not financially viable:

“I understand why political leaders have fallen in love with hybrids and electrics. But this may be the one time you’ll hear someone in Washington say it shouldn’t be a monogamous relationship,” de Nysschen said.

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Logistics of harvest and transport crucial to biofuels

Southwest Farm Press
Dec 21, 2009 11:08 AM, By Ron Smith, Farm Press Editorial Staff
Third in a series.

Identifying and producing the right plant material for energy production is only part of a complex system that must be efficient if it aspires to play an integral role in the country’s biofuel industry.

Harvest, storage and transportation also play crucial roles, says Steve Searcy, professor and associate department head, biological and agricultural engineering at Texas A&M.

“Our approach is that every operation has to increase energy efficiency,” Searcy said during a bioenergy field day last summer at the College Station research farm. “We are studying the logistics from the field to the processing plant.”

Harvest, storage and transportation also play crucial roles.

He said solutions to some of the most pressing biofuels challenges will require new technology and that existing equipment for forage and silage may not be adequate. The ultimate machinery may be adaptations of what’s currently available or something scientists haven’t yet devised. He quoted Arthur C. Clarke to put the process into perspective. “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

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This Year In Clean Energy - What A Ride
December 22, 2009
by Scott Sklar, The Stella Group

The year 2009 started off with a bang for the clean energy industries -- encompassing energy efficiency, renewable energy, clean distributed generation -- for manufacturers, project developers, installers -- the whole family of industries. President Obama assumed office in January '09 and by February the Stimulus Bill (ARRA) was signed into law, extending the portfolio of clean energy tax credits, but also setting in motion billions of dollars of loan guarantees and grants.

President Obama has made clean technology and cleantech jobs a centerpiece of his Administration, and I attended one public meeting during the first week of December where Secretary of Interior Salazaar, VA Governor Kaine (also head of the Democratic National Committee), and Cathy Zoi, USDOE Assistant Secretary EE/RE, all waxed eloquently on why fast adoption and scale-up of clean technologies are essential in order to create jobs, supplant energy imports and reduce emissions.

Congressional leadership has driven both energy and climate legislation; and even allowing a temporary installation of two U.S.-made wind turbines (one by Mariah Power and the other by Southwest Windpower) to remain at the base of the U.S. Capitol on the grounds of the U.S. botanical gardens — clearly symbolic of the commitment to clean energy technologies.

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

China slashes ethanol tariff from 30 percent to 5 percent effective January 1 as ethanol shortage looms

Biofuels Digest
December 20, 2009 Jim Lane

In China, the Foreign Ministry announced that ethanol import tariffs will be lowered from 30 percent to 5 percent, effective January 1. The Ministry also said that a 5 percent consumption tax may be imposed on top of the reduced tariff.

The government has previously set a target of 560 Mgy of ethanol consumption in 2010, with the target increasing to 2.8 Bgy by 2020, but restrictions on producing

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Major survey of sugarcane ethanol prospects in Florida published

Biofuels Digest
December 20, 2009 Jim Lane

In Florida, a new master’s thesis from Josh Berger at the University of South Florida provides the most comprehensive examination to date of the views of stakeholders on the development of sugarcane as an ethanol feedstock in the US. “The price supports directed by the USDA artificially increase the price of the US sugar commodity price to the point where it is more attractive to produce and sell sugar for food,” writes Berger, who adds, “The successful development of cellulosic ethanol process technologies will present an opportunity for Florida’s sugar growers to collect more revenue, assuming that processing facilities are created by the large sugar mills.”

Sugar Ethanol in Florida: Economic, Agricultural, and Environmental Aspects.

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$30 Oil? New analysis predicts oil price crash based on natural gas pricing

Biofuels Digest
December 20, 2009 Jim Lane

$30 Oil? Natural gas analyst says oil price crash may be in sight. An analysis published in Ground Report suggests that oil prices are ready to crash to as low as $30 – undercutting the floor of first-generation biofuels pricing and putting advanced biofuels parity pricing in jeopardy.

True? Not true? The analytic framework is compelling, by focusing on the differential between oil and gas prices.

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Are booming bioplastics here to stay?

By Nicolai Hartvig, for CNN
December 21, 2009 -- Updated 0219 GMT (1019 HKT)

(CNN) -- As world leaders and their delegates trod the carpet thin at the United Nations climate summit in Copenhagen last week, one environmental solution to reduce greenhouse gas emissions was literally under their feet.

The 215,000-square-feet carpet at the Bella Center that hosted most of the U.N.'s official events was made using Ingeo, a bio-fibre derived from corn sugars.

According to French manufacturer Sommer Needlepunch and Natureworks LLC, the provider of Ingeo, in shunning oil-based products the carpet saved the emissions equivalent of driving an average car 68,869 miles (110,834 kilometers).

It is one small step in a bioplastics and biofibers industry that is fast developing new alternatives to oil-based polymers and turning them into everything from food packaging to fashion outfits, cell phone casings and medical implants that dissolve inside the body.

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Governor backs off energy goal for 4 UW campuses

Chicago Tribune
Associated Press Writer
9:01 a.m. CST, December 20, 2009

MADISON, Wis. - Gov. Jim Doyle has backed off a campaign promise that four University of Wisconsin campuses will be energy independent by 2012 after determining it was not practical as proposed.

Weeks before he was re-elected in 2006, Doyle said campuses would "go off the grid" by becoming the first state agencies to purchase or produce as much energy from renewable sources as they consume. He said they would achieve that by replacing fossil fuels with cleaner energy sources like solar, wind and biomass.

The goal has since been changed to require the campuses to sharply reduce their carbon dioxide emissions, instead of ending them altogether or going off the grid entirely, by 2012. The change came into public view this month during a Board of Regents meeting.

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Boeing Flight Boosts Carbon Fiber Hopes, Knoxville-Oak Ridge Innovation Valley Poised

PR Newswire

KNOXVILLE and OAK RIDGE, Tenn., Dec. 18 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Researchers and entrepreneurs in the Knoxville-Oak Ridge Innovation Valley ( see the successful test of Boeing's 787 as the day the carbon fiber era took flight.

The Innovation Valley is home to Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), the Department of Energy's largest research center, which finds itself at the forefront of applied carbon fiber research.

The potential payoff from wider use of carbon fibers is impressive: materials with greater strength and a weight reduction of around 80 percent compared to steel. That's big news in many fields, but especially so in the car and truck industry where, by some estimates, lighter carbon fiber construction could contribute significantly to the U.S. Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles (PNGV) goal of building 80 mpg vehicles.

Carbon fiber comes at a steep price. While all carbon fiber does not have to be aerospace grade, production even of materials used in less demanding applications remains costly - often as much as 20 times the price of steel.

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Baylor professor turning cow manure into fuel-grade ethanol

Waco Tribune-Herald (Texas)
By J.B. Smith Tribune-Herald staff writer
Friday, December 18, 2009

To critics who object to making ethanol fuel out of grain, Larry Lehr, of Waco, has an ecology-minded answer: Run it through a cow first.

Lehr, who teaches environmental science at Baylor University, is planning to build a manure-to-ethanol demonstration plant at a model dairy that Tarleton State University is building in Stephenville.

Lehr and his Waco business partner, Norm Burgess, have already used a $250,000 Texas Emerging Technology grant for research into converting animal waste into fuel-grade ethanol. Now their firm, called Environmental Quality Management Associates, is applying for another $750,000 to build the demonstration plant in Stephenville next year.

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NASA offshore algae project aims for pilot stage; licensed for Florida project

Biofuels Digest
December 20, 2009 Jim Lane

In California, researchers with the NASA Ames Research Center at Moffett Field are advancing in plans to deploy an ocean-based algal fuels platform. The OMEGA project deploys flexible floating plastic bags, up to a quater-acre in size – pumped with wastewater and then cleansed and harvested by barges every ten days.

The bags would release purified water via membranes on the sids of the quarter-acre bags. The project, which has received support from Google, the California Energy Commission, and NASA, is aiming towards a pilot-scale version in closed ponds, with locations near San Francisco and Santa Cruz in future deployments. Nevada-based Algae Systems has licensed the technology and is developing a project in Tampa Bay, Florida.

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Monday, December 21, 2009

Dec 15, 2009 (The Times-News - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Ethanol production more than doubled feed costs for livestock producers in the United States between 2006 and 2008, according to a report released Monday by the Government Accountability Office.

Dairymen and beef producers have long argued that skyrocketing feed costs were largely attributed to increased ethanol production. However, the report by the accountability office is the first government report to support livestock producers' allegations that ethanol was undercutting other agricultural sectors.

"It's been one of the assumptions we have always had that ethanol has negatively impacted feed prices for our producers," said Bob Naerebout, executive director of the Idaho Dairymen's Association. "Anytime you create false demand for a product there is going to be negative impacts on other markets."

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Eastern Opportunities: Student Examines Russian Market Ops for Ethanol Co-Product DDGS
Released: 12/11/2009 10:45 AM EST
Source: Western Illinois University

Newswise — While many individuals get their first exposure to international experiences as college students, it's not so often that they participate as one of the lead researchers on an international research trip to help investigate and foster emerging markets for U.S. products. But soon-to-be WIU graduate Anthony Staggs found himself in just such a role this past August, when the senior marketing major at Western Illinois University traveled to Russia with WIU School of Agriculture faculty John Carlson and Kevin Bacon. The purpose of their trip: to present the possibilities of DDGS (distiller's dried grains with solubles) -- a co-product of drymill ethanol production -- for high-protein feed for Russian livestock.

Along with Carlson and Bacon, Staggs, a Chicago native, traveled to the Russian cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg, among others, to gather information about Russian livestock feed practices and to provide Russian livestock-industry professionals with information about the benefits and availability of DDGS from ethanol producers in Illinois.

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U.S. to rely less on oil for energy by 2035: government

Tom Doggett and Ayesha Rascoe
Mon Dec 14, 2009 4:54pm

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. oil demand through 2035 is not expected to return to the peak levels reached before fuel consumption fell sharply due to high petroleum prices and the recession, the government's top energy forecasting agency said on Monday.

U.S. oil demand reached a high of 20.8 million barrels per day in 2005, and oil consumption is forecast to remain "near" its current level of about 19 million bpd through 2035, the Energy Information Administration said.

"We do not think it will go back to what previous levels have been," EIA Administrator Richard Newell said at a briefing on the agency's new long-term energy forecast.

Globally, crude oil demand is expected to grow 1 percent a year over the period to 2035, rising to 111.7 million bpd from this year's level of 84.5 million bpd, the agency said.

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Future food, fuel conflict can be avoided: USDA secretary

Tue Dec 15, 2009 3:44pm EST

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - An increasing shift away from fossil fuels such as gasoline to alternatives derived from plants and waste need not produce an increase in food prices, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told Reuters.

Speaking on the sidelines of a U.N. climate conference in Copenhagen, Vilsack added he expected the U.S. Department of Agriculture to run a farm carbon offsetting scheme under a prospective U.S. climate law.

Farm crops such as corn are used to produce alternative transport fuels such as ethanol, while wood is likely to becoming more in demand for both solid biomass and liquid biofuels as new technologies emerge.

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EIA Energy Outlook Projects Moderate Growth

DECEMBER 14, 2009

EIA Energy Outlook Projects Moderate Growth in U.S. Energy Consumption,
Greater Use of Renewables, and Reduced Oil and Natural Gas Imports

WASHINGTON, DC - The Annual Energy Outlook 2010 (AEO2010) reference case released today by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) presents updated projections for U.S. energy consumption and production through 2035.

"Our projections show that existing policies that stress energy efficiency and alternative fuels, together with higher energy prices, curb energy consumption growth and shift the energy mix toward renewable fuels," said EIA Administrator Richard Newell. "However, assuming no new policies, fossil fuels would still provide about 78 percent of all the energy used in 2035."

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Thanks for the energy security – Uh, How Many Jobs Is That?

Biofuels Digest
December 17, 2009 Jim Lane

In Florida, according to a representative sample of 34 biofuels international projects and studies analyzed by Biofuels Digest, an average of 0.57 jobs are created for every $1 million invested in bioprocessing capacity, and that 15.80 jobs are created for every 1 million gallons of biofuels capacity, including farm jobs.

Excluding farm jobs, 1.53 jobs were created for every million gallons of processing capacity.

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Friday, December 18, 2009

Vega's China Venture to Use Special Torrefaction Technology in Ten Manufacturing Plants
December 17, 2009: 08:00 AM ET

VEGA PROMOTIONAL SYSTEMS, INC. (PINKSHEETS: VGPR) recently announced the Company has entered into a Joint Venture Agreement to build multiple manufacturing plants throughout China to produce alternative energy using torrefaction technology.

The Company's Joint Venture with Global Capital Market, LTD (GCM), located in Shenzhen City, China is moving forward with its plan to build up to 10 manufacturing plants throughout China. The manufacturing plants will use special torrefaction technology to produce briquettes from organic waste products that will then be sold through Agreements with European power generating companies.

Torrefaction is a partial carbonization process that takes place at temperatures between 475 - 575 degrees in a low temperature environment which makes the physical and energetic properties of the biomass much more comparable to traditional coal. The biomass is then compressed into briquettes to be sold to the end user. Torrefaction has the added benefit of reducing or eliminating undesirable volatiles, such as nitrous oxides and sulfur dioxides and is considered carbon neutral to the environment.

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Chippewa Valley Ethanol uses corn cobs

AgriNews - Minnesota and Northern Iowa
By Heather Thorstensen
Date Modified: 12/17/2009 9:57 AM

ST. PAUL -- A southwest Minnesota ethanol company will buy more than just corn from farmers. It wants their cobs, too.

Chippewa Valley Ethanol Company in Benson is using approximately 70 tons of corn cobs, wood and glycerin per day in their gasifier. They burn the gas for steam, which is used as a heat source to make ethanol.

CVEC hopes to eventually reach 300 tons of biomass per day, which would replace 90 percent of the natural gas they use with renewable sources. Currently, they're replacing 20 percent.

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From Copenhagen: Renewable Energy Gets Boost as Climate Talks Stall
December 17, 2009
by Lauren Poole, Correspondent
Copenhagen, Denmark []

In the midst of a turbulent week of demonstrations outside the Climate summit in Copenhagen, in which the police released teargas and arrested hundreds of people, the U.S. announced new initiatives and legislation that will give renewable energy a significant boost at home and in developing countries.

Last week, representatives from developing countries walked out of negotiations, but returned this week after the U.S., European Union and other country representatives came up with a plan to accelerate the development of renewable energy in poor countries, particularly in India and in the Americas.

On Monday, U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced a new five-year, $350 million international collaborative initiative nicknamed “Climate REDI” designed to encourage the rapid deployment of renewable energy in developing countries. Climate REDI (Climate Renewables and Efficiency Deployment Initiative), will focus on four key areas: a solar lantern and LED lighting program to replace polluting kerosene wick lamps commonly used in developing countries; a super efficient deployment program for appliances; a clean energy information program designed to provide better and globally available information on solar and wind resources; and a scaling up renewable energy program.

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Lawmakers back hiking ethanol-gas blends (Peoria Journal Star, Peoria, IL)
Posted Dec 16, 2009 @ 10:06 PM

Schock, Hare join others in call to increase biofuel wall to 15 percent now

PEORIA — A bipartisan coalition of members of Congress questions the Environmental Protection Agency's recent decision to delay increasing the ethanol blend wall in gasoline from 10 percent to 15 percent.

U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Peoria, along with six of his colleagues sent a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson this week. Their letter said the EPA's decision inhibits their ability to improve the quality of fuels and help the nation realize energy independence.

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

NREL Tests Sorghum for Cellulosic Ethanol
Posted by Cindy Zimmerman – December 15th, 2009

Representatives of the National Sorghum Producers (NSP) witnessed a pilot test of bioenergy sorghum at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) this week.

NSP collaborated with NREL to provide almost 100 different sorghum samples for testing, eventually choosing two for pilot testing. The resulting data shows that high biomass forage sorghum demonstrates great potential to fit into cellulosic ethanol conversion. Sorghum varieties have a wide range of basic sugars and structure which could ultimately meet the needs of multiple biofuel systems.

Colorado sorghum farmer Terry Swanson, Vice Chairman of the NSP Board of Directors, is pleased with the NREL research because of potential it holds for both the nation and sorghum producers. “Renewable energy will play a critical role in the future of our nation’s quest for energy independence, and the work NREL is doing will help the sorghum industry establish itself as a major contributor to that cause,” said Swanson.

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U.S.-Brazil Biofuels Partnership Steering Group Meeting

U.S. Department of State
Washington, DC
December 16, 2009

The Steering Group of the U.S.-Brazil Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to Advance Cooperation on Biofuels met December 15, 2009, in Washington, DC to assess accomplishments to date and discuss the best ways to advance the partnership.

The Secretary of State’s Coordinator for International Energy Affairs David Goldwyn led the U.S. delegation. Under Secretary General for Energy and High Technology Ambassador André Amado led the Brazilian delegation. The governments discussed progress on bilateral research and development and projects in MOU partner countries, as well as provided updates on domestic policy developments on biofuels.

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Speedling & Mendel to Commercialize Miscanthus
Posted by Joanna Schroeder – December 16th, 2009

Miscanthus appears to be the hot feedstock for December. Last week, Sunbelt Biofuels announced that it will be licensing Freedom Giant Miscanthus, and today, Speedling Incorporated and Mendel Biotechnology, Inc. announced an agreement to work together to research, develop and commercialize a “cost-effective propagation and production system for Mendel’s advanced Miscanthus product candidates.”

Neal Gutterson, Mendel’s president and CEO said, “Commercial-scale deployment of genetically diverse, high-yielding perennial grasses will be required for the country to meet its renewable energy and fuel targets in an economically and environmentally sustainable manner. Speedling has demonstrated best-in-class capabilities in vegetative plug production with superior customer service.”

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Texas Bioenergy Policy Council convenes first meeting, receives charges

Cherokeean Herald
December 16, 2009
Texas Department of Agriculture
Todd Staples

AUSTIN – Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples called to order the new Texas Bioenergy Policy Council. The council was created by the 81st Texas Legislature to make the state a leader in biofuel and biomass production. Commissioner Staples chairs the 18-member board, which is comprised of policy makers and industry experts.

“The Legislature has given this council a powerful opportunity to put together a strategic roadmap for attracting sustainable bioenegy to Texas,” Commissioner Staples said. “Texas is a leader in both energy and agriculture. By intersecting two of our state’s largest industries, Texas can position itself as a global leader in the future production of renewable energy.”

Commissioner Staples set forth the criteria that will guide the council as it works to meet its goal of making Texas the renewable energy capital of the world.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ethanol-Powered Vehicles Generate More Ozone Than Gas-Powered Ones

ScienceDaily (Dec. 14, 2009)

Ethanol -- often promoted as a clean-burning, renewable fuel that could help wean the nation from oil -- would likely worsen health problems caused by ozone, compared with gasoline, especially in winter, according to a new study led by Stanford researchers.

Ozone production from both gasoline and E85, a blend of gasoline and ethanol that is 85 percent ethanol, is greater in warm sunny weather than during the cold weather and short days of winter, because heat and sunlight contribute to ozone formation. But E85 produces different byproducts of combustion than gasoline and generates substantially more aldehydes, which are precursors to ozone.

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Indiana Checkoffs Reaching Out on College Campuses

Hoosier Ag Today
by Andy Eubank

Brainstorming by the Indiana Soybean and Corn checkoffs in the summer of 2008 on how to educate consumers in the food versus fuel debate has led to a fall 2009 phenomenon. Communications Director Megan Kuhn explains a change in direction last summer. “We went out and surveyed Indiana consumers and found that most realized that increased food prices were coming from increased oil prices. So we took a different approach by asking where can we make the most impact engaging people about biofuels.”

And the answer was Indiana college campuses. So this semester a group of students called the “Ask Force” is on campuses engaging students in biofuels discussions. Kuhn explains, “The Ask Force is a great group of college age kids who have really immersed themselves in learning about Indiana biofuels and some of the questions around them before they went out to the college campuses. So far they have visited IUPUI, Butler, Purdue, Indiana University, the University of Indianapolis, and Ball State. And they’ve been multiple times.”

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House approves extension of biodiesel credit that industry calls vital

The Hill E2 Wire
By Ben Geman - 12/09/09 07:34 PM ET

The broad $31 billion tax extenders package the House approved Wednesday afternoon includes a one-year extension of the $1-per-gallon tax credit for biodiesel that is set to lapse at year's end.

The bill, approved 241-181, would extend the credit through 2010, but the Senate must still act on the plan.

The industry’s main trade group, the National Biodiesel Board, warned in a report Tuesday that letting the incentive die would be disastrous for an already troubled industry.

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INTERVIEW-Future food, fuel conflict can be avoided-USDA sec

12.15.09, 12:14 PM EST

COPENHAGEN, Dec 15 (Reuters) - An increasing shift away from fossil fuels such as gasoline to alternatives derived from plants and waste need not produce an increase in food prices, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told Reuters.

Speaking on the sidelines of a U.N. climate conference in Copenhagen, Vilsack added he expected the U.S. Department of Agriculture to run a farm carbon offsetting scheme under a prospective U.S. climate law.

Read the full story

Company Aims to Make Jet Fuel from Coal

The New York Times Energy & Environment
December 15, 2009, 8:16 am

Some of the world’s largest airlines — including American, US Airways, Delta and Lufthansa — have signed a memorandum of understanding to buy 500,000 barrels per month of jet fuel made from coal and petroleum coke, a refinery waste product.

The development will be announced this morning by Rentech, the Los Angeles, Calif.-based company that plans to make the fuel at a plant in Mississippi.

Despite the use of coal, the process will result in jet fuel with lower carbon emissions than the stuff used in airlines today, the company says. That is because a waste stream of carbon dioxide from making the fuel will be piped to Texas, where it will be used to help squeeze oil out of the ground.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Renewable Energy From Manure Becomes Reality for New York

PR Newswire

Through dairy coalition, methane digesters to power 32,000 homes by 2020
ROSEMONT, Ill., Dec. 11 /PRNewswire/ -- Methane digesters on dairy farms could soon be a common source of energy for residents and businesses in the state of New York. That is one result of the Dairy Power Summit, held Oct. 29 and 30, 2009, in Syracuse, N.Y., which brought together more than 200 New York dairy farmers and industry stakeholders from across the country to discuss the potential for dairy-supplied renewable energy.

Summit attendees set a 2020 goal that 40 percent of all manure from New York dairy farms goes through the anaerobic digestion process, which captures methane from manure and generates clean, renewable energy. The energy produced from this effort could power 32,000 homes while strengthening the economic vitality of New York's dairy farms. It also would reduce New York's greenhouse gas emissions by 500,000 metric tons of carbon, equivalent to taking 100,000 cars off the road.

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GERMANY-BRAZIL: Forests and carbon storage: size matters

University World News
13 December 2009
Issue: 105

New research from Brazil and Germany indicates environmental concerns are best met by conserving large and entire tracts of forest. Researchers at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research in Leipzig and the University of São Paulo found the collective biomass of many small forests was less than that of a single large forest even when the small forests covered the same total area as the larger one.

The conclusion has implications for efforts to reduce carbon emissions, because forest biomass is one way of storing carbon dioxide. The researchers investigated a large number of small forest fragments left over after clearing of most of the Atlantic Forest near São Paulo in Brazil, and found their biomass could be as much as 40% less than in a single large forest.

They said the lower biomass was due to a higher death rate among trees at the edges of forests, particularly large, old trees that had large amounts of biomass. The higher death rate was caused by changes in wind and light conditions at the edge of the forest.

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Researcher studying ways to handle huge quantities of biomass

Farm and Dairy
Monday, December 14, 2009

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — As scientists scramble to develop ways to generate enormous amounts of energy from cleaner-burning, renewable fuels to replace coal and oil, promising agricultural crops such as switchgrass have made headlines.

But selecting the plants from which to make energy is just part of the challenge. Systems to handle huge volumes of biomass to feed power generators also must be devised.

Jude Liu, assistant professor of agricultural and biological engineering in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, is one of the researchers working on the logistics of handling massive quantities of biomass. He recently received a $100,000 grant from the Sun Grant Initiative to support his work.

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Monday, December 14, 2009

LSU AgCenter step closer to biofuels institute
Advocate business staff
Published: Dec 10, 2009 - UPDATED: 2:07 p.m.

The LSU AgCenter has taken another step toward establishing a Louisiana Institute for Biofuels and Bioprocessing, with approval of the state Board of Regents.

“This has moved us a step forward in our efforts to boost the biofuels business in the state,” said John Russin, LSU AgCenter associate vice chancellor and institute director. “The institute puts a face on our biofuels research and will help us obtain grants.”

Russin said the Regents’ approval is conditional for one year, during which time the LSU AgCenter is to form an advisory board and set up the structure for expansion of bioenergy research.

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Biofuels Digest
December 11, 2009 Jim Lane

7th Bioenergy Feedstocks Symposium set for University of Illinois, January 11-12, 2010
In Illinois, the 7th Bioenergy Feedstocks Symposium will be held at the University of Illinois, January 11-12, 2010 – providing researchers, farmers and industry leaders with information about current bioenergy research at the University of Illinois and various external institutions and companies focusing on the use of perennial grasses as a potential renewable energy source for and profitable alternative crop for the Midwest.

Last year, the event featured 25 speakers and 200+ attendees. Next year, the event will be merged into an Energy Biosciences Institute event – EBI and CFAR are among the sponsors of the event.

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Diary: EPA’s Lisa Jackson Sings the Biofuel Blues

Biofuels are going to increase in importance, but it won’t always be easy. Agribusiness has some cellulosic willies.

Lisa Jackson, who heads up the Environmental Protection Agency, was the featured speaker at a session at Cop15 called "The Contribution of Biofuels to Climate Change Mitigation," which was sponsored by Brazil. The U.S. faces challenges, she noted.

The Obama administration is committed to a strong new biofuels program that would push Congress to enact new fuel reduction mandates, she said. Nonetheless, Jackson added that the goals of the biofuels program have been slowed down due to the recession, but ideally will pick back up with the production of cellulosic biofuels.

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Solar Fuels: Biomass Fuel Starts to See the Light

11 December 2009:
Vol. 326. no. 5959, p. 1474
DOI: 10.1126/science.326.5959.1474
by Robert F. Service

Even with a major push, commercial plants capable of turning CO2 or water into liquid fuels are still likely to be 2 decades away. A simpler version of the technology, however, already appears headed to market.

Even with a major push, commercial plants capable of turning CO2 or water into liquid fuels are still likely to be 2 decades away. A simpler version of the technology, however, already appears headed to market. Sundrop Fuels Inc., an energy start-up based in Louisville, Colorado, recently commissioned a 1-megawatt solar array to convert wood waste and other forms of biomass into a gaseous blend of carbon monoxide and hydrogen—known as synthesis gas—that can be converted into gasoline. The plant uses an array of 2700 mirrors to concentrate sunlight on a 20-meter-tall solar tower to produce heat needed to drive the chemical reactor. The company has told Science that in 2012 it intends to open a commercial plant capable of capturing 60 megawatts and use that energy to produce 19 million liters of gasoline annually.

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Scientists conjure fuel out of carbon emissions

IBN Live
Published on Fri, Dec 11, 2009 at 16:51 in Sci-Tech section

THE UNIMAGINABLE: The new method recycles CO2 by cutting down emissions from fossil fuels.
Washington: Scientists have done the unimaginable -- converting carbon-dioxide (CO2) into vehicular fuel that could also slash global warming.

University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) researchers have modified a cyanobacterium (class of bacteria) to produce liquid fuel isobutanol out of CO2.

This new method recycles CO2 by cutting down emissions from fossil fuels and using solar power to convert the gas into a liquid fuel, without altering the basic energy infrastructure.

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Two Pumps for Ethanol Fuel: An Unlikely Solution
Thursday, December 10, 2009 12:00:00 AM

Faced with a decision on whether to allow the level of ethanol in gasoline to rise from a maximum of 10 percent to 15 percent (a fuel blend called E15) the EPA did what government agencies often do: It delayed the decision until next year.

On one side, powerful ethanol lobbyists from the Growth Energy consortium, on behalf of their agribusiness clients, are pushing hard for a government sanction of 15 percent ethanol levels in gasoline. They claim the move would help make the U.S. more energy independent and would help the environment — although both claims have been challenged by opponents of increased ethanol levels in gasoline.

On the other side, builders of boats and marine engines, builders of lawn mowers and other small-engine equipment, and petroleum producers oppose allowing more ethanol in gasoline. Even the current 10 percent ethanol fuel blends have caused major damage in boat engines, fuel system components and fuel tanks (not to mention the damage caused to other equipment with small gasoline engines), they argue.

After examining the evidence of the damage higher ethanol fuel blends could wreak on boats and other small-engine products, you might think that the EPA would have no alternative but to reject plans to allow the new E15 fuel. But you’d be wrong.

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Friday, December 11, 2009

Golden Oldie: Key Role for Ancient Protein in Algae Photosynthesis

Berkeley Lab
November 27, 2009
Contact: Lynn Yarris (510) 486-5375,

Berkeley Lab researchers identified an ancient light harvesting protein that helps protect green algae from absorbing too much sunlight during photosynthesis.The discovery that an ancient light harvesting protein plays a pivotal role in the photosynthesis of green algae should help the effort to develop algae as a biofuels feedstock. Researchers with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have identified the protein LHCSR as the molecular “dimmer switch” that acts to prevent green algae from absorbing too much sunlight during photosynthesis and suffering oxidation damage as a consequence.

“We’ve shown that for green algae, and probably most other eukaryotic algae, the LHCSR protein is used to dissipate excess light energy and protect the photosynthetic apparatus from damage,” says Krishna Niyogi, a biologist who holds joint appointments with Berkeley Lab’s Physical Biosciences Division and the University of California (UC) Berkeley’s Department of Plant and Microbial Biology. “We describe LHCSR as an ancient member of the family of light harvesting proteins because it seems to have been one of the first to branch off from a common ancestor shared long ago by both algae and plants.”

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DuPont's 'Unique' Seaweed Venture Nets DOE Cash

The New York Times
By DINA FINE MARON of Greenwire
Published: November 25, 2009

Seaweed holds promise as more than an ingredient in a purifying face mask or a maki roll.

So say researchers at E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co., which alongside Seattle-based Bio Architecture Lab (BAL) has secured $9 million from the Department of Energy to explore seaweed's potential as a feedstock for biobutanol, an advanced biofuel.

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NREL Breaks Down Walls for Biofuels
November 30, 2009 by Heather Lammers Enlarge

( -- Researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and ethanol producers are racing to come up with ways to make ethanol from cellulosic biomass that are cheaper and easier to produce than current methods. But they are hitting a wall. Cell walls in plants are making the production of cellulosic ethanol a challenge. So researchers are creating their own computer program to help model and break down the tiny fibers of cellulose -- or fibrils -- found in plant cells.

Although ethanol is becoming more available to consumers, NREL is working closely with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to meet a quickly approaching goal to produce competitively priced ethanol for $1.50 per gallon by 2012. Why the rush? DOE believes this is the price at which ethanol will be able to go head-to-head with gasoline while the U.S. strives to reduce our dependence on oil. In addition, the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (PDF 821 KB) requires that the U.S. use 15 billion gallons of renewable fuels by 2012. All of this means the U.S. needs to find ways to make more ethanol and fast. To help accomplish this goal, NREL researchers are looking at how to make cellulosic ethanol a cheaper, quicker reality.

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Maize cell wall genes identified, giving boost to biofuel research
November 19th, 2009

Purdue University scientists have helped identify and group the genes thought to be responsible for cell wall development in maize, an effort that expands their ability to discover ways to produce the biomass best suited for biofuels production.

The Purdue scientists, led by Nicholas Carpita, a professor of plant cell biology, published their findings on the 750 cell wall genes in the journal Plant Physiology on Thursday (Nov. 19). They also were co-authors on a study, published Thursday (Nov. 19) in Science, that for the first time sequenced the genome of maize.

In discovering the some 32,000 genes of maize, scientists can better study the function of individual genes and how each affects all aspects of the plant's development. Purdue's scientists are particularly interested in the genes that regulate cellulose, lignin and other parts of plant's cell walls.

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RFA: EPA E15 Delay Raises More Questions Than Answers

Biofuels Digest
Date Posted: December 3, 2009

Washington—The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) announcement Dec. 1 that it was delaying a decision on the waiver to approve 15% ethanol blends raised more questions than it answered.

Specifically, the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) sought Dec. 3 more clarification from EPA on its apparent focus on vehicles model year (MY) 2001 and newer.

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Book Review: Our Choice

“Producing first generation ethanol from corn is a mistake,” writes Al Gore in his new book, “Our Choice A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis.” The book details the issues surrounding global warming, and presents various options to curb the issue. As a writer in the agricultural industry, I paid extra attention to the chapter regarding biofuels. It came as no surprise that corn ethanol was not presented favorably.

Gore writes, “The production of ethanol in first generation biorefineries has been a disappointment. However, it has had the benefit of increasing income for farmers and has led to the emergence of an infrastructure that will prove highly valuable when second generation technologies are available to produce ethanol from nonfood crops.” He goes on to discuss his personal disappointment with his early support of corn-based ethanol and then continues to lay out the case for second and third generation fuels including cellulosic ethanol.

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Pitfalls of One-Size-Fits-All Approach to Biomass Emissions

Biomass Magazine December 2009
By Bob Cleaves

A recent article from Science Magazine that challenges the carbon benefits of biomass to energy is making the rounds on Capitol Hill. After reviewing the article, it’s clear that the disparity in carbon dioxide output stems from the assumption of major land-use changes that are theoretically possible if new feedstock comes from the growing of energy crops. In our view, this is a solution in search of a problem.

Let’s leave aside the fact that since Congress established the closed-loop production tax credit in 1992, not a single facility has been constructed. That’s because the economics of growing energy crops for the production of power has never been economically feasible. Of course, that may change in a carbon constrained world. For now, it’s difficult to overcome the economics and conclude that large-scale land conversion will actually occur.

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Biomass Utilization, Rain Forests and Their Effect on the U.S. Carbon Footprint

Biomass Magazine December 2009
By Bruce Folkedahl

Biomass for heat, power and fuels is certainly not without its challenges. Recent editorials by Bruce Dale1 have illustrated the hypocrisy through which biofuels are being held to much higher standards than traditional fuels when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions.

The issue that carries the most damaging effect on the carbon footprint of the production of biofuels is indirect land-use change. This is essentially a method of accounting for increased greenhouse gas emissions from the supposed increase in agricultural lands to offset the amount of agricultural lands utilized in biomass for biofuels production. The theory goes that if 1,000 acres of corn previously used for food is now going to biofuels production, then 1,000 acres of new agricultural lands, such as clearing rain forests for agriculture, will be brought into production.

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Is there a future for the US cellulosic ethanol industry?

Gerson Lehrman Group
December 9, 2009
Analysis by: GLG Expert Contributor
Analysis of: BP explores options, remains committed to cellulosic ethanol
Published at:


Even if technical challenges relating to the production of cellulosic ethanol are addressed, other factors may undermine the development of this industry in the US over the longer term.

Criticisms of first generation ethanol, and in particular grain-to-ethanol, are well known. The volatile nature of grain prices translates into highly volatile margins and operating conditions, leading to boom-and-bust conditions in the sector. In addition, any food price increases going forward may reignite the whole food vs fuel debate, which is understandable. At its heyday, approximately 20% of US corn production was used to produce the equivalent of just 3.5% of domestic gas consumption.

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GPI conference: Biomass creates opportunities for wildlife, agriculture

Biomass Magazine December 2009
By Lisa Gibson

There could be a balance in managing land for energy and wildlife simultaneously, creating several opportunities for both sectors, according to Dave Nomsen, vice president of governmental affairs for Pheasants Forever.

Nomsen spoke at the Great Plains Institute’s Nov. 2 conference. “There are some intriguing possibilities,” he said of that balance. Prescribed burning, while limited in many parts of the country, can ensure plant residual is removed and recycled to keep the land productive. Harvesting biomass removes vegetation and keeps it in an early plant successional stage rotation, he said. Removing exotic, invasive plant species such as reed canary creates a better habitat and those plant species might be beneficial for biofuels production, he added.

Also speaking at the conference was Robert Bonnie, senior environment and climate advisor to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. Enormous opportunities exist for the agricultural sector in climate change legislation, Bonnie told attendees. “If we do it right; if we get the incentives right,” he said.

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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

$2 Million “Shot in the Arm” for Washington State Algae Alliance

Earth Times
Posted : Mon, 07 Dec 2009 17:46:34 GMT
Author : Targeted Growth, Inc.

SEATTLE - (Business Wire) The Washington State Algae Alliance, comprised of bioscience firm Targeted Growth, Inc. (TGI), Inventure Chemical (Inventure) and Washington State University (WSU), will benefit from $2 million in funding through WSU as part of the 2010 Senate Energy and Water Development appropriations bill. U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) was instrumental in securing funding for the Alliance, which will jointly develop a new system for the production of sustainable and renewable fuels, chemicals, and chemical intermediates, creating jobs and furthering the state’s growing clean technology base.

“This funding will support cutting-edge research that will create jobs and continue to position Washington state as a leader in the clean energy economy,” said Senator Murray. “It provides a shot in the arm for Washington state biofuels research, and will help our country move toward cleaner and more efficient energy use.”

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USA remains most attractive country for renewable energy
07 December 2009

The United States remains the most attractive country overall for renewable energy, but China has moved ahead of Germany to take second spot in the rankings released by Ernst & Young.
The quarterly Renewable energy country attractiveness indices provide scores for national renewable energy markets, infrastructures and their suitability for individual technologies. The weighting in the latest rankings has been amended to give 68% for wind (both onshore and offshore), 15% for solar (PV and CSP) and 17% for biomass and other renewable energy technologies.

The USA scores in top spot in the ‘All Renewables’ index, with a 70 comprised of 71 for wind, 75 for onshore wind, 59 for offshore wind, 72 for solar PV, 76 for CSP, 64 for biomass / other, 67 for geothermal, and 68 for renewable energy infrastructure.

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Nanofarming Offers a Kinder, Gentler Way to Get Biofuel from Algae
Written by Tina Casey
Published on December 6th, 2009

One barrier to cost-competitive biofuel from algae is about to fall, and we may have nanofarming to thank for that. The new technology uses tiny nanoparticles to absorb free fatty acids from living microalgae. It is being developed by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames National Laboratory and Iowa State University, in partnership with biofuel specialist Catilin, Inc.

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Amyris to join Bunge, Cosan in cane bio-chemicals

Tue Dec 8, 2009 1:33pm EST

SAO PAULO, Dec 8 (Reuters) - U.S.-based Amyris Biotechnologies said on Tuesday it has signed agreements with Brazilian ethanol makers Cosan (CZZ.N), Bunge (BG.N) and Acucar Guarani (ACGU3.SA) to produce cane-based specialty chemicals and diesel.


Amyris has developed a second-generation biofuels technology using microorganisms to turn juice extracted from crushing cane into a biodiesel similar to the mineral-based fossil fuel.

"We'll invest in new production units located in (existing) mills to produce renewable chemicals," said Amyris Chief Executive John Mello on the sidelines of a press conference.

The new facilities will use cane juice from the three existing mills to produce chemicals which can be used in cosmetics, detergents, fuels and lubricants. They have a higher value than simple cane-based ethanol.

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Energizing the Woody Biomass Market

Biomass Magazine December 2009
By Rona Johnson

The race to meet renewable energy targets has increased the demand for saw dust, shavings and wood chips.

Woody biomass could be one of the fastest growing markets in the U.S. as competition for the resource heats up between pulp and paper mills and renewable energy plants.

About three years ago, William Perritt, who was reporting on wood fiber and lumber markets for RISI’s International Woodfiber Report and Crow’s Weekly Market Report, started making a case for tracking the wood biomass market. In October 2008, RISI’s Wood Biomass Market Report was started with Perritt as its executive editor.

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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Scientists at climate talks say major changes to the nitrogen cycle cannot be ignored

04 December 2009 International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP)

An international group of scientists say there is an immediate need for a global assessment of the nitrogen cycle and its impact on climate.

On a planetary scale, human activities, especially fertiliser application, have more than doubled the amount of reactive nitrogen in circulation on land. This massive alteration of the nitrogen cycle affects climate, food security, energy security, human health and ecosystem health. The long-term consequences of these changes are yet to be fully realised, but the human impact on the nitrogen cycle has so far been largely missed in international environmental assessments.

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Could cheap algae oil power our energy future?
By Cristen Conger
updated 11:09 a.m. CT, Wed., Nov . 18, 2009

Production on land is expensive, but costs could go down if brought to sea

Although algae is currently the most energy-dense biofuel source, the cost of producing algae oil is prohibitively expensive.

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that the biofuel would cost around $8 per gallon at the pump. Other experts have even projected prices of more than $50 per gallon because of inefficient production and harvesting methods.

However, a team of engineers plans to investigate whether algae commercially grown in the ocean on specialized platforms could reduce the high costs of biofuel production, potentially bringing our energy economy one step closer to shifting from fossil fuels to renewable resources.

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ADM gets $24.8 million to build biofuel plant in Decatur (Decatur, IL)
By CHRIS LUSVARDI - H&R Staff Writer Posted: Saturday, December 5, 2009 12:00 am

DECATUR - The U.S. Department of Energy announced plans Friday to help Archer Daniels Midland Co. develop and construct a nearly $36 million facility in Decatur that will convert biomass into renewable fuel.

ADM was awarded a $24.8 million grant for the project, which will help in its efforts to advance biofuels technology. An additional $10.9 million will come from private sources, according to the Energy Department.

Construction of the plant on ADM's main Decatur campus is expected to begin in 2010, with completion planned by 2012, ADM spokesman Roman Blahoski said.

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UN seen backing biofuels in carbon mechanism

The Economic Times
6 Dec 2009, 0016 hrs IST, REUTERS

RIO DE JANEIRO: A United Nations panel has approved the inclusion of biofuels in a global scheme to reduce carbon emissions, a move that should
boost investments in such projects, a Brazilian government official said on Friday.

“The United Nations has just approved liquid biofuels methodology as a basis for the CDM. Projects that include liquid biofuels for transport can be included,” Andre Amado, the Brazilian foreign ministry’s subsecretary for biofuels and technology, told Reuters in an interview. The CDM, or Clean Development Mechanism, part of the UN’s Kyoto protocol, promotes investments in emission-reducing projects in the developing world by companies and governments in rich nations.

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Peanut shells, corn stalks: China's alternative to coal?

CNN World
By Emily Chang, CNNDecember 6, 2009 9:55 p.m. EST

Beijing, China (CNN) -- Mountains of peanut shells are spread out across Shengchang Bioenergy's property on the outskirts of Beijing. Local farmers drive in and out, unloading dried corn stalks in exchange for a small fee.

The peanut shells, corn stalks and even tree bark are dried, ground and re-purposed. The end result: Biomass pellets that can be used as a replacement for coal.

Shengchang Bioenergy also makes a line of stoves and boilers in which the pellets can be burned. The company says the stoves are up to five times more energy efficient than traditional coal boilers and are slightly cheaper to operate.

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Federal grants for biofuels projects help cultivate California companies

Los Angeles Times Business
December 4, 2009 2:42 pm

The federal government this morning announced it will hand out $600 million for next-generation biofuels projects, including those being developed by several California companies.

“Advanced biofuels are critical to building a cleaner, more sustainable transportation system in the U.S.,” Secretary of Energy Steven Chu said in a statement. “These projects will help establish a domestic industry that will create jobs here at home and open new markets across rural America.”

Second-generation biofuels produce ethanol, diesel and jet fuel from wood waste, nonfood crops, algae and other feedstocks. San Diego in particular has become a hotbed for companies developing biofuel from algae.

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Wood pellet market set to grow, says report (The Timber Industry Magazine)
5 December, 2009

Wood pellets are underpinning the emergence of a new commodities business in biomass and pellet markets will see double-digit growth over the next five years, according to a new report by Pöyry Forest Industry Consulting.

“Wood pellets – the bioenergy feedstock solution? Global market, players and trade to 2015” says the global wood pellet market is and will continue to be a growth area.

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Potential bioenergy crops under study

Southwest Farm Press
Dec 4, 2009 11:02 AM, By Ron Smith, Farm Press Editorial Staff

Sorghum has been produced in the United States for several hundred years as a grain crop; it’s been a worldwide source of grain for much longer.

A hardy crop, drought tolerant and water efficient, sorghum provides a consistent source of livestock and human food. That consistency also makes it an ideal candidate for bioenergy production.

Researchers at Texas AgriLife Research in College Station are looking at various sorghum types and numerous hybrids to develop energy crops that provide consistent, high biomass production. Efforts include work on traditional grain sorghum hybrids, forage sorghums and sweet sorghum selections.

Forage sorghums may have the most potential for cellulosic ethanol production, says Bill Rooney, professor, soil and crop sciences. “Sweet sorghum accumulates sugar in the stalks, like sugar cane. Energy sorghums accumulate lignins and cellulose. They never flower and are more drought tolerant.”

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BCAP to Boost Biomass Harvest

Biomass Magazine December 2009
By Anna Austin

It will take time to determine if the Biomass Crop Assistance Program is a success. In the meantime, despite questions and concerns, the list of eligible biomass projects is growing by leaps and bounds.

A crucial question for farmers when weighing the benefits of growing biocrops or collecting ag residue is “What’s in it for me?” Not knowing if there will be a market for these crops has been the biggest deterrent for farmers when deciding to grow and harvest switchgrass, wheat straw, corn stover or other biomass crops. Farmers also have to consider the cost of harvesting, transportation and storage.

On the flip side, there’s also been uncertainty on the part of end users of the biomass materials, regarding whether the materials will be too costly or consistently available.

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Ethanol helps boost corn prices
The Register-Mail
Posted Dec 04, 2009 @ 02:08 PM

Corn, soybean exports to slow in spring.

Urbana — While the late, slow harvest and a solid rate of consumption explain much of the recent strength in corn and soybean prices, those factors do not appear to explain all of it. According to University of Illinois Economist Darrel Good, the market is well aware, for example, that the pace of U.S. soybean exports and export sales will slow dramatically by the spring of 2010.

“The seasonal decline may be much sharper than normal due to prospects for record South American production,” Good said. “The lack of profitability in the domestic production of livestock and livestock products and the sharp increase in availability of distillers grains point to weak feed demand for corn and soybean meal. In addition, corn and soybean acreage in the U.S. will likely increase in 2010 as a result of fewer acres of wheat and expired Conservation Reserve Program contracts.”

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Monday, December 7, 2009

Biofuels Digest report on We Are Green: “Always Clean 110″

Biofuels Digest
December 04, 2009 Jim Lane
By Biofuels Digest special correspondent J. B. Siewers

I find myself riding through a dreary Monday morning on my way to the University of Illinois (Chicago Campus) accompanying the We Are Green team as they are headed down to deliver a desk top solvent recovery still to the Environmental Health and Safety office of the campus. I had recently discussed the machines with Tom Boyd, General Manager for “We Are Green”, an environmentally focused firm, and an ex schoolmate of mine, and he offered to take me along to see how they are put to use.

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MSU lets “Freedom” ring as viable biofuel feedstock

Mississippi State University
By Patti Drapala
MSU Ag Communications

MISSISSIPPI STATE – Collaboration between a Mississippi State University research agronomist and Georgia’s self-proclaimed “sodfather” may offer the Southeast the “Freedom” of a viable grassy feedstock to capitalize on sustainable bioenergy production.

One focus of MSU’s research is giant miscanthus, or Miscanthus x giganteus, a warm-season Asian grass that many scientists believe has potential as a biomass crop for fuel. Researchers with the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station have been studying grassy biomass feedstocks for 12 years. Team leader Brian Baldwin went a step further in isolating, identifying and selecting a genotype of this species that fits agricultural production systems of Southeastern farmers.

Baldwin’s investigation culminated in the Freedom cultivar, which is uniquely suited to the South. Production of foundation stock for this grass has been licensed to turfgrass magnate Phillip Jennings of Soperton, Ga., who has incorporated his ideas about alternative energy into a new business venture, SunBelt Biofuels.

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Synth Pop: Will “video kill the radio star” and synthetic fuels at popular prices replace first-gen biofuels, and when?

Biofuels Digest
December 04, 2009 Jim Lane

In this years’s Hot 50, there’s one unmistakable trend: synthetic biology companies developing drop-in, renewable fuels at popular prices. “Magic bugs” from Amyris, LS9, Gevo, Qteros, Joule Biotechnologies, Synthetic Genomics and Virent, among others, are the backbone of the Synth Pop movement in bioenergy.

Where will it take us, and when? A profile in Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News and news from Amyris that they are buying into ethanol operations in Brazil to get a hold of low-cost sugars, tell a part of the tale. Will Synth Pop replace first-gen fuels – will video kill the radio start – and when, and how?

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USGC: Second-Ever Bulk Shipment of U.S. DDGS Arrives in China
Date Posted: December 4, 2009

China’s second-ever bulk shipment of U.S. distiller’s dried grains with solubles (DDGS) arrived this week.

U.S. Grains Council staff Cary Sifferath, senior director in China, and Sam Niu, assistant director in China, traveled to Shenzhen in southern China to see firsthand the unloading of the bulk vessel.

This year marked the first for China’s importation of the co-product of U.S. ethanol production.

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RISI Announces Launch of North America's Only Dedicated Wood Biomass Website

PR Newswire

BOSTON, Dec. 3 /PRNewswire/ -- RISI, the leading information provider for the global forest products industry, today announced the launch of a new website -- -- dedicated to providing solutions to North America's emerging wood biomass industry. provides a consolidated view of RISI's considerable wood biomass knowledge and information, including market analysis and information, wood biomass feedstock pricing and information on newly announced wood biomass projects. In addition, this website will be a platform for RISI to educate the marketplace on the opportunities and risks wood biomass presents. RISI, with over 25 years of experience providing information and solutions to the global forest products industry, is uniquely positioned to serve as the premium solutions provider for today's wood biomass markets.

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White House Mulls Tax Credits for Jobs

Washington, D.C. (December 3, 2009)
By WebCPA Staff

The White House convened a jobs summit in which President Obama heard from business and union leaders about various proposals for reducing unemployment, including tax incentives for job creation.

“It’s an idea we find worthy of further consideration,” said Obama.

Obama sat in on some of the discussions, including roundtables on infrastructure investment and green jobs. “There’s a broad consensus that the infrastructure is not where it needs to be,” he said. “How can we measure the costs and benefits of infrastructure investment and make sure that shovel ready means shovel ready.” Obama also heard ideas about how workers can be hired to retrofit buildings with more energy-efficient windows and technology.

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Cap-and-trade means plant-a-tree for U.S. farms

Charles Abbott
Thu Dec 3, 2009 6:48pm EST

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The lion's share of revenue earned by U.S. farmers for controlling greenhouse gases under a House-passed climate bill would be paid for growing trees, analysts told an Agriculture subcommittee on Thursday.

Green Business
"The primary source of agricultural offsets would be carbon sequestration through afforestation of crop and pastureland," said Joe Glauber, Agriculture Department chief economist.

Some 85 percent of revenue from agricultural offsets from 2015-2050 would arise from creation of woodlands, said Glauber. The Congressional Budget Office estimated forestry would account for 90 percent of agricultural offsets in 2030.

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Discovery May Lower Cost of Algae Biofuel

The Daily Californian
By Cristian Macavei
Contributing Writer
Thursday, December 3, 2009

Recent Finding Could Help Algae Grow More Efficiently, Making Cost Of Biofuel More Viable

UC Berkeley researchers now have a better understanding of algae, which may have implications for making biofuels more economically feasible.

In a study published in the journal Nature Nov. 26, the researchers determined the role that a certain protein plays in helping reduce the damage done to a cell by excess light. The protein helps protect the photosynthesis mechanism of the algae and can be used to make algae more productive as a biofuel source.

"What we're investigating is this mechanism that basically all photosynthetic organisms have (in order) to get rid of excess light energy," said Krishna Niyogi, a professor of plant and microbial biology at UC Berkeley and one of the leading researchers in the study.

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The 50 Hottest Companies in Bioenergy for 2009-10 announced

Biofuels Digest
December 02, 2009 Jim Lane

Renewable oils developer Solazyme took the #1 spot in the 2009-10 “50 Hottest Companies in Bioenergy” rankings.

The list recognizes innovation and achievement in bioenergy development.

The rankings were based 50 percent on votes from a 75-member panel of international selectors, and 50 percent on votes from subscribers of Biofuels Digest, the world’s most widely-read biofuels daily.

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Friday, December 4, 2009

EPA takes steps toward boosting ethanol blend in auto gas tanks (Kansas City Star)
Posted on Tue, Dec. 01, 2009 11:21 PM
The Kansas City Star

The Environmental Protection Agency took a couple of big steps Tuesday toward putting more ethanol in our gas tanks:

The agency said it was clear that raising the current limit of 10 percent ethanol in gasoline to 15 percent was needed to meet federal requirements for more ethanol production.

And it said, based on research so far, that vehicles starting with the 2001 model year appeared able to use the 15 percent blend without being damaged.

The EPA stopped short of approving the higher blend, something ethanol trade groups had hoped it would do this week. But the EPA said it was inclined to do so by next June, pending the results of another test being conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy on the effects of longer-term use of the 15 percent ethanol blend.

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Solazyme Named Top Company in Bioenergy for 2009-10
December 02, 2009 09:00 AM Eastern Time

Biofuels Digest Ranks Solazyme #1 in 50 Hottest Companies in Bioenergy

SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Solazyme, Inc., a renewable oil and bioproducts company using algal biotechnology, is ranked number one among the 2009-10 “50 Hottest Companies in Bioenergy” rankings, published today in Biofuels Digest, the world’s most widely read biofuels daily. The award, which more than 1400 companies were eligible for, recognizes innovation and achievement in bioenergy.

“It’s an honor for Solazyme to be selected for this award in such an important industry publication,” said Jonathan Wolfson, CEO, Solazyme. “Our team works hard every day to address the world’s critical need for energy alternatives, and to be recognized for our achievements is fantastic.”

Solazyme achieved a number of milestones in 2009 in its quest to use microalgae biotechnology to produce clean and scalable fuels, "green" chemicals, nutritionals and wellness products. Notable achievements include:

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US biomass plant breaks ground

Biofuels International
1 December 2009

Construction on a new biomass cogeneration facility has begun in the US.

US energy secretary Steven Chu broke ground at the opening of the $795 million (€526 million) biomass facility at Savannah River Site (SRS) in Georgia this week.

The new Biomass Cogeneration Facility will generate electricity and steam by burning more than 300 tonnes of wood and shredded tires per year.

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Gen. Wesley Clark to Speak at White House Jobs Summit
Posted by Joanna Schroeder – December 3rd, 2009

Ret. General Wesley K. Clark, who is the Co-Chairman of Growth Energy, will be speaking at the White House jobs summit today.

“Green Jobs” has been a hot topic since the new administration took office; yet not much traction has been gained in turning around unemployment rates, which are currently the highest since 1983. The summit was convened by President Barack Obama who took office during one of the country’s worst ever economic recessions. The goal of the forum is to conjugate business executives, economists and labor leaders to discuss ways to improve the economy and create jobs.

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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Corn Falls for Second Day After U.S. Delays Ethanol Decision
By Sungwoo Park

Dec. 2 (Bloomberg) -- Corn fell for a second day after U.S. regulators postponed a decision to raise ethanol usage in gasoline until mid-2010, prolonging uncertainty about demand prospects for the grain used to make the fuel additive.

The Environmental Protection Agency kept the blend at a maximum of 10 percent yesterday and said it may consider an increase after engine studies are completed. Ethanol producers had sought a rate of 15 percent.

“The delay is disappointing, which has pressured corn,” said Han Sung Min, a manager at the international marketing division of Korea Exchange Bank Futures Co. in Seoul. “Still, the longer-term prospect for the grain is bullish since the U.S. will eventually expand ethanol use.”

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GAO report explores water impacts of ethanol production, use (Chicago)
December 1, 7:56 PM
Seattle Energy Policy Examiner Jim DiPeso

Water could be a sleeper issue in determining how much and what kinds of biofuel crops are grown as a strategy for reducing oil dependence.

In a report published November 30, the Government Accountability Office said that "next-generation" ethanol feedstocks, such as Pacific Northwest timber slash, could reduce biofuel-related water consumption compared to corn. Not enough is known about the water impacts of relying on such feedstocks, however, because ethanol hasn't been produced from them at a large enough scale, the report said.

Water-stingy agricultural practices and use of non-potable water could reduce stress on fresh water supplies, but there are economic and logistical barriers to adopting such methods, the report said.

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EPA Signals Support for Higher Ethanol Blends but Delays Decision

The New York Times
By ALLISON WINTER of Greenwire
Published: December 1, 2009

U.S. EPA said today that it may allow the mixing of larger amounts of ethanol with gasoline, but the agency delayed a final decision on the matter until mid-2010 to allow for additional testing.

In a letter to biofuels advocate Growth Energy, EPA hinted that it is likely to support raising the ethanol limit above the 10 percent allowed in gasoline under current regulations. The agency said two tests it has completed on the 15 percent ethanol blend, known as E15, suggest that engines in newer cars will likely be able to accommodate the fuel.

"Should the test results remain supportive and provide the necessary basis, we would be in a position to approve E15 for 2001 and newer vehicles in the mid-year timeframe," EPA Assistant Administrator Gina McCarthy wrote.

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Agricultural cooperatives have role to play in biomass market

By Heather Thorstensen
Date Modified: 12/01/2009 11:22 AM
By Heather Thorstensen
Agri News staff writer

MINNEAPOLIS -- Agriculture cooperatives have a role to play in the emerging biomass energy market, said speakers at the Cooperative Network's annual meeting Nov. 18 in Minneapolis.

Cooperatives are valuable because of their relationships with grower-members, knowledge of agronomy and commodity pricing and their skills in processing, storing and delivering commodities.

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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Machines help move ethanol business along

Cole Gustafson, Agweek
Published: 11/30/2009

FARGO, N.D. — On Nov. 3, I participated in the Poet Corp.’s corn stover harvest demonstration day in Emmetsburg, Iowa.

Despite 35-degree temperatures and drizzle, it was fun to see a dozen different machines and technologies for collecting corn stover biomass for Poet’s cellulosic ethanol plant next door. All of the machines operated flawlessly, but economic implications varied considerably.

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Race to turn pond scum and other algae into affordable fuel heats up with new money, research (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma)
The Associated Press

Could the next green fuel be pea-green pond scum?

SEATTLE - (AP) -- Could the next green fuel be pea-green pond scum? Supporters think algae could someday be turned into cheap fuel for automobiles and airplanes, and are betting heavily with infusions of venture capital money and intensive research.

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

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

"I'm convinced algae will work, but it'll take a different, out-of-the-box approach," said Silicon Valley billionaire Vinod Khosla, delivering the keynote address at the Algae Biomass Summit in Seattle last month.

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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Sustainable Corn Production Supports Advanced Biofuel Feedstocks

By Ann Perry
November 24, 2009

Researchers worldwide are trying to economically convert cellulosic biomass such as corn stover into "cellulosic ethanol." But Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists have found that it might be more cost-effective, energy-efficient and environmentally sustainable to use corn stover for generating an energy-rich oil called bio-oil and for making biochar to enrich soils and sequester carbon.

Stover is made up of the leaves, husks, cobs and stalks of the corn plant, and could provide an abundant source of feedstock for cellulosic ethanol production after the grain is harvested. But removing stover from the field would leave soil more vulnerable to erosion, deplete plant nutrients and accelerate the loss of soil organic matter.

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Breaking News: Obama is going to Copenhagen

by Rebecca Lutzy on 11/25/2009 09:44

News outlets around the globe reported this morning that President Obama will attend part of the Copenhagen international UNFCCC climate summit. He plans to be at the summit during the early days, on December 9th, on his way to Oslo, Norway to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, and will give a major speech.

The timing is significant - Obama is not planning to return to Copenhagen for the final days (it ends December 18), which is when other heads of state will be there to participate in the negotiations. The President pledged that he would attend Copenhagen if his presence would help ensure a successful outcome. Some parties involved in the negotiations are urging Obama to consider returning in the final days as well.

Obama's decision to attend follows on news earlier this week that the White House will announce its emissions reduction targets in time for Copenhagen (Obama will promise 17% drop in greenhouse gases), which will align with Congressional targets in House and Senate legislation and with what we should expect to see in the final bill.

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Biofuels goal beyond ethanol

Western Farm Press
Nov 25, 2009 10:04 AM, By Hembree Brandon, Farm Press Editorial Staff

The use of biomass and other dedicated energy crops to produce second- and third-generation biofuels could potentially create an entirely new agricultural commodity sector.

If the U.S. is to reach the government-mandated target of producing 36 billion gallons of biofuels annually by 2022, “We will need to change the way we do business,” says a USDA official.

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA) specifies that less than half that amount, 15 billion gallons, can come from ethanol produced from grain, says Rajiv Shah, under secretary for Research, Education, and Economics.

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New Switchgrass Germplasm Collected in Florida

By Alfredo Flores
November 25, 2009

Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists and cooperators have collected 46 new populations of switchgrass in Florida, adding valuable new accessions to the germplasm collection of this potential bioenergy crop.
Switchgrass, a perennial warm season grass used for forage and soil conservation, is now being studied as a biomass crop for ethanol. These new additions to the switchgrass perennial grass collection could provide new genetic resources for biofuel feedstocks.
The research supports the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) priority of developing new sources of bioenergy. ARS is USDA’s principal intramural scientific research agency.

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Australian Government's vision for biomass innovation
Source: Government of Australia
Posted on: 25th November 2009

The Minister for Resources and Energy, Martin Ferguson AM MP, has outlined the Australian Government’s vision for biomass innovation, describing it as a significant opportunity to address energy security.

Addressing the Biomass Energy Investors Workshop in Canberra, Minister Ferguson emphasised the importance of biomass in the energy mix.

“The significance of sourcing energy from biomass is two-fold: to help in the transition to a low-carbon economy and enhance energy security through a broader range of fuels,” he said.

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U.S. Unlikely to Use the Ethanol Congress Ordered

The New York Times
Published: November 26, 2009

WASHINGTON — Two years ago, Congress ordered the nation’s gasoline refiners to do something that is turning out to be mathematically impossible.

To please the farm lobby and to help wean the nation off oil, Congress mandated that refiners blend a rising volume of ethanol and other biofuels into gasoline. They are supposed to use at least 15 billion gallons of biofuels by 2012, up from less than seven billion gallons in 2007.
But nobody at the time counted on fuel demand falling in the United States, which is what has happened during the recession. And that decline could well continue, as cars become more efficient under other recent government mandates.

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