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

Friday, February 26, 2010

Pink Sheet Persuasion

Biodiesel Magazine March 2010
By Nicholas Zeman

For many start-up companies in the clean energy sector, success means seeing its stock trade on the floor of a major stock exchange such as NASDAQ or the New York Stock Exchange. Until they have the revenue and profits, they must build their identities and persuade investors to their base with big statements and even bigger dreams.

It’s a world of memorandums of understanding, research and development partnerships, letters of intent, big statements and big dreams. Big dreams that prophesize the end of the hydrocarbon economy, reduced global pollution and a new economy based on rural development in impoverished countries, environmental conscientiousness and decentralized production. The companies that foretell this vision, however, often face the harsh realities involved with intense capital needs, technological development and the cut-throat competition inherent in commercializing scientific breakthroughs. It’s the world of over-the-counter bulletin board stock trading in the clean energy sector.

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Put a Tree in Your Tank: University of Maryland receives grant to turn poplars into biofuel
From The Associated Press, February 25, 2010 - 12:42 AM

COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) - Fuel for your car could grow on trees.

Researchers from the University of Maryland's College Park and Bowie State campuses are working to develop a poplar hybrid that could be used to make biofuels including ethanol, which is blended into gasoline and also used by flex-fuel vehicles. The tree wouldn't be taken from forests, but grown on plantations.

The researchers have received a $3.2 million, four-year grant from the National Science Foundation's Plant Genome Research Project.

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Ethanol, tissue projects win Purdue competition
Posted: February 25, 2010

Student-led companies that develop consumer products from the byproducts of ethanol production byproducts and a tissue-healing technology that also reduces scarring took top honors at Purdue University’s 23rd annual $100,000 Burton D. Morgan business plan competition.

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Today in Biofuels Opinion: (Algae)

Biofuels Digest
February 25, 2010

“The problem with algae is that it is simply not as far along in terms of the biology and engineered systems.”

Ron Pate, Sandia National Labs: “The DOE has not officially laid out an explicit timeline for algae biofuels commercialization, and I don’t know that they ever will. I have suggested in this and past presentations that getting algae biofuels to the point of commercial viability could take another decade, depending on how things progress over the next few years, but that is not an official DOE position. This is best described as my own personal observation, subject to revision as things progress.

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Ethanol tariff supporters, opponents square off for battle as year-end renewal date looms

Biofuels Digest
February 23, 2010

In Washington, ethanol-friendly lawmakers and the the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (UNICA) are beginning the first skirmishes of what will be a year-long battle over the renewal of the 54-cent US ethanol tariff. Brazilian sugarcane ethanol typically costs 50-80 cents per gallon less than US corn ethanol.

US lawmakers in coastal states looking for reduced emissions from sugarcane ethanol and lower ethanol prices are set against legislators in farm states as well as energy independence hawks. The ethanol tariff expires at year end.

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Invasive Biofuel Crops an Overlooked Danger

Environment News Service

GLAND, Switzerland, February 19, 2010 (ENS) - The risk that biofuel crops will become invasive and outcompete native species is increasing as more advanced biofuel crops are planted, according to new research into this previously neglected but potentially costly problem.

A new report by the nonprofit International Union for the Conservation of Nature, IUCN, finds it is "likely that the cost of an invasion by a biofuel feedstock or associated pest would, in the long run, outweigh any economic benefit offered by biofuel development."

"The economic costs of invasive species are extremely high," the IUCN report states, relying on a 2006 calculation by the Convention on Biological Diversity that puts the total annual cost of invasive species to the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, South Africa, India and Brazil at over US$100 billion.

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Purple Haze: New enzyme technologies aiming for oil parity with new feedstockase and woodstockase for biofuels

Biofuels Digest
February 23, 2010

"Purple haze all in my brain/ Lately things just don't seem the same/ Actin' funny, but I don't know why/ 'Scuse me while I kiss the sky" — Jimi Hendrix, "Purple Haze"
In the classic novella Animal Farm, a farm run by a collective of animals runs into trouble after the leadership discovers, and develops, an insatiable appetite for fermented sugars, the form of whiskey. But a loyal workhorse, Boxer, responds to every demand from the pigs for “more product!” with “I will work harder!”.

So it seems with enzymes — in recent days, new product releases from Novozymes, Genencor and Verenium — and news from the research labs of the University of Central Florida — have shown that enzyme technologies will continue to play a leading role in short-term and long-term innovations that are driving down the costs of biofuel production.

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Research effort seeks solutions to energy needs

Southwest Farm Press
Nov 17, 2009 11:03 AM, By Ron Smith, Farm Press Editorial Staff

The bar has been set high: one-third of the U.S. fuel supply to come from biofuel production and 900 million tons of biofuel stock to come from agriculture.

“That’s 100,000 trailer loads per day,” says Bob Avant, Texas AgriLife Research Bioenergy Program director at College Station.

To meet that challenge, Texas A&M AgriLife researchers from multiple disciplines are evaluating crops, production systems, harvest techniques and transportation to develop a system to help decrease the country’s dependence on foreign oil.

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Roasting biomass may be key process in bioenergy economy

February 23, 2010 ( -- Biorefineries may soon rely on a process akin to roasting coffee beans to get more energy-dense biomass.

A new collaborative study between Idaho National Laboratory and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) will investigate whether such roasting can create a more valuable product for the nascent biofuels industry. Initial studies show that driving moisture and volatile compounds from wood or straw could make the biomass more stable, compactable and energy dense.

"This could cut a lot of costs by providing a less expensive and higher-value product," said INL biofuels researcher Christopher Wright. "This technology has the ability to overcome biomass's moisture, mass and energy density problems, which make up a huge proportion of the cost barriers."

The technology he refers to is called "torrefaction" — heating biomass above 250 degrees Celsius in an oxygen-free environment. "It's not very different from roasting coffee beans," said Wright. But while coffee beans are roasted for flavor, biomass could be "torrefied" simply to improve its physical characteristics.

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Creditworthiness Key to Biomass Project Success

Biomass Magazine March 2010
By John Eustermann

Most biomass projects require the developer to raise large amounts of finance well in advance of breaking ground, let alone commercial operation. Although the debt markets are expected to rebound and the implementation of multiple state and federal financial incentives and capital sources have some saying they already see things opening up, arranging finance for a renewable energy project is not easy, and the route adopted to raise finance has a major bearing on how the project will be developed. It is therefore important that, at an early stage, consideration is given to the available financing options.

The push for renewable energy and the green economy combined with the multiple grants, guarantees, bonds and other stimulus programs and facilities have resulted in many options for biomass facility developers to consider when layering up their financial model. Though the applications and requirements differ from option to option, they share one threshold requirement: creditworthiness.

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Anaerobic Digestion Of MSW In Europe

BioCycle February 2010, Vol. 51, No. 2, p. 24
by Luc De Baere and Bruno Mattheeuws

By the end of 2010, expected installed anaerobic digestion capacity to treat mixed municipal solid waste and source separated biowaste will be about 6 million tons/year divided over 200 plants in 17 European countries.

SINCE the introduction of anaerobic digestion (AD) of municipal solid waste and biowaste (separated organics) in the beginning of the 1990s, adoption of the technology in Europe has been increasing. In the early years, only a handful of digesters running on biowaste or MSW were installed. Now, almost 200 of these digesters will be operating in Europe by the end of 2010. An inventory of the existing, contracted plants and plants under construction was conducted to provide an overview of the state of the technology in 2010.

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NDSU economist helps sort out biofuel’s future

Published February 23 2010
By: Mikkel Pates, Agweek

FARGO, N.D. — Need some help in deciding what to make into biofuels and what the government should be spending on it?

If you’re a North Dakotan, you’ve hired Cole Gustafson to do some of this thinking for you. Gustafson is North Dakota’s biofuel economist — a position expressly created by the North Dakota Legislature in 2007. Gustafson, who has been at NDSU since 1986, took on this role in 2007.

Gustafson often is on the road, but his office is in the newly refurbished and expanded facility, now known as Barry Hall, in downtown Fargo.

“We’re fostering closer ties to the college of business and are blending with the economics department. We have a dual mission to serve agriculture and to serve businesses broadly, in all economic aspects,” he says.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Pike Research Report Says Global Biodiesel Market to Reach $71 Billion By 2020

Biofuels Journal
Date Posted: February 22, 2010

Boulder, CO—A new wave of biodiesel will begin having a meaningful impact on world energy markets over the next several years, according to a recent report from Pike Research.

The cleantech market intelligence firm anticipates that, spurred by innovations in feedstocks such as waste grease, algae, and jatropha, biodiesel revenues will increase to $71.0 billion worldwide by 2020, up from $18.4 billion in 2010.

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Brownfield grass may be answer for biomass
Feb 22 2010 by Karen Dent, The Journal

GREEN energy could soon be generated on a large scale from grass grown on contaminated former industrial sites, including the "wilderness" once famously walked by Margaret Thatcher.

The humble reed canary grass – a native British plant which grows well on poor soil – topped a five-year trial carried out by experts at Teesside University to find the most productive biomass plant growing on brownfield sites. It easily beat the mostly commonly used biomass plant – short rotation coppice willow – and miscanthus, a Chinese plant grown widely in southern England as a feedstock for biomass power stations and boilers for public buildings, such as schools.

Like its competitors, the reed canary grass is turned into pellets or bricks, which are burnt to generate energy without adding to greenhouse gases or global warming.

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New UC Davis process yields more biodiesel fuel from oilseed crops (Woodland, CA)
Created: 02/20/2010 05:30:10 AM PST

Yields of biodiesel from oilseed crops such as safflower could be increased by up to 24 percent using a new process developed by chemists at UC Davis.

The method converts both plant oils and carbohydrates into biodiesel in a single process, and should also improve the performance characteristics of biodiesel, especially in cold weather.

A paper describing the method, which has been patented, is online in the journal Energy & Fuels.

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Cassava set to surge in China as ethanol feedstock, says report

Biofuels Digest
February 22, 2010

In China, Renewable Energy magazine profiled growth of the cassava ethanol industry in China, including a report that genetic research has mapped “95% of the genes and will provide data on the use of cassava as an energy source and its ability to survive in infertile and dry soil,” according to Peng Ming, director of the Institute of Biology of the Chinese Academy of Tropical Agricultural Sciences .

The focus of Chinese research has been isolating opportunities to extend cassava production into colder and drier areas. Currently, 60 percent of Chinese cassava is grown in Guanhxi province.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Major oil company enters ethanol industry

Royal Dutch Shell plc has plans to strike a deal with Brazil’s Cosan for a $21 billion a year ethanol joint venture. Shell will become the first major oil company to access ethanol on this scale. The deal will be Cosans largest entry into fuel distribution as well. Cosan purchased Exxon Mobil’s Esso chain of service stations for $1 billion in 2008. Shell and Cosan’s 50/50 joint venture features 4,500 filling stations nationwide.

The companies plan to more than double ethanol output to up to 5 billion liters a year from about 2 billion now, according to Shell’s downstream director, Mark Williams.

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Palm Oil, Sugar Cane Most Sustainable Energy Crops, Study Shows

Bloomberg Business Week
February 19, 2010, 04:09 AM EST More From Businessweek
By Rudy Ruitenberg

Feb. 19 (Bloomberg) -- Sugar cane grown in Brazil and palm oil from Malaysia and Indonesia rank as the most sustainable of the current generation of biofuel crops, according to researchers at Wageningen University in the Netherlands.

Researchers at the university’s plant-science department compared nine crops on criteria including soil erosion, water use for each unit of energy produced and nitrogen usage, according to Sander de Vries, author of the comparative study.

“In terms of net energy, sugar cane has the best score of all energy crops,” Wageningen University’s De Vries said by telephone yesterday. “A crop like corn, which scores poorly, is at 10 percent of that.”

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U of Illinois Sponsors Biofuels Seminars
Posted by John Davis – February 19th, 2010

The University of Illinois is sponsoring a series of seminars focusing on biofuels and renewable energy.

The school’s Center for Advanced BioEnergy Research (CABER) is holding the presentations, which are open to the public, Mondays at 4 pm at the U of I Urbana-Champaign campus:

“This bioenergy seminar series provides a broad range of topics from different perspectives – academia, research, government and industry,” said Dr. Hans Blaschek, director of CABER. “We welcome anyone interested in learning more about the research and technologies presented and encourage questions and participation from the audience.”

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Fueling the Future With Fish Tank Residue: Scientist Discusses Use of Algae as Biofuel

ScienceDaily (Feb. 19, 2010) — As Americans demand new and cleaner ways to meet the country's energy needs, researchers are turning to algae as a promising new fuel source. The approach has the potential to significantly reduce the nation's reliance on imported oil while contributing to rural economic development and lowering greenhouse emissions.

Experts project that algae-based biofuels could displace large volumes of diesel and jet transportation fuels. One of the field's leading experts, Sandia researcher Ron Pate, presented an overview of the current state of research and development and associated opportunities and challenges for algal biofuels during the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Diego on Feb. 19.

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Four States Gain New Cellulosic Ethanol Facilities
By Alison Pruitt on February 19, 2010

Thanks in part to U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) funding, a shift in biofuel production to cellulosic biofuels is underway as both demonstration and commercial-scale power plants are opening or moving closer to completion.

Cellulosic biofuels are produced from wood, grasses, or the non-edible parts of plants. Cellulosic ethanol has the advantage of abundant and diverse raw material compared to sources like corn and cane sugars. Conversely, it requires a greater amount of processing. According to DOE studies, one of the benefits of cellulosic ethanol is that it reduces greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 85% over reformulated gasoline. By contrast, starch ethanol (e.g., from corn), which most frequently uses natural gas to provide energy for the process, may not reduce GHG emissions at all depending on how the starch-based feedstock is produced.

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U.S. law assists Brazilian ethanol imports

Des Moines Register
By PHILIP BRASHER • • February 21, 2010

Washington, D.C. — The law that guarantees Iowa's ethanol producers a growing demand for their product also is creating a market for a foreign rival: Brazilian companies that make the fuel from sugar cane.

Brazilian ethanol already is coming into the United States. Like corn ethanol, the Brazilian product counts toward meeting the nation's annual mandates for conventional ethanol.

But Congress in 2007 also required refiners to start using more environmentally friendly alternatives, known as advanced biofuels, that would result in lower greenhouse gas emissions than conventional ethanol. For now, Brazil's sugar cane ethanol is the most widely available fuel that qualifies for mandates that will rise to 5 billion gallons by 2022.

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Exciting Enzymes at Ethanol Conference
Posted by Cindy Zimmerman – February 19th, 2010

Three different companies announced the introduction of new enzymes for cellulosic ethanol production at this week’s National Ethanol Conference in Orlando.

Verenium Corporation
Danisco Genencor

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Monday, February 22, 2010

EPA awards $17 million for climate change impact research on water, CO2 and more

Biofuels Digest
February 19, 2010

In Washington, the US EPA will award nearly $17 million in Science to Achieve Results (STAR) grants to universities across the country to study the consequences of climate change on air quality, water resources.

In addition, the EPA will fund studies on Climate Change and Carbon Sequestration. The carbon grants will investigate safe and effective ways to store and sequester carbon. This research will help determine if injecting carbon dioxide (CO2) deep into the ground threatens the environment and underground water resources.

More information about the grants and the grant awardees is here.

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Ethanol demand ticks up in 2010
Dave Hannon and Tom Stundza -- Purchasing, 2/17/2010 12:33:37 PM

Ethanol industry is ramping up production to meet increased demand
A recent report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) forecasts that ethanol demand will remain strong for an extended forecast period; as a result, corn demand and corn prices will remain high.

The USDA report says, "Although increases in corn-based ethanol production in the U.S. are projected to slow, ethanol demand remains high and affects production, use, and prices of farm commodities throughout the sector." The report goes on to say that "expansion in the U.S. ethanol industry is projected to continue, although the pace is assumed to slow from the rapid gains of the past several years."

The USDA maintains that corn is expected to remain the primary feedstock for U.S. ethanol production. And, according to the latest forecasts from the U.S. Department of Energy, projected ethanol production, which averaged 700,000 barrels/day in 2009, "increases to an average of 800,000 bbl/d in 2010 and 850,000 bbl/d in 2011." EIA forecasts that liquid fuel net imports (including both crude oil and refined products) will fall by 150,000 bbl/d in 2010 and then rise by 160,000 bbl/d in 2011, after having fallen by 1.42 million bbl/day during 2009."

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USDA's Vilsack backs revival of biodiesel credit

Reuters UK
Thu Feb 18, 2010 3:34pm GMT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack urged Congress on Thursday to reinstate the $1 a gallon biodiesel tax credit, calling it "an important credit" and "a support mechanism" for renewable fuels.

The credit expired at the end of 2009.

Farm groups and allies in Congress are seeking a revival retroactive to January 1, but do not have a legislative vehicle for it.

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Biofuels industry execs pick Congress as the most important branch of government for the biofuels industry

Biofuels Digest
February 19, 2010

In Florida, biofuels industry executives said that Congress” is the most important branch of government to the biofuels industry, slightly ahead of the Department of Energy with 29 percent. Coming in third was the Department of Agriculture at 17 percent, with President Obama and his Executive Branch coming in last 8 percent. The poll was conducted amongst readers of Biofuels Digest.

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Answers for your Questions about Biofuels

Biofuels Digest
February 19, 2010

In California, attendees at the Stanford-MIT Venture Lab event continued to flood the channels with follow-up questions to the expert panel from Green Pacific, AE Biofuels, SynGest, Chevron and Flagship Ventures.

The questions, combined with those that came in via cards passed around at the event, are an excellent example of those items that are “on people’s minds” when it comes to bioenergy projects.
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Policy changes key to a switch to biofuels
Published: Feb. 18, 2010 at 8:28 PM

DUBLIN, Ireland, Feb. 18 (UPI) -- Sweeping policy changes by governments worldwide are needed before a major switchover from hydrocarbons to biofuels can be realized as a remedial response to climate change, an expert survey of the industry said Thursday.

The report, promoted by Dublin's Research and Markets publishers as "a comprehensive, holistic and nuanced overview of the global biofuel industry," said governments need to make key policy shifts before biofuels can become a principal substitute for hydrocarbons worldwide and make an impact on climate change.

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Friday, February 19, 2010

UK’s Edinburgh Napier University, City University Hong Kong form Biofuel Research Centre in China

Biofuels Digest
February 18, 2010

In China, Edinburgh Napier University and City University Hong Kong have launched a Biofuel Research Centre that will be a sister to a smiler facility launched at Edinburgh Napier University in Scotland in 2007. The center aims to promote biofuels education, as well as to advance the study of biofuel and bio-based power generation in China, with a focus on advances in biobutanol.

The organizers of the center said that they expect to sign research pacts with other institutions on the Chinese mainland.

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Researcher finds new, cheaper way to produce ethanol fuel from waste
by Scott Merrill on February 18, 2010

Reducing gasoline dependency has been a hot issue for the developed world for some time now. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been very successful. Alternative fuel sources have been more expensive, or more toxic, to produce than gasoline, so gasoline is still the primary fuel source for many vehicles. New research coming from the University of Central Florida may be changing the game, though, with cheap and environmentally friendly ethanol produced from common organic waste products.

University of Central Florida professor Henry Daniell has developed a groundbreaking way to produce ethanol from waste products such as orange peels and newspapers. His approach is greener and less expensive than the current methods available to run vehicles on cleaner fuel – and his goal is to relegate gasoline to a secondary fuel.

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Algae potential to produce biodiesel

Southwest Farm Press
Feb 17, 2010 11:24 AM, By Ron Smith, Farm Press Editorial Staff

Microalgae has the potential to produce more biofuel per acre than any other potential source, according to Texas AgriLife research scientists.

Most of the technology necessary to grow and harvest algae already exists, says Ron Lacey, professor in Biological and Agricultural Engineering. “We just need to adapt the equipment and make the process less costly,” Lacey said last summer during a bioenergy media day at College Station.

“We’re working on growth and harvest and how to produce large scale in the field,” he said.

The efforts are boosted by a recent $4 million grant from the Governor’s Emerging Technology Fund and a matching $4 million from the U.S. Department of Defense. Texas A&M also has entered into a partnership with General Atomics, a San Diego high-technology company.

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Miami researcher wins grant from Department of Energy

The Oxford Press
By Meagan Engle, Staff Writer
Updated 2:35 PM Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Assistant professor is studying aspect of photosynthesis

OXFORD — Garden peas could lead to the science behind future bioenergy.

Carole Dabney-Smith, a Miami University assistant professor, is using the plants grown in the basement of Hughes Hall to research an aspect of photosynthesis. The project is part of a study being funded by the U.S. Department of Energy.

“Plants provide the best source of bioenergy,” said Dabney-Smith, who teaches chemistry and biochemistry. “Engineering a plant to make more of the protein it needs might enhance its ability to generate energy.”

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Biofuels International

Bioenergy International conference programme now available to view online!
17 February 2010

The conference programme for the upcoming Bioenergy International expo & conference 2010 on 5-6 May in Prague is now available to view online at:

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Brazil ETH takes over Brenco, forms ethanol giant

Thu Feb 18, 2010 1:40pm EST
By Roberto Samora

* Brenco, a smaller ETH rival, weakened by credit crisis
* Companies' combined revenue about $2.2 bln a year

SAO PAULO, Feb 18 (Reuters) - Brazilian ethanol and sugar company ETH has agreed to take over smaller, debt-laden rival Brenco to create one of the world's largest ethanol producers, the latest in a series of large acquisitions in the sector.

The combined company, called ETH Bioenergia, should have annual output capacity of 3 billion liters of ethanol by 2012 and annual sales of about 4 billion reais ($2.2 billion), the companies said in a statement announcing the deal on Thursday.

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U.S., Europe Going Opposite Way On Biofuels
February 12, 2010 - 5:18 pm
Jonathan Fahey

It is becoming ever more apparent that there is one big squishy variable in the calculations that determine whether biofuels help the planet or help destroy it. That variable is called the indirect land use charge, and the U.S. and Europe are coming up with very different answers for it.

The concept goes like this: Planting crops for biofuels in the U.S. or Europe may cause someone in Brazil or Indonesia to put more earth under the plow. Clearing forest and digging up soil releases lots of carbon into the atmosphere -- the very thing biofuels are supposed to be helping to prevent. So whatever carbon benefit biofuels do produce should be reduced by the amount released by new farming.

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U.S. a gas guzzler no more (Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota)
By STEVE EVERLY , McClatchy Newspapers
Last update: February 11, 2010 - 10:41 PM

American consumption has declined the past two years, and it's not expected to return to 2007 highs.

KANSAS CITY, MO. -- In 2007, the United States used more gasoline than ever and far more than any other country. It appeared America's growing appetite for gas would go on forever.

Well, it won't -- and things may never be the same.

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Cornell University Researchers Warn...

Biofuels Journal
Date Posted: February 15, 2010

U.S. Biofuel Policy Will Fail to Achieve Intended Environmental, Energy, and Ag Goals

Milwaukee, WI—US biofuel policies will fail to achieve the intended environmental, energy and agricultural goals, warns an article in the journal Applied Economics Perspectives and Policy (AEPP).

“A key feature of biofuels policy is the combination of mandate and subsidies that cause severe adverse effects,” said Harry de Gorter, co-author of the article and Professor in the Department of Applied Economics and Management at Cornell University.

“The analysis of biofuel policies is shown to be unique compared to all other environmental policy analysis and has implications for biofuels policy worldwide and also for renewable electricity policy.

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

CME distillers' dried grains futures start in April
Tue Feb 16, 2010 12:38pm EST

* Trading to start April 26
* Traders wary about volumes for new contract (Adds analyst, trade reaction, details)

By Mark Weinraub

CHICAGO, Feb 16 (Reuters) - CME Group Inc (CME.O) will launch futures contracts for distillers' dried grains, a byproduct of corn ethanol production that can be used to feed animals, the exchange operator said on Tuesday.

Trading in the distillers' dried grain contracts will start on April 26.

"This product will enable our feed customers to directly manage price risk of feed inputs that they haven't been able to before," Tim Andriesen, CME Group managing director for commodities, said in a statement.

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State of Ethanol Industry is Strong
Posted by Cindy Zimmerman – February 16th, 2010

Compared to last year, Renewable Fuels Association president and CEO Bob Dinneen faced a much happier crowd for the opening session of the 15th Annual National Ethanol Conference.

“A year ago, at this event, we met amidst the worst economic climate since the Depression. Commodity markets were in upheaval, investment dollars had evaporated, gasoline demand was falling, production costs were rising, plants were closing and the very foundation of our industry and our economy was shaking,” said Dinneen. “At that time, I summoned Winston Churchill to admonish you, ‘When you‟re going through hell, keep on going!’”

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Everyday Grass Could Provide Green Fuel

ScienceDaily (Feb. 16, 2010) — A five-year research project has come up with a way of generating green energy from a humble everyday grass.

Researchers at Teesside University's Contaminated Land and Water Centre began the project in 2004 to see which plants could best be grown on brownfield sites as a way of improving unsightly blots on the landscape.

Now, the research by the BioReGen (Biomass, Remediation, re-Generation) project team has revealed that reed canary grass can be turned into an excellent fuel for biomass power stations and, on a smaller scale, boilers in buildings like schools.

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Beyond the corn field: Balancing fuel, food and biodiversity


New report outlines trade-offs of biofuel production
The development of alternative fuel will greatly benefit the U.S., say scientists in an Energy Foundation-funded report published today by the Ecological Society of America (ESA), the nation's largest organization of ecological scientists. However, in order to effectively reap the social and economic benefits of biofuel production, U.S. policies need to address potential effects of land-use choices on our ecosystems.

In the report, scientists Virginia Dale, Keith Kline, John Wiens and Joseph Fargione review the current research on biofuel production and its potential effects on ecosystems. They also analyze the social, economic and ecological challenges of biofuel production and the most effective routes to developing sustainable, renewable fuel alternatives.

Biofuels are liquid fuels derived from biological materials, such as plant stems and stalks, vegetable oils, forest products or waste materials. The raw materials, called feedstock, can be grown specifically for fuel purposes or can be derived from existing sources such as agricultural residue or municipal garbage.

"There are several methods of biofuel production, all of which affect the ecological systems around us in ways that can reap benefits if feedstock type, management, transport and production choices are appropriate for the setting," says Virginia Dale from Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, TN. "In order to balance increasing demands on land for urban, industrial and agricultural use, policies need to incorporate socioeconomic and ecological principles in view of current and past land uses. Existing research provides the basis for weighing the costs and benefits of the different options for feedstocks, management and production within an overall design for sustainability of ecosystem services within a region."

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GM seeking more U.S. ethanol fueling stations


By Bernie Woodall
KISSIMMEE, Florida (Reuters) - General Motors Co's growing output of vehicles capable of running on ethanol-gasoline blends won't help cut polluting emissions or U.S. dependence on foreign oil until a slim network of stations dispensing ethanol is greatly expanded, GM Vice Chairman Tom Stephens said.

Half of GM's vehicle lineup will be able to run on a mix of 15 percent gasoline and 85 percent ethanol, called E85, by the 2012 model year, said Stephens, GM's vice chairman for global product operations.

"GM is spending about $100 million a year adding flex-fuel capability to our vehicles. We can't afford to leave this capital stranded," Stephens said in a speech on Tuesday at the Renewable Fuels Association conference.

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Pyromaniax: Mississippi State’s SERC group, among 18 others, developing advanced biofuels from pyrolysis

Biofuels Digest
February 15, 2010

It was Julius Caesar who famously divided Gaul into three parts — he also said he’d rather be first in a village than second at Rome, and he didn’t like February very much, eventually stealing a day from February so that the month named after himself, July, could have 31 days.

All of this comes to mind while dusting snow off my jacket and listening to Bill Batchelor, who moved from the Rome of bioenergy, Iowa, to the comparative village of Starkville, Mississippi to help shape a group of scientists at Mississippi State University into the Sustainable Energy Research Center.

A major objective: an end-to-end system, based on fast pyrolysis, that would produce 1/3 renewable gasoline, 1/3 renewable diesel and 1/3 renewable jet fuel from Mississippi’s trees and waste forest biomass.

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DARPA official says teams at $2 per gallon algal fuel, headed for $1; 50 Mgy scale by 2011

Biofuels Digest
February 15, 2010

In Washington, the special assistant for energy at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which has been conducting two algal fuels projects, said that “Darpa has achieved the base goal to date. Oil from algae is projected at $2 per gallon, headed towards $1 per gallon.”

Barbara McQuiston told the Guardian that the General Atomics and SAIC-led projects have been recording harvests at more than 1,000 gallons per acre and predicted that large-scale refining, at the 50 Mgy level, would commence as soon as 2011. DARPA is chasing a US military-based goal of obtaining half its fuel from renewable sources by 2016. In Afghanistan, if you could be able to create jet fuel from indigenous sources and rely on that, you’d not only be able to source energy for the military, but you’d also be able to leave an infrastructure that would be more sustainable,” McQuiston told the Guardian.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

New Obama biofuel? Government waste creates 'trashanol'

USA Today Green House
by Wendy Koch
Feb 15, 2010; 08:56 AM

Trashanol? Two companies, Denmark-based Novozyme and Maryland-based Fiberight, say a Chevy HHR can be powered by E85 fuel, which is 15% gasoline and 85% paper-based ethanol. They take office paper waste and pulp and treat it and then use enzymes to convert it into sugars that are fermented into ethanol. They say the fuel emits up to 90% less carbon dioxide than gas.

Yes, all those thousand-plus-page pieces of legislation can now be turned into a biofuel that the manufacturers say emits up to 90% less carbon dioxide than gasoline.

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Iowa Senate Committee Passes Ethanol-Only Bill
Posted: Feb 15, 2010

Another proposal would make all diesel fuel sold in Iowa to have at least 5 percent biodiesel.

DES MOINES – A bill before the Iowa legislature would require all Iowa gasoline stations to offer only ethanol-blended fuel, Radio Iowa reports. A Senate committee okayed the bill, which would go into effect January 2011. The bill would have exemptions for boats, lawn mowers, race cars and snowmobiles.

“It’s worked in Minnesota now for seven or eight years,” said Senate President Jack Kibbie. “There’s five other states that (have) some kind of requirement on ethanol, so to me it’s just a step forward.”

Kibbie estimates that Iowa motorists would consume an extra 30 million gallons of corn-based ethanol if the bill passes. However, not everyone is on board with the measure.

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Biomass-Coal Mix May Be Key to Cutting CO2, EcoSecurities Says

Bloomberg Business Week
February 15, 2010, 09:01 AM EST
By Catherine Airlie

Feb. 15 (Bloomberg) -- EcoSecurities Group Plc, the emissions investor acquired by JPMorgan Chase & Co., said mixing biomass with coal may prevent “tens of millions” of tons of carbon dioxide from being released into the air.

The United Nations approved EcoSecurities’s so-called co- firing process last December for mixing coal and biomass, organic matter such as wood-chip, straw and sugar cane waste, said Paul Soffe, associate director at EcoSecurities, in a telephone interview on Feb. 12. That means EcoSecurities can earn tradable emissions credits for what he called one of the most important ways for reducing CO2 emissions.

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Obama's Biofuels Boost
Issue Date: CSP Daily News, February 16, 2010
EPA finalizes rule to implement renewable fuels standard of 36 billion gallons by 2022

WASHINGTON -- Earlier this month, President Barack Obama announced a series of steps his administration is taking as part of its comprehensive strategy to enhance American energy independence while building a foundation for a new clean energy economy, and its promise of new industries and millions of jobs.

At a meeting with a bipartisan group of governors from around the country, the President laid out three measures that will work in concert to boost biofuels production and reduce our dangerous dependence on foreign oil.

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Oil groups mount legal challenge to Schwarzenegger's tar sands ban

• Californian legislation branded 'unconstitutional'
• Lobby group includes UK energy companies

Terry Macalister, Sunday 14 February 2010 18.58 GMT

A lobby group that includes BP and Shell in its membership has launched a legal challenge against low-carbon legislation in California that in effect rules out the use of oil from Canadian tar sands. The action by the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association (NPRA) comes amid growing political, investor and consumer pressure on US oil companies not to participate in the carbon-intensive tar sands of Alberta.

A NPRA statement said the legislation was unlawful for a number of reasons, including the imposition of "undue and unconstitutional burdens on interstate commerce".

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Exports of ethanol byproduct up sharply

Des Moines Register
Blog post by Philip Brasher • • February 15, 2010

Exports of a key byproduct of ethanol production, distillers grains, were up 24 percent last year. Some 5.6 million metric tons of the livestock feed worth about $1 billion were shipped out of the country last year, the Renewable Fuels Association said today, citing data from the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service. Those exports represented about 18 percent of the total produced last year.

According to the trade group, the exported distillers grains represent the equivalent in feed of t.4 million metric tons of corn, or 212 million bushels, and 1.6 million metric tons of soybean meal.

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Forecast for more ethanol use, EPA requirement benefits corn

Des Moines Register
by PHILIP BRASHER & DAN PILLER • • February 14, 2010

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's monthly supply and demand report is bullish on ethanol, saying that demand for corn as ethanol feedstock will be up 100 million bushels from previous estimates and noting that December corn usage for ethanol was up 16 percent from the previous year.

The USDA said that corn used for ethanol is projected 100 million bushels higher, reflecting the latest ethanol production data from the Energy Information Agency.

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Novozymes announces $2 per gallon cellulosic ethanol will arrive in 2011; dramatic enzyme breakthrough

Biofuels Digest
February 15, 2010

In Denmark, Novozymes announced that productivity increases with its new Cellic CTec2 enzymes have brought enzyme costs down to 50 cents per gallon, and will enable the biofuel industry to produce cellulosic ethanol at a price below USD 2.00 per gallon for the initial commercial-scale plants that are scheduled to be in operation in 2011. This cost is on par with gasoline and conventional ethanol at the current US market prices.

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Genencor Introduces Accellerase(R) DUET

PR Newswire

A Breakthrough Enzyme Product for Cellulosic Biofuels Development

PALO ALTO, Calif., Feb. 15 /PRNewswire/ -- Genencor, a division of Danisco A/S, today introduced Accellerase® DUET at the Renewable Fuels Association's 15th Annual National Ethanol Conference in Orlando, Fla. This product is the latest generation in the company's line of enzymes used to convert biomass into sugars, a critical step in the production of cellulosic ethanol and other advanced biofuels and biochemicals from non-food feedstocks.

"Genencor has a long tradition of commitment to addressing the need for alternative, renewable fuels to help combat climate change," says Philippe Lavielle, executive vice president of business development for Genencor. "The renewed commitment earlier this month by the Obama Administration to support the rapid development of renewable fuels is encouraging and exciting. With more than 10 years of scientific investment in this area and a world class, global manufacturing infrastructure, Genencor is now ready to support the fast deployment of cellulosic biofuels. Accellerase® DUET is set to become the standard that this industry is looking for in terms of cost and performance."

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

‘Beeting’ a Path to Advanced Biofuels

Ethanol Producer Magazine March 2010
By Anna Austin

A three-way partnership in North Dakota aims to utilize one of the state’s top crops for the development of sugar beet-to-biofuel plants in five regions.

The brisk air that seeps into North Dakota in the fall is a precursor to what is usually a long, snowy winter. For many it also indicates time to begin an event comparable to a modern-day gold rush—sugar beet harvest.

In roughly one month’s time, North Dakota growers harvest close to 5 million tons of sugar beets. North Dakota and Minnesota combined produce about 55 percent of the nation’s sugar beets every year. With the exception of a few northern counties, beets are grown throughout the Red River Valley and along the Minnesota River in west central Minnesota. Researchers at North Dakota State University in Fargo are aiming to change that as part of a much larger project—one that they hope will result in a statewide sugar beet-to-biofuel industry.

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Brazil Keeps Import Tariff on Ethanol at Least Until July

Brazzil Magazine
2010 - February 2010
Written by Newsroom
Friday, 12 February 2010 20:48

As announced by the Brazilian minister of Agriculture, Reinhold Stephanes, the reduction of the import tariff on ethanol has been postponed until July. Upon leaving the meeting of the Foreign Trade Board (Camex), he informed that the tariff reduction has been removed from the guidelines and will only be discussed again in five months.

According to the minister, the beginning of the sugarcane crop, in March, would render an eventual reduction of the import tax ineffective. "If we were to eliminate the tariff now, nothing would change with regard to fuel prices, because the sugarcane crop is going to start and prices would drop anyway."

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UNL Begins Expansion for Algae Research
Posted by Joanna Schroeder – February 12th, 2010

Algae research continues to get a lot of focus. University of Nebraska-Lincoln has announced that it will expand its algae research center this year, dedicating more space in the Beadle Center greenhouse for the work. As reported by Biomass Magazine, the university received $1.9 million in federal funding for it current research in alternative energy and is anticipating additional funds.

Scientists, using natural algae strains, will begin by growing algae in bags. From there, they will move to oblong ponds. Along the way, they hope to achieve three goals as identified by Paul Black, a lipid biochemist at UNL who will be participating in the study: identify the best strains for maximum oil production; identify optimal growing conditions; and modify the algae for maximum cell density.

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RISI Releases Wood Biomass Market Report

Report details new draft rules for Biomass Crop Assistance Program

RISI, a Boston-based research company serving the forest products industry, has released its Wood Biomass Market Report, which comments that new "draft" rules announced by the Farm Services Agency (FSA) for the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) come closer to providing assurances that wood for higher-value products will not be diverted for use as biomass. The report, which is published monthly by RISI, indicates that since the program's inception last year, there has been concern among traditional forest products players that the BCAP would drive up prices for composite panel furnish, raw material, pulpwood and even some low-grade saw logs.

The report also states that payments made through the BCAP program are just now flowing to the market in earnest from a $517 million allocation that is valid through March 31, 2010. While these payments do not appear to have had adverse effects to date on pulp and panel producers, this is due almost solely to market conditions and should not be a signal as to the true effect the BCAP program could have if new rules are not enacted.

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Manchester scientists to look for lighter transport materials
February 12, 2010 - by Lisa Sibley, Cleantech Group

UK university discovers a gene that could help increase biomass for fuel and receives £5.7M grant to help reduce environmental impact of transport.

University of Manchester scientists are working to develop new super-light materials for building greener vehicles and aircraft.

A 5.5-year collaborative project, led by Professor George Thompson in the university’s school of materials, is looking to find ways to reduce the environmental impact of transport, including improving the design of high performance light alloys.

The program has received a £5.7 million ($9 million) grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, which supports major research challenges.

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Monday, February 15, 2010

Agencies issue new rules to boost biofuels production (Government Executive)
By Katherine McIntire Peters
February 11, 2010

The Environmental Protection Agency and the Agriculture Department last week published new rules aimed at increasing production of biofuels. The steps are part of the Obama administration's broad plan to lay the groundwork for a new clean energy economy less dependent on imported petroleum.

EPA published a final rule implementing renewable fuel standards included in the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act. The standard will require biofuels production to grow from 11.1 billion gallons in 2009 to 36 billion gallons in 2022, with 21 billion gallons coming from advanced biofuels.

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Biobutanol: Friend or Foe?

Ethanol Producer Magazine March 2010
By Erin Voegele

Given the immense challenges faced by the ethanol industry over the past 18 months, it isn’t surprising that some may be inclined to view biobutanol as competition. However, future biobutanol producers adamantly describe themselves as allies of ethanol production.

Those working to develop U.S. biobutanol production stress that they should not be seen as competitors to the existing ethanol industry any more than cellulosic ethanol should be seen as a competitor to corn ethanol. Rather, they note that producers of all biofuels share the same goals, and will be valuable allies in meeting the second stage of the renewable fuel standard (RFS2) requirements, limiting U.S. dependence on foreign oil, and furthering the political initiatives of the renewable fuels industry.

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Questions About Biofuels’ Environmental Costs Could Alter Europe’s Policies

The New York Times
Published: February 11, 2010

BRUSSELS — A top European farm official has suggested that yet-to-be-released studies by the European Commission could be used to “kill” heavily promoted and subsidized biofuels by focusing on their total environmental impact.

The suggestion, written in the margins of internal correspondence seen by The International Herald Tribune, could foreshadow a further retreat from the biofuel-friendly policies that the commission once called crucial in the fight against climate change.

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Shell's New Biofuels Bet with Cosan Is Great News for Codexis

Seeking Alpha
by: The Burrill Report February 09, 2010

A new $12 billion joint venture in the offing between Royal Dutch Shell (RDS.A) and Cosan (CZZ) is likely to scale up sugarcane ethanol production and distribution in Brazil and beyond, holding the potential to eventually deliver 4 billion to 5 billion barrels of the biofuel to motorists each year.
"Our size, degree of sophistication and stage of development means we need a partner that not only shares our vision, but also has access to international markets to help us deliver our growth potential," says Rubens Ometto Silveira Mello, Cosan's board chair.

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Sustainability Certification: Welcome to the Maze

Ethanol Producer Magazine March 2010
By Robert Vierhout

After a long struggle to get the European law on renewable energy in place, the biofuels industry is now approaching the second hurdle: implementation. European laws are called directives because they do not regulate in great detail and are clarifed through implementation rules called decisions. Thus, the Renewable Energy Directive leaves many details open for development.

One issue that will cause headaches and uncertainty for the industry will be delivering proof that biofuels comply with sustainability criteria no matter where on the globe the crops are cultivated or the biofuel is produced.

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Third suit filed against California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard on constitutional grounds

Biofuels Digest
February 12, 2010 Jim Lane

In Washington, the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association has joined the American Trucking Association and other groups in a third bid to overthrow the California low-carbon fuel standard on constitutional grounds. The most prominent suit to date had been filed by Growth Energy, suggesting that the LCFS violates the supremacy clause of the Constitution.

The NPRA suit alleges that the LCFS will simply mean that the fuel, mandated under the Renewable Fuel Standard, will be used elsewhere, instead of California, and by requiring more transportation it will increase the greenhouse gas emissions it seeks to reduce. California Air Resources Board chairwoman Mary Nichols called the lawsuit “shameful”.

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Friday, February 12, 2010

Verenium Introduces New Enzyme at Upcoming RFA National Ethanol Conference

PR Newswire

- Xylathin(TM) xylanase rapidly degrades xylan significantly improving the economics of processing wheat into fuel ethanol -

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Feb. 11 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Verenium Corporation (Nasdaq: VRNM), a pioneer in the development of next-generation cellulosic ethanol and high-performance specialty enzymes, today announced the introduction of Xylathin, a highly active enzyme designed to significantly improve the economics of fuel ethanol production from cereal grains. Xylathin rapidly breaks down xylan, a compound found in cereal grains such as wheat, rye and barley and significantly reduces mash viscosity. This faster acting enzyme allows producers to shorten retention times and reduce enzyme dose. Xylathin also reduces grain water retention lowering grain drying energy requirements.

"Verenium is pleased to announce the launch of its new enzyme, Xylathin, further expanding its product portfolio in the grain ethanol market," said Janet Roemer, Verenium's Executive Vice President, Specialty Enzymes Business. "Xylathin is effective over a wide temperature and pH range allowing ethanol producers greater operational flexibility and significant reductions in processing costs."

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Ethanol Producers Face Current, Future GHG Emissions Reporting Concerns

Ethanol Producer Magazine March 2010
By Wade Watson

Thoroughly understanding the EPA’s greenhouse gas reporting rules will be critical for ethanol producers in 2010 and beyond.

The U.S. EPA passed its final rule Sept. 22, for mandatory reporting of greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions. Affected companies were required to begin collecting data Jan. 1, with the first GHG emission reports due March 31, 2011. Ethanol was not named as a source category in the final rule, however, the EPA will be reviewing the final rule in 2010 and ethanol may be added as a source category.

For now, ethanol producers must meet GHG reporting requirements if they emit 25,000 metric tons or more of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) per year through stationary fuel combustion. The requirement is specified in the final rule’s Subpart C: General Stationary Fuel Combustion Sources.

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UW-EC begins testing wood as biomass for coal-burning plant

The Badger Herald
By Adelaide Blanchard
Thursday, February 11, 2010 1:59 a.m.

High-efficiency fuel source expected to make up 10 to 15 percent of power production

University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire began the first of many trial runs Wednesday to test the efficiency of wood as a biomass in its coal-fired power plant.

The power plant, which provides energy to university buildings on campus, is exploring biomass options with high-efficiency wood pellets expected to replace 10 to 15 percent of coal usage at the power plant.

The wood pellets have been broken down to have all the moisture removed from them, which increases their energy efficiency as a fuel, said Jim Franklin, supervisor at the UW-Eau Claire power plant.

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USDA scientists sequence genome of grass that can be a biofuel model crop
Published: Wednesday, February 10, 2010 - 13:28 in Biology & Nature

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists and their colleagues at the Department of Energy (DOE) Joint Genome Institute today announced that they have completed sequencing the genome of a kind of wild grass that will enable researchers to shed light on the genetics behind hardier varieties of wheat and improved varieties of biofuel crops. The research is published today in the journal Nature. "Energy security looms as one of the most important scientific challenges of this century," said Molly Jahn, USDA Acting Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics. "This important research will help scientists develop switchgrass varieties that are more suitable for bioenergy production by identifying the genetic basis for traits such as disease resistance, drought tolerance and the composition of cells."

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Draft version of jobs bill contains US biodiesel tax credit extension

Biofuels Digest
February 10, 2010 Jim Lane

In Washington, a draft version of the new jobs bill working its way through the Congress includes an extension of the expired biodiesel tax, and Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa told reporters that he will “insist that expired tax provisions including the biodiesel tax credit” stays there. The expiration of the $1-per-gallon tax credit, after the Senate became bogged down in health care legislation, led to a near halt in US biodiesel production.

“The tax credit was allowed to expire at the end of 2009 due to political calculations by congressional leaders, putting biodiesel production and jobs in jeopardy,” Grassley said. “The sooner the tax credit is restored, the sooner biodiesel-related facilities and jobs can be saved from going under.”

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2010 Outlook for Renewable Energy
February 09, 2010 11:00 AM Eastern Time

Industry Leaders Call for Immediate Passage of Key Policies To Create Jobs and Maintain American Competitiveness

WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Today, top executives in the renewable energy sector gathered to applaud 2009’s strong renewable energy development but emphasized the need for Congress to swiftly enact key policies to continue accelerated growth across the entire sector in order to add jobs and boost economic growth in 2010.

“Policy matters in tapping hydropower’s tremendous growth potential in every state, which will lead to the creation of well-paying, family-supporting jobs”
.Executives stressed that if these policies are not enacted, the renewable energy sector could face a downturn in investment and jobs in 2010. Participants in today’s press conference represented the full scope of the renewables sector, including Denise Bode, CEO, American Wind Energy Association (AWEA); Linda Church Ciocci, Executive Director, National Hydropower Association (NHA); Robert Cleaves, President and CEO, Biomass Power Association (BPA); Karl Gawell, Executive Director of the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA); and Rhone Resch, President and CEO, Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).

The renewable energy leaders called for Congress to pass a strong national renewable energy standard (RES) with clear near- and long-term goals, along with expansion and extension of credit incentives, and comprehensive legislation. These policies will maintain American competitiveness and attract tens of billions of dollars of investment in clean energy production and manufacturing facilities. A major new study conducted by Navigant Consulting, Inc. reveals that a 25% by 2025 national RES would result in 274,000 more renewable energy jobs than a no-national RES policy scenario.

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Gene discovery to increase biomass needed for green fuel

The University of Manchester
10 Feb 2010

Manchester scientists have identified the genes that make plants grow fatter and plan to use their research to increase plant biomass in trees and other species – thus helping meet the need for renewable resources.

“The US has set the ambitious goal of generating a third of all liquid fuel from renewable source by the year 2025. Estimates suggest to reach their goal they would need 1 billion tonnes of biomass, which is a lot,” says Professor Simon Turner, one of the University of Manchester researchers whose BBSRC-funded study is published in Development today (Wednesday 10th February 2010).

“Our work has identified the two genes that make plants grow outwards. The long, thin cells growing down the length of a plant divide outwards, giving that nice radial pattern of characteristic growth rings in trees. So you get a solid ring of wood in the centre surrounded by growing cells. Now we have identified the process by which the cells know how to grow outwards, we hope to find a way of making that plants grow thicker quicker, giving us the increased wood production that could be used for biofuels or other uses.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

MAES retools, renames facility to fuel Michigan’s bioeconomy efforts

Michigan State University
Published: Feb. 08, 2010 E-mail Editor

EAST LANSING, Mich. — To better assist the state’s biomass producers and the emerging bioenergy industry, the Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station is retooling and renaming one of its Upper Peninsula facilities.

One of 15 MAES specialized research facilities around Michigan, the Upper Peninsula Tree Improvement Center, or UPTIC, near Escanaba has been renamed the Michigan State University Forest Biomass Innovation Center to emphasize the evolving focus of MAES research activities there.

“The old name speaks to a traditional scope of activities – fiber farming research, silviculture, forest genetics and forested wetland research – that were appropriate when UPTIC was established in 1986,” said MAES Director Steve Pueppke, who also is director of the MSU Office of Biobased Technologies. “These activities have not ceased, but with the advent of the bioeconomy and MSU’s strategic focus on it, refining our programs in Escanaba and renaming the facility make good sense, both geographically and economically.”

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Corn Ethanol Gets Obama's Support
Jonathan Fahey, 02.09.10, 06:00 AM EST

EPA mandate for more corn ethanol puts brighter sheen on the biofuel.

Score another one for the corn farmers. Corn ethanol has long been ridiculed as a vote-getting farmer-subsidy program that does little or nothing to help the nation reduce its dependence on foreign oil or cut its greenhouse gas emissions.

But suddenly, corn doesn't look so bad, according to the Obama administration. EPA Chief Lisa Jackson said on Feb. 3 that after considering the latest science on crop yields, land use and ethanol-production efficiency, corn ethanol can be quite a good thing, after all. Those findings were incorporated into a rule implementing a congressional mandate for biofuel use nationwide that will allow at least an extra 2 billion gallons of corn ethanol to be produced and perhaps much, much more.

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Chu says that DOE has released only $2.1 billion out of $37 billion in Recovery Act funds
February 09, 2010 Jim Lane

In Washington, Energy Secretary Steven Chu said, in Senate testimony regarding the FY 2011 budget, that only $2.1 billion of the $37 billion in Recovery Act funding given to Energy to disperse had been spent. Chu said that the complex review process required for projects had slowed the disbursement, and blamed state and local governments were having trouble absorbing the bureaucratic requirements associated with the dispersal of funds.

However, a report in the Wall Street Journal said that “Massachusetts officials say Dr. Chu’s agency took nearly seven months to determine whether the state’s proposal to spend $55 million on insulation, window replacement and other projects required a review under the National Environmental Policy Act, a federal law that requires agencies to make sure federally funded projects won’t harm the environment.” An internal review by the Department’s inspector general found in december over staffing shortages and the risk of fraud.

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Missouri researchers develop algal fuels ecosystem using brine shrimp, tilapia

Biofuels Digest
February 03, 2010 Jim Lane

In Missouri, researchers at the University of Missouri have released details of an ecosystem for producing renewable fuel oil from harvested brine shrimp, which in turn consume algae cultivated in open raceway ponds adjacent to a 50 MW natural gas power plant.

The researchers say that brine shrimp take care of the problem of harvesting algae, and themselves are separated by more traditional processes into oils, proteins, and waste matter that can be converted to biogas via anaerobic digestion. The system can produce up to 500 gallons of biodiesel per acre, according to the research team. Tilapia are also introduced into the system to consume excess algae as well as other microorganisms, and keep the system productive and water clean.

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USB finds that US soybean data nine years out of date...
February 09, 2010 Jim Lane provides updates with material changes in lifecycle analysis

In Missouri, the United Soybean Board (released a new peer-reviewed life cycle profile conducted by Omni Tech International. Currently, data included in the Department of Energy’s U.S. Life Cycle Inventory is based on three years, 1998 to 2001. The project aimed to incorporate date from 2001-2007.

Key findings: The average soybean yield for 2004-2007 was 42.3 bushels per acre. This represents a 12 percent increase over the data (1998-2000 average) used in the current U.S. LCI database. The release of nitrous oxide (N2O), a greenhouse gas, is 85% less than the data contained in the current U.S. LCI Database. The updated data also show approximately 20% less direct energy used in soybean farming due to reduced diesel and gasoline usage, a 45% energy reduction by soybean processing centers and a 27 percent energy use reduction by biodiesel processing centers.

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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

EPA ethanol rules good news for farmers

The Witchita Eagle
Posted on Sun, Feb. 07, 2010

The EPA’s conclusion that growing, harvesting, making and transporting corn-based ethanol generates less greenhouse gas than producing gasoline is good news for ethanol producers.
Ethanol producers are claiming a significant victory after the federal government last week bolstered their long-standing claim that ethanol is friendlier to the environment than gasoline.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued new rules and targets for biofuels called the National Renewable Fuel Standard.

The EPA concluded that growing, harvesting, making and transporting corn-based ethanol generates 20 percent less greenhouse gas than producing gasoline.

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University of Illinois Scientists Find High-Protein DDGS Provide Valuable Feed Options for Swine Producers
Date Posted: February 5, 2010

As swine producers continue to find ways to survive in today’s economic situation, researchers at the University of Illinois are exploring alternative feedstuffs in growing pig diets to provide producers with more options.

Hans H. Stein, U of I associate professor in the department of animal sciences, said his team’s research has shown that high-protein distillers dried grains can replace 100 percent of the soybean meal in a diet fed to finishing pigs without any effect on growth performance or carcass characteristics as long as the diets are fortified with crystalline Lysine, Threonine and Tryptophan.

High-protein distillers dried grains are produced through a fractionation technology.

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EPA Finalizes RPS

EPA - Renewable Fuels Standard Fact Sheet

EPA Finalizes Regulations for the
National Renewable Fuel Standard Program for 2010 and Beyond

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is finalizing revisions to the National Renewable Fuel Standard program (commonly known as the RFS program). This rule makes changes to the Renewable Fuel Standard program as required by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA). The revised statutory requirements establish new specific annual volume standards for cellulosic biofuel, biomass-based diesel, advanced biofuel, and total renewable fuel that must be used in transportation fuel. The revised statutory requirements also include new definitions and criteria for both renewable fuels and the feedstocks used to produce them, including new greenhouse gas (GHG) emission thresholds as determined by lifecycle analysis. The regulatory requirements for RFS will apply to domestic and foreign producers and importers of renewable fuel used in the U.S.

Link to the fact sheet (PDF)

Restoration of tax credit is vital, D-FW biodiesel producers say
Saturday, February 06, 2010 1:55 PM
By Jack Z. Smith, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Texas

Feb. 6--The struggling U.S. biodiesel industry got some good news Wednesday when President Barack Obama announced initiatives designed to expand the use of biofuels.

But business leaders preparing for a national biodiesel conference in Grapevine next week say there's another step vital to the industry's future.

They want Congress to restore the $1-per-gallon tax credit for biodiesel that expired Dec. 31.

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Biomass Crop Assistance Program to Spur Production of Renewable Energy, Job Creation

Press Release No. 0046.10

USDA Farm Service Agency Seeks Comments on Proposed Rule

WASHINGTON, February 3, 2010 – As President Obama announced earlier today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture today issued a proposed rule for the new Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) that intends to spur the expansion of dedicated non-food crops for renewable energy and biofuel production. A public comment period will continue for 60 days after the rule is published in the Federal Register.

"Advancing biomass and biofuel production holds the potential to create green jobs, which is one of the many ways the Obama Administration is working to rebuild and revitalize rural America," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "Facilities that produce renewable fuel from biomass have to be designed, built and operated. Additionally, BCAP will stimulate biomass production and that will benefit producers and provide the materials necessary to generate clean energy and reduce carbon pollution."

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Advanced Engine-Control System Reduces Biodiesel Fuel Consumption and Emissions

ScienceDaily (Jan. 27, 2010) — Researchers from Purdue University and Cummins Inc. have developed an advanced "closed-loop control" approach for preventing diesel engines from emitting greater amounts of smog-causing nitrogen oxides when running on biodiesel fuels.

Operating truck engines on a blend of biodiesel and ordinary diesel fuel dramatically reduces the emission of particulate matter, or soot. However, the most modern and efficient diesel engines burning biodiesel emit up to 40 percent more nitrogen oxides at some operating conditions, and fuel economy declines by as much as 20 percent.

Unlike conventional diesel, biodiesel contains oxygen, and the researchers have shown that this presence of oxygen is responsible for the majority of the higher emission of nitrogen oxides, said Gregory Shaver, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering.

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Monday, February 8, 2010

UNL Hopes to Tap Into Algae as Energy Source

Media Newswire

LINCOLN, Neb. - Algae may be the next frontier for biofuels, and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is poised to be among the nation's leaders in this research.

LINCOLN, Neb. — Algae may be the next frontier for biofuels, and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is poised to be among the nation's leaders in this research.

Part of the greenhouse complex at UNL's Beadle Center will be revamped into an algal biofuels research facility this year. Scientists will begin growing algae in small containers, then move on to five-foot long bags and, finally, a "raceway" – a small, oblong pool – as they seek answers to two key questions:

– What algae cultivars are best suited for biofuel development? There are at least 200,000 different algae, and ultimately genetic modification may play a role in engineering algae to produce the most lipids – specifically, triglycerides – possible for conversion to fuel.

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Stronger National Renewable Electricity Standard Needed for Significant Clean Energy Job Stability and Growth, Study Finds

The Wall Street Journal Market Watch
press release
Feb. 4, 2010, 10:02 a.m. EST

Higher near- and long-term targets would support 274,000 additional jobs nationwide; Southeast, traditional manufacturing states to benefit most

WASHINGTON, D.C., Feb 04, 2010 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- CEOs representing America's renewable energy industries announced a major new study showing that a 25% by 2025 national Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) would support hundreds of thousands of new American jobs and prevent a near-term collapse in some industries. Job growth in the wind, solar, biomass, waste-to-energy and hydropower industries would particularly benefit the Southeastern U.S. and manufacturing states whose Senators have questioned the viability of renewable electricity.

The "Job Impacts of a National Renewable Electricity Standard" study, conducted by independent firm Navigant Consulting, Inc. /quotes/comstock/13*!nci/quotes/nls/nci (NCI 13.33, -0.16, -1.19%) and released by the RES Alliance for Jobs, found that a 25% by 2025 national RES would support an additional 274,000 renewable energy jobs - the equivalent of a cumulative 2.36 million job-years of work -- over a no-national policy option. This total is also significantly higher than the expected jobs supported in the current House and Senate provisions under consideration in Congress.

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EPA biofuels guidelines could spur production of ethanol from corn

The Washington Post
By Steven Mufson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 4, 2010

The nation's farmers got a big boost Wednesday when the Obama administration issued new biofuels guidelines that could open the way for large increases in the production of corn-based ethanol.

The Environmental Protection Agency said new data showed that, even after taking into account increased fertilizer and land use, corn-based ethanol can yield significant climate benefits by displacing conventional gasoline or diesel fuel.

The new renewable-fuel standard issued by the EPA drew criticism from some environmentalists as well as oil industry representatives, who accused the Obama administration of catering to farm interests. In an earlier draft of the standard, the administration had said that corn-based ethanol output should be limited because its direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions exceeded renewable fuel standards.

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Obama Advances Biofuels as U.S. Misses Production Targets

Environment News Service

WASHINGTON, DC, February 4, 2010 (ENS) - President Barack Obama has moved to increase America's renewable fuels production, turn biomass into bioenergy, and capture and store the greenhouse gases produced by coal-burning power plants. At the same time, the administration released the first report of the Biofuels Interagency Working Group showing that the country is falling short of biofuel production targets mandated by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.

At a meeting with a bipartisan group of governors at the White House Wednesday, the President said these three measures will work in tandem to boost biofuels production, reduce America's dependence on foreign oil, foster new industries and create millions of jobs.

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Friday, February 5, 2010

Biomass crop subsidy carries hefty U.S. pricetag

Reuters UK
Wed Feb 3, 2010 11:53pm GMT

WASHINGTON, Feb 3 (Reuters) - A new U.S. program that subsidizes biomass crops for energy use may cost $263 million this year -- nearly four times its expected cost -- with an opening emphasis on forest and sugar scrap.

The Obama administration cited the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) on Wednesday in steps to encourage clean energy production. It would broaden the geographic base of a bioenergy industry now dominated by corn ethanol production mainly in the Midwest.

BCAP went into operation last summer on an interim basis. A more permanent regulation was opened for comment by the Agriculture Department on Wednesday.

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Lab turns trash to gas

The Auburn Plainsman

Auburn University is constructing a gasification unit off of South Donahue Drive that will take farming feedstock and produce fuel, high-value chemicals and electrical power.

“Our goal is to create a unique pilot-scale facility that will enable our faculty to be leaders in the science of using gasification to convert biomass resources into liquid fuels, high-value chemicals and electrical power,” said Steven Taylor, professor and head of bio-systems engineering and director of the Center for Bio-energy and Bio-products.

When the unit is finished, it will be the best biomass gasification unit in the Southern U.S., Taylor said.

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MSU researches nonfood biofuel

The State News (MSU)
By David Barker
(Last updated: 02/02/10 9:47pm)

The future of alternative fuels and economic freedom might be as simple as grass clippings and wood chips.

Biomass such as straw, switchgrass and wood chips can be used to produce cellulosic ethanol, a potential replacement to ethanol produced from corn, wheat and rice, said Bruce Dale, associate director of MSU’s Office of Biobased Technologies.

“The payoff from (cellulosic ethanol) is that there is a hundred more times of it than starch,” Dale said. “Another advantage is that it does not compete with food sources.”

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House Ag Chairman Backs Bid to Block EPA Greenhouse Gas Regs

The New York Times
Published: February 3, 2010

A trio of House lawmakers yesterday introduced a bill to block U.S. EPA's authority to regulate greenhouse gases, marking the latest in a string of bipartisan attacks against forthcoming climate rules.

The measure (pdf) from Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) and Missouri Reps. Ike Skelton (D) and Jo Ann Emerson (R) would amend the Clean Air Act to prohibit EPA from regulating greenhouse gases based on their effects on global climate change.

The bill would also advance several of the farm state lawmakers' other priorities by stopping EPA from calculating land-use changes in foreign countries for determining U.S. renewable fuels policy, and broadening the definition of renewable biomass.

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Obama takes steps to boost bioenergy

Biomass Magazine February 2010
By Anna Austin
Posted February 3, 2010, at 6:55 p.m. CST

The biofuels and biomass industries received nothing but good news Feb. 3, with the release of the long-awaited renewable fuel standard 2 (RFS2) final rule, the first report generated by President Barack Obama’s Biofuel Interagency Working Group, and the Biomass Crop and Assistance Program proposed rule .

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change Carol Browner participated in a conference call to discuss the energy announcements following a meeting with President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and a bipartisan group of governors from across the country.

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Obama kicks biofuel strategy into higher gear

Los Angeles Times
By Jim Tankersley
February 3, 2010 8:26 a.m.

The president will outline a new effort to increase the nation's use of crop-based fuels. An earlier plan, hampered by the financial crisis and other factors, wasn't up to snuff, officials say.

Reporting from Washington - The Obama administration today will unveil a revamped strategy to ramp up the nation's use of biofuel in hopes of fixing a government effort that officials admit has fallen short in its attempts to wean cars and trucks away from fossil fuels and move toward ethanol, biodiesel and other crop-based fuels.

The new strategy, which the president will outline in an afternoon meeting with Cabinet secretaries and his top energy advisor, seeks to put the United States on track to produce 36 billion gallons of biofuels by 2022 -- the amount mandated by Congress in the 2007 energy bill.

The nation currently produces about 12 billion gallons, mostly from corn ethanol, and the federal government projects the country will not meet the 2022 goal.

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Thursday, February 4, 2010

Obama's 2011 budget includes green jobs funding

Mother Nature Network
by Melissa Hincha-Ownby
Tue, Feb 02 2010 at 12:52 PM EST

President Obama has set aside millions of dollars for green jobs training in his fiscal year 2011 budget.

Green jobs training programs received a significant boost in funding thanks to the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The ARRA legislation provided funds for a variety of clean energy job training programs and also funded the Green Jobs Act of 2007. Although ARRA funding is still making its way to green jobs training programs across the nation, President Obama has set aside millions of dollars from the fiscal year 2011 budget to continue the trend.

The new budget allocates $85 million for green job training programs. This is inline with Obama’s commitment to expanding our nation’s clean energy economy, which was one of the focal points of his 2010 State of the Union address. In addition to the $85 million for green jobs training, the FY2011 budget also includes hundreds of millions of dollars to continue and expand clean energy research.

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AD to benefit from “world first” heat incentive (UK)
Monday 01 February 2010 Legislation News

Anaerobic digestion looks set to benefit from two financial incentive schemes outlined today (February 1) by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) to increase the production of renewable energy.

The department today revealed exactly how much anaerobic digestion (AD) plant operators will receive under the Feed-in Tariffs (FiTs) system, which aims to encourage small-scale renewable electricity generation from April 2010.

And, AD was identified alongside energy-from-waste plants producing combined heat and power and those using technologies such as gasification in proposals for a Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), which DECC hopes will increase the proportion of heat produced from renewable sources from just 1% to 12% by 2020.

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Converting Coal Plants to Biomass

The New York Times
February 1, 2010, 9:32 am

Converting coal plants to burn wood chips and other biomass is a cost competitive way to reduce reliance on coal, a new study suggests. Coal-powered generating stations retrofitted to run on a mixture of coal and dried wood pellets can produce cost-competitive, emission-reduced electricity even without the advent of a cap-and-trade system, according to a new biomass life cycle analysis published in the Journal of Environmental Science and Technology.

For utilities under pressure to meet renewable portfolio standards, biomass should be considered along with wind, solar and small-scale hydro, says Heather MacLean, the lead researcher and an associate professor of civil engineering at the University of Toronto.

“The study results suggest that biomass utilization in coal generating stations should be considered for its potential to cost-effectively mitigate” greenhouse gases from coal-based electricity, the paper concluded.

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Mitsubishi, Weyerhaeuser exploring biomass venture

Mon Feb 1, 2010 9:29pm EST

* Other facilities may follow if feasible
* Pellets would be sold to utilities, industrial users

NEW YORK, Feb 1 (Reuters) - Mitsubishi Corp (8058.T) and Weyerhaeuser Co (WY.N) said on Monday that they had agreed to look into collaborating in the biomass-to-energy industry and potentially building bio-pellet production facilities in the United States.

According to a joint statement the companies are looking into the feasibility of making joint investments in a commercial-scale bio-pellet facility that they would operate in the United States by 2011.

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Ethanol demand key to grain prices in 2010, U of I economist says (State Journal-Register, Springfield, IL)
Posted Feb 01, 2010 @ 11:30 PM

Demand for ethanol probably will be the deciding factor for prices and planting this spring, a University of Illinois farm economist said Monday.

Both corn and soybean prices have fallen in the last three weeks, since the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported a larger corn harvest than expected in 2009 and in anticipation of a “monster” soybean crop in Brazil, said Darrel Good.

“The challenge for some is going to be if they want to plant corn where they had corn last year,” Good said, noting that a wet spring and fall resulted in one of the latest harvests in decades last year.

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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Brazil's Cosan, Shell Sign MOU For Ethanol, Fuels Joint Venture

CNN Money
February 01, 2010: 06:33 AM ET

RIO DE JANEIRO -(Dow Jones)- Brazilian sugar and ethanol group Cosan Industria e Comercio SA (CSAN3.BR) and the local unit of Royal Dutch Shell (RDSA.LN) will combine their fuels distribution business in Brazil.

In a filing with stock regulators Monday, Cosan said that the two companies signed a memorandum of understanding Sunday to create a $12 billion joint venture. The deal will create Brazil's third-largest fuel distribution network, with about 4,500 service stations throughout Brazil.

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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Turning E. Coli into Road-Ready Diesel

CBS News
Jan. 29, 2010

New Study Suggests the Bacteria Could Potentially Wind Up Turning the Wheels of your Car
(AP) (CBS) This article was written by Discover's Smriti Rao.

Most of us associate the bacteria E. coli with nasty stomach ailments. But a new study published in Nature magazine suggests E. coli can not just turn stomachs, but could potentially turn the wheels of your car, since a genetically engineered strain of the bacteria has produced clean, road-ready biodiesel.

The bacteria can work on any type of biomass, including wood chip, switchgrass, and the plant parts that are left behind after a harvest-all contain cellulose, a structural material that comprises much of a plant’s mass. Study coauthor Jay Keasling and his colleagues report engineering E. coli bacteria to synthesize and excrete the enzyme hemicellulase, which breaks down cellulose into sugars.

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China Leading Global Race to Make Clean Energy

The New York Times
Published: January 30, 2010

TIANJIN, China — China vaulted past competitors in Denmark, Germany, Spain and the United States last year to become the world’s largest maker of wind turbines, and is poised to expand even further this year.

China has also leapfrogged the West in the last two years to emerge as the world’s largest manufacturer of solar panels. And the country is pushing equally hard to build nuclear reactors and the most efficient types of coal power plants.

These efforts to dominate renewable energy technologies raise the prospect that the West may someday trade its dependence on oil from the Mideast for a reliance on solar panels, wind turbines and other gear manufactured in China.

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MSU: Fiber harder to convert to fuel, worth effort

Chicago Tribune
Associated Press
7:01 a.m. CST, January 31, 2010

EAST LANSING, Mich. - Efficient biofuels made from plant fiber could be an important part of the fight against the greenhouse gases now causing our world to heat up, Michigan State University researchers say.

Scientists are now at work on improving the techniques for turning plant making biofuel from plant cellulose.

Cellulosic biofuels would be an alternative to biofuel made from the simple sugars and starches found in corn and other grains.

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