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

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

New Method Uses Electrolyzed Water For More Efficient Fuel Production


ScienceDaily (July 29, 2009) — Using electrolyzed water rather than harsh chemicals could be a more effective and environmentally friendly method in the pretreatment of ethanol waste products to produce an acetone-butanol-ethanol fuel mix, according to research conducted at the University of Illinois.

When ethanol is produced, distiller's dried grain with solubles (DDGS) is a waste product. The DDGS is primarily used as animal feed, but researchers are searching for ways to extract the sugar and ferment it to produce an acetone-butanol-ethanol fuel mix. One obstacle has been in the production phase called pretreatment.

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NextGen, ISU test biomass in coal boilers

Biomass Magazine
July 2010
By Lisa Gibson
Posted June 24, 2010, at 3:29 p.m. CST

NextGen Biofuels Inc. and Iowa State University will conduct cofiring trials with coal, wood chips and wood pellets at ISU’s coal-fired combined-heat-and-power (CHP) plant, as the school contemplates switching to a biomass-coal blend.

Instead of spending millions on retrofitting, the project is designed to evaluate the efficiency of burning biomass in an existing coal boiler. “We’re trying to demonstrate that you can run wood biomass through a currently operating coal plant,” said Bob Ravlin, president of NextGen. The fuel does, however, need to be tailored to the boiler type, he added. NextGen procured pine wood pellets and wood chips from Rocky Mountain Pellet Company in Colorado for the 3½-month tests, which were supposed to start June 21, but have been postponed because of wet weather and will begin June 28, Ravlin said.

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Advocating Advanced Biofuels

Biomass Magazine
July 2010
By Anna Austin

With their extreme versatility and often complicated nature, it isn’t easy for most people to wrap their brain around advanced biofuels, and the definitions in the renewable fuels standard 2 (RFS2) aren’t much help.

When Congress released RFS2, which was signed into law in December 2007 as part of the Energy, Independence & Security Act of 2007, biofuel volume requirements were separated into three categories: advanced biofuels, cellulosic biofuels and biomass-based diesel. An advanced biofuel is defined as a renewable fuel—other than ethanol derived from corn starch—that is derived from renewable biomass and achieves a 50 percent greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction. A cellulosic biofuel is defined as a renewable fuel derived from any cellulose, hemicellulose or lignin that is derived from renewable biomass achieving a 60 percent GHG emission reduction. The potentially perplexing factor is that some cellulosic biofuels won’t meet the 60 percent GHG threshold but will meet the 50 percent threshold, and will therefore count as an advanced biofuel. In addition, though biomass-based diesels are advanced biofuels, the advanced biofuel quantity is reserved for biofuels outside of the cellulosic biofuel and biomass-based diesel subsets, such as sugarcane ethanol.

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Grasstopia: The USDA Regional Biofuels Roadmap – will it work?

Biofuels Journal
June 28, 2010 Jim Lane

A few days have now passed since the USDA released its “Regional Roadmap,” outlining a plan to meet the biofuels goals in the Renewable Fuels Standard by 2022.

Industry reaction has been, to date, tepid, to what has been dubbed the “Grasstopia” envisioned in the USDA plan.

First of all — the good news, which is to say generally positive reaction to the idea that the USDA has undertaken a more detailed study of the target at all.

A general criticism is that the plan’s weakness is that it could have been written in 2007, given that it focuses almost exclusively on cellulosic ethanol from energy grasses. Algae as a feedstock, biobutanol or drop-in fuels as products, were left out of the targets – though nearly 75 percent of planned advanced biofuels production is in these forms.

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Ethanol Dispensers Receive UL Safety Certification

NACS Online
Posted: Jun 25, 2010

WASHINGTON – Growth Energy announced that Underwriters Laboratory (UL) has simultaneously issued certifications to both the Gilbarco Veeder-Root Encore E85 fueling dispenser and the Dresser Wayne Ovation Eco fueling E85 dispenser.

“The final UL certification of both the Gilbarco and Dresser Wayne fuel dispensers represents a significant step in expanding our national effort to provide higher level blends of ethanol directly to consumers,” said Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis. “Now that these two outstanding domestically based pump manufacturers have received all the final approvals and certifications, we anticipate a more rapid expansion in the number of higher blend fueling facilities across the nation.”

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Decatur Tribune (Illinois)

Two upcoming events sponsored by the Agricultural Watershed Institute will give the public an opportunity to learn more about prairie grasses grown for conservation and renewable energy.

The theme of the 6th annual Sangamon Watershed Celebration is “Home on the Prairie,” which will begin at 6 p.m. Friday, July 9 at the Decatur Civic Center. The celebration is organized each year by AWI as an occasion for urban and rural residents to come together for an enjoyable evening that combines good food, entertainment, and environmental education.

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Using Synergies to Save: Cellulosic Ethanol & Power Plant Co-Location

Biofuels Digest
June 28, 2010
By Frances Williams, Novozymes

New reports surface almost daily that add to ethanol’s credibility as a fully viable energy alternative. Last week at the International Fuel Ethanol Workshop, POET – the world’s largest ethanol producer – shared the results of an independent lifecycle analysis which concluded that ethanol produced by Project LIBERTY (POET’s first planned cellulosic ethanol plant) will reduce carbon emissions by 111% over gasoline.

This means that POET’s cellulosic ethanol actually results in negative emissions – offsetting more greenhouse gas emissions than it produces. And a new report released by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) concludes that current ethanol plants yield “a substantial net energy gain.”

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

USDA Offers Bioenergy Market News Reports to Help Producers, Consumers and Distributors Make Informed Decisions

USDA Newsroom
Release No. 0338.10

WASHINGTON, June 23, 2010 - Producers, consumers and distributors of bioenergy products can access crucial data through the Bioenergy Market News Reports published by the USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service.

The primary function of these Market News Reports is to compile and disseminate information that will aid producers, consumers and distributors in the sale and purchase of their products nationally and internationally. Several Market News Reports offer information on bioenergy products.

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SCENARIOS-Outlook for US ethanol market as EPA delays

By Timothy Gardner

WASHINGTON June 23 (Reuters) - U.S. environmental regulators have delayed decisions on whether to allow higher concentrations of ethanol in gasoline, a blow to ethanol producers who face a glut of supply but a relief to automakers who fear ethanol will harm engine parts.

Ethanol makers and farmers had expected the Environmental Protection Agency to decide in July whether to allow an increase in the blend rate of ethanol in gasoline to 15 percent from 10 percent for cars built after 2001.

Instead the EPA said last week it would not decide until late September whether to allow cars made after 2007 to burn the higher blend [ID:nN17261431] and that decisions on older cars -- the bulk of the U.S. auto fleet -- would come later.

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University Sees Biomass as Future for Energy Generation

Biomass Magazine
July 2010
By Greg Ehm

The University of Missouri is creating initiatives to help develop biomass market in the state.

Biomass has been in use at the University of Missouri power plant since 2005. The power plant boilers have been cofiring wood waste up to 5 percent with coal in the existing plant boilers, consuming between 5,000 and 6,000 tons of woody biomass this year.

So far, using biomass as an alternative fuel source has had a positive impact on the university campus. Overall, greenhouse gas emissions have been reduced by 7,000 tons per year and the reduction in carbon dioxide emissions is equivalent to planting 28,000 acres of trees. In addition, by sourcing locally grown biomass, the university has reduced diesel fuel consumption by almost 16,000 gallons per year that would have been used to transport coal to the power plant from neighboring Illinois.

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USDA issues landmark plan for achieving 36 billion gallon Renewable Fuel Standard targets by 2022

Biofuels Digest
June 24, 2010 Jim Lane

In Washington, the USDA released its highly-anticipated “Regional Roadmap to Meeting the Biofuels Goals of the Renewable Fuels Standard by 2022.” In the 21-page document, which can be downloaded via, the USDA identified dedicated energy crops, primarily switchgrass, as the practical platform for achieving a 20 billion gallons of advanced biofuels production, and discussed the regions in which it believed biofuels feedstock production would be most viable, driving the location of bioenergy facilities.

The USDA projected in its report that the US, in order to meet its 2022 RFS target of 36 billion gallons of renewable fuel, would produce 13.4 billion gallons formed educated energy crops, including perennial grasses, energy cane, and biomass sorghum; 500 million gallons from oilseed crops, 4.3 billion gallons from crop residues (corn stover, straw), 2.8 billion gallons from woody biomass (logging residues only) and 15 billion gallons from corn starch ethanol.

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Monday, June 28, 2010

Proposed EPA Emissions Rules Threaten to Send Biomass Heating Industry Up in Smoke

Biomass Magazine
July 2010

Last month in this column, Biomass Thermal Energy Council Chairman Charlie Niebling outlined the recent progress to raise the profile of biomass heating at the national level. However, on April 29, the industry was confronted with a major challenge. Because of action brought by the Sierra Club and other petitioners, the U.S. EPA proposed new emissions regulations. The proposed regulations would impact existing and new commercial, industrial and institutional boilers burning coal, oil and biomass. BTEC sympathizes with the need to decrease emissions of hazardous air pollutants (HAP) and believes the best way to achieve this is through the application of practical performance testing and maintenance regimes that achieve significant emissions reductions without burdening boiler owners, especially small-scale ones, with onerous compliance costs.

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Optimizing Ethanol By-Product for Hog Production
Posted by Cindy Zimmerman – June 20th, 2010

The ethanol by-product known as dried distillers grains, or DDGs, is being fed more often these days to all types of livestock. At first, it was mainly beef and dairy cattle producers that utilized the product, which is rich in protein, fiber and oil. Now more hog producers are using the product, which serves to recapture about one third of the corn that goes into making ethanol for the livestock feed market. Each bushel of grain used in the ethanol-making process produces about 18 pounds of DDGS.

Companies like Novus International are helping to increase the use of DDGs in pork production by researching how much DDGs can be included in hog rations at different ages for proper nutrition. “We’ve increased the inclusion rates of distillers from just a few years ago, somewhere around ten percent, now to 30-40 percent in some diets,” says Brad Lawrence, Technical Manager for the Novus pork business in North America.

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JBEI Researchers Identify Trio of Bacterial Enzymes...
By Green Car Congress on 06/18/2010 – 3:15 pm PDT

...for Biosynthesis of Hydrocarbon Fuels; Engineered E. Coli Produces Long-chain Alkenes

The bacterium Micrococcus luteus harbors a three-gene cluster that encodes for enzymes essential to the synthesis of alkenes. (Image courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.) Click to enlarge.

Researchers with the US Department of Energy (DOE)’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) have identified a trio of bacterial enzymes that can catalyze key steps in the conversion of plant sugars into hydrocarbon compounds for the production of renewable transportation fuels.

Harry Beller, an environmental microbiologist who directs the Biofuels Pathways department for JBEI’s Fuels Synthesis Division, led a study in which a three-gene cluster from the bacterium Micrococcus luteus was introduced into the bacterium Escherichia coli. The enzymes produced by this trio of genes enabled the E. coli to synthesize from glucose long-chain alkene hydrocarbons, predominantly 27:3 and 29:3 (no. carbon atoms: no. C=C bonds).

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Low Carbon Growth in Brazil
Sunday, June 20, 2010

Reducing emissions by more than a third by 2030 is compatible with GDP and job growth

Brasilia - infoZine - Brazil could reduce its gross greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by up to 37 percent between 2010 and 2030, while at the same time maintaining the development goals set out by the government for that period, without negatively affecting growth or jobs, says a new World Bank study of low carbon development scenarios in Brazil. This would be the equivalent of taking all of the world’s cars out of circulation for three years. The study was launched today, in Brazil’s capital Brasilia, during a seminar attended by several ministries and research centers.

“Brazil is one of the leading nations at climate negotiations, it has one of the cleanest energy matrixes and is offering creative and constructive solutions both at the global and national levels, as is demonstrated by our voluntary commitment to reduce emissions by between 36.1% and 38.9% by 2020,” said Izabella Teixeira, Environment Minister. “This study joins a list of others proving Brazil’s potential. However, our 2005 emissions represented barely 6.6% of total global emissions. The developed world is responsible for the largest share, and needs to contribute directly and proportionally to the solution of this problem.”

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World’s largest ethanol firm sees negative emissions at pilot plant
Published: June 18, 2010
By James Cartledge

One of the largest ethanol producers in the world has said it has developed a process to produce cellulosic ethanol that has negative emissions.

POET, the company based in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, said its Project LIBERTY has produced a biofuel that actually offsets more greenhouse gas emissions than it generates.

The fuel from POET’s first commercial cellulosic ethanol plant in Scotland, South Dakota, reduced carbon emissions by 111% compared to gasoline.

The results came from an analysis carried out by Air Improvement Resource, Inc., of Novi, Michigan.

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E.P.A. Delays Ruling on Increasing Ethanol Content in Gasoline

The New York Times
June 18, 2010, 4:02 pm

A major association representing ethanol manufacturers is furious that the Environmental Protection Agency has delayed making a decision on whether to allow the ethanol content in gasoline to be increased to 15 percent, from 10 percent. But those worried that the increase will damage existing engines applauded the agency’s decision.

The request was made in March 2009 by Growth Energy, an ethanol lobbying group.

Originally a decision by the E.P.A. was expected last December. However, in December the agency said more study was needed and a decision would come in “mid-2010.”

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Natalie has returned from vacation. I'll post a few older stories during the next few days, then the blog will resume its normal schedule.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Lignin: make less, or make more of it, a Digest special report

Biomass Digest
June 17, 2010 Jim Lane

“Lignin is nature’s plastic and any organism that wants to get to the sugars in a plant has to be able to get past this protective barrier,” professor Ming Tien of Penn State.

There’s lignin, lignin everywhere. Next to cellulose, it is the second most abundant organic material on Earth, representing 24-35 percent of softwood weight and 17-25 percent of hardwoods. That’s around 135 billion tons of lignin

Generally, when we use lignin at all, we use it for burning., By and large, it has similar moisture and BTU values as coal (in the 11-12,000 Btu/lb range) with a low ash content. With Central Appalachian coal in the $65/ton range, it’s a low value product at around 3 cents per pound.

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Biomass productivity? It’s the slope, stupid: new study

Biofuels Digest
June 18, 2010 Jim Lane

In Minnesota, researchers at the University of Minnesota, publishing in the 2010 March-April issue of the Agronomy Journal, have demonstrates that hill slope processes influence biomass productivity. The study focused on seven varying landscape positions to represent a range of topographical features common to the region with varying soil moisture and erosion characteristics. Within each landscape position, a series of woody and herbaceous annual and perennial crops were planted. Crops included alfalfa, corn, willow, cottonwood, poplar, and switchgrass.

Corn grain and stover yield was lowest in flat and depositional areas that retain water for longer periods of time and highest on well drained summit positions. Corn grain yield was not significantly influenced by any of the soil or terrain attributes tested, but corn stover yield was positively influenced by nitrogen, soil darkness profile, and terrain slope.

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Monday, June 21, 2010

Recent biomass studies misconstrued, inaccurate

Biomass Magazine
June 2010
By Anna Austin
Posted June 16, 2010, at 4:45 p.m. CST

Mainstream media outlets have largely misinterpreted a biomass sustainability and carbon policy report released last week by the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences, according to study contributor Pinchot Institute for Conservation.

In fact, the rapidly spreading assertion that woody biomass is dirtier than coal “couldn’t be farther from the truth,” Pinchot President Al Sample told reporters during a media advisory call held June 16, held to clear up erroneous news stories regarding the report’s indications of woody biomass power plant environmental consequences in comparison with coal power plants.

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SDSU research explores integrated beef, ethanol production systems

The Prairie Star
Thursday, June 17, 2010 10:07 AM MDT

SDSU researchers studied the impact of integrating production systems that involve ethanol, corn production and cattle. The researchers have a fact sheet that explains their findings.

BROOKINGS, S.D. - South Dakota State University research suggests there's an economic opportunity for corn producers willing to explore integrated production systems that will background beef calves while producing corn to supply ethanol plants.

The numbers based on regional data suggest corn farmers in South Dakota and neighboring states using such integrated production systems can produce 383 gallons of ethanol per acre from their corn crop, as well as backgrounding 760 pounds of beef. The linked production system is also better for soil sustainability and will help the producer's bottom line by saving on fertilizer costs.

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BP disaster reverberates among ethanol supporters

By Jeffrey Tomich

The ethanol industry has for years draped itself with the American flag, positioning itself as a cleaner, homegrown alternative to oil. Never has that been more true than today.

With regulators and legislators poised to decide issues that will shape ethanol's future for years to come, the ethanol lobby is increasingly making the scene unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico — with tens of thousands of barrels of crude still flowing daily from BP's deepwater well — a backdrop for the nation's energy debate.

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US decision on ethanol blend put off until fall

The Associate Press

WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency says it will wait until this fall to decide whether U.S. car engines can handle higher concentrations of ethanol in gasoline.

The agency had been expected to decide by this month whether to increase the maximum blend from 10 to 15 percent.

The EPA said Thursday that initial tests "look good" and should be completed by the end of September. A decision will come after the Energy Department completes the testing of the higher blend on vehicles built after 2007.

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Silver Nanoparticles Mitigate the Cell Damage Caused by Ethanol, Study Suggests


ScienceDaily (June 7, 2010) — A new article in the Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS) describes how nanoparticles formed by very small numbers of silver atoms can protect against the cell damage caused by ethanol.

The study was led by researchers from the University of Barcelona and conducted in conjunction with the Magnetism and Nanotechnology laboratory of the University of Santiago de Compostela.

"The results of the study show that these clusters of small numbers of silver atoms catalyze ethanol oxidation at similar concentrations to those found in the blood of alcoholics and at values of membrane potential and pH that are compatible with those exhibited by mammalian cells," explains Gustavo Egea, a professor with the Department of Cell Biology, Immunology and Neurosciences of the Faculty of Medicine at the UB and an affiliated researcher for the Institute of Nanosciences and Nanotechnology (IN2UB) and the August Pi i Sunyer Miomedical Research Institute (IDIBAPS).

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Friday, June 18, 2010

Transformative Technology: SynGest Cornucopia BioRefinery

Biofuels Digest
June 16, 2010 Jim Lane

This received from Jack Oswald, whose “Cornucopia” concept for biofuels was published earlier this year in the Digest.

I am happy to report that the launch of the SynGest Cornucopia BioRefinery model is getting traction. Since we launched the new approach as part of the keynote address to the 2010 International Biomass Conference in Minneapolis in May, 2010 (along with Till, Baby, Till), I have been interviewed several times specifically on the details. We have also had great reception at USDA with Vilsack’s Sr. Advisor corp. and on Capitol Hill. In fact, I have been asked to present to the U.S. House of Representatives House Agriculture Committee Staff as well as the ag staff of all U.S. representatives on June 22, 2010.

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Midwest Biomass Detectives on the Case

Public News Service - WIJune 2010
June 16, 2010

MADISON, Wis. - Researchers have taken a major step forward in cracking the genetic secrets that would make it easier and cheaper to convert tons of Midwest biomass into energy. A team at the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC) has found a way to identify specific genetic factors that could lead to less expensive biofuel production.

Scientist David Keating of the University of Wisconsin led the team that has figured out a way to "turn off" certain genetic switches, one at a time, to determine a way to produce a bacterium that can turn crop waste into fuel.

"If we disrupt that gene and now the organism can't degrade this material, we know that gene is really important and that's a gene we want to study further."

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Billion Gallon Challenge

Union of Concern Scientists

The Billion Gallon Challenge: Advanced Biofuels from diverse sources such as grasses and agricultural waste hold the promise of sustainably reducing U.S. oil dependence and global warming emissions. Unfortunately the advanced biofuels industry not been able to meet the demand as set out in the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

The Billion Gallon Challenge is an effort to build the support and policies needed to bring the fledgling advanced biofuels industry to maturity. It also seeks to ensure that the biofuels market maximizes taxpayer investment and helps to strengthen U.S. energy and environmental security.

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ARS researches camelina as a new biofuel crop

Biodiesel Magazine
July 2010
By Stephanie Yao, public affairs specialist, ARS

Agricultural Research Service scientists have long-term studies underway to examine growing camelina as a bioenergy crop for producing jet fuel for the military and the aviation industry. This research supports the recently signed memorandum of understanding between the USDA and the Department of the Navy and interests of the Commercial Airlines Alternative Fuels Initiative.

Native to Europe, camelina (Camelina sativa) is a member of the plant family Brassicaceae and has been grown since ancient times for use as lamp fuel, among other things. The seed’s high oil content has made it a promising candidate as a new source for biofuels.

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Lifecycle Analysis Finds Cellulosic Ethanol Produced by POET’s Project LIBERTY...
By Green Car Congress on 06/16/2010 – 2:40 am PDT

... Will Reduce GHG Emissions 111% Over Gasoline

Cellulosic ethanol produced by grain ethanol producer POET’s Project LIBERTY (earlier post) first commercial cellulosic ethanol plant will reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 111% relative to gasoline, an independent lifecycle analysis (LCA) compiled by Air Improvement Resource, Inc., has found. (I.e., the cellulosic ethanol will offset more greenhouse gas emissions than it produces.)

The reduction is somewhat less than the 130% calculated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the RFS2 for the production of cellulosic ethanol from corn stover using a biochemical process. Air Improvement’s estimates of emissions from Project LIBERTY’s fuel and feedstock transport and fuel production (the last being the sum of storage, electricity, chemicals, waste disposal, and biogas production) are slightly higher than the corresponding elements in EPA’s analysis.

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Thursday, June 17, 2010

EPA study confirms comprehensive climate and energy legislation is affordable, equitable, and effective

Natural Resources Defense Council staff blog
Posted June 15, 2010 in Solving Global Warming

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published an analysis today of the economic impact of the American Power Act (APA), released by Senators Kerry and Lieberman mid-May. The study finds that climate protection is very affordable. For a modest investment the APA would anchor a global effort that could dramatically reduce the risk of catastrophic global warming.

The study includes estimates of what it calls “household costs.” I prefer to call these “investment costs,” since we expect benefits from climate protection.

EPA finds that American households would need to invest on average $79 to $146 per year (51 to 95 cents per day) through 2050 for climate protection. At the same time, the results indicate that, on average, median household income will be $4,893 to $6,497 higher than today’s levels.

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S. Dakota expanding ethanol blender access, use

Wed Jun 16, 2010 12:32pm EDT

KANSAS CITY June 16 (Reuters) - South Dakota is issuing $1 million in grant money for installation of up to 100 ethanol blender pumps at fuel stations across the state, expanding facililities that allow motorists to select the amount of ethanol in the fuel they use, state officials said on Wednesday.

South Dakota already has 42 such service stations offering blender pumps, currently available in only 14 U.S. states. The grant program should add nearly 100 blender pumps at 49 more fuel stations in 40 South Dakota communities, state officials said.

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Environmental Working Group Report Says Taxpayers Seeing Little Benefit From Government Investment in Ethanol

Biofuels Journal
Date Posted: June 15, 2010

Washington—Between 2005 and 2009, U.S. taxpayers spent a whopping $17 billion to subsidize corn ethanol blends in gasoline.

What did they get in return?

A reduction in overall oil consumption equal to an unimpressive 1.1 mile-per-gallon increase in fleet-wide fuel economy.

Worse, ethanol’s much ballyhooed contribution to reducing America’s dependence on imported oil looks even smaller – the equivalent to a measly six tenths of a mile per gallon fleet-wide.

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Brazil’s $1.7 Billion Ethanol Pipeline Seeks License This Month

Bloomberg BusinessWeek
June 15, 2010, 12:07 PM EDT
By Lucia Kassai

June 15 (Bloomberg) -- Cosan SA Industria & Comercio, the world’s biggest sugar-cane processor, and 84 more Brazilian ethanol makers this month will seek authorization to build a 3 billion-real ($1.7 billion) pipeline to ship fuel to a southeastern port from producing areas in Sao Paulo state.

The Uniduto Logistica SA joint venture will request an environmental license to build an ethanol pipeline spanning 600 kilometers (373 miles), more than the distance between New York and Pittsburgh, Chief Executive Officer Sergio van Klaveren said in an interview. It will transport the fuel to a port in Guaruja, in Sao Paulo’s southeastern coast, from Serrana, in the north of state.

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McAdams: 'Show me the gallons'

Biodiesel Magazine
June 2010
By Ron Kotrba
Posted June 15, 2010

“Show me the gallons,” said Michael McAdams, president of the Advanced Biofuels Association and keynote speaker at the Advanced Biofuels Workshop, which took place June 14 in St. Louis as a co-located event at the 26th International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo. McAdams said he was bringing the audience into the “no spin zone” and discussed the troubling issues regarding the lapsed biodiesel and other tax credits that are crippling America’s drive toward energy independence.

“It’s not just tax credits that Congress is dealing with,” he said. Health care, oil spill liability, offshore drilling and a number of other pressing issues are occupying Congress’ time. “You pick them and I work with them,” McAdams said. “I protect you from those you elect.” He then observed that he wasn’t sure how the catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was ever going to get cleaned up because BP is so busy coming to Washington for hearings.

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Ethanol 'too important' for economy

Illinois Farm Bureau
Wednesday, June 16, 2010

With production at record levels and exports the ethanol sector once again is perceived as a bright spot in an economy continuing to struggle out of recession.

Now, industry leaders and researchers are seeking gains in plant efficiency, climate-friendly technologies, and new ethanol “co-products” that could help assure expanded market share for corn-based ethanol as an “advanced biofuel.”

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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Biobutanol – the fuel to leap the blend wall?

Biofuels Digest
June 15, 2010 Jim Lane

Digest readers who closely analyze the Advanced Biofuels Tracking Database will have noticed that, commencing in 2012, biobutanol is scheduled to grow rapidly from pilot stage today to more than 500 million gallons in production by 2014. That’s about 60 percent more butanol by 2014 than the entire US biodiesel market today.

Not to mention that biobutanol has become one of the “now” darlings of the DOE — which has been looking for early “wins” from its round of integrated bioenergy facility grants and sees biobutanol as a sector that will gain traction and find financing the fastest.

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USDA Nears Finish of Biomass Crop Assistance Rules
Posted by John Davis – June 14th, 2010

USDA officials say they are close to finalizing the rules for the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP), a measure that was in the 2008 Farm Bill and is designed to encourage farmers to grow new crops for energy production. But there’s still some work to do before it is finally implemented.

“We have put out a proposed rule, received over 24,000 comments, we’ve evaluated those comments and are in the process of then working on writing the final rule based on the proposed rule and the comments we got,” says Jonathan Coppess, Administrator of the USDA’s Farm Service Agency. Plus, he says the ag department will need to do an environmental impact statement.

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Ethanol Co-products Boost Nutrition in Asian Flatbread

Innovations Report (Germany)

South Dakota State University research shows a traditional Asian flatbread called chapathi, or chapati, gets a big boost in protein and fiber when fortified with food-grade distillers grains.

SDSU food scientist Padu Krishnan said it is one example of the ways in which distillers dried grains with solubles, or DDGS, can help improve human nutrition worldwide. DDGS is produced as a co-product when processing corn into ethanol, so corn producers from the American Midwest and elsewhere could tap a vast new market if manufacturers begin using it to fortify products in human diets.

Krishnan and his student, Sowmya Arra, worked with Kurt Rosentrater of the USDA Agricultural Research Service’s North Central Agricultural Research Laboratory on the project. In lab studies they found that using DDGS to make up 10 percent of the dough in chapathi, an Asian whole wheat unleavened bread eaten in South Asia and East Africa, boosted the fiber from 2.9 percent to 7.8 percent. Using 20 percent DDGS in the dough increased the fiber to 10.3 percent.

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

U.S. Ethanol Exports Remain At Record Pace
Posted: Jun 14, 2010

As the U.S. market for ethanol remains static, producers are setting record levels for exports.

WASHINGTON – As the U.S. market for ethanol remains static due to regulatory caps on blending levels, U.S. ethanol producers are setting record levels for exports, Wisconsin AG Connection reports.

According to the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), April ethanol exports were 40.8 million gallon, compared to 48.3 million gallons in March. Year-to-date exports total 124.3 million gallons, which already surpass the entire exports for 2009 — 113.3 million gallons.

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Genencor Launches New Enzyme for Ethanol Production


SPEZYME® RSL Improves Liquefaction, Reducing Production Costs and Increasing Ethanol Yield

PALO ALTO, Calif., June 14 /PRNewswire/ -- Genencor, a division of Danisco A/S, today launched SPEZYME® Robust Starch Liquefaction (RSL) at the 2010 Fuel Ethanol Workshop and Expo (FEW) in St. Louis, Mo. The latest in the company's liquefaction product line, the enzyme more efficiently liquefies dry ground corn or milo, significantly reducing costs and increasing yields for ethanol producers.

"This is liquefaction without compromise," said Troy Wilson, Genencor's vice president of grain processing. "Genencor continues to innovate in grain processing, bringing both high performance and high yield to ethanol producers. These efficiencies are increasingly important as the corn ethanol industry delivers on America's promise of a homegrown, environmentally friendly, renewable fuel."

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Study finds biomass power not carbon neutral

CNET news
June 11, 2010 12:04 PM PDT
by Martin LaMonica

Forested regions around the world are pursuing biomass as a renewable energy source but a study finds that the carbon footprint from burning biomass can be worse for global warming than coal.

The Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences on Thursday published the findings of a six-month study to measure the greenhouse gas impacts of using biomass, which, in many cases, does not meet claims of being "carbon neutral" over short periods of time.

The report was commissioned by the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources, which said it will revise its regulations in response. "We can begin the process of refining our renewable energy regulations to provide incentives only for biomass energy that truly reduces our greenhouse gas emissions and protects our forests," said Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources Commissioner Phil Giudice, in a statement.

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Ethanol Production Methods More Efficient Now: Study

May 27, 2010 ( -- A new University of Illinois at Chicago study of facilities that produce most of the nation's ethanol found that the energy needed to make a gallon of the corn-based fuel decreased on average by about 30 percent within the past decade.

Steffen Mueller, principal research economist at UIC's Energy Resources Center, surveyed the nation's 150 "dry mill" ethanol plants -- the type that produce about 85 percent of the ethanol for energy use -- between November 2009 and January 2010.

The findings may prove useful to state and federal energy policy makers studying the pros and cons of fuels based on their "full life-cycle" -- the total energy needed to create a fuel compared to its energy output, the greenhouse gases emitted during production, the water used in production, and other factors.

"Policy makers rightfully pay attention to life cycle greenhouse gas emissions of fuels," said Mueller. "Biofuel refineries, including corn ethanol plants, are in a rapid innovation phase."

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Spanish Scientists Find Oil-Storing Fungi or Mold Could Be Good Biodiesel Feedstock

Biofuels Journal
Date Posted: June 11, 2010

In the quest for alternatives to soybeans, palm, and other edible oilseed plants as sources for biodiesel production, enter an unlikely new candidate: A fungus, or mold, that produces and socks away large amounts of oils that are suitable for low-cost, eco-friendly biodiesel.

That's the topic of a study in ACS' bi-monthly journal Energy & Fuels.

Victoriano Garre and colleagues point out that manufacturers usually produce biodiesel fuel from plant oils — such as rapeseed, palm, and soy.

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Monday, June 14, 2010

South Dakota State receives $150,000 for green education

Prairie Business
Published June 11 2010

BROOKINGS, S.D. — South Dakota State University’s mechanical engineering and agricultural and biosystems engineering, in concert with allied departments, have each been awarded $75,000 from the South Dakota Department of Labor to promote green jobs training in the state.

“These grants provide a wonderful opportunity for SDSU to fulfill its mission as the state’s land-grant institution,” said Michael Twedt, director of the Wind Application Center at State.

The first DOL grant, received by a team of faculty from the departments of agricultural and biosystems engineering, biology and microbiology, nutrition and food science, and engineering technology management, will deliver two courses and a workshop for people starting or advancing their careers in the ethanol and bio-energy industries, according to professor K. Muthukumarappan of the SDSU Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering Department.

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New microbial genetic system dissects biomass to biofuel conversion

EurekaAlert via: University of Wisconsin-Madison

MADISON — A research team at the DOE Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC) has developed a powerful new tool that promises to unlock the secrets of biomass degradation, a critical step in the development of cost-effective cellulosic biofuels. The details of this method were published online on June 11 in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

Fulfilling the promise of cellulosic biofuels requires developing efficient strategies to extract sugar molecules in biomass polymers like cellulose. Microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi are capable of converting biomass to simple sugars, but historically have been difficult to study using genetic approaches.

A breakthrough by a team of University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers at the GLBRC has made it possible to perform genetic analysis on Cellvibrio japonicus, a promising bacterium that has long been known to convert biomass to sugars. Using a technique called vector integration, the team has developed a method to generate a mutation in any gene within the organism.

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Novozyme enzyme could increase ethanol yields by 1%


Novozymes, maker of biofuel enzymes, announced the launch of a new enzyme that makes it possible to produce more ethanol from the same amount of corn. The product, Spirizyme Excel, converts more starch in corn, wheat, and other feedstocks into sugars which can be fermented to ethanol, thereby allowing producers to increase yields by more than one percent. Compared to other available solutions, a typical ethanol plant can gain $1 million or more per year using the enzyme, the company said.

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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Shell buys stake in biofuel joint venture partner Virent; terms not disclosed
From The Associated Press, June 08, 2010 - 12:45 a.m.

AMSTERDAM - Royal Dutch Shell PLC (NYSE:RDS.A) said Tuesday it has purchased a stake in U.S. biotech startup Virent Energy Systems Inc., a company that turns plant sugars into fuel closely resembling gasoline.

Shell declined to disclose terms of the deal. It will receive a seat on the board of directors of Virent, based in Madison, Wis..

Virent, with around 70 employees, has previously received $10 million (euro6.4 million) in U.S. government aid and $40 million (euro25.5 million) in venture capital backing.

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Bloomberg Business Week
The Associated Press
June 7, 2010, 5:18PM ET

DECATUR, Ill. --Archer Daniels Midland Company said Monday it will ask the Environmental Protection Agency to approve ethanol-gasoline blends containing up to 12 percent ethanol for all cars.

The agribusiness company said it still supports a long-term effort to require a 15 percent ethanol blend, but it's unclear if older cars can run efficiently on the stronger 15-percent formula.

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Plenty of biomass for Wisconsin plant

Biomass Magazine
By Lisa Gibson
Posted June 8, 2010, at 3:30 p.m. CST

More than enough biomass is available surrounding the Charter Street Heating Plant on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus to provide a supply if the coal plant converts, according to the Wisconsin Bioenergy Initiative. The WBI issued a request for information (RFI) from biomass producers, aggregators, equipment producers and transportation companies, the results of which look promising.

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Woodstock vs Feedstock: “psychedelic” corn promises higher biofuels, food yields

Biofuels Digest
June 09, 2010 Jim Lane

In Pennsylvania, researchers have identified new corn genes that increase the export of carbohydrates from corn leaves and could result in higher yields for biofuels. The two genes that were isolated are controlling the movement of carbon from leaves to other parts of the plant, and thereby control carbohydrate creation.

The researchers, working under a USDA Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, believe that manipulation of the metabolic pathway will give options for increased food or fuel from the plant.

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Biomass plants could be affected under proposed EPA ruling

8 June 2010 - The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed new Boiler Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) standards which would classify biomass boiler units, conventionally considered multi-fuel boilers, as incinerators and would be subject to new emission limits for mercury, hydrogen chloride, particulate matter, carbon monoxide and dioxin. The new proposed ruling is originally part of the Clean Air Act of 1990.

The Biomass Power Association (BPA), a group of 80 plants in 20 states, voiced their concerns during a June 8 teleconference from Washington D.C. BPA President Bob Cleaves said that boilers used by industrial, commercial and institutional facilities use various fuels and the fuels are used to generate various forms of energy such as steam, heat and electricity to be used in manufacturing or the generation of power that is sent to the grid.

If the new rule is enacted, Cleaves believes that 100 percent of boilers in the U.S. will have to do more work emitting less pollutants even though they are currently well controlled. Early estimates have shown that it could cost the biomass industry up to $7 billion to comply with EPA’s new standards.

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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Bioenergy threatens forests, warn environment groups
07 June 2010

Forest advocacy groups from three continents are warning that bioenergy poses a threat to forests and forest-dependent peoples, and that IS plans for wood-based bioenergy will worsen a dangerous situation.

Increased support for the burning of wood to produce bioenergy is triggering increased logging and expansion of industrial tree plantations in the USA, Ghana, the Congo, Brazil and West Papua, explains the report, Wood-based Bioenergy: The Green Lie.

The report was released by Global Justice Ecology Project, Global Forest Coalition and Biofuelwatch at the UN climate talks in Bonn, Germany. They claim their call for an immediate end to wood subsidies and incentives for industrial bioenergy is supported by 90 organisations around the world.

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Great Lakes Bioenergy Center gets $50 million

Ethanol Producer Magazine
June 2010
By Luke Geiver
Posted June 7, 2010

Michigan State University and the University of Wisconsin have received $50 million in funding for the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center. The Center, a co-hosted facility between the two universities, received the funding from the U.S. DOE. The main goal of the center is to improve second generation biofuel feedstocks for ethanol production, including everything from genetic improvement of the biomass, processing technologies and environmental sustainability.

Spread over a period of five years, a significant portion of the funding has already been used to speed up and bolster this research, said Steven Pueppke, director of MSU’s office of Biobased Technologies. “This additional funding to MSU does have broader ramifications,” said Pueppke. “I do not have exact job numbers, but I know that several hundred direct jobs have been created by the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center.” Along with job creation, Pueppke said the funding helps with future biofuels job growth. “The new funding is good, too, in that it attracts bright young scientists into biofuels research. We are happy that this opportunity is at MSU, and we hope that they will make career-long contributions in addressing the nation’s biofuels needs.”

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University researchers develop first stable bio-oil for transportation use
Staff Report • June 8, 2010

BLACKSBURG — Researchers at Virginia Tech are using science to control unstable components in biomass to develop stable oils that can be readily upgraded to transportation fuels for the first time. Biomass comprises recently living organisms such as wood or waste products.

Converting woody feedstocks – in this case, poplar and pine wood – to liquid fuels usually produces bio-oil that is unstable and acidic, and which cannot be converted to transportation fuel using traditional processing technologies.

According to Foster Agblevor, associate professor of biological systems engineering in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, these bio-oils present further problems. The oils become thicker during storage, resulting in a substance that turns to char when heated. These bio-oils are unusable for fuel after only a few months in storage.

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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Supercharged grass for bioenergy
04 June 2010

A bioenergy technology developed by Australian scientists uses supercharged photosynthesis – the natural process of plants converting sunlight and CO2 into biomass and usable energy – increasing its potential for bioenergy generation.

Executive Director of BioSciences Research at the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) in Victoria, Australia, Professor German Spangenberg, says photosynthetic cells for fructan biosynthesis in popular forage grasses has been reprogrammed, leading to some “remarkable results.”

“By applying this technology to temperate grasses such as perennial ryegrass and tall fescue in glasshouse and field trials, we have shown significantly higher dry matter yields. Recent trials have recorded a doubling of plant biomass double compared to existing varieties,” Professor Spangenberg says.

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Biomass overtakes wind as champion in renewable energy
07 June 2010

Biomass facilities have become a more attractive investment than wind and solar technologies, according to the renewable energy sector.

The annual survey of global renewable energy mergers and acquisitions (M&A) by KPMG International indicates that 37% of respondents intend to invest in biomass, while 36% want to invest in solar and 35% in wind energy.

The M&A market increased 145% in deal volume in the first quarter of this year against 2009, with a 63% increase in value. It is expected that many start-up small firms in the renewable energy sector, which have limited finances but have survived the economic recession, may face the prospect of being bought up by another company this year or not surviving due to their frailty.

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Solar panels could be a threat to aquatic insects, new research shows - The Observer
The Observer, Sunday 6 June 2010

Scientists urge caution after finding that insects fall into 'ecological trap' by mistaking panels for pools of water

Solar panels could wipe out fragile populations of insects, according to a new study that raises fresh doubts about the ecological impact of some forms of renewable energy.

Scientists have discovered that aquatic insects such as the mayfly can mistake shiny photovoltaic panels for pools of water, which they rely on to reproduce. They urge caution on the increasing use of panels until experts work out how they could affect insects and other creatures that feed on them.

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New Yeast Ferments More Sugar, More Cellulosic Ethanol Production - Energy Matters
Written by Green Liver
Monday, 07 June 2010

West Lafayette, Indiana - Purdue University scientists have improved a strain of yeast that can produce more biofuel from cellulosic plant material by fermenting all five types of the plant's sugars.

Nathan Mosier, an associate professor of agricultural and biological engineering; Miroslav Sedlak, a research assistant professor of agricultural and biological engineering; and Nancy Ho, a research professor of chemical engineering, used genes from a fungus to re-engineer a yeast strain Ho developed at Purdue. The new yeast can ferment the sugar arabinose in addition to the other sugars found in plant material such as corn stalks, straw, switchgrass and other crop residues.

"Natural yeast can ferment three sugars: galactose, manose and glucose," Ho said. "The original Ho yeast added xylose to that, and now the fifth, arabinose, has been added."

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USDA Chief Confident of Ethanol Blend Increase
Posted by Cindy Zimmerman – June 7th, 2010

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack believes that the Environmental Protection agency will increase the amount of ethanol allowed in regular gasoline above the current ten percent.

“I’m very confident that we’re going to see an increase in the blend rate,” said Vilsack in a telephone press conference from Iowa on Friday.

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Monday, June 7, 2010

Researchers calculate the greenhouse gas value of ecosystems

University of Illinois

CHAMPAIGN, lll. — Researchers at the University of Illinois have developed a new, more accurate method of calculating the change in greenhouse gas emissions that results from changes in land use.

The new approach, described in the journal Global Change Biology, takes into account many factors not included in previous methods, the researchers report.

There is an urgent need to accurately assess whether particular land-use projects will increase or decrease greenhouse gas emissions, said Kristina Anderson-Teixeira, a postdoctoral researcher in the Energy Biosciences Institute at Illinois and lead author of the new study. The greenhouse gas value (GHGV) of a particular site depends on qualities such as the number and size of plants; the ecosystem’s ability to take up or release greenhouse gases over time; and its vulnerability to natural disturbances, such as fire or hurricane damage, she said.

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Oak Ridge develops new satellite-based carbon counter for agriculture

Biofuels Digest
June 04, 2010 Jim Lane

In Tennessee, researchers at Oak Ridge Laboratory have developed a method to track carbon emissions from agricultural activity with unprecedented resolution. The research team uses satellite remote sensing, computational resources and high-resolution national inventory datasets to pinpoint agricultural-based carbon emissions nationwide.

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Friday, June 4, 2010

Biofuels and the need for additional carbon
Environmental Research Letters

Environ. Res. Lett. 5 (April-June 2010) 024007
Timothy D Searchinger
Published 1 June 2010

Abstract. Use of biofuels does not reduce emissions from energy combustion but may offset emissions by increasing plant growth or by reducing plant residue or other non-energy emissions. To do so, biofuel production must generate and use `additional carbon', which means carbon that plants would not otherwise absorb or that would be emitted to the atmosphere anyway. When biofuels cause no direct land use change, they use crops that would grow regardless of biofuels so they do not directly absorb additional carbon. All potential greenhouse gas reductions from such biofuels, as well as many potential emission increases, result from indirect effects, including reduced crop consumption, price-induced yield gains and land conversion. If lifecycle analyses ignore indirect effects of biofuels, they therefore cannot properly find greenhouse gas reductions. Uncertainties in estimating indirect emission reductions and increases are largely symmetrical. The failure to distinguish `additional' carbon from carbon already absorbed or withheld from the atmosphere also leads to large overestimates of global bioenergy potential. Reasonable confidence in greenhouse gas reductions requires a precautionary approach to estimating indirect effects that does not rely on any single model. Reductions can be more directly assured, and other adverse indirect effects avoided, by focusing on biofuels from directly additional carbon.

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Brazil’s National Development Bank, FINEP, team to invest $540 million in sugarcane ethanol

Biofuels Digest
June 03, 2010 Jim Lane

In Brazil, the Brazilian Innovation Agency, FINEP, and Brazil’s National Development Bank have formed a partnership to commit up to US$ 540 million in financing to Brazil’s biofuels sector. These funds will be directed toward technology development projects for sugarcane ethanol production.

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In oil spill shadow, Obama pledges energy bill push

Yahoo News/Reuters

By Alister Bull Alister Bull – Wed Jun 2, 5:36 pm ET

PITTSBURGH (Reuters) – President Barack Obama pledged on Wednesday to find Senate support for a bill to overhaul U.S. energy policy and called for an end to oil company tax breaks in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico spill.

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Will Federal Policies Be Required For Ethanol Viability?
06/02/2010 09:52AM

Ethanol has been slowly adopted, helped by various tax credits and incentives that will continue to exist for years to come. That is the upshot of a new study on ethanol and biofuels which provides policy makers with instant feedback about their decisions.

Ethanol and biofuels policies have been analyzed by the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute at the University of Missouri to determine the impact of biofuels policy in 10 years, depending upon what was decided. Their analysis keeps today’s basis policies in place, not only the ethanol supports, but also the biodiesel credit that expired in December.

The growth of ethanol soon begins to slow down, but 15 billion gallons will be produced in 2015 when other types of ethanol gain a foothold. Because of the upper limit for corn use in ethanol production, imported sugar begins to see significant use.

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DOE announces funding for biomass production

Biomass Magazine
May 2010
Posted June 2, 2010, at 4:21 p.m. CST

The U.S. DOE on June 2 announced $5 million in funding for research focused on sustainable production of large quantities of nonfood biomass for bioenergy. The intent of this Funding Opportunity Announcement is to quantify and understand the environmental impacts of different strategies for producing large quantities of energy crops and other crop residues at the watershed scale. This is part of DOE’s commitment to expanding domestic bioenergy without negatively impacting environmental quality, biodiversity, and the availability of food, feed, fiber and water.

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Thursday, June 3, 2010

THE BIG QUESTION: Could Bioenergy Power the World?
May/June 2010 - Volume 13 Issue 3
Renewable Energy World International Magazine
by Andrew Lee, Chief Editor, Renewable Energy World magazine
Published: June 1, 2010

London, UK -- Each issue, Renewable Energy World asks leading players in the industry to give their verdict on a key issue of the moment.

The World Bioenergy Association recently published a position paper that claimed bioenergy, and in particular biomass, has the potential to meet global energy demand by 2050 if best practices and technologies are adopted worldwide and sufficient land is made available for production. Ahead of the World Bioenergy 2010 Conference & Exhibition in Jönköping, Sweden on May 25 to 27, Renewable Energy World's Big Question asks : How realistic is this scenario and what challenges would need to be overcome for bioenergy to achieve this ambitious goal?

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Bioenergy: Fuelling a start-up
Andrea Marino Tue Jun 1, 2010

Bioenergy companies are increasing, yet securing funding may be challenging for this highly unproven and untested technology

Due to the economic downslide of recent years, finding funding for renewable energy projects is harder than ever. The current trend in the sustainable energy sector involves companies virtually waiting for the right kind of financing to come through for their projects. Whether they end up being funded by the federal government, state grants or bank-financed loans, a lot of environmental-development projects are being put on the back burner until the economy bounces back. For small businesses to get the right financing from banks, the banks also want to see evidence that these bioenergy companies will be successful. But it is hard to prove something like that when the bioenergy revolution is fairly new and hasn’t gained much exposure. In addition, these small businesses don’t have the funds to advertise or really make themselves known. While banks are interested in advanced environmental technologies to some degree, they are also hesitant to invest in a startup venture involving bioenergy—these projects are viewed as being a high risk in the eyes of most banks.

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Biofuels: Putting Pressure on Petrol
May/June 2010 - Volume 13 Issue 3
by Mark Bünger
Published: June 2, 2010

Can biofuels find the path to petroleum parity?

While the technical and cost potential of bio-products to compete with petroleum grows, can they match its giant scale? Mark Bünger explains why massively ramping up output will be the biggest challenge for bioenergy.

Petroleum-based products such as fuels and plastics are vilified for their economic and environmental drawbacks. Businesses, scientists and governments are urgently seeking a reliable supply of affordable fuels and industrial materials, and a reduction in the amount of carbon dioxide entering the atmosphere, and are looking to bio-based products to deliver them.

However, even as they seek to mitigate its drawbacks, they want to match oil's primary benefit – the availability of a large quantity of versatile, valuable material.

To date, most biofuels and biomaterials developers have focused on lab- and demo-scale studies to improve performance and reduce cost so they can compete with petroleum products, and those goals are coming within sight.

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E85 data now uploadable to TomTom, Garmin GPS devices

Biofuels Digest
June 01, 2010 Jim Lane

In Washington, the Renewable Fuels Association, through its Choose Ethanol project, is highlighting the newly-arrived availability of E85 availability data on Garmin and TomTom GPS devices. Device owners can upload E85 station data as “special points of interest”.

Read more and link to data

RFA says US households saving $200-$400 on gasoline via ethanol; fuzzy math or real savings?

Biofuels Digest
June 01, 2010 Jim Lane

In Washington, the Renewable Fuels Association issued a white paper on gasoline and ethanol prices, concluding that “the average American household is saving approximately $200‐400 per year on gasoline because of the inclusion of ethanol in the U.S. fuel supply.” The RFA cites the ethanol blenders tax credit, and the spread between ethanol and gasoline prices as the underlying cause.

Opponents of ethanol have responded that gasoline savings are offset by increases in taxation and the cost of ethanol.

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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

NSF Program Pairs K-12 Teachers with MSU Researchers
Written by Xin Yu
Monday, 31 May 2010 22:29

The National Science Foundation (NSF) will provide $2.65 million grant to team Michigan State University (MSU) graduate students with K-12 science teachers from 11 area school districts. This new GK-12 Bioenergy Sustainability Project will fund eight graduate fellowships per year for five years, which is designed to provide classroom support for local teachers while making college students better science communicators. The fellows collaborate with K-12 teachers to design and help supervise student "inquiry activities" exploring ecologically sustainable energy production. A goal of this project is to help future scientists become better at communicating their science, to be able to explain their research results in a popular way to different audiences instead of those absurd terminologies. And a happy byproduct of the NSF grant is that it also benefits local students and teachers, since nationally they are struggling to make K-12 science education more effective.

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Antibiotics concerns ooze into ethanol process

Des Moines Register
By PHILIP BRASHER • • May 30, 2010

Washington, D.C. - The worries about antibiotic resistance and the rise of superbugs have reached into the ethanol industry.

Ethanol producers have long used antibiotics to control bacteria that can contaminate the fermentation process. But now, the Food and Drug Administration is developing a policy to regulate the use of the drugs and is conducting tests in Iowa and nationwide to determine the extent to which the antibiotics are getting into livestock feed produced by the plants.

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DOE announces funding for pyrolysis

Biomass Magazine
May 2010
Posted May 28, 2010, at 10:17 a.m. CST

The U.S. DOE announced on May 28 up to $11 million in funding over three years for research and development in the area of thermochemical conversion of biomass into advanced biofuels that are compatible with existing fueling infrastructure. The objective of this funding is to improve the conversion of nonfood biomass to liquid transportation hydrocarbon fuels via pyrolysis, a process that decomposes biomass using heat in the absence of oxygen to produce a bio-oil that can be upgraded to renewable diesel, gasoline, or jet fuel. This funding opportunity is part of the department’s effort to accelerate development and deployment of sustainable, renewable biofuels that significantly reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil and lower greenhouse gas emissions.

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Ethanol reduces energy inputs by 30 percent in past decade: report

Biofuels Digest
May 31, 2010 Jim Lane

In Washington, Growth Enegy hailed a study conclusing that ethanol requires 30 percent less energy in production than a decade ago.

“The amount of energy needed to produce a gallon of ethanol has decreased by an average of 30 percent within the past decade, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Energy Resources Center. Researchers surveyed the nation’s 150 “dry mill” ethanol plants which produce approximately 85 percent of the nation’s ethanol for energy use and received 90 responses accounting for 66 percent of annual U.S. ethanol production. Survey data found that plants use 28 percent less thermal energy — mostly natural gas, but some coal, biomass and landfill gas — and 32 percent less electricity to turn corn into ethanol. The savings are largely due to the use of more efficient equipment at new plants and energy efficiency retrofits at older facilities.”

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Research promises healthier vegetable oil – and tractor fuel to harvest it

Michigan State University Research
MSU News, May 20 2010

Genetic discoveries from a shrub called the burning bush, known for its brilliant red fall foliage, could fire new advances in biofuels and low-calorie food oils, according to Michigan State University scientists.

New low-cost DNA sequencing technology applied to seeds of the species Euonymus alatus – a common ornamental planting – was crucial to identifying the gene responsible for its manufacture of a novel, high-quality oil. But despite its name, the burning bush is not a suitable oil crop.

Yet inserted into the mustard weed – well-known to researchers as Arabidopsis and a cousin to commercial oilseed canola – the burning bush gene encodes an enzyme that produces a substantial yield of unusual compounds called acetyl glycerides, or acTAGs. Related vegetable oils are the basis of the world’s oilseed industry for the food and biofuels markets, but the oil produced by the burning bush enzyme claims unique and valuable characteristics.

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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Figuring land use into renewable-energy equation

cnet news
May 29, 2010 8:12 AM PDT
by Martin LaMonica

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.--Imagine if your country had an unlimited budget but a limited amount of land: what renewable energy has the most potential?

Rutgers University professor Clinton Andrews and colleagues ran the numbers on this thought experiment and came up with some surprises. They identified clear limits on some technologies, notably biofuels, but concluded that the bigger challenges to renewable energy and land relate to siting energy facilities, particularly transmission lines.

Andrews presented an early version of the paper at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy conference here on Monday. The goal of this analysis and others like it is to size up the land requirements for different renewable-energy sources which, in many cases, require more land than fossil fuels and nuclear power.

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MSU uses $1.7 million grant to harvest alternative fuel from bacteria

Michigan State University
Published: May 26, 2010

EAST LANSING, Mich. — A Michigan State University bioreactor expert is part of a team tapped to exploit a bacterium’s potential ability to produce an alternative fuel for automobiles.

R. Mark Worden, MSU professor of chemical engineering, is part of a group receiving $1.7 million from the U.S. Department of Energy Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy to build a reactor system for Ralstonia eutropha, a bacterium that scientists aim to engineer to metabolize hydrogen and carbon dioxide to produce isobutanol, a fuel that can be used as a replacement for gasoline.

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Prize-Winning Researcher Saves Natural Forests with Bioenergy
26 May 2010 - Bioenergy doesn't have to consume resources--on the contrary, it can save important environmental assets. Brazilian researcher Laércio Couto and his team have proved just that, and for this work he is the first recipient of the World Bioenergy Award.

The World Bioenergy Award was awarded for the first time at the inauguration of the World Bioenergy international conference and trade fair on 25 May in Jönköping, Sweden. Competition was stiff, with 90 nominees from around the world. Seven finalists had been selected from among the nominees. The jury chose Laércio Couto as the winner because thanks to his practically focused research he has proven that it is possible to combine consideration for the environment with energy production.

The basis of his work is the eucalyptus, a species of tree that was introduced to Brazil in 1904. Eucalyptus grows very quickly and soon became a raw material for the forest industry. Laércio Couto became interested in eucalyptus when he was a student, and realised it also has potential for energy production.

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Ind. biofuel firm reaches ethanol licensing deal

Chicago Tribune
Associated Press
12:02 a.m. CDT, May 27, 2010

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind--A Purdue University-based company has reached a deal giving Chinese and Danish firms access to a patented product that makes it easier to turn wood chips, grasses and other agricultural wastes into ethanol.

Green Tech America Inc. signed a licensing agreement Wednesday in Beijing with China's COFCO Corp. and Denmark's Novozymes A/S. The deal allows those two firms to use the Indiana company's patented yeast product to make cellulosic ethanol in their plants in China.

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Tate Profit Slumps 77%, Abandons Ethanol Plant Plans

Bloomberg Businessweek
May 27, 2010, 12:07 PM EDT
By Thomas Biesheuvel

May 27 (Bloomberg) -- Tate & Lyle Plc, the maker of low- calorie sweetener Splenda, said full-year profit slumped 77 percent as it took a 217 million-pound ($315 million) charge after abandoning plans to open an ethanol plant in the U.S.

Net income fell to 15 million pounds in the year through March from 65 million pounds a year earlier, the London-based company said today in a statement. Sales were little changed at 3.51 billion pounds.

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