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

Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Holidays!

The CABER office is closed for the holidays.

Check back for more news about bioenergy on January 3, 2011!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Researchers Study Benefits of Barley as a Biofuel Crop

By Ann Perry
December 21, 2010

The benefits of using barley for bioenergy production don't stop at the gas pump, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) studies.

Scientists with USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) have found that barley grain can be used to produce ethanol, and the leftover byproducts-barley straw, hulls, and dried distillers grains (DDGS)-can be used to produce an energy-rich oil called bio-oil. The bio-oil could then be used either for transportation fuels or for producing heat and power needed for the grain-to-ethanol conversion. ARS is USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency, and these results support the USDA priority of developing new sources of bioenergy.

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Miscanthus discovery could open doors for biofuel industry

Western Farm Press
Jennifer Shike, University of Illinois
Dec. 21, 2010 9:06am

In the minds of many, Miscanthus x giganteus is the forerunner in the race of viable feedstock options for lignocellulosic bioenergy production. But researchers believe “putting all their eggs in one basket” could be a big mistake. Scientists at the University of Illinois recently reported the first natural occurrence in several decades of Miscanthus hybrid plants in Japan.

“If M. x giganteus is the only variety available, there are certainly risks involved such as diseases or pests causing widespread establishment problems or yield losses,” said Ryan Stewart, assistant professor of horticulture in the Department of Crop Sciences at the University of Illinois. “We are trying to find Miscanthus hybrids to increase our options. In doing so, it’s a way to hedge our bets.”

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New online atlas to move bioenergy fuels from source to commodity

University of Wisconsin
Dec. 21, 2010

The market for bioenergy just got a boost from a collaborative effort to make existing biomass availability information widely available.

Launched this week, the Wisconsin Bioenergy Information and Outreach Network provides a comprehensive source of information for entrepreneurs, businesses, researchers and policymakers to find resources and technologies to develop and grow the bioenergy sector in Wisconsin. The tool is a collaborative knowledge project developed by UW-Madison Land Information and Computer Graphics Facility, UW-Extension, the Wisconsin Bioenergy Initiative and the Energy Center of Wisconsin.

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Novozymes sees 2G ethanol breakthrough delayed

Reuters Africa
Wed Dec 22, 2010 1:46pm GMT
By Teis Jensen

COPENHAGEN, Dec 22 (Reuters) - Industrial enzymes producer Novozymes (NZYMb.CO: Quote) does not expect a major breakthrough in second-generation bioethanol in the United States for another four to five years, a senior executive said on Wednesday.

Novozymes' marketing director for biofuels, Poul Ruben Andersen, told Reuters he now sees no scope for second-generation ethanol to make a U.S. breakthrough until 2014 or 2015.

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

EPA’s Ethanol (E-15) Fuel Waiver Challenged by Industry Groups

Dec 21, 2010

The newly formed Engine Products Group (EPG), made up of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) and other industry associations, filed a petition challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) decision to grant a partial waiver approving the sale of gasoline containing 15% ethanol (E-15) for 2007 model year and newer passenger cars and light trucks.

The group said it supports renewable fuels, including ethanol, but said the EPA gave the OK on E-15 before critical studies on its effects were complete. The group wants to be sure it will not increase air pollution, harm engines, or cause safety concerns.

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While Communities Fight Biomass Plants, Congress Pays to Build Them

The Huffington Post
Carol Polsgrove
Posted: December 20, 2010 12:03 PM

To communities opposing biomass power plants across the country, one part of the tax cut package approved by Congress is not good news: the extension of tax grants that will pay up to 30 percent of the cost of developing biomass plants. Biomass project proposals have sprouted like mushrooms in response to federal subsidies -- and have been met with fierce resistance from communities that don't want their trees cut down or their air and water polluted to keep the electricity coming.

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

DOE: Chu vows to continue heading department

Environment & Energy Daily
John McArdle, E&E reporter

Despite some speculation he might be considering an exit two years after taking over the Department of Energy, Secretary Steven Chu yesterday said he plans to stay on the job as long as President Obama will have him.

"I came here because I believe in what the president believes in in terms of energy and the environment," Chu said during a wide-ranging interview on Platts Energy Week. Chu said he will stay in his post "as long as I think I'm doing good things, as long as I see progress."

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BCAP safe, for now

Ethanol Producer Magazine
December 2010
By Anna Austin
Posted Dec. 20, 2010

The biomass industry is heaving a sigh of relief for now, since the 2,000-page, $1.1 trillion 2011 Omnibus Appropriations Act will not go to vote in the Senate in its current form. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., announced Thursday night he would not bring the omnibus to the floor. The bill not only lacked Republican support, but faced opposition from some anti-earmark Democrats. All Democratic votes and two Republican votes were needed for passage.

The biomass industry has been in a state of panic because a section in the omnibus bill essentially stripped the Biomass Crop Assistance Program of its funding, as well as the Biorefinery Assistance program and Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels. The industry has been scrambling for the past week to get the provision modified or eliminated, and though safe for now, the fight to keep BCAP funding in the bill will resume next year.

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DOE scientists make cell wall breakthrough

Ethanol Producer Magazine
December 2010
By Kris Bevill
Posted Dec. 16, 2010

After three years of extensive research, scientists at the U.S. DOE’s Brookhaven National Laboratory believe they have uncovered an important piece of the plant cell wall mystery that has previously stumped researchers worldwide and slowed progress in the commercialization of cellulosic ethanol.

The discovery centers around the lignin precursors that form a plant’s cell wall. Until now, no one knew how those precursors traveled across a membrane to form the lignin component of the cell wall. The Brookhaven research team, led by Chang-Jun Liu, found that without the addition of ATP, a multifunctional nucleotide that is considered to be molecular “currency” for energy in cells, the precursors were unable to move across cell membranes in their designed assays. This finding revealed that lignin precursors’ movement might require the ATP-dependent transporters. The team further confirmed this by applying ATP-dependent transport inhibitors to the mixture of lignin precursors and the prepared membranes, which largely blocked transport of the precursors across cell membranes that would typically play a role in the construction of the cell wall.

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Monday, December 20, 2010

Obama signs tax pact; ethanol, biodiesel, renewable diesel credits restored

Biofuels Digest
December 17, 2010 Jim Lane

In Washington, President Barack Obama today signed H.R. 4853, the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010.

Last night, the US House of Representatives voted by a 277 to 148 margin to approve the Obama tax deal, which extends the ethanol tax credit through 2011, and retroactively extends the biodiesel tax incentive and the renewable diesel incentive through 2011. The bill also renewed the 54-cent tariff on Brazilian ethanol through 2011.

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TetraVitae Bioscience Achieves First Demonstration of Renewable n-Butanol From a Corn Dry-Mill

PR Newswire

CHICAGO, Dec. 17, 2010 /PRNewswire/ -- TetraVitae Bioscience announced today that it has completed a successful demonstration of its process to produce renewable n-butanol in a corn dry-mill pilot plant. The demonstration is a major milestone in creating economically competitive renewable n-butanol for the coatings, plastics, personal care, and packaging industries.

"With this achievement, TetraVitae has shown that producing renewable n-butanol in a commercial scale corn dry-mill will be a reality very soon," said Jay Kouba, CEO of TetraVitae. "Corn dry-mills offer the most direct, capital efficient, and low-cost route to large-scale production of renewable chemicals in North America. The industry has built a successful business based on fuel ethanol. TetraVitae is offering dry-mill operators a way to make higher value products using their existing capital base."

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PFI poised to release new pellet standards

Biomass Power & Thermal
By Lisa Gibson December 16, 2010

The Pellet Fuels Institute is just months from implementation of its new pellet fuel standards, including for the first time third-party verification for compliance. Participation in the program comes complete with a new label for bags of pellet fuel, illustrating adherence.

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USDA Joins FlexFuel Vehicle Awareness Effort

PR Newswire

Effort Focused on Increasing Usage of High Level Ethanol Blends in FFVs

WASHINGTON, Dec. 16, 2010 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Clean Fuels Foundation announced today that they are working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to expand public awareness on fueling options available to owners of flexible fuel vehicles (FFV).

The FFV awareness effort is targeting several areas across the country to increase the use of ethanol blends in FlexFuel vehicles. "Breaking through the blend wall begins with the 8 million FlexFuel vehicles on the road today, and reaching these drivers to make sure they know they can use ethanol blends up to 85%," said Agriculture Under Secretary for Rural Development Dallas Tonsager. Tonsager also noted FFVs of any age can use E15 or any other gasoline ethanol blend up to E85 and can take advantage of favorable market pricing on these blends when offered.

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BCAP's future still uncertain, USDA releases program info

Biomass Power & Thermal
By Anna Austin December 16, 2010

While the biomass industry is scrambling to prevent Congress from slashing Biomass Crop Assistance Program funds in the proposed omnibus spending bill, USDA has issued new information about the program, following the Oct. 27 final rule release.

It’s likely the release of the new BCAP information hasn’t created the excitement across the industry that it would have if the program’s future wasn’t in jeopardy.

The current $1.1 trillion 2011 Omnibus Appropriations Act essentially strips BCAP of its funding, as well as the Biorefinery Assistance program and Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels.

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Solar Powered Hornets – A New Source for Bioenergy?
December 16th, 2010 by Aaron Saenz

Harvesting sunlight for energy isn’t just for plants anymore. Scientists in Israel and the UK have discovered that the Oriental Hornet (Vespa orientalis) has a special ’solar panel’ that it uses to convert light into usable energy. The extra boost of energy the hornet receives may be why the insect correlates its nest-building activities with the intensity of the sun. A study of the hornet, and its solar panel, was recently published in the journal Naturwissenschaften. Researchers now have a new understanding of the special pigment, xanthopterin, the hornet contains in the yellow solar panel part of its body. This opens new possibilities in energy collection – there’s another biological option for solar power besides chlorophyll and photosynthesis. Oriental Hornets and xanthopterin are extraordinary examples of the surprises that nature has yet to show us in energy, genetics, and zoology.

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Friday, December 17, 2010

NYU researcher pioneers bioplastics from omega-hydroxyfatty acids

Biotech Digest
December 17, 2010

In New York, Dr. Richard Gross, professor of chemical and biological science at Polytechnic Institute of New York University, has developed a method for producing a strong, highly ductile bioplastic using yeast and the fatty acids of plant oils. Like all plastics, the new material is a polymer — a large molecule comprised of smaller, repeating units called monomers. In this case, the monomer itself is relatively new.

The units are called omega-hydroxyfatty acids, and when strung together to form a polymer, they can produce a biologically friendly plastic. Until now, omega-hydroxyfatty acids were difficult and expensive to produce using traditional methods, prohibiting their widespread use. Gross produced the monomer in a first-of-its-kind fermentation process, a fairly quick, low-cost method. The monomer is then polymerized to form a bioplastic that biodegrades completely in soil.

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Australian study assesses biodiesel feedstocks

Biodiesel Magazine
December 2010
By Erin Voegele
Posted Dec. 15, 2010

A report recently released by the Australian Government’s Rural Industries Research and Development Corp. investigated the potential for using native and naturalized plant species as feedstock for biodiesel production. The study, “Evaluating Biodiesel Potential of Australian Native and Naturalised Plant Species,” assessed the feasibility of more than 200 potential feedstocks and determined that 20 locally available species have commercial potential.

“It is widely regarded that bioenergy could play a significant role in a low-carbon energy future in Australia,” said Roslyn Prinsley, general manger of the RIRDC’s New Rural Industries program. “It could help reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and provide an alternative income source for farmers though the establishment of new rural industries. But to achieve sustainable industry expansion, we need a solid scientific basis to help inform industry and government decision making, and drive potential private sector investment. [This report] will help us understand which potential feedstocks are commercially viable and best suited to Australia’s growing conditions, in particular our unique climate and soils. And, importantly, the studies help to dispel the myth that the production of bioenergy feedstocks has to come at the expense of land destined to grow crops for human consumption.”

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Seaweed as biofuel? Metabolic engineering makes it a viable option
University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences

URBANA – Is red seaweed a viable future biofuel? Now that a University of Illinois metabolic engineer has developed a strain of yeast that can make short work of fermenting galactose, the answer is an unequivocal yes.

"When Americans think about biofuel crops, they think of corn, miscanthus, and switchgrass. ln small island or peninsular nations, though, the natural, obvious choice is marine biomass," said Yong-Su Jin, a U of I assistant professor of microbial genomics and a faculty member in its Institute for Genomic Biology.

Producers of biofuels made from terrestrial biomass crops have had difficulty breaking down recalcitrant fibers and extracting fermentable sugars. The harsh pretreatment processes used to release the sugars also resulted in toxic byproducts, inhibiting subsequent microbial fermentation, he said.

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Senate bill would stop biomass crop subsidy

By Charles Abbott
WASHINGTON Wed Dec 15, 2010 7:13pm EST

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A mammoth government funding bill awaiting a Senate vote would cut off funding for a program that pays farmers to experiment with biomass crops.

Spending on the Biomass Crop Assistance Program, or BCAP, would be halted less than two months after the Obama administration unveiled rules for it.

The Agriculture Department, which runs BCAP, urged senators on Wednesday "to make the corrections necessary so there are resources to continue building a sustainable biofuels industry."

BCAP spending was estimated for $196 million this fiscal year, which ends on Sept 30. The Senate planned to vote on the $1.1 trillion bill on Saturday, with the House to act later.

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Bioengineers Develop Bacterial Strain to Increase Ethanol Biofuel Production

Science Daily

ScienceDaily (Dec. 10, 2010) — A team of bioengineers in the United States has modified a strain of bacteria to increase its ability to produce ethanol. The research, published in Biotechnology and Bioengineering, reveals how adaptation and metabolic engineering can be combined for strain improvement, a positive development for the biofuel industry.

The team focused their research on Zymomonas mobilis, a bacterium noted for its bio-ethanol producing potential. However, the team believed that ethanol production could be increased through improvement of xylose fermentation.

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Biomass Briquettes: Turning Waste Into Energy

Biomass Power & Thermal
By Owen McDougal, Seth Eidemiller, Nick Weires,
November 23, 2010

A Boise State University study proves that low-energy feedstocks can be densified and when combusted produce heat output comparable to higher energy content fuels.

Fuel briquettes generated by the low-pressure compaction of paper, sawdust, agricultural or yard waste, etc. currently serve as an alternative to firewood, wood pellets and charcoal in developing countries in Africa, Asia and South America. Research at Boise State University in Idaho, explored both the caloric content and shape to optimize burn efficiency of the biobriquettes. The energy content of briquettes ranged from 4.48 to 5.95 kilojoule per gram (kJ/g) depending on composition, whereas the energy content of sawdust, charcoal and wood pellets ranged from 7.24 to 8.25 kJ/g. Biobriquettes molded into a hollow-core cylindrical form exhibited energy output comparable to that of traditional fuels. The study demonstrates that low-energy content feedstocks can be composted, pressed and combusted to produce heat output commensurate with higher energy content fuels.

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

DOE to award $30 million for advanced biofuels feedstock, processing improvements

Biofuels Digest
December 15, 2010 Jim Lane

In Washington, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu announced a new $30 million round of funding for advanced biofuels. The new Funding opportunity announcement will provide funding for small-scale process integration projects that support the development of drop-in advanced biofuels.

The FOA will support as many as five projects, and focuses on optimizing and integrating process steps that convert biomass into biofuels and bioproducts that will eventually be used to support hydrocarbon fuels and chemicals.

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'Green genes' in yeast may boost biofuel production by increasing stress tolerance
December 15, 2010

An effort to increase biofuel production has led scientists to discover genes in yeast that improve their tolerance to ethanol, allowing them to produce more ethanol from the same amount of nutrients. This study, published in the December 2010 issue of Genetics, shows how genetically altered yeast cells survive higher ethanol concentrations, addressing a bottleneck in the production of ethanol from cellulosic material (nonfood plant sources) in quantities that could make it economically competitive with fossil fuels.

"Our hope is that this research will take us closer to the goal of producing cheap, efficient, and environmentally friendly cellulosic ethanol," said Audrey P. Gasch, Ph.D., a researcher involved in the work and an Assistant Professor of Genetics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "At the same time, we've learned a lot about how cells respond to alcohol stress. So the project has been very productive from multiple angles."

To make this discovery, scientists turned to nature, studying how natural strains of the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae respond to ethanol treatment. They concluded that many wild strains of yeast respond to ethanol much differently than do traditional laboratory strains. When these wild yeast cells were treated with a low dose of ethanol, they mounted a response to become super-tolerant to high doses. By comparing and contrasting strains with different responses to ethanol, the researchers were able to quickly identify the specific genes responsible for the increased ethanol tolerance. They identified all genes in the yeast genome whose expression was affected when cells responded to ethanol. Comparing the responses of wild strains and a laboratory strain pointed the researchers to genes involved in high ethanol tolerance. The researchers were able to coax super ethanol tolerance in the laboratory strain by increasing expression of these genes.

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Researchers Engineer New Methane-Production Pathway in Microorganism

University of Arkansas Newswire
Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Research opens door to possible conversion of biomass to natural gas

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – A University of Arkansas researcher and his colleagues have created the first methane-producing microorganism that can metabolize complex carbon structures, which could lead to microbial recycling of waste products and their transformation into natural gas.

Daniel J. Lessner, assistant professor of biological sciences, and his colleagues Lexhan Lhu, Christopher S. Wahal and James G. Ferry of Pennsylvania State University, published their findings in mBio. Lessner conducted the research as a postdoctoral associate at Penn State.

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New USDA loan guarantees, $50 biofuels, Asia, syngas among new biofuels trends, gossip at Pacific Rim Summit

Biofuels Digest
December 13, 2010 Jim Lane

Advanced biofuels and chemicals leadership gathered in the shadows of Oahu's Diamond Head to relate progress on commercialization, drop-in fuels, chemicals, with a focus on commercialization and research efforts underway in Hawaii with USDA, HECO, the state government, the US Navy and numerous private companies

In Honolulu, much of the leadership of the advanced biofuels and renewables chemicals industries have gathered this week at BIO’s Pacific Rim Summit. With seven of the hottest 14 companies in bioenergy on the presentation docket – plus USDA and DOE and a host of Asian academics and companies – what are the key trends?

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AIJU Develops New Plastic Compound Using Biomass for Industrial Purposes

AZO Materials

AIJU has developed a new plastic compound made with natural dry biomass, specifically the almond shell, for industrial purposes.

This new material provides other eco-efficient alternatives which reduce the plastic content, derived from non-renewable sources, and at the time give value to this natural waste which is produced in great quantities in Mediterranean countries, and whose only other use is for incineration purposes.

A complete characterization of this material has been done in the study with distinct quantities of almond shell powder, determining the influence of this content on the physical, mechanical, thermal and rheological properties of these formulations.

“The almond shell is a natural waste which is valid for reinforcing common plastic materials. A material with a wood-like appearance is obtained and in general the material has better properties than the non-reinforced plastic material,” explains Suny Martínez responsible for the Material Area at AIJU. “The tensile, bending, hardness, density and temperature resistances increase in reference to polyethylene without the additive. The viscosity at non-elevated temperatures increases as well.”

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Iowa governor to address conference in Brazil

Chicago Tribune
Chet Culver Associated Press
10:14 a.m. CST, December 13, 2010

DES MOINES, Iowa — Iowa's Gov. Chet Culver is Rio de Janeiro to address an international conference on biomass and biofuels.

The governor's office said in a news release that he is representing the Governors' Biofuels Coalition, which he leads as chairman. His spokeswoman Angel Albert says his trip expenses are being paid by the biofuels coalition.

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Poet’s Broin says E27 is needed to satisfy RFS

Ethanol Producer Magazine
December 2010
By Kris Bevill
Posted Dec. 9, 2010

Poet LLC CEO Jeff Broin told attendees at a recent energy conference that the U.S. will need to eventually utilize the equivalent of E27 in the nation's fuel supply in order to meet renewable fuel standard (RFS) targets. Ethanol has already become a “major force” in the U.S. transportation fuels market, he said, but the ethanol blend wall is preventing the industry from further contributing to the nation’s fuel supply and market expansion is a necessity.

“The market’s getting full,” he said. “In fact, it is full. Today we’re at about 92 percent saturation. There’s more capacity out there today than the blend wall will absorb, but secondly, we have a law that’s in conflict with a rule. Today, E10 doesn’t even fill up first-generation biofuels in this country and certainly will not make room for fuels of the future - advanced biofuels and cellulosic biofuels. So, we’ve got a problem. At some point in time, we’ve got to get to about 27 percent ethanol in this country in our gasoline in order to meet the RFS.”

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Boiler MACT: EPA's Request for More Time Makes Sense

Biomass Power & Thermal
By Rona Johnson December 10, 2010

The U.S. EPA has asked a federal judge for a 15-month extension for releasing the boiler Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) rules.

The U.S. EPA has asked a federal judge for a 15-month extension for releasing the boiler Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) rules (see “EPA asks for boiler MACT rule extension” in this week’s newsletter).

These rules are intended to regulate hazardous air pollutants from commercial and industrial boilers and solid waste incinerators.

The EPA requested the delay so they could have more time to rework the standards proposed earlier this year, and to accept more comments.

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UNICA threatens WTO intervention over tariff

Ethanol Producer Magazine
December 2010
By Kris Bevill
Posted Dec. 8, 2010

The Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association, UNICA, said it will encourage the Brazilian government to initiate dispute settlement proceedings at the World Trade Organization if currently proposed legislation to continue the ethanol import tariff passes the U.S. Congress.

While final details are yet to become available, it is believed that the tax extension package currently being finalized in the U.S. Senate contains language that would continue the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Ethanol Credit at a rate of 36 cents per gallon and would also continue the ethanol import tariff at its current rate of 54 cents per gallon. Joel Velasco, UNICA’s chief representative in North America, said this would essentially double the import tariff, making it impossible for Brazilian exports to enter the U.S. market. “The stated rationale for the ethanol import tariff has always been to offset the blenders’ tax credit and prevent Americans from subsidizing foreign energy production,” he said. “This move would transform it from an offset to a punitive trade barrier.”

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In defense of ethanol

The Washington Post - Letters to the Editor
Monday, December 13, 2010; 12:28 AM

The Dec. 9 editorial "A good place to start cutting" said that "there are far better ways to address oil dependence and greenhouse emissions" than aiding ethanol production. It didn't specify any of them. In fact, we believe that, except for ethanol, there are no fuel alternatives doing this now.

Our 12 billion gallons of ethanol a year can go far in helping displace foreign oil, taking the place of 10 percent of our gasoline supply. As efficiencies increase in corn and ethanol production, we can do much more even without boosting corn acreage.

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ND group looks to make ethanol from sugar beets

The Daily Republic
Published Monday, December 13, 2010
The Associated Press - FARGO, N.D.

A North Dakota group is planning to build a test plant that would turn sugar beets into ethanol.

Officials with Fargo-based Green Vision Group say the demonstration facility would be built alongside an existing ethanol plant and would cost between $4 million and $6 million. The group hopes to begin operating the plant in 2012.

The process uses so-called dry land or energy beets that are separate from beets grown for human consumption. Researchers involved in the project say the beets can produce twice the amount of ethanol as compared to corn.

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Monday, December 13, 2010

Australian scientists find biofuel gene

ABC Rural
Tuesday, 07/12/2010

Researchers at an Adelaide University have successfully isolated a gene that could see commercially viable quantities of biofuel produced.

The gene has been identified as causing production of the renewable algae responsible for underground crude oil resources.

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Microscope to image individual bio-molecules?

Biotech Digest
December 10, 2010

In Iowa, a new microscope that can image individual biological molecules has been developed by Sanjeevi Sivasankar. Sivasankar brought the idea for an integrated, single-molecule instrument to Ames when he started at Iowa State and the Ames Laboratory in 2008. He’s since built a laboratory prototype and improved its measurement capabilities and efficiency, working with Iowa State and Ames Laboratory post-doctoral researchers Hui Li and Sabyasachi Rakshit, plus Iowa State doctoral students Kristine Manibog and Chi-Fu Yen.

The new instrument, is advancing studies of cadherins and DNA, Sivasankar said. The researchers are also using it to study semiconducting nanocrystals in a research collaboration with Paul Alivisatos, the director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley. As he tests and proves the instrument, Sivasankar will begin working with Novascan Technologies Inc. of Ames to continue development.

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Bioengineers develop bacterial strain to hike ethanol biofuel production
2010-12-10 16:30:00

US bioengineers have developed a strain of bacteria to increase its ability to produce ethanol.

The research reveals how adaptation and metabolic engineering can be combined for strain improvement, a positive development for the biofuel industry.

The team focused their research on Zymomonas mobilis, a bacterium noted for its bio-ethanol producing potential. However, the team believed that ethanol production could be increased through improvement of xylose fermentation.

"Zymomonas mobilis is a superb ethanol producer with productivity exceeding yeast strains by several fold," said lead author Rachel Chen from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

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Federal export initiative targets wood pellets and chips

Biomass Power & Thermal
By Anna Austin December 09, 2010

A recent government report has targeted wood pellets as one of the most promising export markets for U.S. companies, and has indicated that the USDA will expand its annual report on biofuels to include analysis on biomass in the form of wood pellets and chips in relevant countries, to provide the U.S. industry and policymakers with information on the sector’s growth, export opportunities in emerging markets and policy updates.

The report is a result of the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Export Initiative, a coordinated effort to promote renewable energy and energy efficiency exports in the U.S. Seven federal agencies, including the U.S. DOE and Department of Commerce, are collaborating on the program, which is part of President Obama’s National Export Initiative.

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Ethanol tax credits reprieve good news for Illinois firms
By: Paul Merrion December 10, 2010

(Crain's) — U.S. Senate negotiators agreed Thursday to extend ethanol tax credits and other renewable-energy incentives for another year as part of lame-duck legislation to extend Bush-era income tax cuts for another two years.

The energy tax breaks, which were due to expire at yearend, are especially important to Illinois, one of the biggest states for production of corn and corn-based ethanol, led by Decatur-based Archer Daniels Midland Co.

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Friday, December 10, 2010

Lower rate for ethanol credit likely
by DANIEL LOOKER, Business Editor
12/09/2010 @ 12:14pm

Democrats in Congress who don't like the tax extension compromise worked out between the Obama administration and Republicans are still fighting for changes in the tax break extension.

One of them, Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, told Thursday that he's seeking support from the White House for mandating more flexible fuel vehicles and supporting blender pumps if the current tax credit of 45 cents a gallon is lowered in the tax bill.

"They have taken no position on this. I'm talking to them," Harkin said.

Those changes would allow more access to the market for ethanol and changes such as requiring auto makers to adapt more vehicles to burn up to 85% ethanol wouldn't be a direct cost to the federal government.

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Toyota's DNA analysis tech to boost sugar-cane biofuel output
Tuesday 07th December, 04:56 AM JST

TOKYO — Toyota Motor Corp said Monday the company has developed a technology to analyze the DNA of plants to shorten the time needed to improve varieties of sugar cane with an eye to boosting bioethanol production.

The technology—developed with the National Agricultural Research Center for Kyushu Okinawa Region—has shortened the time needed to improve varieties of sugar canes to some four years, about half the time needed under conventional technologies, Toyota said in a statement.

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Cellulosic pretreatment reactor headed for Penn State
By Luke Geiver December 09, 2010

A first of its kind bench-scale reactor system for cellulosic biomass pretreatment is now ready for use, and Pennsylvania State University will be the first to use it. Designed by AdvanceBio Systems LLC, the system is a horizontal reactor on a portable skid, roughly measuring seven feet by seven feet, and standing nearly 10 feet tall. Based on reactors already used in the pulp and paper industry as well as other chemical industries, the AdvanceBio version is a scaled down model that can utilize a wide range of biomass in a continuous process, including corn stover, wood chips, saw dust and bagasse, according to Bipin Shroff, Principal for Advance Bio Systems. “The reactor can use any agriculture fiber or most other biomass feedstocks as well,” Shroff said.
After learning about the development of the reactor, Penn State contacted the Ohio-based company, and will now use the system at a fermentation research center. “Penn State will do their work,” Shroff said, “and they could also lease it to someone to do contract work at their facility.”

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Thursday, December 9, 2010

The 50 Hottest Companies in Bioenergy for 2010-11

Biofuels Digest
December 07, 2010 Jim Lane

In Florida, renewable fuels and chemicals developer Amyris took the #1 spot in the 2010-11 “50 Hottest Companies in Bioenergy” rankings, published today in Biofuels Digest, the online daily bioenergy news service.

Solazyme (#2), POET (#3), LS9 (#4), Gevo (#5), DuPont Danisco Cellulosic Ethanol (#6), Novozymes (#7), Coskata (#8), Codexis (#9) and Sapphire Energy (#10) round out the top 10.

The rankings, which recognize innovation and achievement in bioenergy development, are based 50 percent on votes from a 75-member panel of international selectors, and 50 percent on votes from subscribers of Biofuels Digest and Renewable Chemicals Digest.

Ranked #11 through #20 are Virent, Mascoma, Ceres, Cobalt Technologies, Honeywell’s UOP, Enerkem, BP Biofuels, Genencor, Petrobars and Abengoa Bioenergy.

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No corn cob harvest is lesson in biomass economics

West Central Tribune (Willmar, Minn.)
Published December 08 2010

BENSON — Chippewa Valley Ethanol is leading the way in proving the technology and economics of biomass energy.
By: Tom Cherveny, West Central Tribune

BENSON — Chippewa Valley Ethanol is leading the way in proving the technology and economics of biomass energy.

This year’s lesson was all economics.

The company did not harvest corn cobs from farm fields this year due to low natural gas prices, according to Chad Friese, commodity manager for the Benson ethanol plant.

The company had harvested corn cobs in both 2009 and 2008 to test the logistics and technology of using corn cobs as a biomass energy source, as well as to learn the economics.

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Brazilian lobby threatens trade war over US ethanol tariff
By James Cartledge

Brazil’s sugarcane industry has threatened to stir up an all-out trade war between its government and the United States, over proposals to extend America’s import tariff on ethanol.

The Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (UNICA) issued a statement yesterday complaining at legislation being negotiated in the current lame duck session of Congress.

The trade group said it would urge the Brazilian government to initiate dispute settlement proceedings at the World Trade Center if proposals were adopted to extend the 54 cent per gallon tariff on foreign ethanol entering the US.

The Association said the import tax was effectively being doubled, because the subsidy it was designed to counter in order to prevent taxpayer support for foreign producers looks likely to be lowered by nine cents per gallon.

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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Federal ethanol, biodiesel credits extended

Quad City Times
Ed Tibbetts The Quad-City Times Posted: Tuesday, December 7, 2010 11:41 am

A deal to extend the Bush-era tax cuts also includes action on ethanol and biodiesel credits, U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said today.

The details aren’t clear yet, but Grassley told reporters this morning that the ethanol and biodiesel tax credits will get a temporary extension, through 2011.

The biodiesel credit of $1 a gallon expired last year, and farm-state lawmakers have blamed the expiration for the idling of biodiesel plants.

The ethanol credit, at 45 cents per gallon, is scheduled to expire at the end of the year.

Grassley said this morning the biodiesel credit extension also included applying it retroactively to 2010.

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Bipartisan Groups Want to End Ethanol Subsidy and Save Taxpayers Billions

By Elizabeth McGowan at SolveClimate
Mon Dec 6, 2010 10:50am EST

A diverse coalition of organizations and lawmakers say the ethanol subsidy is fiscally irresponsible and environmentally unwise.

WASHINGTON— It’s a rare day when somebody pleads with Congress not to take action.

But that’s exactly the stand Kate McMahon, biofuels campaign coordinator for Friends of the Earth, is proposing. By not lifting a finger to renew a corn ethanol tax credit of 45 cents per gallon—which will expire at the end of this month if federal legislators choose to let it—she estimates taxpayers will reap an annual savings of roughly $6 billion.

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BP Biofuels CEO presents sugar-based vision

Ethanol Producer Magazine
By Kris Bevill
Posted Dec. 3, 2010

Growing biofuels mandates will require 220 “world-scale” cellulosic biofuels plants to be operational in the U.S. by 2020, according to Phil New, CEO of BP Biofuels. The head of the oil giant’s biofuels division presented his company’s vision for the future of biofuels at a recent International Sugar Organization gathering in London. He said BP believes the world is witnessing a coming of age of the biofuels sector. Federal mandates in the U.S., Europe, Brazil and elsewhere will continue to drive biofuels demand. In the U.S. alone, this will require $100 billion of new investment and 220 new commercial-scale cellulosic production facilities over the next decade.

The U.S., China and other large consumers of transportation fuels are focused on sourcing their fuel locally, New said, which could result in biofuels accounting for up to 20 percent of the world’s transport fuels market by 2030. BP believes sugar-based biofuels will represent the majority of these types of fuels and if demand follows the predictions, sugar-based fuels will become the world’s third largest source of liquid hydrocarbons by 2030. “Delivering this scale would mean that the projected annual growth in volumes from the global biofuels industry between 2010 and 2030 will outstrip the best that any individual OPEC or non-OPEC oil producer has been able to achieve in growth terms over the past five years,” New said. “So the opportunity for sugar producers and biofuel producers is clear.”

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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Farmers start delivering biomass to area plant

Sioux City
By Dave Dreeszen
Sioux City Journal Posted: Sunday, December 5, 2010 12:15 am

EMMETSBURG, Iowa — After it secures a loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy, Poet hopes to start construction on its advanced biofuels plant in Emmetsburg next year.

The Project Liberty cellulosic plant, which produce 25 million gallons of fuel each year from corn cobs and other plant waste typically left behind in farmers' fields, is expected to take 15 to 16 months to build.

Sioux Falls-based Poet started testing the feedstock delivery system this fall, paying farmers about $40 a bone-dry ton for round bales containing corn cobs, leaves and husks, said Jim Sturdevant, director of Project Liberty. Poet has already built a biomass storage facility at the Emmetsburg site, which is already home to a traditional corn ethanol plant.

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Moth presents snag in biofuels progress
Cody Winchester • • December 5, 2010

Eating habits of insect pose problem for researchers

Scientists at South Dakota State University are shedding new light on an insect that could compete with humans for switchgrass, a potential biofuel crop, underscoring the need for more research in this developing area.

In a study published Oct. 25 in Zootaxaca, a taxonomy journal, entomologist Paul Johnson and agronomist Arvid Boe describe the life cycle of the moth Blastobasis repartella, whose larvae bore into the stems of switchgrass stalks. The lead author was a taxonomist from the Smithsonian Institute.

Switchgrass, long grown for conservation and forage, is a strong candidate as a biofuel and a source of cellulosic ethanol. If native grasses like it are to be farmed commercially, science and industry need to know more about their natural ecologies - including their natural pests, Johnson said.

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Professor converts algae into biodiesel

Iowa State Daily
Posted: Saturday, December 4, 2010 5:45 pm Updated: 7:59 pm, Sun Dec 5, 2010.
by Elisse Lorenc

With all the research condoned for alternate biodiesel resources, Zhiyou Wen, professor of food science and human nutrition, partakes in a pecular alternative — microalgae.

Wen and a group of colleagues harvested algae and converted the oil from the algae into biofuel for alternative energy research.

"It's about lipid separation from algae, so [Wen] is going to grow the algae for us, design the bioreactor, dewatering the algae and separate the lipid from the cells and the lipids used for biodiesel," said Tong Wang, professor of food science and human nutrition.

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The future of metabolic engineering

R&D Magazine
Friday, December 3, 2010

Metabolic engineering—the practice of altering genes and metabolic pathways within a cell or microorganism—could one day be used to mass-produce biofuels, pharmaceuticals and other chemical products from inexpensive and renewable starting materials. (Image by Flavio Robles, Berkeley Lab Public Affairs)

Will we one day design and create molecules, cells and microorganisms that produce specific chemical products from simple, readily-available, inexpensive starting materials? Will the synthetic organic chemistry now used to produce pharmaceutical drugs, plastics and a host of other products eventually be surpassed by metabolic engineering as the mainstay of our chemical industries? Yes, according to Jay Keasling, chemical engineer.

In a paper published in the journal Science titled “Manufacturing molecules through metabolic engineering,” Keasling discusses the potential of metabolic engineering for the microbial production of many of the chemicals that are currently derived from non-renewable resources or limited natural resources. Examples include, among a great many other possibilities, the replacement of gasoline and other transportation fuels with clean, green, and renewable biofuels.

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Analysis: Ethanol sector braces for looming subsidy cuts

By Carey Gillam and Charles Abbott

KANSAS CITY/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Mark Marquis had planned to double the size of his Illinois ethanol plant in 2011, and was considering expanding a Wisconsin facility his family-run firm bought into last July.

But those plans are now on hold, as Marquis and other ethanol producers brace for the possible end of $6 billion a year in U.S. subsidies for the alternative energy source.

"In certain scenarios, it could be very devastating," said Marquis, whose Marquis Energy operates a 110 million gallon ethanol plant in Hennepin, Illinois. "It is difficult to know what will happen."

The 45-cent a gallon tax credit for fuel blenders and 54-cent a gallon tariff on imports that subsidize the U.S. ethanol industry are due to expire on December 31. With Washington focused on deficit reduction, many in the industry call renewal an uphill battle.

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Monday, December 6, 2010

University offers online bioenergy systems class in spring

Daily Illini
December 2nd, 2010 - 10:36 AM

The Center for Advanced BioEnergy Research (CABER) in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) will offer an online class in bioenergy systems (ACES 409) this spring. The online class meets Tuesdays from 6:30 to 9 p.m. CST. starting Jan. 18 and ending May 10.

ACES 409 Bioenergy Systems is an online introductory survey course that will cover a broad spectrum of bioenergy issues. Course instructors and experts from industry and academic research will teach the lectures.

"Some courses just look at the engineering or agronomy side of bioenergy but this course addresses all of bioenergy," said Eric Anderson, who will be teaching the course.

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Ethanol lobby poised for another win

By DARREN GOODE 12/3/10 10:36 AM EST Updated: 12/3/10 12:55 PM EST

The ethanol industry — which is being attacked from everyone from tea party backers to Al Gore — nonetheless may be poised to win another victory on Capitol Hill and continue a decades-long ride of federal help for at least one more year.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) undoubtedly gave comfort to backers of the corn-based gasoline additive when he included a sought-after one-year extension of a key expiring ethanol tax credit as part of a much-larger middle class tax cut package he unveiled Thursday.

The 45-cent volumetric excise ethanol tax credit — set to expire at year’s end — would be extended through next year at 36 cents per gallon. This is the level Democrats on the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee recommended this summer, and it is supported by the Obama administration, which feels it must address calls to reduce federal spending during the next Congress.

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BIODIESEL -- Ultrasonic remedy . . .
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
December 1st, 2010

A significant barrier to greater use of biodiesel could be blasted away with a proprietary approach developed by a team of researchers led by Mike Kass of Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Energy and Transportation Science Division. By using a high-intensity dose of ultrasonic energy, Kass and colleagues have demonstrated that they can remove or prevent the formation of precipitates, or solids, in biofuels. "Biodiesel forms invisible precipitates at temperatures approaching 41 degrees Fahrenheit," Kass said. "These precipitates cause plugging of filters and lines and are one of the leading concerns associated with expanded use of biodiesel." Co-inventors are Sam Lewis and Maggie Connatser.

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New ABO doc promises “common language for algae industry”

Biofuels Digest
December 03, 2010 Jim Lane

The Algal Biomass Organization released its “Algal Industry Minimum Descriptive Language” document — the first attempt at establishing a “common language” for the algae industry. The document, which is intended to help facilitate life cycle analysis, unify research and spur the deployment of algae demonstration facilities, is currently available for viewing and public comment on the ABO website.

“The absence of common descriptive language has led to a lack of harmony among technologists, researchers, life cycle analysis specialists and entrepreneurs as they evaluate and promote algae technologies,” said Mary Rosenthal, Executive Director of ABO. The newly-released document was authored by the ABO’s Technical Standards Committee chaired by Jim Sears of A2BE Carbon Capture.

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Shock Wave: Cavitation shaking up ethanol with revenue upside

Biofuels Digest
December 03, 2010 Jim Lane

In Ohio, Arisdyne Systems has pioneered technology that can increase ethanol production by 10 percent, or reduce the use of catalyst by 25 percent in biodiesel production. Taken across the US ethanol fleet (outside of POET, which uses its own proprietary system to achieve, potentially, a 5 to 10 percent improvement in productivity per gallon), that could translate to roughly 1.8 billion additional gallons of ethanol for the same delivery of corn, barley and wheat bushels. The technology? Hydrodynamic cavitation.

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Friday, December 3, 2010

Will a tax deal leave out ethanol credits?
12/02/2010 @ 1:23pm
Business Editor

As behind-the-scenes negotiations of the fate of Bush-era tax cuts continue, one senator who supports keeping a tax credit for ethanol said Thursday that he’s not certain of its fate.

Senator Tom Harkin, a liberal Democrat from Iowa who says he’s willing to battle GOP efforts to maintain tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans on Christmas day if necessary, said he doesn’t know what will happen to another tax break that’s scheduled to expire at the end of this month, the 45¢ per gallon tax credit for ethanol.

“All I can say is I’m going to fight hard for it,” Harkin told

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Final score: camelina aviation fuel reduces emssions by 75 percent

Biofuels Digest
December 02, 2010 Jim Lane

In Montana, researchers have published a report in Environmental Progress & Sustainable Energy, concluding that camelina-based biojet fuel reduces CO2 emissions by 75 percent compared to traditional petroleum-based jet fuel.

The research, in collaboration with UOP, a Honeywell company, was conducted at Michigan Tech University, a leading research university.

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Drop-in biofuel opportunities reported from Aussie research breakthrough

Biofuels Digest
December 02, 2010 Jim Lane

In Australia, World Wide Carbon Credits Limited announced today that it has successfully lodged final patent applications over a gene that encodes an enzyme capable of producing a class of hydrocarbons known as triterpenoids, including di-hydro squalene, a hydrocarbon that is compatible with existing infrastructure including oil refineries. The research led by Professor Andy Ball, of Flinders University.

“The organism used to extract this gene is not at present economically significant,” said WWDC’s Dr. Steven Hensen. “By isolating this gene and inserting it into an alternative organism we have paved the way to substantially reduce the cost of producing oil from algae.”

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New Energy Economics: Future Biomass Markets
12/01/2010 07:30AM

Farmers in the northern Plains have the potential to supply large quantities of biomass. With respect to demand for biomass, federal policies, including the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, and the creation of a national Renewable Electricity Standard, form important future market opportunities.

Moreover, several state renewable energy initiatives foster additional regional demand.

Before a farmer begins establishing a biomass crop, he or she is encouraged to research and indentify biomass market purchasers that offer an economic return above production and transportation costs. Increasing federal and regional biomass demand does not always imply that those same market opportunities exist locally.

Two different markets for biomass are likely to develop in the future. One market will utilize chemical or enzymatic processes to convert biomass into liquid biofuels and other high-value renewable products. A second market will use thermal, pyrolysis or gasification processes to use biomass energy for the production of electricity, syngas, steam and other forms of energy.

In both markets, the two most important criteria buyers will utilize to determine the value of the biomass delivered to a plant site are the quantity of biomass supplied as measured by weight in tons and the moisture content. If the biomass buyer is using either an enzymatic or thermal process, they would prefer to purchase "bone dry" biomass, which is biomass that contains no water.

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Thursday, December 2, 2010

University of Warwick research means new disease-resistant Brussels sprouts in prospect

University of Warwick (UK)

Researchers at the University of Warwick's Department of Life Sciences have uncovered the genetic basis of remarkable broad-spectrum resistance to a viral infection that, in some parts of the world, is the most important pathogen affecting leafy and arable brassica crops including: brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, swede and oilseed rape. They have tested resistant plants against a range of different strains of the virus taken from all over the world and so far, no strain has been able to overcome the resistance.

The research on the so-called Turnip mosaic virus (TuMV), led by Dr John Walsh of the University of Warwick and funded under the BBSRC Crop Science Initiative, has been taken forward in a new partnership with Syngenta Seeds.

Dr Walsh said “TuMV causes really nasty-looking black necrotic spots on the plants it infects - ‘a pox on your’ vegetables! This can cause significant yield losses and often leaves an entire crop unfit for marketing. At best, a field of badly affected Brussels sprouts might provide some animal fodder, but these vegetables would not be appealing to most shoppers. The virus is particularly difficult to control because it is transmitted so rapidly to plants by the insect vectors”

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Senators demand end to ethanol subsidy and tariff
By James Cartledge Send to a colleague

A bipartisan group of 17 US Senators has called on Congressional leaders to end ethanol import tariffs and subsidies.

Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) wrote a letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell demanding they allow the 54 cent per gallon tariff on ethanol imports to expire at the end of this year.

The letter, signed by Senators including Barbara Boxer, John McCain and Susan Collins, also urged the Senate Leaders to hold back from renewing the 45 cent per gallon Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit supporting the blending of ethanol in gasoline.

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Brazil Sugar, Ethanol to Need $36 Billion, Rabobank’s Duff Says

By Stephen Morris - Nov 30, 2010 12:00 PM CT

Brazil’s sugar and ethanol industries will need $36 billion in investment by 2020, said Andy Duff, a food and agribusiness researcher at Rabobank.

The sugar industry in the world’s largest producer requires higher spending after prices for the sweetener gained this year, Duff said today at the International Sugar Organization conference in London. Raw sugar on Nov. 11 reached 33.39 cents a pound, the highest level since January 1981, in New York.

The largest Brazilian companies in the industry will have the most success in obtaining loans and credit to fund growth and engage in joint ventures with multinational partners, Duff said in an interview with Bloomberg News. Medium-sized and smaller companies are unlikely to play a role because of “rather limited” access to credit, he said.

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Chu: Ethanol not the best biofuel

Des Moines Register
Blog post by Philip Brasher • • November 29, 2010

Energy Secretary Steven Chu made a pitch today for using biomass to make synthetic versions of gasoline, diesel and jet fuel rather than ethanol. “Ethanol is not an ideal transportation fuel,” Chu said during a question-and-answer session at the National Press Club. Chu said synthetic fuels don’t require the specialized infrastructure, such as pumps and pipelines, that are needed for ethanol.

Chu side-stepped a question about the expiring 45-cent-per-gallon subsidy for corn-based ethanol. He said that corn ethanol helped show that is a “Americans can drive their vehicles using agriculturally based fuels, but we are primarily focused on developing the new technologies that can supercede ethanol made from starches,” Chu said.

The ethanol industry has been pushing for federal incentives for ethanol pipelines and pumps, arguing that the “drop-in” fuels that Chu is talking about are many years away from being commercialized.

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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Obama Administration Cuts Cellulosic Ethanol Target

Wall Street Journal
NOVEMBER 29, 2010, 5:59 P.M. ET.

WASHINGTON—The Obama administration Monday conceded that cellulosic ethanol producers won't come close to hitting a congressional target to deliver 250 million gallons of fuel next year made from grasses and other vegetation not used for food.

The Environmental Protection Agency set at 6.6 million gallons the amount of cellulosic ethanol that must be blended into vehicle fuels in 2011. The EPA set the target as part of an annual process for implementing a 2007 law that orders oil companies to blend in an ever-increasing amount of renewable fuel into the gasoline and diesel supply. Overall, some 13.95 billion gallons of biofuels are supposed to be blended into motor vehicle fuels next year, accounting for about 8% of total fuel consumption.

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Gene find could lead to healthier food, better biofuel production

Purdue University

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue University scientists have found the last undiscovered gene responsible for the production of the amino acid phenylalanine, a discovery that could lead to processes to control the amino acid to boost plants' nutritional values and produce better biofuel feedstocks.

Natalia Dudareva, a distinguished professor of horticulture, and Hiroshi Maeda, a postdoctoral researcher in Dudareva's laboratory, determined that the gene is one of 10 responsible for phenylalanine production in plants. Understanding how the amino acid is produced could provide a strategy to increase or reduce that production.

Phenylalanine is important for plant protein synthesis and for the production of flower scent, anti-oxidants and lignin, a principal plant cell wall component that helps plants stand upright and acts as a barrier in the production of cellulosic ethanol. It is one of the few essential amino acids that humans and animals cannot synthesize, so it must come from plants.

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Pennycress, french weed, fanweed: by any name, a biofuel rose

November 24, 2010 Jim Lane

We haven’t heard of anyone making biofuels out of chickens, or eggs, but we hear a lot about the chicken-and-egg problem.

“How do get growers to grow if there’s no market? How do you get a market if there are no growers?” Arvent CEO Sudhir Seth summed up the problem. A few years back, along with a group of Indian investors, he had formed BMI as a biodiesel project, with a goal of constructing a 15 Mgy plant in Peoria.

“It was a $45M project that went all the way through permitting with the Illinois EPA,” Seth recalled, “when suddenly one fine morning the biodiesel tax credit disappeared. Whatever relationships we had formed, started to fall apart. Eventually, we had no other options put that project on hold.”

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The Real Promise Of Advanced Biofuels
Alan Novak, 11.18.10, 06:00 AM EST

Advanced biofuels production does face challenges, but they are far from insurmountable.

As the United States seeks national energy security and more environmentally friendly fuel sources, the opportunity for the nation's advanced biofuels industry is clearly extraordinary. The U.S. has the scientific lead in this industry; it has experience with processes, technologies and various nonconsumable feedstock to convert biomass to fuels and energy.

Indeed it already has more than 100 companies at work in the field--pioneering the conversion of algae, municipal solid waste and widely available biomass such as wood waste and crop residues into renewable fuels. It also has a useful federal mandate: In accordance with the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act, the country must triple its use of biofuels to 36 billion gallons by 2022.

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NMSU In Las Cruces Receives Federal Grant For Algae Fuel Research

New Mexico State University
KRWG News (2010-11-22)

LAS CRUCES (krwg) - The U.S. military wants New Mexico State University to find improved ways to turn algae into a sustainable source for jet fuel. The research project is part of a $2.346 million grant funded by the Air Force where NMSU will study better ways to grow algae and refine its oil while working with the University of Central Florida to determine the effects of algae-based fuel on jet engines.

"Demand for petroleum will eventually outpace the supply," said Shuguang Deng, a chemical engineering professor at NMSU and the lead researcher on the project. "The use of petroleum-based jet fuel is not sustainable and negatively impacts the environment. That's a national security issue."

Deng said the U.S. Department of Defense consumes 4.6 billion gallons of jet fuel each year and all airplanes globally consume approximately 80 billion gallons of jet fuel yearly. He believes with that level of consumption, the sustainable use of biofuels for aviation has the potential to create far-reaching military and commercial development opportunities.

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Study warns against hyping carbon-fixing biochar

cnet news
November 29, 2010 9:22 AM PST
by Martin LaMonica

Of all the approaches to cutting carbon emissions, making charcoal and putting it in the ground as fertilizer would seem one of the least controversial. But a report published today offers words of caution around expecting too much from biochar.

Biochar, also called man-made charcoal, is made by decomposing plants and other organic materials into charcoal through pyrolysis, or slowly burning biomass at high temperatures with no oxygen. The resulting biochar can be used as a soil fertilizer, a technique used by ancient civilizations in the Amazon.

Unlike naturally decomposing organic materials, biochar holds onto carbon dioxide for hundreds or even thousands of years. For that reason, it's been touted by everyone from Virgin CEO Richard Branson to environmentalist James Lovelock as a promising method for fixing carbon dioxide in the ground. Biochar has also attracted detractors in the past few years who say that growing plants to create biochar would be a "false solution" to climate change.

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